Ubuntu Education Summit and Ubuntu Developer Summit

Education, Free Software 1 Comment »

I’m having a nice pizza at OR Thambo International Airport. Just came from Cape Town International Airport about an hour ago, and the next stop is Madrid, and then Sevilla.

I had a strange experience in the bathrooms here just a short while ago… but I’ll talk about it later… it’s too soon to talk about it :)

  • Thursday and Friday is the Ubuntu Education Summit, where the future direction of Edubuntu will be discussed with educators, developers and other users of Edubuntu. There will most likely be some form of on-line participation, but as far as I know, this hasn’t been finalised yet. Keep an eye on the Ubuntu wiki for more information.
  • Saturday is Ubucon, I only learned about this yesterday, so I’ll have to read up a bit about it myself, but I’ll be attending that as well.
  • Then, next week, is the Ubuntu Developers Summit

What really sux is that I just checked Planet Ubuntu, and saw that Jono Bacon posted an alarmingly similar post.

Now that I’ve read Jono’s post, I will also be taking photos and videos (just bought 3 extra tapes), will keep you updated! Also, if there’s anything specific someone wants to be recorded, please leave a comment and I’ll try to be there and get it on Youtube/Google Video/wherever.

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OLPC and Windows (and Microsoft and the education system)

Education, Free Software, Gadgets 11 Comments »

Warning: This post ended up longer than planned, if you are bored easily, only read the first two paragraphs ;)

I’m a bit surprised that there haven’t been noise about this on the planets, but it’s probably due to the long weekend and people generally spending less time with their computers.

Via Slashdot, the OLPC XO Laptop will (be able to run) run Windows when it is sold in the US. The writer of the article considers it to be a heavy blow to the open source world, I think that “heavy blow” might be an overstatement.

I can understand why a lot of people, especially in education, would want to run Windows on the machine. The vast majority of educational software out there is written for Windows, and often in such a way that they can’t be ported to a free operating system in an easy way, or at a low enough cost to make it worth while. The problem is very much similar to running games on GNU/Linux. In some cases, the design of the game makes it incredibly easy to port over. In some cases, especially where very specific technologies such as DirectX are used, it can quickly become very complicated.

In South Africa, we’ve seen some shifts, even though slight shifts, to make educational software more web based. In the tuXlab project, the number 1 request from the schools are for more educational content. The Shuttleworth Foundation and Inkululeko Technologies have sourced some real good educational suites for these schools, and it got the attention of some of the other software vendors who didn’t get a slice of the pie. The shift that we observed was that more of the local educational software companies were using more and more web-based software tools, and also making more use of Flash (hopefully that will shift again to svg/javascript or even something better), specifically so that schools running free software could run their software. Now and again, we had a school asking us whether they may install Windows on their machines, so that they could run the same educational software in their tuXlab than in their Windows lab, and we would just explain to them that it would kind of defeat the purpose of their tuXlab, and since the lab run as an LTSP network, that it would be difficult to do it from a technical perspective too. As time progressed, and the availability of pre-packaged software grew for the lab, teachers started to prefer using GNU/Linux. A few schools even said no when they were free Microsoft labs to replace their tuXlabs. In my opinion, that is very big, considering that the one particular school ran their tuXlab on second hand computers, and that they were offered brand new Windows machines as replacements.

Sorry, back to the XO. I think that the interface truly innovative, and the system has the potential to provide a high quality and stable environment to develop and deliver software and content. If you look at DirectX again, for example, the latest version requires you to run Windows Vista, and some of the technologies, which is widely used in educational software (such as DirectDraw), is being deprecated. For schools that use Microsoft labs and use Windows based software, this causes a huge admin overhead, which is an overhead that most schools can’t afford to have. For the developers of the software, it causes even more problems. Firstly, they have to spend money to port their software to the new Microsoft technologies. Secondly, they have to get their clients to upgrade to a new version of Windows before they can get a return on updating their software.

If you consider a GNU/Linux system though, the application interfaces are quite stable, and even when new technologies are introduced, you are still able to access the older technologies to support your application. I think that, over time, software development houses will discover the benefits of using cross-platform technologies to develop their software, and gradually move away from technologies that limit them and their clients.

One specific educational revolution that might take place would be an ideal application for the XO Laptop, and that’s the Classroom Coders project (that’s just a working name), here’s Mark Shuttleworth’s blog entry about a two day workshop on it that was held last year. Hopefully we can teach kids to think for themselves again, instead of teaching them how to shut up and listen. All that the current schooling system is good for, it seems, is to teach kids how to look busy when they are working in an office one day, and I personally think that it is ridiculous. People are discouraged to think for themselves and just to blend in with the masses, I hope that if I have kids one day, that they wouldn’t have to go through a pathetic system as I did.

Apologies again for the long rant…

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Free Software Coolness This Week

Free Software 1 Comment »

Ubuntu Feisty Release

Ubuntu 7.04 has been released on Thursday, 19 April. It’s in my opinion, the best Ubuntu release ever. Quite possibly because this has been a relatively long release cycle compared to previous releases. My favourite new feature is how it provides information about proprietary drivers that the system needs to run properly. This will make it easier for users who want to buy new hardware in the future to test whether a system can run on free-software-only before purchasing it.

Yesterday I went to the Ubuntu 7.04 release party in Cape Town (photos). It was a usual collection of Cluggers and other weird people, we had some drinks and Morgan burnt some Feisty CD’s.

Feisty Party

Digital Freedom Expo

In parallel with the Ubuntu release, was the Digital Freedom Expo. I had to miss a big part of it due to work commitments, but listened to the live webcasts and caught up on the last day. I got a chance to play with Antoinne’s OLPC Laptop, which was quite fun (I now know how to get a terminal on it, yay!)

One Laptop Per Jonathan

Impi Linux Progress

Following on the Ubuntu release, the next Impi Linux release is also imminent. Impi Linux is the Southern African Ubuntu system tailored for enterprise clients, and our main target market at this stage is various South African government departments. Stephan Buys blogged about the new artwork in Impi Linux, expect some announcements shortly :)

Impi GDM theme

Thunderbird 2

The new Mozilla Thunderbird has also been released this week. It provides better mail tagging and an improved RSS reader. Even though Thunderbird 2.0 looks quite a bit better, I’ll wait until I feel gutsy enought to upgrade to Gutsy before using it ;)

Mozilla Thunderbird

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Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 Released

Free Software 5 Comments »

How often can you say “Today they released a new version of Debian GNU/linux” (and tell the truth)? Well, not that often, and certainly not as often as in the Ubuntu world. Today is one of those days, the Debian project released Debian GNU/Linux 4.0, codenamed “Etch” today. It’s a large milestone in the free software world. Many distributions is based on the work of Debian, 6 of the top 10 distributions on Distrowatch is currently Debian based, and if you keep an eye on the top 20-30 most popular distributions every few months, you’ll notice that the amount of Debian based systems are increasing and becoming more and more popular.

I’m going to download it as soon as I find a mirror that has it and that’s not currently too busy. Not sure where I’ll install it yet, Ubuntu’s release cycle makes it much more appealing for me on the desktop, and Ubuntu 6.06′s long term support means that my servers are sorted out too. I do consider Debian’s Social Contract superior to the Ubuntu Manifesto, and I do find it a bit disappointing that the manifesto that was once on the front page of the Ubuntu website, can not even be found on the site anymore (or at least, I couldn’t find it). I guess I’ll have to ask the Community Council whether it still applies. What does look promising on the Ubuntu side is that in the upcoming 7.04 release, Ubuntu warns the user about proprietary drivers installed, and about some risks that may be associated with using these drivers.

I have hundreds of reasons to love Ubuntu and Debian, and little not to. I think it’s impossible for such large project to keep everyone happy, although both of them are doing a great job to keep millions of users satisfied. I’ll be attending the Ubuntu Education Summit and Ubuntu Developers Summit in Sevilla, Spain next month, and I have a big etch… erm, itch, to attend Debconf in June. I’ve signed up for it, and if no financial disaster hits me by the next payday, I’ll have my plane tickets by the end of the month. It’s amazing how much you can learn from the Debianites just by listening to them and absorbing. I think it will be worth every cent!

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Alanis vs Fergie Humps

Music 1 Comment »

Found this via Jeff Waugh’s blog, here’s a Youtube video where Alanis Morissette makes some fun of Fergie and her humps.

The sad part is (or is it?), that I’m starting to really enjoy this version, I’ve listened to it six times already. I want it on my iPod! Alanis, you rock!

Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W91sqAs-_-g

(sorry, embedded Youtube not working like it should here)

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