One thing I always intended on doing as CA of my institute is to nuke everyone's misconceptions on the open source ideology and the technologies that are associated with it. Contrary to what a lot of people think, open source is not a toy which is meant only for the lifeless geeks living in their basements with their computers. I don't think an end user needs to wonder how a technology is made as long as he can use it without any worries right? When's the last time you asked yourself how your bathing soap was manufactured and what chemicals go into it's making?
Open source has enough for everyone. If you're a developer, there's a whole lot of knowledge (which by extrapolation is source code) out their waiting to be hacked by you. If you're an end user, there's a lot of amazing software that can get your productivity up and running. Quality products and a healthy ecosystem where the developers interact more or less directly with the users is precisely what open source offers us. No middle layers, no sweet blondes from customer care centers, no nothing. People should embrace open source and experience the sheer awesomeness that comes bundled with it. And the best part of it is that it's all free! So what're you waiting for? Like Abhishek says, it's the age of participation, let's all participate!
Said and done, the aim of my first session was to enlighten people about what the world of open source offers them and why it's just plain better than their proprietary counterparts. I'd scheduled it for the 5th of August, a Tuesday and I'd gone through the routine of booking my department's seminar hall. But as luck would have it, the intended target of my audience, which was essentially 2nd years and 1st years, had their darned library card issuing on that very date. I've always hated the institute librarian ever since the day he kicked me and my ex out of the library for having a chat in the reading section. What a turd. I thought I forgot how much I hated him until this. He never put up a notice up in our department regarding the card issuing and hence, I didn't come to know. Even the juniors themselves were informed like 5 hours before my session started. But I decided to move ahead with the plan.
Surprisingly, I still got an attendance of around 35 students which included a fair mix of 1st, 2nd and 3rd yearites who decided NOT to get their cards issued because it's a well known fact that our library could be turned into a historical museum, considering how outdated our books are. Most third years didn't turn up because for some strange reason, they all felt they've already been enlightened. I wonder why they all still use Windows and TurboC then. Last I remember, Windows was proprietary wasn't it? Maybe it's changed. They'd know better I guess.
But I'm proud to say that every single student who were present that day told me how they just got a whole new insight on what open source actually was! It's better to know nothing than to know half of it, I've always told myself and that was the case with them all. They all insisted I get on with teaching them about these technologies ASAP and I'm convinced that the technology itself, and the ideology will partner well in driving these guys and gals forward.
Meanwhile, I came to know that some our students are organising a purely technical fest during the 3rd week of October, here in our institute. Before I knew it, they came running asking me to organise a programming contest. I wasn't really interested, but I saw this a golden opportunity and hence, I agreed do it for them IF and only IF they gave me at least two hours to conduct a workshop on Sun's technologies during the fest and hence, we had a deal. :)
My next session was held on the morning of Sunday the 10th. This time, I made sure that the librarian wouldn't interfere because that wretched fortress of his, stays closed on holidays :). I'd decided to divide my session into two, first with a talk on the Sun Academic Initiative and second with an introduction to the Unix environment. Booking the seminar hall for a weekend, especially after going through the hassle of being permitted to keep the keys wasn't easy and this clearly meant that I couldn't postpone this session if something was to go wrong. And heck, all the first years decided to go home for a week long mass bunk! My rotten luck just wasn't going to have enough of me.
The third years, yet again, decided they were good enough with Linux and whatever, so they didn't need an 'introduction' to the Unix environment. And just for the record, one of my batchies came to my room while I was typing this blog entry asking me for some help with an assignment and he then had this to say before he left, “Hey yaar, please tell me how I can learn Linux and all that. I think I need to do so badly.”
Strange, and in spite of all the notices I'd put up and the 'word of mouth' publicity I'd given my sessions, this dude didn't turn up. Sad.
But the best part of it was that forty second years attended my talk! There were five third years apart from this and a first year as well. At the end of my talk, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm my juniors showed. All of them wanted to get started with working on Linux and Solaris. They even asked me to conduct an install fest ASAP!
While I showed everyone my Debian GNU/Linux for the Unix commands, I kept giving people hints of what to expect in Open Solaris. Every now and then, when I have a conversation with a junior about Linux, I tell him something like 'so and so is better in solaris' and stuff like that. Everyone was particularly amazed by pre-emptive self healing :). I intend on building up this curiosity till the end of this month and then unleashing Open Solaris on them in September itself, after I myself, am comfortable with it. :)
The response I received from my juniors has given me a sense of hope, that one day, my institute can boast a large number of Linux and Open Solaris users and that we will have enough students in the developer communities out there. I see it as my responsibility to bring M-OSUM (MNIT Open Source User Mesh) to a height such that my successor doesn't have to do much work!
I guess I see the light at the end of the tunnel now, hope the road ahead proves to be smooth enough.