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The Beagleboard

Feature
The Beagleboard is a fanless single board computer using ARM processors that has all the capabilities of a modern desktop. More info at beagleboard.org

Arduino
The Arduino is a very popular prototyping platform for making small devices that interface with computers, and is the most modded pieces of open source hardware

The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement proposes a drastically different licensing approach for software, and how they are used. For a lay person, there might not be much difference between using a FOSS software, or a commercial alternative, as long as the software gets the work done. One of the fundamental features of the FOSS movement is the people who drive it. FOSS is driven by the contribution and the collaboration of the likes of the individuals featured here
Aditya Madanapalle
aditya.madanapalle@thinkdigit.com

The Folks behind FOSS

Raghavendra S
aghavendra S is actively involved with the Free Software MovementKarnataka (FSMK, http://fsmk.org/), where a group of volunteers reach out mainly to students, trying to increase their awareness about FOSS and its benefits, by conducting talks and workshops pertaining to FOSS. FSMK also conducts workshops for school teachers and promotes regional use of GNU/Linux by involving themselves in localising a Debian release to the regional languge, Kannada, released as Namma Debian, which means “Our Debian” in Kannada. Raghavendra S contributes to this movement by volunteering for most of the events organized by FSMK on a regular basis. He chronicles the activities of FSMK at his blog, which is hosted at http://ideasareimmortal.blogspot.com. We asked him how interested people could help out. His answer shows that you do not need to code or actually make software to be actively involved in FOSS. “The Internet with it’s enormous and amicable FOSS community is the way to go for a newbie. Another approachable avenue is forums like FSMK, where we involve newbies in various FOSS related events continuously. In this process they
40 Digit | June 2010 | www.thinkdigit.com

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learn all the essentials of being a FOSS enthusiast. (I am one such student turned FOSS activist from FSMK). There are many organizations like FSMK in almost all states in India to seek mentoring from.” We also asked him why the FOSS movement was important to him; his answer has some valuable insights on why the FOSS movement is so important, especially in India. “Free and Open Source Software is important to me at two levels - at a personal level and at a national level as well. Personally because, FOSS is more humane, by which I point to it’s fundamental attribute of ‘sharing and growing together’- the essence of human beings. At a national level, it gains a substantial economic dimension as well: In developing countries, we cannot afford to buy proprietary software to run the country, shelling out huge amounts of money to few monopolies. FOSS offers almost free solution to all our computing needs, with the freedom of owning the software as well, rather than licensing it intermittently. Another important aspect is the scope for small scale entrepreneurial opportunities FOSS provides to bubbling techies.” Raghavendra S has also identified an area where young people can contribute meaningfully, “I coordinate the Debian localisation project and we have the aim of taking the benefits of free software technology to the last man and woman in the villages. This requires a lot of volunteer based man power for the tasks of translating the user interface to Kannada, training students and teachers in using these tools, helping out in educational projects involving under-privileged kids.”

Akshay Bajaj

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kshay Bajaj is the founder and CEO of Net4uonline.com. He is one of the many people who has built a business around the FOSS movement. Net4Uonline is building India’s first hand held touchscreen wikipedia reader - a pocket sized device that contains the entire wikipedia encylopedia in it. We asked Akshay Bajaj what is perhaps the most important questions about FOSS, how a viable commercial revenue model can be built around the FOSS movement, and he does not think it is too hard. “The same as other service oriented businesses! Since the software (and its code) is free and open, most business models are built around offering services to enable end users (clients) to efficiently implement an open source solution. The FOSS landscape can be especially daunting to most companies (and end users) owing to the vast number of options available for any kind of solution. A quick look at sourceforge.net will indicate the vastness and complexity of the FOSS landscape. This complexity combined with the unstructured (and sometimes slightly chaotic) development lifecycles and broken support of open source projects, provides an excellent business opportunity to open source businesses. A point worth remembering, is that source code on its own has very little value, instead the required technological expertise, ability to mantain and enhance it that carries the most value and thus brings commercial viability to the open source business model.” Akshay, like other FOSS enthusiasts, advocates it because “if you can think it, you can do it!”

teach some under-privileged kids to use various educational tools and start free software user groups in your place of study or work.” 42 Digit | June 2010 | www. a “software” according to Jack does not stop at the executable. but doesn’t because of botched firmware the manufacturer has decided not to fix? Why is this simple software feature only available on the ‘pro’ model at 3 times the price. but includes the source code and good documentation as well.com which is also 100% free. and on the fully open hardware Ben Nanonote mini computer. Jack is responsible for packaging OpenOffice for FreeBSD. Phones are a good example. so users don’t have to spend ages compiling OpenOffice from source. The latest Google Summer of Code has shown that Indian students are the second highest participants. Some of his current projects include promoting the SHR mobile software. “I hate arbitrary limitations and designed obsolescence. strongly believes that users should have more control of technology. He firmly believes that users should have complete control of their hardware and software.” He J Vikram Vincent Rakshat Hooja V R akshat Hooja is the Director of IDA Systems Pvt Ltd (www.” Like many FOSS enthusiasts. He also works on the Audacity port for FreeBSD. “Newbies can easily participate by finding a project they are interested in. why should I need to buy a new handset to get a feature the existing hardware is capable of. has been a part of the FOSS movement for a long time now.” There is a powerful and thoroughly commercial justification for FOSS as well. according to Rakshat “custom software on an existing open platform can make small market niches commercially viable when they wouldn’t be otherwise. then you’re set. The activities mentioned in the previous point are normally the starting points. It also doesn’t allow room for improvement or technological advancements when software is in a binary form only. Vikram is involved in localising Debian distros for the Indian environment. Even the best programmers were newbies once.” Vikram. and we asked him why the FOSS movement was important. Google and Ruby host SoC events. and open source alternative firmware for Smartphones. He also contributes to Debian-GNOME l10n. evangalise about free software among schools-college students. but in a different way Jack Low ack Low is currently working on a bunch of FOSS projects. but it’s a very good learning experience. or freedom in other words.idasystems. We asked him why the FOSS movement was so important. etc.com . project mentorships. I don’t think software made by people that get paid are of the best quality work and software that cost an arm and a leg are not fair for the people who can’t afford it. It might be a little hard to get some of the concepts. a company that specializes in selling Open Source Hardware in India.net). translate free software to the mother tongue. conduct FOSS workshops-seminars. or not available at all? Finally I find the faults somehow less irritating when I know I could fix them if I could be bothered. Its ready and undergoing final assembly right now.thinkdigit. which will start selling in India before August 2010. ikram Vincent is primarily involved in promoting the application of FOSS based educational technology to the Indian education system. socio-economic and cultural freedoms that it promotes. “A community like the Free Software Movement Karnataka(FSMK) follows the approach of reaching out to the student and teacher communities and extends support to them in the form of workshops. We asked Jack how newbies can sign up and get involved. networking. So it may be inferred that the entry barrier is being lowered by the students’ awareness and efforts of FOSS groups all over India. most of them for his own convenience. “The FOSS movement has the germs of creative thinking and problem solving to issues of the ordinary human being. but like most FOSS tools. The most important ideas are those of intellectual. others benefitted from it. The company is the only authorized distributors of the Beagleboard and the Hawkboard in India. He has worked on a lot of IRC related projects in the past.” One of the items listed on IDA Systems that really caught our eye was Pandora. and supposed to have. I use an open source operating system “FreeBSD” and all my software is free or open source. an open source hardware platform for portable gaming. and have the freedom to modify these for individual purposes.Summer of Code Feature A Summer of Code is an event where students get compensated for coding for Open Source applications. among others The GNU license Why do Open Source software require a license at all? This is because they don’t want someone to come along and claim legal rights for the code. Jack L also runs a radio station called Punk Rock Demonstration at http://www. If you’re interested enough and have an urge to make it better. the license still protects the makers from theft.” He also mentions FSMK when asked about how students can contribute on a more active level. like many FOSS enthusiasts. “There are different ways to participate in the FOSS movement” he says “One can write code. “The FOSS movement is very important to me because I wouldn’t have anything to use if it wasn’t for FOSS.punkrockdemo. Vikram is full of ideas on how individuals can contribute to FOSS.