Software Freedom Day celebrates 10th year in Christchurch
Ever wanted to set up your own Facebook, build a personal digital video recorder or make a video DVD? These are a few of
the topics to be covered at the 10th annual Software Freedom Day on the 21st of September.
Software Freedom Days have traditionally been about giving away CDs and installing software. "We'll still be doing that,
but we will also be giving demonstrations of free software for business, education and community organisations" one of
the organisers, Don Robertson, said.
"Over the last ten years, free software - all software - has become much more stable and easier to use. Well, less hard,
but even my mother was able to go from OS X to GNU/Linux without any problems. So we want to focus on showing how much
high quality free software is available, and on some wider issues - getting technology to poorer communities, privacy
and data security, patents and creative freedom, open formats ... and dispelling some myths. Free software is not
copy-right violation or stealing, you don't need to join the communist party to use it. The Greens, Labour and Act's web
sites all run on Free Software. National also uses Free Software components. Things like that."
While much of the software can be installed and distributed at no cost, that's not the most important meaning of the
word 'free'. "Free means you are able to use the software any way you want, to change it if you want, and to share it
with anyone. It means you can use it to build other software. It means free as in Liberty".
Modern software is often built up with parts - like putting Lego blocks together. "If you have to make licensing deals
for every block ... that stifles innovation, it stops people putting things together in new ways".
Free Open Source Software (FOSS) is often called Free Libre Open Source Software, or FLOSS, to emphasise this
distinction. "I tried to use Libre Open Source Software, but it didn't really work" says Robertson.
The Free Software movement is bound up with the Open Standards, Open Data and Open content movements. "We're seeing a
growth in all these areas", says Robertson. "Some companies are notorious for using formats no one else can use. Once
you use their software, you can't switch to anything else". Some companies even make new versions of their software
incompatible with old versions, forcing upgrades.
Academic publishing has also come under pressure to be more open. "The public fund a lot of research, but often cannot
afford to read the results. The academic journals hold the copy-right". The UK and USA are legislating to require that
government funded research is published with Open Access. "Open Source Software - such as the Public Knowledge Project's
software - makes this easy to do".
Largely due to the diligence and hard work of Rik Tindall, the events co-ordinator, this is Christchurch's tenth
Software Freedom Day. "We will be the first of over 270 Free Software Day events around the world" says Don Robertson,
"and Christchurch will be the only centre in New Zealand that has celebrated all Software Freedom Days"
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 organisers
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.
Since 2006 Software Freedom Day has been held on the third Saturday of September, it has occasionally coincided with
International Talk Like a Pirate Day.