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Please Donate to Interlock Rochester

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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.

Click here to lend your support to: Interlock Rochester and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Written by Karlie

April 13th, 2010 at 10:26 am

Dinner with RMS – the Great Freedom Debate

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I was lucky enough to be invited to join Steve Jacobs and Richard Stallman for dinner, Tuesday night. If I said I was honored to be included that would be an understatement.

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.

However, my side of the debate focused on copyleft, and the GPLs Share Alike clauses and Stallman’s penchant for term correctness.

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?

~Karlie

Image “Freedom” By ivan petrov

Written by Karlie

February 25th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Richard Stallman and Free Software at RIT

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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.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

February 24th, 2010 at 11:02 am

It’s official – Stallman @RIT Feb 23

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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.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

January 29th, 2010 at 8:23 am

Project updates at RIT

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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.

Written by Karlie

January 22nd, 2010 at 11:58 am

Project proposals at RIT

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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.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

December 16th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

FUDCon Toronto Follow-up. Day 2

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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.

Suggestions included;

  • 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.

Till then,
~Karlie

Written by Karlie

December 8th, 2009 at 9:32 am

FUDCon Toronto Follow-up. Day 1

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Like a lot of this year’s FUDCon participants, I haven’t been writing much. Heck, I didn’t get more than a couple of dents and tweets out, but that’s ok because we were face to face for a change.

We got started Saturday morning at Seneca@York with an unconfrence/barcamp style pitches.

Right after lunch, Remy DeCausemaker and I did a joint presentation covering the class we’re involved with at RIT.

I kicked things off with the presentation (download) I did for the Ontario GNU Linux Fest a few weeks ago. I didn’t quite fill the 50 minutes at OGLF, and I managed to whip through all of them in about 20 minutes on Saturday.

Then Remy brought us up to speed on how he got involved with the class and how his new position as a fellow at RIT fits with his ongoing work with organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation.

We then tag-teamed questions from the group. Everything from gaining a foothold in universities, to the kids getting excused from class on Tuesday if they attend Remy’s upcoming Hack-a-thon.

The rest of the day was full of Fedora goodness and most of the presentations, Including Paul Frields‘ keynote should find their way to the Fedora wiki.

After the keynote, we all made our way to Dave and Buster’s. I had never heard of the place, but I liked it. If you haven’t been, it reminded me of a grown-ups Chuck E Cheese.

On my way back to my hotel, I was passed by a police car… Then an emergency truck, then a fire truck… “Must be an accident somewhere” I mused to myself.

However, all 3 turn on Wilson Ave… in the direction of my hotel.

Why yes, there was a fire truck parked in the driveway when I arrived moments later.

It was only a dryer fire and I was able to get into my room about 30 minutes later.

I’ll cover Sunday’s hack fests in my next post so look for day 2 soon.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

December 7th, 2009 at 8:29 am

NYSCATE 2009 – Bringing Open Source to Education

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NYSCATE 2009 was, in my opinion, a big success. At least as far as short notice, first-time-out, events go.

We had lots of SWAG, thanks to everyone’s help. Even some more last minute Fedora SWAG by way of Charles Proffitt. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Mike Lee. Not sure why I didn’t mention him in the last post, but he did send some print collateral ideas. It was his email that gave me the graphical layout for the Sugar Spin discs we printed and burned for the booth.

So Mike, and Chas – Thank you again.

Now as far as the action in the booth, Monday was a much busier day than Tuesday. We gave out lots of Sugar Spins and lots of openSUSE Edu Li-F-E discs.

Of course the topic of Sugar on a Stick, getting involved, Freedom and free downloads were covered over and over again. All good stuff and I don’t think explaining it ever gets old for me. In fact, when I left at 2:30 on Tuesday, my voice was hoarse.

The OLPC XO-1 laptops were such a big hit and I knew they would be. After all, when you have educators, and an education tool, what would you expect?

One thing I didn’t expect was that about 10% of the booth visitors thought it was a toy and/or hadn’t heard of OLPC. So it’s a good thing they stopped by so we could introduce the possibility of truly open and interactive learning.

On the other hand, those who were familiar (having at least heard of OLPC), only a few had ever seen one in person.

The very few folks I spoke with who knew lots about OLPC commented that they still weren’t sure how to introduce the learning environment into their schools or lessons.

Almost no one knew about Sugar on a Stick as an inexpensive alternative to an XO deployment. (and yes, I’ll give them that one, as SoaS is still a fairly new concept)

In contrast, almost everyone I spoke to at Ontario GNU Linux Fest knew of OLPC and seen an XO in person.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a big red flag here.

We should all be wondering why this knowledge gap between FOSS and Edu has formed. Is it because bunch of geeks, hell-bent of freedom and open communications are avoiding local conversations about topics that would have a positive effect on the children in their community?

I might be wrong, but that may be more than a rhetorical question.

In my opinion, by staying in our own geek community, no matter how international that may be, and rarely taking FOSS into the local community it seems we’re being counter productive. I’m not sure if it’s fear of being too geeky for the average citizen, or what. Regardless of the reasons, I’m now seeing that it’s an area that should be addressed.

Now to get off my soap box and walk the walk, here are two examples of how I’m trying to bridge gaps locally.

First I offered to help a rural school district in Wayne County NY hold an install fest. I’ve even gone so far as to say I’d help find computers to install Linux and FOSS applications on. Why? Because the 2 teachers I met with casually mentioned that they have children without access to basic word processing at home. (Lucky for me, Chas Proffitt is also the meeting coordinator for the LUG of Rochester and we had a chance to talk about volunteers from the LUG to help should this get rolling)

How big of an impact could we have by installing Linux on a few “EOL” computers? I don’t know yet, but the digital divide doesn’t need to exist when Puppy Linux and other light/fast Linux distros can bring 10 year old computers back to life.

Second, and high on my list, is the opportunity to reproduce the RIT class at a local Catholic High School. The school’s Director of Technology told me he bought an XO through Give one Get one, but hasn’t seen too much excitement in the school yet. He also told me there’s a desire to do more computer science type classes. Can you see how I was starting to get excited as we spoke? I love it when two problems can be addressed with a single solution.

And yes, of course I’ll post an update if there is more to report as a result of my time at NYSCATE.

That’s all for now,
~Karlie

Written by Karlie

November 24th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Stuff We All Get

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SWAG, as it’s also known, is the story for me this week and it’s been one of those good news, bad news kind of situations.

The good news — Tuesday morning I received an email from Steve Jacobs saying he’s been granted a booth at NYSCATE 2009 and asking for SWAG and Volunteers.

It’s a big opportunity to show NY State Educators the monstrous amounts of work being done at RIT with OLPC, SugarLabs.org, the Fedora Project, and TeachingOpenSource.org. Especially since we won’t be “preaching to the choir.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I love FOSS conferences, and I know there are lots of like minded people who want the scoop on what we’ve been up to. It’s just that there’s something special about giving free software to someone who isn’t all that familiar with what we do.

The bad news — I had 5 days to scrounge up enough SWAG for our booth. If you consider shipping times, then yes, the phrase “oh crap!” would be appropriate.

So at this point I need to thank the flowing people for going above and beyond and getting boxes of goodies in the mail, simply because I asked.

I also need to give special thanks to my dear sweet husband, Todd, for spending his Saturday making openSUSE Edu Li-f-e and Sugar spins for us.

I do have to correct the fabulous Mel Chua when she said — “Short version: Karlie is Magical.”

No, Mel, the community is Magical. Without their quick action, we’d have a very poor presence at NYSCATE.

Written by Karlie

November 22nd, 2009 at 8:39 am