The New Scientist post has the headline: “Amazon harnesses cloud with Kindle Fire tablet” http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/09/amazon-announces-kindle-fire-t.html

I don’t think that “harnessed” is the right word. It ought to be “shackled.”

The DRM consistently applied to the ebooks delivered from Amazon will be added to the DRM of the games, the videos, the whatever. Digital Rights Management is a lock put on the content you buy from Amazon. It is available from Amazon — as long as Amazon continues to offer it.

If Amazon no longer offers the game or movie or ebook, it will disappear from the vaunted cloud and no longer be available. You’ll have no backup copy if your Fire “goes out.” You won’t, in fact own anything. You will effectively be a renter, a borrower, a contract worker without any benefits. Here today, gone tomorrow.

The promise of the “Personal Computer” was that it disconnected us from the mainframe. We not only installed software on our very own general purpose computer, we could hire programmers to make our business run exactly the way we wanted, using the software that our local experts developed. We could write that software ourselves, too. The PC granted us power. We broke free of the shackles. Some of us even broke free from the shackles of proprietary file formats and proprietary software. We eagerly joined a philosophical “software freedom” movement and attained even more creative control over our lives. It has been an exciting time.

Current thought is that we are seeing the decline of the PC as a “desktop” unit. “Death of the PC” [Forbes] [Seeking Alpha] I’ve had a personal computer since 1978. I’m not ready to give up my freedom.

I’m worried that we need, more than ever before, to jump aboard the software freedom bandwagon. We need to support the expansion of open hardware, open software, open networking. We need to take charge of the Internet and the “cloud” so we are not at the whim of corporations who will be the gatekeepers to our common wealth of information. Copyrights have been extended, not lessened in our fast-paced world where yesterday’s data is buried under twice as much produced today.

If every shred of access to that information is shackled to the cloud, if I cannot have my own personal, un-reclaimable copy, I am made culturally poor. The cloud, offered as a boon to us, may instead, become only an ephemeral glimpse through the fog. Data behind a paywall isn’t what I’m after. Culture shackled to the corporate cloud is anathema to me. It should be unacceptable to us all.

Clear your mind. Decide whether you want Amazon to own your books for you.
Think whether you will rush to buy into their walled garden just as millions have bought into the iEverything craze of the Apple Corporation. I owned an Apple IIe which let me program it, add electronics, make it MINE.

By the way, I am not singling out Amazon or Apple. They just represent the most current appropriators of access. Many others have convinced us that they should hold tightly to our culture. After all, don’t the big corporations know best?

I don’t think so!

[Did you know, you don’t own second generation seeds from your own field after you originally buy seeds from Monsanto?]

Educators are asked to leave no child behind by federal mandates. In essence, we are asked to run a perfect school. That’s some goal.

It also may be a debilitating one. Instead of an organic, dynamic workplace for staff and students, there’s a real chance the school will become immobile, rule-bound, ossified, rigid.

The more comfortable you become with a path you’ve already begun, the less chance there is for exploration of alternatives. A well worn path is a clear path. Paved by the pounding feet of those who have gone before, such roads lead efficiently to the selected destination. Sounds good?

The problem is that one selected destination isn’t appropriate for everyone. One job that represents success, CEO of a corporation, is an example. All of us cannot be the head of General Motors. Recent events even tell us that might not be the best job for anybody.

Fear of failure helps adults to lock onto habits which their personal experience has validated. We like “what works”. We develop patterns of behavior. We repeat, refine, repeat, refine, repeat, and effectively relax. The more things we can relegate to routine habitual behavior, the more efficient we become…but is that perfection?

Do we teach our students avoidance?
Avoid making mistakes. Avoid being different. Avoid standing out. Avoid being too far behind…or ahead.

I’d say that the job of an educator (by extension, a school) is to leave no child behind by offering a support system which allows a child to attempt all sorts of challenges with a safety net. The safety net must be “visible” enough to promote reach beyond one’s past performance level, but “invisible” as well, so that it doesn’t encourage reckless behavior. Children need an environment in which they can fall, stand up, dust off their knees and try again. Children begin their lives expecting to fail at most things until they develop skills through practice. They naturally observe the actions and behavior of those around them, trying to do their best at the tasks which their peers are doing, and try to begin the tasks of those a little older, too.

Schools need to nurture the growth of each child so that he or she steadily expands into a richly educated individual, not a molded clone of the school’s former successes. Each child needs to grow into their own space, not some adult’s preset, predetermined space for them. That isn’t an easy task.

Practice, precision, patterned performance, it becomes predicable, but is it perfection?

Striving for perfection: the tasks of angels in the hands of man.

You have less than one day to download the Humble Indie Bundle from this web site:


It isn’t free, nor open source *SEE UPDATE BELOW*, but is an interesting experiment in getting attention…Marketing! So far according to figures the sellers have compiled they have received over $600,000 and Linux users have been the most generous in setting their price.

If you are interested in this cross platform offer (Windows, Mac and Linux), get on it quickly.

Read more:


5/11/2010 Update: $325,524 going to charities!
The developers of four of the games have decided to go “open source”.

Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, and Penumbra Overture pledge to go open source. We are preparing the sources right now and will be releasing them ASAP. We spent last night preparing Lugaru and it is available now. The code is still a little rough (no Visual Studio project yet, for instance) but hopefully with the help of the community we can rapidly make it more accessible to everyone.

Publishers are in a quandry. How can they make money in tough times?

What if McDonalds gave ebooks away with a Happy Meal or Big Mac?

They would not need to give away files through the drive-through window. This would work like the Monopoly game with little pull-off tabs on the drinks, food boxes, fries, etc. On the tab there would be a code that would be entered at the McDonalds Web site. The code would entitle the tag holder to select from a group of ebooks. Happy Meal tags would lead to a list for kids. Big Macs another list. The list might vary from day to day or be modified on a weekly or monthly basis. Either way, McDonalds would be getting Web traffic, and a small amount of the cost of the Big Mac would go to pay a publisher or author. With “Billions and billons” sold, the potential income for publishers and authors could be significant over time.

Because the access is through a Web site, customers could even be given the opportunity to request titles. Imagine the impact on currently out-of-print titles, books that don’t make money for anybody, except for a few used book dealers.

The code could be randomized and time-limited in such a way that it could only be used once, avoiding unwanted “theft”.

The “inventory” cost would certainly be lower than the current cost for the little toys given out with a Happy Meal. Real cost would be the disk space and network charges incurred for delivering the ebook file.

The file would best be available in an e-reader agnostic format. I wouldn’t want McDonalds to need to sell or distribute a Ronald-McReader, though they might want to, come to think of it, especially for the kids’ books.

Maybe this is a chance for competition, too. If Burger King got behind some authors, with other authors for McDonalds and Wendy’s and Taco Bell and Ken’s Steak House and Arby’s and…you get the idea. Publishers could pit these retail giants against one another. “GET STEPHEN KING’S LATEST HERE!”, “WHERE’S WALDO?…WENDY’S, OF COURSE!” Maybe an author or agent could boost the per copy price to the author that way.

Is fast food even the “best” choice for doing publishing sponsorship? All you need is a company willing to pay for the right to distribute copies of ebooks. I’m not sure it would need to be an exclusive right. The method would drive traffic to a company’s Web site, for sure. Would romance novels be a hit with customers of Ralph Lauren or Victoria’s Secret? Teen authors at Hollister?

E-reader sales could really take off, too. The classic chicken and egg dilemma might be solved. Both are now on the menu at most fast food restaurants along with “the beef”.

Update (June 18, 2009) Just for the fun of it, I sent the suggestion to McDonalds through their Web site. The sent a reply (looked like boilerplate) saying they don’t acknowledge or accept suggestions from outside the restaurant system. It sounds like legal battles over ideas have happened before. But, hey, this is an open source/open education/open idea blog. Maybe McDonalds or somebody else will follow up on it anyway.

Attention History Teachers:

Your dreams (some) have come true. You can have access to archives of primary source documents from Medieval History forward:


The site is a “portal” which means you should expect to do a bit of searching to find what you want. You will be able to connect to a growing number of separate Web sites giving the actual access to individual documents.

The portal’s link to British History Online, for example:

British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust. Not all the primary sources offered from the XVI to the XIX centuries are delivered without subscription. You’ll find in British History Online, full-text editions of primary sources, such as the journals of the houses of Parliament or manorial records such as feet of fines; Printed guides and calendars of manuscript collections, such as the Calendars of State Papers; dictionaries and gazetteers of places, property, goods and commodities; Maps from the Ordnance Survey and historic maps from before 1800.

Visit the website:

British History Online

Know the facts.

This blog is about open source software in schools, and schools are charged with helping students to gain the skills with which they can access and use knowledge that has been created up to the time of their education. By encouraging creativity, schools can also prepare students to contribute, adding new knowledge on their own.

Copyright is one tool used to “encourage” the development and expression of new and valuable knowledge. If you are interested in open source/open knowledge, you need to know about copyright.

I would recommend you read The Illustrated Story of Copyright by Edward Samuels, a faculty member of New York Law School.

The book is accessible on the Internet.


UPDATE 6-09-09:

If you are even more interested in learning about copyright, you will benefit from looking into the blog of William Patry, a copyright lawyer for 26 years.


He has apparently written a 6000 page book about copyright, too, which he mentions in a blog post.


Ubuntu is the distribution I use (Kubuntu 8.04 LTS) most.

Besides being a distribution of Linux, Ubuntu is more, a broader concept about being human. It certainly works for me as I think about the ideas of Open Source.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1999):

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

A longer discussion (from which I took this quotation) is on Wikipedia.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(philosophy)

What is your school doing “with” cell phones?

No I don’t mean what is the administration doing “about” all those cell phones in students’ pockets/purses/knapsacks.

Has your school considered embracing these nearly ubiquitous bits of technology?

PC Magazine (sadly now just a digital edition) has an interesting article “One Cellphone Per Child”  about how common cell phones have become and suggesting that the mobile tool may be a potentially useful tool for education.


You may also want to follow up with sites like mLearnopedia.


On the other hand, is this just a pipe dream? Have you seen the revolution caused by computers in the classroom? Don’t your students still mainly sit in desks and focus on one member of the teaching staff for 30-45 minutes at a time?

Well, okay. What if you want to know more about the technical issues of making the cell phone internet connection? In that case, you might be interested in reading the overview about Kannel, an open source project to provide the gateway services for messaging and internet on cell phones.


Then your administrators and tech staff may want to find out more about cell phone repeaters and signal enhancers with a good internet search on those terms.

Have you set up your May Pole for recess today?

I’ve been out of town.

Pennsylvania, Scranton area. Got the chance to see the “Ninth Wonder of the World”, a viaduct train bridge over the Tunkhannock Creek in Nicholson, PA.

I didn’t take my computer, and didn’t think about the blog or email. Freedom isn’t always about free software.

When somebody else does a good job, congratulate him/her.

When somebody else does work so you don’t have to, thank him/her.

When somebody writes a post you envy, point others to it.

J.J. Macey has given “us” a list of reasons to tell a boss about why to change to Linux. The reasons apply to education settings.


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