gnurms

There is a celebration going on this weekend in Cambridge.  There are satellite celebrations around the globe.

My thanks go out to Richard Stallman (RMS) and to all the others at the Free Software Foundation who have carried the effort forward. I’m looking forward to the next 30 years.

Maybe education will soon see the value of Software Freedom.

What Free Software is in regular use in your school?

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Linux and the x86 CPU are a success, but only for a relatively few brave souls (including you and me, right?).

Windows and the x86 CPU are a more well-known success, with 90-some% of the computer market.

Update: There are versions of Microsoft OS software called “Windows CE” and “Microsoft Embedded” that run on other platforms than the x86. Read more at:

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/microsoft-wants-gadgets-to-run-windows/

Apple OSX and the x86 CPU are the rage for some, Apple having abandoned the PowerPC chip.

What is the situation when you think about other CPU architectures?

Windows and Apple’s OSX don’t run on anything but x86 (Intel and AMD mainly).

Linux is reported to run on 19 processors, meaning little to most of us, but perhaps that will turn out to be a big deal for Linux and FOSS. Mini notebooks, Netbooks, Smartbooks, whatever you decide their name should be, are a breed of computer that is gaining attention, and in an effort to make them less power hungry, to make them run longer on their battery charge, to make them run cooler, manufacturers are trying new processors like the ARM processor.

If you or your school buys a netbook in the next year or so, what processor will it have? If it isn’t an x86, will your only operating system choice be Linux?

Have you heard about Android and Moblin, Linux flavors specifically designed for light weight and mobile “appliance” use like mobile phones (those tiny computers in disguise)?

The MIPS processor, known for embedded processors like set-top TV boxes is poised to release an Android implementation for its products, another win for Linux.

Read this interesting post for more information.

http://www.workswithu.com/2009/06/03/cpu-diversification-ubuntus-gain-microsofts-loss/

Jono Bacon is the Ubuntu Community Manager. Ubuntu’s popularity as a Linux distribution is, at least partly, a result of the success it has had building a community of users, not just a community of developers. When asked, I do tell people I am a happy user of Kubuntu. I spend some time at the meetings of the Massachusetts Local Community (LoCo) Team which is a very helpful bunch of friendly people doing what they can to spread the word about Ubuntu and Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in general.

MassCUE has always stressed the benefits of sharing, “teachers helping teachers” has been a guiding principle for years. The MassCUE community of educators has been successful in promoting technology in Massachusetts schools and has been around since 1982, a good while.

Jono Bacon is writing a book, The Art of Community,  which will be published this summer by O’Reilly. Early indications are that it will be a good book for anybody trying to develop a community group, no matter whether the group has any interest in FOSS. The book should be helpful to anybody trying to get a bunch of people organized around any cause, a church group, a fundraising team, whatever.

Even better, Bacon and O’Reilly are agreed that the book will also be released on the internet with a Creative Commons license. You can even keep tabs on the book’s progress by going to the Web site for the book: http://www.artofcommunityonline.org/

I am looking forward to reading this one.

I just read an interesting paragraph from the home page of ReactOS.

“The main goal of the ReactOS project is to provide an operating system which is binary compatible with Windows. This will allow your Windows applications and drivers to run as they would on your Windows system. Additionally, the look and feel of the Windows operating system is used, such that people accustomed to the familiar user interface of Windows® would find using ReactOS straightforward. The ultimate goal of ReactOS is to allow you to remove Windows® and install ReactOS without the end user noticing the change.”

http://www.reactos.org/en/index.html

At present, ReactOS is listed as being in the alpha stage of development which means you should not download it tomorrow to use in your classroom computers.

However, if the goals of this project can be pulled off, what will it mean to open source software in general and Linux in particular?

Windows XP is the unquestioned “top dog” of operating systems. As of February 2009, ZDNet’s web site reports it as still running 71 percent of business PCs.

If ReactOS can create a secure (read virus and malware free) Windows XP replacement, wouldn’t the majority jump to it before the likes of Linux? Of course Linux is real today and ReactOS may only be vaporware.

What do you think?

[Microsoft in an open source blog? If you can’t wait, jump ahead to the last paragraph.]

The recent small format notebook computers have generally been called netbooks, though I understand it is actually like calling a tissue “Kleenex” or an electrostatic copy a “Xerox.” I don’t intend to step on anybody’s toes, but will go ahead with the term, anyway.

One issue raised regularly in the various one-to-one student-computer scenarios is price. When I was talking about it years back, I envisioned that it wouldn’t be really feasible unless the units were priced under $250. Netbooks are just about there, and if the projection can be believed, the netbook-like OLPC-2 might someday be available for that price or less.

Another issue is taking the main burden of cost away from the schools. Unless the netbook successfully replaces the present stack of textbooks (which it might), the netbook would be an extra cost in tough times for the finance of public education. The cost issue might be solved by letting student/parent be somewhat or wholly responsible for the tool through a multi-year lease or rental…read responsible for proper care. Parents could also opt to buy the unit themselves, reducing the school cost further.

Durability is another issue. The unit should be ready for the use given it by a student. Enough said.

Now, we come to the reason for this post. This blog is about open source software in schools. I just read in the online Wall Stree Journal that Windows 7 is going to be an option for the new netbooks we will see in the next year or so. BUT, the Microsoft proposal apparently is to limit the number of active programs to just three (3). For users of Roman numerals that is III. Given that the crippled netbook version would cost more than Linux, and Linux runs just fine on netbooks, I just don’t see the point. How about you?

I just finished reading an article from the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). Many thanks to Glyn Moody’s Open Blog for giving me the link to a document that details a history of Microsoft’s actions to compete with its rivals.

http://www.ecis.eu/documents/Finalversion_Consumerchoicepaper.pdf

I have been using computers since 1974, so I am no novice, nor am I unaware of the impact of Microsoft in the field. Nonetheless, I am still attempting to deal with my reactions to the concise set of examples of how Microsoft has traditionally competed with the likes of Netscape, Novell, IBM, Apple…and recently Linux.

One man’s monopoly is another man’s bankruptcy, I guess. I am pulling for the success of FOSS in schools and out.

A recent blog entry was brought to my attention, and we need to be proactive in dealing with the issue it raises.

http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2008/12/linux-stop-holding-our-kids-back.html

First, the blog post clearly indicates that we need to help spread the open source word. The teacher described in the blog didn’t know the facts about GNU/Linux or open source software and reacted too soon when she sent the email quoted in the post.

Second, we need to help others get the picture that some of us who teach ARE informed about open source. Don’t let the ignorance get worse instead of better. Don’t let teacher bashers take stories like this one as reason to say nasty things about educators in general. Some who left comments were very uncomplementary, even harsh.

Third, let us who support mosssig take the opportunity to spread the word. If you would like a presentation of GNU/Linux/open source for your school or district, leave a comment here. We’ll set something up.