HFOSS: The First Flight

FOSS @ MAGIC, the program that hosts the FOSS minor

This past year, I enrolled as a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. For me, this is quite a distance from my hometown just outside of Atlanta, GA. Part of the motivation that led me to choose RIT as my university of choice was its participation in Free and Open Source Software education and communities. RIT is one of the few schools in the United States to offer a minor in Free and Open Source Software.

As part of my time here at RIT, I plan to take on the minor. This semester marks the first milestone of this specific track for me. I am taking the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) course, and the first assignment for our class was writing a blog post about getting introduced into the class.

HFOSS: My expectations

Going into the HFOSS course, I was reluctant because of my inexperience with programming as a whole. The course is definitely strongly focused towards a programming aspect, but it is not strictly dedicated to firing out open source code.

On the contrary, this course is an introduction to “FOSS” as a whole. What is it? What tools are used in open source? How do people communicate and contribute? Why work in the open? These are all questions that the course seems targeted towards answering. In order to answer these questions, many methods will be used, some ancillary to the programming that is necessary for many free and open source projects.

I expect this course to be a challenge because I know that I can’t escape working on a large project or two this semester that will push my abilities and require me to adapt to meet the requirements. I am not as worried about learning the tooling, culture, or common practices that go along with open source because I am moderately familiar with them already. That goes without saying, I am not a master of it all. In the big picture for this class, I feel like I will have a head-start in some areas, while in others I will have to double up to keep up.

HFOSS: What I plan to contribute

This semester, I’m also hoping to contribute back to the class as well as take something out of it. With some of my experience with open source tooling and understanding of how other projects work, I hope to share my own experiences when and where needed. Additionally, I am paying extra attention for open source communities or projects where I might be able to contribute especially closer to the end of the semester, to fulfill the humanitarian aspect of the course.

By default, the course is targeted towards the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. Towards the end of the semester, the final project is creating a game on the hardware used on these machines with a spin towards 4th grade math curriculum in New York State. Another project I am a contributor of, the Fedora Project, has close ties to the OLPC program and helps develop the desktop environment used on the machines, Sugar on a Stick.

However, there is flexibility about what the final project could be on a per-student basis. Therefore, I am looking out for a particular project that I might feel a personal connection or passion towards where I feel I could help make an impact.

This sets the course and itinerary for the trip… we’ll see where I land as the semester progresses.

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