Archive for the ‘FOSS’ Category
Interlock Rochester is a Hackerspace in Rochester, NY. They provide an open, collaborative environment for technologists and artists to work on projects and “hack” on cool things.
If you’re interested in learning about new technologies, refactoring existing technologies, and stretching the limits of collaborative thinking and creative making, Interlock Rochester is the right place. And they need your help.
As you may recall, I’ve been taking an XO to my son’s first grade class on Wednesday mornings. The record activity has been extremely popular and Mrs. Richmond asked if she could show the pictures at Open House tonight.
Of course I said yes, but did one better and offered to make discs for everyone in the class so they could all have a copy.
The best part is, that even with all 200+ pictures the students have taken, there would still be hundreds of megs of space left on the discs…. Also known as plenty of space to include a Sugar Spin. (for this disc we used the current version of SoaS but applied it to optical media instead of Solid State)
So while the families might also be getting the pictures of their children, they’re also getting a chance to use some open source software at home.
I did include this letter (Click to see a larger version) covering the very basics. Although it might not totally explain the Live CD I hope the combination of the children being famililar with the Sugar environment and the vagueness of what they’re getting will get a few families exploring Open Source Educational Technologies.
But what does one talk about with the father of the Free Software Movement?
Freedom of course!
While this post will read as if we had a long and fruitful debate, the truth is I changed the subject when I realized that he was unbending and not willing to accept any observations other than his own. So my observation that there is a hypocritical element to his position was getting nowhere fast.
Steve tried to interject for clarification since we were discussing such a small nuance to “freedom” but even that was met with inflexibility. In fact he repeated his wording exactly as he had before Steve’s question.
Here’s the issue as I see it…
Freedom is an inalienable right. I also believe wholeheartedly that if you have a restriction of any kind you don’t have true freedom.
I also understand that true freedom is rare and elusive. Laws, taxes, social mores and such are all limiting factors. You can have some freedoms, like the freedom of speech, but I also don’t believe the US is a Free country when there are so many questionable laws still on the books (yes, Patriot act, I’m talking about you and your sleezy friends!)
You should also understand that I’m all for of some laws and mores. For instance, when we all know what side of the street to drive on, its good for everyone. You would also misunderstand this blog post if you come away thinking that I dislike the GPL and/or the Free Software Movement. The fact is I’m a fan and have deep respect for the movement as a whole.
As I see it, if you’re going to explain to a crowded room that you can’t…
… call something piracy because it didn’t attack any boats;
… use the term “Intellectual Property” because it refers to multiple laws;
… call an Operating system Linux because the Linux Kernel wasn’t fully effective without the rest of the GNU operating system and vice versa…
Then you must absolutely be certain that you’re not acting hypocritically when it comes to the use of the term “Freedom.”
For me, the question is, how can software really be “free, as in Freedom” when there are restrictions built into it’s license?
Stallman’s stance is that he respects your freedom, but in return you must respect the freedom of others. Then he explained that share alike/copyleft clauses needed to be included because he didn’t want to lose ground. To open up a code base only to have it taken away again isn’t an acceptable situation.
I say that’s a risk you have to take if you’re going to insist that what you’re trying to do is make all software free.
Freedom always comes with a choice. When you have good information and care about the outcomes, you always make the right decision for you. Besides, if information or desired outcomes change, you always have the option to make new choices.
So if you’re to ask for a simple clarification – the Four Essential Freedoms outlined in the Free Software definition do define freedom. However this Free software definition points out that there’s a flaw in copyleft when it states,
“For example, copyleft (very simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the program, you cannot add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.”
It’s cleverly written and on quick glance you think “oh it’s about not adding restrictions, that’s Kosher.” But it brings you back to reality when you see that it’s a rule (aka restriction) that needs to be clarified in the second sentence of the quote.
Conflict or not, rules are restrictions and restrictions limit freedom.
Am I the only one seeing this as wordplay and a form of restricting Freedom?
Yesterday, RIT hosted Richard Stallman and I have to say it was not nearly as odd as I had set myself up for.
The main issue is that RMS’s reputation as a bit of an eccentric precedes him and that can be a bit of a turn off even for those of us who are somewhat familiar with the whole idea of freedom in computing.
Though to be fair to those who are thinking – “Not odd, then why is that the only picture you have of him?” The image you’re seeing here is the Emacs Saint costume that was brought out at the end.
There was video taken of the event and I’m tracking down when and where it will be made available for everyone to see.
For me the best part of the talk was that there seemed to be a fairly diverse crowd. Those, like myself, who are already familar with the ideas of GNU and Libre software and those who were brand new to the ideas presented.
He even covered all the goodies like students getting access to low/no cost Proprietary software. Because it’s like your first hit of crack being free and making you pay once you’re hooked.
All in all it was a very good talk and I’m sure it hit home with many of the students and staff in attendance. I also hope that it will be the begining of even more free software development and usage at RIT.
Since my son will be home from school shortly and I have an errand to run this afternoon, I’ll talk a little bit about my dinner with Stallman in a Part 2 post.
Every Wednesday morning, I volunteer in my son’s first grade class. You could describe my duties as crowd control. As Mrs. Richmond works with small groups of children on their reading skills, I’m keeping an eye on everyone else.
Some children are writing in their journals. Others are working on handwriting or reading along to a picture book at the CD player. 3 kids also get to go to the computers.
Problem is, only 2 of the Macs in the room are working properly. The 3rd just won’t boot and I don’t know enough about them to trouble shoot. Plus the School’s IT department probably wouldn’t be too happy with me if I did.
A few months ago I came to school with an XO laptop so when 3 kids were working in that “Center” they could use a computer if they wanted to.
As you can imagine, the XO has been a big hit in the classroom. We started out playing Speak, but the kids have been exploring and have also discovered the Record Activity and I’ve finally managed to get at the pictures.
Why have I “Finally Managed?” Well because it was a giant PITA to get the pictures off the XO.
You can use Flickr’s basic uploader to capture 6 images at a time. Fine if there were just a few, but with 180+ images on the XO and most of them named “Photo by Karlie” it was more than a waste of time trying that route.
Method 2 was plugging in a USB or SD card and moving the files. Equally painful especially since keeping track of which “Photo by Karlie” was moved and every image transferred was appended with an underscore and series of numbers. How’s that bad? Well the 15th image I moved was appended with _1_2_3_4_5_6_7_8_9_10_11_12_13_14_15
Method 3 was right up there with knowing the secret handshake. Lucky for me, Mel Chua is in the club and showed us where to grab every file from the XO’s Journal. It’s /home/olpc/.sugar/default/datastore/store in case you’re wondering. But you’ll still need to use the terminal to transfer the files.
This method still had it’s draw backs, but turned out to be the least annoying.
For one, every file has a seemingly random name assigned to it and no extension to sort by. However, once the files were transferred to USB, Fedora was smart enough to see pictures even though none had .png or.jpg extension.
To upload to Flickr though, they’d all need their appropriate extension. Easy enough to fix, but again, so down right annoying that you’d even have to include this step. While I’m told you can do a batch update, I hate the terminal so it was faster for me to ctrl+v .jpg and rename the files one by one (vs learning the commands).
It’s not that we didn’t give it our all, we just couldn’t sustain an altruistic side project as the economy was beginning to tank. After all, there are little men with big appetites around here.
A few days ago I was being my normal busy body self and butted into an IRC conversation on #TeachingOpenSource and ended up blabbering about PSF even though the site had been down for who knows how long.
Well it’s back up now due to that initial conversation and I’m wondering what you think about a project like the Public Software Foundation?
I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look around and give me your feedback.
The good news – It’s official – RMS will be at RIT on Tuesday, February 23 from 10:30-12:30 am.
“Richard Stallman will speak about the goals and philosophy of the Free Software Movement, and the status and history of the GNU operating system, which in combination with the kernel Linux (sic) is now used by tens of millions of users world-wide.”
Click on the image to the right to see a larger version. You can also download a PDF version of the flier.
The bad news – his talk will be in the Innovations Center and it’s going to fill to capacity before 200 people get in the door.
I asked and was told that they will be setting up video in other rooms, but I’m going to suggest you contact RIT and ask them to find a bigger space and/or stream the talk live.
I would also suggest that you not let the space limitations and time of day stop you from making plans to attend or prevent you tweeting, forwarding, etc to anyone you think might want to attend.
I made it to class last night and lucky for me, I was able to catch some project updates.
They all seem to be coming along and are starting to get in the groove. Though I still had to remind them that while everyone loves how well RIT does a wiki page, they still need to put themselves out there a bit more. Although I didn’t see it until this morning, there was a mailing list post and a reply before we left class. (More please!)
We also showed his video.
I first saw it when Greg DeKoenigsberg posted it on Facebook, and was instantly taken with it and suggested it be shown in class. It’s such a great way to show the development process. It’s humble beginnings, contributors fading away and explosive growth when they switched from CVS to GIT repos.
It’s sort of a crash course in FOSS community and project development. It showed in a little less than 4 minutes what I’ve been struggling to articulate in the past 3 quarters I’ve helped with the course.
The third quarter of RIT’s Open Source Development class made their project pitches last night. As each one was made, there I was poo-pooing all the ideas.
It’s not that the ideas weren’t good, on the contrary, some were shockingly well thought out and could be the start of some very great projects. It’s just that my critiques, while trying to be helpful seemed to be continually negative in nature.
Regardless of how I came across, I was trying to give direction and allow the students to think a little further into development process while there’s still time to work out who’s working with whom and on what.
So besides pointing out that snowball fights might not go over well with children living in tropical climates and war, fighting, and demons can be very inappropriate in some cultures, we also had some good conversations about where to focus their energy right now.
The first focus is Research. What’s already out there? Is there anything similar being done?
The second, which ties into the research is my new favorite phrase “Begin with the finishing touches.” Is there anything “close enough” to what you want to do? If two or more components were coded together, would that get you to your goal faster?
The vibe I got last night was that the kids might still be transitioning their thinking about what’s appropriate to copy and build upon. After all, one of the things that makes this class unique is the whole plagiarism aspect. While we can’t disregard licenses and copyright completely, there’s a whole slew of great code out there just waiting for someone to modify.
It will be interesting to see what the kids end up working on. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.
My Sunday started off without too much in the way of expectations. I had hoped my family would be able to join me in Toronto, so I only booked my hotel for 2 nights. Even though the guys weren’t with me, there’s not a whole lot for me to do in hack sessions so I wasn’t planning on staying long.
The first and most important thing I had to do Sunday was find out how Remy was getting back to Rochester. We drove up together and he wanted to stay for the hack sessions.
I was also invited to attend a meeting about the Fedora Campus Ambassador program.
The bummer was waiting around for Remy and the meeting to kick off. Remy had a late night in the hotel hack suite so he didn’t arrive until late morning and the meeting I was invited to didn’t get rolling until early afternoon.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did have some good conversations with the guys, but for the most part, I spent the time clearing my email and doing show and tell with my XO running Xtra Ordinary. I will admit that it’s pretty impressive that an XO-1 machine can power an OpenOffice.org Impress presentation – even if it is on that tiny little screen.
With Remy squared away the only thing left was the Campus Ambassador meeting.
What we figured out is that there aren’t any stated goals, and as a result there isn’t any significant activity in the program.
So what do we want to do about it? Good question.
First off, I think we still need to state some goals and for that we’ll need input from Fedora and Red Hat as to what outcomes they’re hoping for. Is it market penetration by way of installs? Is it measured in presentations per month? Or can it be anything we want it to be as long as it involves engaging with university students and faculty?
Knowing that I had to leave as soon as the 3:30 pizza delivery arrived, we didn’t get very far.
The key points I had in my moleskin were…
1, If we can get people started, do we have mentors?
2, Can we come up with suggested activities, presentations and SWAG offerings to get these new folks rolling?
Key points to question 1 are; Do students find us, or do we find the students? Both? Does the campus ambassador need to be a student? Is it possible to ask current ambassadors to hit campuses near them to get things started or should we try other ways to spur interest?
For question 2, I think we all felt a little more confident that we could update the wiki and provide collateral materials.
- Sponsoring meetings. As in we pay for Pizza to encourage attendance at existing campus meetings.
- Presentation templates. Stock presentations covering basics like what is Linux and Open Source, the Fedora Project through possibly more advanced topics. (As I write this I’m suggesting we have a way for community members to request help with presentations to pool resources from the Fedora Project when the topic doesn’t exist. )
- Activity suggestions – Some could simply be for fun, while others could be outlines to follow for pre-planning specific events. Launch Parties, Install Fests, Software Freedom Day, or others.
- SWAG so that there’s a little something extra for participants of the above.
So my goal right now is to begin thinking about what suggestions I can add to the wiki. I’m sure we’ll have another meeting sometime soon and I’ll update you as to what we come up with.