I could write many pages, but it all comes down to one concept: ethics.
When I talk about Free Software, I talk about not only about freedom, but also community and good will from the software author. The latter probably is the most important one.
You write Free Software because you want to contribute to the community. It’s an act of social activism. It’s about sharing and helping out.
This April I got a mail from Chris Larsen, a doctor working in Rwanda, where he was asking OpenERP the scripts to upgrade to 6.x, since they needed to have the latest Medical version. The response he got was that the scripts were not publicly available anymore. If they wanted to upgrade, they would have to pay a support contract to OpenERP. This is the typical example of a vendor lock-in. They change the rules (even the license) and then the user becomes their prisoner.
That very same day I started the implementation of GNU Health (previously called “medical”) in the Tryton platform. Believe me, this was frustrating and it meant a lot of work, but I had to guarantee the future for the health centers.
That effort paid off. Today Health (GNU Health) is an official GNU package (health.gnu.org), the United Nations University has adopted it, and everyday health centers are downloading it from the GNU official site. Obviously, the GNU Health version that today is an official GNU package runs under Tryton, a community-based project.
I just got an email today that a health center in RDC ( Democratic Republic of Congo ) after testing the functionality, will be using GNU Health under Tryton.
Open Source has become the refuge for some speculators, who apply digital lock-ins, by, for example, not releasing the upgrade scripts. This is not fair. It’s not ethical. It’s not thinking about the community. It’s being selfish and greedy. Lastly, it’s not respecting the underlying software.
OpenERP and Tryton need Python, Postgresql and GNU/Linux. If Python or Postgresql would impose a support contract fee to be able to upgrade, they would not exist. So, none of us have the right to break the evolution chain.
So, a word of advice . Make sure you use Free Software. This is more than just a license. They should be community-based projects.
Some signs of warning to keep in mind : Avoid software that has a “buy” link instead of a “download”, or “1 month free”. Those are signs of vendor lock-in strategies. Also, be wary of “Commercial Open Source”, projects, led by private corporations. They are usually there only for their money and don’t care about you.
If you are a programmer, you can – and you should – make money from Free Software. You can make a good income by giving training sessions and implementing your software. Free Software is both ethical and a great way of making your living !
As the author of GNU Health, and as the president of GNU Solidario, my commitment is to the community and the underprivileged, so rest assured that I will always suggest you the best environment for your health center. Now that GNU Health is an official GNU package, our mission is supported and backed up by the Free Software Foundation and the United Nations.