Ace hacker and software guru Richard Stallman to visit
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