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GNU is Not Unix

Getting Open Source to the Dialup Masses 204

WillSmith writes "South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth Foundation has a solution to getting open source out to places with low broadband : the "freedom toaster". The idea is simple : a bring-and-burn software kiosk."
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Getting Open Source to the Dialup Masses

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  • Eeeeeextra Crispy!
  • Warning: mysql_connect(): Too many connections in /home/jendersby/www/www.freedomtoaster.org/include s/database.mysql.inc on line 31 Too many connections

  • Any Costs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kaellinn18 ( 707759 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @07:43AM (#13220506) Homepage Journal
    As I can't get to the mercilessly Slashdotted site, maybe someone who did can answer a question for me:

    Are there any costs for the user associated with this? The main allure of open source software is that it's free. Although I'm sure if there are costs, it will be comparatively cheap compared to Microsoft, but when you start talking about third world countries, even small costs can be prohibitive. Will people be able to donate CDs to this project so that the project will not have to charge money to reimburse itself for the CDs?
    • Apparently you bring your own CD-Rs to the kiosk. I didn't notice anything about donating CDs, but I didn't read the entire site either. You might be able to find something over at The Shuttleworth Foundation [shuttlewor...dation.com].
    • Re:Any Costs? (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxilion ( 825701 )
      From the homepage:

      What is the Freedom Toaster
      The Freedom Toaster is a conveniently located, self-contained 'Bring 'n Burn' facility, where users bring their own blank discs and make copies of the open source software they require.

      But why do we need this?
      The Freedom Toaster project began as a means of overcoming the difficulty in obtaining Linux and Open Source software due to the restrictive telecommunications environment in South Africa, where the easy downloading of large pieces of software is just

      • Living in South Africa myself, I can attest to the need for this.

        I pay R1000 (+-$150) a month for my 512k ADSL, and that is capped at 3gb per month. Though more and more options are springing up with bigger caps, none of them are cheap by international standards. So with a 3 gig cap I'm always loathed to download even a single cd ISO on any other day than the last of the month.

        Many IT people can only expect to earn +- R5000 a month when they are just starting out, means that for them to have ADSL they have
    • Are there any costs for the user associated with this? The main allure of open source software is that it's free.

      Free as in a Greatful Dead bootleg? Free software has always been about the code being free, not the media.

      If only we could convince AOL to start sending out CD-RWs to everybody in the 3rd world like the floppies of days gone by then they'd be all set.

      Seriously though, wouldn't it be a good idea for these kiosks to include an interface for a flash drive? (If the /.'ed article already says t

    • Actually I think this is what Linux / OSS really needs. People don't have any physical co-relation with OSS. Many people know about software companies by thier big empty boxes and big prices and ask around or look it up to become familiar.

      I think it would not only be cool to goto a mall with a DVD-RW or pay a small fee for an in-house disc with silk-screening as well as locally contributed art work to label the case. I think this would boost public awareness as well get the local hackers stoked at maki
    • A person who can afford to have a computer here generally doesn't care about the cost of a couple of CDs. People burn stuff for themselves and their friends all the time; it's like buying paper. Next to what I believe is the original toaster, there's a vending machine with extremely cheap (and thus probably extremely crappy) CDs. Better CDs cost more, but given the disposable nature of linux distros I've never felt the need to get them for this.

      We have atrocious internet access here. I think if you wor

    • maybe someone who did can answer a question for me:
      Are there any costs for the user associated with this?

      There are other questions worth asking as well:

      How many South Africans own personal computers? In absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. Where do they live, how much do they earn? What sort of hardware are they buying, what operating system and applications are they using now? What is the street price for Windows, for Office, for PC games?

      Is it a smart decision, the right decision,

    • but when you start talking about third world countries, even small costs can be prohibitive

      South Africa may be a third-world country if you divide GDP by population, due to the relatively large population, but it is by no means poor - it has the 29th-largest GDP in the world, and most of the wealth is held by about a quarter of the population (about 10 million people), meaning that for that segment of the population, South Africa is first-world. Most of the white people here, and now the "emerging black m

  • LOL, brand new story and already http://www.freedomtoaster.org/ [freedomtoaster.org] seems slashdotted. Long live google's cache :-)
  • by ephex ( 898529 )
    this server is down already and this is like what, the second/third post..
    • Please remember that the site is hosted in south africa where bandwdth is expensive. we have the worlds most expensive adsl. Look at www.hellkom.co.za for more bad internet stories.
    • Come on guys, their server is actually a toaster. What do you expect? I think they still use HTCPCP [faqs.org], too.

      [request]
      Can we get an "auto-coral-cache" feature implemented on /.?
      [/request]
  • by fboliv ( 584327 )
    I almost thought they were actually going to bring food to places where it lacks. That'd be a freedom toaster alright.
    • This is why I have ".inc" on my AddType application/x-httpd-php line. I also have ".asp" and ".cfm", but I don't really expect anybody to be fooled for a moment.

      Of course, if you use .inc.php for an extension on your includes {unix doesn't care about double-barrelled extensions; in fact, it doesn't care about extensions at all, a dot is just a legal character in a filename} then you won't have to worry about this sort of thing. And the chances are that the worst thing you can expose is a MySQL userna
    • There don't seem to be any passwords, but I'll bet this is a common issue! Just guess at names...
  • I call it "the mail." Each house gets a local kiosk called a "mailbox." Whenever someone needs Open Source software, a central "server" sends the software to the "mailbox" in "trucks."

    Someone should totally do this.
  • Alternative Info at this Site [shuttlewor...dation.org]
  • It seems to me that OSS in Linux distributions need some form of update that doesn't require downloading the entire application again.

    Apt and Yum seem to be the main software update mechanisms in use at the moment on Linux, but both seem to require you to download the entire application or library that you're updating.

    Surely some sort of patch system can be devised?

    I understand that providing patches for multiple versions could be troublesome, but couldn't they be cumulative?

    The current bandwidth requiremen
    • IIRC the latest Suse already uses binary diffs for updating. So the technology seems to be ready, now we just need more distributions using it.

      On an other note, maybe it would be a good idea if the freedomtoaster stations would also offer security update CDs once a month.
      • IIRC the latest Suse already uses binary diffs for updating.

        Not unless it has changed recently. Suse's approach always used to be "well, out of this package of two hundred files, only these ten have changed, so we'll send out a cut-down package with only those ten files instead of including all two hundred". This is certainly an improvement over the RedHat and Debian approach (which sends out complete packages, including duplicates of unmodified files), but is far worse than using actual binary diffs [daemonology.net], whi
    • I'd estimate that most patches these days are due to software vulnerabilities. If these machines aren't connected to the internet full time, then the need to patch frequently probably diminishes some. Though, you are right - the problem still persists for functionality bugs.
    • I'd like to see someone name packages the same (ie, don't put version numbers in the package names) and use rsync to keep a local repository in sync with a remote repository. Something along the lines of apt's cache.

      BTW, several Gentoo packages have updates that consist of a patch to the original source, and you just pull down the patch if you already have the source.
    • Apt and Yum seem to be the main software update mechanisms in use at the moment on Linux, but both seem to require you to download the entire application or library that you're updating.

      My situation means that I'm stuck with a dialup connection for much of the time. I use Debian (etch/testing).

      The most frustrating thing that I find with apt is that it's necessary to re-download the entire package list simply to find out what packages have been updated. If you like to subscribe to two sections (

      • A couple of good points there.

        But be thankful you're not on Fedora (yeah yeah I know, shut it ;), the package list updates on Yum seem particularly heavy. Apt got on my nerves a bit, but Yum is slow on *cable*.

        The minor upgrades thing is particularly significant I think. Some sort of scale of upgrade importance would be nice.

        "I just want critical security updates today please".

        Yes that would be great.
  • Haven't read the article since the server's gone already, but what's to prevent someone from say downloading warez and burning that onto a CD? Would they get into trouble if someone did? Personally I don't think it should, but then again, considering how tools are often vilified based on one possible use.
    • You can't surf and download from the toaster - it's effectively a PC in a box with a touch screen and a CD burner slot. You put your blank into the slot and use the touch screen to select from a list of distros and other OSS CD/DVD material that have been preloaded onto the toaster by the Shuttleworth Foundation's people. It burns it for you and voila.

      One has recently been installed at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa (where I live). It looks good and works well - each toaster has a
      • Y'know, getting this in the universities across the world might be a good idea. I have a lot of friends who'd love to try something FLOSSy that goes beyond Firefox, but they just don't know where to get it.

        Of course, I could use the joke of "Does it run Linux," as we all know that the ultimate troll wet dream is to get Linux actually running on a toaster, but knowing Shuttleworth's reputation (eccentric gazillionare trying to overthrow our old overlord, Bill Gates), it probably runs a hacked-up Ubuntu.
        • I would imagine Mark Shuttleworth would be delighted to have one in every campus (high school and university) on the planet. Hell, one in every shopping mall would be great.

          I would further imagine that the design and software of such a thing would be gladly provided to any organisation willing to do this in their own country - know of anyone?

          Mark Shuttleworth and this foundation are yet another entry on a list of reasons to feel good to be South African...

    • [W]hat's to prevent someone from say downloading warez and burning that onto a CD?
      The fact that there be no "warez" on the Freedom Toaster's HDD to begin with, nor any means for a regular user to get them there?
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
    In some parts of the world, broadband internet has a somewhat lower priority than things like clean drinking water and efficient sewers. {Even though you have to admit the logistics are simpler}.

    The bandwidth of a Ford Transit packed with CD-Rs should certainly not be underestimated!
    • I guess it would be overly cynical of me to point out that Ubuntu routinely pushes out several hundred megs of updates every few weeks ... and the installer insists on downloading them if you have a network connection, wanted or not.

      I don't think any distro that practically requires broadband to stay up to date (ie, all of them) is going to cut it for the third world. On the other hand, if you don't have the internet at all, then you don't really need updates do you?

      • Ubuntu routinely pushes out several hundred megs of updates every few weeks

        My ubuntu stable box has had probably 20MB of updats since installation, and most of that was firefox - Even the unstable box only has an average of 10MB/week, since I only update things when I want the latest version...

    • clean drinking water

      Actually, South Africa has one of the most advanced waste-water management systems in the world. In spite of being the 30th-driest country in the world, the majority of the population have access to clean drinking water at a low cost (practically free for the poor), and drinkable water is piped directly through the taps into every home here - you don't need to buy bottled water. We literally flush our toilets with drinking water here!

      The reason for the lack of broadband here has nothi

  • .. be the first Toaster to be slashdotted?
  • ubuntu + dialup? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @08:01AM (#13220575) Homepage Journal

    I have literally just got back from upgrading my sister in-law's pc from RH 9 to Ubuntu. She just got an iPod and I decided to upgrade the OS before installing gtkpod.

    So there I am all ready to apt-get gtkpod and...

    ...where is the ppp dialer? It's not there. Now I know that ubuntu tries to be lightweight but surely something could come out to make way for a gnome ppp program? Not being able to get on line pretty much ended my quest to get the ipod working.

    It seems to have wvdial so I could probably have got online that way. But that is not going to help the mums and dads, though.

    • System -> Admin -> Network settings. Select "modem".
      • System -> Admin -> Network settings. Select "modem".

        Thanks, but how do you tell it to dial? Is this another case of gnome simplifying something to the point where it can no longer be used?

        BTW I have never been able to figure out how to use the cd burner in nautilus. I must be looking at it the wrong way.

        • BTW I have never been able to figure out how to use the cd burner in nautilus. I must be looking at it the wrong way.

          If you are trying to burn music CDs from Mp3s or something...it won't do that. That burner is only good for CDRs or DVDRs. You need to install Graveman or Gnomebaker (I like Graveman more). The next Ubuntu will have a program installed for this purpose by default.

    • You see, you can't really expect Ubuntu developers to be among the modem-using crowd. They are the kind of people for whom available ISPs can be a factor when buying/renting a home.
      I still remember the day when I finally got rid of a modem [angband.pl].

      You don't really notice an itch that doesn't personally affect you or users savvy enough to send a bug report.
      • You see, you can't really expect Ubuntu developers to be among the modem-using crowd

        Yes, perhaps. But for much of the land surface area of Australia and Africa, a modem is the only economical way to get on line. ADSL just won't work 200 km from the nearest exchange. Especially if you have to twist the wires together to get anything at all.

        Given the African origins of Ububtu I am a bit surprised that this was left out. Particularly considering how it is such a blocking issue.

    • So there I am all ready to apt-get gtkpod and... ...where is the ppp dialer? It's not there. Now I know that ubuntu tries to be lightweight but surely something could come out to make way for a gnome ppp program? Not being able to get on line pretty much ended my quest to get the ipod working. It seems to have wvdial so I could probably have got online that way. But that is not going to help the mums and dads, though.

      I'm one of the biggest helpers on the Ubuntu forum. I personally believe that Ubuntu is a

      • I personally believe that Ubuntu is a broadband OS. The updates are big, and it doesn't shine till you can use synaptic on a fat pipe. I point dial-up people to Debian.

        Many people around the world dont have access to broadband. At the same time Ubuntu is easier to get than many other distros because of the free CD's from shipit.

        It is also very simple to install (at least compared to redhat) and lightweight (about 1 G once installed) which makes it ideal for small home users.

        I take your point about updat

  • If the OSS community could convince AOL to add a Linux distro to their ubiquitous CDs, I'm sure it would reach a lot of people. AOL may not be blanketing the world with disks like they used to, but they are still everywhere (in USPS change-of-address packets, next to store cash registers, and in the occasional Sunday newspaper).
    • But just imagine how many people would take those linux CD's and actually try installing it. These are the people that likely have trouble using AOL (there's a lot of them out there) and suddenly a little clicking through the FDISK screens in the installer has their computer in the shop and them wondering where their bookmarks are. It would happen, and be quite a liability for AOL. I'd imagine their tech support would be ringing off the hook the day the linux CD's showed up in people's mailboxes. Not to
    • If the OSS community could convince AOL to add a Linux distro to their ubiquitous CDs, I'm sure it would reach a lot of people.

      And although I'm sure this idea will get flame broiled here, I think Linspire would be the distro for AOL to go with, as it is clearly aimed at the same general audience. Maybe Linspire would actually take this up with AOL?

    • They could even make their own distro! Just imagine, AOLinux... oh the horrors....
  • RMS has many times said that the GNU Project isn't about Open Source.
    • RMS says a lot of things ,he also said

      GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.

      The official definition of "open source software," as published by the Open Source Initiative, is very close to our definition of free software; however, it is a little looser

  • Who pays for the hardware for this?

    Who pays the rental for its location? No point placing it where no one can find it? Need to be in a mall or something.

    Who insures it against all thrid party risks? If this is in a public place then it need insuring.

    Who maintains it?

    Who designs it?

    etc.

    Pipe dream people. Move along.
    • Boom. [slashdot.org]

      Have a nice day!
    • The maintenance (both physical and software), the design and I would imagine the insurance is paid for by the Shuttleworth Foundation [shuttlewor...dation.org], with a volunteer (or several) near each location to ensure all is well. The Shuttleworth Foundation has the backing of Mark Shuttleworth (who doesn't struggle for funds) to keep going, which also pays for the hardware. The fundingis in place and will continue to be in place.

      Here in South Africa, toasters have been placed in a few shopping malls and university campuses. I wou
    • Who pays for the hardware for this?

      Mark Shuttleworth perhaps?

      Who pays the rental for its location? No point placing it where no one can find it? Need to be in a mall or something.

      How about the back of a car or 4WD?

      Who insures it against all thrid party risks? If this is in a public place then it need insuring.

      Probably a secondary consideration in the parts of Africa where it is going to be used.

      Who maintains it?

      Whoever is handy. I suppose. Organisations like MSF seem to be able to deliver skil

    • Erm, well the funding, design, maintenance and so on is handled by the Shuttleworth Foundation. This, if you were not aware is a group set up by everyone's favorite South African multi-millionaire and Astronaut, Mark Shuttleworth.

      As for being a pipe dream, if you check a few posts above yours someone mentions they are already installed in and around Durban, working quite well apparently.
      • I made the comment you are talking about, about there being several in and around Durban. As far as I know there is only one in Durban at the moment. What I meant was that there are several around the country, in various malls and university campuses.

        Poorly worded from me there, I'm afraid.
    • RTFA and all will be revealed...
      We are pretty creative in this 'third world country'
    • If you bothered to do a bit of research, you'd see. The Shuttleworth Foundation pays for the hardware. The Shuttleworth Foundation pays for the location rental. They're spread all over our country, in malls, universities, and so on, where anybody can find them. The ISOs are already on the toaster - you can't download and burn warez, because they're not connected to the internet. You bring your own blank CDs along and put them in the burner, use the touchscreen to choose which ISO you want to burn, and
      • I see, funded by a charity or something.

        I admit I didn't realise this was Africa where charity rules the roost. My comments we about having this kind of think in the first world.
        • My god you're a dumbass. Some subjects you should brush up on at school tomorrow:

          • Geography
          • History
          • Macroeconomics
          • English Comprehension
          • Spelling
  • No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame

    For those who don't get it
    http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/10/23/ 1816257&tid=107 [slashdot.org]

  • the "freedom toaster" is toast!
  • These distros are way too freaking big!

    Honestly even SLS was bareley downloadable on a 2400 baud modem. It took me freaking 2 weeks in 1992 to get a barely usable system.

  • Did he really refer to dial-up as "low broadband?" Why do I feel this is like taking the "F" out of school grades?
  • A reliable source for Freedom Toast!
  • Sorry, this is dumb but do you think that's really his last name? I mean the guy went into space and his last name just happens to have the word "shuttle" in it?

    I'm thinking all famous people must change their last names to make then sound cool:

    Bill Joy
    Mark Cuban .. I'm sure there are more.

    Let me know, it's a question that's been bugging me for years.
  • Does it produce freedom toast? Will it include a freedom frier for freedom fries as well?
  • It's called "Go Open" and was produced in South Africa.

    You can download the first two seasons for free at:

    http://www.legaltorrents.com/ [legaltorrents.com]

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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