Sunday, July 29, 2007

Software Freedom Day at Mawson Lakes

For Software Freedom Day last year, an event called "Software Freedom Showcase" was held at Mawson Lakes, organised by MawsonLakes.Org, with the help of many other people in the community. In the lead up to this years world wide event, Melissa Draper has published an article at which discusses some of the fantastic things that came out of last years activities, and the event at Mawson Lakes get a really good mention. Thanks Melissa. The events planned for this year are really starting to heat up, with over 200 teams registered from around the world. This year, the event is being held on September 15. For more information, visit SoftwareFreedomDay.Org

Aussie Coder helping OLPC gets article

There was a recent article about Joel Stanley in Joel is a mate, and has been mentioned here before. The article is here;193757623;fp;16;fpid;0

Monday, July 23, 2007

Adventures in Paramatta

This week I am in Paramatta, New South Wales at SAGE-AU (System Administrators Guild of Australia) annual conference. The conference is being held at The Sebal hotel in Paramatta, which is quite nice as far as hotels go.. not that I travel enough to judge properly. Today I had a tutorial on "Change Management". There were lots of common sense guidelines. ITIL was mention quite a bit.. this is a system that I haven't heard of before, but it is the sort of thing that could be useful, particularly is it helps me put system change requests into context and get more useful stuff done. After a day of being lectured at (as interesting as it was) it was time to go fo a walk and stretch the legs. The park across the road is particularly nice a and green. Looks like there is a production of "King Lear" currently on. I haven't ever seen this play. It would have been worth catching, but there are no tickets available for this week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Case of the Missing Dish

What is missing from this picture?
For those not familiar with Mawson Lakes, this picture is of the SPRI (Signal Processing Research Institute) building at the Mawson Lakes campus of the University of South Australia.
Normally, there is a dish on the roof which is used for tracking the FEDSAT satellite.
It looks like it was removed from the roof for a brief period (possibly for repair?) and is now back on the roof, much to everyones surprise.

An Operation on an XO

It works! Last week I finally got around to modify my OLPC B2-1 laptop with the mods which I mentioned earlier.. Never trust a software engineer with a soldering iron. With the help of a good friend, Stefan, and a bottle of Red we set about making the hardware changes. After following the 'dis-assembly' instructions from the OLPC wiki, we were able to get access to the motherboard and change the resistor and soldered the connecting wire in place. This image shows the change that was made to allow the keyboard to continue to operate while the processor is suspended. This as been successfully tested from the Open Firmware prompt, where the processor can be put into suspend mode (by typing 's'), keys can be typed, an then when the processor is brought out of suspend, by pressing the power key, the characters then appear on the screen. This is very cool. The second modification involved changing the position of another resistor and adding a short wire link. Unfortunately, in the process of removing the small surface mount resistor it was lost in amongst the solder waste. Luckily, Stefan has a spare 1k surface mount resistor from another project which he scavenged as a replacement. The modification can be seen if the photo to the left, on the top right of the Geode chip. The first mod can be seen coming in from the left below the chip. After reassembling the XO, I was able to test it (as mentioned above) and everything seems to be working correctly. Wahoo! For those that are interested.. also in the above photo is the 'ene' chip (bottom right). This is the system controller chip which controls (above other things) battery charging. This is what Joel Stanley is working on.

So ABC, where are the Open Codecs?

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) has started offering program videos for download from their website. While this is a great start, there are some things that would make it even better. The BBC is currently under flack from the free and open source advocates in the UK after it proposal to release a video player (iPlayer) which was only provided for the Microsoft Windows operating system using the Internet Explorer. Content which is distributed by the national broadcaster is ment to be unbiased[1], non-discriminatory[2], and freely accessible by all[3]. A deliberate failure to provide any of these would certainly cause a public outcry. The programs and content available from the ABC website are available in several formats but they all currently use restrictive formats, namely Flash and Windows Media player formats. There are a couple of arguments used to justify not using open codecs and protocols. None of them address the three areas mentioned above. Regardless of whether the codecs can be downloaded by the end user for free[4], non-free[5] codecs:
  • restrict access to only the supported computer platforms
  • reduce availability for community members
  • loss of options of assistance and contributions from the greater community
  • cause alienation from viewing public and new media opportunities
Why is this issue important? If you are part of the Australian public that uses restrictive licensed software and codecs you may well have avoided these issues by paying for a license. The downside is that these licenses will continue to have to be paid for. Ubuntu, the popular Linux software distribution, offers built in support for many free and open codecs, straight out of the box, no additional downloads or restrictive licenses required. Support free and open codecs where you can.. more information soon. Notes
  1. Unbiased - as in field of conduct, pursuit or occupation.
  2. Non-discriminatory - against sex, race or religion (etc.).
  3. Assessable - publicly available to everyone.
  4. Free - as in no cost.
  5. Non-free - as in restrictive distribution terms.