Volume licensing, freedom, legality and a proactive stance

FN had posted about a regulation that makes MSFT OS mandatory for cybercafes, there is a blog post about the same from Venkatesh Hariharan. The details about the license in question can be found here or in short “Microsoft Open License is a Volume Licensing program for small to mid-sized organizations that have fewer than 250 desktop PCs. The program provides a simple, flexible, and cost-effective way to buy the latest Microsoft technology to meet your organization’s needs and procurement procedures.” (italics are mine).

What would be good-to-have at this stage is an alternative form of the regulation that has been proposed with the words chosen carefully enough to be pragmatic and capable of standing the test of law. The underlying principle is that the cybercafes require to have Operating Systems that are legal – getting the message across that the Operating Systems under GPL do meet the requirement is an important task. Thus one requires a page that can provide an alternative version of this page.
The associated task would be to setup at some in house software laboratory the UseCases for a cybercafe and attempt to match the same with available FOSS tools. Kushal has some pointers on that.

Thunderbird does not rock…

On Friday I decided to change the subscription address to a lot (read around 70) of my mailing lists and realised that sadly for me Thunderbird doesn’t rock. As on date it does not allow the migration of filters/Message Rules across accounts that are configured in Thunderbird. The option in my case has been to hand create the filters for all those lists again. A major pain. There’s a bugreport though thankfully. Additionally, it might be a good idea for mail clients to have a MoveFolderTo option available on right-clicking a selected folder. The current way to do that in Thunderbird is a drag-n-drop which merely copies the desired folder to the target location. That’s bad too.

Anecdotal IM converations

A long time friend suddenly pops up on IM with pearls of wisdom that begged to be noted down. Speaking about “knowing when it is time for a change” it as opined that the following are good indicators:

  • A feeling of “Oh boy it is office day again” when Monday morning arrives
  • Restleness or boredom
  • A recurring feeling of repitition in the work
  • Finding non-work areas of life immensely interesting
  • Inability to visualise a future which would be on the career growth path
  • Envy of what others are doing for work

This was in the context of a large subset of mutual acquaintances changing jobs this season and the thing we came up with was the “One hand Test” ie a hand has 5 digits – the as the number of questions that if asked might tend to avoid the feeling of “darn why do I stick around in this job”. Here they are:

  • What are the kind(s) of work that appeal to you ?
  • Which acitivities/tasks result in more satisfaction for you ?
  • What kind of people do you like to work with ?
  • What is your kind of work environment ?
  • Which areas/abilities do you think you can develop upon ?

Interesting exercise :)

Moving towards an Open Audit voting system for the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors elections

During the last meeting of the Membership Committee, we had Ben Adida talking about using cryptographic methods for the elections. Mind you, the current method of holding the elections sure needs an overhaul and as proposed in the minutes, Ben has written out his proposal to the Foundation List. He’s also put up a wiki. So make sure that you put in your feedback. The next stage of course is the implementation of the theory.

Long discussions and then a post…

Here’s the post subsequent to the long discussions on #linux-india. That someone referred in the post is actually the same person who wrote this post. Now, to move forward on this thread I thought it was a good idea to clear up some misunderstandings (the caveat in my earlier post was part of the same reason). A rockstar is someone who fits the following bill: “The girls want to be with him, the guys want to be like him” – the definition was provided by t3rmin4t0r when we began discussing the theory.

There is a good reason why I am opposed to the “We need rockstars” line of argument. The usage of the word as a metaphor tends to load too much unnecessary context into it. The preloading thus morphs the true form of the word into something that’s undesirable unwarranted. However, as the discussion progressed, I realised that the “rockstar” was more of an allegory than a metaphor and thus was a rhetorical flourish. A metaphorical usage of the word normally tends to propagate the urban legend of “the last rockstar standing” who delivers, commands and leads a band of followers to the chosen paradise. The trouble I have with that notion is that the concept of “community” that replaces the band of followers is not something that is all prevalent in the country right now. In current times what also goes missing is the concept of “commons” or the space for “protest”. Protest in the truest sense of the word does not mean a stance against current, but it leads to a position of an alternative theory. The current social mesh does not bear witness to too much of alternative theories.

Does it have something to do with the system of education ? I tend to believe so. The system puts higher stress on individual excellence and this translates into reduced sharing or collaboration. The “harvesting” of knowledge is not for common good but for individual gain. Given that consumption and creation of FOSS (code and non-code FOSS) is yet to see more rural penetration it does provide an insight into what an icon like rockstar might do. Icons, figurines, deities or titular heads are good to hold on to as yardsticks. The idea that a rockstar might encourage enough enthusiasm to attract a merry band is the precise nightmare. A rockstar is an icon and save a breaking down of the icon, what will emerge is monoculture or more or the same – an emulation. Emulations are a constricting feature – the emulatee (if there is such a word) tends to constantly question the peer group perception and thus curb creativity.

What would be of more use is figuring out what needs to be done to get more FOSS (code and non-code) to a larger base of people. The greater the number of users consumers, the fairer would be the chance of getting more contributors. Do we need evangelists right now ? No, but we need mentors and they would only come out of the folks contributing. Some would make good mentors, some not so good, but we need them all the same. We don’t need rockstars – they tend to complicate things.

Of “rockstars”, contributors and all others in between…

[Small note: In case you think that my blog post disagrees with Gopal’s blog post I’d suggest you read both of them again. Effectively they are the same stuff although I’d like to elaborate a bit about the rockstar in a later post]
There’s been a mighty long discussion about “What’s wrong with the FOSS scene in India”. The actual question might just be something different really – more on the lines of “what’s being contributed where and by whom”.

The myth of the last “Rockstar” is a bit too tempting. Rockstars are “icons” – larger than life and more in the line of what can be called ideology sometimes thinly bordering on hagiography. The other thing that bothers me is the slowly growing urban legend that “code is FOSS and non-code contributions are not FOSS“.

Here’s what I see the situation as.

There are contributors from India (and we are not talking about of Indian origin). For example, there are around an approximation of 11 Indian languages being supported or partially supported in GNOME. In precise terms that means there is at least one person doing commits for his/her language for GNOME releases. Now, take into consideration KDE and XFCE and you have a fair idea of the number of commits that go in. Now think about “maintaining” the language (in all its aspects of correctness and linguistic behaviour) for multiple releases as well as for downstream projects like Fedora and you have a large base of contributors. Contributors and not rockstars since evidently no one seems to talk about them.

Since, we are on the subject of localisation what follows as a due course is internationalisation or i18n and here there’s a fair lot of work that is being done by Mayank (Evolution), Parag (Fonts), Sachin (Qt) among the others and the work is upstream and in bugzillas. But they are contributors and they get the work done. Not rockstars mind you.

And then of course there is Shreyas,Pradeepto, Sayamindu (who is being unfair to himself by doing cool hacks for deployment but not blogging about them) who keep on doing their bits around FOSS. Sayamindu has been decidedly active on Sabayon, Conduit and surprisingly Exaile (he got me using it and filing some enhancement requests too) but he is a contributor not a rockstar.

The legend that things are happening if only there is mass hysteria seems to work for retailing and thus that does in no way hold for contributions. If one does not see contributions, then one should look around more and ask the folks who might have the information. An off-the-cuff remark that things are not happening is not really the way forward. One of the side effects of being entrusted to process the applications for membership to the GNOME Foundation is I sometimes manage to get a ring-side view of what’s happening (at least in GNOME) and trust me – there’s no problem with FOSS in India. What needs to be done to augment the process is create the second rung of contributors by:

  • Creating the infrastructure in which they can contribute
  • Create a process by which more meaningful tie-ups with upstream can occur (the Lord of the Code will require a reworking to do this)
  • Get the largest possible bit of the Government sponsored/funded/proposed FOSS projects doing work transparently