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The Ubuntu Wanted Project

September 26th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ubuntu’s implementing another clever idea in the form of its Ubuntu Wanted Project.

The idea is to build a web collaboration space for users to submit ideas for improvements and new features that developers could then implement for Ubuntu:

“What do we need to get innovative stuff implemented?

  1. A great idea
  2. The manpower
  3. The infrastructure and toolset

(1) is now more or less successfully covered by Ubuntu Brainstorm. Concerning (3), some good infrastructures exists around here, such as Launchpad, and development toolsets are good but not yet optimal IMO (I’ll keep that for later). (2) is much more tricky.”

There’s been a discussion at of the need for something similar, as lots of people have good ideas for extensions, and lots of developers capable of making extensions are looking for popular user demands to satisfy. Maybe it’s time to build an “ Brainstorm” site!

VirtualBox 2.0.2

September 24th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

I’ve mentioned VirtualBox before when it first became open source. Now a major new release and some minor upgrades have brought its version to VirtualBox 2.0.2.

A review by the n*x*adm blog covers some of the excitement of using VirtualBox on Ubuntu to run those last few needed Windows programs after migrating to Linux.

“This is the new Virtualbox release that inaugurates a brand new user interface based on QT 4, which makes it look and feel great, just like a KDE 4 application…

“It’s isolated from viruses and malware of any kind, I can backup the virtual machine as easy as copying files, and it’s free software under the GPL.”

Personally, I run it on my Mac to have access to Ubuntu without needing to reboot.


Groklaw Interviews Sugar Labs

September 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

A new non-profit organization has grown out of the OLPC project, by the name of Sugar Labs.

Sugar Labs’ mission statement: “Sugar provides a simple yet powerful means of engaging young children in the world of learning that is opened up by computing and the Internet. Sugar promotes sharing, collaborative learning, and reflection. Through Sugar’s clarity of design, children and their teachers use computation on their own terms; they are free to reshape, reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful learning activities. Sugar is a community project; it is based on GNU/Linux, a free and open-source operating system.”

Groklaw interviews Sugar Labs’ founder Walter Bender about the project.

Bender says, “I think that Sugar, while still a relatively new project, has already shown great impact and even greater potential for learners. There is a growing community of Sugar users, developers, and supporters. New activites are being written on a regular basis. There have been aggressive efforts by the community to document Sugar and translate it into local languages (there was just a sprint to translate Sugar into Aymará). And as I mentioned, dialog with teachers is growing, especially in Latin America. So while there may be some loss of support for OLPC within the FOSS community, the support for Sugar seems to be growing. (I should point out that there is a dedicated team of developers at OLPC who believe deeply in the importance of FOSS to learning.)”

Great interview and a great project!

CrossOver Chromium

September 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Codeweavers has announced CrossOver Chromium, a port of the open source Google Chromium browser to Mac OS X and Linux:

“Google has announced plans to support native Mac and Linux versions of Chromium, but they have yet to be released. CrossOver Chromium, however, runs the Windows version of Chromium natively on both Mac and Linux.”

Codeweavers doesn’t recommend using this as a primary browser, but has created it as “a proof of concept, for fun, and to showcase what Wine can do” (which is quite a lot)! Give it a try and get a feel for what Google Chrome is all about, without having to use that awful operating system under it.

Laptop Mag on OLPC XO-2

September 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Laptop Magazine has an article (some months old) about design mockups for OLPC XO-2, not due for release until 2010 but already remarkably creative in its design ideas.

“Negroponte didn’t share many details about the XO-2’s hardware, but the new system has two touch-sensitive displays… The XO-2 will be much smaller than the original machine (half the size, according to the press release) and will have a foldable e-book form factor. “The next generation laptop should be a book,” Negroponte said.”

Having created a new product category (the “netbook”) and reached hundreds of thousands of children with its first generation XO, it appears OLPC is going to follow that up with an even greater impact for the world when it releases the XO-2. They’ll also continue the Give One Get One program, meaning interested geeks in the developed world will have the opportunity to acquire OLPC machines for their own use too.

The $98 Linux Laptop

September 8th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

I’ve long been a fan of the OLPC XO, the original “$100 laptop.” It had such a broad influence that it spawned the entirely new product category of “netbooks,” and even though the XO itself still costs more than $100 (though falling), one of those it influenced has just broken that barrier.

Combine the drive to break the hundred-dollar barrier with the power of sinofacture, and the $98 Linux laptop, the HiVision miniNote, is here. (While the capitalization pattern of its name is nearly inscrutable, the machine is significant for its other aspects.)

One of the most important features of netbooks that helps them remain so low-cost is they usually run open source Linux operating systems (a retail copy of Windows is generally more expensive than these entire systems) as part of a complete stack of open source programs.

They also exclude unnecessary hardware: “HiVision makes the world’s cheapest Linux laptop at $98 using a new cheaper MIPS based processor, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, voice-chat, skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing.”

Follow the link above to see a video of this new netbook as well.

Dutch City of Enschede Piloting

September 4th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Enschede, the 13th-largest city in the Netherlands, will cancel its annual subscription licenses of Microsoft Office and Windows to save money and better serve its 155,000 inhabitants, the Open Source Observatory announces:

“The city council was contacted by Microsoft a few months ago to renew the licence contract for MS Office and MS Windows, for which the city pays some 450,000 euro per year. According to Hans Koenders, IT-policy adviser for the city council, renewing the contract would enable the city council to migrate to the latest version of Office and Windows. “That is not very compelling, for we are not planning an overhaul of our desktop software.”

“The city’s licence ran out on Monday. However, not renewing still gives the city administration the right to continue to use its current version of Microsoft Office (2003) on all of its 2,000 desktop PCs, for the next three years.

“The city council wants to use this period to test OpenOffice… [and] to slowly increase the amount of Open Source software, reasoning that this will strengthen local IT service providers. “It is possible that migrating to Open Source ends up not being cheaper than using proprietary software. However, it is likely that this way we will be paying a local company, instead of sending our money overseas.”

Enschede is entering this project with the wisdom collected from many previous migrations, and with a deep understanding of the obvious and hidden benefits it can expect to accrue from the adoption of OpenOffice and other FOSS applications. Furthermore, paying 225 euros per year per PC, I am sure they will save money right from the start with this change. (That monopoly license cost, just for renting software, is obscene!)

Congratulations and good luck to them!

Ubuntu Pre-installed in Poland

September 2nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Computer users are naturally a bit hesitant to reinstall operating systems, so the strategic impact of having open source pre-installed on consumer PCs is very high. Many folks will happily use whatever comes on their new machines, so it’s a great opportunity to provide high-quality open source solutions instead of the problematic proprietary systems commonplace today.

In this vein, Hugh’s Space notices Ubuntu pre-installed on retail laptops in Poland.

He writes, “I’ve read about many companies doing this but it is the first time I’ve seen it in a shop here. I managed to snap this photo on my camera phone…”

InformationWeek Predicts Linux’s Future

August 21st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

InformationWeek tries to guess what Linux will look like in another four years in “What Linux Will Look Like In 2012.”

The most interesting and important issue will be continued efforts, and successes, in simplifying Linux for use by regular people who don’t care that much about computers.

IW emphasizes this first in its piece: “The single biggest change you’ll see is the way Linux evolves to meet the growing market of users who are not themselves Linux-savvy, but are looking for a low-cost alternative to Microsoft (or even the Mac). That alone will stimulate enormous changes across the board, but there are many other things coming down the pike in the next four years, all well worth looking forward to.”

The growing wave of ultra-mobile PCs (or “netbooks”), inspired by the OLPC XO and led by Asus’ Eee PC, may prove to be the first foothold Linux makes in its assault on the end-user space. “By 2012, it’ll be a brand name unto itself, thanks to the exploding netbook market, where Linux has proven itself to be a solid way to build an inexpensive computing platform. By that time, many first-tier manufacturers like Dell ought to be offering such devices — and those that already do (like HP) will probably be looking seriously at offering more Linux-based gear.”

(Ubuntu also sees the potential of netbooks, and has launched “Ubuntu Netbook Remix” to address this market.)

In conlusion, IW sees Linux increasing its technical strengths, consolidating its current markets, and successfully branching out to new areas. Better usability and pricing will ensure it rapid and sustainable growth.

Poland’s Ministry of Education Recommends Open Source

August 20th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Metamorphosis, based in Macedonia, announces that Poland’s Ministry of Education recommends open source software for the country’s schools. As one of the more populous members of the EU with over 40 million people, this could have a big impact!

In addition to general support of open source, the Ministry also specifically recommended

“The Ministry recommended in a statement that schools and universities use OpenOffice. The application suite is sufficiently mature and advanced to be used for teaching and for office use in education and science institutes. “OpenOffice can successfully substitute proprietary applications and will result in significant savings on licenses.”

This recommendation is the culmination of a 10-month project in which 99 schools and over 4,500 students were introduced to FOSS by volunteer members of the Free and Open Software in Schools campaign.

“About 30 percent of the schools visited by the Wioo w Szkole [Free and Open Software in Schools] campaign have switched at least partly to Open Source. Most of these schools configured their PCs to run a GNU/Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, Suse or Mandriva, alongside Windows.”

More information is available at the Open Source Observatory website.