{:img}
{:desc}
Lets show some love

WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE THROUGH FREE SOFTWARE AND OPEN SOURCE

Be curious, read widely, try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity -- Aaron Swartz
- BY SUBIN SIBY

I come from a middle-class family in a small town in Kerala. Buying me a computer was not financially viable for my father. Plus, we had a feeble internet connection. I was very curious about how Google & Facebook worked and started looking for answers. At the age of 11, I ventured into making a Facebook clone and a Google clone.

chaayam_poster

A poor computer and the absence of a mentor made it hard for me to go in the right direction. I searched and I searched, found resources and started learning on my own, despite the limitations of a poor internet connection.

As I was learning, I started blogging about it and made my projects open source which benefited a lot of people. I was able to successfully make a search engine, a social network and many other projects which were all open-sourced. I kept making tutorials in my blog to support other programmers who might be going through the same situation as me.

chaayam_poster

It's been nine years since I've started my blog Click here to read my blogs. It currently has 4,266,068+ page views and 2,400,000+ unique users. At the age of 14, I received my first donation. I used the donations to buy a domain (subinsb.com) and maintain my projects. Once my parents noticed what I was doing, they became more supportive. Later, people started approaching me for part-time jobs. I made some money and used that to get a better internet connection and then a laptop. I was able to relieve my family of little financial burdens. Once in college, I started going to hackathons and won prizes. I learned coding, and achieved what I have today because of open source. Free Software & Open Source empowered me and I want to help others also to empower themselves. Since then, I've made many Open Source Projects: Click here to read:

chaayam_poster

I've contributed to many Open Source software : Mediawiki (the software that powers Wikipedia and many other wiki sites), Ubuntu, Drupal, WordPress, KDE, SMC (Swathanthra Malayalam Computing). I'm currently the Malayalam localization maintainer of KDE and volunteers for SMC. I also contribute to Wikipedia in my spare time. I also attend tech conferences as a speaker. My contribution to KDE helped me participate in KDE Delhi Conf 2020 recently (January) as a speaker (completely sponsored by KDE).

After I entered college in 2017, I took the initiative to revamp the FOSS club of our college which was lying dormant for many years. Right now, it's one of the most active FOSS clubs across Kerala and we were able to bring new contributors, teach coding and help students.

chaayam_poster

My passion is to make things that help people. I came to know that many college students can't read Malayalam, though they speak it really well. To help them, I recently developed an Android app that helps Malayalees who can't read Malayalam ‘text read’ it. It's being used by more than 2,000 people around the world. I've also recently made another app that helps to type Malayalam, Hindi, and other Indian languages in computers easily. Seeing how all these helped people and the lovely feedback I get from it is what drives me :)

I have participated in many hackathons and have won many: Click here to read:

chaayam_poster

Above all, it's the curiosity that makes me go forward. You observe kids and find that they have immense curiosity. When we grow up, this curiosity often fades away. It should not. Observe things, question why they are the way they are, learn about it and keep that curiosity intact.

chaayam_poster

Subin Siby is a third-year B.Tech CSE student at Vidya Academy of Science And Technology, Thrissur.

***** ****************** *****

The way you have made your progress in the world of computers is really fascinating. Looking back, have you ever wondered how did you get attracted to the world of computers?

I've been always curious. When I was a kid, I would play with electronics, open up toys and play with the motors, lights, etc. When I got a computer, my interest in making things shifted towards it. With a computer, things (software) are easier to make. In fact, it was cheaper than electronics & hardware. Plus, with the internet, I can search for anything and know about anything. The Kerala state school syllabus and their alignment towards Free Software is definitely an inspiration. I got introduced to Ubuntu and GNU/Linux at the school itself. If you look at the state of IT education in Kerala school syllabus, it’s pretty good. Kids are playing with IoT, and getting to know things beforehand.

What was the first thing you were trying to do with a system?

If I remember correctly, till Class IV, we were taught with Windows OS and proprietary software. From the 5th standard, we were introduced to Ubuntu. I got a computer of my own when I was in Class VI. And the first thing I did was to install Ubuntu, along with Windows (dual boot). For a beginner and a 10-year-old kid, that was a difficult task. And I did the grave mistake of formatting the entire system, losing every data. My family was pretty mad about it. But, I fixed the system too. It is through mistakes that we learn and never have I ever formatted my entire system again!

At the age of 11, you made a Facebook/Google clone? Tell us about that…

My father introduced me to the internet, Google and Orkut. I was quite surprised to know such an interconnected way of communicating can exist. I got curious how about how it was working behind the scenes. I did many internet searches to find out about web servers, localhost, etc. While I learnt these things, I blogged about them as tutorials. You can find the source code of that project here (there are screenshots of it there) : Click here to read:
I hosted it in AppFog, a new PaaS service that launched at the time. They provided their service for free then. Seeing a 12-year-old kid's project hosted on their site, they tweeted about it which was a pretty big motivation and happiness for me at the time. Here's a Twitter thread I made on this:

How can a student first try out the open source and experiment with free software? Can you give a detailed picture?

School. It's the push of Free software/Free knowledge philosophy by Kerala state education department which was a result of the push from the Free Software community in Kerala. They showed it exists, and my curiosity led me down that path. Initially, I made my own projects and hosted it in GitHub. People showed interest in my projects, used it, contributed and some donated money. My serious contribution to Open Source software started with Google Code-In. GCI is a contest held by Google for school students under 17 to contribute to Open Source software. For the contribution, Google would reward with certificates, T-shirts and goodies. I participated in GCI 2013 to 2016 with contributions to Wikimedia Foundation, Ubuntu and Drupal.

How can you contribute to Open Source?

First, use the software, you’ll find some bugs/annoyances, try to fix it and that will lead down the path. The software I made or contributed to was to solve a particular problem, I faced and when I open-sourced it, it helped others who were in the same situation as me.

How do you update and what content?

When I faced a problem and found a solution, I wrote about it in my blog. I kept doing this and people who also had the same trouble would do an internet search and reach my blog. Internet search is my primary source of traffic. I've been inactive in my blog for a while now. But, when I release new software or encounter with a grave problem/annoyance and find a solution for it, I'll definitely blog about it. Here's a Twitter thread on my blog :

What is the FOSS club?

Free & Open Source Software Club. Kerala has a strong FOSS community from way back from the 90s. FOSS clubs naturally popped up in different colleges of Kerala. Our college's FOSS club was started in 2006. Right now, our FOSS club has made contributions to Wikipedia, Debian, GNOME & KDE. And there's more to come ;)

You recently developed an Android app that helps Malayalees who can't read Malayalam's text read’. How does it work? (Also link)

Here's the link, (Available in Play Store & F-Droid). The working is pretty simple. Each malayalam letter or ligature is replaced with corresponding sound in English. Example : എന്റെ => ente. 'എ' is replaced with 'e' and 'ന്റെ' is replaced with 'nte'.

What are your career plans? In the next ten years, where do you see yourself in?

Whatever I may be, I want to continue helping people. I want to make/contribute to things that can help people. I'd like to quote a line from Avicii's song "The Nights": One day you'll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember."

Tell us about those habits of yours which you are proud of?

  • Being honest & being punctual as possible as I can. Plus, curiosity, the most important thing.

For more stories, click here

If you have similar stories, please reach out on
Whatsapp +919061207333 or email - info@fayz.in
Fayz Post
 

Fayz Post Preview