Tonight, I had the opportunity to hear Jon “Maddog” Hall give a high-level talk (appropriately peppered with server-room humor for the crowd) at this month’s BLUG meeting. For an audience familiar with the the free/open-source software movement, the presentation was a thrilling cheerleading session. Maddog (so named by his students at the Hartford State Tech College) is an elegant raconteur with a seemingly limitless number of stories describing applications of free software across the globe. He detailed in passionate terms the development of no-cost computer labs, entrepreneurship, research, and education from Africa to Brazil to Fuji. During his first visit to that last tropical locale, Maddog singlehandedly brought GNU/Linux to a University which had been unable to download any distributions because the entire institution shared a lone 1200bps dial-up connection to the Internet.
Recently, my blogroll has been lit up with newly-stirred debate over the principles behind free software. Maddog, though present for and supportive of the introduction of the term Open Source in 1998, described recently reconsidering the diplomatic nomenclature. He suggests that RMS is correct in asserting the original term, “free software”, along with requisite disambiguation of the troublesome adjective for English speakers. “The actual value [of f/oss] is FREEDOM” and with open source, “they still don’t get it.”
Years of globetrotting shifted Maddog’s focus away from the “gratis” side of free software to the “libre.” Use the code, read the code, change the code, share the code. These are the rights of f/oss users and for users with experience in systemic oppression and bureaucratic control (for example, those behind Iron or Bamboo Curtains), these rights not mere mythology but liberation!
Maddog also announced a fundamental shift for Linux International. After more than 10 years as a vendor organization, it will soon transform to the inverse. He estimates that as an end-user organization representing anyone but the vendors, LI will be able to generate ~$18-20million per year. These funds will be redirected to support efforts in areas such as better documentation which should cycle back to increase the number of end-users and, presumably, the next year’s kitty. Keep an eye out.
In an exciting classroom update, we have succeeded in assembling more than 20 no-cost PCs. The kids have started to take them home; Ubuntu on the boot. Canonical hurried 30 free CDs out to us, so the kids are taking home a pair of nice Ubuntu CD-ROMs in fold-out sleeves rather than more of my burned CD-r’s. Nothing like a little spit’n’shine.