Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FOSS trip in Aasam

Dear readers, I have been waiting to post this great news about GNUKhata, www.gnukhata.org which is my dream project.
I was wondering how soon i would get some time to start writing.
But sitting at the Guwahati airport, the flight delay of 90 minits gave me the much needed chance to start writing this blog post.
Before you all wander what brought me here in the north east, I would like to let you all know that Amtron, the Aasam Electronic Corporation has decided to deploy GNUKhata, the free accounting software in a big way.
This deployment will be the biggest ever for GNUKhata superseeding the one we did in Kerala state.
On my way back there are quite a few things on my head and wonderful memories to carry back.

The mission

The main aim to visit Amtron was to get them started on GNUKhata so that the upcoming deployment for the said organization and a few other government departments goes smoothly.
Basically myself, and the core GNUKhata team, including our domain expert Mr. Arun Kelkar, my wife Sayali, Ujwala and Trupti, all had one goal in mind.
we had to have some cloud infrastructure setup with GNUKhata for Amtron and train people to use it with comfort.
The MD of the said organization, Mr. Yadava is a great personality.  I must say at the outset that he really won my heart with his "no compromise on digital freedom " attitude as a part of his life style.
The day when we arrived in Guwahati, we had a visit to the office and met Mr. Monoj Kumar, deputi MD and found to our pleasant   surprise that he too is a great FOSS follower.
Another surprise we got was that GNUKhata was already deployed on a cloud instance.
One more great news for us was that they were using the Same Allrounder Gnu/Linux distro which myself and Sayali had built last year.
For any programmer it is a true compliment when the clients say they could install the program with no trouble.
This was the same case with us because the technical person told us that he did the setup in one go with no hickups.
This is a proof for all you GNUKhata followers and interested potential users that we have a stable GNUKhata with an equally stable installer.
We then visited a nice place called Kala Kshetra (meaning the region of art).
Ujwala had back pane and Trupti had to stay with her on the guest house, so they both missed that evening.
The next day was actually the first day of our official visit.
We had a discussion with Mr. Monoj Kumar about the entire schedule and then moved on to the workshop venue.
As already mentioned, we were saved of the trouble of setting the server up because it was already done by the technical team.
Mr. Kelkar started the explanation with Sayali doing the actual demo, following my initial introduction and talk on the workshop.
Sayali too chipped in with some major points and the way they 2 did the opening set the perfect tone for the rest of our workshop.
Following Sayali, Ujwala got into the act by doing the demo of all the reports, with Kelkar continuing his discussion and detailing the reasons behind many of the unique features we have in the software.
Participants included Chartered Accountants, fund many others from different organizations including a few NGOs.
We naturally got a lot of doubts from them as they were used to see tally and found our product very unique.
I had already informed all that we were and will never be interested in blindly copying what a proprietary accounting software does.
That is to say, just because Tally or some other software does a certain thing in a particular way, we won't do it unless it is a standard accounting practice.
For example our voucher system is much more user friendly and disciplining in nature.  According to Mr. Kelkar only tally 9 has such a feature.
Never the less, there were some customized requirements and most of them were feasible for immediate implementation.
the printing feature with pdf and spreadsheet option is one such feature we promise to implement immediately.
The project statement and project wise ledger were the most attractive features and were the ones to be most scrutinized.
People were even revealed to know that we have a drilldown interface but wished we also have it in both direction.
I remember Sayali had argued in favour of this feature and must confess that she had got the user mindset right in this context.
On the second day the users did a lot of hands on sessions and Mr. Kelkar assisted by all the team gave one to one attention to the problems or feedback given by all participants.
In the afternoon we met the MD Mr. Yadava, who was the mastermind behind this entire GNUKhata deployment mission.
He is really one man who is firm on his thoughts about FOSS and stands by it with 0 compromise attitude.
He is not even afraid to criticize the biggest of organizations on their approach about digital freedom and also thinks strongly that projects like Aakash needs more focus.
Fortunately he is on a deservingly high position and can take decisions within his limits, else such people are discarded by our society as rebellion.
Let me give you one example of his firm support for FOSS and his passion for using it.
I was having a meeting with the technical staff in the early evening (actually an early night in Guwahati so to speak ).
One person asked me when would there be a Windows version of GNUKhata available.  I told him that we will talk with your MD and get a team working on it.
He immediately responded "no, don't even ask him, he will never allow use of resources for this work".
Basically, I was pleased to know that Mr. Yadava has a 0 compromise approach regarding FOSS.
Well, on the 3rd day, Mr. Monoj Kumar told us that the team was very satisfied with GNUKhata and they just need some customizations for which they are ready to pay.
By jan end we will be replicating the same deployment which we used on the cloud for the 3 days training.
This upcoming deployment will be on a larger scale and will be used for serious work including managing project finance.

Over all experience

As a side note, another good outcome of the visit was that we got to visit a government blind school and introduced Orca, the Free and Open Source screen reading Software.
Amtron has a scheme of distributing free laptops to college students with Linux installed on it by default.
This year they will distribute 30000 laptops.
In this context I was aware that even blind people must be getting those machines.
When I visited the blind school, my doubts were confirmed.
They were just not aware of the Orca screen reader and now we will be holding a workshop for blind faculties very soon.
Apart from this, we had a wonderful time Visiting the Pobitra forest area famous for rhinos on 8th December and the picturesque city of Shilong on 9th.'
The trip to Shilong was in particular a beautiful experience.
I was amazed to witness the temperature drop, with mercury falling 1 degree every 2 or 3 minits when we started ascending the 5000 ft Khasi mountain to visit the said city.
The beautiful landscape, the shimmering valleys and the elephan water fall all gave a heavenly feel and as Trupti, one of our colleagues mentioned it was a "Kashmiri winter".
We also took our photos waring the traditional Meghalaya dress and the food was delicious too.
The only bad thing to end it all was that our flight has got delayed and I don't know how long will it take.
At least I got my much needed time to write this blog post and update my readers about one of the best FOSS trips I had.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Memorable FOSS Fortnight

15 blissful days of FOSS

Hello all, I am again back with some thing special after a long lull. I have been thinking of getting in touch with all my readers but the opportunity has to be right and the occasion a perfect one.


Let me say at the very beginning that although I will be talking about a couple of FOSS workshops I did, there are some really special moments which I experienced along the way.
I must also mention that my colleague and our new FOSS soldier Trupti has also blogged about the recent campaigns. I will take a slightly different and a more detailed view of the past beautiful days of FOSS promotion.
Trupti (she is already in my follower's list ), has given a much classified breakup of our activities, while this blog will go into the beautiful experiences and outcomes of the last 2 workshops.
Before I start the narrative, let me profoundly thank all the team members.
Thanks a lot Ujwala for the excellent sessions, particularly on AJAX which you do so well, not to mention the handling of students.
Trupti, you have been really a wonderful company and it can be already seen that you have developed into a perfect FOSS campaigner in just a few days. Thanks for the fun you bring out in the workshop and also for your patient and intensive lab support during sessions.
I mention about my dearest wife Sayali lastly on purpose.
I did so because I needed enough time to find some words to describe her valuable contribution. She is not just a darling, loving and caring wife who always makes sure that I am relaxed, but she has been a perfect match when it came to my passion for free software and Rural education.
She has been an excellent coordinator and one of the most strict resource person we ever carried to our workshops.
Perfect in lab management during practical sessions, she is the main reason we are able to finish things in time. She has also taken up the important task of the takeoff work with her wonderful introductory session on the Unity desktop. The way she does it naturally attracts the participants towards the GUI aspect of GNU/Linux.
I don't wish to thank her for that, because it would mean thanking myself.
All in all, the real credit of my humble success belongs to my team, I am proud to be a part of such an amazing unit.

The FOSS tour of Vidharbha

This was a long awaited set of workshops, one properly planned and another obviously implied.
The Vardha workshop at Bapu Saheb College of Engineering was a planned one.
But every time I visit the said district, it is implied that I will have one workshop fixed at Amrawati, the native city of my dear old friend, prof. Dhananjay Dakhne.

So we began our journey on 16th night.
The railway has an Indian Stretchable Time (IST) yet in our case it was in time, except that we got stuck in bad rains.
The journey was quite OK, I got down to my birth with the Sony IcRecorder, listening to my favorite gazals.
On reaching Amrawati, we went to the Vandhu international hotel.
Generally, we go one day before to the destination for the workshop, because we need to setup the desktops with all the required software.
But this is not the case with Sipna collge of engineering, as Dhananjay as always takes care of all the logistics.
So we started the workshop in time.After the usual inauguration , we started our sessions on PHP.
On day one we took the basics and the sessions went pretty well.
On day two, we had a few glitches with form management and database stuff.
It was assumed that all the prerequisites have been taken care off.
But later on we realized that no matter how well Dhananjay tried, there are some management aspects which come in the way of elimination of those who are not suitable.
Generally it so happens that those who don't get selected for the workshop are angry and get themselves in after complaining to the higher authority.
Never the less, those who were learning, did it well and really enjoyed the workshop.
In-fact there was one student Aman, from that college who went to the extent of installing Ubuntu on his mac book.
Aman was the one who took very good care of our team and went with us to all the places, including Dhananjay's house where we met his 2 boys.
Many of the students kept in touch and even asked for project ideas.
In all the workshops our major emphasis is on generating love and awareness for Free Software and making the participants realize the importance of digital freedom. We could already see that the students were taking things seriously.
I feel that the real future of FOSS actually lies in the hands of students rather than faculties.
Almost all faculties we meet these days are not so concerned about FOSS. All that they care is to complete the syllabus. I request all faculties to understand the fact that it is our responsibility to make students aware of the current industry trends and also the importance of digital freedom. But there is always a golden lightening in the darkness.
Quite often we come across some teachers who are true to their profession and have a passion to make their students more passionate. Such teachers are always trying to provide new learning opportunities and developing the student's knowledge by all possible means.
I am in fact going to talk about one such lovely teacher couple in a short while.

From Amrawati we moved to Vardha (Sevagram ), the Karam Bhoomi (work field ) of the Great Mahatma Gandhi.
The Amrawati workshop finished on 18th July, and the Vardha workshop was to start on 20th.
So we went to the college on 19th itself because we knew that arrangements had to be reviewed .
Here I got my first surprise.Infact shall I say a beautiful gift?
I met my good old friend Prof Ram Mangrulkar and his lovely and sweet wife Pallavi.
Both of them have been my friends since 2010 when we went to their college for the first FOSS workshop.
Pallavi, as sweet and wonderful she is, one could see her determination backed by aggression when we visited the free lab which she has set up in the college.
I felt so humble and grateful. Humble because I had no words to express my happiness when I visited that lab, and grateful because Pallavi says she was inspired by your's truly for taking this so seriously.
We went out in the evening for a dinner with Ram and Pallavi with their cute and sweet daughter Mansi.
I must say, she had really refreshed our evening with her bubbly babbling all throughout. I am sure she too will be a smart girl when she grows up (just like her mom and dad).
Next day the workshop started as usual.
Here, I must mention that Ram and Pallavi were not the organizers of this workshop, it was a different department headed by prof. Dagadkar and the workshop was coordinated by prof. Parag Shende.
I thought that the workshop could have been managed in a much better way.
The management took a risk of taking student's laptops for setting up Ubuntu. As a result we had to make the bootable pen drives or DVDs available. Even after that, we knew that there will be so many issues, every machine is different.
The result was we had an unsuccessful first day in terms of practicals.
It was only due to Sayali's first session and sustained one-to-one interaction that kept students in the workshop.
Next day we had a lot of DVDs for the installation hands-on.
But this again came as an utter disappointment. The DVDs were not burned properly and only a few booted on the student's laptops.
Never the less we some how managed to get the setup through and moved on to other things.
At the end of the day, students were well convinced for using FOSS.
One problem with rural students is that they hardly get any exposure.
There are students who don't even know the configuration of their own laptops.
Actually they don't even know the meaning of the word configuration.
But when I see people like Pallavi taking initiatives like her free lab, I certainly see a bright hope.

From Vardha we moved on to Anandwan, the heaven created by Dr. Baba Amte, now taken well care off by his son Dr. Vikas Amte.
The one place I must say, is really a wonder.
The way Baba Amte dedicated his life to the cause of rehabilitation of the leprosy patients who are rejected by family and society is some thing we can't describe in words.
Now there is a lot of employment generated for them and much more, just to make their life more respectful and enjoyable.
We saw Anandvan on the first day of our visit, saw the projects on water conservation and wild life. Seeing the Samadhi Of Baba and his equally dedicated wife, I again realized how lucky I am, for I am one fortunate man to have an equally dedicated wife, who can one handedly handle all the rural education projects which I have initiated.
On the second day, we visited the school for the blind and it was another memorable event.
One could see the zeal in the students, perfectly mentored by their teachers.
We did a short talk on computers and the advantage of learning digital technologies.
As we all are so passionate about the digital empowerment of rural people, it was immediately decided that we will do a workshop with these students in the coming October.
We also had a meeting with Kaustubh Amte, the grand son of Baba.
He strongly feels about free software and we are about to launch a campaign in Maharashtra, the details of which will be revealed soon.
We had decided to visit the beautiful hill station of Chikhaldhara near Amrawati.
So we left for Sipna college again. Dhananjay had planned the entire trip.
He had arranged for a car in the early morning and we started by 8.
the place was just amazing. Just as we stepped out of the car for seeing the first point in the Mel ghat, our body literally switched over to winter mode. Such was the breeze and cold climate, that we wished we had our jackets on.
Truly the Switzerland of Maharashtra, it was so beautiful, I have the album on my facebook account.
The lush green slopes, the river streams, the scanty rain and the pure air, all added to the heavenly experience we had that day. To top it all, we had a wonderful late lunch at an Inn. it was a traditional Dhaba and the chicken was just delicious.
We came back to the guest house which Dhananjay had booked for us.
Next day there was a mini seminar on kernal compilation in badnera college of engineering followed by a formal meeting with the placement department of Sipna college.
We updated the placement officers about employment opportunities in FOSS which are now in abundance.
Finaly with golden memories of Palllavi's work in Vardha the time spent with Dhananjay in Amrawati and the experience we had at ChikhalDhara, we left for the station to catch the train.
All throughout the 9 days, i can say with confidence that not a single hour of the day went without Trupti or Ujwala or Sayali cracking jokes out of any thing we spoke.
Infact the days went like a fast forward seen.
We returned back for 7 days of break, just to go on another beautiful trip.

the wonderful trip of Konkan

This too was an equally awaited trip.
In fact we had been planning this long before we had even planned Vardha.
I have a special attachment to this RMCET college.
The college is situated in Ambav, the green valley of Konkan.
This place is my native village and the air is really serene and cool.
The mountains around are lush green during the rain.
Apart from that, Dr. G.V. Mulgund is extremly pro free software and has a great vision for RMCET.
with him.
We share a really sweet relation and he has always been wonderful during our union for the last 2 workshops.
Truely speaking Dr. Mulgund as usual left no stone unturned to make our stay as plesent as possible.
The lab was ready with all machine setup.
All that we did on the first day (3Rd August 2012) was just copy the php toolBox.
We always make a point to utilise the LAN setup and put necessary things on all the desktops.
We always prefer to have students install all the necessary software, including the Eclipse IDE, LAMPP and other related tools.
We do this for all kind of workshops.
We also make it a point to carry the entire Ubuntu repository mirror (51 gb) on an external hard disk so that non-availability of Internet does not become a show stopper during the setup.
We had the food in the mess, much to the disappointment of me, Sayali, Ujwala and Trupti. The issue was that we wished to go to Parvati palace for the gourmet cuisine which we had taisted during our last visit.
never the less the rain was worth getting wet and we indeed had the chance in the evening for that.
next day the workshop started and we went through the usual stuff.
Prof. Vishal Parkar saw us through the starting few sessions and had to move on for all the managerial and organizational responsibilities.
The first 2 days went very well, except that we were off the schedule due to the slowness of the students in typing code.
The lab was divided into 2 with 1 projector screen each in the lab.
This is some thing we always find irritating as it becomes difficult to manage the students in 2 different labs at the same time.
But all went well and then on the Third day, for the first time we took up joomla session.
Sayali and Ujwala did it just fine as if they have been doing this for a long time.
One very interesting comment came much to my personal satisfaction.
one student exclaimed "ye bas karo yar, kuch coding ka shuru karte hain ", meaning stop all this dude, let's do some coding stuff.
Joomla is a content management system and does not need any coding, although configuration involves some command line stuff.
What started from the forth day was most exciting.
Symfony was pritty new framework to all of us and I still can't forget that night when Myself, Ujwala and Trupti sat for a long time for getting assignments ready.
Sayali was feeling sleepy and she went, Trupti lost her wicket soon after, but me and Ujwala continued.
We make the assignments for the doctrine and were amazed at its power to quickly generate not just the classes, but also the tables including getters and setters automatically.

Next morning we were ready to teach the wonders of Symfony and knew very well that students will be equally surprised
We were not proven wrong even by a an inch.
Students just loved the way we could generate secured beautiful urls which actually connected some other php fine in the background.
Students also were very keen to start their own final year projects using PHP and Symfony on LAMPP on Ubuntu.
Oh, I keep forgetting to mention, we have modified Ubuntu and made one more distro called AllRounder Linux. This brand contains all that Ubuntu has by default, plus many more software which the user has to otherwise download from the net.
Sayali is the key inspiration behind this and also the marketing force.
The best feedback was when students expressed their view that this workshop should have been for a longer time.
Of course just like Vardha, we had some not so serious and stupid lot sitting in the lab for nothing.
But as Prof. Mulgund was advising an angry Sayali, we must always assume .20% of the crowd to be like that every where.
The workshop was over and we were as satisfied as Prof. Mulgund or Prof Parker themselves.
Not to mention that we indeed had our dinner for last 3 days of the workshop at Parvati Palace.
So as soon as the workshop got over, we were invited to Mr. Mane's (well that's not my house ) residence.
Mr. mane is an educationalist and a former minister for education.
He is the chairman of Rajendra Mane College of Engineering and Technology (RMCET).
The food was great. (Prawns, Crab, oisters ) and kurried mutton, much to the delight of we non-veg fans.
Ah, and did I forgot to mention that Trupti has progressed in this field too?
She now loves the non-veg food and savers it as much as we do.
So Trupti, join the Gang!
The last day of our trip was the most amaising one.
After such a stressful yet satisfying workshop and the flash talks I gave to other departments on FOSS, the best day was yet to come.
We had booked a car to go to Thoseghar water falls, one of the most beautiful places around and a part of that western ghats which now is recognised by UNISCO for its beauty.

True to its reputation, this was what they call the 7th heaven.
Absolutely green and picturesque one can describe it as a freshly married princess in all her royal green dress with all the ornaments.
We went through the beautiful Amba Ghat that connects Konkan and Kolhapur and headed towards satara.
The air was so pure and to top it all, we had Kshitij, a photography freek who is passionate about that art.
he has published his artwork on a highly professional level to date.
We were also accompanied by Aniruddh, son of Dr. Mulgund.
Infact Kshitij's photos are already up on my facebook account along with a lot of once taken from Sayali's camera.
The wind was so chill that we had to start the heater in the car.
We savored the fun of getting soaked in rains and enjoying the chilled weather.
The waterfall was so loud, I was reminded of the moment when 60000 crowd went up in a tremendous roar on the stadium when India won the cricket world cup.
We really had a great day all in all.
Went back to RMCET by 1.15 AM past. we had the dinner in Chiplun at 12.15 before finally heading for the last part of our journey.
In short the last 15 days have been a dream come true.
An experience which has made such a mark on my memory that i would remember it till my doom's day.
A couple of great FOSS workshops, learning and teaching the Symfony framework and all this lovely places to visit, what more can one expect in a single package?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Major GNUKhata deployment


Hello all,
This time I am back after a relatively short lul after my last blog post.
needless to say, there is some thing really special and particularly for the project I fondly initiated in the winter of 2009.
GNUKhata, www.gnukhata.org is the free and open source replacement for proprietary accounting software solutions (I won't mention only one name, although it is very popular amongst accountants who tally so many books of their customers).
We have been developing the software rigorously since last 2 years, thanks to the sustained availability of funds provided by National Mission on Education through Information Communication Technology (NMEICT).
Prof. Kannan from IIT mumbai helped the project to get these funds and to keep it sustained as well.
Many supporters, well wishers and developers of GNUKhata have been urging me to write a blog on the one project closest to my and their hearts.
I kept on refraining from doing so, half due to the busy development schedule and half due to the fact that I wished to write it on a perfect occasion.
Finally the waiting is over and what an occasion!

the success story

So my readers might be wondering what's the reason that pushed me to write this blog which I kept away from writing for last 2 years?
The moment is indeed very proud for me as well as the entire community around GNUKhata.

I am pleased to declare that we had the first successful deployment of GNUKhata on 8th June 2012.
It has been a long way we have come and had a lot of ups and downs in the way.
We had a release last year which was good for few situations but not good enough for every one to use.
Then came the release in feb 2012 where we made it very feature rich and suitable for almost all accounting needs.
Now we have a rock solid GNUKhata on the basis of which any SME can reliably do their book keeping.

We got this success when the entire annual audit of International Center for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) was successfully conducted using GNUKhata for the year 2011-12.
We arrived in Trivandrum and straight away headed for the ICFOSS office on the 7th June.
It was just myself and Sayali who actually went there, but we had the entire core team ready on the base here in Mumbai along with our most popular and dynamic domain expert Mr. Arun Kelkar.
Deploying GNUKhata on the local server at ICFOSS was not a big issue as we had the installer ready.
We off late had a small issue with starting up the server and that too got fixed in the process.
We already had a cloud based deployment of GNUKhata where all the data was kept ready.
Here I must mention that this is not the first ever deployment of GNUKhata.
We did it in Latur where data of 4 organizations was entered successfully.
But that was on a relatively small scale and the data was very straight forward.
With ICFOSS though, the data was huge involving large volumes of transactions.
There were more than 1200 vouchers and all things were entered by Sayali, Ujwala, Trupti and Nutan, under the guidance of Mr. Kelkar.
Following the deployment, we had a meeting with Mr. Satish Babu.
he instantly proposed that we setup a steering committee for sustained development and dissemination of GNUKhata in Kerala and other states.

Thanks to his prompt decisions, ICFOSS will even pump in some much needed funds for further development.

On 8th June, we sat with Mr. Satish Babu and his accountants to tally the books.
We did the comparison on a monthly basis.
Every time the books tallied the happiness went on increasing.
Sure there were some glitches, not due to the problem in the software but due to mistakes in the data.
Finally it all tallied for the entire year and the good news triggered a wave of joy and excitement in the entire GNUKhata camp.

With this successful deployment, Satish Babu told us that the entire Kerala state will be using GNUKhata soon, because he would be actively taking up the deployment in the said state on a bigger scale.

looking ahead

Following the successful deployment, we had a post audit meeting with the same team of accountants and a few experts.
Including Mr Satish Babu himself, there were many enhancements suggested by all who attended the meeting.
A few major enhancements included a drill down interface where one can jump from one report to another in context of trial balance or ledger.
For example while seeing a ledger, one should be able to click on a voucher and directly see if there is a mistake in it.
Similarly one should be able to jump from trial balance to ledger for a particular account.
at the same time, many features like the unique extended trial balance were highly appreciated by the accountants.
Seeing the success, we decided to launch an interim version 1.2 on 30th June 2012.
this release will have most of the important features requested by ICFOSS.
The selected features are those which will impact the user experience for almost all users.
So that's it from me.
Watch out for the latest version on June 30th (who knows another blog post might be on its way before that happens)

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Recent FOSS Campaigns


Hello all,Firstly let me say at the very beginning that the blog is still alive and it is just that I neither had enough things happening worth blogging, nor I had the time to do so.

Right now I earned this time, thanks to my wife Sayali who actually took up the job of pulling me out of stress and bordum by urging me to visit her village house. As if that was not sufficient for me to relax and enjoy. We had a great time in Delhi, working on a project by HP called Lab In a Box, more about that later.

In fact I was in a wonderful mood for writing this blog sitting out side the very beautiful house of my equally charming wife, but my travel back home was dicey.

The bus tickets were not confirmed and so it took a great deal of time before I had some time.

But dinner (we had excellent curried mutton and dry spicy chicken ) took away all the remaining time and writing some thing in a State Transport Bus is undesirable if one wants to protect the laptop.

However as they say, all things happen for the good and it is at least true in my case.

If I had compiled this blog post at that time, then I would not have so much to write about ...

Well, enough background I guess and sorry for my long mono log on preface.

On The Road To Digital Freedom

In the recent FOSS campaigns and workshops which Myself and my team did,we had a fairly good success rate in convincing few faculties and a huge number of students about the dangers and restrictive nature of proprietary software.

My readers might be already aware that I don't believe in doing workshops for shear awareness but also for helping those who wish to migrate, either as an individual or institute/organization.

In fact I don't do any thing extra ordinary or brilliant. I share the knowledge which is already there and just speak the truth. the very reason I succeed where most fail is the simple fact that I myself believe in what I tell others and I don't promote FOSS as a marketing stunt or some thing similar.

It is sad that we often see people using Mac book and try telling people "Linux is so great, it has really come a long way and we all must give it a try."

and then come down to this common dialog, "well, you can try it out for a thing or 2 and help developers improve it. We still don't have a very user friendly Linux desktop and common man can't use it with extreme ease".

I wonder what such people are trying to convey, except that "there is some thing called Linux which is not good enough, but might be in future"".

The point I am raising here is not about forcing people to use Linux, I would never do it myself given my value for freedom.

The point I strongly object is the signals of hypocrisy which such people give.

My advice to such backdore promoters of proprietary software is simple and straight.

If you don't believe in FOSS, all the best and you are free to go your way, but don't spread wrong information about FOSS and don't talk about it if you don't believe in it.

FOSS is a successful revolution, and now much beyond just a revolution, it is a way of Business and life in general.

So we don't need any false sympathy or "come on you will be better some day " kind of cheer leadership from such sudo advocates of FOSS.

Any ways coming to the point where I started.

Amongst the many colleges we visited in Maharashtra, one particular college that shows a great determination in shifting to FOSS is Ravindra Mane College of Engineering and Technology.

Apart from the wonderful workshop, I remember the beautiful tiem I spent with my darling wife (then girl friend ) in the beautiful locations of Ganpati pule (seeming to be the Indian version of spain ), following the surprise birthday party we arranged for her in the bungalow of Avanish, our GNUKhata colleague.

Actually I was linked to this college from another institute named Sindhudurga Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (SSPM) in Kankavali.

In fact SSPM is also making a modest attempt to shift to FOSS, thanks to some valiant attempt of Prof. Raman Bane, the HOD of IT department of the said college. Talking about RMCET, it was the most beautiful experience and one of the successful campaigns we had in the recent past.

We did a general FOSS awareness and migration workshop for teachers from the Konkan belt in RMCET, under the Short Term Training program (STTP) project started by the Many universities in Maharashtra.

about 90% of the faculties were more than just interested.

Many of them had some primary understanding of "Linux" as they knew it and were mostly of the impression that it is all command line and not for daily use. This is thanks to many marketing personals and prof.s who have knowingly or unknowingly spread this dirty mith.

But as Usual my team follows a 3 phase strategy to make people aware of the better realities of FOSS.

1, inform the participants about similarities in GNU/Linux and the other proprietary OS they have used. Tell them how standards compliant is the office software and how they can use Firefox and VLC and similar things.

We have always observed one fact and more so in the recent times.

People are nothing but uninformed and in many cases intentionally miss informed about many facts.

One common exercise we do is first ask "how many of you already use FOSS daily?" most of the time there are hardly any raised hands.

Of course now a days the number has definitely gone up.

Then we ask "how many of you are using either firefox, Vlc or both?"

now when almost all raise their hands, we strike them with a shock wave "do you know Firefox and Vlc are Free and Open Source Software!"

Then we go on to explain this problem.

we make it a point to tell people that the reason they all got surprised is because the marketing fiends from the proprietary industry don't want you all to know that FOSS is used for every thing in every day tasks these days.

In our initial demo and explanation, we show them how easily they can open all kind of documents and spreadsheets or presentations which they might have made on a proprietary OS.

2, some things are better than the proprietary OS, although a bit different.

Talk about Virus and every one is ears up and eyes wide open.

the fact that Linux is totally free of the concept of virus goes a long way in appealing to the common man.

It is however not as easy as it seems.

one dirty trick that Microsoft has used to mislead people is by a marketing mith that goes, "since Linux is not popular, there is no reason for writing virus. Windows is used by 99% people so there is virus".

We urge every one including readers of this post to notice a few things.

Firstly, is Linux the only system without Virus?

Well, if popularity is the determining factor of virus, then what about I-phones, what about the so very popular android?

Why virus never was an issue for Unix servers?

Windows wished to have a system of virus for making people dependent on softwares like anti virus.

and 99% people using windows?

nothing can be far from a dirty marketing trick which is not even based on correct data!

After the first and the second strategy, we have mostly observed that people are well convinced and at least ready to listen further.

In fact with recent experiences at SSPM and RMCET, along with a couple of workshops in Latur and Nanded, we have found that many participants bring over their personal laptops on the second or third day of the workshop and ask our fellow team maits to help install Ubuntu Linux on the machine.

This has become such a common trend that we almost have to keep a day extra for such activities.

This just goes to show the keen interest people have shown off late to totally switch to FOSS.

finally we show them some complex stuff which is quite different from the proprietary OS which they are addicted to.

by this time the audience is ready to take in some complex things.

Most often than not, we take this workshop/ seminar for 3 days.

first day we cover the principles of Free Software and stress upon the digital freedom followed by the overview of graphical desktop.

By the way, I never understood why so many individuals or organisations make tutorials or books which lay a lot of stress on commandline interface, so much so that people come to beleive that GNU/Linux is not good at GUI.

This is a totally wrong stratergy and must be given up by any one who wishes more and more people enjoy the real advantages of Linux desktop with its simplicity and power.

Most of the recent workshops have been on the same theem, "GNU/Linux, the easy, secured, flexible and powerful free desktop".

We had a wonderful time at Nanded where Prof. Chaudhari is trying his best to bring university to understand the importance of FOSS.

he is the man who successfully migrated one university in Konkan (BATU) to FOSS.

Infact looking at the recent success, myself and Sayali launched a new distro called Allrounder Linux.

just the tagline says it all.

"from office to entertainment, Linux with you every where "

Of course we will alter it to "GNU/Linux" every where.

We have included all the tools for almost any thing one can imagine.

Although I have helped Sayali to remaster the original Ubuntu distro, the entire credit of marketing goes to her.

But all these workshops can be considered regular, because just a couple of weeks have passed after I got a very beautiful surprise.

I was invited by HP (the makers of laptops, desktops and other things like printers ), for conducting a teacher training workshop for visually disabled in Delhi.

They have recently started a project called Lab In a Box (LIB).

You can look at my facebook profile for some amaising pictures of LIB which our team took there.

Basically the idea is "Digital school that goes to the students any where ", cudoes to MD of HP Asia and my good old friend Dr. Jaijit Bhattacharya.

The concept is based on setting up a computer lab in a ship container.

15 computers in a container, which can be moved any time any where.

Inside we have an internet connection, a generater and ample place for putting up black/ white boards.

This is such a brillient idea that we can take school to the students in those areas where students don't get a school.

Imagine what could happen if such LIB is placed in every vilage where school has not yet reached?

or at places where schools are far away.

Besides, the box is water proof and earth quake proof.

I already officially wrote to HP about my views and we will be installing LIB in a lot of rural places, starting with Maharashtra.

My immediate targets are Vidharbha and Konkan.

for example We plan to take this to Hemal Kasa, an adivasi area where one of the 2 suns of Baba Ampte, Dr. Prakash Amte has his setup.

Of course I don't even need to mention about Anand Van and the work that has been done by the Amte family in that area.

We are also planning to sett up another in Sawant Wadi for the bennifit of visually disabled people.

The point to notice here, is that LIB uses Ubuntu Linux and all FOSS tools for education of the under priviledged students.

And now with the advent of Unity desktop, it has become all the more accessible for blind people.

We infact recommended HP to switch their machines to Ubuntu 12.04, at least for the blind students who would be using Orca.

some thing beyond FOSS

Another experience that took my mindsare is the Amar Jyoti school.

Dr. Uma Tuli, the founder of this school has been successfully providing inclusive education to students with or without disability.

On the last day of my Visit to Delhi, we spend a few hours at the school and were amaised by looking at the way students with any or no disability were taking education together.

The premices is totally accessible with ramps for wheel chairs every where and accessible tiles for blind students.

There were many other things which Delhi visit made me feel so happy about.

Not forgeting the little Vaishali, a 7th grade blind student and the way she took us with surprise with her knowledge about computers.

"Aap mujhe internet de do, baki main seekh lungi " "Give me just the Internet and I will learn the rest " was what she told Ujwala and Sayali when they met her during the first practical session.

Only sad part was that KV school should have cooperated more with such a noble project and shown some more value for the gift they got from HP.

But that's the way of the world today I guess.

Any ways, It is high time I sign off and let my readers take a breath before I start on another topic.

I will come back with some more amaising experiences in my journey to digital freedom.

Good by and enjoy your freedom.