[LINK] Open source and government: Brazil to install 356, 800 Green Workstations into schools (open source based tools)

Fernando Cassia fcassia at gmail.com
Thu May 7 17:40:48 AEST 2009

On Wed, May 6, 2009 at 8:24 PM, Phillip Musumeci <p.musumeci at ieee.org>wrote:

> Hi,
> Thanks for the geography update :-)

You never know if there's someone from Crawford, TX lurking on a mailing
list. ;-)

> I agree with your concerns although, from my experience dealing with first
> year engineering and IT students in the university sector, I've come to
> believe it is better for schools not to teach any programming at all (unless
> it is used to underlie some aim like better reasoning).

I disagree... I'm part of a generation which was inspired by the "home
computers" that plugged into a TV, and these devices basically "did nothing"
unless you programmed it. It was the time where magazines contained PROGRAM
LISTINGS (source code) that you had to TYPE IN before playing a game.

That way, you learned by reading source code, even if you at first didn't
mean what it did..

> Instead, I would be satisfied if their graduates entering university were
> effective at {reading, writing, reasoning} and then I'd hope for some
> passion in {science, maths, literature, etc.}.

Of course all that is important. However what I'm afraid of is that current
generations see computers as "black boxes" -ie "buy the computer, get the
Microsoft CD in case of trouble, and that's it") and there's little
incentive to get into the system and code your own stuff.

> For those students who'd want to hack (or who I'd hope would hack), the
> stand-alone boot CDs with linux or *BSD are enough to get them going with
> development tools.

You can't compare the steep learning curve of the GNU C Compiler with an
environment like Sugar on the OLPC XO, where most programs are interpreted
and written in python.

 Come to think of it, identifying first years who did this to create their
> own "computing island" in uninspiring centrally managed labs was one way to
> identify future honours students.
> BTW in Australia, we're now seeing linux-based eeePC devices for roughly
> US$240.

They're different concepts. The OLPC XO had so many things done right that
it's a pity to see it struggling to compete with products whose aim and
target users is different.

And the IT press and its regular comparisons with Ghz horsepower of regular
notebooks completely missing the point of the OLPC software architecture...


...certainly played a role...

Last I heard of the OLPC was this...


...if someone has more recent (positive) news about the OLPC, I'm all ears.

Yes, we have cheap 4GB Asus EEEs as well, yet those would survive very few
days in the hands of careless elementary school kids.

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