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Free Software : The current fashion in Kerala

December 12th, 2008

Kerala is abuzz with free software mantra after the present  Government of Kerala formally endorsed free software as one of its natural allies. Lot of common people are showing interest in free software and its bi-products such as copy left books , wikipedia etc. As a long time user of free software, I am pretty amused at the
current hype.

If you look closely you can see different genre of self styled  free software pundits. I will try to list out some of the common types that you can see on Kerala streets.

a) The Total Newbie

These are the most common variety. They have heard of RMS and Linus and they think that free software is free beer, Most of their views on free software is formulated by hyped news paper articles. They are afraid of trying out Free Software and most
probably stick to their current computing platform. Engineering students, Government employees, University teachers, Cyber police, Journalists and petty politicians of both left and right wing are generally of this type. They are mostly innocuous.

Newbies and Total Newbies wondering about the free beer

b)Newbie

This category is seen among school teachers , some school students and very few members of general public. They have read about the virtues of free software and attempted installing it at least once. Most of them have lost valuable data in the process. I am sure their interest in free software will die out when they find out that they can not play an MP3 on Ubuntu/Fedora after installation.

c) Free Software Volunteers

These are the most dangerous type you may encounter. I think there are a quite few of them around. They speak about RMS, GPL and freedom. They can deliver fiery speeches and will laugh at you in public if you boot up the other OS. I had a pretty good encounter with one of them recently. I was teaching some  college lecturers about the use of computers in recording and processing music. Unfortunately most of the commercial music software is available on another platform and I had to prepare my classes on it.

The so called free software volunteer who  looked at my teaching schedule  asked me , ” Hey , I know you are a free software chap. Why don’t you teach them all these software on Free platform. Let their souls also be saved. “ . I politely pointed out that there is not much free stuff available on FOSS platforms. He then asked me to try all proprietary stuff on Wine. I said “OK , can you tell me how do  I install ‘foobar’ with wine”.  He tried for some  five minutes and  said, “  I am busy working on a speech for the upcoming free software  conference. I will call you once the article is written”. I haven’t heard from him since.

A  Typical Volunteer

Free software volunteers can be subdivided further

i) Pure Volunteers

The Pure volunteers have never installed free software by themselves and they don’t know how to operate it .They have memorized the Jargon file and quote from it even in deep sleep. They are driven by their ego and make a living by oratory skills and other gimmicks . Pure volunteers will respond to all of your queries for help with wrong answers. Their target  audience is mainly newbies and total newbies.

If a  newbie says ,“XYZ make video card is not recognized in Fubuntu” .  A Pure Volunteer  will reply , “ Dude, you are using the wrong distro. Use UDORA with kernel 2.X.X” . The Kerala  LUG/FSUG  mailing lists are infested with them.

All the free  software meets will be managed by Pure Volunteers. If you are  planning to have a one day FOSS meet, just find out the nearest volunteer and buy him a Biriyani. If you closely look at the presentations and documents  they make , you can read a PPT renamed as ODP PDFs made from MS office etc. They secretly use MS office to write all their correspondence, but never admit it. Some of them will object to the term FOSS. ( Only GPL V3  is acceptable) .  Keep a safe distance from them. They roam around with catchy T shirts depicting  GNU and Penguin.

ii) Organizers of free software groups.

The more enterprising among Pure Volunteers will eventually become Organizers.  You can find these type of people as founders of free software startups , NGOs, LUGs and FSUGs. They come form different walks of life .They also preach a lot but they have a ulterior motive of making money. Their thinking is like this “Let the government adopt free software , we are the only authorized/official group. So naturally all money should come to us”. They are adept in keeping away closed source stuff they use from public view and generally very arrogant. Deal with them carefully. They will steal your skills and market it.

d) Power Users.

Power users of free software are sometimes found. They know what they do and may not preach about what they do. You can find a few lurking in some of the Linux user groups around. They are generally  timid  and gentle. Most of them have a dual boot setup and wont mind admitting that they use windows.

e) Geeks

They are sighted very rarely. They tinker and work on command line. Typical geek definitions apply. They are averse to company and generally  found with    command prompts.

f) Free software contributors.

I have not seen many of them in recent past. Of course, there are several Keralites contributing to many free software projects. Most of them live outside Kerala. ( Pretty difficult to survive in Gods own hell) .  There are some minor free software projects started by resident Keralites. These projects die off quickly once the number of developers cross the magical figure of one. I am not naming any but try to meet some of the so called contributors on mailing  list and ask him about finer details of the projects directions.

The average Keralaite is confused about computers , software and freedom. For him free software is another government scheme like free noon meals for school students. :)Let us see how long the hype will last. Finally, let me ask how many kernel developers are there in Kerala , or Show me 10 Debian developers who are resident in Kerala.
Update: If you want all the above types, have a look at the photo blog of Arky.

  1. December 13th, 2008 at 09:48 | #1
  2. December 13th, 2008 at 11:27 | #2

    Two years back, You can Identify a genius with his Mundu, Jubba, beards and bad smell. Now Mundu replaced with Pants, Jubba replaced with black T-Shirt with some figure about GNU, Free Software etc.. Beard and bad smell is not a must, but you must talk only about Free software.

    Fashion is changing go and buy a black T-shirt.

  3. December 13th, 2008 at 14:09 | #3

    Hey friend,
    I just dont understand whom you are really targetting at. No one is born as a geek so we should be giving them some time to adopt and understand free software. And from the above blog what i feel you preach proprietary and you feel inferior because you didnt get apt attention. Well to work with an initiative you wont be invited but you should come up and do it.

    And why the Pure volunteers and such things. Dont find fault with the right intentions of a venture.

    “If you dont fight for your freedom, you dont deserve it”
    And this is not the first time we are facing troubles from ppl like you.

    For someone having the urge to learn something new, you should be appreciating them instead of doing this, no one was born as an M$ expert neither.

    really sad reading your blog. And the classifications you have made is really absurd.

  4. vu2swx
    December 13th, 2008 at 16:25 | #4

    @Anoop
    I have had my pie po attention on free software. My focus has shifted to radio recently. See this if you are still skeptical.
    http://linuxgazette.net/authors/sunil.html

  5. December 13th, 2008 at 19:49 | #5

    Please see my Desk top
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chandrasekharannair/3104846238/
    I am proud of GNU/Linux by using a common man paid Rs. 500/- to attend the three day Conference. I was using Windows 98 to Windows XP up to 2007. Now I am completely using Ubuntu 8.04 & Debian IT@school. If a common man can do this much of things and publishing his own web site through operating system then why you people are not trying to study about me?

  6. December 13th, 2008 at 20:00 | #6

    Haaaa nice freedom speech. Why dont you join politics.

    This is a technique tried and tested by many leaders. Create a false sense of fear among your followers. Someone is taking away our freedom, M$ will do this, M$ will do that.

    The hate campaign is what I hate most.

  7. javahar
    December 13th, 2008 at 21:15 | #7

    Hello

    One Mr. Anoop told ” not the first time we are facing troubles from ppl like you”
    I think he is the proprietor of Free software? Dear friend, what Sunil told is 100% true. Anoop’s reaction shows he also included on of the above categories of sunil’s classification.

  8. December 13th, 2008 at 21:56 | #8

    I don’t know about you, but I play Mp3s on my Hardy Heron.

  9. December 14th, 2008 at 09:30 | #9

    Come to think of it, its not such a bad thing that a good thing is becoming fashionable! And Free Software is a Good Thing!

    http://pramode.net/2008/01/21/mathematical-circles-on-tv/

    I want Math and Science and Programming and Electronics and Free Software to become fashionable – there should be TV shows and contests where people test their skills – I want to convey the message that being a geek can be as “cool” (even more) than being a reality-show star!

    If more people wear GNU/Penguin T-Shirts and move around – more power to them! They are bringing the message out into the open …. and that’s the only way to get more “geeks”, “power-users” and “contributors”.

  10. raj
    December 15th, 2008 at 12:46 | #10

    hilarious 🙂

    raj

  11. December 15th, 2008 at 19:21 | #11

    @raj
    Thank God that at least one person other than me recognized the humor in this article.

    @Author
    Nice article – but expect some flames 😉

  12. December 16th, 2008 at 10:00 | #12

    Hello VU2SWX,

    This is something I couldn’t post, but wanted to read for a long time! You said it right! HAHAHA… ROFL!!!

    You’ve placed the bait well, it seems people like ‘Anoop’ are already biting it. I especially liked the part about F/LOSS contributions from Kerala kicking the bucket once they leave their magical no. of contributors of “1”! 😀

    Nice post, buddy. Keep up good work.

    (PS: I belong to that category who swears by ancient *nix tools and advocate command-line use 😉

  13. Krishnaraj
    December 16th, 2008 at 20:32 | #13

    I am one of those guys who wore that T-shirt at that day.
    I feel really bad when you guys are saying like. The pain we took in conducting that exhibition is immense. We travel led almost 300 Km to attend that event. What we meant my our stall is to help people know that there are tools available for everyone of your need. And you people are making fun of us. I agree, we are not technically sound. If one guy come and ask which kernel is used in the that version of puppy, we don’t be able to answer that much quickly. But at least we tried to do something.

    I am having with the way our stalled performed. One guy turned up and asked me when we people will close. He wanted his friend to see the circuit stimulation software we presented. So we are able to pass the message. We are able to do that at least.

    So I humbly request you to stop make fun of others. I had given all my effort into this event conducting that exhibition. I have spend a whole day in SPACE installing systems. I had no food that day and I have left days of sleep preparing for the event.

    So its way to bad. What is wrong in wearing T-Shirts….

  14. Joseph John
    January 18th, 2009 at 19:00 | #14

    Hi
    hilarious
    Well presented
    I have to admit that I do fit comfortably into the first three category at one stage or stage of my Linux usage . I do not fit into Power user , Geek or as a contributor . But still I am doing my best to promote it . I am sure like me there are lots of other people who are continuously supporting open source in what ever way they can .

  15. January 26th, 2009 at 23:47 | #15

    Hi VU2SWX,

    I really loved your article … very humorous, very true. Its very sad indeed that so called “Free software pundits” are so fake in their day to day work. I am reminded of my several visits to one of the “Free software” tantris that occupy the Govt Secretariat in Trivandrum … I hope you can guess what happened 🙂

    Regards
    Rajeev J Sebastian
    (hacker from Rachana :P)

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