March 26, 2007

ChangeLog: Sahana Project, Ted Ts'o, receive FSF Awards

Author: JT Smith

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has announced the recipients of the 2006 FSF Awards. The Award for Projects of Social Benefit was given to Sahana, a free software project created for managing disaster relief, and the Award for the Advancement of Free Software went to Theodore Ts'o for his lifetime contributions, including his work on the Linux kernel.

As we reported last year, Sahana began development during the relief efforts in Southeast Asia after the tsunami of 2004. The founding team of Sri Lankan developers from the Lanka Software Foundation released the first version of the software after three days of work, and have continued to develop it since. The software is designed to handle problems common to disaster relief, such as searching for missing people and coordinating volunteers. Sahana is now being used by the Sri Lankan Red Cross and the Sri Lankan Government Disaster Management Center, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as Bicolrelief in the Philippines and Humanitarian Emergency Logistics and Preparedness, a worldwide humanitarian relief agency. Sahana was also used in Strong Angel III, a test of civil and military disaster response in the United States.

Sahana project members with Richard Stallman - click to enlarge

In presenting the award at the FSF annual general meeting, Richard Stallman, FSF president, said, "We were inspired to create this award when we heard of the tremendous good the Sahana project was able to achieve through the use of free software."

On hand to receive the award were several members of Sahana's founding team, including Chamindra de Silva, project lead; lead developers Pradeeper Dharmendra, Ravindra de Silva, and Mifan Careem; Louiqa Raschid, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, and Rent Hailpern, head of the IBM Crisis Response Team.

Speaking to, de Silva said, "Sahana would not be possibly if not for the many thousands, if not tens of thousands, of free and open source components that have been built over the years. We strongly believe that free software is an excellent vehicle to deliver transparent tools and global public goods for humanitarian problems, and I hope this encourages more contributions to this domain." De Silva thanked the Sahana community, saying, "This award is a credit to all these people as well."

Currently employed by the IBM Linux Technology Center, Ts'o has been a contributor to the Linux kernel since September 1991. "During that time, Linux was something I did just for fun," Ts'o told, "and it also scored a lot of free trips to various conferences. I worked on the serial device driver, and the Linux tty layer (including support for POSIX.1 job control), ext2/3, and the userspace utilities for ext2/3, e2fsprogs." More recently, Ts'o has been working on the ext4 filesystem, the successor to ext3. Ts'o is also a Debian developer, maintaining some 20 packages, including some related to his early work.

Ted Ts'o with Richard Stallman - click to enlarge

In addition to his work on GNU/Linux, Ts'o has been development team leader for Kerberos and Open Network Computing Remote Procedure (ONC RPC). He remains an active member of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), where he has chaired or co-chaired several working groups.

Accepting the award, Ts'o said that his work has "been great fun. But I have always been proud of the fact that people have been able to use the work that I have done to advance the cause of free software."

The Award for the Advancement of Free Software has been given each year since 1998 to an individual nominated by the community. Past winners of the award include Larry Wall, Miguel de Icaza, Lawrence Lessig, and Alan Cox. Other finalists this year were Wietse Venema for his creation of the Postfix mail system and his work on security tools, and Yukihiro Matsumoto for his work in designing the Ruby programming language.

2006 was the first year that the Award for Projects of Social Benefit was given. Other projects considered for the award were Project Gutenberg, which has provided free texts since 1971, and One Laptop Per Child, which is developing inexpensive computers for use in developing nations.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge,, and IT Manager's Journal.

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