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Fossified is the (un)official blog of SLIIT FOSS community. You will find all the information related to SFC including events and other FOSS related articles.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Software Freedom Day and its impact on our lives

SFD 2010

In two days, the world will be celebrating Software Freedom Day, an annual event held on the third Saturday of every September.

What's the hype about software Freedom anyway?

Freedom in the software field can be roughly defined as the 'ability to study, modify and freely redistribute a software without any restrictions'. Most commercial software that we use, for example Microsoft Office Word are closed source proprietary software which means that the user has no access to the source code and is bound by the terms and conditions stipulated by the manufacturer. The user has no right over the software he/she pays money for.

Why is this bad? Because our lives are increasingly becoming dependent on software. Our governments are relying on software to manage our information. If we do not know how the software works internally or if we are bound by licenses that grant the software manufacturer illicit access to our private data without our knowledge, we are in danger of losing our privacy or information secretiveness. We are paying for software which does more harm to us than it does good. so it is necessary that we have the ability to study and understand the software that we use to ensure its correctness and to trust it with our valuable data. For this purpose, we have to have complete freedom over the software so that no one can deny us the 'right' to do what we please with the software that we use.

Software Freedom Day is the day that we celebrate our freedom over software. The inherent purpose of this event is to tell the world loudly that we value and demand the freedom associated with any piece of software. It is also to increase awareness among people who ignorantly fall victim to the proprietary software death trap. This awareness is important because convincing proprietary software money mongers to embrace freedom is much tougher and a complete waste of time than making regular people aware of the disadvantages and risks associated with shackled software.

So, on the verge of Software Freedom Day 2010, let us rally together and tell the world loudly and proudly that we value software that gives us freedom over it, that which is transparent and that we want all the software to be shackles free. That and that alone is our way forward to a future that will be shaped by software and technology.
For more information, read about Software Freedom
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Free Software, Open Source, FOSS: Any doubts? Not any more.

I am puzzled when I hear the words "Free Software". They say "Open Source software" & sometimes "Free & open Source Software" & I'm lost in the software desert.

Maybe this is what you have to say about software freedom. And unfortunately that's not what you need to say. However It's not your fault & I don't know whose either. Letting it be gone, let's clarify those misunderstandings NOW.

At the very beginning software was free by nature. There was no restrictions. People didn't worry about hiding software source code, didn't care if some one changed it to match their needs and even if they shared code with others. But with the time, things started to change. People started to hide code for different reasons. Let it be security, secrecy or money.

There was one guy, among others, who didn't bear this. And also stubborn enough to voice against, and even act against the new growing closed software culture. He was Richard M. Stallman fondly known as RMS, who worked in MIT research labs.

Richard M. Stallman (picture: Praneeth)

RMS wanted the freedom in software. The freedom he used to have before proprietary systems. He defines four essential freedoms software should have.

Freedom 0 : The freedom to run the program as you wish.
Freedom 1 : The freedom to study the source code and changing it to do what you wish.
Freedom 2 : The freedom to make copies and to distribute to the others.
Freedom 3 : The freedom to publish or, more generally, distribute modified versions.

Based on these freedoms RMS initiated the Free Software movement. Later he started Free Software Foundation (FSF) in order to support free software movement in a more organized way. This was in 1985. In 1989 RMS designed GNU General Public license to help software developers to develop software following free software concept and still keep up with legal requirements.

The project that first took the ideas of freedom in to action is called GNU. GNU stands for "GNU is Not Unix". (You can see GNU even after expanding the abbreviation. That's because GNU is a recursive acronym). GNU project aimed to build an operating system that was similar to Unix, but unlike Unix, it was free.

Before continuing with GNU story, I should clarify some myths about free software.

Free software doesn't necessarily mean it's "Free of Charge". GPL, the free software license or the philosophy itself doesn't put any kind of restrictions in selling software. Even RMS sold some packaged software to earn funds for GNU project.

Another myth about free software is that they are not secure. This idea should have been tossed by people who are not familiar with free software culture. They say that it's easy for crackers or evil people to see the code and exploit. But in practice there are more people who are willing to fix the code and optimize than to break it. The bugs in software found and fixed faster than closed source or proprietary software.

Back to the GNU topic, GNU the free variant of Unix received lots of attention and contributions from people who liked the idea. By 1992 most of the software pieces that needed to Unix like system were done. But one major part, the kernel, was missing. GNU project had it's own kernel project called GNU/Hurd but it never came out as a usable part due to some technical difficulties.

The crucial part to the GNU system, which was still missing, came out as a hobby project of a student in University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds. The kernel later named as Linux and it was ready to fill the missing part of GNU operating system by 1992. The combination of GNU and Linux presented a usable free software Operating System to the world since Linux was also licensed under GPL. The complete OS is called GNU/Linux but it's often used as just Linux for the ease. Linux has very much evolved with time and it will take another whole article to discuss more about it.

Linus Torvalds (picture: Siraj)

OK now I'm familiar with the term "free software". But what about "Open Source Software"?

The words "Free Software" makes a doubt in any ones mind, whether it is 'commercially free' or free in any other meaning. For you & me, the word free means more like 'commercially free'. There were people who saw this as a barrier to take the idea of openness in to commercial and business cultures. In 1998 the term "Open Source Software" came out at an event parallel to release of Netscape code as Mozilla. Later in 1998 the Open Source Initiative was formed by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond (ESR) to back the idea of Open Source Software. Idea of Open Source software is derived from and similar to free software concept, but more commercial friendly.

Alright, then what does FOSS stand for?

FOSS, expands to Free and Open Source Software, is suggested as a middle ground to Free Software and Open Source Software. Since the ideas of the two campaigns were much similar they have certain differences in core concepts. People who want to go with both the ideas tend to refer to this idea as FOSS and be politically neutral :) . Some people prefer adding more meaning to this using the term FLOSS which stands for Free/Libre Open Source Software.

Hope you have fairly a good idea about Free software, Open Source Software and Free and Open Source Software. I'd like to encourage you to read more about these and understand the under wiring of these concepts. And most importantly participate in the community to get help and give something back to the community. Passionate people are the biggest strength in FOSS culture. So be a proud member of FOSS community :)
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First event of 2010: Fedora 12 installation.

Year 2010 came in with the new batch already in SLIIT. Talks for a 'FOSS introduction event for freshers' were there even before the dawn of the new year. And these talks grew up in to an actual event on 20th Wednesday.

Event brochure.(Design: Praneeth)

I went on stage with bit of a hesitation since I was away from public events for nearly three months. When I walk in the lecture hall 501 (Malabe), it was half full. I started off with 'a brief history of FOSS' and stepping towards Fedora 12 installation demo. Still the crowds were flowing in and after a short while I was addressing literally a houseful event.

(Photo: Hasaranga)

It was a great pleasure to see such a good turn up in the first FOSS event of the year. Such a pleasure won't be ours if not the great help from 1st/2nd year lecturers who informed students about the event and even one lecture canceled (that is so much of help). And also the help from the senior lecturer Mr. Nuwan Kodagoda is greatly appreciated.

With the motivation we received from the first event, we are in the process of planning few other events. Especially one for SLIIT Metro campus students, hopefully. Just stay tuned :) .
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

SFC achieves a lot in SLIIT Achievers 2009.

This is a far too late post. But still it should be here just because it is special.
We, SLIIT FOSS Community, have finished a really successful event at SLIIT Achievers 2009 exhibition.

SFC took the ownership of the free stall offered to lug.lk/foss.lk (Thank you Ms. Shalinka ) and made it a flashing event among others, in my Humble Opinion.

Nalin demonstrating GNU/Linux to school students
(photo: Praneeth)

We gave out free CDs full of FOSS and other technology related stuff, thanks to the ICTA sponsorship (Thanks Ms.Karthiga of FOSS.lk for the arrangements). Our members did a great job doing introductions, demonstrations and even troubleshoots to help the nice people visited our stall. And we shouldn't forget the help of LUG and TLC members Kunchana, Shahi and Dileepa.

The stall had great feedback from the visitors as well as the community. We were so much excited to see the enthusiasm of the people who visited and we are more than proud to be the owners of such a great event.

Event crew in the stall.
(photo: Praneeth)

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who helped in many ways to make the event a success. And of course you, who visited the event and talked to us, encouraging the team to do more.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

FOSS introduction event in SLIIT.

After a short period of silence... OK let's face it, it was quite a long period... we are back in the process of making some noise about FOSS in SLIIT-sphere. It was in our TODO lists for quite some time, the need of a FOSS introduction event for the newcomers, yes the 2009 batch. After a lots of chit chats, arrangements & rearrangements here we are with a possible FOSS event again in SLIIT.

It'll happen on coming Wednesday (25th March 2009) from 10.45 A.M onwards at lecture hall no: 306, SLIIT Malabe campus. Mr.Suchetha Wijenayake, who has always been kindly in help with our past events, will address the event. Though I used the word "Address" there, it'll be more of a friendly talk which would make everyone feel good enough to ask any kind of a FOSS related question. I swear on my experiences.

There have been many newcomers looking for a way to join with SLIIT FOSS community. I hope this event will be a good chance to gather all the enthusiasts & keep the community going forward even stronger. Someone who want to get in conversation even before the event happens can use following resources to keep in touch with the community.

The SLIIT FOSS community forum.
The forum is based on SLIIT courseweb so Only the SLIIT students who have access to the courseweb can join the forum. Just go and checkout. Share your ideas or maybe questions.

Fossified email.
Yes we have an email and it is fossifed [at] gmail [dot] com. You won't get a lightening fast reply but this is a good way to contact us. And the best thing is anyone can use email :) .

The IRC channel.
Well.. this might sound new or may be goofy for some of you & at the same time some others will be excited. we have an IRC channel for SLIIT on freenode.net which is for now not very active but I hope things will soon change as more SLIIT folks get to know about this. The channel is #sliit any one can visit it on your browser through mibbit web client Freenode webchat (Just choose a nick an join).

Ok, enough said. You just keep us busy making emails, forum posts & chatting on IRC. And don't forget the event on wednesday.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FOSSified Launches!

Welcome to FOSSified. The (Un)Official blog of SLIIT Free and Open Source Software community. Or The SLIIT FOSS community as we proudly call it. SLIIT FOSS web site is a combined effort of FOSS loving people in SLIIT. And it's main goal is to spread GNU philosophy among SLIIT students and as well as among school students, while introducing the power & flexibility of FOSS comunity & Free Software. Lot more to come....
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

About FOSSified...

SLIIT FOSS Community
SLIIT FOSS Community is the wall hole of all FOSS enthusiast students in SLIIT. It started in 15th augest 2007. In it's short career the community has conducted several events, workshops & teaching sessions to promote & teach FOSS in SLIIT & also outside the SLIIT. The event hosted by SLIIT which served Dr.Richard M. Stallman as the chief guest was organized by SFC with aid of ICTA & it's known as the biggest FOSS event ever happened in Sri Lanka.

The Blog
The foss.sliit.lk titled as FOSSfied is the (un)official blog of SLIIT FOSS Community. The main intention of the blog is to help SLIIT students to stay in touch with FOSS world. Besides that very goal, being the interface between SFC & any external entity is also a main goal of this blog. That very fact will help SFC to interact with external FOSS communities too. Ultimately the blog will help SLIIT students to better involve in FOSS.

FOSSified - The Magazine
FOSSified is the title originally proposed for the magazine planned to be published by SFC. The magazine is still in production & the ooth edition will soon appear on this blog as an electronic edition. SFC is looking forward to get it on printed media in near future.
Though the SLIIT administration closely inspect student activities, it should be noticed that this blog & other SFC realted activities are organized & handled by students in SLIIT FOSS community.
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