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Java and Open Source Play Nice Together in Brazil

Java and Open Source Play Nice Together in Brazil

A reminder from Brazil came recently about the difference between software gratis and software libre.

Reporting in his popular Webmink blog from the annual FISL conference in Porto Alegre - that's FISL as in "Forum Internacional Software Livre" - Sun's chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps noted: "This is the first F/OSS event I have ever been to that has included the Java community."

He was much energized by the role played by Brazilian Java activist Bruno Souza: 

"To anyone who has attended JavaOne, Bruno Souza will be a familiar figure - he's the one with boundless positive energy and enthusiasm, serving caipirinhas and wrapped in the Brazilian flag. What people outside Brazil may not realize is that, as well as being the co-ordinator for Java User Groups (JUGs), he is a tireless advocate of open source and has been championing the use of the Java platform for open source projects."

The significance of Souza's presence became particularly clear to Phipps when he discovered that Souza's name was included with those recognized as leaders of the open source community by the Brazilian government at the launch of their 'Free Software Migration Guide.'

"I have never seen a Java advocate counted among the champions of free software and this is a very encouraging step," observed Phipps. 

What many Software Livre (Free Software) activists hope for is a world in which companies, governments, and individuals pay people to write good, quality software - maybe not a whole project, sometimes even just for minor improvements and bugfixes.

The fundamental belief is that the value of software is created when the programmer programs, so to make free software succeed and supplant the commercial model, it will be necessary to find ways of rewarding this activity. For programmers to survive, Free Software proponents need to find ways for them to be rewarded for their time.

There were a number of Java-related sessions on the conference agenda. Phipps's conclusion was as follows:

"While the aims of FISL and the F/OSS movement in Brazil are liberty not (necessarily) economy, the people are open-minded, reasonable and friendly and recognize the value of platform independence as a vehicle of freedom." 

When he next returns to San Jose, UK-based Phipps will doubtless evangelize at Sun's headquarters that a parallel path to "software freedom" is possible, such that Sun can help the software development industry find the happy medium in which standards, source access. and compatibility can all co-exist and complement each other.

"That's clearly not easy," he admits in his blog. But it sounds as if his experience of attitudes in Brazil may have strengthened his belief that it is indeed possible.


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Most Recent Comments
Mark DuPriest 04/08/05 05:30:29 PM EDT

If you choose to write in English and your desire is to communicate to readers of the First World you might consider that all your words should be in standard English and not portuguese. Now if you can reasonably expect those that communicate in English (the #1 language of the 1st world at this time) to immediately understand "gratis, libre ect.ect. than by all means continue mixing the languages. In my opinion, those of you that do this are more concerned with "showing off" with your knowledge of portuguese and have lost sight of your primary motive -communication.

InfoPoint 06/14/04 10:04:24 AM EDT

here's the list webmink refers to:

Kaffe VM
Jikes Java compiler

Documents about how to compile and use QTJava and KDEJava

webmink 06/14/04 09:56:46 AM EDT

I can tell that "dekeji" has an axe to grind because he/she wrote exactly the same on Slashdot. Far from open source implementions being impossible, a later poster in the same Slashdot discussion posted a list of open source Java works - http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=110142&cid=9350383 and far from Sun controlling specifications the JCP community, including all Java vendors, Apache and other organisations and many individuals, exerts control to maintain compatibility, which is their proven path to software freedom.

The negative attitude that "the others are to blame" is exactly the one that the Brazilian F/OSS community seems to reject and that's part of the joy of this posting, that in mutual understanding there's hope - the matter is about converging paths to freedom for the greater good, not one freedom promoter trying to undermine another. Picking at the sores of old fights will never lead to healing.

GoLula!! 06/14/04 08:16:48 AM EDT

Very cool. In Brazil, according to Reuters, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva''s government has a pro-free software policy and recently began training 2,000 public employees and switching out the Microsoft operating systems used on 300,000 federal computers and installing Linux.

dekeji 06/14/04 08:09:13 AM EDT

The problem with Java and OSS is that even the specifications for the Java environment are proprietary, that Sun does not permit independent reimplementations without their express approval (in the name of "compatibility"), and that once you look at Sun''s source code, you are forever barred from participating in open source implementations (because Sun could claim them as derivative works).

See, the problem with OSS and Java is not the OSS side--OSS developers have gone out of their way to accomodate Sun around the world. Maybe Brasilian developers are more gullible and less critical than elsewhere, but the party who isn''t playing nice is Sun. And, unless Sun has changed their licenses for Brasil (which I doubt), OSS and Java have the same problems in Brasil as everywhere else.

Quiberon 06/14/04 08:07:47 AM EDT

Well, you can make a living as a university professor; or as an employee of a company which wants to use computers.

As part of either of those, you might write software (for teaching, research, operating the business) and you might well be encouraged to make it available under GPL to enhance reputations, attract collaboration, bird-of-feather-flocking-together help, and so on.

If you are paid by public money (e.g. a government employee), should your work-for-hire be denied to all members of the public ? If so, why ?

A question 06/14/04 08:06:27 AM EDT

How can one make a living producing free software? That is, why are some manhours free and others are not (very few would work for free in other areas).

moranar 06/14/04 08:04:00 AM EDT

Brazil has had Conectiva Linux alive and well for a long time, using it on government infrastructure and beyond. I wish the US were as receptive of Open Source as Brazil is.

I myself am from Argentina, another country which should "get it" as much as Brazil does. I actually envy the guys.

acariquara 06/14/04 08:00:21 AM EDT

Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons director, recently told the press that Brazil is becoming the world''s epicenter of Free/OSS dicussion.

Brazil is walking the correct path to be the most advanced free-source country in the whole world, and yes, that includes the US. Why?

Government backing is one factor. We have our own version of GPL (which is partially incompatible with our legal system, but not void), the LPG. It was made/rewritten from the GPL by the Brazilian Advocate Union. Yes, it's the single one that every lawyer must abide to and respect. The Creative Commons license is in the process of being translated and becoming an official licensing term, as in government-backed and even encouraged.

Yes, there are projects to yeld tax cuts to people and companies that use/distribute/publish free software.

DMCA is null and void here. Yes, we have to follow international copyright laws but you won't be fined if you hack your cable box or DVD player to learn a bit. Piracy? I can tell, it's pretty much the same as everywhere, with the exception of audio CDs that is rampant around the country. So BMG wants to try out a new content protection scam^H^H^H^Hscheme, well baby it won't work. You have a moral choice, to buy a crippled, legal CD for R$30 (around US$10) or the full monty, "generic" version for R$5 (US$1.70). And don't forget we earn A LOT less than our yankee friends. Allow me to say, I am a doctor and I make less than 1000 US monthly.

Speaking of generic, that's one law that was pretty much shoved down US companies and they hated us for that. But Time magazine once praised Brazilian health treatment to AIDS, citing it as an example to Third World Country. What happens is, any medicine patented prior to 1992 lost the patent. Other pharmaceutical companies are allowed to fabricate and distribute them. This was "bad" for them but the final blow comes next: if there is a strong public health interest, the government may cancel any other medical patent.

Think AIDS.

Yes, AIDS treatment is free around here. Government-backed laboratories reverse-engineer and produce zidovudine, lamivudine, 3TC, protease inhibitors and whatnot. They are given (as in gratis) to registered AIDS patients.

You may say it's a harsh thing to do and laboratories want/need to make a profit, well, they do. But when public health is significantly more important than personal gain the table will turn. You know what? The laboratories whined at first, but now they kinda agree with that. They lost their rings to keep their fingers, as an adage says.

In music/entertainment, I can say for sure that many of the most prominent musicians like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso are strong backers of the "music wants to be free" mindset.

garabito 06/14/04 07:57:10 AM EDT

kudos to Brazilian Goverment !! Finally, 3rd world countries are getting it!

Free / Open Source software is the way to go.

You can''t make your country a developed one by importing overrated and overprized propietary technology.

By the way, the brazilian goverment is also doing a good job negotiating FTAA (ALCA), not like most other countries in Latin America, which are desesperatly yielding to "free trade" agreements with the US, which only benefit big bussines and make more restrictive IP regulation, like the DMCA, software patents and extensive pharma patents for their countries.

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