Kushal Das

FOSS and life. Kushal Das talks here.


Fedora Workshop in Bethune College

Two weeks back I did an one day workshop in Bethune college, Kolkata. Had around 20 students as participants. The goal of this work was to introduce Fedora as an alternative OS for the students.

The students were from the following departments.

  • Humanities (English)
  • Bengali
  • Mathematics
  • Biology

So you can easily understand that these are not our topical engineering college students. They use computers to do some particular tasks other than programming. We also made a list of those tasks (major ones)

  • Reading: web pages and PDFs
  • Writing: reports, books
  • Presentations

At the starting of the workshop, we just looked into a Gnome3 desktop and students kept clicking randomly to explore the system. We saw Firefox as the default browser, which most of them were already knew. Evince as PDF reader, and then just went through LibreOffice suite for documents and standard presentations. We also learned "How to learn touch typing" using gtypist package. The classroom was full with excitement, everyone was trying to type better than their friends.

Next we learned the basics of reStructuredText, and how to create presentations from them using rst2s5. The studentsliked this part of the workshop as everyone were doing things in their laptop and the results were visible within a second. Instant feedback is important to keep the new people going and when the feedback is coming from the computer they simply liked it. I already told them the biggest problem for most people is typing mistake(s). It was again proved to be right during this workshop :)

After the lunch we resumed with sphinx. Using sphinx-quickstart we started a new project, and started writing our first book/report. The PDF output using pdflatex command showed them how easy it is to create a professional looking document at home without any paid software. I also demoed vim as editor. We then moved into l10n and everyone logged into their system using bn_IN as the system language. The students were quick to find few translation issues in couple of the major applications. I will write about them in a different post. We ended the workshop while chatting about different aspects of FOSS and how they all can contribute to make their own life better. I will be going back to Bethune again to help them with installation and any other issues.

Setting up the laptops were the easier part of this workshop, which generally takes a lot more time. We took few seconds for each computer. How? Liveusb images. Using livecd-creator I created an image which had all the required packages for our workshop. So we never had to configure anything, things just worked out of the box, no missing packages.

I will be doing similar kind of workshops in few of the other biggest colleges in Kolkata, where the students will be from different streams than engineering. I also thank Assistant Professor Shuchismita Mitra for arranging this workshop.