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Open Systems

My primary business is as an Open Systems Internet Consultant, and as part of that business I offer solutions based on what is called Free Software. The concept of Free Software is often a bit confusing to English speakers as there are multiple meanings of the word free, and the concept is quite different than how the incumbent computer industry works.

To quote the Free Software Foundation from their document "What is Free Software?" <http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/free-sw.html> :

``Free software'' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ``free'' as in ``free speech,'' not as in ``free beer.''

Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Due to the general public's confusion with the multiple meanings of the world "free", and because the commercial software support businesses are nervous about the use of the word "free" because of the "no money" connotations, some people have switched exclusively to using the term Open Source. More recently the term Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) has come into use. I tend to use all terms depending on the audience.

This model of computer software has many advantages both for the users of computers, and people who work in the computer or software industry such as myself.

The largest problem that is keeping this model from becoming the most dominant model in the computer industry relates to a large number of misconceptions and myths relating to software, and due to the fact that the existing software monopolists who control the industry do not want to give up this exclusive control to truly Free Market forces. Most customers will be either unfamiliar with alternative software models, or will have been given incorrect information about these alternatives. The best way to show how these solutions work is to demonstrate them rather than just talk about them.

With this in mind many consultants such as myself who primarily work in this new software model, also consult to customers using software produced within the legacy model. My general computer experience at both the hardware and software level, as well as my specific networking experience enables me to offer basic consulting services on pretty much any computing platform. Until recently most of my customers were organizations who had a number of Microsoft Windows, OS/2, MacOS (prior to MacOS-X since MacOS-X is hybrid free and non-free) or similar non-free operating system based computers and hired me to maintain their network and to install and maintain a LAN server.

For most of my customers, the choice of software models or brand names for their file-server is not relevant, and they just wish to hire me to make it work. The fact that I can offer them solutions at well below the costs of my competitors becomes an advantage. In most cases, the consulting time for my services and someone offering a non-free solution would be similar, making the only cost difference the cost of the software itself. For my solutions, software either comes at no additional cost, or at minimal media, manual printing, and installation support costs.

Once I have demonstrated that the model can work for them as their file-server, the conversation is then much more open for other suggestions relating to their use of computers.

It should be noted, however, that I do not plan on offering support for non-free systems indefinitely, but offering myself as a consultant during the transition. This will mean a few things:

Last update: $Date: 2007/02/19 16:21:02 $ UTC