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On Free & Open Culture; Some Resources

Note: This is for the Student Planet.
Please read this on the blog.

At the dawn of computing …


Last night, over at DGPLUG, Kushal gave quite a heart rousing talk on the history of Free Software, covering quite a bit about Richard Stallman and the events leading up to him (RMS, not Kushal) launching GNU & the FSF.

If you’re interested in reading more about that sort of thing, here’s a few more books & resources.

Free as in Freedom

The seminal book is of course, Free as in Freedom, on RMS’ life and the massive base he built, upon which we all stand today. Reading this made me realise what a debt we owe to him. So the next time we hear about how old & weird Stallman is, maybe we could cut him some slack.

The Groklaw Archives

Did you know, that the SCO Group once brought a case against IBM, suing them for using Linux? It was a large, long drawn out affair, 1 drawing old heavyweights such as Novell and new upcoming ones like Red Hat, into the fray. If SCO had won, it would have been the end, of the just barely decade old Linux and our landscape would not have been as rich as it is today.

We know all this, because of the daring and intrepid, Pamela (PJ) Jones, who started up one of the earliest blogs on the internet. It was called Groklaw, and it was …

a place where lawyers and geeks could explain things to each other and work together, so they'd understand each other's work better1

It brought awareness of the case to a wide swathe of people and Linux into the mainstream. The bar on the left of the site, gives you access to a whole lot of cases threatening Linux, and the news and views of the people in the know

A Quarter Century of Unix

A short, really influential book on Unix History by Peter Salus.
I don’t quite know how you can lay hands on a copy, but if you do, it’s fascinating. Nearly every article, every blog post, every book that needs something on the history of Unix, pulls a quote from this one.

The Daemon, the GNU & the Penguin

Salus’ follow up book, following Unix History on to Linux, is available to read on the Groklaw website. You can think of it as an expanded version of Kushal’s talk last night.

Open Sources

Want to hear from the people involved in the free software movement?
From the horse’s mouths themselves? Open Sources is a collection of essays from the folks who were there. Marshall McKusick, author of the BSD filesystem narrates how BSD went on to be free from AT&T ownership and Free as in Freedom.
RMS tells us about GNU himself.
Bob Young, founder of Red Hat, expounds on how the company set itself on the path to becoming a business on the back of free software.
Linus, tells us of the edge, Linux had, to become successful.

Producing OSS

Karl Fogel’s book, on why we write free / open source software and how to pitch it in your organisation

This is all that comes to mind, right now. If you know more, let me know or write about and I’ll update the page or link to yours.


Updates:

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Neal Stephenson’s essay on why Free Software would eventually win. (chock-full of history and analogy)
It’s dated and hasn’t quite panned out as he wished, but is still a fun read!


  1. from the FSF article at http://www.fsf.org/news/2007_free_software_awards 

Struggling with Git

Git png


Just went through the second chapter of Git Pro. Slowly getting the the hang of this.

Love the fact that most git commands are just unix commands prefixed with git

git rm git mv

and so on.

My head’s still mush, but more practice should help.

Onwards

On Whether I Should Buy That Expensive (or Cheap) Book

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

Erasmus

Most of my tech knowledge, I taught myself. Ok, small correction. I have been taught. By people. By people, living and also the eminent dead.

I learnt philosophy is just thinking intentionally, and a good way to live, from a Roman Emperor. I learnt about personal finance from a guy who distilled his own life experiences and 20+ years on radio. I learnt about investing from some guy. And then I went and learnt about the importance of Mental Models in life, from the same guy (as did the CEO of Dropbox.) I’ve learnt about the importance of community and giving recently, from a guy I’m in frequent touch with. The only reason you’re reading this, is because I learnt Markdown from the guy who wrote it.

So, yeah, reading is important. Books help us do the work required to have an opinion.

That brings us to whether I should be buying that book I’ve been eyeing or not. The best reason to buy, like Taleb points out, books let us learn and you never know what you’d want to learn

… a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.
The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there.
You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, … — Nicholas Nassim Taleb (Antifragile)

And as to whether you should do it, that can easily be explained, like Ramit Sethi does in a 140 characters

Slightly more detail in Rule 3 of this article. Like the ad says, “An idea can change your life!” Books unequivocally, are the best source of ideas.

So what are you waiting for? If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read, go buy, beg, borrow or steal it!

On Starting Summer Training at #dgplug

I started out with a very vague idea, of learning programming last year.

I went to Pycon India, fell in love with the community, decided to learn software, and came home all charged up. (Btw, I was so intimidated, I did not speak to a single soul.)

The plan was to sort personal issues, tackle a couple of major work projects so that I could then focus on learning, clear the decks and go full steam ahead come April.

While I made headway, I was also missing the hum and bustle of Pycon that had so charged me, but I did remember one session I attended, that had left me smiling was a sponsored talk of all things, by a certain Mr. Das. Off the cuff, naturally, warmly delivered.

So as I was looking for … someone to talk to, somewhere to belong, who comes along but Santa Das.

While that trip didn't quite happen due to personal reasons, we still kept in touch. (Why he would do that with a newbie-know-nothing like me, I don’t know. The man has a large heart.)

And when the new session of #dgplug was announced, I jumped at the chance!

To those not part of the dgplug summer training, read all about it here. The brave1 souls at the Linux Users’ Group of Durgapur take in a bunch of kids (and adults) who want to learn all about the magical world of software programming and give them tools with which they can paint on that vast canvas.

Our goal is to bring in more upstream contributors to various FOSS projects.
Through this training we show the path of becoming an upstream contributor.

— from the DGPLUG summer training page

Communication skills, free software projects, documentation, system administration, source code management, time management, conference proposals and obviously basic programming – the whole gamut is covered here.

So while any odd duck can learn on their own, the DGPLUG summer sessions will help you become a well rounded individual who can code and contribute to the world. A software finishing school, if you will :)

Kushal and the training and it’s successes have been featured in opensource.com time and time again.

A look at the guest speakers (including the all father of Python and the cream of the Indian Developer community) should be enough to convince you to come join.

It’s only been a week, and I’ve been having a ball! We covered communication skills, touch typing and the vi editor this week! If you hurry, you can catch up and work with us.

And for my new #dgplug family, here’s a little something, something2 about me to close this post with …

  1. Yes, I am obviously hiding my big, fat tummy in the pic. :) 3
  2. I’m like a poor man’s, still failing James Altucher.
  3. Yes, I’m a lot older than most of you. :) 4
  4. I’ve been at this IT thing a long time. (since 1997, in fact.) 5
  5. And yes, only now do I get the bright idea to learn software.
  6. I love the fact, that I get you to be my plus-minus-equal.
  7. You folks make me feel all warm and enthusiastic and welcoming and make me feel like I found my tribe!
  8. I’m still head over heels in love with my better half, and live with her in a cozy li’l Thane (Mumbai) home, not far from my parents :)

I look to learn so much from you and know so much more of you over the coming months. I wish you all make good art!


  1. (& foolhardy, dare I say :P ) 

  2. My grandma says that :) 

  3. dropped 7 kgs to 89. Only another 20 to go! 

  4. not necessarily wiser :P 

  5. land line telephone fixer boy, hardware tech support at small firm, hardware tech support at huge firm, freelance engineer, consulting engineer, consulting manager. 

Why Choosing an Appropriate License for Your Project Is Important, Anwesha Das’ Talk at PyCon India, 2016

Anwesha Das, over at Law Explained India, was one of the speakers at PyCon India 2016.


(Update: Anwesha rocked Pycon 2017 in Portland. The awesome folks there, seem to have put up the talks in near real time! Anwesha’s talk is here. Check out the rest, here. End update)


And she to me, is a shining beacon of hope, when it comes to actually making it as programmer in this community. All she does, and the way the community responds is heartwarming

A lawyer by trade and a nerd at heart, she along with her team of bravehearts rocked PyLadies at Pycon India. From what (admittedly little) I’ve seen, this fearless group seems to be the only active PyLadies group in the country.

More power to them! And I really, really pray, may their tribe grow! India could do with lots more women, who in my opinion are better at programming than us lads. (And were in fact the first members and drivers of the profession)


Anwesha Das.


Her talk involved around generating awareness about the various software licenses in existence and their application to out software projects.

Being well aware of the ignorance, apathy and/or the strong dislike programmers have towards anything that is not coding, she walked through the various licenses that we could use, illustrating each one with examples.

Notable, was the amount of work she put into a project, where she grabbed and sorted the various licenses for the top few thousand packages on PyPI and used that map to make her points regarding licensing. You can go have a look-see here. Not just that, she’s been filing bugs to push developers to adopt a license, in case they did not have one :)

The last third of the talk, (in fact, the meat and potatoes) was on Best Practices for Developers when it came to choosing licenses for the project.

You can actually go read all about it here

Her point, in summary, (besides the how to) was to be intentional about what license you’d choose, to be aware of it’s ramifications, not just on you, but on the users as well.

I hope, PyCon India puts her video (and also the others) online soon.

Thank you, Anwesha. You were awesome!

Use RSS

When Seth Godin says, ‘Use RSS’ it just goes to show how much the giant slurpies of the world, hoard information.

How much is locked and lost forever!

Listen to Seth! Use RSS.