Free Software and Open Source Symposium
FSOSS for me has been a real unique experience. For one, I decided to volunteer for the event since it would save a lowly student, such as me, money. But it would also give me a unique and different view of the entire process that I knew I could never get again.
Being a volunteer was a fulfilling experience. I chose to work the Friday morning registration desk. It was not a particularly friendly time at seven in the morning but was one of the last options that I had really. After arriving I was shortly acquainted by Cathy my former Algorithms teacher and Rose who work at the computer studies office. They were two of the main organizers of FSOSS this year. Working the registration desk on Friday was particularly calm since most of the attendees had already checked in the day before. None the less there were still a few who came in and I was actually required to do some work at the relatively easy job. In fact, out of four volunteers I was the only one that showed up that morning. This made me feel happy that I had not slept in or no one would have shown up. Overall, I had a great time as a volunteer and would encourage other to do it. The only downfall was that I missed a few talks during the morning.
Miro: Going Open and Mainstream with Video Standards
One of the many interesting talks that I attended was by Dean Jansen who is the Outreach Director for the Participatory Culture Foundation. He talked about Miro which is an open source program that is designed to unite all video playing applications and websites under one banner that should become an open standard that others could follow. Miro is capable of aggregating RSS feeds and actually has a built in bit torrent client that is used to download new shows that become available through RSS. It also features a media library, and if you are a content provider, web space to host your files. Miro’s goals are quite grand for being a relatively new application. It wishes to become the industry standard way of providing video content to the web. Miro seems to be a great idea and ideology from what I heard. Miro’s goals also seem to be pure and would definitely benefit anyone who would be in the internet video business. Mind you that Miro is still a relatively small application with limited uses at the moment. But if it were adapted in the market it would grow much faster. My Views After having tried Miro myself for a bit it really did seem to be on the right track as far as I could tell as a user. Mind you it was still missing a few features that I thought would make it perfect it none the less was far from alpha code. I personally really liked the ability to use the program to automatically download bit torrent videos using RSS feeds. This would save me loads of waiting time while my shows downloaded. However, the name detection of this feature seemed to be far from perfect as a few shows only ended up being named only the episode number they were. I.E “3” or “4”. Asides from the few missing features the ideology of Miro was all there. Miro has laid the groundwork for something that could potentially save thousands of users headaches by trying to set de facto and industry standards where none are present. Combining this with an open source community model gives people the ability to influence the standards which is very desirable as they will be using it the most. Miro seems to be on the right track as far as open source projects go. They also appear to be a very small player as well. However, that said, despite being small they maintain a professional image that would rival any money making competitors. With a cleanly designed application and website that would make you believe they were Real players main competition it won’t be long before this organization grows through the roof. The open source community is used as a spring board that will allow Miro to set better standards. Open source has allowed Miro to avoid costly licensing from companies for using their video formats and allows them to maintain their own message which is untarnished by other companies or alliances to companies. Video standards and recording might not be my cup of tea, but looking over Miro still shows me that they take their mission statement very seriously. I’d definitely say they’re growing fast.
A Linux Desktop on Every PC
This session lead by Marcel Gagné who is a University professor, Author, and Columnist for Linux Journal showed the room how to make the best of any Linux distribution with the latest open source software. His upbeat humor and personality worked well with the mood of the room. He showed everyone new programs coming out that will make using Linux just as user friendly as any version of Windows. He showed the room many tips on customizing the desktop that included the use of widget (just like vista ships with), changing your start bar to suit your needs, and new special effects programs like compiz and beryl. He even ended up showing us a sneak peek of KDE 4 which was the next big release of KDE. It features improvements like faster load times, new API backend and more notably support for non-X11 platforms like Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. My View I’m not new to the world of the Linux desktop as it is the only operating system I run on my lap top (and I’ve been doing it for about half a year). Despite this, it was interesting to see the new applications emerging from development that weren’t yet known to the public, particular KDE 4 as I use the GNOME desktop myself. Marcel was a great speaker that seemed to live and breathe open source Linux. He has show everyone in that room how to take advantage of things that he had been taking advantage of for a long time in an easy way. Marcel seems to have adapted open source to a lifestyle. Everything he did involved the use of open source to empower him to finish his tasks. It was refreshing to see someone who took open source to the extreme and survived to tell the tail. Better yet, he was telling us how to do it too. Open source has never had a very good history of reliability but Marcel was fighting this point, despite having the session crash on him a couple of times.
Open Source Comparison
Everyone at FSOSS seemed to have taken open source to the next level. It seems that all large corporations were using open source to their advantage to turn a profit selling services. While other smaller companies and organizations were relying on open source communities to push their product out the door. Open source seems to have many different small variations that are used from group to group, but the overall core of open source remains the same. It is centered on some kind of community that has a say in what happens next. Depending on the project the community will have more sway in deciding factors but ultimately there would be no software without a community. Each of the speakers had a unique take on open source, some were more critical to success than others. Some, from the looks of it, just used open source to try and build a better name for them. Overall, all the speakers tried to relay the same message that the use of communities only helped enhance the product and keep costs practically at zero. The idea of reinventing the wheel a hundred times because no one is willing to share the design with you is a thing of the past. All communities seem to agree that open code only builds on itself and offers more advantages then closed.
Overall, FSOSS was a grand experience with many interesting people to talk to. There were all kinds of topics ranging from advanced code hacking to more simplistic howto’s on setting up your new Linux box. Everyone that I spoke to was nice and upbeat, really easy to talk to and get along with. However, my friends tell me that there were others looking for a scuffle because of differing ideas. In the end there were no major drawbacks or catastrophes and everyone seemed to leave with a smile. I know I did along with two basketball tickets that I won thanks to Dave (Thanks Dave :)