Friday, September 28, 2007

Open Source in Education - Opening Doors

Those who know me well enough to know about the software that I use are aware that I am not only an advocate of free and open source software, I'm also a big user. So I'm always on the lookout for news and stories about open source successes. In a similar vein, I try to keep up with education issues, especially early childhood education and K12 education. Combining those two interests led me to get a subscription to T.H.E. Journal which is a niche publication focusing on the use of technology in education, especially K12. A couple issues ago (yes, that tells you how far behind on some stuff I am) they ran an article titled Opening A New Door about the possibility of schools switching to open source software.

The opening of the story is quite telling as it starts with the question, "To Vista or not to Vista". The question was one faced by a school district in Illinois - going forward, would they stick to the Microsoft platform or look at a Linux platform. I raised the same issue with one of my clients a few months - although no action is needed at the present time, eventually they will be forced to upgrade to Vista or try an alternative. Many other people I work with continue to struggle to get PC's with XP loaded instead of Vista - seems you pretty much have to order them on-line as retail stores don't have anything with XP loaded (I'm guessing they are prevented for contractual reasons even if they did want to sell something customers want).

Open Source in Education - Opening Doors

Those who know me well enough to know about the software that I use are aware that I am not only an advocate of free and open source software, I'm also a big user. So I'm always on the lookout for news and stories about open source successes. In a similar vein, I try to keep up with education issues, especially early childhood education and K12 education. Combining those two interests led me to get a subscription to T.H.E. Journal which is a niche publication focusing on the use of technology in education, especially K12. A couple issues ago (yes, that tells you how far behind on some stuff I am) they ran an article titled Opening A New Door about the possibility of schools switching to open source software.

The opening of the story is quite telling as it starts with the question, "To Vista or not to Vista". The question was one faced by a school district in Illinois - going forward, would they stick to the Microsoft platform or look at a Linux platform. I raised the same issue with one of my clients a few months - although no action is needed at the present time, eventually they will be forced to upgrade to Vista or try an alternative. Many other people I work with continue to struggle to get PC's with XP loaded instead of Vista - seems you pretty much have to order them on-line as retail stores don't have anything with XP loaded (I'm guessing they are prevented for contractual reasons even if they did want to sell something customers want).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Laptop Per Child - Give 1 Get 1

One Laptop Per Child logoThought I would write about the One Laptop Per Child project which has been in the news lately. The One Laptop Per Child project is the brain child of Nicholas Negroponte, the founding director of the M.I.T. Media Lab. Negroponte wanted to get laptops into the hands of children in developing countries where they would not otherwise be able to get their hands on them. The project faced many challenges such as getting the cost down to something manageable and dealing with the lack of infrastructure in many places (to the point that not even electricity is available).

The laptop that the OLPC project developed is pretty stunning in my opinion. I first started following the project because the operating system used is Linux. However, the project developed a whole new user interface, called SUGAR that would be easy for children to use. To get around the problem of no electricity, the laptop is probably one of the "greenest" laptops that exists. And to top it off, it can be recharged using a hand crank. They have also developed a wireless mesh technology that will let the laptops form their own network on the fly without a server or wireless access points being present. Another innovation is in the screen technology - it works so well, the screen can be viewed (albeit in black and white mode) in full sunlight. Finally, the laptop has been built to be very rugged to withstand a child (those with children know what I am talking about). I will not be surprised when some of the innovations that went into the OLPC laptop find their way into the general computer marketplace.

The other challenge for the project was cost. When first announced, the goal was to build a laptop that could be purchased for only $100. The idea was that at such a low price point, governments in developing countries could afford to buy them and distribute them to children. The project came very close with the final cost ending up at $188 per laptop. Almost twice the goal, but still stunningly cheap in my opinion.

Unfortunately, they still are not getting the kind of uptake they were hoping for. So, the project has decided to initiate a Give 1 Get 1 campaign. You can read some of the coverage from the EETimes and the NY Times. As an aside, I found some of the comments that were submitted to the NY Times article to be quite saddening.

As you may note in the NY Times article (if you read it), the OLPC project is not the only idea on how to get technology into the hands of children in developing countries, especially technology intended to help with education. I think it is a good idea and one that should be supported.

One Laptop Per Child - Give 1 Get 1

One Laptop Per Child logoThought I would write about the One Laptop Per Child project which has been in the news lately. The One Laptop Per Child project is the brain child of Nicholas Negroponte, the founding director of the M.I.T. Media Lab. Negroponte wanted to get laptops into the hands of children in developing countries where they would not otherwise be able to get their hands on them. The project faced many challenges such as getting the cost down to something manageable and dealing with the lack of infrastructure in many places (to the point that not even electricity is available).

The laptop that the OLPC project developed is pretty stunning in my opinion. I first started following the project because the operating system used is Linux. However, the project developed a whole new user interface, called SUGAR that would be easy for children to use. To get around the problem of no electricity, the laptop is probably one of the "greenest" laptops that exists. And to top it off, it can be recharged using a hand crank. They have also developed a wireless mesh technology that will let the laptops form their own network on the fly without a server or wireless access points being present. Another innovation is in the screen technology - it works so well, the screen can be viewed (albeit in black and white mode) in full sunlight. Finally, the laptop has been built to be very rugged to withstand a child (those with children know what I am talking about). I will not be surprised when some of the innovations that went into the OLPC laptop find their way into the general computer marketplace.

The other challenge for the project was cost. When first announced, the goal was to build a laptop that could be purchased for only $100. The idea was that at such a low price point, governments in developing countries could afford to buy them and distribute them to children. The project came very close with the final cost ending up at $188 per laptop. Almost twice the goal, but still stunningly cheap in my opinion.

Unfortunately, they still are not getting the kind of uptake they were hoping for. So, the project has decided to initiate a Give 1 Get 1 campaign. You can read some of the coverage from the EETimes and the NY Times. As an aside, I found some of the comments that were submitted to the NY Times article to be quite saddening.

As you may note in the NY Times article (if you read it), the OLPC project is not the only idea on how to get technology into the hands of children in developing countries, especially technology intended to help with education. I think it is a good idea and one that should be supported.

One Laptop Per Child logo

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

IBM Releases Free Office Suite

Today IBM announced that they were making a beta version of an office productivity suite available for download for free.  I actually found out about it through an e-mail I received, but if you would like to read "news" about this you can try InformationWeek's article IBM To Offer Free Office Software In Challenge To Microsoft.  The suite is being called Symphony and is based on the OpenOffice.org office suite.  As regular readers know, I am a regular user of OpenOffice.org - even to the extent that I don't own a copy of MS Office and I was profiled in a CFO magazine article about OpenOffice.org.

If you are interested in the program, you can find out more at the IBM Symphony web page, including the link to download the application.  I have pulled down both the Linux and Windows version and will give them a whirl.

IBM Releases Free Office Suite

Today IBM announced that they were making a beta version of an office productivity suite available for download for free.  I actually found out about it through an e-mail I received, but if you would like to read "news" about this you can try InformationWeek's article IBM To Offer Free Office Software In Challenge To Microsoft.  The suite is being called Symphony and is based on the OpenOffice.org office suite.  As regular readers know, I am a regular user of OpenOffice.org - even to the extent that I don't own a copy of MS Office and I was profiled in a CFO magazine article about OpenOffice.org.

If you are interested in the program, you can find out more at the IBM Symphony web page, including the link to download the application.  I have pulled down both the Linux and Windows version and will give them a whirl.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Strengths and Boxes

Recently I have been working on applying for some jobs - both full-time and contract work, as my business is struggling to keep afloat. The other day I received a request from a staffing company working one of the jobs I had applied for. They wanted me to complete something called the Predictive Index. It is one of the tools they use to assess job candidates to try to figure out whether they would be a good fit. You can find out more about the Predictive Index at the PI Worldwide web site. I found only some sparse criticism of the "test" alleging it was not developed by the "proper" people, had not been independently tested for reliability, and some other minor nits (imo).

A little more interesting to me were a couple posts (Don't put me in a box and More info on the Predictive Index)I found on The Head Fake blog. The writer described his experience with the Predictive Index and its use in the job search process. Overall, I would tend to agree with some of his points. Using it early in the process as a screening tool doesn't seem quite right.

Unfortunately, it sounds like I may never know the results of the PI. On the other hand, I recently ran across something call the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. The book is actually a bestseller right now and is a follow-up to another bestseller, Now, Discover Your Strengths. The books are from the Gallup organization and are predicated on the idea that we should find our strengths and focus on developing them rather than trying to fix our weaknesses.

Strengths and Boxes

Recently I have been working on applying for some jobs - both full-time and contract work, as my business is struggling to keep afloat. The other day I received a request from a staffing company working one of the jobs I had applied for. They wanted me to complete something called the Predictive Index. It is one of the tools they use to assess job candidates to try to figure out whether they would be a good fit. You can find out more about the Predictive Index at the PI Worldwide web site. I found only some sparse criticism of the "test" alleging it was not developed by the "proper" people, had not been independently tested for reliability, and some other minor nits (imo).

A little more interesting to me were a couple posts (Don't put me in a box and More info on the Predictive Index)I found on The Head Fake blog. The writer described his experience with the Predictive Index and its use in the job search process. Overall, I would tend to agree with some of his points. Using it early in the process as a screening tool doesn't seem quite right.

Unfortunately, it sounds like I may never know the results of the PI. On the other hand, I recently ran across something call the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. The book is actually a bestseller right now and is a follow-up to another bestseller, Now, Discover Your Strengths. The books are from the Gallup organization and are predicated on the idea that we should find our strengths and focus on developing them rather than trying to fix our weaknesses.