The View from Durham on Software Freedom Day 2014

web-banner-chat-participating-hThis Saturday (September 20th 2014) is the tenth annual Software Freedom Day. As a group of free software users, we thought this would be a good opportunity to take stock of what the FLOSS world looks like from our perspective, and celebrate the things we like about it.

As Linux users, we’re already users of free software by definition however we all use other pieces of free and un-free software to varying degrees, so we are a heterogeneous group. To bring together our ideas we used a collaborative text-editing tool called etherpad and are publishing on the wordpress platform. What with the medium being the message and all that, it seems relevant to point out these things. Oh hang on, we just relied on a page on the MediaWiki platform. Now can we talk about the LAMP stack that it sits on? And we haven’t even started yet.

So before we disappear up a dependency tree of what we have to mention, let’s just make the point that it is (as we are) everywhere and you don’t have to be a card-carrying member of anything in order to rely on free technology and free culture more generally. Now let’s have a run through some of our favourites. Continue reading

Learn to program the DIY way

Starting this week, some of Durham’s Free Software Skill-Sharers will be learning to program together. We’ve formed a small study group which will have face-to-face meet-ups for peer support, and we’ll be keeping in touch by email as well.

At the moment we’re open to more people joining in – if you’d like to give it a try, join in the conversation on our mailing list (read the archives to see what’s happening, then subscribe and post a message to the list). This is completely free of charge, but comes with no guarantees; we’re just some people doing it because we want to.

We’re going to be learning a language called Python, using a book called “Learn Python the Hard Way” which is available for free on the internet. The name is inaccurate – the author is just making a point that you need to practise in order to get good at anything. It is suitable for people who have never programmed before.

With the new national curriculum, kids have to learn to program in school from a very young age, so this is an opportunity to be able to help your grandchildren / children / buddies / self with your homework (depending on how old you are), or just to be able to say, “Aha, let Grandma show you how I’d do that in python”.

People give many different reasons for learning to program (also know as learning to code) including:

  • self-directed learning looks good on your CV
  • it could lead to higher study or employment in IT
  • it enables you to make your own programs which work just how you want
  • you learned how to program in BASIC on the BBC Micro and you want to know what’s changed since then
  • it teaches problem-solving
  • it provides a way in to an understanding of the world of information
  • it is a creative act that demands no other justification

We’re just starting now, so it won’t take you long to catch up… just start at the beginning of the book and let’s see where it leads us…