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OLPC and CC Free Content Drive 92

Posted by kdawson
from the free-as-in-books dept.
gnujoshua writes "In his blog, SJ Klein, director of community content for OLPC, notes a collaboration among Creative Commons, One Laptop per Child, and TextbookRevolution.org. They are compiling together free and CC-licensed works — and they are asking for people to help them by submitting links to free books, movies, and music. Creative Commons will be burning a LiveDVD to be distributed at South by Southwest; OLPC will be making bundles of books to send all over the world; and Textbook Revolution will be compiling a list of good and free college-level textbooks for the relaunch of their site."
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OLPC and CC Free Content Drive

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  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:51AM (#22434232)
    We can see who's who in academics- whether publishers will be willing to release work to third-world countries that could never possibly afford to buy it and desperately need it for their education. In America at least they can hoard journals and information and demand payment because that's how the industry works- but I'll be very impressed (and surprised) if they admit that that doesn't apply at all to donating to OLPC..
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:06AM (#22434436) Homepage
      "the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

      Moglen
      • Because the person who created the work didn't give you permission to release it to everyone. If a friend lets you borrow his car, do you loan it out to everyone you see too? I find your view of morality quite skewed towards your own beliefs on copyright.
        • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CSMatt (1175471) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:20AM (#22434586)
          If I could make a perfect copy of his car and loan out the copies, then yes.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          It's more like you making copies of said car and giving those away for free and I guess giving back the car to your friend which, I'm sure, he would very much like.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Because the person who created the work didn't give you permission to release it to everyone. If a friend lets you borrow his car, do you loan it out to everyone you see too? I find your view of morality quite skewed towards your own beliefs on copyright.
          This is fundamentally different, in that there is a single car in your example, but an unlimited number of identical copies of any information. Car analogies do not always work...
          • This is fundamentally different, in that there is a single car in your example, but an unlimited number of identical copies of any information.

            Well, its certainly different than Moglen's false premise; its not different than the reality of digital distribution, though; there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information. "Digital methods", like the printing press, reduce the marginal cost, they don't, any more than did the printing press, change the fact that it exists.

            • by mhall119 (1035984)

              there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information.
              Which is?
              • by yada21 (1042762)
                Well I don't know about your's, but my computer uses electricity...
                • by mhall119 (1035984)
                  Yes, but I pay that cost when I distribute information, it doesn't cost the original author anything for me to distribute it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Kadin2048 (468275)

              there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information

              The majority of which is a sunk cost once you have the infrastructure set up to transmit a single piece of information.

              The marginal cost is so low it's essentially zero. Not exactly zero, but really, really small.

              Anyway, this is sort of a silly argument; it's not that anyone is unwilling to pay for the actual transportation of the bits across the network. What the whole copyright/IP argument revolves around is the ability for an author or creator to sell identical copies of the same work over and over aga

              • The majority of which is a sunk cost once you have the infrastructure set up to transmit a single piece of information.

                Whether its a majority or not depends on the quantity, but it doesn't matter anyway, since the ratio of the fixed costs to the variable costs doesn't fundamentally change anything.

                (Though the fact that the fixed costs dwarf the marginal costs is one important reason why Moglen's statement, which, as well as misrepresenting the state of the marginal costs, ignores the fixed costs entirely, i

        • hm. I would be willing to bet that you have exhaled some carbon dioxide recently. Do you have any particular right to control what happens to it from now on?
        • by eln (21727)
          I think it would be more like taking the engineering plans for a particular car and then reproducing that car endlessly and giving it away for free. In that way, you're depriving the creator of the original work the opportunity to make money from it if everyone just gets your cars for free rather than paying him for his.
          • Nope (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mateo_LeFou (859634)
            'cause guess what the effort you can muster to build each reproduction is limited; you will do something else if it doesn't pay off, or give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

            With knowledge, and anything digitizable, the situation is radically different. This is moglen's point, and this is why people who use industrial-economy analogies to address free culture discussions only embarrass themselves. The situations are *radically different.

            It's more like this: if Ernie tells you that 2+3 is 5, and you etch that knowle
            • 'cause guess what the effort you can muster to build each reproduction is limited; you will do something else if it doesn't pay off, or give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

              With knowledge, and anything digitizable, the situation is radically different.

              Except that its not. Neither digital media or digital bandwidth is free of marginal cost. The marginal cost may be extremely small, but that doesn't change the fact that it exists. "Digital methods of production" are fundamentally no different than the printing pre

              • "The movement from analog to digital is more important for the structure of social and legal relations than the more famous if less certain movement from status to contract"
                Moglen again

                It is true that the marginal cost is not actually zero, but I find the difference to be radical. For many of these goods -- let's say an electonic textbook, to get back on topic -- the cost of implementing a system of exclusion, by which non-payers could be reliably prevented from getting access, would astronomically increase
                • It is true that the marginal cost is not actually zero, but I find the difference to be radical.

                  Oh, sure. As was, e.g., the difference wrought by the printing press, notwithstanding teh fact that no one would even try to argue that the printing press brought the marginal cost of information products down to zero.

                  For many of these goods -- let's say an electonic textbook, to get back on topic -- the cost of implementing a system of exclusion, by which non-payers could be reliably prevented from getting acces

              • ...you payment, for the extremely small "marginal costs of production" for making digital copies? Swell, this is how the (revolutionary and evolutionary)digital open source knowledge industry works for the most part, although a lot of places are attempting to combine the old methods with the new in a wide variety of success levels....

                You create knowledge that is extremely cheap to copy and can be shared cheaply as well, so cheap that it is a trivial amount. This knowledge-this product- is digitally shared,
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kadin2048 (468275)

            I think it would be more like taking the engineering plans for a particular car and then reproducing that car endlessly and giving it away for free. In that way, you're depriving the creator of the original work the opportunity to make money from it if everyone just gets your cars for free rather than paying him for his.

            There's an easy solution to this, if you're the engineer: don't give anybody the plans for less than the cost of your time spent producing it.

            In other words, don't depend on a derivative-based business model, because there's no way to make it work when anybody can just make copies for free, down the road.

            Instead, just work like any other kind of skilled tradesman or professional. (Or, perhaps a more germane example, like a consultant.) If somebody wants you to design an automobile, bill them for the cost

            • The more people could benefit from having the results of your work, the less well that model works.
              • "The more people could benefit from having the results of your work, the less well that model works."

                Sorry, I don't follow... If I can design a stable cold fusion reactor in a month, everyone gets free electricity forever, whether the population of the earth is 500 or 500 trillion.

                If my next-most-desirable means of employment is delivering underwear to tanning salons for $1,200/mo. then the cost of designing the reactor is $1,201.

                The number of people who could benefit doesn't matter.
                • And if I value getting free electricity forever at $3, and so does everyone else, then what? $3 isn't enough for me to hunt down everyone else who would benefit and convince everyone to pitch in to pay you, so even though the total value of the reactor would be $trillions, where does the $1,201 come from?
                  • by Kadin2048 (468275)
                    The $1201 is $1 more than the next-most-profitable thing the engineer could do with his time as an alternative. That's the only cost that really matters.

                    If you're talking about a society, all compensation above and beyond that point is waste -- it's not serving any purpose because the task would have gotten done for less anyway. So allowing the engineer to charge everyone $3/yr from now until the end of time is a poor option. It's creating a huge misallocation of resources.

                    There are two prices in every ma
                  • "And if I value getting free electricity forever at $3, and so does everyone else, then what? $3 isn't enough for me to hunt down everyone else who would benefit.. "

                    Thanks for asking; here's what happens in that case (please note, I'm assuming something resembling a free market here).

                    Some crafty entrepreneur realizes the potential market value of the generator's output is ($3 X num/ppl), let's say $3K. Heshe spends a month hunting down everyone, signing contracts, hooking them up to the service, then pays t
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by c0p0n (770852)
          Someone please ring 0-800-ANALOGY-POLICE [voxpopdesign.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        "the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

        Moglen

        At the same time, how is it possible to produce those works if you need to spend your time producing something salable so that you can eat? Somebody needs to pay you for something, and the most effective way we've figured out to do that seems to be to restrict availability of what you produce to only those who can pay you for it.

        I think this model is horribly broken, but what would be a good, general, replacement for it? Not everyone can get sponsorships...

        • "Somebody needs to pay you for something" This is actually not true. You may *want very much to get money for something you've done, such as compose a melody or arranged your toenail clippings into a heart shape. But in a free society decisions about who *actually gets paid are made in a distributed way. Namely, they are made based on the marginal utility of what you've created, and the availability and price of the next-best substitute.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            "Somebody needs to pay you for something" This is actually not true.
            Or rather, you need to do something that someone will pay you for. And if that something ends up being digging ditches instead of writing software, then that software just doesn't get made.
            • Correct. That software doesn't get made. Some other software gets made.

              In the same vein, some other ditches don't get dug because the people who potentially would have dug 'em are writing the software that got made.
            • Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it! In other words, there was no loss.

              • Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it! In other words, there was no loss.

                Maybe. Or maybe it would have been a little bit useful to a lot of people, useful enough to pay a dollar or two but not useful enough to spend the time to find eachother and collectively hire someone. Cases like this are not well served by the current system, and it's an interesting question to see if there could be a better system.

              • by AoT (107216)

                Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it!
                Unless the people who needed it didn't have any money. But poor people don't *really* count.
        • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:03PM (#22435038)
          it'd be interesting to see what would happen if the only reason people produced reproducible artistic works was for the love of it or the urge to express oneself, and if the only reason people produced reproducible reference texts was because they needed to use them themselves. of course this situation would be augmented by the odd occasion when people would pay someone to produce one of these works because they wanted one for themselves. i've just re-read that and realised that is exactly how free software works, so i suppose such a system would work just as well as free software has. which is very very well indeed.
          • It works fairly well, the question is can it be made to work better. Right now, there are a number of disconnects between making useful things and getting paid. It would be nice if those disconnects could be removed, without adding overhead that lessens the usefulness like our current copyright system seems to do.
          • by evilviper (135110)

            i've just re-read that and realised that is exactly how free software works, so i suppose such a system would work just as well as free software has.

            Unfortunately, you are mistaken. Open source software has several factors going for it, that would not be true if applied to art.

            For one, numerous open source projects are funded by companies who stand to financially benefit from the fruits of the project... eg. If you sell a web server, you might benefit from a good web browser being available to the public.

        • well... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte@fre e n e t h e l p.org> on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:11PM (#22435136) Homepage Journal
          "At the same time, how is it possible to produce those works if you need to spend your time producing something salable so that you can eat? Somebody needs to pay you for something, and the most effective way we've figured out to do that seems to be to restrict availability of what you produce to only those who can pay you for it."

          Though I do not doubt that for some (high-cost) things it would cause problems, as a general statement, there are a few answers to your question.

          First of, let's not make a false dillemma; it's not a matter of all the time devoted to produce those works, or all the time devoted towards something that earns money - at least, not necessarily. One can, for instance, have another job that earns you money, and create 'art' works (or whatever) as an aside. While time is limited, it's seldom limited to the point where one has absolutely NO time left to do something else than 'work for a living'.

          Secondly, while it's not always possible to have one major mecenas (as was the case in the middle ages, often), the internet also provides the possibility (at least, potentially) to have micro-payments. So, instead of one big sponsor, one can have several minor ones. As long as your product is popular, I think there is a definite chance of that. (As an example; see Freenet; it's paying a full time devl for several years now, just by what people donate to the project.)

          Secondly; your assertation at the end is false. There have been examples enough where people did not need to pay for something (well, unless one goes into semantics and conclude that only the sun rises for free). It's not an absolute necessity; though of course, in our capitalistic society (which I agree works much better than a communistic one ;-)) as a whole, the market rules, and people pay for products they want. But it must be said that the cost for a product consist of the material, and the time/work one put in it. In this respect, digital 'products' are something outside the normal. (And, in extension, all 'IP' is.) The cost of material there is...well, none. One DOES put time/work in it - in the ORIGINAL, but that is often not in comparison to the number of digital copies that can be made. After the original, the time/work that one puts in it, is virtually nothing.
          • First of, let's not make a false dillemma; it's not a matter of all the time devoted to produce those works, or all the time devoted towards something that earns money - at least, not necessarily. One can, for instance, have another job that earns you money, and create 'art' works (or whatever) as an aside. While time is limited, it's seldom limited to the point where one has absolutely NO time left to do something else than 'work for a living'.

            Oh, sure, I do that myself actually. But I don't know how useful the stuff I make in my spare time is, and since my bank account doesn't know either there's a limit on how much time I can spend on it -- regardless of how useful it actually is.

            So, instead of one big sponsor, one can have several minor ones. As long as your product is popular, I think there is a definite chance of that. (As an example; see Freenet; it's paying a full time devl for several years now, just by what people donate to the project.)

            Cool, I didn't know they did that. Maybe that is the best option, and we just need to reduce the overhead of actually making donations (need to specifically set up a account with a micropayment service, after finding a service that you actually trust and that the pro

            • by N3wsByt3 (758224)
              "Oh, sure, I do that myself actually. But I don't know how useful the stuff I make in my spare time is, and since my bank account doesn't know either there's a limit on how much time I can spend on it -- regardless of how useful it actually is."

              Well, I don't know how useful the stuff you make is neither. ;-)

              That said, an OS/project like Linux already demonstrated it's usefulnes. Just as with the 'many minor sponsors', you also have the 'many minor time-spendings to make something', I guess. Even pretty larg
        • by mhall119 (1035984)

          Somebody needs to pay you for something

          True enough, but information is not a "thing" in any natural sense. Physical goods are finite, if I make a wooden table I consume wood that I can't then use to make a chair. Physical services are finite, if I do something for one person I consume time and energy that I cannot give to someone else. The "cost" of production is measured by what existed for use before the production but not after.

          Information on the other hand, does not consume any material or service in it's production. The medium of trans

        • Truth Happens [redhatmagazine.com] recently posted a link to an article [kk.org] that proposed ways that artists could be paid for their work in a world in which everything's free. In brief, they are

          1. Immediacy -- You want something now, and you're willing to pay the artist to speed production of a work.

          2. Personalization -- You want something tailored to your needs specifically, like an art request, or a piece of Free / Open-Source Software that does what you need it to do.

          3. Interpretation -- Or consultation. Like what Red Hat
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)
        If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?

        This is so very true. Copyright is theft.
      • by renoX (11677)
        >for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?

        Because if N is the number of user and C the development cost, C/N != 0 even for large N..
        So you still have to find a way for the author to recover the development cost: much less people wants/are able to work for charity.
      • "the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

        Moglen

        "Digital methods of production" may make marginal costs increasingly close to zero, but they don't make them actually zero. So they really don't raise that is

        • by AoT (107216)

          "Digital methods of production" may make marginal costs increasingly close to zero, but they don't make them actually zero.

          If I write a book and someone else starts distributing copies of that book on thepiratebay in pdf format, then the marginal costs for distribution may not be zero, but my costs for distribution are zero.

          Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy.

          Assuming the standard American capitalist economy. But, why should we assume that is the best model to follow? Isn't that they question at hand, whether or not the capitalist model is what we want to use.

          • If I write a book and someone else starts distributing copies of that book on thepiratebay in pdf format, then the marginal costs for distribution may not be zero, but my costs for distribution are zero.

            Sure. Of course, if the first person who buys your book is going to be allowed to do that, you have no economic incentive to write the book at all unless that first person is going to pay all your fixed economic costs (including the opportunity cost of whatever other labor you could have done instead of writ

            • by AoT (107216)

              Sure. Of course, if the first person who buys your book is going to be allowed to do that, you have no economic incentive to write the book at all unless that first person is going to pay all your fixed economic costs (including the opportunity cost of whatever other labor you could have done instead of writing the book during the time it took you to write the book.)

              The vast majority of books that have been written have not been written because the author thought they would make more money than it cost them in time, I would wager that the same is true of the majority of music and the majority of most forms of art. Sure, most of those people would *like* to get paid for their art, but that isn't the reason most art is created. That fact in itself should say something about the creative process and its place in society.

              No, not at all. No matter what system governs economic exchanges, every human action has a (positive or negative) net utility to the actor undertaking it. If it is a negative net utility, there is no incentive to take the action unless a countervailing positive utility is added to it. Cost is simply negative utility. If someone can't be compensated for whatever disutility they experience producing a work, they aren't going to produce it, even if there is no marginal disutility in distributing subsequent copies of the work.

              Yes, I'm aware of economics and your ability to

              • The vast majority of books that have been written have not been written because the author thought they would make more money than it cost them in time

                Sure, but that's immaterial. They've been written because the expected net utility was positive. The expected financial return from sales is in almost every case one of the positive factors, even if it is not the only one, or sufficient on its own.

                I am aware of economics and your ability to spout economic theory does not make your point any more valid.

                Insofa

    • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:33AM (#22434716)
      What's needed are the professors and students to do this. So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.

      I took a course in Technical Business Writing for where as a final project we had to write a real manual for an existing product. That sort of class could easily churn out several good textbooks a semester.
      • by rfunches (800928)

        So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.

        Only cost of materials? Sure, until the printing department realizes they have a captive audience and can charge whatever they want. I just had to buy one of those custom in-house texts -- a series of Harvard business case studies -- and clearly printed on the cover were two prices:

        • Royalty: $27.00
        • List price: $55.13

        Do you really think it takes $28.13 to cover the costs of the bo

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:25PM (#22436240) Homepage

        What's needed are the professors and students to do this.
        See my sig for a whole bunch of examples that already exist.

        So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.
        My experience is that these days, that kind of thing tends to be much more expensive and inefficient that simply putting pdfs on the web. That's what I do for my students, and self-service laser printing on campus only costs them 4 cents a page (which is basically what it costs the school for paper and toner, and is much, much less than it would cost for the ink on a home inkjet printer). If I did it through my campus's bookstore, it would cost more like 8 cents a page. Part of the reason for that is that bookstores normally operate in a system where any books they don't sell, they just return to the publisher for a full refund. But course packets can't be returned, so the bookstore has to eat the extra cost of producing any copies they produced that ended up in a dumpster. To keep from taking a loss, they raise the price. Another factor that raises costs is that the course packs are being produced by paid workers, not by students on a self-serve basis, so the price has to include that labor cost. AFAICT, there are only three reasons any professors are still doing these course packs the old-fashioned way: (a) they don't own the rights to all the materials, and are paying the publisher for permission to use them, (b) they did their materials on a typewriter in 1962, and haven't gotten around to modernizing, or (c) they want to make a royalty. I think c is completely unethical when you're selling to your own students. There's a massive conflict of interest when you can force your students to buy something that puts money in your own pocket. If you want to make royalties from your writing, then ethically you really need to make those royalties from sales to other schools.

        • by dickens (31040)
          Last year I had to pay $45 for a 20 page 8.5x5.5 perfect-bound custom-published book for a World Civilizations I course. Everything in it was public domain except the notes and review questions. I was pretty pissed, since it was such obvious gouging. This year for World Civ II I had a $165 text, which is a great text, but it came shrink-wrapped with a useless study guide that corresponded to a 2-editions-ago version of the text, so not even the topics and chapter numbers matched up.
          • by bcrowell (177657)
            Ouch. Another horror story: At the school where I teach (physics), the math department has a course where the required text is only available in DRM'd digital form. You can only access the text in IE. (Spoofing the user agent string in Firefox doesn't work.) Oh yeah, and the book evaporates at the end of the semester so the student loses access to it. Obligatory link [gnu.org] to Stallman's The Right to Read.
        • My experience is that these days, that kind of thing tends to be much more expensive and inefficient that simply putting pdfs on the web.
          Absolutely, but when I started school, there was one class that was still using punchcards. The web had only been dreamed of.

          In this century, yes, it's best to keep everything in electronic form, so it can be searched and updated properly. Kudos for thinking about your students.
    • Open content is a good idea because it makes information freely available to a larger number of people for no additional cost (compared with limited distribution). However, there is still some fixed cost to be absorbed somewhere in the chain to support the administration and management of legitimate peer review. Presently, publishers absorb this cost. Frankly, it's a pittance compared with the profits they reap from electronic journals, but the service is nonetheless essential for preventing the confusio
      • by yankpop (931224) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:50AM (#22434900)

        However, there is still some fixed cost to be absorbed somewhere in the chain to support the administration and management of legitimate peer review. Presently, publishers absorb this cost.

        Not quite. Peer reviewers are not paid for their efforts, and the associate editors that manage them are not paid for their work. The only people that get paid in any of the journals in my discipline are the technical people responsible for actually assembling the articles, and possibly the top editor who oversees the associate editors. The actual cost of production is tiny compared to the price charged for a subscription.

        A colleague of mine is involved in a small non-profit journal, and he figures he needs to charge less than half of what the mainstream journals do in order to cover his costs. Considering that the big journals will benefit from a substantially larger subscription/content ratio, they really are making out like bandits.

        We have the tools within the academic and library communities to take control of our own publications, what we need is a shift in thinking, and some way to reward running a journal that is on par with the professional prestige associated with actually publishing in it.

        yp.

        • A colleague of mine is involved in a small non-profit journal, and he figures he needs to charge less than half of what the mainstream journals do in order to cover his costs. Considering that the big journals will benefit from a substantially larger subscription/content ratio, they really are making out like bandits.
          Bandits is way too generous.
          I've worked for two of the top three publishers on earth, and I suspect that your colleague could charge 1/10th of what a major publisher would charge and still
    • Let's say that there's more than one DVD's worth of CC content available. What do you send? I'd say, send it all. Each laptop gets one DVD, but a random one. If you want to hear more music, you collaborate with others who have it handy...
  • Good news! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Education in desperately poor countries has too long been held back by the lack of drum-and-bass loops and slash fiction about Professor Snape and Captain Janeway.
  • easy (Score:2, Redundant)

    by rucs_hack (784150)
    http://thepiratebay.org/ [thepiratebay.org]

    sorted...
  • While all of this sounds great, as far as I can tell most of the stuff being offered is in English. Which is great, but why isn't there more of a movement to recreate the most important bits of knowledge -- public sanitation and mosquito control are two big ones -- as part of an educational program that can be stuffed onto a DVD and shipped out. Why are we only hearing about college textbooks, etc. which -- hello out there? are mostly what those of us who have been in the armed services used to refer to as "chloroform in print" or whose relevancy to real world problems is scant at best?


    Simply put -- why aren't we hearing about a focus on education that matters -- in the languages of those who need it most?

    • People publish what they know. Not too many people know squat about mosquito control in third world contries, so they create what they can.

      This is not a bad thing, but I can see your point about all this stuff masking what is really needed.

      As far as stuff being published mostly in English. The text will best be translated by a native speaker who also knows English. Since the OLPC is networked, the translated texts can make it to where they are needed.
    • I only had time to skim the page, but I could not find who their target audience is.

      Teenage American kids?

      Developing country schoolchildren?

      Programmers?

      I'd think the last, from the way they go on and on about the platform and the desktop and such. But then why distribute at SXSW? To bore people and make FOSS seem irrelavant to people at large?

      I think the first page of their document should be their motivation and target audience, not what distro of Linux they think is cool.

      If they're distributing at SXSW, I
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by goldspider (445116)
      Simply put -- why aren't we hearing about a focus on education that matters -- in the languages of those who need it most?

      Because we pride ourselves more on making meaningless gestures to the third-world than on producing real results. That's why we're providing them with laptop computers instead of basic infrastructure and medicine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by renoX (11677)
      > to recreate the most important bits of knowledge -- public sanitation and mosquito control are two big ones -- as part of an educational program

      I would add sex education to the list..
    • by AoT (107216)
      If you are going to learn about mosquito control in more than a superficial manner -- beyond "drop these pills here" -- then you will need some of that "chloroform in print." A real understanding of mosquito control would require a knowledge of biology, ecology, field methods, statistics and probably some other things I'm not aware of. If this weren't the case one could just drop some pamphlets that say something like "slap the little suckers when they land on you," and be done with it.

      Public sanitation h
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      Translation is hard work, and people tend to underestimate how much work it is. My physics textbooks, in English, are free online. Over the years, I've had four or five people contact me, acting extremely enthusiastic about translating them into other languages. One of them translated one chapter into French and then stopped. None of the others actually did any translation. It's the same logic as any open-source software project; although you hear a lot about collaborative development, the bazaar model, etc

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gnujoshua (540710)
      You are right, "most of the stuff being offered is in English." But, that is why we are asking people to collect materials and post them to the wiki. We need everyones help, this includes non-english speakers who can help us find free texts in other languages. Thank you, and if know another language besides English, please add it to the Wiki, too! -Josh
  • Why bother with CDs or DVDs? Why not just pump that shizzle right onto the laptops being given away or sold for dirt cheap?
  • Rifters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pionzypher (886253) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:14AM (#22434522)
    Peter Watts [rifters.com] Has his Rifters series as well as Blindsight up on a CC license. Good series for those who haven't read it.
  • See, it depends. If we want the kids to know that God is a disinterested chap, that cup size is the primary determinant for getting into Heaven, and that hamsters are good for more than just tasty sandwiches (wha?) then this [sancairodicopenhagen.com] ought to go on the stack.

    Then again...

    Parenting classes? Me? Why? Oh come onnnnnnnnn...

  • by kriston (7886) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:25AM (#22434644) Homepage Journal
    One of the more important and not-commonly-know goals of OLPC is for electronic textbooks.
    The people who stand to benefit from OLPC are popularly seen as becoming computer literate, but the real benefit is the fact that these people do not have access to textbooks.
    The OLPC project, with its extremely power-efficient ebook reader mode, attemps to solve the problem of out-of-date textbooks (and no textbooks at all).
    For delivery of electronic textbooks, the Worldspace satellite radio service (http://www.worldspace.com/) already offers 128 kbps for the common good. This bandwidth is available to most of the people who stand to benefit from OLPC (except South America) and is a suitable delivery platform for textbooks.
  • Yes, here comes a lazy, selfish, and mean-spirited comment.

    I participated in the G1G1 program half for altruistic reasons and half for selfish reasons. (A perfect match for the program, right?) I thought that if nothing else, the XO would make a very satisfactory eBook reader for the wealth of public domain material available from Project Gutenberg.

    As with so much about the XO, the hardware is great, and the software is flaky.

    I don't see how the Read activity can be regarded as adequate for reading textbook
    • by grumbel (592662)

      but I will point out that the promise that you could directly view the source of any XO activity directly on the XO itself does not appear to be realized,

      There is a Develop activity in development that should handle the task, but its not finished and not in the stable builds. Just installing your favorite text editor via yum and using that will however work.

      Currently many things in the XO's software are very unfinished and at this point in time "It's open source, so fix it" is really the best advise, since there simply is a lot that isn't done and when you want it fast you have to do it yourself. Its a little sad, but true.

      Anyway, for eBook reading I have h

  • I was extremely excited and enthusiastic about the OLPC and the projects (like sugar) that make it innovative and seductive. But now I'm just deeply disappointed in the inability of OLPC to communicate manufacturing/delivery delays, repeated lies from them about when I would get the laptop, and the total refusal to ship to my new New Zealand address when they had plenty of time to ship it to my domestic address if they had kept any of the delivery promises.

    My support of the project would've extended to pres

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