FOSS talk at Google Zurich office

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

March 8 celebrated Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Day in the Google Zurich office. Google employees gathered to listen to talks by Chris DiBona, Director of Open Source at Google, and Karsten Gerloff, president of Free Software Foundation Europe. The evening wrapped up with a FOSS game where the new hires proved they were better at answering tricky questions than old-timers.

Open Source at Google
As Director of the Open Source Programs Office at Google, Chris DiBona leads exciting initiatives like Google Summer of Code and Google Code-in that encourage university and pre-university students, respectively, to participate in open source software development. Chris also spearheads other initiatives to encourage Googlers to contribute to FOSS projects - for example, he advises Google employees on how to open source their code and how to bring open source code into Google. Most importantly, Chris mentioned that the major FOSS licenses are in fact not difficult to comply with.

Chris’ talk is part of the internal training for new-hires at Google and focuses on various internal procedures and guidelines for how to deal with open source, licenses, and patents.

Free Software Foundation Europe
As president of Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), Karsten Gerloff promotes Free and Open Source Software, educates politicians, regulators and businesses on the benefits of FOSS.

In his talk “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, Karsten explored the tremendous benefits a networked world is to society, information sharing, and personal freedom. Only within Karsten’s lifetime, we’ve gone from very expensive long distance phone calls, to virtually no-cost communication anywhere and anytime. He pointed out that the various technologies which make this possible came to be because they built on simple open standards. Thus, the Internet was based on mostly general purpose computers, the word-wide-web was realised on top of neutral networks and TCP/IP, and Wikipedia on top of WWW, and so on.

Karsten highlighted how Free Software Foundation works to promote an alternative to the locked-down centralised world through the use of free and general purpose and distributed systems and FOSS. Some examples includes the FreedomBox, GNU/Linux and other free operating systems, Diaspora, Bitcoin, YaCy, and GNUnet. Furthermore, FSFE will support developers, shaping the laws guarding against patent trolls. See for information on how to give your support.

How much do you know about open source?
For the last part of the evening, a hand-full of FOSS contributors in the Zurich office demonstrated their work. This was based on both contributions related to Google projects, and projects people dedicate their free time to outside of work.

There was also a contingent of “Nooglers” (new Googlers), who had to answer rather tricky questions about FOSS. The game was set up so Nooglers and old-time Googlers were competing, and the new-hires won the game, remembering which printer it was Richard Stallman struggled with in 1980 (Xerox 9700), and that even though Linus Torvalds is Finnish, his native tongue is Swedish.

The evening was an eye opener for many in the audience who weren’t familiar with open source and with the inspiring talks from both Chris and Karsten, hopefully even more Googlers will release open source code and work on open source projects in the future.

By Havard Rast Blok-Monsivais, Software Engineer in Test