Preaching to Students on Software Freedom Day

Last Saturday, 16th September 2006 was celebrated worldwide as the Software Freedom Day. The idea is to reach out to people from all walks of like and preach the free software philosophy.

Feeling like responsible citizens of the FOSS community 3 of us (Myself, Saurabh and Prabodh) from SUN India Engg. Center decided to chant the FOSS mantra to uninitiated young minds living in a closed world. Thus we contacted a very enthusiastic faculty and Head of Department of MCA studies, M. Viveswaraya Institute of Technology (MVIT). A fairly well-known institute near Bangalore. We wanted to speak to a spectrum of students from different stages of their course studies.

We had also been in touch with the Free Software User group who initiated the activities. The FSUG Bangalore Wiki is at: http://fci.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page. We went through a bunch of meetings and brainstorming sessions and finally ended up with a plan for the activities we wanted to do at MVIT.

Our day started on Saturday at 6AM. We met at the SUN office by 7:30 AM and as usual went through a series of last minute preparations: Burning CDs of FOSS software (OpenOffice, OpenSolaris source, BeleniX etc.), last minute updates to presentation slides, last minute updates and printouts of brochures etc. Well a minute too many and we were delayed by 45 minutes!

We were surprised to see 50 students and enthusiastic faculty waiting for 45mins, Saturday being a holiday for them. Fortunately we did not have projector issues and Solaris Express on a Ferrari laptop worked perfectly with the projector. Prabodh gave a general introduction to Free/OpenSource philosophy and examples of quality software available, while I spoke on why OpenSource is important for India and the Student community and an short intro to OpenSolaris. Saurabh took a small quiz and distributed CDs for correct answers (CDs of OpenSolaris source, OpenOffice, BeleniX etc.). In the end I also gave a demo of the uber-cool Xgl 3D Desktop.

There was a lot of interest among students. We found the awareness of OpenSource among the students very low. Of 50 only 4 had actually seen Linux, and only one had heard of OpenSolaris! Only 2 knew about FOSS.IN. There was an obvious question of business benefits from opensource and how SUN is benefiting.

Some of the BTech and MTech students were interested in doing projects and we left our cards with them.

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