Archive for the 'free software' Category

GNOWSYS Mode for Semantic Web

October 25, 2009

Since I could not go to the 8th International Semantic Web Conference ISWC 2009 to present our contribution,  and also to the Workshop on Collaborative Construction, Management and Linking of Structured Knowledge ), I have uploaded the video of the presentation.  The reasons for not being able to go to the conference are posted in my earlier blog post.

The papers are available from the Semantic Web archives and the CEUR site.

More about GNOWSYS-mode from the gnowledge lab’s site.

No offline option to seek interview to get US Visa from India

October 17, 2009

This is an update on my open letter sent to the Ambassador/Consulate of USA in India, and the VFS office complaining that their site is not interoperable and does not work with Mozilla Firefox. I received no reply for two weeks, then I sent another reminder email, to which they replied saying: “There is no other alternative.”  Considering this I reiterate my protest and will not honour any invitation from USA till they commit to rectify and make it interoperable so that free software users are not forced to use proprietary software.

Meanwhile, I reactivated my application to try again and discovered that the site does not work with Mozilla Firefox but manages to work with Konqueror.  The fields in the application however are misaligned in most places.  It is difficult to say without further investigation whether this is due to bad coding on the server side or on the browser side.  I could not test it through the process since no date before 21st of October 2009 is possible even under emergency category, therefore I gave up.

Free software users are increasing in number all over the world.  Unless such roadblocks are cleared we cannot build a greener digital environment. Fight for freedom even if it is expensive!

US Visa application not possible if you use free software!

October 2, 2009

I wanted to go to the international conference on semantic web to be held in October 2009 near Washington.  So I try to apply for US visa.  There seems to be no way for a person to apply for US visa without using MS Internet Explorer.  Firefox/Mozilla based browsers don’t work.  In protest to this unfair practice, I have written the following open letter to the Ambassador of United States in India.

2nd October 2009



Dr. Nagarjuna G. Reader(F), Homi Bhabha Centre, TIFR, V.N. Purav Marg, Mankhurd Mumbai 400088


Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer The Ambassador of United States of America

Sub – An Open Letter Addressed to the Ambassador of the United States, Department of State

Dear Sir,

I write to bring to your notice an unfair practice followed by the U.S. Embassy in India, Department of State, namely, an imposition on all citizens to use a particular proprietary commercial software in order to submit their application for visa.

This is how it happens.

All applications for a U.S. visa from India are done through the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). The procedure is to first pay the visa fee, wait for two days or till the number gets activated, and then proceed through the filling of forms at the website ( As I did the above, along the way I found that the VFS site did not work with my Mozilla Firefox browser. On inquiring with VFS I found that the site works with Microsoft Internet Explorer only.

As a regular user of the GNU/Linux operating system, I do not use any proprietary software either at work or at home, hence I found this an unwarranted restriction on my individual freedom.

Despite these reservations I borrowed a friend’s laptop which runs the proprietary Microsoft Operating System, filled my form, and got an appointment for the 1st of October 2009. I was pressured into doing this, having already paid Rs. 57,000/- as registration fee for attending a conference (, having then paid the visa processing fee of about Rs. 6,000/-, and having requested for, and granted, financial support for my air-travel from my office ( With two of my presentations scheduled at the above conference, meetings fixed with professional colleagues in the U.S., and the time running out, I thought too much was at stake, let me compromise on my moral values and follow the advice of the VFS.

However, on reflecting on the situation I felt that this compromise of my principles was helping promotion of the unfair use of non-inter operable technology to impose restrictions on citizens. As the Chairperson of Free Software Foundation of India I have been advocating the use of free software like the GNU/Linux operating system and non-proprietary browsers and application for every citizen. As a part of my professional commitment, I develop free software, and my visit to the USA, is for the purpose of presenting my free software to the International community. My conscience thus does not permit to go ahead and attend the interview as scheduled.

I consider it a serious infringement of individual freedom when the U.S. Embassy in India, Department of State, endorses and promotes the use of a specific operating system and a software application, while other competing applications, like Mozilla Firefox, and GNU/Linux operating system, could have also performed the same job if the software used was inter operable and standards complaint. If the U.S. Embassy agrees that it is an unfair restriction, I expect that you would ask VFS to fix the problem as soon as possible. Not fixing this problem would amount to a support of monopoly trade practices and non-adherence to interoperability by the U.S. Government.

Until this problem is fixed, or unless I am assured that it will be fixed sooner rather than later, I have decided, as a mark of protest, not to apply again for a visa interview to visit the United States.

I urge that you do not interpret this gesture as mark of disrespect for your country. I have enormous regard for the way individual liberty as well as intellectual freedom is valued and protected within the United States. I would definitely be happy to reconsider my decision if I receive a positive response from you on this issue.

I have to leave for U.S. on 21st of October 2009, so time is running out. I request you to please respond as early as possible and restore my faith that the U.S. will respect individual freedom and provide me an option that will not enforce the use of Microsoft Internet Explorer for taking my next appointment.

“You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” –Mahatma Gandhi

It is with this spirit that I write this letter on the birthday of one of the greatest freedom fighters, Mahatma Gandhi.

Thanking you

Yours sincerely

(Nagarjuna G)

Maharashtra Govt’s MoU with Microsoft

August 19, 2009

Most Indian news papers and agencies reported today regarding the MoU signed by MS and Maharashtra state Govt.  The details of the agreement does give clear indication of how education, particularly IT education in Maharashtra, will be sold out.  See one of the reports.

Govt may be thinking that MS is helping the state.  While the fact is that the state is helping MS.  How dumb can the administration be to let the education system traded off.

What right a Government has to get into this kind of exclusive agreements with commercial entities for something as primary as education? All civil organizations must get together to stop this kinds of MoU forever. They should be legally banned. Wake up the justice department! Why do we need to help MS become monopoly? How can academic topics be decided by commercial companies? How can the syllabus include brands.  Let us raise our voice against this. This must stop.

I will write a detailed blog pointing out why this is unjustified and quite possibly illegal.

IFOSSLR in Indian Press

August 2, 2009

The International Free and Open Source Software Law Review (IFOSSLR) launched recently has been reported in the Indian press prominently by the Hindu.  Hope some of the legal experts in India take notice of this.

Read here: the journal on free open source law launched.

FOSSCOMM: Free and Open Source COMMunity in India

July 12, 2009

FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) activists are getting together to promote the awareness, influence Govt policy, defend the software freedom, bring in changes in IT education curriculum,  work towards free information infrastructure.  Read the principles that brought together several groups into action.

The network is taking shape at One of the first tasks the network will be working is to get the open standards policy document for eGovernance in India approved without yielding to those groups who promote the interests of proprietary software groups (like NASSCOM, MAIT, who are influencing the Indian Govt to make room for RAND and multiple standards).  Currently, the apex committee does not contain members who represent the FOSS community.  Therefore one of the immediate objectives of the new network of FOSS advocates is to request the Govt to include FOSS representatives in the apex body.

Saturation in the scale-free dependency networks of free software

February 3, 2009

As reported in my previous post on Debian Dependency Maps we started to study the properties of dependency relation and the kind of networks the relation can generate.  One preliminary study we (me along with Arnab K. Ray and Rajiv Nair) posit a  nonlinear model for the global analysis of data pertaining to the semantic network of a complex operating system (free and open-source software). While the distribution of links in the dependency network of this system is scale-free for the intermediate nodes, we found that the richest nodes deviate from this trend, and exhibit a nonlinearity-induced saturation effect. This also distinguishes the two directed networks of incoming and outgoing links from each other. The initial condition for a dynamic model, evolving towards the steady dependency distribution, determines the saturation properties of the mature scale-free network.

Here I give some of the motivations on conducting this study and some conclusions.
The full paper with all the technical details is uploaded at

Scale-free distributions in complex networks have been very well studied by now. The ubiquity of scale-free properties is quite noteworthy, and spans across vastly  diverse domains like (to name a few) the World Wide Web and the Internet, the social, ecological, biological and linguistic networks, income and wealth distributions, trade and business networks, and semantic networks.

It should occasion no surprise, therefore, that further developments have led to the discovery of scale-free features in the architecture of computer software as well. A recent
work  has shown that the structure of object-oriented software is a heterogeneous network characterised by a power-law distribution.  More in keeping with the purpose of this present paper, an earlier work on complex networks in software engineering had found evidence of power-law behaviour in the inter-package dependency networks in free and open-source software (FOSS).  It is a matter of common knowledge that when it comes to installing a software package from the  Debian GNU/Linux repository, many other packages — the “dependencies” — are also called for as prerequisites. This leads to a network of these dependencies, and every such package may be treated as a node in a network of dependency relationships. Each dependency relationship connecting any two packages (nodes) is treated as a link (an edge), and every link establishes a relation between a prior package and a posterior package, whereby the functions defined in the
prior package are called in the posterior package. This enables reuse (economy) of functions and eliminates duplicate development. As a result the whole operating system emerges as a coherent and stable semantic network. However, unlike other semantic networks, the network of nodes in the Debian repository is founded on a single relation spanning across all its nodes: Y depends on X; its inverse, X is required for Y .
So, given any particular node, its links (the relations with other nodes) can be of two types — incoming links and outgoing links — as a result of which, there will arise two distinct kinds of directed network.  For the network of incoming links, a newly-reported work  has empirically established the relevance of Zipf’s law and the conditions attendant on it in Debian GNU/Linux distribution. Carrying further along these very lines, the present study purports to analyse and model the finite-size effects in a FOSS network. There is a general appreciation that for any system with a finite size, the power-law trend is not manifested indefinitely, and in the context of the FOSS network, this is a matter that is recognised as one worthy of a more thorough investigation. Deviations from the power-law trend appear for both the heavily-linked and the sparsely-linked nodes. The former case corresponds to the distribution of a disproportionately high number of links connected to a very few special nodes — the so-called “top nodes” (or rich nodes).  The importance of these nodes is, therefore, a self-evident fact.

The data needed for the modelling pertain to the current stable Debian release, Etch (Debian GNU/Linux 4.0).  The respective networks of both the incoming links and the outgoing links span 18630 nodes (software packages).
The study argues for the significance of non-linearity and saturation, as regards a quantitative characterisation of the incoming and outgoing distribution in the Debian GNU/Linux network.  One might rightly expect to encounter similar features in other networks.  And indeed, given the possibility that the entire network of software packages in an operating system can be construed to be a semantic (albeit non-autonomous) system, its characteristics can furnish a model that can shed light on much more complex but realistic autonomous semantic and cognitive systems, such as the human society, or
even the human mind.

In the road ahead, the gnowledge lab will conduct a similar study for the dependencies between concepts and activities as and when we obtain sufficient number of nodes at  Currently we have only about 1000 dependency relations.  As more people get to know about the need of establishing dependency relation between concepts, and as and when the portal itself matures with features to attract more users we can study the properties of the resulting knowledge network.

The full paper with all the technical details is uploaded at

Debian Dependency Map

December 16, 2008

Several of us use Debian GNU/Linux and among other features we have all appreciated the way Debian software package dependencies are calculated to give us a stable package. At we harvested the data from the packages.tgz file of Debian 4.0 and created a program that graphically displays the dependencies, called dependency maps. Search
for your favorite package and see how dependent a software is on other packages.

Few examples:

Search for your favorite from:

One of the main reasons why we are interested in Debian dependency maps is that we are inspired by that model and now wants to create a similar knowledge.tgz file for all concepts and activities as is in the process of creating a gnowledge distribution. You will also be able to see how we are using the idea of Debian for knowledge domain. is waiting for all of you to spread the message,
specifically among the teachers of any subject whatsoever to add the dependency relations so that we can soon have a gnowledge (free knowledge distribution) distro.

Building a road map of knowledge!

November 12, 2008
The lab of Homi Bhabha Centre (HBCSE) launched a new community portal on 31st October 2008 to make concept maps of all areas of knowledge.  Currently there are about 400 concepts with about 350 prerequisite relations among them.

The activity is to build a road map of knowledge by  establishing dependency relations (prerequisites) between concepts and activities.  Soon we will extend the site for TypeMap, PartMap, InteractionMap, ProcessMap, CauseMap, functionMap, TestsMap, TranslationMap etc.  That way progressively and collaboratively we can represent all knowledge as concept maps.

The current map looks like this.

The site is waiting for community contributions and suggestions at

Prof. Deepak Phatak’s letter

June 7, 2008

is a must read if you want to know the internals of how the current digital environment is getting polluted.

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