[Ilugc] Nagappan's Talk

Ramanraj K 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 
this way.

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 
from bugs.

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. 

-Ramanraj K

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