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2012 August 29 [Wednesday]

Contributing to Libre software

"How do I start contributing to Libre Software?" is a very common question (I asked that too) one comes across on most FOSS lists. Today, I posted the following on a private list and was asked for a public link, so here goes:

SWOT

There are many Libre software projects to choose from, so choosing one project can be quite confusing when you are starting out. Do yourself a favor and take a few moments to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis before you decide to jump onto the Libre software bandwagon.

Its better to give yourself time to think (or write down) which technical area or field interests you
  • Which language do you want to program in?
  • Is it front-end software or backend stuff?
  • Web programming or something else?
  • Do you like writing system software or application level software?
  • Or, do you like libraries, prefer working with algorithms/statistical applications, etc..

Once you have figured out your field of interest, its easier to shortlist something and get started on finding a project to work on.

From Failure to Success

If you are still having a hard time figuring out your interests, fret not ! Its OK to NOT know what you want when you are starting out - make sure you keep an open mind and be willing to try out new things that are unfamiliar (and sometimes hard and confusing) and/or fail at them. Failure is a good teacher!

Its what you do when you fail that distinguishes you from a successful person. If you give up your failure remains a failure BUT if you decide to practice and try again (and Again and AGAIN), you can convert your failure into success. Remember, the bridge between failure and success is Practice!


FINDING A PROJECT

As I mentioned above, there are so many Libre software projects that its overwhelming at the outset. Having figured out your field, dont randomly visiting a bug-tracker and try to solve bugs, which is not a bad idea if you have only a few hours per week. However, if you want to wade a little deeper, try using Google to your advantage - scan the orgs at the Google Summer of Code.

This recently concluded program, has a ready list of organisations to choose from and the 2012 list is available at: http://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/program/accepted_orgs/google/gsoc2012. Besides these few hundred GSoC Orgs,
However, if you are interested in working outside of the SoC span, projects are always interested in contributors and would welcome your efforts 24x7x365. That said, these SoC tasks require a longer commitment of 40 hours per week in terms of time, so you need to decide what you want to do. Its not part-time work, so commitment and rigor is a prerequisite.

FOUND A TASK, WHAT NEXT ?

After you have searched Melange (or ESA) for keywords of your choice, visit the Ideas page for each organisation. Here, you will find a list of tasks ranked as per preference or difficulty level (NB: This entirely depends on the Org). Remember to cross-check with the Melange page if the task has already been completed via GSoC, or not.

If a task is still available, find out what is required to get started on it and prepare a short abstract. This will help you to,
  • figure out the development stack vis-a-vis your skillset,
  • realise how much time and effort is required to bridge the gap, if any ;
  • prepare a timeline estimate. (Dont obsess over the timeline as it is just an estimate and it will vary if the Org changes any requirements.)

These done, talk to the Org - always, Always, ALWAYS talk to the Org _before_ you start work on anything.
Just because a task is listed on the Ideas page does not mean its a part of their workflow (which can always change), nor is the opposite true. The best way to find out is to talk to them, first. Again, remember that these SoC tasks require a longer commitment in terms of time.

COMMUNICATING WITH LIBRE COMMUNITIES

Most Libre projects have their own communication channels. This could be via Mailing lists or Forums, including IRC channels on dedicated servers or on freenode. Its important to work with them via these public channels and that means learning to communicate and not worry about asking silly (psst..there are none!) questions.
Communicating with the core developer and/or mentors and community of users is crucial - they can be an invaluable source for ideas and helpful hints. Many projects have separate lists (and IRC channels) for users and developers. Join them and introduce yourself (or lurk around to get a hang of how things work) and when you are ready, do talk about the task you want to work on.

A development mailing list, where the core developers would be available, is distinguishable via the "*-devel" mailing address. Same is true for IRC channels - If you like CLI tools, try Irssi or Quassel if you want a GUI client. Pick your poison from this list of IRC clients.

EXPERIMENT WITH THE DEVELOPMENT STACK

Finally, and most importantly, you must be comfortable working with the software the project uses - that means, you should be able to clone and get the software to install and work on your local machine. Here, communicating with your Org helps - You can ask for help if you have hardware or software issues, clarify installation and dependency issues, etc... No software works flawlessly (else, people would be out of jobs :)) and Libre software is no exception - the only difference being "software development on a libre / public scale".

Another aspect of getting familiar with the development stack is familiarizing yourself with the projects internal system - Since, each project uses its own bug tracker and DCVS, Wiki (for documentation), Email/Forum and IRC communication system, take some time to get familiar with each of these. If you plan to stick around for any length of time, you would be using some, or, all the software stacks they use on a regular basis.

Your transition from newbie to active contributor is a lot faster when you are comfortable with the development stack. Doing your homework before the SoC program starts will give you the confidence required to grok it enough to start working on the code-base, suggest changes or solve bugs, etc..

I hope these suggestions help you find your niche learning shell to contribute to, and of course, welcome to the Libre software. Have fun!

2011 April 15 [Friday]

Vidalia calling volunteers

Openhatch is holding a 'build it' initiative in collaboration with Vidalia which is the front-end for the proxy you installed on your system. Most importantly, for a change, has India-friendly timings instead of a graveyard shift(s) which make it hard for non-owls (like me) to attend meetings. So, if you have C/C++ skills, dont forget to join #vidalia on irc.oftc.net at 18:30 hrs, today and volunteer! Continue reading for more details from, https://blog.torproject.org/blog/vidalia-get-involved,

Hello everyone, for those who don't know me, I'm the one that's taking care of Vidalia these days.

The other day I was contacted by paulproteus in the #vidalia IRC channel about an initiative they (OpenHatch) are organizing called "Build It".

The idea

Open Source projects live and die depending on contributors and people that want to see the project evolve, but this isn't so easy sometimes. The guys behind the Build It initiative have a theory about this difficulty:

"...lots of users of free desktop software want to get involved in customizing or contributing to the project's development, but they haven't gotten to the first step of getting the program to compile."

Since I'm a Gentoo user for years now, the compilation part comes naturally to me and I haven't thought of this issue that way but it's an interesting approach.

The event

This week, people involved in Vidalia and other Open Source projects will be at a specific time online to help users (future developers, may be :) ) jump over this compilation wall. Particularly, Vidalia is scheduled for this Friday at 13:00 UTC in the same place as usual: #vidalia at OFTC.

While this event is taking place on a particular day and a particular time, I'm online all the time (even when I'm not in front of the computer). So if you want to contribute to Vidalia or any of the projects around Tor (or Tor itself), don't hesitate, just get online and start typing, but be patient and stick around. Also, you'd probably want to read this: https://www.torproject.org/getinvolved/volunteer.html.en

If you want to know more about the Buld It initiative, you can ask in #openhatch at Freenode, or read here: https://openhatch.org/wiki/Build_it


2010 September 18 [Saturday]

ILUG-Bangalore meetup today

Announcing the ILUG-Bengaluru Meetup on Saturday 2010Sep18

Time:  1800 - 1930 hrs

Venue:  Jaaga,  Rhenius Street (Off. Richmond Road) , Opposite Hockey Stadium, Shantinagar, Bangalore

Directions: http://jaaga.in/contact

Agenda:

Open house:        Anything goes barcamp-ish session.

Regular Activities:         GPG keysigning - http://www.debian.org/events/keysigning


Note:  This is a back-to-back meetup with Ubuntu-IN . The Ubuntu-IN meetup is from 1630 to 1800hrs and is about Indian Language Localisation and all other things Ubuntu.

2010 July 14 [Wednesday]

meld it


All *nix machines have the feature allowing you to compare two files --often useful to do a quick 'cmp' or 'diff' on the cli for a file comparision --a good feature for a small script file or documents. However, if you want to compare chunks of code, between two versions, then the readability isnt optimal.

Meld to the rescue!

Meld is a visual diff and merge tool which allows you to compare two or three files located in different directory paths on your local machine and edit them. It allows comparison of upto three folders.

I love useful software written in Python using the PyGTK toolkit. Meld has been packaged for Ubuntu and "sudo apt-get-install meld" would install this small utility which can be accessed via: Application >Programming >Meld Diff Viewer.

Its that simple.

2010 April 24 [Saturday]

python in scientific computing workshop

Fossee is conducting a "Python in Scientific Computing" workshop from April30 to May01,2010.

VENUE

Sir M Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology,
Krishnadeveraya Nagar, Hunasamranhalli, NH-7,
Via- Yelahanka, Bangalore-562157, Karnataka, India

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=sir+mvit&ie=UTF8&hq=sir+mvit&hnear=&ll=13.153958,77.605104&spn=0.056917,0.077162&z=14

ATTENDANCE/REGISTRATION

Free, python beginners are welcome. However, registration is required and you can  register at mvit [dot] eventbrite [dot] com. NOTE: Please register only if you are SURE you'll be able to attend on both the days.

They have a limitation on the number of computers, so you should bring your laptop if you can. For more information please email them at workshops [dot] mvit [at] gmail [dot] com.

2010 April 22 [Thursday]

python lug meetup on 20100425

UPDATED UPDATE: This meet was CANCELLED.

Bangpypers, aka Bengaluru/Bangalore Python meetup is scheduled for Sunday, 2010apr25.

Time:  1500 Hrs onwards.

UPDATED Venue:
TenXperts office in Koramangala. On Hosur Main Road opposite Star Bazaar there is a small cross road (attached to Robert Bosch's compound). TenXperts office is on that road above Innovative Cars shop on the first floor.

Here is the map<http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=robert+bosch+koramangala&sll=12.936987,77.612818&sspn=0.004298,0.009645&ie=UTF8&hq=robert+bosch&hnear=Koramangala,+Bengaluru,+Karnataka,+India&ll=12.939067,77.612658&spn=0.016145,0.038581&z=15>


Agenda:   This meet will be focussed on taking an existing floss project and working on it. Current suggestions are Pygments and a Python standard library module for unit tests, but feel free to suggest and/or work on your own choice of any floss'y python project.  If you are new to Python, you are most welcome to come and learn. The idea is to get a local community along the lines of dojorio.org [English translation].


2010 March 9 [Tuesday]

Gesellschaft

At the recently concluded PyCon-2010, there were some discussions about diversity, women, etc... I suppose, much of my energy would have been saved if I had published this mail earlier or even blogged about individual sexist behaviors i've experienced within the Indian floss community. Na, its not fear, rather why would I want to think about evil creepy stuff on a personal space like my blog!? However, during various discussions, I realized that many folks dont know what you experience on an individual level on $random-foolist (or off-line harassment) within the floss community, unless you talk about it...Talking is the first step....

Hi $PersonsName,

As I write this mail the words "Out the creeps publicly" uttered by a devel (who shall go nameless) comes to my mind and hence i'd prefer to not be anon and back my words under the pseudonym 'svaksha'. Do feel free to trim my long train of thoughts and I wont be offended if it does'nt make it to your article as /self is too late in all probability :) -- my mental resources are wound up around a lexical parser atm.

Initially when i used to hear all the women speak about their experiences i took comfort in the fact that i am not alone in hoping for change. But i had not factored in the possibility that change is tougher when "clueless new idiots" follow in the steps of "sexist old timers". Over the years the attitudes towards diversity still remains sexist, especially within the Indian community where cronyism is normal.

My observations are largely India-centric salted with some experiences on international lists and sans a timeline ...

The usual personal mails asking for personal details under the guise of "i want to volunteer" or guised as a personal interview (since when did marital status become relevant to floss contribution?). Another peculiar one was a guy writing emails in different scripts despite my requests that i didnt understand them. It was when i requested a friend to translate them that i realised why -- personal questions in a non-english script meant fewer people would know he was asking personal questions.

Then there was this instance of a jerk trying to crack into my server when he became aware of my gender. I was happy with the anonymity --- Very very few folks (i trusted) knew my location and real name but that changed when I founded the Ubuntu-Women project, was termed a "militant feminist" (a pejorative term for Feminazi?). 

This pejorative was echoed in the Indichix (LC-India) mailing lists in 2008 to avoid answering the question of 'controlling a woman's group by proxy' - hmm...cronyism and elitism is gender-neutral ;-) These personal attacks descended into personal life queries (hint:: the coffee, splenda thread) by one Indian male who subscribed to a grrls-only mailing list by pretending to be a woman. So much for the "cultured_Indian"! 

Other experiences include, an smtp header spoof of my mail id to send a sex-related email to Ubuntu lists ; an indian gentoo devel in his interview wanted to be stuck in a lift with me even while he admits to never having met me. Another was the death threats from "mikeeeeusa" on DW which went off-list ~~ IIRC around 5 women were the initial targets but Clytie (an AU contributor) had threats sent to her teenage daughter too.

http://eaves.ca/2009/07/06/structurelessness-feminism-and-open/ has a point I could relate to viz.elites and cronyism -- both of which are true as far as the local Indian floss community is concerned. I've heard past incidents of getting cronies to use social engineering (a bully's crony will pretend to be your friend and find out where you work, etc..) and use pressure tactics (complaining to your superiors/boss@work --the easiest way to bully an individual who fears losing his/her livelihood) to silence disagreeing voices -- This may probably not be sexist as it happened to an indian male (who shall remain anonymous) floss volunteer, but i'm writing this to highlight a deeper and more serious problem within the fragmented Indian floss community.

Pretending to support women racks up the good_publicity_karma (hence commercially lucrative via corporate sponsorship for privately controlled commercial conferences pretending to be a community event) while one can continue to be being elitist and deny decision making power via "cronyism" (the elites will use red herrings and out-shout newbies or anyone who disagrees with them with cries of "show me the code") on the side -- a very subtle game that is hard to decipher on a superficial level.

However, when subtle aggressiveness is reserved for the local community members only very few folks outside that circle are aware of it. This small subset of highly aggressive Indian men will never exhibit this negative attitude on the international project lists and irc channels where they _do_ participate, because it will permanently damage their reputation. This is never good for business or landing a job in future. Also, international lists and irc channels have lesser bystanders[0] taking care of SEP[1].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody_Else%27s_Problem]

If readers are thinking its a malaise with the whole Indian community or a cultural baggage, its not. There is a lot of positive stuff happening thanks to many individuals who are polite and respectful and dont feel threatened by (wo)men. There are many men and women who continue their good work on an individual basis but unfortunately they are relegated to the  back-burner by pompous self-promoting jerks. I'm personally hoping to see a truly open community initiative like LCA or debconf (and others like it) happen in India.

Regarding including links and threads, i am undecided. The marketing gimmick "bad publicity is still free publicity" is another reason why I prefer to avoid blogging too much about negative behavior as it can acquire a cult-like halo and an easy way to fame for other men or newbies, especially when they see peers getting away with it. While technical misdemeanors (like a ddos attack,...) are punished quickly i've not yet heard an a$$hat being ostracized or boycotted from the community and this despite there being discussion and more discussion and protests about the said negative behavior.

Besides, the online world is so small that there is the danger of forming a mental picture of an individual and getting over-familiar via blogs, twitter, irc, lists, etc... Its possible that judging folks during real life meetings based on these preconceived assumptions is another cause of social behaviour problems.

I dont have any magic answers and have always believed that community action is the best way to solve the problem. Yet, getting women to speak-up openly against the negative attitude is a lot harder, especially when they feel they will not get any support as the lone voice, statistically speaking.  Few folks will want to waste their time tackling a regular barrage of red-herrings and logical fallacies. Example: Using the term "we" is purposely misinterpreted as taking over control and using "I" is interpreted as "the problem is singular in nature" and since _one_ person is statistically too small to figure in change, the status quo continues --This tactic works very well in situations when no change is desired.

Y'all probably are aware of all this so i'll stop as i've got to leave now.

ciao,
-vid



As you've probably guessed, the above was my mail sent to a private un-archived women-only list. I'm also reproducing (with permission) an exchange with another floss contributor who wrote after he read the above e-mail:

Devel: And you cant have a community of human beings and donkeys right? That's why I refuse to believe most of the Indian FLOSS communities are communities at all. I dont care and I dont bother.

Me: That is the scary bit...everybody stops caring. When I stop caring its just downhill then. Somewhere we have to make an effort to build the community, sustain it and grow.

Devel: You have to make sure the community is worth it. [emphasis mine]

Wow, that last line really hit me hard and brought me to my senses. His thoughts were echoed by another person, "dont beat your head against a wall, it will bleed".
Both said words that I cannot forget.

Do some people behave differently in public and in private? Yes, my (Indian) floss experience proves this is true. Pretense is an individual's negative attitude and India is not exactly famous for the way it treats its women-folk. That these negative social attitudes magnify themselves on the internet is not at all surprising because evils minds will learn to use tools like tor and fake email id's/online profiles to stalk women online. They dont have the courage to do it in the open with their real identity and face the ensuing repercussions.

Why expect women to say *Stop harassing, stop stalking* ? Given the low female participation, women are an even smaller percentage in the existing scheme of things and the lack of space to speak up within projects is another crucial point that gets overlooked.  Instead of telling women how to adjust to sexist bullying, men within a project must learn to speak up if they wish to see change. Most times that action is taken against those who manage to offend those in power, else in floss communities sometimes one can get away with any negative behaviour with zero repercussions.

In my years within most Libre software projects, the common thought that surfaces is the expectation that "change is slow" because positive results with respect to reducing sexist behaviour takes time. I disagree.  Is it that women have to be offended with negative attitudes or sexism for action to be taken? Why cant a lone individual (irrespective of gender, nationality or any other criteria) say "stop being a jerk" and get tons of community support. If there is a lack of community support, its due to apathy and a lack of firmness and strong action with low tolerance to negative behaviour by every person involved in the floss community.  This is not as easy as typing this blog entry was, since it needs impartial and strong leadership qualities. 

If we dont want a gesellschaft instead of a community where people care for others, then attitudinal change on an individual level is the need of the hour. FOSS Communities are mostly made up of individual people who use the same technology they create and although women (add foo-group of choice) are a subset, they should not be the diversity tokenism card for spin doctors trying to prevent a PR disaster!


2008 September 19 [Friday]

SFD week in Bangalore

At our last meeting we decided that SFD-2008 will stretch into Software Freedom Week in Bangalore.

From tomorrow ...

2008Sept20 : SFD with students at ChristUniversity from noon to 3pm.

2008Sept24 : Its time to say STOP SOFTWARE PATENTS on World day against Software patents.

2008Sept25: BMSE SFD Celebrations organised by BMSLUG and SUN Club.

2008Sept27 : Gnu turns 25 and you can sing Happy B'day Gnu at RV College which is organizing the 25th Anniversary.

Besides these FSUG-Bangalore in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society are conducting an essay competition all over Karnataka state for school students. Check the wiki page for regular updates on SFWeek.

2008 August 31 [Sunday]

Stop software patents

There is a Gnu/Linux Habba (festival/event) on 2008Sept21 at Mysore and 2008Sept24 is the "World Day Against Software Patents", and the Bangalore FSUG has a call to sign and spread the same.

Aug31 is the last day to signup if you are a software association, software company, software consultancy, software project involved in the Libre software arena. Just sign it !!

2008 August 7 [Thursday]

The chix-IN-Linux

Controversial ...absolutely!! The name LinuxChix evokes mixed feelings amongst women on mailing lists and one can be sure to be asked (usually by men) "Isnt it derogatory". Not really. In India, English is not the lingua-franca used to harass women...rather,  the local languages are more colorful, if you must. On the streets you will have heard atleast some of these "indian words" commonly used to de-humanise women in daily life, which can make your grandma turn beet red. Its something any woman would encounter on Indian streets across any Indian city and its hard to escape it and here context matters a lot, but I digress.


IIRC, the "chix" terminology is all about taking a term with negative connotations and giving it a spin, psychological empowering if you must. It is also a p(h)un twist on UnIX. But most of all, I love the attitude, the zing and pizzaz that the women (and men) bring to the LinuxChix lists, beyond the work they do locally. I just like the aspect of LinuxChix being for women who use, support Gnu/Linux and men who want to support women in computing. Its that simple.


For the most part, we as women get and give respect in the technology space via the work we do. That power is within us, via our actions. It definitely does not come from having the appropriate cultural name or a perfect name. The latter does not exist and IMHO "culture" is a vague and arbitrary term (mis)used in India to control people in the absence of rationality and logical argument.

Having seen Christian "bubulle" Perrier wearing a Debian Women tee, I was curious. He said that was his way of showing support and I thought 'hah, most men would wear a man's tee even if it had the logo of a women's group'. To my surprise NO, Debian-Women had NOT printed men's tee's, so Christian was wearing a women's Tee, albeit one his size. That stuck in my head for a long time and he even posed for snaps wearing the DW tee. C00L :-). I had given him some IndiChix tee's last year and he wanted to know if we printed men's T's and when I replied in the negative he nodded happily and promised to wear them as is.


At mukt.in, not a single female student questioned the name, the only questions were from men. That says a lot to me. So I had a precondition for giving away tee's to the men - Wear it right now. Nope, its not a present for your girlfriend/wife/friend. If you support women, show it off!!

Talking of Indichix, the situation is peculiar, we have volunteers for the Indichix Labs in cities where we need sponsors (Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mangalore, etc.. and no volunteers  where we have sponsors (Mumbai and Pune).  Strange...I always thought space would be a premium in Mumbai. My talk/presentation slides on "women in Libre software communities" is available here.

2008 August 5 [Tuesday]

An idea grows

Besides the pleasant weather another way to recognise I am in Bangalore is when there is a powercut. And what timing, precisely when i am working on the machine or need to fix dinner. Nice try BESCOM. </end infrastructure rant>

So far the responses to yesterday's request have been good, got some mails and an interesting comment. There was a request for Indichix labs in Mangalore and Bangalore BUT I never knew it would be so tough to get space in Bangalore. That is a surprise for sure.

I also got an office space for Pune and found a mentor in Chennai, Sudarsan Santiappan, who's comment had pertinent questions which may help us evaluate things. My reply to his comment was so long that I think its best converted into another blog post as I was repeating most of the following in each individual mails. Am I lazy or wot ^_^ ?

So here goes...

SSudarsan: If I understand correctly, this is typically equivalent to setting up a company which would target to deliver OSS. In the process of delivery, the team gets matured as OSS contributors.

Yes, in a sense its comparable, but the differentiator is none would earn a salary as we are non-profit project :-)  Jokes apart, for example, the goal is NOT to learn/create an "Indian" or a "pink" distro. Instead mentors can teach about the dependency cycle, package management, packaging across platform, and help to improve/develop/maintain the existing distro's, bug squashing/patching, and so on... Since LinuxChix is distro-agnostic, any experienced volunteer from the Debian, Ubuntu, Kde, Gnome, Python, Suse, etc ... communities can conduct talks, demos, take live sessions to encourage IndiChix. Most importantly sharing and learning in a group is fun and we develop new skills besides the knowledge gained during the learning process, plus the peer recognition and meeting nice people. So coolness factor is high !!

SSudarsan: The best places to start such an endeavor are the following;
1. Houses that can accommodate few computers and people with Internet support.
2. Computer centers of Schools and Colleges, which can hired at subsidized cost.
3. Tie-ups with Software Learning centers.

Cafe Coffee Day is not exactly the best venue for meetings nor conducive to learning packaging. So if we can provide an environment where they can come during weekends to learn for a few hours it would be a worthwhile experiment. In a nutshell the challenges and pressures are different and yet similar across different Indian cities; Also we are not-for-profit and have no inflow of revenue so hiring is a long shot at the moment, unless we find a generous sponsor :)

SSudarsan: One needs to have the following but not limited to; to sustain such an endeavor are the following:
0. Understanding the Vision

Contribute upstream. To add and expand, the moot idea is to reduce the challenges, as the knowledge divide for women is higher. With this experiment we can try to bridge this with help from like-minded people. Unlike other developed nations, in India, we have a number of women working in the proprietary software industry, which may be equivalent to men, but yet we have few (maybe around 100+) giving back to the Libre community. I met many newbies who are confused about:

+ where to start contributing, how to start, etc...

+ self-doubts about being good enough,

+ lack of knowledge about existing projects, or

+ Even wonder what to do at projectA, does my skill set match, do i have enough experience, etc... 


SSudarsan: 0a. Are you going to do service ?

Service ---> "upstream"  projects.


SSudarsan: 0b. Are you going to develop free s/w for the community ?

Absolutely, YES. Creating islands of excellence seems counter-productive.


SSudarsan: 0c. Are you going to commercialize the s/w developed ?

Not sure I understand what you mean but ...; I am no lawyer but I suppose; the existing license of the upstream project will prevail. This may change depending on the project too. :-8

SSudarsan: 0d. Are you having enough money flow to sustain this operation ?

As mentioned earlier, we are not-for-profit and generating revenue is not exactly on the top of the list right now. Besides the legal implications there are enough challenges, as is, to solve :)

SSudarsan: 0e. Who are the beneficiaries ?

Any (wo)man interested in helping and contributing to IndiChix, upstream projects, sponsors (you get to evaluate potential dedicated, hardworking technically adept women).

SSudarsan: 1. A Business model to sustain software development. Preferably a revenue model for sustained operation covering inflow and outflow.
2. A team of mentors/managers to train contributors and execute projects.
3. A detailed plan for people, projects, revenue in terms of growth and prospects.

and more...

If such a system is setup in Chennai, I would be willing offer mentorship.

The revenue model is too early imho, as
We (are a not-for-profit org and it has legal implications. Currently we will have to find a way to survive on sponsors aka charity.  Thanks for offering to mentor in Chennai.

To subscribe to IndiChix list, visit the list http://mailman.linuxchix.org/mailman/listinfo/indichix

2008 July 25 [Friday]

Butterflies are free

The look of surprise on Goldie's face as she discovers Edward is blind (*) has remained etched in my memory since I saw the movie at 10. The the impact Edwards character had on me was so much larger that as soon as the movie ended I rushed to my shelf, tidied it up, rearranged my books, prompting my Mom to wonder why the sudden need for tidiness at midnight.

Closing my eyes I tried to find books/stuff with poor success. Training my reflexes took time and slowly with practice I could distinguish between sizes, shapes, textures, and lernt to listen to the sixth sense so to speak. I was amazed how the blind even lived their life - its hard for me to take a step with my eyes closed, without crashing into stuff. As a sighted person i could never gain the sixth sense the visually impaired have but it has helped me in many ways at the very least it has taught me to be observant. I have still not succeeded in counting steps, remembering distances between objects and if blind-folded would still struggle to make my way around the house without bumping into objects. That is not the point.

Moot point of writing this is to highlight how we ignore a part of society that is differently abled from us. They are mostly kept away from mainstream society. I dont remember seeing a single blind kid studying with me in school, forget the higher levels or even at the workplace. Its almost like they dont exist, but they do, and last year a friend had told me about rakum.org and i decided to check it out. It being the middle of an academic year, I waited for the next year and planned to teach computers, libre software precisely.

(*) Gross as the word "blind" is, people dont intend meanness or nastiness when they use the word 'blind'. Reality is few folks in that school (or even across India) would understand the term "visually impaired". I doubt if the kids themselves are taught the difference, probably because such subtlity and awareness has yet to reach the roots.

2008 July 15 [Tuesday]

Mukt.in

Some days ago the indichix list got a mail on mukt.in. Here is the excerpt....

Mukt.in, a Libre Software event is being held at Osmania University, Hyderabad on 1-3rd August 2008. The 'Call For Participation' for 2008 is now online and speakers can register here. Attendees are requested to register on the site.

The feature list for 2008 includes :
* Student talks
* Student project Exhibitions
* Birds Of Feather Discussions
* Stalls exhibiting different open source technologies
* Prizes for local Open source contributors

You can volunteer for the event by adding your contact details and  skillsets at http://mukt.in/wiki/index.php?title=Volunteers or chat over #mukt.in at irc.freenode.net

They are looking for generous support/contributions from companies/organisations to make mukt.in 2008 a roaring success. Please do pass on this information to any companies  / organisations that might be interested in sponsoring the event.

2008 June 7 [Saturday]

Libre software in Indian schools

Do you know if Karnataka state has any Libre software curriculum in its schools ? If yes, are any books published? Email me, if you know anything about the Karnataka school scenario.

I need this information since I had volunteered to teach computers at a local special needs school and it goes without saying that I was pushing for Libre software but now I am having second thoughts about teaching them skills which will not prove useful (read, in getting a job). I know Kerala and Delhi have gone the Libre software way but what about Karnataka schools ?

In the final analysis, my personal choice does not matter, especially if the Org i am volunteering with aims to make them self-reliant with skills to match and ultimately independent. I have to remember these are people with physical challenges and we all know how easy it is in India for such people. Heck, normal people have a tough time finding jobs so I dont view the world with rosy linux-tinted glasses. And then there is the Indian penchant for certificates, degrees and other assorted pieces of paper, to prove your skills so to speak.... bleh, do i need to rant about that.

The last few weeks i asked around, the situation was dismal... each school has its own idea of how to promote computer education in schools, each has its own text-books all teaching proprietary software :(

The worst part, ALL the schools are only interested in making money - parents are charged extra money per month as part of "computer education", lab fees, etc... When i heard that students in grade1, grade2 were being taught computers, out of sheer curiosity, I caught hold of those kids and lo and behold, their notebooks had nice colored pictures of a monitor, printer, laptop, with the teacher's red-ink-tick-mark with a "good" sign for the color not going out of the lines. How interesting!!

Next, a talk with the teacher's teaching the subject -- i wanted to know at what age or grade the kids actually touched the computer -- ahem, *cough* not before grade-8, i was told.

Apparently, this is the case with almost every school so i am not shocked, just disappointed that parents pay fees but dont really get the value for their buck. Sad state of affairs this.

2008 February 13 [Wednesday]

Accessible software at OSI week

On Monday I had attended the star speaker Klaus Knopper's talk at OSI week and came away impressed. Besides the Knoppix project he touched upon the synergy between Free software, OpenSource and propreitary software. I found his approach very balanced and it was interesting to see the way he tackled the Q&A sessions. He had a good grasp of the licensing issues and spoke at length on that during the Q&A, which leapt into overtime by almost 35 minutes so I had to wait until he finished attending another talk to get a chance to meet him.
I was quite surprised when Klaus was gracious enough to allow me to paste an Indichix sticker on his laptop... am touched by his lack of airs.... and to think I wandered into the wrong hall and almost missed meeting him :-) Later I also met Krishnakant Mane and if nothing else we practiced our Marathi and Deutsche and mine is definitely rusty as hell. In the last few months I have even forgotten my Marathi and Hindi....*sigh*. Amidst the six degree friends and chattering, we almost missed another entrepreneurs workshop but walked in towards the end for the Q&A so although I dont know who were the panelists, i did take aways some nuggets of wisdom from there.
On the second day Adriane (Klaus's wife) was to conduct a workshop on accessibility software which she works on with Klaus but that morning she was not feeling well and Klaus conducted it. When he spoke about the technological drawbacks and other social problem areas related to barrier-free websites, I realised the extent to which sighted people like us take such things for granted. The lack of standards is another grouse. Although technology is gaining momentum we are leaving behind a section of the population when we dont build humane and inclusive technology. That gets stronger for hardware, especially the portable kind which manufacturers dont care much about. So whether its a camera, phone, laptop or any other other portable device we, as a paying customer have a right to ask for free software based technology. It was interesting and also sad to note that the Indian government has not made it a mandatory for sites to be accessibility-friendly unlike the EU where its a law. Hmpf... we hardly even have government websites that are Firefox-friendly so accessibility is such a loooong way off. As far as our government is considered such things are miniscule, hence not worthy of attention.

2005 October 2 [Sunday]

Sanskrit locale sponsored into Debian

Just finished a last minute correction on the SA (Sanskrit) locale. Too many long nights this past week reading about Unicode and Devanagari support, keymaps and key-bindings, on Linux. And as I write this, its past 2 am yet again.... Volunteering can cause insomnia and sleep deprivation.

UPDATE: My Sanskrit (SA) language locale package was sponsored into Debian by Christian Perrier on 03-Oct-2005, available as a Debian package “belocs-locales-data” and in package “locales (version: 2.3.5-6)”. It feels great to see my first technical contribution to Debian become a part of the larger FOSS ecosystem.