Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Free Software Conferences and closed source papers

December 13th, 2008 1 comment

Recently, we had  two important free software conferences in Kerala. Both spent a lot of public  money on invited talks , exhibitions and other related conference requirement.  What is the benefit for general public from such conferences? A typical conference will have limited  , say 500  delegates. In Kerala, the delegates are often chosen  based on the political affiliation or whims and fancies of the organizers rather than  merit.   Will these conferences disseminate knowledge to the common man ? I doubt.

What is the remedy for this kind of situation?  I think the remedy is already known to the free software community.  OPENNESS in every aspect. Right from choosing the organizers to selecting delegates there must be transparency.      It is the papers presented  and  transcripts of the discussions held that matters finally. The future generation will refer to the conference depending on the quality of papers.   Good international conferences bring out bound volumes of its proceedings. Most of the  conference papers are not free. Look at IEEE or ARRL.  They have lot of knowledge available with  them ,but they charge this knowledge . To an extent they are knowledge monopolies.   We can call the papers with them  as closed source papers.

Being  free software community , we  should bring out papers presented/ slides shown immediately after any conference.  An abstract can be published even before   the conference. The abstracts must be scrutinized by experts as well as members of the community.   If you want to present a paper, some home work must be done. Google can  detect cut and paste very well.:D

I was  looking at website.  It has some abstracts but no complete papers or slides. I request the organizers of  to publish the papers/ slides presented.  Let the public see how their money was spent.
PS .We can emulate   Dr. APJ Abulkalam for this. He puts  his speeches/papers  online as soon as it is deliverd.

Categories: Gnu/Linux Tags: , ,

Free Software : The current fashion in Kerala

December 12th, 2008 15 comments

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


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. and Proprietary software.

December 11th, 2008 41 comments

I am just back from The event had several renowned participants and and exhibition on free software.  I was responsible for setting up the stall of IHRD. We show cased LTSP and  remastering Ubuntu.  I was busy with the stall yesterday and day before yesterday and could not attend any sessions.

At our stall with a Thin Client on the table.

Today morning, I went to the convention centre at Mascot hotel. I was planning to attend a few technical sessions. I was shocked to find  many speakers running Windows Vista and power point presentations.  I thought the guys running the show were hard core GNU fanatics. ( Ricard Stallman was present on the opening day of the conference.).

I was listened to two talks , one on  GRAILS and the other on Javafx. The guy who spoke on grails used GNU/Linux and openoffice impress. The  talk on Javafx was simply crap. The speaker seemed  to know very little of Java.

I asked him whether the Javafx is available on any free platforms and whether it is  free software.  He said  some bla bla and quickly wound up. Any way,  took some photgraphs of his presentation. I think he was trying to carefully hide windows and powerpoint.

Teach yourself   free software   with  Windows XP  in 21 days

Back in the exibition pavallion, I scanned around for  proprietary  stuff. I could spot them on a couple of stalls.

Hands on Free Software with Windows VISTA. 😀

Finally, the Linux user group was running a windows  theme on  one of their Laptops 😀

Learning  windows (theme) on Linux

You cannot get rid of proprietary software even in a conference on freedom and free software 😀

PS: I use windows if it is absolutely needed.