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Ask Slashdot: Life After Software Development?

Mokurai Moving in with parents, yup (was Re:Nope.) (416 comments)

My wife and I were very lucky on this. Her parents, ages 88 and 95, needed in-home care, and were willing to pay for us to move to their town to provide it, as we were nearing retirement, and I was transitioning to full-time tech volunteering. It turned out to be vastly cheaper to live here in Indiana than in Silicon Valley, especially with the jobs gone away in the current recession just after they started coming back from the previous recession. We now live in the inherited house and have a comfortable income, between retirement and inheritance.

The writer is in a very different situation, but also has options outside the conventional I assume that the writer has significant home equity after 20 years, and has some savings and investments socked away, some in tax-deferred retirement accounts. Consider, then, the option of moving somewhere vastly cheaper. Quite comfortable houses in our town are available for as little as $70,000. There is a university town nearby (Indiana University, Bloomington), and we have several colleges and university affiliates right here in Columbus.

If you would like a different challenge among the enclued, you could do much worse than to join my outfit, Sugar Labs (a partner of One Laptop Per Child) working on Free Software for education plus Open Education Resources for millions of children now, and ultimately a billion at a time. Our mission is to end global poverty and its many associated ills, using technology as infrastructure for everything else needed. But there are other options right around here. For example, the OpenMRS Medical Records System is being developed in part nearby in Indianapolis. Your database skills would be perfect for them, and they even pay. ^_^

The schools here are pretty decent, and I and my wife also have experience in homeschooling our son and daughter.

So there really are options. Look around, and ignore the naysayers who claim that it can't be done.

more than 2 years ago
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Booktype: An Open Source, Cross-Platform Approach To E-Book Publishing

Mokurai Why collaborative software? (was Re:LaTeX?) (87 comments)

LaTeX is excellent for journal and technical book publishing and some other applications, but it was not designed for collaboration over the Web, and for full multiformat output.

BookType, and its predecessor Booki, are designed for collaborative authorship around the world and for multi-format output, including HTML, PDF, print-on-demand, and others. The original development was sponsored by FLOSS Manuals, http://www.flossmanuals.net/ which creates manuals for Free Software applications. I have worked on manuals with them for How to Bypass Internet Censorship (now available in Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Russian, and more), Firefox, the Linux command line, mifos microfinance software, and more, and they have dozens of other titles. FLOSS Manuals also pioneered the Book Sprint, collaborative writing of manuals by 8 or 10 people (writers, subject-matter experts, editors, artists, tech admins) gathered in a room, and several others (particularly proofreaders) over the Web within a week. We did the Censorship book from Monday morning to Friday evening in a rented house in upstate New York, ordered copies from Lulu.com, and then went out for dinner. Pics available, such as https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/102331710307773485600/albums/5634256041091466881/5634256041835752050

Since then I have become Program Manager for Replacing Textbooks at Sugar Labs, the Free Software and OER partner of One Laptop Per Child. The rationale for the program is that netbook and tablet computers such as the XO-3 cost much less than printed textbooks, and have many other advantages in any school system, but especially for poor children in developing countries. http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Replacing_textbooks, http://booki.treehouse.su./ Our mission is to end poverty and the various other ills associated with it. This includes unnecessary disease, disability and death; oppression of the poor and minorities around the world; much of government corruption; and wars of oppression or plunder. Naturally, more is required than computers to accomplish all of this, but it cannot be done without giving every child unfettered access to information and to other people around the world. See, for example, http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2011/02/15/sharing-in-gaza/

Sugar Labs plans to host book replacements in every traditional school subject, and whatever else our students need, at every level of development in every language needed. I am currently working on an Algebra text where every math statement can be copied from the document and pasted into a software session to execute and if desired plot or graph. There are more than 100,000 other OER packages available at various other Web sites that we have listed. http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Open_Education_Resources

more than 2 years ago
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Tribalism Is the Enemy Within, Says Shuttleworth

Mokurai Re:Good luck with that! (655 comments)

Yeah, some of us have a plan for that, starting with getting children around the world into contact with each other and out of poverty. Free Software is a critical dependency. Also Creative Commons.

more than 3 years ago
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$99 Moby Tablet As Textbook Alternative

Mokurai Re:Wrong problem (191 comments)

Check out the FLOSS Manuals model and Book Sprint methodology at http://www.flossmanuals.net/ . I got paid for my work on How to Bypass Internet Censorship (now available in Farsi, Russian, and Chinese!). Eight of us in a room and three others online wrote, edited, and illustrated the English original in five days, and published it in PDF and print-on-demand on the fifth day.

Think of it as Extreme Documentation with pair writing, frequent refactoring, and so on.

about 4 years ago
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$99 Moby Tablet As Textbook Alternative

Mokurai Replacing printed textbooks with... (191 comments)

Exactly. Netbook computers already cost less than printed textbooks, and schools here and there are getting ready for the transition. Herr Gubernator Schwarzenegger has noticed that California could save billions with digital textbook replacements, and started the process last year.

Earth Treasury has a plan for creating such materials under Free licenses.

http://www.earthtreasury.org/wiki.cgi?ReplacingTextbooks

We are partnering with some of the major pioneers in computerized education from the 1960s.

Alan Kay, inventor of Object-Oriented Programming and the Dynabook educational computer concept, and his Squeakland group. (Smalltalk)

Doug Engelbart and the Doug Engelbart Institute (The Mother of All Demos)

Ken Iverson's group based around his company J Software and his previous employers, IBM and I. P. Sharp Associates. Iverson died in 2004, but his work continues. (APL and J)

Seymour Papert's group at MIT. Papert has been disabled by brain injuries from an accident outside an education conference in Vietnam. (Logo, Turtle Art)

We are in contract talks with education authorities.

Edward Mokurai Cherlin
Founder, Earth Treasury
mokurai@earthtreasury.org

about 4 years ago
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How Microsoft Has Changed Without Bill Gates

Mokurai XP/XO (was Re:How soon we forget) (493 comments)

OMG, can you imagine a billion children getting their first taste of computing with Windows XP running on an OLPC XO? Microsoft has apparently paid for 7,000 dual-boot XOs (Linux + Sugar in main flash, XP on an extra flash card) to be used in trials in Uruguay.

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/uruguay/uruguay_windows_xo_ms_office.html

The only good thing I can say about this is, "Woot!" Microsoft is actually paying to have trials of Linux + Sugar vs. XP plus educational shovelware, on the same hardware, conducted by a multitude of teachers and schoolchildren, none of them on the M$ payroll. Oh, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

The best bit is that Uruguay has just started an educational blog, where teachers and students have started posting. Story at http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/uruguay/update_on_xo_laptops.html, more (in Spanish) at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Blog_educativo

more than 4 years ago
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How Microsoft Has Changed Without Bill Gates

Mokurai MS vs. DR (was Re:How soon we forget) (493 comments)

In 1983 I wrote a market research study on the competition between Microsoft DOS and Digital Research CP/M-86. DOS was, well, DOS, but Gary Kildall had just put a real-time kernel into CP/M-86, and it could read and write on the floppy drive, the hard drive, keyboard and screen, and the modem all at the same time without missing a beat. DOS then, and Windows afterwards, couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time for many years. Apparently nobody at MS knew anything about concurrent programming, particularly how to make concurrent file operations safe. Anybody remember untangling cross-linked files with Norton Utilities?

Gates was a hotshot programmer in high school, but apparently never learned any significant amount of Computer Science before he dropped out of Harvard. Kildall was a CS Prof. If IBM had been willing to deal with Kildall, we would have been spared more than 25 years of software incompetence coupled with insensate greed.

CS is misnamed, of course. It isn't science. We don't have big experimental CS labs. Some of it is math, and some of it is how to do engineering design so that your product actually works, in large part by using math that actually works. Like how to use semaphores correctly in concurrent programming, how to use that do atomic database writes, and other things of that kind.

more than 4 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Where to go from here? (379 comments)

I participated in the G1G1 program on the dual basis that I could write software for the platform, and I could do something nice for a third world child. It seems that Microsoft has outsmarted me again. The OLPC is a lousy Windows machine and not worthy of my time to develop software for.

You can develop software for XOs using an emulator on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Also, I guess you never heard about the developer program that gives out XOs for free if you can explain why you need the actual hardware, and can't develop on an emulator.

Otherwise I guess I am the owner of an orphan green notebook computer...

Can I have yours? I have projects that can use any number of XOs that would otherwise molder in closets.

Put it on eBay if you don't want it, or give it to a LUG, or to a budding programmer in a school near you. Or a child. Children like XOs better than grownups do. It was designed for them.

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Asus EEE ate their lunch (379 comments)

Where I think Sugar broke is in backward compatibility, not running Microsoft Windows, ok thats fine, since Linux is rather mature today and free, but Sugar doesn't run Linux application either, it requires special coded Sugar applications.

This turns out not to be the case. There are several documented ways to run Linux apps in Sugar. Text-mode stuff like Midnight Commander works like a champ in Terminal. You can boot several flavors of regular Linux on an XO. And the developers are working on a way to wrap ordinary Gnome applications for Sugar on the fly.

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Nicholas Negroponte (379 comments)

The Venezuala deal uses Caixa Magica Linux, which is based on Mandriva, which is based on Red Hat. Sugar Labs is working on a port of Sugar to Mandriva and Caixa Magica. So we haven't lost the Venezuela deal.

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (379 comments)

No. Laptops that work well in full sunlight and are rugged and low power are not being built by anyone, and won't be.

Sure they will, but only if it's economical to do so. Those are all desirable qualities in any laptop computer - why would anyone not want them? But buyers choose price over features most of the time.

The problem is this - any manufacturing process that could create an OLPC for $100 could just as easily create a bare-bones Linux laptop without the OLPC's bells and whistles for $50 or less. If you're a Third World consumer, what are you going to choose - an OLPC, or a netbook for half the price that is "good enough"? And the netbooks are going to get much better, much faster than the OLPC ever could.

No netbook costs half what the OLPC XO does, and if you can design one for $50, I can get you a job, or venture capital funding if you prefer. The XO would have cost about $100 if

a) W hadn't sold off the dollar to the Chinese, and

b) OLPC and some of the governments interested in it hadn't decided to double memory and storage, and use a slightly faster processor.

By the time Asus et al. get anywhere near $100, the XO-2 (most likely from Pixel Qi, not OLPC) is projected to be $75. Mid-2010 is the latest estimate.

There are also projects to create $12 8-bit computers for education, such as PlayPower. Unfortunately, that's without a display. If somebody can figure out how the students can use them, there is excellent free 8-bit education software that we can port over.

I have some pre-Linux math software for the Apple II and C64 that I have offered to GPL if somebody else will do the necessary work to get it into Sugar or onto the PlayPower system. (Sorry, I'm writing textbooks to go out under GPL full-time now.)

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:The chance to become producers, not consumers. (379 comments)

That doesn't make sense. Unless the OLPC hardware and software were being made by the people in the countries buying them, they would be consumers no matter what OS was preinstalled. 99.99% of open source developers are in first world countries, so that wouldn't really tip the balance.

If the OLPC project were really serious about using open source software to help the third world, it would start hiring some of the people there to work on open source projects.

As they and their partners have done. And as we intend to go on doing as fast as we can teach the children to program.

"Please check your facts before posting nonsense to Usenet."--Beable van Polasm, alt.religion.kibology

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Wrecked to be wrecked. (379 comments)

It's true that the AMD Geode processor in the XO is underpowered. It's almost as slow as a Cray-1. But that's partly the point. It runs on only half a watt. The XO _maxes_ at about 8 W, an essential design point for villages where they take car batteries in a donkey cart to get them recharged somewhere else in order to keep their mobile phones running.

I agree about selling to the First World, which we are in fact doing. There are 15,000 units in Birmingham, Alabama, and trials in New York. Likely-soon-to-be-Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois is a strong supporter of giving every child in Illinois a laptop and a real education. (Blago is due to be impeached next week, with a trial in the IL Senate to follow.)

It's still about education. We're getting moving now on post-Gutenberg digital textbooks. Not PDFs of dead tree books, that is, but interactive learning systems based on Smalltalk, or incorporating the digital oscilloscope function of the XO, and much more.

http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Creating_textbooks

It's also about social transformation. Google

OLPC ethiopia-implementation-report

or

OLPC Astounded-in-Arahuay

to get both the reports and the discussion about them.

As for XP on the XO: I am greatly looking forward to the spectacle of Microsoft shooting itself in all of its shareholders' feet by sponsoring trials of dual-boot XOs. We are going to see tests of Fedora Rawhide Linux and Sugar vs. XP and a lame set of so-called educational software on the same hardware by the same people, hardly any of them on the Microsoft payroll. I have not been able to think of a suitable Onion headline that could make this seem worse for M$ than it already is.

more than 5 years ago
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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

Mokurai Re:Be Warned (379 comments)

Then again, it looks like they're not dropping Sugar completely, just "Passing on the development of the Sugar Operating System to the community."

Sugar is not an operating system. The OS on the XO is Fedora Rawhide Linux. Sugar also runs on Debian and Ubuntu.

OLPC gave over development of Sugar to Sugar Labs some time ago.

more than 5 years ago
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Don't Share That Law! It's Copyrighted

Mokurai Re:California Strikes Again HOORAY! (481 comments)

Barack Obama has pledged to make all Federal agencies (other than military and intelligence) post pretty much everything on the Internet in a manner that the public can effectively navigate. Presumably this can be extended to any state and local programs receiving Federal funds.

I would like to see the disclosure laws about voting actually followed, so that the public can routinely audit elections when partisan election officials won't. At least in California we will have records.

Wait, would anybody try to copyright the voter registration records? %-[

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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Kansas drops plan for municipal broadband ban

Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  about 2 months ago

Mokurai (458416) writes ""Facing public backlash over a Senate bill that would outlaw community broadband services statewide, Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, announced on Monday the postponement of hearings set to take place this week. Senate Bill 304 would prohibit cities and counties from building public broadband networks."

The bill was reportedly "introduced by John Federico, a cable industry lobbyist."

I didn't see this on SlashDot when it was introduced, but the Internet definitely responded to the threat of damage."

Link to Original Source
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Uruguayan XO rollout complete

Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Mokurai writes "Uruguay is the first country to give a laptop to every student in its public elementary schools. Over the last two years, 18,000 teachers have distributed 380,000 XO laptops to every student between the ages of six and twelve. We are all eager to know what results they are getting. Spanish speakers can inquire on the OLPC-Sur mailing list, available through http://lists.laptop.org/

http://www.dailytech.com/Every+Elementary+Student+in+Uruguay+Now+Has+an+OLPC+Laptop/article16542.htm
http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/uruguay/400000_cannot_be_wrong.html
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Academic_papers
http://wik.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Uruguay (in Spanish)"
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Sequoia Voting Systems hacks self in foot

Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Mokurai writes "Sequoia Voting Systems has inadvertently released the SQL code for its voting databases. The existence of such code appears to violate Federal voting law. Read the announcement in the link, just as received on the Open Voting Consortium mailing list earlier today."
Link to Original Source
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Dual-boot OLPC XO for real

Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Mokurai writes "Microsoft and One Laptop Per Child today announced the much-discussed, often-denied dual-boot OLPC XO, running both Linux and Windows, in a joint press release. Open Firmware plays the role of BIOS for both OSs, overcoming the previous boot incompatibility. Stories: AP, New York Times. OLPC will not sell a Windows-only model, and will continue all of its development efforts on Linux. Neither Microsoft nor OLPC expressed any interest in working on a port of Sugar to Windows, but the door is open for anybody that wants to take it on. Don't hold your breath. It's harder than it looks at first sight. In particular, there seems to be no way to get Windows running at the same low power levels as Linux, since Microsoft has said it will not modify Windows XP internals, and we all know nobody else is going to be allowed in to do it."
Link to Original Source
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Game machine runs Linux

Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Mokurai writes "The Pandora game computer, scheduled for developer availability in April/May, already runs Linux, so the first question is, what is the hacker challenge? Specs:

        * ARM® Cortex(TM)-A8 600Mhz+ CPU running Linux
        * 128K RAM
        * 256M flash
        * 800x480 4.3" 16.7 million colours touchscreen LCD
        * PowerVR SGX OpenGL 2.0 ES compliant 3D hardware
        * Wifi 802.11b/g & High Speed USB Host
        * Dual SDHC card slots
        * Dual Analogue and Digital gaming controls
        * 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
        * SVideo TV output
        * Around 10+ Hours battery life

Yes, please put all your tiny Linuces on it — DSL, Puppy, whatever. But the real challenge is to port the Debian packages for One Laptop Per Child's Sugar UI and Activities (included in the new Ubuntu Hardy) to the Pandora, which has half the memory and a quarter the storage of the OLPC XO. That will show the naysayers. The XO? That's not a toy. THIS is a toy!"

Link to Original Source
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Mokurai Mokurai writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Mokurai writes "The OLPC News page at http://laptop.media.mit.edu/laptopnews.nsf/latest/ news?opendocument= states, "Libya and OLPC signed an MOU in which they agreed to work together towards the deployment of one OLPC laptop for every school-age child in Libya and contributing laptops to poor African nations...[T]he newly formed OLPC4Libya steering committee...was presented with the outline of a comprehensive plan to distribute the laptops, create connectivity and server infrastructure, and prepare teachers and students."

Note that John Markoff's widely-quoted story in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/11/world/africa/11l aptop.html?ref=world, is inaccurate. Markoff claimed that the parties signed a contract, and that several other countries have contracts. OLPC itself says that it isn't going to offer any contracts until the laptops are ready to go into production, which is scheduled for mid-2007.

You know, with the Negroponte brothers as they are, I feel like I'm in a John Brunner novel like Stand on Zanzibar. Signing Libya as the first laptop customer adds a fine air of unreality to the whole business."

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