Getting virtual worlds away from a computer screen and into a physical classroom space doesn’t have to be hard. These Greenbush Labs guys are using a commercial computer/whiteboard link to run open source software based on the KAT. How cool is that?
How will it change the world to give millions of children low-cost computers and open source software? The first real effect is to provoke a response from Microsoft.
Initially Wintel executives dismissed and ridiculed the OLPC project. But now Microsoft is employing the infamous embrace-and-destroy practice that it has always used to subdue competition.
People are already reporting that Microsoft now plans to give away crippled versions of their software for as little as $3 a copy. But take a look at the real deal. Professional edition can be had for a dollar. Most importantly, the program offers cheap used junk Wintel computers, with Microsoft paying half the cost. In order to place their software in the world’s hands, they intend to undercut the complete OLPC package cost by roughly half. Never mind that the crap boxes consume massive amounts of unavailable power, require massive wired infrastructure through the rainforests, are full of toxins, not hardened against sand and kid use, etc. And of course, the software is the same crap they foist on the rest of us.
I have pushed for support for CUWiN for years as one of the great hopes for open source mesh networking using unlicensed spectrum. To unpack that a little from geek speak, it means using non-proprietary code to create nodes that use unlicensed spectrum to form a network by speaking to each other rather than sending a signal point-to-point from a central “hub” (“hub-and-spoke”). You can find a good illustration of the difference between mesh and hub-and-spoke (and good general introduction to community wireless) on this Free Press page.
CUWiN has spent years developing useful open source software and other tools designed to make wireless networks cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to implement in multiple communities and environments. CUWiN software and methods have created networks in Ghanna, the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Champaign and Urbana, and the San Diego Tribal Digital Village in San Diego County. Their software is freely available and downloadable fromtheir website.
People who care about creating ubiquitous and affordable wireless broadband around the world should be throwing money at CUWiN hand over fist. Sadly, as with so many good and desperately needed projects, CUWiN has lived starved for funds and hand to mouth.
The NSF grant gives CUWiN much needed money to continue and expand its good work. I’m also hopeful that “money follows money” as they say in the grant world. With this level of support from NSF, I hope CUWiN finds it easier to open doors at other foundations and grant sources.
I reprint the CUWiN press release about the grant below.
I shall attempt to translate from the econ speak for the unitiated, as well as explain why Cooper’s discovery/description of a phenomena called a “collaborative good” has such huge implications for public policy.