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The Open University?

Open_University_logo
The UK’s Open Source Consortium has accused the Open University of breaching its founding principles.  The Open University came about in the 1960’s as a move towards making university education available to all regardless of income or gender. Given the sort of forward thinking involved it is somewhat worrying that the OU has so far failed to support free software. If anything the OU seems to favour the proprietry software provided by Microsoft.

As reported by the Inquirer, the OU’s bias lies in the student technical support services:

It advises students that if they don’t use a Windows PC they “may have problems accessing the software and data files supplied with course materials”. It has produced a 31-page guide to using Microsoft software and also provides demonstrations. It has produced upgrade advice for Microsoft’s Vista operating system and even gone as far as promoting a Microsoft discount offer to its students.

The OU does distribute copies of the Open Source Star Office to all students, but that endorsement pales in comparison to its backing of Microsoft. It has given no such advice, support or endorsement of Ubuntu, the free operating system lauded as the Open Source movement’s viable alternative to Windows.

Its worrying that a student running a pc with open source software, on a limited income would have to basically scrap their set up and buy into microsoft in order to join the OU.

Eventful weekend

A bit of a late post, one day I might have a mobile phone that can take pics and send email, I’m not big on mobile phones, anyway I enjoyed the Buddha’s birthday festival, the food was good, the entertainment and events were excellent. I hope some of those rituals work.

At his birth, seven lotus flowers sprung up beneath his feet as he walked – pointing one hand to the sky and ground he said “in the heaven above and earth below, I vow to liberate all who suffer in these three realms”.

I also went to HUMBUG again, thats 3 meeting in a row, I’ll have to consider becoming a member. They meet fortnightly at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. There were quite a few people this time and some of them brought babies so there was a bit of a family vibe. The usual collection of academics and unix gurus were there wandering around helping out newbies and discussing computer science.

I had a few things planned for this meeting, last meeting my power supply died just after I setup. I updated my system and we started testing croquet. After my mate configured his firewall we were able to see each others worlds and open a portal so he joined my world and I created a project that we worked on together, I showed him how to reuse Squeak projects in Croquet. He hadn’t really explored croquet so we went on a tour. A few of the guru’s had gatherred around and were asking about croquet which was good because I don’t have an academic background so its nice to hear what they think about it and hopefully they will use it.

Here’s some movies on Croquet:

  • Croquet Intro
  • Croquet Intro2
  • Croquet Intro3
  • Croquet for immersive language intstruction

Check out the edubuntu desktop background, those hardcore playfully clever programmers think it rocks…

Gnu Audio and Video Recordings

listening gnu

Using your feed aggregator(podcatcher) software subscribe to the Recordings about our Philosophy – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF) feed URL.

If you need podcatcher software visit the Juice Receiver Homepage and download a copy then follow this guide for further instructions if you need help.

You may also need VLC media player for viewing and listening to Ogg/Vorbis Audio and Ogg/Theora video.

The speeches are by Richard Stallman and a couple by Bradley Kuhn. They talk about free software and civil rights, ethics, law, business, programming and explain the history of free software and philosophy of the GNU Project and lots more. If you use a computer then these are probably the most important files that you’ll ever download.

“Most of the time when people consider the question of what rules society should have for using software, the people considering it are from software companies, and they consider the question from a self-serving perspective, what rules can we impose on everybody else so they have to pay us lots of money? I had the good fortune in the 1970s to be part of a community of programmers who shared software. And because of this I always like to look at the same issue from a different direction to ask: what kind of rules make possible a good society that is good for the people who are in it? And therefore I reach completely different answers.” — Richard Stallman.

Libre Graphics Meeting

Libre Graphics MeetingA friend invited me to HUMBUG again and they had a talk on Libre Graphics.

Andy Fitzsimon delivered a postmortem of the Libre Graphics Meeting that was held on 17-19 March, 2006 in Lyon, France. Topics covered included Inkscape, The Gimp and Scribus.

He gave an awesome presentation on Libre Graphics, he was running the XGL desktop and demonstrating how the different applications integrate with the desktop. It was impressive, he was dragging and dropping all kinds of things between the different applications and really showing off the best of free software graphics applications.

I’d used most of those applications for doing basic things, I’m not sure if Andy is a professional graphic artist or programmer but he had mad skills in using those applications, the stand outs for me were inkscape and xara.

” Inkscape is a vector drawing program with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand, and CorelDraw. It uses the W3C standard SVG as its native document format.”

“What makes Xara stand-out from the crowd is the rendering performance (by far the fastest drawing program available, on any platform), it’s advanced rendering techniques that enable incredibly realistic drawings, that look like those produced by no other drawing software, it’s ease of use and slick, clutter-free user interface.”

Libre Graphics Meeting Homepage

Looking forward to spending more time using them. You can download them online.

Annual Buddha Birthday Festival on South bank

A friend sent me an email about this and I’m thinking about going.

Buddha Birthday Festival

“3 days of free activities for all the family. Kicking off on Friday 5th May at midday. Heralded as the largest multicultural event in Brisbane over 200,000 people from all walks of life joined in last year to celebrate the birth of the Buddha some 2500 years ago.

This years theme is Harmony in Diversity – promoting a peaceful existence and appreciation of our unique multicultural identity.”

www.buddhabirthdayfestival.com.au

If you would like to volunteer I’ve hosted the form for volunteering BBF06, I couldn’t find it online so I hope thats ok.

Wikipedia info about Buddha.

Appamadavagga “Mindfulness” (verses 21-32)
“Mindful among the unmindful, wide awake among the sleeping, the man of good understanding forges ahead like a swift horse outdistancing a feeble hack.”

XGL Desktop and old friends

XGL DesktopLast week I caught up with an old friend, he was running Kubuntu and this very nice looking 3D desktop. Here’s the info from Wikipedia : XGL, Compiz. If your not going to install it, you’ll need to follow the external links and watch a video. It shows off the GNU/Linux destop and is very pleasing to the eye.

There’s many features, I’ll try to describe a few. In the screenshot we see a cube, thats the desktop on each side of the cube, you can drag programs from one side of the cube to others and just spin and flip the cube because it looks cool. It looks like Bill Gates uses 3 screens to do a similar thing. Lets say on one desktop you are watching a movie, on another you are playing a game and on the one your using now you are browsing the web, rather than spin the cube, you can press alt-tab, a window appears and you can scroll through your programs and see your movie, whats happening in your game and switch to that application if thats what you want to do. Theres also some nice eye candy like the rain on your desktop and the way things spring out an fade away.

Michael put together a XGL howto that will hopefully help make it easier for people with a similar hardware profile. Michael works at a school and is also a member of HUMBUG, a local Unix user group so we ended up going to their fortnightly gathering. I’ve been there over the years and it was nice to see they had renovated, it was a typical mix of programmers, system admin types, newbies and people generally interested in computers looking for help and using the internet access.

I managed to get a copy of a Fedora Core 5 DVD that I installed on a spare hard disk drive that I’m using right now, the install was a “just click next next next” type install and I’m really happy with how easy it is to use. I also downloaded the software needed for the Fedora Core OLPC(One Laptop Per Child) Project, have a look at the demo of the process. I’ll try to set that up before the end of the day.
I also have a copy of Edubuntu and the Kororaa Live CD so I’ll check those out sometime soon.

A couple of programs I’m liking so far are Liferea and Ekiga. Liferea is a feed reader and the thing I like about it is that you can configure it to show a status icon in the system tray that will tell you when there’s new items. Ekiga is a free voice over ip and video conferencing application. Give me a call, my Voip URL is sip:gnuchris@ekiga.net.

Croquet Release coming soon

David_A_SmithDavid A. Smith made a comment on my blog today notifying me of a Croquet release coming soon. To be honest I’m blown away. Here’s some info about him from Wikipedia.

“David Alan Smith (born 1957 in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) is an American computer scientist who has focused on interactive 3D and using 3D as a basis for new user environments and entertainment for almost twenty years.

In 1987, Smith created “The Colony,” the very first 3D interactive game and precursor to today’s first-person shooters.

He is currently one of six principal architects of the Croquet project

“Existing operating systems are like the castles that were owned by their respective Lords in the Middle Ages. They were the centers of power, a way to control the population and threaten the competition. Sometimes, a particular Lord would become overpowering, and he would declare himself as King. This was great for the King. And not too bad for the rest of the nobles, but in the end — technology progressed and people started blowing holes in the sides of the castles. The castles were eventually abandoned” -David A. Smith

This is excellent news, to have a team of experts working on an open source project that provides us with such an amazing tool that we really need means the future is looking brighter for our kids.

In Australia I’ve been following games in learning for around 2 years and I’m tempted to tell you exactly who the evil lords are and what they are doing with our governments money and what they are doing to our children. I can’t wait for the day we blow holes in the sides of their castles and our children run free and think freely.

Thank you David for making that day come closer.