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FOSSers host global Saturday celebration

Ubuntu in the bag

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Join the shopping masses in Kingston-Upon-Thames this Saturday and you might come away with more than you bargained for: an Ubuntu CD, plus schwag, along with that Zara top.

And if you're headed to Boston's China Town, don't be surprised if you run into the bearded free-software evangelism of GNU founder Richard Stallman or get some flyers that preach about free software thrust into your hand.

That's because Saturday is the sixth annual Software Freedom Day, a coordinated global day of events geared towards celebrating and lobbying for free and open-source software.

According to the Software Freedom Day's site: "Our vision is to empower all people to freely connect, create and share in a digital world that is participatory, transparent, and sustainable."

The event is orchestrated by a team of volunteers and sponsored by Canonical, Red Hat, and Google among others, with the FSF participating as a partner

Boston, home of the FSF, will see a day of talks, videos, and leafleting. Speaking with FSF president Stallman will be Sugar Labs' executive director Walter Bender, whose project provides an interactive learning environment used by one million children. It's part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program.

FOSSers at other events will also hold talks in addition to conducting plug fests.

Peter Brown, executive director of the Free Software Foundation, said the idea is to go beyond just those already familiar with FOSS. In other words, reach real-world users and even to influence politicians.

Of particular interest are people who might not necessarily want to go all out by de-installing Windows for Linux. Plug fests will hand out discs that contain OpenOffice and Firefox that run on Microsoft's operating system, in addition to GNU Linux distros such as Ubuntu.

"If people won't move from Windows we want to give them free software that will work on the Windows platform," Brown said. "People will hand out live discs so people can try out free software without having to make the commitment to wipe away Windows."

The idea is to also raise awareness that FOSS offers a choice between the "either/or" polemic of Microsoft and Apple and puts people back in charge of their data and systems.

"Free software is pointing to the fact we should be in control of the technology we use...Free software lets us modify and adapt it to suit our needs, and encourage people not to be dumbed down by the software we use," Brown said. "It's important to become literate beyond point and click." ®

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