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A test where copying is encouraged!

Anand Parthasarathy

Reuse/ recycle software: Open Source guru

— Photo: Anand Parthasarathy

OPEN FOR ALL: Five young representatives from Linux User Groups light a lamp to launch the FOSS.in event, in Bangalore on Tuesday. (Right) Keynote speaker Alan Cox, a guru to the Free and Open software movement.

Bangalore: The grounds of the Bangalore Palace have seen many high tech conferences — including the annual IT.in mela — but nothing like this: On Tuesday nearly 3000 young `techies' queued up for over an hour to register for `FOSS.in', the annual Free and Open Source Software conference which began five years ago as the Bangalore Linux event.

No ties and jackets here: with the average age of speakers and delegates below 25, tee shirts and jeans, the scruffier the better, seemed to be the uniform, with Anil Kapoor-style unshaven chins much in evidence.

The chief speaker on Day One was a father figure to the Linux-lovers: Alan Cox who is the official `maintainer' of the Linux kernel — the operational epicentre of the free-and-open software alternative to proprietary products.'' It's good to borrow or copy, he advised the standing-room-only audience: ``Why rewrite perfectly good code that some one else has tested and proved? Better to add something new, reuse and recycle — that's the strength of the Open Software movement.'' To vacillating corporate honchos he suggested: Go Open Source: It will cut costs, help you innovate and tap world-wide resources.''

In the ego less spirit of Linux, the event had no chief guest: ``Everyone of you is a VIP'' said convener Atul Chitnis. The gathering adopted as its theme song, Rabindranath Tagore's famous poem: ``When the mind is without fear... when knowledge is free...'' lines which seem to have been written with the Open Source Software movement.

To drive the point home, the five wicks of the ceremonial lamp were lit by five young representatives from the LUGs — Linux User Groups — based in Delhi, Goa, Durgapur, Nagpur and host Bangalore. The discussion pandals were named after the heroes of free software movement, including Bruce Perens, Richard Stallaman and the Finnish student who `invented' Linux, Linus Torvalds.

Over 50 presentations on a full spectrum of open source issue including Indian language challenges, are scheduled to be presented over four days — almost all of them by individual experts rather than companies. However, leading corporates such as Intel, HP, Sun, Airtel and Google and government agencies such as the IT Ministry and the Centre for Development in Advanced Computing are supporting the event.

Core offering

Less than a year after the U.S.-based Sun Microsystems unshackled its core offering, the Solaris operating system and placed it in the `Open' domain, five engineers at its India development Centre, have created a compelling `CD-bootable' version for free distribution.

The jargon means you do not have to instal Solaris on the hard drive of your PC: It will work straight from the CD drive of your machine without having to disturb your existing operating system — which could even be Windows.

This is an important consideration, since it allows developers and lay users to get a feel for Solaris, without putting at risk their existing environment. The five young software engineers — Moinak Ghosh, Pradhap Devarajan, Venkata Kishore, Sriram Popuri and Gangadhar Mylapuram — were not asked by Sun to work on this: They thought it was a `cool' thing to do; they worked on it in their spare time and the end product — called Belenix — proved such a compelling idea that Sun has helped them create a special web site (http://belenix.sarovar.org) where any interested programmer can download the ``live'' version of Solaris and burn a CD with the contents.

In a special briefing for The Hindu , Vijay Anand, Managing Director for Sun's India Engineering Centre and Nageswara Rao, Director, Asia Pacific, Revenue Products Engineering, explained that the Centre's engineers had helped create the CD distribution version of the Java EE version 5 programme development environment.

They had also optimised the way third party applications could run, using the yet-to be released Sun UltraSparc T1 — the industry's first low power server-on-a-chip, a processor that included 8 separate computing engines on a single slab of silicon, that with software tweaking, could handle 32 tasks at one go.

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