Spreading Open Source Goodness

Last week I gave a small lecture on the “Power of Open Source” in today’s highly competitive social media craziness at the University of the Fraser valley, where I was invited to speak at a open student workshop. My lecture focused on the rapid development of Open Source, the Open User and GNU Licence agreements, and the free operating systems, explaining as how this is all effecting our social Intranet climate. The overall theme of the workshop was to develop further the knowledge base that students and faculty members could gain by adopting and utilising Open Source systems, such as Ubuntu into their everyday lives. But most importantly, I explained and demonstrated the security benefits that open source OS’s, and software, has over mainstream preparatory licensed systems. You do not like spam and  hackers, then go Open Source!

The presentation was, in my opinion, a huge success. Nearly fifty students and members of the public attended, and the Q&A session was over whelming, lasting nearly forty-five minutes longer than anticipated. I covered lots of ground and I felt at times that I was going too fast for the audience, but I believed that, judging by the reactions, everyone was keeping on track. I should point out too that I offer handouts so that anyone who is listening to my lecture, they can follow along in the handout, and use it for reference material if they so choose.

There were some issues on incorrect data and research information put out there in the workshop by other speakers who lectured, but that was quickly ironed out once the Q&A started. I was able to back one-hundred percent of my claims up by the way.

So here is what I have learned from the last two weeks of giving and attending lectures on open source and social media. An overwhelming majority of academics, mostly in the teaching profession, are lagging badly behind. I had a chance to review some of the core teaching materials that some of the faculty members were using with their students, and was surprised at just how outdated and out of touch some of the material this was from an Open Source perspective. For example, in all of the course materials that I saw, three course outlines on Social Media, from both the University of the Fraser Valley and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, there was no mention of Open Source Operating Systems. It was as if this segment of the Social Media Universe never existed. At first I though perhaps that the corporate influences of Microsoft and Apple were to blame, but that was quickly ruled out as all the teaching instructors told me that they somewhat have free and autonomous say in their teaching material. So the fault lay at their feet, not the intuition’s. So, it appears to boils down to ignorance.

So why not spread the word of Open Source in the classroom. The divide between the students and instructor is huge in this area. Here, the student is already well prepared and accustomed to the Open Source world. Realistically, one could argue that some of the laptops and notebooks that enter the classrooms today are using pirated software, and that the OS is pirated too. Another group, although a minority at this point, is using systems such as Fedora-Core and Ubuntu, Linux based, but for these students I have found that over half have are using dual-boots system comprising as Microsoft as the other choice of OS. So I argue that none of these students will ever want to pay for their software, so finding cracked and pirated software is a fact of everyday life. So, I urge these students to make the jump completely to fully immerse themselves in Open Source, and live a life in the free society.

I had made several arguments as to why we should be urging students into the world of Open Source, and I also point out some of the major stumbling blocks to achieving this. The shortage of skilled people who have a sufficient knowledge base is what I see as the primary problem for getting this message out there in the Universities that teach computer and Intranet related subjects other than Computer Science. The instructor can only teach what they know. Regrettably, the learning curve for Open Source is bumpy and problematic. I have a minor in Computer Science, and with that knowledge base I find myself knee deep in problems of broken software and total changes in maintained programs, almost on a daily bases. I find myself still using command-line as my preferred method of using Linux, but for a person brought up on a Graphic User Interface, GUI, command-lines just do not cut it. Added to this is that the world of Open Source is vast and follows many flavours, so depending on what variant is followed that may not be the best solution to utilizes all the wonders of Open Source with. So teaching it can be a bit of a challenge, but I believe it is very possible to do it in a well structured format, that is, point them to where the answers are—not reinvent the wheel.

I will be writing more on this in the near future. Stay tuned.

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