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.

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