January 11, 2005

10 ways to pay back the open source community

Author: Ankit Malik

You run GNU/Linux. You play games on it, surf the Net, write documents, and edit pictures, and all for free, thanks to the multitudes around the world who contribute to the open source movement. Now it's payback time -- time to give back to the global fraternity giving you so much. Here are 10 ways you can help right now.

1. Thou shalt speak thy native language

Software worldwide is translated into a plethora of languages, yet some regions remain overlooked. Help create an indigenous version. Select a Unicode font, choose a bilingual dictionary, and translate. You can start with a small project and then move on to higher levels.

2. Thou shalt post bugs

No software is perfect. In spite of the developers' best efforts, glitches appear. Some may be specific to your distro or platform. The next time you encounter a bug, post it at the developers' Web site in the application's bug tracking system or mail it direct to the developers. Time consuming? Maybe, but it'll go a long way toward improving the software.

3. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

Got a newbie friend who's just getting acquainted with the penguin? Help him transition to Linux. Answer his questions. Direct him to newbie sites where he can search for answers himself. Remember, you too were a newbie once.

4. Thou shalt delve into 0 and 1

Are you a programmer with time on your hands? Hook yourself to one of the numerous projects at SourceForge.net and start coding, or better still, create your own project.

5. Thou shalt document

If there's anything geeks don't like, it's writing documentation. They'd rather leave that to someone else so they can concentrate on coding. But documentation is as important as coding. If you can string words and sentences together better than the average hacker, partner with a SourceForge project to document.

6. Thou shalt thank the developer

Like the software? Can't live without it? Imagine the amount of hard work that went into it -- and you got it for free! Thank the developer; even a simple "thank you" by email encourages the developer to deliver more goodies. Want to go a step further? Donate money to the project to help ensure that the software continues to be developed.

7. Thou shalt dress up the penguin

Got a flair for graphic design? Create eye candy for the desktop and post it at sites like www.kde-look.org, www.gnome-look.org, or www.art.gnome.org. Post anything from backgrounds to icons to mouse cursors to desktop themes.

8. Thou shalt share thy wisdom

Wikipedia is the world's largest free encyclopedia, and it's open source. Browse some articles and correct typos and grammatical errors that slip past the proofreader. Expand the contents or add an article.

9. Thou shalt spread the word

Liberate your friends and colleagues who remain imprisoned in the chains of spyware and viruses. Lend them your Knoppix CDs (it's perfectly legal), awaken your institution to GNU/Linux, open source your boss.

10. Thou shalt unite

Linux user groups, or LUGs, are conglomerations of Linux lovers. Fall in love -- join a LUG, and by doing so, expand your knowledge and diminish your problems.

Ankit Malik is a 15-year-old Linux enthusiast and a freelance technical writer. This article first appeared in slightly different form in Linux For You, a monthly Indian magazine on open source.


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