Archive for June, 2008

Outsourcing Academic projects

Came across this post,”UK students outsources IT coursework to India” on Cnet News (UK), which discusses recent findings showing that UK students at the high school and university level were contracting out some of their programming assignments. Is this simply the globalization of cheating, or a more sinister trend.   According to the article even final dissertations are being outsourced with milestones being met by the off site developers. Be it at a shockingly low rate of around $200 (100 UK pounds). One would think a college final dissertation/project would be worth more than that.

This would be a disturbing trend if left unchecked.  Aren’t these individuals robbing themselves of the joy of actively engaging in trying to solve the problem, or what about those long hours spent hunting for that illusive bug.   Some might argue that going out and hiring a programmer in India or Romania, is solving the problem. It is a practical solution to some extent, and depending on the type of work you do after graduation, it’s probably what you will end up doing anyway.

It might be a  small fraction of individuals who stoop to such lengths to weasel out of an assingment, however wouldn’t this behaviour have a knock on effect of negatively impacting both the overall value and perception of a Computing education.

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VM Hosted on Relief.asia

Sahana’s VM module is being used as the front page of the Sahana posting on relief.asia.  Apparently, in order to use Sahana, you first have to register as a volunteer.   The version hosted there does not include the Chinese translation, only the English and Sinhalese versions.  It would be interesting to find out how many volunteers they’ve registered.  Does anybody know how?

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Stallman Interview on WNPR

Before his talk on “Free Software in Ethics and in Practice” at Trinity last Tuesday, Richard Stallman did an interview with John Dankosky on his Where We Live program at WNPR. You can download the interview. One condition of doing the interview was that it be distributed only in Ogg format. What is Ogg? Here is an excerpt about it from www.gnu.org:

We distribute our audio files in Ogg Vorbis format. We avoid MP3, because it is impeded by software patents in some countries. The Ogg Vorbis format is technologically superior to MP3, and is not encumbered by patents. The sound quality of speech recordings on this page is not indicative of the quality you could expect from Ogg Vorbis when applied to HiFi audio.
Please avoid transcoding HiFi audio from MP3 to Ogg Vorbis. By doing so, you will create Ogg Vorbis files of a lower sound quality than the original MP3. Instead, please encode to Ogg Vorbis directly from the uncompressed
source.

Vorbis.com provides a list of audio software and hardware (such as portable players) which support the ogg vorbis format. The Ogg Vorbis project is part of the Xiph.org project, where you will find the project development page and source code..

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Richard Stallman’s Talk on Free Software: Hosted by HFOSS

On Tuesday June 17, 2008 Richard Stallman, the founder of GNU and the “father” of the Free Software Movement presented a talk on Free Software in front of a audience of about 100 at Trinity College. Mr. Stallman used personal information, humor, factual evidence, hair twirling, and pill popping to engage the audience in his opinion on free software, proprietary software, and the purpose of the Free Software Movement. He discussed the four freedoms of software all while differentiating the use of proprietary software and free software based on the different freedoms.

In the attempt to inform the audience of what proprietary software is all about Mr. Stallman introduced some properties that Windows contain that decrease the actual privacy and or freedom of the actual user. He stressed that the Window’s operating system is not the the only system (i.e MacOS) that consists of features that invade the user’s privacy and freedom. Overall, Mr. Stallman’s opinion is that the user should have the freedom to view the source of the software he or she is using. If the user does not have this freedom, the software being used is not considered “free”.

He ended the talk by donning his Saint iGNUsius garb of the Church of Emacs and blessing the entire audience after explaining that HFOSS (Humanitarian Free Open Source Software) should be renamed to FLOSS(Free/Libre Open Source Software). Here he is with his halo that he states is not a computer disk:

You can see more photos of the lecture @ http://summer.hfoss.org.

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Open-source Fashion!

I was very excited to read this article on fashion design under the Creative Commons.

Open-source is a revolutionary idea that originated in CS circles, but definitely has far-reaching impact. CS educators must spend energy on bringing out the fundamentally new contribution of open-source as a different co-operative way to think about development of ideas (and not just code). The more we equip our students (especially non-majors) to understand this idea, the lesser Wikipedia looks like a “non-authoritative” information-base and more like a social revolution. Maybe some very creative student will come up with the next cool thing to go open-source?

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Hackontest — 24 hour coding marathone

As announced on Slashdot, a 24 hour free software coding contest known as Hackontest will pit free and open source projects against one another. As of today there are 180 users 34 registered projects, including Sahana and OpenMRS, two of the projects that our summer internship program is supporting.

The goal of the Google-sponsored contest is “to enhance Free Software projects according to user needs and to make visible how enthusiastically open source software is being developed.”

Here’s how it works. Users and developers of FOSS submit, rate, and comment on submit feature requests. On August 1 a jury of well known FOSS contributors will pick the top three teams who will be flown to Zurich for the September 24/25 contest. The contest will be part of Open Expo, the Swiss conference and trade show for Free and Open Source Software. The teams will compete for 24 hours inside an etoyTANK, a hacking equipped cargo container, complete with pizza–of course. Visitors to the Expo will be able to observe the teams and the computer screens and team members will be able to communicate with virtual team members throughout the world, I guess. A total of $8500 in prizes will be awarded.

Sounds like fun!

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