They are young, they are learning the tricks of the trade but they certainly have a mission. Charmed by the security and easiness, the girls have joined the open source movement. Pune has just woken up to the feminine branch of the Linux Users Group and as there counterparts all over the world, the girl volunteers here also have come together under the banner of LinuxChix.
Linux enthusiastic all over the world carry out their activities under the banner of Linux Users Group. Here in Pune, the group is called Pune Linux Users Group (PLUG). However to spread the message of Linux movement among women and girl students, the LinuxChix was born. Though it is about two decades old in the rest of the world, the Pune Chapter of the organization came into reality just last December. Since then, the group has conducted some four meetings and has managed to attract at least 30 members.
Still in its infancy, the group has most of the members from Symbiosis Institute of Computer Sciences and Research. Smriti Garg, Rashmi Lakhotia, Shweta Rani and Janki Purohit, four students from second year M. Sc. (CA) are the volunteers for the LinuxChix Pune Chapter. Currently they are working on the Fedora project. Besides having regular meets, of which the next is scheduled on next Sunday, they have also given lectures in other colleges.
Smriti said, “The Linux offers a more secure platform because it is very hard to penetrate. Also, there far too less viruses in the system. Therefore it has became a preferred operating system for the students as well as professionals alike. In fact, many large organizations are going for the Linux. So we also wanted to be a part of the movement.”
When asked why these girls were attracted to LinuxChix, Rashmi said, “Our institute, SICSR itself encourages the open source movement. We are taught about the subject in line with our regular studies. In fact, it has become a kind of a part of our curriculum.”
According to these volunteers, not many people are aware as how Linux offers more facilities and that it is secure. With most of the users still attracted to an established brand, it is their duty to teach others about the system and their movement. Helping them in their goal is PLUG which also offers technical advice as well as act as a support group.
The volunteers have taken the movement seriously and are working on the Fedora project along with Runa Bhattacharjee, who also volunteers for Fedora-India, KDE-India, Gnome-India, ilug-cal and Ankur Bangla. Fedora is a ?Linux-based operating system that provides users with access to the latest Free and Open Source Softwares (FOSS.)
Reaching to Others
As to the need of forming a separate group of the women, the girls said that it is mainly because Linux has not reached to the majority of girls and women. Citing one of their demonstration experience, they said, “We had a session in Abeda Inamdar College where almost all of the attendees were girls. They will rarely go to any male dominated place for learning about Linux. But when we conducted the session, we got a tremendous response.”
These volunteers are also quick to refuse that they cater only to female audience. “When we conduct meetings or lectures, a part of the audience is men also. In fact, we are witness to some sessions where the male attendees have outnumbered the female audience. Our sessions are open to all and to limit them will defeat our main purpose,” said the volunteers.
The Chick Organisation
LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux and for anyone who wants to support women in computing. This is an international group of Free Software users and developers, founded in 1999 by Deb Richardson with the aim of "supporting women in Linux." Richardson described it as an alternative to the "locker room atmosphere" found in some online technical forums and gave LinuxChix two core rules: "be polite" and "be helpful". LinuxChix is now primarily a group for supporting women in computing, specifically in Open Source/Free Software/Software Libre computing.