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  • From: "Frederick Noronha (FN)" <fred at bytesforall dot org>
  • Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2004 23:14:26 +0530 (IST)
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      By Henrik Nilsen Omma
      You, the reader, are hereby invited to participate in a celebration of Free
      and Open Source Software (FOSS) on August 28th this year. On that day we
      will stage public events to inform the general public about the virtues of
      FOSS. We invite you to form local teams and set up tables in town centers,
      shopping malls, or wherever there are likely to be lots of people on a
      Average computer users are not aware of FOSS, and at this point there is no
      reason they would be. Even worse, certain proprietary software companies,
      unwittingly aided by the press, have spread disinformation about FOSS.
      Recent coverage has been especially disappointing, with spurious connections
      being made between programmers and virus writers; this shows a clear lack of
      knowledge in the mainstream press. In order to counter this trend, FOSS
      users and enthusiasts must make more positive contributions to the
      mainstream debate. We should provide positive stories to write about, not
      simply respond to the latest FUD. A global day of FOSS celebration will give
      us an opportunity to present our case to the media and directly to the
      But the real challenges are still only on the horizon. New lock-in
      technologies such as Trusted Computing are going to make interoperability a
      challenge, and legal instruments such as software patents have the potential
      to stop FOSS in its tracks. Patented file-access routines will clearly not
      be available as open source libraries, and the patents will prevent us from
      making our own versions. The result may be that FOSS will be unable to share
      data with a majority of programs on the Windows platform, something that
      will render both Linux on the desktop and useless in many
      people's eyes. This serious threat can only be successfully combated if we
      are able to raise people's awareness of these issues. That is why we believe
      that projects such as Knoppix, TheOpenCD, and now Software Freedom Day are
      so important. The best guarantee of a vibrant FOSS community into the future
      is that people in general grow fond of the Freedoms that FOSS can provide
      and start demanding it in the same way they demand democracy and free
      speech. Only then will politicians and companies listen. The power lies with
      voters and consumers where numbers count, and time is running short.
      It is against this background that we have formed
      Our aim is to organize an annual, global celebration of FOSS on the last
      Saturday in August, starting with August 28th, 2004. We hope to build a
      broad coalition in the FOSS community. As a first step we have contacted
      major organizations such as the FSF, OSI, KDE, GNOME, the Berkman Center and
      others, to tell them what we are doing and to invite them to collaborate.
      The response has been positive, though no firm plans for common projects
      have been made (we are, after all, just starting out). We are especially
      interested in collaborating with other groups focusing on outreach
      When trying to unite the various parts of the Free and Open Source
      community, you eventually run into the terminology issue of Free vs. Open.
      Personally, I think the term Open Source has been useful in getting a
      foothold in the business world, but this term may now be of limited use to
      us when we try to reach the wider public (what is source?). The average
      person will probably be more interested in the implications for free
      electronic speech than the technical development model. In his recent talk
      at Harvard Law School, Eben Moglen made the case that the Free Software
      movement is the Free Speech movement of the moment. This may be true, but I
      also think we can not ignore the fact that the term Free in English still
      means Gratis to most people. We need a fresh approach to getting our message
      across in a way that still highlights the core concept of freedom, which is
      why we settled on the phrase Software Freedom Day.
      As important is Freedom is, however, it is not the only key element of FOSS.
      The open development model pioneered by Linus Torvalds in his management of
      the Linux kernel and later described by Raymond in The Cathedral and the
      Bazaar is also a key component. The concept of releasing early and releasing
      often, combined with open debate on mailing lists and forums helps to create
      a vibrant community and a dynamism in the development process that closed
      source development cannot match. It is this powerful process combined with
      the strength of the GPL that has given us the solid offering of software
      that is now on the verge of mainstream adoption. Credit should be given
      where credit is due, which is why many choose to use the term GNU/Linux.
      Many coders, artists, writers, and others have contributed to our common
      pool of software, artwork and information simply because they enjoy the
      technical challenges or the sense of community, and may not have had freedom
      as a central focus. These contributions must also be recognized now when we
      present these profound ideas and useful programs to the world. This is why
      we as a project have adopted the somewhat long-winded term Free and Open
      Source Software as our standard. Individual participants and groups may of
      course use whatever term they like. Personally, I am starting to like the
      simplified version of Free and Open Software, because while it is more
      manageable than the longer version it still credits the various contributors
      including non-programmers. The word Open now influences the reader's
      interpretation of the word Free in the direction of Libre rather than
      We hope to involve a large number of teams in the actual staging of the
      event. These will be comprised of LUG members and other enthusiasts, who
      will make local contributions all around the world. Each team will typically
      set up a display stand in a public place to distribute printed information
      and pressed CDs with selected high quality and user friendly FOSS. These CDs
      should also include a range of appropriately licensed introductory
      literature. Some teams might have computers available for demonstration, and
      there may be keynote speakers in lecture halls and on web-casts or public
      showings of 'Revolution-OS'. We should also aim to invite people into our
      on-line communities so that they can continue to explore the world of FOSS
      also after the 28th of August. After all, some of these concepts take some
      time to get one's head around. If some of the outreach teams had network
      access out in the street, we could sign people up for our on-line portals on
      the spot, have dedicated IRC channels or a gallery of web-cams from around
      the world. That would make it a truely global happening! Our imagination is
      the only limit and we look forward to seeing what groups around the world
      come up with.
      Our role as a project will be to help coordinate things and provide the
      required infrastructure, including a web portal, posters and fliers, and
      most importantly, high quality (pressed) CDs with FOSS that the teams can
      distribute on Software Freedom Day. To finance all this, we will be seeking
      sponsorship from local and global FOSS-friendly companies. The weeks
      preceding Software Freedom Day should be used to inform the media about our
      plans, to distribute fliers, and to hang up posters inviting locals to
      attend. We should also use the opportunity of this event to send letters to
      politicians and companies in which we give our views on software patents and
      related issues.
      So, please join us and bring your friends! We have much to celebrate, and
      it's time that everyone had an opportunity to discover the wonderful world
      of Free and Open Source Software.
      Copyright 2004 Henrik Nilsen Omma Verbatim copying and distribution of this
      entire article is permitted without royalty in any medium provided this
      notice is preserved. The author thanks Phil Harper and Matt Oquist for
      valuable comments.
      About the Author: Henrik Nilsen Omma is the founder of TheOpenCD project and
      co-founder of Software Freedom Day. By day he is a graduate in astrophysics
      at the University of Oxford.
      Frederick Noronha * Freelance Journalist * Goa India * Phone 0091.832.2409490 Mobile 09822 122436