Book review: Free/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security by <i>Gaurab Raj Upadhyaya</i>

Book review: Free/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security by Gaurab Raj Upadhyaya


What are computer networks? And where does FLOSS fit in? A brief but to-the-point slim book, with loads of links, brought out by a program linked to the United Nations.

Free/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security by Gaurab Raj UpadhayaFree/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security by Gaurab Raj Upadhaya

Nepali geek, writer, photographer and “radio guy” Gaurab Raj Upadhaya gives a brief and succinct explanation of how, where and why FLOSS fits into the networks. UNDP’s APDIP/IOSN has been promoting FLOSS, and is, again, behind this title.

Such texts could surely help build skills and awareness in precisely those parts of the world where technical information would otherwise spread only very slowly

The contents

At the start of this thin-and-long 53-page book is a listing of abbreviations, and a brief, three-page “introduction to F[L]OSS and GNU/Linux”. The latter explains what FLOSS is (both free software and open source), GNU/Linux and why it makes sense for networking, and BSD “alternatives” available. Upadhaya puts it aptly by writing:

“F[L]OSS provides several advantages over proprietary software in terms of savings with regard to license fees, flexibility in installation and operation, and availability of source code that can act as reference implementations for the basic building blocks of internet infrastructure. F[L]OSS also reduces virus and security problems frequently associated with other software because of the possibility of public audit of source code. Finally, illegal copying of software is an increasing concern worldwide, and using F[L]OSS ensures that you are always on the side of the law.”

(In preferred UN-speak, Free/Libre and Open Source Software gets translated into FOSS. But since this reviewer believes that the “Libre” idea is a very important part of the whole debate, let’s stick to FLOSS and the term that grew in popular usage after the Netherlands-based Rishab Aiyer Ghosh began using it.)

This particular title comes packaged in a slim (53-pages) tall text. Some “chapters” are as short as just 2-3 pages long, giving definitions, and a basic understanding of the technology. They’re accompanied often with examples and some URLs to help you find more of the information you need. This text focuses on network concepts and architectures. It then moves on to major networking functions with FLOSS, takes you to security functions with FLOSS, a bit on network planning, and has almost two-and-half pages of “further references” apart from a brief glossary.

Who’s this book for?

This book is obviously for geeks deep into—or at least seriously interested in—networks and security. Given its unambiguous thrust, it rates very high on its relevance to FLOSS. One must also appreciate the honest approach in highlighting FLOSS, yet without making unrealistic claims about it.

Relevance to free software

It comes across as a useful publication, offering tonnes of links and useful tips; it manages to do so without getting too verbose or unweidy. Such texts could surely help build skills and awareness in precisely those parts of the world where technical information would otherwise spread only very slowly. You could say the net is, in any case, around. And that those wanting to build networks need to know how to access information. Yet, nothing spreads ideas and information better than good old paper. At least in the inital stages of one’s learning curve. This slim book is part of the ‘e-primers’ series published by the Bangkok-based International Open Source Network. You can pick up similar primiers (on FLOSS in education, government policy, licensing, localization and open standards) from [here](http://www.iosn.net or www.apdip.net/elibrary) or even Wikibooks here.

The International Telecommunication Union deputy head for strategy and policy Robert Shaw writes a pithy foreword, which argues that FLOSS is “an important tool to promote digital literacy and improve access to public services for citizens”. Not just that, but Shaw also makes the point that the FLOSS movement “is but one manifestation of something more fundamental and new about how collective intellectual innovation can blossom once networked information infrastructures are in place.”

FOOTNOTE: A word in tribute to Shahid Akhtar, that Canadian of Pakistani origins, a very untypical “UN bureaucrat", who took some key decisions in recent years to shape APDIP (and IOSN.net, the International Open Source Network in Bangkok) into being what it is. Akhtar, who retired in June, deserves a thank you for his speed in picking-up suggestions from the grassroots, and seeing how UN support could take FLOSS to a higher trajectory (specially in the world of non-profits and in building Asia-Pacific skills).

FLOSS “is but one manifestation of something more fundamental and new about how collective intellectual innovation can blossom once networked information infrastructures are in place.”

Pros

Why people should read it:

  • Easy to understand
  • Free of cost.
  • Downloadable.

Cons

Why people shouldn’t read it:

  • A bit geeky for the average user.
  • Don’t pick up unless interested in the field.
Title Free/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security
Author Gaurab Raj Upadhaya
Publisher Elsevier New Delhi-UNDP
ISBN 8131204219
Year 2007
Pages 53
CD included No
FS Oriented 10/10
Over all score 7/10

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Frederick Noronha's picture

Biography

Frederick Noronha is a freelance journalist based in Goa, India. He regularly writes articles on free software. He is a co-founder of Bytesforall.