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Richard Stallman to launch Free Software Foundation of India

May 19, 2001, 20:00 (12 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by KG Kumar)

KG Kumar writes:

Ace hacker and software guru Richard Stallman to visit India

Techies, hackers and rebel coders, alert! Richard Stallman, legendary hacker, founder of the project to launch the free operating system GNU, and president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), will tour India in mid-July 2001.

Stallman's main agenda will be to launch the Indian chapter of FSF and lecture on the purpose, goals, philosophy, methods, status and future prospects of the GNU operating system, which, in combination with the Linux kernel, is now used by an estimated 17 to 20 million users worldwide.

Stallman's trip is being organized by the Free Software Foundation of India (FSF-I), founded in Trivandrum, Kerala by a group of dedicated users of free software. Free software is defined by the FSF in the sense of freedom as in `free speech`, not gratis, as in `free beer`.

Stallman founded FSF in 1985, dedicating it to promote computer users` rights to use, study, copy, modify and redistribute computer programs. In particular, FSF promotes the GNU operating system (GNU is a recursive acronym for `GNU`s Not Unix`), used widely today in its GNU/Linux variant, often mistakenly called just `Linux`.

FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. The FSF believes that free software is a matter of freedom, not price.

The GNU General Public Licence (GNU GPL) gives each user the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software, based on unfettered access to the source code Being free to do this means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission. While granting the user these freedoms, the GNU GPL defends them by saying that no one is allowed to take them away from anyone else. Any published program, which incorporates all or a substantial part of a GPL-covered program, must itself be released under the GNU GPL. The GPL ensures that no person or community can privatize the community's free software.

According to FSF-I, a developing country like India should promote and encourage the use of free software not only because India is economically backward and cannot afford expensive, proprietary solutions, but also because of the `digital divide` resulting from the country`s diversity in language and literacy levels, as well as access to computers and bandwidth. Free software can help bridge this divide by encouraging solidarity, collaboration and voluntary community work amongst programmers and computer users, says FSF-I.

Stallman`s visit to India will come on the heels of the recent attack on GPL by Microsoft, which feels threatened by the fast growth of the free software movement. (Stallman and FSF take pain to distinguish `free software` from `open source`, which is a term that, since 1998, has been used by another group rallying around another celebrated hacker, Eric Raymond.)

Stallman's itinerary in India will include a talk at NCST, Bombay, the launch of FSF-I in Trivandrum, lectures at engineering colleges in Trivandrum and Cochin, a session at Technopark and a trip to Baroda.

FSF-I expects the Stallman visit to position Kerala as the Free Software capital of India and to launch FSF-I's activities within the country on issues relating to training, support, and distribution and dissemination of free software.

This story of mine first appeared at www.myiris.com