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My Linux Story from Gauthamraj Elango
Linux helps rural student transform rocky academic start into FOSS confidence
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Perundurai is a small town in the district of Erode, located in the state of Tamilnadu in southern India. From Perundurai, it is a ~1 hour car ride west to a small, rural village called Sullippalayam. This is the town where I was born, grew up, and still live, with my family.
In the past, agricultural farming was the main source of work and income for people in the village. But due to poor rainfall and the low cost of crops, many people stopped farming and left the village to work in factories in the city. There is one elementary school in Sullippalayam that teaches up to class of five students from the village, where exposure about to computers and technology is limited but does exist.
For me, I was in school for 12 years, and during that time there was one computer science class available to me. Then, I attended the university to gain a bachelor of engineering degree with a focus on computer science. My first two years, I focused on getting high marks by memorizing and reproducing for exams. Also, I was shy to talk in English and in groups. I had done neither growing up.
Then, in the middle of 2010, some of my friends started presenting papers and projects on subjects that were thought to help with their chances to get a job after graduating. However, many are plagerized and thus did not amount to much. I applied many papers and projects to various colleges, and finally two were accepted.
I was not prepared and still very shy, so I copied a friend's resume because I was not confident in my background and work. In some of the resumes, under the skills section or the operating system used section, I saw "Linux" listed. I wasn't sure what it was, so my curiosity was peaked! I also had a deep aspiration to do something different and get myself out of this rut, so I was motivated to explore more about Linux.
I researched and got to know Linux, as an operating system, but also as an open source project and community. Then, I came across Ubuntu's free shipment program. Full of excitement, I applied for a live CD. And, I received it a few weeks later. Receiving a shipment from Netherlands is, in and of itself, great motivation to try Linux. So, without hesitation, I installed Ubuntu on my device.
From that moment, I was in love with Linux.
When I proudly showed my new operating system to others, I was asked a lot of basic questions about free and open source software (FOSS), so I researched the subject in more detail. During that process, I learned about India's own FOSS operating system, called BOSSLinux (Bharat Operating System and Solutions), and found nice and easy presentations about FOSS on their website.
I became more confident when I would explain FOSS philosophy to others. And, my friends began to ask for my assistance moving them to Linux. At school, I formed a FOSS club for our department to help spread FOSS awesomeness to more people. And, at the first club meeting, I gave a presentation on our purpose with confidence and passion! Our club activites include sessions and workshops on various open source projects, ranging from "Firefox addon development" to "CMS" to "Make your own Linux using SUSE Studio."
Then, after graduation in 2012, I got involved with Mozilla project because of their mission.
Today, open source, an open web, and Linux are important and critical parts of my everyday lifestyle. I want the web to be open, free, and accessible to everyone because I have experienced what it's like to not have enough exposure to technology. It's my goal to evangalize and make an impact in rural regions with open source through interest groups and free sessions for kids and young adults.
I often speak and tell people that I believe $9 Linux machines will help us realize the drea of every child owning a computer, especially in regions like my hometown. I think schools and teacheres in rural areas hesitate to adopt technology into their learning process because many of their students do not have access to the resources at home. But low-cost Linux machines combined with volunteer-driven technology clubs can bring about real change.
Thanks to Linux for empowering me to express my interests, skills, and passions!