FUDCon

Note: I’m not a fan of retro blogging but I had started this in Boston, but ran out of time or energy to complete it.

On thursday at the end of Linuxworld I found out that yesterday (friday) there was FUDCon so I decided to go along and find out what was going on. There was an interesting array of talks, from Eclipse to MythTV and OLPC to OpenCourseWare.

One of the most interesting was Chris Blizzard talking about the software side of the olpc project. Chris was at great pains to explain the context for the software and the design decisions they were making. One of the thoughts that stuck with me is that package management in Linux is still broken (rpm, deb, apt, yum, all of them) – one of the great things about Free software is that we can all share, but if Chris has something useful on his laptop, he can’t easily send it to my laptop so I can use it. I think there are some really interesting ideas kicking around the olpc software project, that if they materialise could have a good effect on regular linux distributions and desktops. However, they are on an insane timescale, and they don’t even have developer boards yet (they should be coming in the next few weeks). The machines are due for delivery sometime in Q1 2007 – and as Chris pointed out, they can make no assumptions about the availability of broadband access so the thing has to be more or less done and working by the time it ships, since in the field upgrades might not happen all that frequently.

The other very interesting talk was from Anne Margulies who is the Executive Director of MIT’s OpenCourseWare. I think perhaps, coming from an open source background I hadn’t fully understood what an undertaking, and how revolutionairy OCW is. To completely open up all the course matierials for a prestigious university like MIT was quite a brave and bold move, but one that has paid massive, tangible, dividends for MIT. And now it’s just the start of a revolution, as other universities are starting their own OCW programs (although many other Ivy League institutions still dismiss OCW as marketing or insignificant).

Anne pointed out some of the amazing unanticipated outcomes of OCW; Students now choose MIT because they can “see through” their entire course, and this enables a much better choice of course, staff in different faculties that depend on each other (e.g. Physics course that requires a Maths course) can see and understand each others terminology, and refer students back to previous courses notes, staff working in seemingly unrelated fields finding commonalities in their materials and inspiring new collaborations.

Unfortunately all through the day I had a headache developing and was generally feeling worse and worse, so after Anne’s talk I headed straight to a pharmacy (or what Americans call a drug store), and got some painkillers. This helped a little but I felt worse and worse and ended up crashing in my hotel room for about 18 hours straight. I woke up Saturday evening still with headache but feeling a lot more human. Weird. Anyway Sunday I did get to look around Boston common and the surrounding area after I checked out and before my plane left.

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There was a Greek parade down Boylston, which was a curious site to see. All the churches and Greek schools and Greek Business associations, and a lot of marching bands (Greek or otherwise) all paraded down the street. Unfortunately I’d left my camera in my bag in the hotel, so all I had was the camera in my phone. Thinking about it, it’s probably the same resolution and the first digital camera I bought in 2000.

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