When corporations hold some power in education and then take further steps to tighten that control, why do we call it a “learning revolution“? Digitized textbooks should be in open formats for editing and reading. Authors and publishers need to reject absurd EULAs, and educators need a dose of scepticism.
Archive for the ‘software’ Category
rms has a few “opinion” writers’ knickers in a twist. He criticized Steve Jobs’ legacy shortly after his death. It seems you’re not supposed to say that you’re glad Steve Jobs is no longer an influence in the technology industry so soon after his death. Apparently that’s bad “taste”. I’ll self-censor my criticism of the opinion writers as it would surely be what’s rude and in poor taste. Instead, I’ll quote an even more constructive follow-up from Richard:
Jobs saw how to make these computers stylish and smooth. That would normally be positive, but not in this case, since it has the paradoxical effect of making their controlling nature seem acceptable.
Jobs’ valuable contributions to the computing industry were more than negated. He promoted a market that has needless negative spillover effects. Sexy products are not enough to reconcile that blunder. And even worse, his attitude toward the ownership of design ideas in hardware and software are gasoline on the fire. As rms notes, the war on Android is a war that Jobs wanted waged. The full post is here.
Android is one of the most free prisons of this day and age.
Today I decided to support Freedom Box. Funding for the project is hosted on Kickstarter. I encourage contributions but if that’s not possible, please read the following excerpt below explaining why this software is being written.
Why Freedom Box?
Because social networking and digital communications technologies are now critical to people fighting to make freedom in their societies or simply trying to preserve their privacy where the Web and other parts of the Net are intensively surveilled by profit-seekers and government agencies. Because smartphones, mobile tablets, and other common forms of consumer electronics are being built as “platforms” to control their users and monitor their activity.
Freedom Box exists to counter these unfree “platform” technologies that threaten political freedom. Freedom Box exists to provide people with privacy-respecting technology alternatives in normal times, and to offer ways to collaborate safely and securely with others in building social networks of protest, demonstration, and mobilization for political change in the not-so-normal times.
Freedom Box software is built to run on hardware that already exists, and will soon become much more widely available and much more inexpensive. “Plug servers” and other compact devices are going to become ubiquitous in the next few years, serving as “media centers,” “communications centers,” “wireless routers,” and many other familiar and not-so-familiar roles in office and home.
Freedom Box software images will turn all sorts of such devices into privacy appliances. Taken together, these appliances will afford people around the world options for communicating, publishing, and collaborating that will resist state intervention or disruption. People owning these appliances will be able to restore anonymity in the Net, despite efforts of despotic regimes to keep track of who reads what and who communicates with whom.
The second round of the Humble Indie Bundle is out. Though the first round slightly missed the mark by way of licensing, I still chose to support it. Thus far, there’s no indication that this current offering is anything else but gratis, proprietary software. If money finding its way to the EFF or the Child’s Play Charity is motivating you to buy the bundle, I suggest bypassing it and donating directly to those sites. The EFF is here, and the CPC is here.
Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post later with news that the bundle licensing has favorably changed.
Jeff Utecht sings the praises for Facebook as an educational tool. While Jeff typically shines at promoting useful tools for educators, I think he goes over the top here. He begins by listing “facts” about Facebook and a couple of them sound more like a sales-pitch than sound educational advice.
1. Everyone, including parents and teachers are already using it. Not only is that false by exaggeration, but an attempt to pass off a bandwagon fallacy (argumentum ad populum for the Latin-minded).
2. Facebook has replaced e-mail for many people. While I know many who use Facebook to message others, I don’t actually know anyone who has completely stopped sending messages via e-mail and relies exclusively on Facebook. Perhaps these people exist, but many? Like microblogging or IM, these technologies have certainly added to our arsenal, but many?
3. Facebook has more privacy settings then (sic) most Internet sites. I think it would be useful (imperative?) to point to sites that serve a similar purpose, then describe how Facebook is superior in this regard. And, given the ugly history of Facebook privacy and the CEO’s contempt toward these issues, this isn’t a strong selling point. Remember who’s in control here…Zuckerberg’s the CEO, b**ch. Yes, the cards have changed, but there’s no indication the man has.
4. Not using Facebook to communicate with your school/class community is like not using Google to search. Apples and oranges. I don’t use Facebook to search nor do I use Google’s search engine to do social networking. Further, I don’t have to sign into Google and tell them who I am in order to use their search engine. I’m not sure what Jeff is getting at here but at best, it’s another bandwagon fallacy.
5. It is the future. While I have no doubt that Facebook will continue to be popular for some time, this “fact” was a real eye-roller.
6. It is the now. See #5.
7. For every negative reason to block Facebook there is a positive reason as well. I actually ended the list with this one because it ties into the title of this post…
Why hook a school into Facebook instead of developing a private, on-site solution? What does Facebook offer (besides popularity) that a site built on Free/Open Source software like Elgg or a combination of tools like Moodle and StatusNet doesn’t? Sure, going with Facebook sounds easy, but it also sounds like the easy way out – especially for an educational institution that could turn this into a learning opportunity for some technically-inclined pupils and a technical director and/or teacher. I get why banning Facebook in schools is an unwarranted extreme, but I fail to see any value in promoting it as an educational tool for little children. Isn’t this just going from one extreme to another?
The H reports that most of the Humble Indie Bundle games are now either Free software or going to be Free software. I was torn on whether or not I should contribute to this project given that “World of Goo” and the newly added “Samorost 2” are holding out as free beer only. I’m not interested in supporting non-free software so my first inclination was to ignore the whole offer. Though I’m a bit irked to know that money contributed to the developers supports the distribution of proprietary software, I thought it too harsh to write off the whole deal so I reconsidered. Overall, I was very pleased to hear that most of the games’ source will be free.
I saw no way on the site to voice my concern about the proprietary offerings I steered clear from. So for now, I’ll use this post to publicly state two facts:
1) My contribution was smaller than it would have been if either all of the games were being released as Free software or the Goo was removed from the promotion altogether
2) Since I won’t be downloading and playing the non-free games, I won’t experience them and therefore won’t be promoting them to others