Free Software Free society conference in december 2008 was a very unique experience for me. The conference was attended by over 450 people. It was very encouraging to see the political involvement in this event.
Kerala government has shown tremendous awareness towards adopting free software. The fact that Kerala Chief Minister, V S Achuthanandan inauguarated the conference and the opposition party leader did the closing ceremony is enough of evidence that the conference had significant political weight. The conference also received a lot of media coverage (television as well as newspapers). This attention is not always seen in other parts of India.
The conference consisted of two tracks, one, Policy track where Free software in Education and research, Fisheries, Agriculture was discussed and the second, Technology stack, that covered all the technical Free and Open Source Software sessions.
I presented MySQL and OpenSolaris on second and third day of the conference and it was received very well. Both sessions, in spite being towards the end fetched a lot of audience, in the magnitude of 150 approx.
The policy tracks were very interesting, I thought. The speakers represented various fields like Eductation, Government, Corporates and Legal advisers and discussed on various topics to further adopt free software in government infrastructure and also elsewhere.
The audience was a quality audience. Many of the them represented various GNU projects. There seemed to be a lot of interest around people working on Malayalam localization.
I had a chance to interact with some of the students, whom I was showing OpenSolaris running on my laptop. He showed me the puppy Linux running on his and also mentioned that the Kerala state electricity board has systems running puppy Linux. I was delighted to find that they are not running Windows and very surprised to learn that a final year student knows a lot about what their government is doing with foss. I asked him if he would like to join their IT division and he reacted, 'that would be my pleasure'.
The event turned out to be very special as I had a chance to listen to and shake hands with Sir Richard Stallman. Sir Stallman's inaugural speech had made a good impact on me. He spoke very passionately about Free software and that clarified the real difference between free software and open source software for me. I really salute him for the passion he carries for the free software, but feel open source software is more real and practical.
During the conference I also heard about a very interesting project called gnowledge.org. This project is about building relationship and associate network for the knowledge articles. e.g. Water depends on knowledge of Hydrogen and Oxygen. The most interesting part here is that the dependent articles are based on Debian packaging system. So, when someone is fetching articles for H2O, one would automatically fetch dependent articles for Hydrogen and Oxygen. Smart!
The conference was extremely well organized. There was entertainment arranged for all the attendees after the sessions on all the days. I had a rare chance to see the Koodiyattam and will always cherish that experience. I strongly believe that Kerala is putting up a great example for other states in India for their foss adoption and I would love to participate in this conference again.