Thursday, December 3, 2009

FOSS Challenge

A half a day ‘Student development Program’ was organized at ‘International School of Information Management’ on the issue of “Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)”. The talk/seminar was delivered by the group from Mahiti Infotech Pvt Ltd.

Mahiti is a 'Social Enterprise' based in the 'Garden City of India, Bangalore'. They empower clients to reduce the cost and complexity of Information Technology through the strategic use of Free/Open Source Software. They specialize in multi-platform, multi-lingual web applications, extranets, intranets, multimedia and kiosk applications. Their services include consultancy, software design and development, server cluster deployment, 24/7 monitoring, application maintenance and customized training / advocacy. We pioneer the implementation of solutions based on Free and Open-Source Software(FOSS).

Mahiti is an active contributor to the Free and Open Source movement. They have worked with over 500 organizations both voluntary and for-profit over the last 9 years on various web-sites, messaging, e-commerce, knowledge management, supply-chain management, CRM, collaboration, social networking and advocacy projects. They are also credited to have held numerous technical and non-technical trainings in FOSS for over 1000 organizations. Mahiti has been listed to provide training on Ubuntu Linux based desktop and servers.

They were in the ISiM campus on 17th November 2009 to talk about the merits and strength of FOSS over the proprietary software. They started on schedule at 1430 hrs.

The event started with the introduction of the guests to the audience. Ms. Ramya Lakshmi, Senior Programmer, Mahiti was the first one to address the gathering. Ramya, proud alumni of ISiM was accorded with a big applause. She introduced FOSS as programs whose licenses give users the freedom to run the program for any purpose, to study and modify the program, and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified program”.

She then, continued by pointing out some of the major FOSS success stories around us. She pointed out to Wikipedia as a bright example. Some of the other examples that were cited were,

  • The German Parliament (German Bundestag) uses Linux on its 154 servers
  • French agency for e-government made FOSS mandatory for all public administrations
  • National Health Service recently switched to Linux
  • US Department of Defence uses around 150 different FOSS applications for security and interoperability motives.
  • White House in Washington D.C has adapted the CMS Drupal which is an Open Source CMS.

Even in India, C-DAC (government supercomputer arm) has moved entirely to Linux.

Mr. Vishnu Kumar was the next one to speak. He emphasized on the importance of using FOSS at educational institutes. He argued that most of FOSS projects were incubated in academic institutions around the world. The Internet itself was an outcome of the cooperation of academics and defense institutions. He believes that Proprietary software use hidden source codes (that which teachers and students can't access, only use) in contrast to FOSS that allows user to create; modify and (re)distribute the program/software. He also pointed out that the Open Source Technologies as PHP, Python, Plone, Zend, Java, Joomla, Drupal, have become a necessity in the tool kit of the professional IT engineer.

He strongly criticized the practice of vendor lockin, the modus operandi in which the commercial software vendors push/promote their software into academical field (first free copies and later demand money). He firmly believed that the users deserve to know the source code of any software.

Mr. Vijay Rasquinha was the next to speak. He introduced many operations of Mahiti to the audience. He also demonstrated many of the online applications that were built within the stable of Mahiti. One of the impressive demonstrations was that of a cellphone utility that was implemented in Kolkata.

He strongly encouraged students to take up projects and internships that were on FOSS. He suggested that this would help them learn and understand the processing of any system. He also offered many projects within Mahiti to the students of ISiM. Many students showed keen interest in pursuing them.

Mr. Kolappa and Ms. Bhavana also then addressed the audience about the PHP and ZEND and its invaluable use in implementing solutions on FOSS.

The programme ended in the evening at about 5.30pm with thanking the guests for the wonderful talk on FOSS and its strengths.

Vijay, Vishnu, Kolappa, Bhavana and Ramya from Mahiti Infotech Pvt Ltd.

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