Posts about open source

Open Source Seeds

I find the current status of government granted patents to be very flawed, including patenting life.

Plant Breeders Release First ‘Open Source Seeds’

A group of scientists and food activists is launching a campaign Thursday to change the rules that govern seeds. They’re releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new “open source pledge” that’s intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely.

Irwin Goldman, a vegetable breeder at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, helped organize the campaign. It’s an attempt to restore the practice of open sharing that was the rule among plant breeders when he entered the profession more than 20 years ago.

Good for them. This needs to be supported. The crazy practices of seed companies shouldn’t be legal but they pay lots of cash to politicians and the corrupt politicians (which seems to be an awful lot of them) write bad policy and encourage bad regulation.

Even those administrators taking control of universities have subjugated the search for knowledge and improvement to seek monetary gain instead of what the universities used to prioritize. It is a shame and those that have distorted universities so much should be ashamed.

Initial efforts that lead to the bad place we find universities in now were to promote the adoption of university research. To do so they partnered with business in sensible ways. Then administrators saw money was being made and turned the priority into making money and if that meant restricting the benefits to society of university research so be it. This has created universities that have lost ethical foundations and have destroyed a big part of the value universities used to provide society.

Related: Open-Source Biotech (2006)Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Prevent Research (2009)The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in ScienceArduino: Open Source Programmable HardwareMoney Is Corrupting Our Political Process

Open Source Ecology: Using Open Engineering to Create Economic Benefit

Open Source Philosophy. from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

I think the video’s message is overly simplistic and unrealistic (great innovations often seem unrealistic so I don’t mind people trying things I don’t think are likely to succeed in the ways they imagine). But I believe in the concepts of using our knowledge to use appropriate technology to make the standard of living better for everyone. Open access to scientific knowledge is important to such efforts and to the economic well being of modern society.

Open Source Ecology provides a modular, DIY (open access), low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. The are recruiting for an Operations Manager, and an Executive Team (based in Kansas City or New York City in the USA).

Related: Pay as You Go Solar in IndiaStudent Engineers Without Borders Project: Learning While Making a Difference in KenyaReducing Poverty Through Entrepreneurism

Arduino Introduction Video Tutorial

Arduino is a very cool open source programable hardware engineering initiative. It is great for kids and adults who like to learn and create electronic devices. The Arduino Starter Kit is a great education gift for those interested in such things.

The video explains how to build a basic circuit with the Arduino board, and how to use each of the basic components such as LEDs, switches, and resistors. See more videos on related topics. Massimo Banzi, the co-creator and CEO of Arduino, and seen in the videos, also has a book: Getting Started with Arduino.

Related: Schematics of Electronic CircuitsEZ-Builder Robot Control Software

Great 3D Printing Presentation

Very fun presentation by 10 year old on 3D printing and the open source Makerbot at Ignite Phoenix.

Related: 3D Printing is Here (2009 post looking at 3D printers)Open Source 3-D PrintingExpensive Ink (for regular printers)

Arduino: Open Source Programmable Hardware

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language and the Arduino development environment.

The boards can be built by hand or purchased preassembled; the software can be downloaded for free. The hardware reference designs (CAD files) are available under an open-source license, you are free to adapt them to your needs.

See the getting started guide to try for yourself.

Related: Home Engineering: Physical Gmail NotifierSelf Re-assembling Robots
Lego Mindstorms Robots Solving: Sudoku and Rubik’s CubeBabbage Difference Engine In Lego

Google Wave Developer Preview Webcast

Google Wave is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. The presentation was given at Google I/O 2009. The demo shows what is possible in a HTML 5 browser. They are developing this as an open access project. The creative team is lead by the creators for Google Maps (brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen) and product manager Stephanie Hannon.

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Very cool stuff. The super easy blog interaction is great. And the user experience with notification and collaborative editing seems excellent. The playback feature to view changes seems good though that is still an area I worry about on heavily collaborative work. Hopefully they let you see like all change x person made, search changes…

They also have a very cool context sensitive spell checker that can highlight mis-spelled words that are another dictionary word but not right in the context used (about 44:30 in the webcast).

For software developer readers they also highly recommended the Google Web Development Kit, which they used heavily on this project.

Related: Joel Spolsky Webcast on Creating Social Web ResourcesRead the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 35 LanguagesLarry Page and Sergey Brin Interview WebcastGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.
Continue reading

Google Summer of Code 2009

Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects. Google funds the program with $4,500 for each student (and pays the mentor organization $500). Google works with several open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period.

Since its inception in 2005, the program has provided opportunities for nearly 2500 students, from nearly 100 countries. Through Google Summer of Code, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from the participating projects, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development scenarios and the opportunity for employment in areas related to their academic pursuits. In turn, the participating projects are able to more easily identify and bring in new developers. Best of all, more source code is created and released for the use and benefit of all.

Google funded approximately 400 student projects in 2005, 600 in 2006, 900 in 2007 and 1125 in 2008 and will be funding approximately 1,000 student projects in 2009.

Applying for the program is only allowed from March 23rd through April 3rd. Still a short period of time but in previous years they have only taken them for one week. Organizations hosting students include: Creative Commons, MySQL, Debian, The Electronic Frontier Foundation/The Tor Project, haskell.org, Grameen Foundation USA, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Ruby on Rails, Wikimedia Foundation and WordPress. See the full list of organizations and link to descriptions of the projects each organization offers.

See the externs.com internship directory (another curiouscat.com ltd. site) for more opportunities including those in science and engineering.

Related: Google Summer of Code Projects 2008posts on fellowships and scholarshipsLarry Page on How to Change the Worldcomic on programmersInterview of Steve Wozniak

Data Analysts Captivated by R’s Power

Data Analysts Captivated by R’s Power

data mining has entered a golden age, whether being used to set ad prices, find new drugs more quickly or fine-tune financial models. Companies as diverse as Google, Pfizer, Merck, Bank of America, the InterContinental Hotels Group and Shell use it.

Close to 1,600 different packages reside on just one of the many Web sites devoted to R, and the number of packages has grown exponentially. One package, called BiodiversityR, offers a graphical interface aimed at making calculations of environmental trends easier.

Another package, called Emu, analyzes speech patterns, while GenABEL is used to study the human genome. The financial services community has demonstrated a particular affinity for R; dozens of packages exist for derivatives analysis alone. “The great beauty of R is that you can modify it to do all sorts of things,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And you have a lot of prepackaged stuff that’s already available, so you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.”

R first appeared in 1996, when the statistics professors Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman of the University of Auckland in New Zealand released the code as a free software package. According to them, the notion of devising something like R sprang up during a hallway conversation. They both wanted technology better suited for their statistics students, who needed to analyze data and produce graphical models of the information. Most comparable software had been designed by computer scientists and proved hard to use.

R is another example of great, free, open source software. See R packages for Statistics for Experimenters.

via: R in the news

Related: Mistakes in Experimental Design and InterpretationData Based Decision Making at GoogleFreeware Math ProgramsHow Large Quantities of Information Change Everything

Providing Computer to Remote Students in Nepal

photo of students using computers in Nepal

Pupils conquer fear of computers

“I was really scared when I saw the computer,” he says. “I didn’t go near it. I was worried it might explode and kill me. “It was only when the teacher called me saying it was harmless that I went into the room, but I still hesitated.” Things have changed now, he adds.

“I’m feeling much better. The E-library has helped with my studies. “We can see the periodic table of science, and also maps and other geography things in a pictorial way that is easy to understand. It’s not only that – we can also play games and have fun.”

Kamal says his parents were very excited when he told them about the computer and came to watch the very next day. It was not only Kamal. His computer teacher, Shankar Prajapati, says all the pupils were afraid. “They all worried they would catch some virus and fall ill or even die. But now they are familiar with computers,” he says.

“Even we teachers are gaining knowledge from the E-library. It’s really helpful for us, too. “The students can see science experiments carried out on screen and search for whatever they want in the encyclopaedia.

This is a free and open-source (accessible to everyone) package which connects one powerful central server in the school, using the Linux operating system, to a number of diskless low-end computers. When linked to the server, each computer receives a full Linux desktop.

Read more about the Help Nepal Network’s eLibrary program. Photos from this web site shows students in Nepal using computers.

In the face of rapidly changing technological advancement and the exorbitant cost of proprietary hardware and software solutions, which had stymied Nepal in attempting to participate in ICT for development, the use for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is emerging as a solution.

Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) can be a low cost solution for deprived communities who cannot afford a bigger volume financial expense.

LTSP, a system that works with only one central high end server and other diskless low-end thin client computers, allows to run Linux on a server, and then use thin clients (almost any computer will do) to connect to the server and receive a full-blown Linux desktop.

I believe strongly in the ability of kids to learn if they are just provided some tools that help them do so. See a great post on Hole in the Wall computers.

Related: A Child’s View of the OLPC LaptopFixing the World on $2 a DayOpen Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingWhat Business Can Learn from Open Source

Open Source Abandoned by OLPC

Not Free at Any Price by Richard M. Stallman

When the OLPC appeared, it fell one step short of full freedom: the highly publicized wireless mesh network device, which allows OLPCs to connect to the Internet through nearby OLPCs, required a non-free program. This piece of non-free code prevented me from fully endorsing the OLPC. But that would not stop me from using one: I would just have to delete the non-free code and do without the internal wireless device.

The OLPC had practical inconveniences, too: no internal hard disk, a small screen, and a tiny keyboard. In December 2007 I test-drove the OLPC with an external keyboard, and concluded I could use it with an external disk despite the small screen. I decided to switch.

If you want to support a venture to distribute low-priced laptops to children, wait a few months, then choose one that donates MIPS-based machines that run entirely free software. That way you can be sure to give the gift of freedom.

He is more anti-microsoft than I am but I agree with this contention that what we should support is a open source solution to provide laptops to children around the world. It is a shame, I really liked the potential for OLPC. I still wish them success I just am not interesting in directly supporting that effort but instead would like an alternative open source solution.

The Sylvania Netbook is available from Amazon now with the Ubuntu operating system (linux version). I use Ubuntu and it is excellent.

Related: Will Desktop Linux Take Off?Lemote (fully open source laptop)13 Things For Ubuntuposts on UbuntuGreat FreewareOne Laptop Per Child – Give One Get OneOLPC’s Open Source Rift Deepens

Stellarium

Stellarium is free open source planetarium for your computer.

Related: Learn Physics with Free Space Flight SimulatorFun Physics Freeware GameFold.it, the Protein Folding Game

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