PLUG Meet Minutes 8/01/11
This post attempts to share/describe the goings on in this month’s PLUG meet.
Apologies first of all, I know I had promised to end/put the third article of using the tool jigdo but certain events overtook it. I promise to put it up by the end of the month.
I came to the PLUG meet after a long time, almost 6 months or so after the last meet. Was a little and reached the venue around 16:30ish . I missed a little bit of the first item of the day, a product called webzash . The idea behind the product is not bad, I know of two competiting, gnukhata and gnucash but as rightly pointed out by Pareen Lathia, the developer while the former is too complex, and the latter is not with the Indian sensibilities/processes/procedures in mind.
The rationale for both the products ‘webzash’ and ‘gnukhata’ is targetting non-profits and SME’s who are on ‘Tally’ to give them an alternative product. As webzash is in its infancy, it has a long long road ahead which it needs to catch up.
There is one crucial point though that both the free software projects need to keep in mind. Accounting and Accountancy standards in India are constantly evolving. The New Direct Tax Code and the IRFS both are big changes which will happen in a year or two so the software needs to adapt/change at a breakaway speed to do that.
The other thing is webzash is a single guy’s work atm and till there are no new contributors to the project it would face all the issues which single developer based projects face, time, scale and support .
The other part is many a people use ‘Tally’ because most people’s Chartered Accountants recommend it. Also practises such as ‘creative accounting‘ are also there which in one way or the other have been facilitated by such accounting softwares as well. By and large, till some well-known chartered accountants or well-established principled well-known brands don’t associate it would be a long fight for these newcomers.
Note: I don’t either approve nor condone the ‘creative accounting’ practises as I know it’s as widespread as can be. For me, it’s just one more symptom of the malaise of the general corruption within the country, can’t do much about it :(
Around 17:00ish, the presentation ended and Pratheen seemed pleased with the constructive criticism and feedback he got from the presentation.
Next up, was the gnunify.in planning. For those who came late to the party, for the last 9 years or so, SICSR along with PLUG have been organizing it. The idea is for all FOSS evangelists,programmers,users per se meeting together, learning, sharing and growing as well. There were quite a few topics touched upon and some issues, dilemmas which from a management perspective were shared which was much appreciated as well. For e.g. it seems last year they got 150 odd + proposals when they asked/floated Call For Proposals (CfP) and its a big headache as to who they should call or not. It’s not easy to judge many a times whether either the person has done the work which s/he claims s/he has done. If yes to it, then is s/he a good orator and even if that is good, then why him and not a more deserving candidate perhaps ? In fact, hearing about the CfP your humble blogger was tempted to think of at least 2-3 topics which he would like to share/talk about. Let’s see :)
One of the more interesting ideas which floated in was having either some programming contest or some factual ‘problem areas’ or issues that new contributors and students could take a crack at. There was also an idea to ‘writing device drivers for some hardware product’ which is still an issue esp. if you buy some unbranded products. For e.g. see the netbook recommendations and the more interesting GNU/Linux compatible TV Tuner threads on PLUG mail list.
Both these tell one thing, there is a need of a current hardware list which is endorsed and known to work with GNU/Linux. While most of the major GNU/Linux vendors have been trying to do the same, there is a lot of reinventing the wheel in this area and almost nothing happening I guess in our own Indian context/backyard.
The ‘device driver‘ idea although was shot down as
a. writing device drivers take time
b. finding mentors although not impossible, is challenging.
c. getting to know if a student can deliver on the things is again an issue. If somebody accepts and doesn’t deliver s/he is just not making the mentors upset they are also spoiling chances of other probables.
The above experience or shortcoming is very similar to experiences shared by projects who have been on GSOC although Google has the management bandwidth and the resources to fine-tune things a lot so it would not be appropriate to compare at all.
What was surprising to know is this time Installfest would be on a smaller scale. Two arguments given for that :-
a. GNU/Linux OSes have become easier to install
b. There has been less crowds to Installfests than before.
Few variants were proposed, having a video tutorial looping back showing how to install and things like that. This was shot as the whole idea of the meet is to be interactive with each other.
Another idea floated was running ‘Revolution OS‘ or some of the FOSS movies throughout the 2 days, this was well liked idea although I’m not really sure if it can/should be done ? I’m talking about the copyright on the movie. If they do decide to go ahead, I do hope they take care of the issues involved.
Another interesting idea floated was to have a Wikimedia/wikipedia track. Now that’s certainly something interesting to contemplate. It’s not just the in-thing but also an effective tool for transparency and effective group communication. There have been few instances of the tool in the wild (in the Indian context) . It would be interesting to see how that takes shape.
Last and not the least, there was talk of having a Fedora BoF or something like that. I proposed to ask if we could rope in few debianer’s as well and have a BoF or something like that as well. I am biased towards Debian so couldn’t help it :)
At the very end of the session, I distributed almost all of the Ubuntu 10.10 CDs which I had ordered from Canonical couple of months back. In fact, it had been in my backpack for over couple of weeks if not more but it just hadn’t clicked.
Few more conversations happened and we concluded the meet for the day at around 18:30 hours.