Buh-bye 2006!

Education, Free Software, Jonathan 3 Comments »

Tomorrow is the last day of 2006. Wow, it’s been a wild ride, and the beginning of the year feels like a lifetime ago. It started out well, the project that I’m most involved with, tuXlab, reached a big milestone with the installation of the 200th lab. Since then, many replications has happened in South Africa. I don’t have an exact number, but I estimate there’s close to 300 schools in the country that currently follow the tuXlab model. The first 200 was set up with funding from the Shuttleworth Foundation, while the rest has been set up by other funders and projects, such as the Gift of the Givers Foundation, Netday.org.za, Ubuntu Education Fund, Engen, Ikamva Youth, and others. The first 200 labs was also set up by volunteers, and support and maintenance have been funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation.

Another exciting turn for tuXlabs, is that it was installed into two prisons (blog entry) as well. The prison tuXlabs have been used for adult education, and providing OpenICDL courses. Lab administrators in the prisons also wrote and passed LPI exams. The prisons project has been an amazing success, we have proved to the Department of Correctional Services that GNU/Linux works, and that it’s maintainable and affordable. Don’t be surprised to see a large number of lab roll-outs in our prisons next year :-)

In March, I also went to the most amazing concert I’ve ever been to, and saw Metallica, Collective Soul, the Rasmus, Simple Plan and a whole bunch of other bands we never see here in South Africa live. The great local guys were also there, such as Fokofpolisiekar and Seether (even though they’re not quite local anymore these days). I hope we have something like that here soon again.

Within the Foundation, our team was reaching all the targets set out two years before that, and with some of the changes in focus within the Foundation, some of us felt that the new projects wouldn’t specifically interest us. Not because they’re not good projects, but because we specifically wanted to continue working with the projects that we have put so much energy into already. We put together a proposal and business plan, and presented it to the Shuttleworth Foundation Trustees. They were happy with our ideas, and were happy to fund us to start a new organisation. This happened in June, and our first month was chaotic. Previously, we lived in the comfort of the Foundation and all the internal services that was running there. Outside, a lot of our old processes didn’t work, and we had to quickly re-work them. We also had to find new systems for our financial stuff, and quickly slam together a management system that worked. By August, things were already coming together nicely, and I’ll go as far to say that the last month or so, we’ve become a well oiled machine. Besides the prisons project, we’ve got a good amount of government work as well. What stands out most is the Digital Doorway project, for which we implemented the software solution (custom tuXlab system) and we’ll also be implementing the next 50 stations and upgrading the existing 25 from HP441 based Mandrake 9.2 systems to Ubuntu multiseat tuXlab machines.

This year, I also had the privilege to get to know a very large part of the Ubuntu community, which include many amazing (I’m so overusing that word, but it can’t be helped) individuals and have learned a lot from them. I also became a member of the Edubuntu Council, where we vote in new Ubuntu members that have made significant contributions toward Ubuntu. I also attended the Ubuntu Developers Summit in Paris, it was at a complicated time that I left for Paris, but it was also uplifting to see how such a large amount of people could work together so incredibly well. I took a lot with me from that summit, and applied much of it to the tuXlab Ubuntu derivative, which we’ve released to tuXlab schools earlier this month. A public version will also be available next month, also in various flavors. That has also been a huge milestone for me, and our new company. We’ve attracted some attention from huge multinational companies. Oh, and you can also expect to see local laptops (very popular brand) soon that will be available with Ubuntu (and no Windows)- I am also very excited about that… although I should really keep new news for my hello 2007 post ;)
We also did Software Freedom Day again this year. We did it in one of the most poorest areas of Cape Town, where I also learned a lot from. Locally free software has had quite a good year besides that too. Our local LUG, CLUG, had a fundraiser to raise money for our LUG to attend one of the big, very commercialised computer fairs (Futurex). It was one of the two Linux/Free Software stands there, and the stand generated huge interest from many people, although many people just couldn’t understand how software can be ‘free’. A local Python users group has also been founded, and the first meeting was very well attended. I hope that the group continues to do more fun stuff into 2007.

The biggest free software news in 2006 was of course that Sun GPL is being released under a GNU GPL license, which is definitely good news for many users and vendors of free software. The other big news is the Novell/Microsoft deal. Some view it as the best thing that has every happened, while some view it with lots of sceptacism. I have a theory that, no matter what happens in the free software world, that it will ultimately benefit free software. So far I haven’t seen proof to the contrary of that. The Free Software Foundation has also been busy, releasing Gnewsense, an Ubuntu derivative free of proprietary code, and also running an end of year fundraiser, that has already passed its half-way mark. The GNU GPL version 3 is also being reworked, and it’s been a big source of controversy in 2006. FSF has also launched a campaign against Windows Vista, and bought a game and released it under a free license (see comments).

Coming back to my personal life, I’ve made some tough decisions the last month. Two years ago my father and I moved into the same house, and we decided to go everything 50/50. I had some strong moral objections to some of the things he’s been doing lately, and decided to move out. It’s had some strange effects on me. Since moving out, and adding some more space between myself and both my parents, my anger levels have come down drastically. I also discovered that anger has been a big part of what drives me, and when my anger went away, it’s like I didn’t have any energy anymore. I think Yoda is so right about anger in so many ways. In only the last few days, I’ve found new, positive energies that gives me just as much energy. Just in time for 2007 :)

I’m quite excited for 2007, I have so much ideas and plans for it, and the future. I’ll blog about those just after the new year. In the meantime, I wish everyone who manages to read this far a happy new year, may 2007 treat you well and wishing you good health and happiness. Buh-bye, 2006!

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Software Freedom Day 2006

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3 Days after the fact, but when you have lots of work you constantly have to re-prioritise :)

The past weekend we celebrated Software Freedom Day in Cape Town. It took place at Khayelitsha, which is one of the poorest areas in the city. It happened at a community center there called “the lookout point”. It was really nice, since it gave us a huge view of the informal settlements below.

We received a lot of help from the Geek Freedom League, who sponsored the venue, refreshments, and some cool geek gear and lots of copies of The Open CD.

Attendees initially mostly included members from local Linux communities and people who don’t live in or close to Khayelitsha. We were initially disappointed because we expected more people from the local community to attend. It was probably due to the weather that has gone bad, we expected most of the locals to walk to the venue, and bad weather would most certainly discourage that. We were lucky though. Right next door, Nedbank, a large South African bank was holding a big meeting. They were happy to announce the SFD event and many people came over to see what software freedom is all about, everything worked out fine.

We still had many copies of the OpenCD and Ubuntu left, so some of the guys went outside and left a disc with each car in the parking lot. The one security gaurd was very eager to help out. He took some CD’s to take home to some of his friends (unfortunately he doesn’t have a computer himself). I told him to keep one CD, then he’ll have it when he has a computer one day, but he said that he thinks it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever own a computer.

We also had a very energised kid running in and yelling some loud things in Xhosa. We gave him an Ubuntu CD which we thought would calm him down, but he got even more excited.

This was a much simpler SFD than the last two we had in Cape Town. Previously we had events at Canal Walk, a fancy shopping center in Century City. It was easier there since most people there would have computers, and many of them even had laptops that they could bring to us to install software on. Khayelitsha was more high-risk, but I think it was worth-while, we certainly learned from it. The issue more from the local community is access to computers, they don’t really care too much whether the software is free or not, any computer access would do. There were many questions whether the computers we had there would be there permanently, and where they could get cheap Internet access.

Photos: http://photos.jonathancarter.co.za/sfd2006

Software Freedom Day in other places in South Africa:

Potchefstroom: http://www.flickr.com/photos/opencafe/sets/72157594287671392/

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Linuxworld 2006 – Jo’burg

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The past week, I’ve been in Johannesburg to attend the LinuxWorld / Futurex / Equip Expo. Just about all the Linux/OSS exibitioners who were there, were there last year too, although there were much less companies than last year. Many of the smaller local Linux companies said that it was simply too expensive to exhibit, and that the return on investment is practically nothing. Some people suggested that it would be better to have such an event in a smaller venue, such as a school hall. I’m not sure how many businesses would attend, but it would make it more accessable if floorspace were cheaper, and you could then have more localised events. Perhaps something that requires more thinking… might be good to combine such kind of events with Software Freedom Day. Overall the event went very well though, and I got to wrote the LPI Ubuntu Certification exam in the first session ever! I hope I passed.

May the 19th was also an informal Open Messenging Day (read darco and Ploum’s blog entries). I’ve now finally removed my ICQ/AIM account from Gaim, and after 7 years of IM’ing, I am finally using no more proprietary messenging protocols. Yay Jabber!

Saving the best news for last, Edubuntu now also has a Shipit, so you can order some Edubuntu CD’s for your school or even for yourself, visit http://shipit.edubuntu.org and order yours. Also Edubuntu related, next month I’m going to Paris for the Ubuntu Developer Summit, and I’ll get to meet the Edubuntu Council members I haven’t met yet, Jerome and Jordan. Also looking forward to see Oliver and Jane, it’s been almost a year since I last saw ogra!

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Freedom Days

Free Software 1 Comment »

Yesterday was Freedom Day, a national public holiday in South Africa. It’s an anual tribute to our first democratic elections that happened in 1994. It’s also a good time in the year to start thinking about another freedom day that’s creeping ever closer, and that’s Software Freedom Day. This year it’s taking place on 16 September. This will be the 3rd annual Software Freedom Day, and judging by growth of the event over the previous two events, this one is set to be one to be remembered for a long time.

Today I started with the cleaning up of the South African Software Freedom Day wiki, upgraded to the newest MediaWiki, cleaning wikispam, adding spam filters, etc. A new layout will also follow in the next week or so. Please consider attending an event in your area! If there’s not an event in your area yet, then consider hosting one. There are still billions of people who haven’t yet been introduced to the wonderful world of Free Software.

Since I’m on the topic of Free Software, this week I also received my Free Software Foundation USB Security stick. Since I’m on Ubuntu, I wouldn’t need to compile the software on the disk, I’ll just apt-get them. What is interesting though, is that the only distribution they mention on the stick’s release notes is “The Breezy Badger”, and the mount point they mention is /media/usbdisk. Seems like the guys at FSF are also hooked on Ubuntu!

I also got my Ubuntu stickers from Russell, and people are quite insistant that I give them one. Even my brother, who uses Windows as his main OS, insisted that I give him one. I think we’ll have to order more of them soon :)

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Software Freedom Day 2005

Free Software No Comments »

Today is Software Freedom Day. Go-Open Source funded the event at Canal Walk in Cape Town. A whole bunch of freaks from CLUG, SLUG, the Shuttleworth Foundation, University Western Cape, City of Cape Town and a few faces from Obsidian and other open source companies came together to celebrate and promote free software.

Early in the morning, things just seemed to go wrong. The DVD players that we wanted to use to play the Go-open series and a message from Mark Shuttleworth weren’t delivered. The event manager then just bought another DVD player, and a laptop was used on the other plasma display. From there, the other problems seemed to just fade away, and things got very busy. We had many, many copies of the OpenCD, and just gave it out to anyone who would take it. The theory is that if they won’t use it, they’ll give it to someone who will. We didn’t have time to explain what the software about, there was stages where I literally gave out 30 CD’s in one minute. Some people did ask whether it was trial software or demo software, and I quickly explained that it’s fully functional unrestricted software, and that they can make as many copies as they want.

This event has exposed lots of people to OpenOffice.org, and I think those people will feel liberated with the idea that they won’t have to buy or pirate other office suites anymore. As word of mouth spreads about OpenOffice, people will open up to concepts such as free software, and will consider using more free software packages.

One lady came to me very excitedly and explained how she only uses the “motzerella” browser on her PC, and she refuses to use anything else. It’s amazing how many people get the “Mozilla” name wrong :)

All round a good day, although I expected it to be a bigger event, then again there’s always SFD 2006 for that ;)

Pictures available from: the Go-Open Source gallery

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