Software Freedom Day 2013 @ Virtusa

This last week, the fine folk at the Virtusa Open Source SIG organized an event to celebrate the Software Freedom Day where my good friends Mifan and Suchetha made keynotes. Also in attendance was Arunan, so it was a re-union of sorts with some old friends. It’s been a while since I have participated in anything open source / free software, and it was great to see the old flame is still alive at Virtusa, and I hope it helps in shaping their worldviews and brings as much purpose to them as it did to me more than 10 years ago.

The last SFD I attended was in 2008. I blogged about it here with some photos available in my surprisingly-still-around flickr account. It was in Chinatown in Boston and I drove up from Pennsylvania, mostly to get my mind off things. It was there that I purchased a copy of “Free Software, Free Society”, a collection of essays by Richard Stallman. Five years later, I picked up the dusty book from my shelf and re-read the GNU manifesto, to get my mind back to the core principles.

 Image

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aweeraman/sets/72157600555500824/

It was there, as I was flipping through the pages, that I saw RMS in a whole new light. His uncompromising tenacity in the face of control and oppression and unfaltering stance on ethics and morality of freedom. He is a true freedom fighter. His message sometimes gets lost in all the pandemonium we go through daily but the spirit of the freedom he preached is very much alive every time we believe that knowledge should be free and that everybody should have access to it. I hope this message continues to inspire folks for years to come.

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GPLv3 Launch

GPLv3 was launched on Friday (29) after close to eighteen months of public involvement in it’s drafting process. This has been an important milestone in the free software world as an upgrade to the GPL to address some of the more modern concerns have been a long time coming. I think Bruce Perens sums this up well when he said:

“When the GPLv2 and GPLv1 were written, we got music from phonograph records,” he says. “The most complicated input device people had in their homes was a touch-tone telephone. The only thing that was even close to digital rights management were these dongles you’d hang on the back of your computer that would authorize you to run software — digital rights management didn’t even really exist.”

You can read the rest of the Wired article — here.

I was at the Free Software Foundation with a couple of my mates and you can find some of the photographs, here. RMS made the announcement in a room rigged with audio equipment, so everyone was really quiet. In a room where the dropping of a pin could be heard, the shutter release of my DSLR came like claps of thunder. So I resorted to just watch the whole thing rather than draw the wrath of the assembled mob of free software types.

GPLv3 has finally taken flight. It’ll be a lot of work to re-license all the GNU tools under GPLv3 but the process has already begun. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens.

Update (14 July): The announcement from RMS.

Sahana receives FSF award

I attended the 2007 FSF members meeting today – codenamed “Year of the upgrade”.

–snip–

09:15-10:00 Breakfast, registration, and pgp key signing
10:00-10:25 Peter Brown, Executive Director – “Libre Planet”
10:25-10:50 John Sullivan, Program Administrator -“BadVista and the Campaign for Free Software Adoption”
10:50-11:05 Justin Baugh, Senior System Administrator – “Hardware Free from Restrictions”
11:05-11:20 Joshua Ginsberg, Senior System Administrator – “FSF Systems Administration”
11:20-11:35 Break
11:35-12:10 Brett Smith, Licensing Engineer – “Compliance and GPLv3”
12:10-12:50 Richard Stallman, President – “Software Patents”
12:50-13:50 Lunch and mini-rockbox installfast
13:50-14:40 Gerald Sussman, Director – “Robust Design”
14:40-15:20 Eben Moglen, General Counsel – “After GPLv3”
15:20-16:00 Board members panel and Q&A – “Year of the Upgrade”
16:00-16:15 Break
16:15-17:30 Members Forum – including a presentation by Mako Hill on “Defining Free Culture”
17:30-17:50 Free Software Awards Ceremony

–snip–

Four members from the Sahana team (Chamindra, Pradeeper, Mifan and Ravindra) were present at the meeting to receive the Free Software award for Project of Social Benefit!! This is a truly great achievement, kudos to you all!

Just as I expected, I bumped into Niibe this year as well, and we caught up on some of the Debian work that I’ve been doing with him. Niibe is my mentor at Debian and has been helping me immensely to get my packages into Debian.

Other notable attendees were Bruce Perens and Ted Ts’o.

I noticed Ted when he entered the room, towards the latter part of the event. It was only later that I found out that he was to receive the FSF Award for the Advancement of Free software. I didn’t expect to see any high profile kernel hackers as himself at FSF events although there was one attendee who was the splitting image of Alan Cox, but a little poking round revealed that to be a false lead.

The presentation by Mako Hill on “Defining Free Culture” was quite informative on some of the good work he’s been upto lately. Eben Moglen‘s oratory was impressive as always and Gerald Sussman confounded the audience with some deep mathematics. RMS spoke on software patents.

Some photos from the event are available on my flickr.

Past events: FSF Members Meeting, 2006

RMS @ MIT

It was a very eventful weekend. For one thing, the FSF associate member’s meeting was being held at MIT on Saturday. I’m not a fan of social events, but as it turns out, geek hangouts are where I thrive. Made the long and arduous journey to Boston with Supun, a colleague of mine and a free software aficionado, and took the subway to Kendall/MIT. It was a very pleasant day, perfect for some good ol’ curbside hackin’.

The turn out at the meeting was pretty good, and there were some FSF merchandise right outside and I promptly bought a couple of books. Scanning the lounge for familiar faces, I quickly noticed Niibe walking over. Niibe came over to Sri Lanka and participated in a Code Fest held at Virtusa as part of the sixth Asia Open Source Symposium. Niibe is well known for his efforts on the Linux kernel SuperH port.

One of the speakers was the venerable MIT professor Gerald Jay Sussman, who invented the Scheme programming language along with Guy Steele Jr, one of his former students. It was a very interesting talk titled “Software is never finished”.

Eben Moglen followed soon afterwards, followed by Richard Stallman. RMS spoke about the evils of DRM and the new provisions introduced to counter it in GPLv3.

After the presentation, I managed to have a little chat with him in the lounge area, and when I mentioned the LKLUG he was quick to point out that a name change was in order. You can trust RMS not to miss that one. There was a long and heated LKLUG mail thread on this same issue way back in 2004. Thanks to lurker, I’ve managed to dig it up.

Some photographs of the event can be found here.