Staff Reporter

Bangalore: The founding principles of the free and open source software (FOSS) movement were invoked at the inauguration of the community's annual three-day conference, which began at the National Science Seminar Centre, Indian Institute of Science, here on Friday.

This is the sixth edition of the event and for the first time an Indian FOSS developer, Suparna Bhattacharya, delivered the inaugural keynote address.

Ms. Bhattacharya, who works as a Kernel Developer and Contributor at IBM's Linux Technology Centre, said: "Linux has diversity and the rate of change which it is undergoing is amazing. In the first half of 2006, one-fourth of its kernel has changed and 16,000 of the 20,000 files in it have undergone some change. Working on Linux is interesting and challenging."

Her topic was `Linux and the art of minimalist development', which focused on how to simplify Linux while catering to diverse needs of users.

The highlight of the first day of the conference was the talk by Christof Wittig who drew attention to the commercial side of FOSS.

Mr. Wittig is from the original Silicon valley, California, and he heads a company called db4objects Inc., which develops alternatives to expensive proprietary database software.

"There is a power shift towards autonomous decision-making. There is empowerment of users through collaboration and it is a win-win scenario for all. FOSS is not Communism; it is meritocracy as there are no barriers to entry. That means the best will come to win," Mr. Wittig said.

He added that the ultimate ideal of FOSS was to not just share software code but also music, news and videos freely over the Internet.

"Conventional companies are seeing the shift working against them. Ours is like a low-cost airline model, no frills. User empowerment is a business opportunity and this is commercial open source software."

Though the event was billed as "of, by and for the FOSS community", clearly not all were impressed with the organisers. Some FOSS enthusiasts were clearly unhappy with the fee charged for entry, Rs. 1,000.

A developer who did not want to be named said: "I do not know why we are being asked to fork out so much money when there are so many sponsors including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Companies are sponsoring a lot of developers but some of us have to pay on our own, which is tough."