This past weekend was the internation Software Freedom Day celebration. Long story short, it’s a day to allow teams around the world to coordinate and host events to promote Free and Open Source Software. An event like this is particularly important in a place like Kenya because there is currently very low computer literacy but plenty of hardware is flowing into the country. The solution to all this hardware and a low level of preconceptions about what a computer should be and should run is to promote Free and Open Source software such as Linux based operating systems and other applications.
Posey and I setting up computers for the Open Source demonstrations
My Kenyan programmer friend Arthur therefore decided to take the initiative and got people together to host a Software Freedom Day 2009 event here in Mombasa. How great is that?! He worked with the guys from Camara, Build-A-Web and Lamu Software to rent a hall, set up tons of computers running FOSS and lined up a few speakers.
The day started with about and hour and a half of setup. I was able to call in some Peace Corps volunteers who might be interested in utilizing FOSS at their primary projects, and even got some Kenyans I know to also come, including some teachers from National Youth Service and Kenyan NGO volunteers hoping to network with web developers and programmers. Combined with Camara people, other invitees and people we attracted from our flyers and street table, we had a total participation of about 50 or more. This is really good, trust me.
On top of all of this, Arthur asked me to give a talk or speech, with complete freedom of topic. I chose to give a brief, enthusiastic overview of what Open Source Software is and what it means to me, and with the help of my friends and of course Ms. Vosburgh and her indefatigable editing skills, I would say the speech went off pretty well. I stressed the importance of building up a community of Open Source users to help others learn and grow. I stressed how these communities need to meet regularly, how they need not feel like they would be unproductive because of a lack of internet, how they need to start really assessing theircomputing needs and start answering those needs themselves and not wait for some corporation to finally perceive
their community as a viable market.
Yours truly giving his Software Freedom Day speech
The day was also filled with plenty of software demonstrations and question and answer sessions. Myself, Arthur and other Open Source enthusiasts fielded all sorts of questions on all sorts of topics from copyright to format compatibility to business strategy and even strategy on how the people at the event could themselves go out and convince others of the need to switch to FOSS. In the end, the day was very successful in showing people that there are others in their own neighbourhoods that are using FOSS and that maybe they should themselves switch. And it might mean I am soon going to be attending regular meetings of the Mombasa Linux User Group. That would be really exciting.
Of course, with such a busy Saturday, and with there being a holiday (Eid, the end of Ramadan) on Monday, Sunday became beach day. Packed up everything and headed down to Diani beach, hung out, relaxed, got some sun, and played in the waves. It was my first trip to the beach in Kenya on which I was able to body surf the waves. Well worth it. And I like the south coast beaches far more than north coast beaches. Far less crowded and therefore much calmer and more enjoyable.
Monday as I said was a holiday, Eid. I don’t really know much about Eid at all except that it is the last day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. For all practicalities in my life this means a few crucial things: my favourite restaurants will be open again in Mombasa and hopefully the Imams will go back to regular prayer schedules, meaning no more 3am prayer sessions. I hope.
Of course, last night there was a crazy idea to try and bake a pie. Mind you, I do not own an oven. What you t do is create what is called a jiko oven. Jiko just means cooking apparatus (charcoal burner, gas stove, etc.) and you can create an oven using some pots over this cooking apparatus. It’s just one of those crazy things Peace Corps volunteers do. Except I don’t have a charcoal jiko which is best for long-cooking, high heat requirements. So we decided to dig a pit to make a charcoal fire. That barely worked. And then, we placed a ceramic plate as the lid to our makeshift oven, except the charcoal we placed on top of the plate to heat the top of the over shattered the plate.
We were left with an apple pie that had ceramic shards all inside. Good thing we had macaronic and cheese and hot dogs as a backup. The initial plan was to just be eating th epie. Oh boy that would have been a mess.
Needless to say, it was a very busy weekend: software, freedom, glass in pies, everything.
Camara Volunteers setting up the outside table to attract attention