In my last post, I did mention how by reading Stallman’s essay titled: Free Software, Free Society I switched from running Windows to running GNU/Linux. This post discuss the process I went through to select Ubuntu the GNU/Linux distro (distribution) I now run. Here goes…
While still running Windows 7 on my laptop (Dell Vostro), I decided to run some GNU/Linux versions on VMWare to compare and test their features prior to switching fully. Before then, I had used Ubuntu (dual booting it with Windows 7). I however read of how Richard discouraged free software members to avoid Ubuntu because it was in league with Amazon.com to deny users their privacy as they used the operating system’s search feature. I then began looking for alternative GNU/Linux distros based on Ubuntu. I found gNewSense which was made completely of free software – it did not contain any proprietary packages. It seemed good at first but after testing the LiveCD on my system. I discovered many features were not going to work on my system (particularly the Internet connectivity). So, I thought to myself what is the use of a system without the Internet? Another option was to purchase a computer that was compatible with it but the price was to much for its worth.
In looking for an alternative, I came across Mint. Again it looked good until I discovered it could not run emacs – an advanced editor of GNU operating system (OS). Also, I would have to download a new version and re-install on my system every 6 months (what is the wisdom in that?). Having run out of alternatives, I turned back to Ubuntu but turned off the feature that Stallman had issues with and today I am enjoying Ubuntu.
It has been a while since my last post. All the while I had been engaged in reading. Precisely, I was reading the Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman titled: Free Software, Free Society. I encourage everyone who is interested in free and open source software to have a look.
Among other things, it explains the difference between free software and open source software including how open source originated from free software. All through the essays, the principle that underlies the free software movement was reiterated which is free as in freedom and not free as in price.
Apart from the fact that it set me thinking, it triggered me to act on what I was reading hence before I had completed the book (essays as some may call it), I had switched from running Windows to running GNU/Linux operating system (OS). Take note of the GNU before Linux. GNU is a recursive acronym for GNU’s not Unix. According to the dictionary GNU is a large antelope native to Africa and having curved horns (this informs the GNU project mascot). GNU as it were is an effort started by Richard Stallman to write a free operating system (free as in freedom) in 1983. By 1990, the parts of the operating system were done save for the kernel. Fortunately, Linus Torvalds had just completed a kernel at the time which he called Linux. GNU project integrated his kernel into their nearly completed OS and the GNU/Linux OS emerged. Although it is erroneously referred to today as Linux operating system. In another post, I will talk about how I chose a suitable GNU/Linux operating system.
In summary, this book will either make you join the free software movement or the open source movement. I made my choice while reading the book. If you care to know, I chose the free software movement and now I am moving on to practical things (i.e. contributing to free software). I guess my first stop will be WordPress…
This week has been quite eventful for me because, I actually contributed to a real Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) project. More on that in a moment…
Several guidelines exist for those wanting to choose which FOSS project to contribute to. I will not try to re-invent the wheel so here are some useful links:
Teaching Open Source
Programmers Stack Exchange
My personal opinion is, choose a FOSS project whose product you use frequently. In this way you get to be part of contributing to software that you use. What better joy can there be than that?! Also you do not have to dive into the code to contribute. You can start with little things like helping to write the documentation, test the software and file bugs. This will allow you familiarise yourself with the culture of the project before taking on the code to write patches and all.
Now back to my experience this week… I had prior to this time signed up to carry out Quality Assurance on Mozilla Thunderbird – a mail client that I use often. The role I signed up for involves testing beta versions of the product before new stable releases are made. It was fun, I must say because I got to understand in practical terms how to run test cases and file bugs. These are two essential skills a FOSS contributor should possess.
I used to fall into the category of persons who desired to contribute to FOSS but did not know how. A turning point came for me when I stumbled on this video. I recommend it to every beginner like myself.
In the video, the presenter demonstrated the steps to becoming a contributor. I will regard it as the best video ever on the subject for beginners. In it she introduced OpenHatch – a must visit site for beginning FOSS contributors. It contains training missions that will familiarise beginners with the tools used by FOSS contributors among which include: Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Version Control Systems and bug trackers.
This is how I began my journey into the world of FOSS contribution. Anyone can follow suit. In my next post, I will be showing how to choose which FOSS project to be a part of.
Done is better than perfect – Truston
This is my first post and the beginning of a journey for me. My pen name is AuthorW. I have a passion for free and open source software (FOSS). That is the reason I am starting this blog today. I intend to blog about my experiences as I research, and explore the art of contributing to FOSS. I also hope it will inspire others who want to be part of contributing to one FOSS or the other but do not know how and where to start.