Software Freedom Day (SFD) celebrated Sept 18

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Software Freedom Day (SFD) is an annual worldwide celebration of Free Software. SFD is a public education effort with the aim of increasing awareness of Free Software and its virtues, and encouraging its use.

Software Freedom Day was established in 2004 and was first observed on 28 August of that year. About 12 teams participated in the first Software Freedom Day. Since that time it has grown in popularity and while organizers anticipated more than 1,000 teams in 2010 the event has stalled at around 400+ locations over the past two years, representing a 30% decrease over 2009.

WE are talking about EDUCATION here, so let’s Take Action and make this year a bigger Success than ever!!!

“Software Freedom International” (SFI) is a non-profit organisation that acts as the official organiser of Software Freedom Day, and is the legal body that handles donations, sponsorship contracts, and accounting. SFI has successfully obtained a tax-exempt status in the USA where it is registered, in order to make donations tax-deductible. The name Software Freedom International was chosen to distinguish the organizational body from the event of Software Freedom Day itself.

Each event is left to local teams around the world to organise. Pre-registered teams (2 months before the date or earlier) receive free schwag sent by SFI to help with the events themselves. The SFD wiki contains individual team pages describing their plans as well as helpful information to get them up to speed. Events themselves varies between conferences explaining the virtues of Free and Open Source Software, to workshops, demonstrations, games, planting tree ceremonies, discussions and InstallFests.

The primary sponsor from the start was Canonical Ltd., the company behind Ubuntu, a Linux distribution. Then IBM, Sun Microsystems, DKUUG, Google, Red Hat, Linode, Nokia and now MakerBot Industries have joined the supporting organisations as well as the FSF and the FSFE. IBM and Sun Microsystems are currently not sponsoring the event. In terms of media coverage SFI is partnering with Linux Magazine, Linux Journal and Ubuntu User. Each local team can seek sponsors independently, especially local FOSS supporting organisations and often appears in local medias such as newspapers and TV.

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In a time when our lives are increasingly dependent on technologies, it is important we take the time to consider the impact of technology on our lives, and the importance of ensuring technology isn’t used to limit us, but rather to take us further along a path of opportunity, innovation and freedom for all people.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1] is a set of basic human rights that most people would agree would be a bare minimum. Not often are our basic rights thought of in the context of technology, but as more and more our lives are dependent on technology, it is a rapidly growing concern. Technologies that matter to our freedom are used in our voting systems, our leisure, our work, education, art and our communication. What does this mean to you? It means that the basic human freedoms you take for granted are only as free as the technologies you use.

Transparent and sustainable technologies are vital to ensuring we can protect our freedoms. Think about e-Government systems such as electronic voting. When the systems running our voting is proprietary or closed, it means that we can’t be sure what the software actually does, so how can we trust the results? The issues with the Diebold [2] voting systems in the US is testament [3] to the need for transparent systems that are trustworthy. Think about other software you use everyday that is proprietary and apply the fact that you can’t be sure what it is actually doing! Does your email system send copies of your mail to a third party? Is your web browser, logging and automatically sending your browse history to someone? The most interesting case recently was when Sony purposely added spyware [4] to their music CDs that silently and automatically installed itself onto Microsoft Windows systems to search for piracy breaches. This behaviour has spawned a whole new wave of viruses and is a gross breach of privacy.

So what do I mean by transparent? Well some software gives you access to the source code, such as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) which ensures that you can know (or get checked) what exactly a piece of software will do. It avoids nasty surprises, spyware, result rigging and all kinds of issues that we can’t be absolutely sure to avoid in closed software. Proprietary software keeps the source code locked away from public scrutiny which means that there is no way to know exactly what the software actually does, and no way to trust it to safeguard your human rights. Transparent technologies are about ensuring you can trust the results and operation of your technology.

Sustainable technologies are also important, and the best example of the issue is proprietary data formats. Why should the generations of today not have access to the love letters, essays and poems of their youth? With many applications using proprietary data formats, we can’t access the information in other programs or even future versions of the same program. When data is stored in data formats based on open standards [5], there is the ability for people everywhere to easily use and implement the standard and have your data accessible by more applications well into the future. Sustainable technologies are about ensuring access to knowledge forever.

As more and more of the worlds population starts using technology, getting online, and developing the next major life changing event of the future (such as the Internet was for many of us), ensuring open, transparent and sustainable approaches are considered best practice is important. Important to a future where technology empowers everyone equally, where knowledge is forever, and where our basic human freedoms are strengthened by technology, not hampered.

Software Freedom Day is a global celebration and education of why transparent and sustainable technologies are now more important than ever. With over 200 teams in 60 countries participating, it is a fantastic event to get your schools and communities involved in. Go along to your local event or start your own event and meet a wide range of people, all working together to help ensure our freedoms are maintained by the technologies of tomorrow.

This year, on Wednesday September 18th, Software Freedom Day 2013 is for the fourth time taking place at the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), the national research institute for mathematics and theoretical computer science on the Science Park in Amsterdam (location on OpenStreetMap). The CWI gave birth to the .NL internet domain, where the first top level domain was being registered by system administrator Piet Beertema, and where he also made the first connection to a foreign country of the NSF net (which would later on become the Internet) between the United States and the netherlands. The CWI plays an active role in open internet standards including W3C and has always been involved in the Dutch open source community. Like for example the programming language Python has been developed at the CWI.

So this promises to become a very special meeting again like in previous years!

Keep an eye on this website for the latest updates.

Help Us Promote SFD!

2013 Software Freedom Day is approaching, let’s tell people about it!

Simply use one of the beautiful banners we’ve made if you are organizing, participating, attending or speaking at a SFD event by placing it on your website / webpage / blog and link it back to your SFD event page or http://www.softwarefreedomday.org. You can also help us to promote SFD by placing our SFD counter with your own language as well!

Spread the words of Software Freedom to every corner of the world!

Registration for SFD 2013 has been launched since mid June, it is your chance to go out and tell the world how Software Freedom is IMPORTANT! REGISTER HERE

While goodies for pre-registered teams have already been sent out, you can find all the artworks on our wiki page in “source” form, which means you can as well localize them for your region, or make graphical adjustments.

It’s easy to register, you just need to create your wiki pages and submit your event information. Read this HowTo and contact us through the SFD discuss mailing list or on IRC (#SFD on freenode) if you need any help.

SFI Board Members.

Frederic Muller (President), founding member and former President of the Beijing LUG, co-organizer of many international FOSS events in China and Asia such as the Linux Developer Symposium (2008), Gnome.Asia Summits, OOoCon 2008, and of course local SFD events. Fred is as well as co-maintainer of RUR-PLE (a python learning environment for children) and a GNOME Foundation member.

Matt Oquist (VP, Treasurer and co-founder), a Tufts University graduate and employee of the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School.

Pockey Lam (Secretary), Former president of Beijing Linux User Group, founding member of SFDChina.org, GNOME.Asia Summit, College OSS Society and Beijing GNOME User Group.

JM C. Bitanga
Patrick Sinz

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