SFD around the Commonwealth/Wayne Mackintosh

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Educational beliefs

I believe that all educators and learners should have the freedom to use the technologies of their choice.

Education, is a fundamental right of all people, yet sadly 4 billion of the world's six billion people are under served educationally. There are some things which belong in the commons and education is one of them. If we are serious about widening access to knowledge and education we must foster and promote the creation of free educational content combined with the rights for everyone to use, modify and distribute this content in an unrestricted way. In this way knowledge becomes inherently scalable.

For many years I have advocated the use of free software and the collaborative development of free content for education. I have lobbied institutions, encouraged the adoption of FLOSS technologies at the strategic management level, talked about FLOSS during presentations and advised colleagues and friends on the merits of open source technologies based on well-founded business arguments.

A schizophrenic life

However, I was living a schizophrenic life. On the one hand promoting the adoption of FLOSS at an institutional level, yet reluctant to use these technologies on my own desktop. I justified my contradictory lifestyle using the feeble excuse that I would migrate when desktop technologies had matured to the level of the infrastructure FLOSS applications and consoling my coexistence using Open Office and the Firefox browser for a few years prior to my conversion. Making matters worse was my leadership of the eLearning XHTML editor project – an open source development funded by the Tertiary Education commission of New Zealand, although I can honestly attest to the fact that all project documentation was authored using Open Office.

My turning point was triggered by a virus ridden machine at home which came to a grinding halt. Impulse took command that Saturday morning and I deleted all proprietary software and installed Ubuntu's Breezy Badger. I should admit to an an earlier occasion, albeit a half hearted attempt, to use Suze Linux. Many would be quick to point out that, my heart was not behind the migration and they're probably right.

I have my life back with Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux is my preferred distribution. My initial choice was more emotional than rational, given my strong links with South Africa. In hindsight, the Debian-based Ubuntu has been good for me given its strict package management which keeps me out of trouble.

Does anyone remember the move from DOS to the Windows environment? This was a difficult time in my life because having invested much time in mastering the DOS command prompt, this was now hidden behind a graphic interface in the name of technological progress. I felt that I had lost control of my machine and that computing was being mystified all over again.

I now have my life back again and at a psychological level I feel that I'm now in control of my machine again. It's been a great learning experience and 98% of the problems I experienced with problematic installations and hardware related challenges I've been able to resolve through careful searching on the support forums. Free software is like chilli – hot and a mildly addictive.

Today if you ask my children: What is Ubuntu, they will reply in unison - “Linux for human beings”. I think they're right. All the best for SFD 2006 in your part of the world.