Today our Mozillian, Ganesh tells us more about how he started using Free and Open Source Softwares.
My first interaction with open source software
Everything started in 1995 with my first encounter with the Internet which was made accessible in our office by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie – AUF. My institution is an associate member of this international organisation where one of their main objectives is the promotion of Open Source Software. This collaboration has been an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge in ICT through the usage of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). However, it was a bit hard at the beginning since I have always worked with proprietary software. But now I am able to work with both types of software!
Open Operating System
The very first open source software which I was exposed to, was Linux via the Debian Distribution in 1998 during a Network System Administration training workshop which I chose, by curiosity. It was a very tough experience for me to use a character based software which was challenging to put into practice. During this workshop I was a little lost, but I learned a lot and came out with an alternative software usage. Having acquired a practical knowledge about the how Linux could be implemented, I had enrolled for two additional Linux training workshops where the Linux distribution Ubuntu was used. This time I have been able to learn about how to install and use Linux as an operation system, and now I am confident enough to say that I am a multi-operating system user.
Internet browser and Email application
My new adventure with free and open source software is Firefox, of which I still remember using the very first version. Firefox became my default browser even though I used other browsers. Unknowingly, I have contributed to the Mozilla mission by the installation and distribution of Firefox in all the computers in my office and to lots of people with whom I have been working with. During ICT awareness training courses where I was involved in my institution in the Noughties, I have been advising and encouraging people to use Firefox as a reliable Internet browser and have also distributed Firefox to thousands of people. My love for Firefox and Mozilla started in this way and in 2008 I joined the Mozilla Student Campus Reps (now Firefox Student Ambassador) where I participated in the ‘Spread Firefox’ campaign. Thunderbird is the another Mozilla product which I have extensively been using as my preferred email application, especially for office use since its inception in 2004. I have recommended this software for our email purposes and we have been using it for the past 11 years and we are happy with its reliability. As a result, Thunderbird has been installed in all the computers engaged in secretarial duties.
Digital Libraries and Institutional Repositories
Greenstone is a suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It provides a way of organizing information and publishing it on the web or on removable media such as DVD and USB flash drives. Greenstone is produced by the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato, and is developed and distributed in cooperation with UNESCO and the Human Info NGO. It is open-source, has multilingual software and is issued under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The aim of the Greenstone software is to empower users, particularly in universities, libraries, and other public service institutions, to build their own digital libraries.
One of my projects in my institution was the creation and development of digital libraries to host a repository of highly valuable documents produced by consultants on the health sector in Mauritius; it’s also to preserve a collection of annual health reports during the colonial era since 1935. Initially, I came across a software called Greenstone and I played around with but unfortunately, I didn’t have a great outcome. However, due to my interest in learning about this software, my name was recommended to the UNESCO Regional Programme Manager by a colleague from University of Mauritius who attended a UNESCO Greenstone training workshop. In 2009, I attended a UNESCO Regional training workshop on Greenstone in Seychelles. This was a real turning point for me, as it helped in the implementation of this software for the creation and development of digital libraries for my institution. Following my proposal to the implementation of my digital libraries project, UNESCO agree to run another Greenstone Regional training workshop but this time it was held in Mauritius where 15 participants from several countries (Mauritius, Madagascar, Rodrigues, Comoros, Seychelles, Tanzania) of the region participated. I was called upon to assist Amos Kujenga from NUST, Zimbabwe, to facilitate this workshop. Consequently, following the interest and needs shown for this software, a second training workshop was held in 2011 at my institution, Mauritius Institute of Health. Another batch of 15 participants from different institutions in Mauritius and Rodrigues attended this workshop. In 2013, in line with the setting up of a digital library to host scientific documents, at the request of my institution, the AUF mounted a training workshop in Greenstone for 15 cadres from different tertiary institutions. I facilitated this workshop.