Free Software Trip 1: Events leading up to it.

Date: 19th January 2019


1. Events Leading Up To It

So it was the last week of my semester exams and I was very eager to start with the vacation. I had alot of stuff planned out and one of them was to get more involved in the open source community.

I have been using GNU/Linux for about 3 years by now and I always felt indebted to the community for the awesome tools I use daily. So I made and published 3 tools under MIT licence recently, with the motivation of helping others be more productive. They are listed below:

And one day I got a notification on my GitHub profile that somebody had starred one of my projects. I was surprised, as my repositories don’t get alot of attention usually so I went to check the person’s account in hopes to ask what he liked about my project. A quick search later I found out that it was Mr. Abhas Abhinav who is an entrepreneur specializing in Free Software and Liberated Hardware. He is also on the board of directors of FSF India. So I sent him a LinkedIn request with a note asking for his time to have a little chat.

He replied, much to my pleasant surprise, and a few emails later we got well aquainted. Abhas sir (as I had started to call him) has asked me what I know about Free Software and explained why I should care about it. I did know what the term meant , but I did not understand it well enough to care about it. I had been using Open Source software almost exclusively for a long time now I really loved the idea behind it and I thought it meant the same as Free Software. I couldn’t be more wrong.

So then Abhas sir asked me if I wanted to attend an event in Bangalore where Mr.Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and GNU Project. I said yes, ofcourse! I had read alot about him and his crusade against Proprietary Software on Reddit and other in other communities. He told me that this talk will convince me why choosing to use Free Software (and hardware) is so important in this day and age. He offered to book airfare tickets and stay at R.V College with help from Dr. Renuka Prasad for me so I can attend the event, coming from Mumbai.

I was thrilled at the generosity !

Meanwhile I had volunteered to work on some projects for GNU India under Abhas sir’s guidance. This way I could accomplish my goal and make useful software. I had worked on the following projects:

  1. An event registration app for the RMS Tour event made with Flask:
    • The app is roughly based on my own [newsletter app] https://git.abhishekbalam.xyz/websites/newsletter) but I replaced Redis for SQLite so its more portable.
    • This was the first time I had worked with Dockers and deploying with containers on a server.
    • I was given access to a Debian server where Abhas sir had insisted that I deploy the app myself so that I learn. The Nginx configuration was a bit confusing at first, and with guidance I had deployed and tested the app.
    • By the time the event was going to begin I was very pleased to know that the app had over 900 registrations for events all over the country! None of my projects had that kind of reach. It felt great!
  2. A newsletter system for FSF India.
    • By now I had understood the ideal project layout, dockerizing the app etc so it was a breeze.
  3. A concept website for the event.

During this time I was reading up everything about free software and what it meant. For anyone interested to get an introduction, please go though articles and podcasts by Abhas sir. He explains it very well.

Here are a few links:

So it was 16th Jan and I had to leave for Bangalore early in the morning next day, and I was packed up and ready to go. I was looking forward to having an awesome experience, to learn alot and interact with like-minded people.

The trip was every bit what I had expected it to be.


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© Abhishek Balam 2019

Source code.