it.gen.nz

Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Software Freedom Day

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about Software Freedom Day, what it’s celebrating and how you can enjoy it. There will be events in several parts of the country.

The site for the Wellington event is here, the Waikato one here, and if you know of others please put them into the comments.

I’ll be on just after the 11am news. Listen live, or after the broadcast you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3.

A: Let’s talk about Software Freedom Day, 20th September 2009 in Wellington, and events on in other parts of the country as well. This event has been running for at least the last three years but it seems to have grown real legs this time round. It’s being hosted by none other than Nat Torkington, so if you want to see what he really looks like, get down to the Wellington Convention Centre between 9 and 6 on Sunday 20th. Just tell them I sent you.

Q: This used to be just a few people giving away CDs in previous years.

A: It did, and now it’s grown into the kind of thing that can take over the Wellington Town Hall and the Michael Fowler Centre.

Q: What is the purpose of software freedom day?

A: It’s a celebration of all aspects of free software. There are at least seven parallel streams running down there, including a bar camp for people to brainstorm ideas, an installfest for people to install free software on their computers, a kids programme – which might be a good thing if you are a parent of primary kids, and a student programme. Incidentally, if you think your kids would be interested in a day playing with computers – download the program called Scratch first, if you get time. It’s a neat way of learning how to do interactive graphics programming – it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. Scratch runs on Windows and Macs and you get it from the MIT website – in today’s links.

Q: So is the event free?

A: Free as the air. If you’re in Wellington and you have any interest in computers – or your kids have – go and have a look at what’s going on in the Town Hall on Sunday 20th.

Q: That’s not the only thing they mean by free, is it?

A: No, they’re referring in part to Richard Stallman’s concept of free – that’s the so-called four software freedoms. They are: the freedom to run software for any purpose, the freedom to study how software works and change it to suit your purpose, the freedom to give copies of software away, and the freedom to improve software and give those copies back to the community. If all software was like that we would all be building on each other’s ideas and work and making huge progress – and if you don’t think software has the potential to make progress for people, just look at the Internet, at how banking has changed, how modern cars just start first time…

Q: So is this event just happening in Wellington?

A: Wellington is certainly having a big one this year. But there are events in Auckland, Albany, Hawke’s Bay, and probably other centres. I can’t say for certain what’s on in those places but there will definitely be things happening.

posted by colin at 7:27 pm  

1 Comment

  1. Interesting that the Scratch source code licence http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Source_Code has the proviso “you cannot implement the ability to upload projects to any MIT Scratch website”.

    I would say that makes it non-Free software.

    Comment by Lawrence D'Oliveiro — 3 September 2009 @ 11:23 am

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