I was supposed to be taking shell scripting session yesterday, but we couldn’t get a hall arranged and we had to cancel it. So I tought of meeting some students if they were interested. Three students from NSS Palakkad – Ashik, Manoosh and Lal Krishna, turned up 4 O’clock as announced. I could reach only at 4.30. We sat down inside Fort above the temple. We started discussing about problems they faced with Free Software. Ashik mentioned about mp3 not working with totem player on Debian Squeeze and codec install option not popping up. I’m not sure what is missing here. As per my information mp3 coded should be installed by default and totem should ask for codec installation. I told him to try wheezy, anyway they are computer science students and they should be the ones fixing these issues.
Ashik asked the often asked question of being rewarded for one’s hard work and being able to support oneself by selling software. I compared it to knowledge and asked them if Newton was asking money for using his third law (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) when launching rockets? Another example I gave was example of custom software, where some one will have to maintain it (like software for a bank). Free Software would not take away jobs in service industry.
Then they said to contribute to Free Software one should have another job. I asked them why someone go to a lawyer when they can argue their case themselves? They said its for expertise. I told them its the same way Free Software service work. Another example was how teachers help when students can read the text book themselves.
Then I asked them what do they know about Free Software. They had some confusion about how Open Source is different from Free Software. I gave up insisting people use Free Software instead of Open Source sometime back itself. I tell them to understand the difference and choose what they feel comfortable associating themselves with. I also told them to look online for the difference and understand it. Let’s see if they come back with more questions.
At 6 they were closing the inside gate to the Fort. The security guy lost a bit of cool and asked us what did we think when he was visling whether he was calling us for food 🙂 We clearly were at fault as we knew they would close at 6, so I didn’t argue and smiled at his words.
Adhil joined us by then and we continued our discussion about difference between Open Source and Free Software. Some one told them Open Source means some part is hidden and Free Software means everything is free!
For explaining the difference I had to ask them about copyrights. We discussed origin of copyrights and how it is different from a patent. Copyright prohibits copying same code (it doesn’t apply when same thing is created independantly) where as patents prohibit implementing same ideas by different people without license from patent holder.
Then we discussed what licenses are and compared it with a driving license. There are certain conditions for a driving license like you have to follow traffic rules. I told them every license has conditions attached to it. Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative both maintain a list of licenses which match their definitions of Free Software and Open Source. Except for one rarely used license every other license on both lists match and practically all Open Source Software are also Free Software. The difference is in their philosohies. When people say Open Source they are interested in the practical aspects only and they don’t want to talk about Freedom.
We also discussed about a program on Septermber 29th in memory of first anniversery of losing our dear friend Jinesh to Lukemia. We will publish a book of his writings and also organize an SMC get together. I also told them we would like the new folks to take initiative and conduct this program. They have offered to take session on introducing Free Software and Malayalam computing. They have also offered to promote this event in their college. I have suggested them to use slidify and latex/beamer to make their presentations.
Ashik and Adhil opened their fast and we joined them for lime juice and samosa. We ended the meeting there. Hoping to see more involvement from them. I hope they will contact me when they get stuck somewhere.
Update 1: Added link to Lal Krishna’s blog.
Update 2: Lal Krishna’s post on the meeting
Update 3: Ashik’s post on the meeting