QOTD: Jono Bacon – Minutia

Jonathan, Project Mayhem No Comments »

This is just what I needed today:

“You know, every so often it is tempting to get wrapped up in minutia and having it obscure the bigger picture. Sometimes its easy to forget we are surrounded by incredible, genuine, inspiring individuals, and this is a privilege and not something we should take for granted.” – Jono Bacon

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Microsoft vs Mandriva: The plot thickens

Free Software, Politics 1 Comment »

Previously, I blogged about how Microsoft wants to make sure that they don’t lose market share to Mandriva. The plot has thickened as more details emerges in a PC World article.

The funder of 11000 of the 17000 classmate PC’s is insisting that Mandriva remains on the machines, at least for now. This will have a big impact on the project as a whole, and Mandriva might just yet be the default system on all these machines after all.

In the article it also mentions that the Microsoft country manager for Nigeria, Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu wrote that Microsoft is working on an agreement with the Technology Support Center (which seems to be an independent service provider in Nigeria) to pay them US$400 000 for marketing activities around the classmate, if they switch to Windows.

It seems that the Nigeria is bit behind when it comes to competition laws, since Microsoft claims that they have broken no international laws or the laws of the countries it operates in, according to the article.

I hope that it turns out for the better for Mandriva, if Microsoft could get away with these kind of tactics in every country, we would have a really tough time increasing the market share of free software everywhere.

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One Laptop Per Adult?

Education, Free Software, Gadgets 12 Comments »

People just love the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. The hardware is great: It’s water-resistant, dust resistant and even to a large degree child resistant. The project have made huge innovations, especially in terms of the unique user interface developed for the machine, as well as large amounts of development that have gone into it’s mesh networking technology and the display that has a super-low-power black and white mode that is clearly visible outside in the sun. The project also aims to develop it at US$100 when it is produced on large scale, which makes it a great cheap and durable machine for the developing world.

Jenni with OLPC Laptop

Jenni with OLPC

Then there’s the slightly lesser well-known Classmate PC. Another low-cost machine intended for use by children. It has a nicer keyboard (although I don’t think it’s water-resistant) and has better processor (the OLPC seems to be a bit underpowered for some of the Python applications people want to run on it). The Classmate PC’s are even capable of running Compiz, which is quite impressive for such a small device. The Classmate PC costs more than US$200, and will probably be more appealing to youth who would already have at least computer at home.

Ogra with classmate
Oli with Classmate PC

Both these laptops use flash memory for storage, which generates less heat and uses less power than a traditional hard disk. In some cases, performance is even increased, since the storage is solid state and there is no seeking that has occur. The innovations in both laptops will benefit young humans everywhere, but why stop there? There are literally billions of adults on this planet that don’t have access to basic information technology and the technology used in the machines mentioned above could certainly be used to create a low-cost, low-powered machine for adults. Or can it?

Yes, it can, and the ASUS Eee is the answer. It contains a Celeron-M Ultra Low Voltage CPU, up to 1GB of RAM, and up to 8GB of flash storage. Just like the OLPC, it also contains a built-in webcam. The great thing about the Eee is that it will make access to information cheap and accessible to people from around the world. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think that this is a machine that will only be used by the less fortunate. The compact size and the low power consumption makes it an ideal machine for the traveler. It’s also easier to carry along than the traditional bulky laptop (weighing less than 1KG), and it even has a smaller power supply. What it misses though, in my opinion, is an integraded GPRS/EDGE card. It would probably only cost US$10 per machine to build it in, and would go a long way to help people stay in touch. Eee stands for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play“. It will be available with either Xandros (tailored version for this device) or Windows (not that ASUS was really keen on Windows on the device in the first place). The Eee costs around US$400, depending on which options you select.

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Eee PC (Photo from ASUS Website)

This is probably not the last low-cost laptop we’re going to see. There will be plenty of manufacturers who will follow, and the great thing is that these machines tend to love GNU/Linux, which should improve uptake of free software everywhere. I suspect that Microsoft will also use its bad business tactics to try to circumvent this, we’re in for interesting times!

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Microsoft spreads more misery in Africa

Education, Free Software, Gadgets, Politics, Project Mayhem 13 Comments »

I’m quite saddened and disgusted to read this open letter to “Steve” (I would guess Ballmer) from François Bancilhon from Mandriva. The Nigerian government made a deal with Mandriva to supply a localised version of their system for 17000 classmate PC’s that have been ordered for local schools.

Unfortunately, Microsoft got to the government, and those classmate PC’s will now be running Microsoft Windows instead of Mandriva. How utterly disgusting. I can’t believe that a government could make such a bad decision. I wonder if the Nigerians are actually paying for the software, it wouldn’t surprise me if they provided the software for free, simply to undercut Mandriva. And if the Nigerians did pay for licenses, they should be ashamed of sending more money out of the continent on something that’s such a big waste.

From a technical perspective, those machines are very nice. However, they are heavily underpowered for running current versions of Windows. Does this mean that those machines will be running the quickly aging Windows XP? What an injustice to the poor kids who will be using those laptops, especially after effort has been put in to give them an optimised, localised system for the machines. Support for the current versions of Windows XP ends on 14 April 2009, which means that the operating systems on those machines will have an even SHORTER lifecycle than a short-term-support Ubuntu release. Do anyone want to place bets whether Microsoft will care enough to upgrade 17000 machines in Nigeria by then? My bet is that they won’t.

If you’re in Nigeria, please write to your local government and express how you feel about this (write to your vice president, his name is Goodluck Jonathan, so he must be good for something!). Send a copy of your appeals to Mandriva too, maybe they could set up a “wall” page where all these letters are posted. I don’t think the people of Nigeria should simply accept this. Nigeria deserves better. Africa deserves better.

Edubuntu running on Classmate

Classmate PC running Edubuntu

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