June 13, 2008

Grassroots OLPC Jam scheduled for this weekend

Author: Tina Gasperson

This weekend, the One Laptop per Child movement in New York City is holding an OLPC "Grassroots Jam" at the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. The Jam is a gathering of volunteer educators, content creators, artists, writers, programmers, engineers, and others who want to help create a central server for NYC schools that already make use of OLPC laptops.

According to LXNY secretary Jay Sulzberger, the server will provide "automatic backups, end-to-end encryption and authentication of email, extra processing power for individual and group tasks, convenient Bitfrosting (working with the default OLPC security platform), and [working] with programs which today do not yet run on the XO-1 [laptop]."

The group hopes to attract at least 50 volunteers, and to create a working server by Sunday evening, although it is likely much more work will need to be done before a working server, dubbed "School in a Box," could be officially deployed to serve all OLPC users in the NYC area educational system, Sulzberger says. Interested persons can volunteer at the Grassroots Jam wiki.

The School in a Box system is supposed to integrate the use of the OLPC laptops with curriculum modules hosted on the server, according to the Grassroots Jam team, who are also inviting local schoolchildren to the event, accompanied by parents, to test the new system.

Sulzberger encourages local free software advocates to attend the event, regardless of how they feel about the OLPC program. "Despite the recent brouhaha over reported statements of Nicholas Negroponte, and despite a years-long concerted campaign by Microsoft and Intel against the OLPC, today there are for sale about 10 competing small light laptops, none of which would be available without the success in the market of the XO-1. While the XO-1 was for sale, it was the fastest selling laptop ever. The nearest competitor, the Asus Eee PC, is right now the fastest selling laptop. Most of these new small laptops run GNU/Linux as their base system. Later this year the XO-1 will again be offered for sale, under the Give One Get One arrangement, as before. To repeat, the success of the XO-1 is extraordinary: it is superior in hardware, it runs a free OS, and it outsells the competition at a price disadvantage of 'pay for two, get one.'

"The Englobulators have money and reporters and whole governments of large states on their side. So we must work hard to keep the ground we have won. And we must work even harder to drive them from the field. And this is why you should come to the OLPC Grassroots Jam."

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