MSCFOSS/DIF122/Software Development Practices/Unit IV/Using

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Free Software is about Users Freedom

User's freedom is of Paramount importance

Free software means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them.

When users don't control the program, the program controls the users. The developer controls the program, and through it controls the users. This nonfree or “proprietary” program is therefore an instrument of unjust power.

Active users & community play the key role

Many people use several Free & Open Source software without knowing that they are free & open and the responsibility they have in ensuring & defending their own freedom. People accidently download several softwares and use them in their day to day activities, many of which might be a Free & Open Source software. Examples of such popular software includes: Firefox, Libreoffice, VLC Player.

Many people start their journey into the Free & Open Source software world by accidently using a Free Software and subsequently get fascinated by its rationale and by starting to contribute to its advancement in some way or other.

Significant contributions of Users

  • They share the software they come across using
  • They submit reviews, wishlist, feature requests, criticism about the software, taking it to the next level
  • They report bugs, triage them
  • They conduct release parties taking free software to masses
  • They are active across User Groups in the form of mailing lists, forums, IRCs seeking & supporting queries
  • They put pressure of decision making of a project by being active ensuring that the entire user communiity's freedom is protected & sustained.

Linux User Group

A Linux User Group or Linux Users' Group (LUG) or GNU/Linux User Group (GLUG) is a private, generally non-profit or not-for-profit organization that provides support and/or education for Linux users, particularly for inexperienced users. The term commonly refers to local groups that meet in person, but is also used to refer to online support groups that may have members spread over a very wide area and which do not organize, or which are not based around, physical meetings. Many LUGs encompass FreeBSD and other free Unix-based operating systems.

Local LUGs

Local Linux User Groups meet (typically weekly to monthly) to provide support and/or arrange and host presentations for Linux users, particularly for inexperienced users. Given that Linux is not dominated by any specific corporate or institutional entity, LUG meetings typically encompass a broader range of topics than the meetings of other users' groups. Linux is predominantly user supported and some support is vastly easier via phone or in person than over e-mail. LUGs are still primarily focused on hobbyist users and professionals who are engaged in self-directed study.

LUG activities

Periodic Meetups

  • LUGs typically meet once per month in facilities freely provided by universities, colleges, community centers, private corporations, or banquet rooms in restaurants.
  • Most LUGs are free, requiring no monthly or annual dues. In many cases the participants are encouraged to patronize the hosts (esp. in restaurant meetings, by buying dinner).

Installfests

  • An Installfest (a portmanteau of installation and festival) is an event, generally sponsored by a local Linux User Group, university or LAN party, at which people get together to do mass installations of computer operating systems or software, most often Linux and other open source software.
  • It is generally an advocacy and community-building event, where novices bring their computers along with their preferred operating system installation disks to the location of the installfest, and experienced users help them in getting started and troubleshooting problems. Sometimes a Linux distribution and informative flyers are given for free to the attendees. Some events ask for participants to bring power strips and network switches if available.

Hackfests

  • A Hackfest (a portmanteau of hack and festival) is an event, generally sponsored by a local Linux User Group, university or LAN party, at which people get together to demonstrate security issues or reverse engineer computer operating systems or software, most often Linux and other open source software.

Software Freedom Day

  • Local LUGs celebrate Software Freedom Day by going out and promoting Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Free Ubuntu CDs are given out along with brochures and any information about FOSS. This event is commonly held on the third Saturday of September.

Online support

LUGs use mailing lists, bulletin boards and IRC as their primary method of communication, with members meeting physically seldom or not at all. As with local LUGs, some groups are limited to technical discussions and others seek to form social bonds between Linux users by having "chat" or "off topic" forums.

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