On 16th of September the use of free libre open software will be marked in over 150 countries, celebrating it as far away as Nepal, India and Africa.
International Software Freedom Day was born in January 2004, when the initiator Matt Oquist drove past a retail store with piles of AOL CDs lying around, and considered that a CD filled with free software such as Open Office, Firefox, and the GIMP would be of vastly greater value to the public.
Matt concluded that “Free Software had improved to the point of being suitable for public use?”, and that “public ignorance would be one of the primary roadblocks to public acceptance?”. He gathered some friends and initiated the first Software Freedom Day to spread awareness about the free libre open source alternative.
This year free software is not only celebrated in Scotland, but by 189 teams world-wide, from as far away as Nepal, India, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Moscow, Australia and Zimbabwe.
“Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using FREE and Open Source Software in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere!”, states Steve Marlow from Team Scotland of the Software Freedom Day.
“We’ll have a Demonstrations of the Software, Internet Access and much more, everything is FREE and we would like to encourage everyone to come along to find out more. As a bonus this year we hope to link up LIVE and chat with other teams around the world.”
So what is free software?
As Richard Stallman described in his talk at the Edinurgh University in May 2004:
“Free software” = is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”
Artist Simon Yuill and initiator of free libre open surce software workshops (FLOSS) at the CCA in Glasgow explains:
“As an artist, Linux and Free Software enable me to work creatively with the computer in a way that is simply not possible with commercial software. It genuinely turns the computer into a medium for personal expression rather than a commodity or office tool. It is also makes the computer a far more social thing, because once you are working with Free Software you start to become involved in a whole variety of communities of people who share similar interests and are willing to share their skills and experience. Free Software puts the emphasis on what people do, what they can contribute, rather than on packaging or marketing.”
In Edinburgh, local Linux fans will meet at the Drylaw community centre in North Edinburgh to exchange experiences, give away CDs, socialise and demonstrate the use of the GNU/Linux based computer software, which empowers the user to take control of the computers.
Free software encourages the users to share, modify and share modification of the programmes source codes. The exchange of knowledge and information is encouraged, with the software programmers developing openness, accountability and equality towards the users.
At its core an inclusive community is created around the software development, with unconditional access to help and advice when problems arise and an emphasis on experimenting and playing with technical gadgets, both new, old and even ancient hardware.
Simon Yuill, on the way to the Wizards of OS (Open Source) conference in Berlin, states:
“In continuing to support older computer hardware, Free Software also encourages recycling and using existing equipment rather than people being forced to buy a new machine every two years because the software manufactues have decided to make their software only run on the newest machines.So Free Software is more creative, more social, more cost effective, and more environmentally aware than any commercial software.”
Because the source code is openly available, many software programmes are free of charge, although commercial packages which offer professional support are available. Thus Linux is one of the few remaining rivals threatening the Microsoft monopoly, and the average user can thank the libertarian and social programming community for many free or low costs programmes and applications, even though some might be proprietary, essentially many have been persuaded to do so because of the pressure by rivaling community based software.
But Software Freedom is nothing to be taken for granted. After the efforts of the EU parliament to patent ideas used in software programs could be narrowly avoided during a several years long battle, the accuracy of the electronic voting machines was also disputed and the last World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November in Tunis, saw efforts to withdraw the authority of the Domain Name Registration from the non-profit group ICANN to a commercial provider.
To get involved locally in your free libre open source community, contact the
EDINBURGH LINUX USER GROUP (EDLUG)
Informal meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30pm in The Holyrood Tavern.
SCOTTISH LINUX USER GROUP (SCOTLUG)
ScotLUG meets at 19:30 every last Thursday of the month at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, then moves at roughly 21:00 to the Counting House just west of George Square
ABERDEEN LINUX USER GROUP (ABERLUG)
DUNDEE & TAYSIDE USER GROUP (TAYSIDELUG)
FIFE LINUX USER GROUP
Chateau Institute for Technology Hacklab,
Infoseed Hacklab, Computing Coop Repair Service and Indypendent Media Centre Scotland merger,
Electron Club at the CCA, Glasgow
The Electron Club is a space where people interested in things like free open source software, circuit bending, hardware hacking, computer recycling, streaming, audio and video editing, green technologies, and amateur radio can meet, use equipment, and share and disseminate their skills and ideas.
11th September- ends 15th December, Hannah MacClure Centre Gallery in Dundee. relates FLOSS, the Free Libre Open Source Software and hacking to things like the allotments movement and guerilla gardening.
Software Freedom Day Radio Stream
Live webstream reporting from International Software Freedom Day around the World.
Professor James Hendler
Department of Computer Science University of Maryland, USA
4 pm, Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Swann Lecture Theatre,
Michael Swann Building,
The King’s Buildings,
Jim Hendler is one of the prime movers and shakers behind the “Semantic Web“, the next generation of the Web according to its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, and the World Wide Web Consortium.