[Ilugc] Nagappan's Talk
ramanraj.k at gmail.com
Tue Jun 6 11:30:31 IST 2006
Bharathi Subramanian wrote:
>On Sunday, I attended, Mr Nagappan's talk on "Contributing to FOSS"
>in MIT. Here is the tiny MoM:
>Around 3:30PM, Mr Nagappan started his talk. Nearly 10 people attended
>this event and in that only 3 are new to FOSS. He talked about Bug
>Reporting, Diff, Submit etc ...
Here is more for those who missed the event: The talk was with special
focus on reporting bugs to developers - a useful activity which almost
any free software user can do if an application crashes.
Bugzilla is generally associated with tracking Mozilla bugs, but the
idea has caught on and others have adopted the tool. Every major distro
or application has bugzilla running from a sub domain that would be the
first place to report a bug. examples are bugzilla.redhat.com
bugzilla.gnome.org https://bugzilla.ubuntu.com/ (ok, they have moved
to using malone https://launchpad.net/malone) etc
http://www.pastebin.com is a useful site that provides a facility to
share error reports and for debugging code. The basic idea is to dump
the error messages at pastbin.com, get a tiny url link to your post, and
use it as reference to track and discuss the problem with others.
Nagappan gave a live demo on how to file a bug report with pastebin.com
and bugzilla. He showed a bug report filed by Prashanth Mohan, and how
the feedback to "replay" the the bug helps the developer to identify
possible issues and offer a patch. Prashanth Mohan wrote a minimal
program to demo these activities.
Nagappan then explained how the accessibility libraries and daemon could
be used to automate tracking of bugs in the ui. Accessibility tools
could be used by users who need it, and it also enables tracking of bugs
in the ui to test if an application itself is suffering from
disabilities. At present applications like Mozilla, and OpenOffice and
any program using jawa swing/java foundation classes could be tracked
At a lighter moment, he said, all of them in the room probably know 'C'
programming except "him" (that is 'me' :) Of course, I know no c and
wish to forget the little php or js I have forced myself to learn too.
(Both are not very hard things to do - as I discover that from time to
time) The basic strategy should be to train computer programs to write
code. php-mode.el tells emacs how to indent the php code I write, but it
would be better if it could write php or c code for itself. Btw,
Nagappan's college mate, Anand Babu, gave an introduction to guile last
year, at a GNU Vidyashram session at Ma Foi Academy, and one of the key
points I still remember is that "C" is a language written with machines
in mind, and not exactly the right language to start life with,
particularly if you are for beginners. Anyway, I would rather leave it
to the machine itself to decide if it wants to code in c, lisp or
whatever - and that may be the only way to an environment that is free
There were other talks I got to attend that morning:
Rahul Sundaram made a presentation on contributing to FOSS, with the
Fedora community as an example. He also mentioned his participation in
the One Laptop Per Child - OLPC project.
Bharathi spoke about embedded solutions in FOSS. An amazing array of
tools are available to cater to the needs of the industry using minimal
hardware to save costs for communication devices like phones, mobiles
etc. Rahul started his talk with how Linus made the decision not to
fork the kernel project to create specialised kernels for embedded or
super computer needs and that has helped to make better design
decisions. The special appl. merely strip down the kernel and load other
modules. qemu and other emulators are available to mimic the required
hardware for testing purposes. Bharathi explained the layers in
embedded software with a few clear slides.
Ma. Sivakumar, who contributed to zha - the Tamil localization project,
talked about his background in leather technology and industry, and how
he is building an erp solution for the industry, using FOSS, through
trial (& *error* ;) He had plenty of tips for the young entrepreneurs on
how to build their contacts and market.
I made a brief presentation on FOSS Licenses. "FOSS" usually expands as
"Free and Open Source Software" but it would better to expand it as
"Free and Open Standards and Software" to avoid redundancy and make it
more meaningful. The chief highlight of a FOSS system is that it uses
open standards like TCP/IP, POSIX, ANSI C, SQL http/1.1, the various W3C
standards for html, css, xml, dom etc and free implementations thereof
like linux, much of the gnu project, apache web server, firefox, mozilla
etc . I took the participants briefly through the FOSS licenses widely
used: the GNU GPL, LGPL, FDL, and some of the BSD like licenses for
FreeBSD, PostgreSQL, and the Apache and PHP licenses.
I pointed to some of the bugs in the licenses, typically, the conditions
or trend to prevent free use of the name of the program that is
preventing wider use of free software. This is an ironical tragedy -
the software itself is free but its name is not so free and would
probably rank the number one reason why FOSS still remains obscure and
within a small circle of people hidden from the vast majority.
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