The open-source movement spawned by open-access has come full circle. Now well-known Gnu-Linux distributions such as Redhat-Fedora are being given away at software kiosks, and the Freedom Toaster project sponsored by the Shuttleworth foundation is just one of many initiatives to get free and open-source software into the hands of the masses.
Acting on a suggestion made by members of a local community Ubuntu user group, or LoCo, I went with CDs in hand to a post manned by the department of trade and industry.
At a convenient central city location, (142 Long Street), I asked the attendent in charge to point out the toaster I had viewed previously in a spanking new brouchure handed out by Freedom Toasters. There before me stood the machine, just as the brochure described. With a touchscreen and menu that took a little getting used to, nevertheless, despite the awkwardness, I managed to burn a Project Gutenburg CD as well as a copy of Edubuntu, the eduction-focused version of Ubuntu.
It strikes one as shocking that we don’t have more Freedom Toasters readily available, or similiar dare-do, blue-sky tech solutions, each packed with collections of open-source, or creative commons video, music and texts available. Something to consider purchasing for the local library?
Brushing aside all the rah-rah advertising propoganda cooked up by the agency responsible for designing the street-level distribution mechanism for Linux and Linux-Ubuntu, one wonders if the public will ever wake-up to a little known fact that Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions around?
That’s right, South Africa’s own is now competing with the rest, at least in the off-beat world of Linux, in which technical wiz-kids mingle with computer geeks, software nerds and the odd activist-hippy.
As a zippy (somebody with zen in their stride, with a hippy right brain and a techno left-brain) I want a Wikipedia CD collection and access to the Libravox library, Internet Archive and Creative Commons. Please sign me up as the next service provider. David Robert Lewis, collected works, DVD.
There were reservations, I admit to being an XP convert, after a harrowing experience being dumped by the Apple community I helped create in the late eighties South Africa, many of whom went headlong and bling into the corporate sphere, sporting nasty condescending white ibooks, with cold callous black paraphenalia, and the latest titanium isn’t any better.
Apple jealously guard the bios of the OS forcing consumers to purchase hardware. Windows on the other hand simply refuse to get out of the way. A new look like the Ubuntu package I installed on my PC last night is just what the doctor ordered. But there were reservations. For instance, would I wipe out my illegal package of XP service pack 2, in the process losing all my files and shareware that has made XP the home of choice for many computer enthusiasts? Or would I be able to coexist?
For starters, I tried installing ubuntu into windows. The CD disk that comes free, that’s right, free, if you ask nicely, gave me an option to install into windows and demo the environment. No luck, after an interesting start-up, my screen was out of phase, with very little to see except fuzz. I then tried booting off the CD and changing the video mode, which worked.
Wow. My PC suddenly had the look of a high-end Apple Mac in Java colours. That’t the kind of thing which could get one killed in the nineties, but it would seem the look and feel wars are over. Now what we have are competing identities, for who gets to possess the freeist desktop.
Ubuntu worked on my simple Celeron 1.8ghz with Biostar board. So I did the inevitable – a full install. The package partitioned my hardrive nicely, let me keep my pirated version of XP and showed just how brillient the Debian Linux environment really is. Its lean, mean and has all the kinds of features that once made Apple attractive. Yes, everything is scriptable, but that’s not the neat part. What’s neat is that pretty much any combination of free programmes can get your computer up and running, and not one of them, that’s right, not one has anything to do with Microsoft.
Who needs Microsoft or Apple for that matter, in a world in which java-like applications stream off the net. The linux kernal is alive and free, and hopefully it will remain that way, as the third world plays catch-up using the spirit of ubuntu. I am because you are.