Free Electron – free software to your liking
Here is how open source software can be used as an educational resource
for the benefit of all, particularly resource-starved institutions.
In a significant attempt to promote innovation and help educational
institutions conserve resources and overcome the limitations arising
from the use of proprietary software, the Society for Promotion of
Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE) and the free software cell
of Government Engineering College at Barton Hill in Thiruvananthapuram
have jointly developed Free Electron, a GNU/Linux distribution package,
mainly meant to meet the creative pursuits of electronics engineering
students and teachers.
The proponents of free software have taken up the project to make it a
valuable resource in education. The curbs imposed by proprietary
software companies often hinder young talent from innovating. Either
they would have to go for innovation ignoring the rules set by the
companies or relinquish such ventures for want of funds.
Free Electron has come as a boon for all those who strive to make unique
contributions in this realm. Setting up an electronic laboratory is
rather a tough proposition for Government educational institutions and
it is here that the Free Electron package comes to their rescue.
According to R. Deepak, a lecturer in electronics at the Government
Engineering College, Barton Hill, in addition to the typical desktop
applications, Free Electron has the professional typesetting tool TEX,
computer numerical application suite `ocatave,’ computer algebra system
`xmaxima,’ electronic design automation suite gEDA and many more
simulators, emulators and compilers required for various kinds of
electronic design and simulation.
The use of propriety software often limits IT education. Hence, the
Government should adopt a policy against using proprietary technologies
in educational institutions. Sensitising students should be the first
step in creating an empowered society with free software and the
creation of packages like Free Electron would set the trend in securing
for the students more freedom to break new ground, he says.
They can design tools and by having the customised CD they can practise
at their convenience. They can also distribute the software among
themselves totally free of cost.
Free Electron comprises editors, electronic design tools, graphics,
Math, a high-level language primarily meant for numerical computations,
a multi-platform office productivity suite, `OpenOffice.org,’
programming, typesetting, tools and viewers.
Along with the customised CD, a detailed installation guide has also
been prepared for the users. It is also available as an OpenOffice file
in the directory `doc’ in the CD.
Academicians have made remarkable contributions for the development and
popularisation of free software and Free Electron too is a step in this
regard, says Vimal Joseph, an activist of SPACE. It gives the students
as well as the teachers the right to copy and use it as one’s own
property, to study, modify and also to redistribute in an unrestricted
Free Electron being highly adaptive, can be put to various uses without
incurring any financial burden, says Joseph.
SPACE is planning to widen its network on the campuses in an effective
manner and make it accessible to more people within a very short span of
As part of its awareness drive among students, the society has decided
to give an assistance of Rs.50,000 each for the projects taken up by
The society also has plans to set up cells in more educational
institutions in the State. The society is encouraged by the warm
response from the students and teachers.
Almost all institutions would soon have such cells, says Mr. Joseph.