Recently, I had to fact-check some older articles I wrote about One Laptop Per Child in order to bring them up to date. This meant digging through the controversy in 2008, and what I found was some pretty appalling human behavior. That's the "bitter". The "sweet" is that both OLPC and Sugar (now separate projects) are both doing a lot of good in the world. Sugar, in particular, is doing a better job of connecting with the community. That's a challenge for us in the community to step up and do a much better job connecting with Sugar. We need to make it the best thing ever, and that's going to mean more than lip service. So we all need to get it installed and start contributing.
One of the first rules that entrepreneurs learn is that investors don't like revolutionary new ideas. Even when they work, the reasoning goes, they won't make you any money. Instead, investors want to see "innovative" ideas: ideas that push the existing envelope a little further, but don't totally change the map. With free culture projects, however, the situation is precisely inverted: people don't get as excited about contributing to merely "innovative" projects, they want to make "revolutionary" change in the world. High ambitions attract good company, and free licensed projects will do better not to set their sights too low.
In tight economic times when I was growing up, my family generally had "homemade" Christmases, where all the gifts were handicrafts they had made. It takes a lot of time, but it does save money, and in all honesty, those were some of the best I can remember. This year, I'm following much the same pattern, though my skills are different (I couldn't knit a sock to save my life, and while I can sew, I'm not exactly good at it): this year I'm giving my kids (refurbished) computers.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral
For many years, there has been a growing concern about the emergence of a "digital divide" between rich and poor. The idea is that people who don't meet a certain threshold income won't be able to afford the investment in computers and internet connectivity that makes further learning and development possible. They'll become trapped by their circumstances.
Under proprietary commercial operating systems, which impose a kind of plateau on the cost of computer systems, this may well be true. But GNU/Linux, continuously improving hardware, and a community commitment to bringing technology down to cost instead of just up to spec, has led to a new wave of ultra-low-cost computers, starting with the One Laptop Per Child's XO. These free-software-based computers will be the first introduction to computing for millions of new users, and that foretells a much freer future.
Achieving Impossible Things with Free Culture and Commons-Based Enterprise
The first completed book from Free Software Magazine Press, by longtime Free Software Magazine columnist Terry Hancock is now available!
Red Hat’s, Brian Stevens, claims that the desktop is dead. This may seem a trifle premature, but from my own perspective, that has already been the case for several years.
Across the room, from where I’m typing this, I have a formal computer desk, complete with comfortable “executive” chair, adjustable foot-rest (your feet will love you till the day they drop off if you buy them one of these), nice, fast AMD64 tower case, and a 19 inch IBM-Lenovo LCD screen, to look at everything.
I heard a phrase today that reminded me of my childhood: “...learning and sharing together”. I’m not sure if I ever heard this exact phrase, but it was definitely a theme that was central to my early education; it’s now a central theme of my life again, this time through free software. This link between free software and education was first made by Richard Stallman in his essay Why Schools Should Use Exclusively Free Software, and this link is now being reinforced by the work that’s going on with the One Laptop Per Child initiative.
This year’s Python Convention , being held this weekend in Dallas Texas, started off with an inspiring presentation by an engineer from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project  (Ivan Krstić) , showing off the hardware features of the new “OLPC XO 1” prototype, as well as some “dangerous ideas” about its software design: a large part of the user space code for the laptops will be implemented in Python, mainly because of the ease of manipulating the source code. The OLPC laptop software will be 100% free software, not just in principle, but in spirit as well—the assumption of open source design is literally built into the hardware.
I've been re-reading The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler. Though first published over twenty years ago, there's still some serious predictive mojo left in that book. The basic concept is this: there have been two previous "waves" of civilization. The first was the agricultural wave, which spread across the world over the course of several thousand years. About three hundred years ago, the second wave of civilization began—the industrial revolution. Now we are in the middle of the next wave, the information revolution.