Freedom Walk at NITC

It was almost midnight when the Freedom Walkers arrived here on Wednesday. They were thouroughly worn out from the long long walk from Thamarassery. They had dinner from our mini canteen, and then I led them to the rooms in PG-2 hostel which Sandeep sir from the Electrical department had booked.

Next morning, a few S3 guys and I went to meet them. We had a small gathering in their room and discussed what all we could do to spread Free Software here at NITC. Since all of us except one were from Electronics, Jemshid suggested that we could get started on some Embedded GNU/Linux work. We can think of conducting workshops to get people interested in it.

Prasad talked about the Freedom Toaster they had made, and suggested that we could try to make one with a vending machine, as a project. They said we would have their support if someone is ready to take it up.

It’s too bad we couldn’t organize a more elaborate meeting with the Freedom Walkers, because of the exams. But we’ve got some pointers to think about, when we sit down to make a concrete plan regarding the FOSS Cell activities.

Walking for Freedom…

“Be the change you wish to see in the World”
— M.K.Gandhi

“Millions of people worked hard and even paid with their lives to earn us the freedom we enjoy today. Is our current generation aware of the value of this freedom? From the lack of social and political sensitivity and the lack of activism in our society it might seem that this is not so. It is as if we are devaluing freedom every day. With the commercialisation of almost every sphere of life, most people are not able to find any time to put in effort to fight this alarming trend. Most, but not everybody. At Zyxware, we have decided to focus our efforts to tackle this issue head on.”

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History has seen that in times of crisis, people show extraordinary capacity for sacrifice, to fight for a just cause. But the crisis has to be first perceived as a crisis. During the British rule, it was fairly easy for the masses to understand that they were being oppressed and they stood up against it.

Today, we live in a world that it is in severe crisis. Our energy supplies are running out, and what could be worse, our renewable resources, the very ecosystem which nurtures and sustains us, is losing its ability for renewal. But do we acknowledge this crisis? The biggest challenge is that people who benefit from the current trend of consumerism and exploitation are the ones who have a say. The cries of those who depend directly on Nature for their livelihood, of the ones most affected, are lost in the wilderness. Activism is the need of the hour, but how many of us realize it? “If we don’t act now, we probably wouldn’t have a chance to act at all.”

Regarding Information Technology, the core competency of the group leading the Freedom Walk, thanks to the vision of a certain Richard Mathew Stallman, we have an excellent alternative to proprietary software. But the fight is far from over. There are a host of problems which the Libre Software Community faces today- right from Digital Rights (Restrictions) Management, the sinister moves of proprietary software giants to infiltrate into the world of Free Software, Document Freedom… there are a lot of challenges ahead.

Anoop John, CEO Zyxware Technologies, and friends, are undertaking this Freedom Walk from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram, starting on Gandhi Jayanthi, with the idea of bringing together individuals and organizations committed to the society, and spreading awareness about three freedoms:

  1. Freedom from Social Evils – A social evil is something that works against the development of our society.And it could be anything from poverty to corruption.
  2. Freedom to Live our Future – The biggest concern of our day is shrinking energy supplies and looming environmental catastrophes. If we don’t act now, we probably wouldn’t have a chance to act at all.
  3. Software Freedom – Software is a tool that allows us to process information. Information should be open and should benefit everybody. Knowledge belongs to the world. Consequently the tools that are used to process this information and create knowledge should be open as well.

Please spread the word about this initiative and help make it a success.

GNU/Linux Install Fest at NITC

As the first activity of the upcoming FOSS Cell NITC, we organized a GNU/Linux install fest on the occasion of Software Freedom Day. Around twenty people turned up during the day. The only undesirable part was that a couple of laptops, after installing Ubuntu, couldn’t boot Windows. Got to sort out their issues soon. We’ve set up a technical support mailing list for people to post their problems.Considering that it was the first ever event by our FOSS Cell, it didn’t go too badly.

Software Freedom Day at Kozhikode

Software Freedom Day 2008 was celebrated today at Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode. The event was organized by Swatantra Malayalam Computing, in association with Malabar Christian College. The main attraction was a seminar on Language Computing, led by SMC.

There was also a GNU/Linux install fest and demo in parallel. We installed GNU/Linux on around 6-7 systems, apart from the 5 in the computer lab of Malabar Christian College. There was also an installation demo for hardware technicians. I couldn’t attend the seminar, and I’m looking forward to reading other reports about it.

One of the highlights of the day was the revival of Free Software Users’ Group Calicut, which had been dormant for over two years. Jemshid, of Ascent Engineers, the team from KSEB led by Mohammed Unais, have taken the initiative to kick start the community’s activities.

There were a few representatives from GEC West Hill and AWH Engg. College, and we’ve decided to organize a few workshops, to get some people from those colleges involved in FOSS as well, and try to create a network of college FOSS communities. Shyam put forward the necessity of a common platform for engineering colleges throughout Kerala, based on Free Software. We also have to explore the possibility of encouraging students to take up Free Software development as their projects.

Jemshid and his team had managed to contact the Malabar IT dealers’ association, and their representatives had turned up. They expressed genuine interest in migrating to GNU/Linux for the default installation in new systems they sell. They would thus be able to avoid distributing so called “pirated” software. We have proposed to arrange a basic GNU/Linux workshop for the hardware vendors. This move has the potential to start a revolution. If they can show their customers that they can do almost anything on GNU/Linux that they normally use a computer for, they’ll be encouraged to switch to it. And the customers will have someone to turn to for support.

On the whole, the event was a great success. Tomorrow, we have a small event planned in our campus. More on that later.

See other blogs and photos of the event:
Hiran

Software Freedom Day at NITC

We are planning to celebrate the Software Freedom Day through an install fest and demos. There was a meeting today to get some volunteers for the event, and around twenty S3 students turned up. Only some of them have used GNU/Linux before, and they have been given the task of familiarising the others with it before the event. We are also hopeful of launching our FOSS Cell officially on that day. More about the event as it materializes…

First Meeting

Fifteen of us, including Deepak sir and Murali sir met today for what was the first meeting of the FOSS cell. It was notable that there were six S3 guys, from Electronics, Computer Science, Electrical and Civil, all of them motivated from last year’s FOSSMeet. We got to know each other, and decided on the things to be done immediately for setting up a group. It’s a new beginning and I’m looking forward to it. The S3 guys seem to be an enthusiastic bunch and there is enough reason to be optimistic about this new venture.

Decline of the Campus

I met Deepak sir yesterday. He has recovered from chicken pox. He told me about his idea to start a Free Software Cell at NITC. For all the success of FOSSMeet, we really don’t have a free software community here. Deepak sir is very passionate about building a community. He feels that there is such a lot of potential in this campus that all it needs is a spark. He has given me the task of getting at least five to ten students for forming the body.

While I was with Deepak sir, Ramkumar sir came in and I got to know him better. Of course, he took Microprocessors and Microcontrollers for us last semester, but it’s difficult to get acquainted with a professor during a course, as the class strength is nearly ninty. Deepak sir asked him about the formalities involved in starting a new student club. Ramkumar sir did his BTech in the erstwhile REC during the eighties. He replied that in those days, all you needed was to get ten people together, find a staff advisor and submit a request letter to the Principal.

He talked about the active student groups and forums which had been flourishing then, and have since become extinct. Those where the days when politics was at its peak in our campus, and yet, he said, there were many active forums for discussing the issues of the day, entirely free from any political flavour. Debates are still held occasionally by the Literary and Debating Club, as competitions during culturals fests, but it is mostly debating for the sake of debating- and “soft skill” development.

I realize that the sort of campus Ramkumar sir talked of, no loger exists. When I look about me, I see mostly students glued to their laptops, engrossed in watching movies, unauthorized copies (the word “pirated” is unfair and inappropriate) of which are freely shared on our hostel networks and playing computer games which degrade your level of existence.

Another sad fact that is that there is practically no interaction between the faculty and the students except for the lectures and the labs. I personally feel that a free mingling of people of all ages is crucial to the health of a society. I know from my experience, that there is a lot to be learnt from elder people. I’ll write more about this later. This is a glaring deficiency in today’s campus.