Summer news

20090726Everyone is probably enjoying the summer, and preparations for Software Freedom Day are starting. Schwags are being made and the great guys & gals from the Beijing LUG will as usual help packing when they’re done. Targeted shipping date is around August 18th for those wondering which will give ample time for delivery (about one month). In parallel we’ve been working locally on our events and we’re planning big this year: SFDChina was launched about a month ago and we’re planning for about 100 teams nationwide. This year we’ll join forces with Sun, Mozilla and of course COPU, and try to provide more support to each individual teams.

In the miscellaneous department I broke my foot and am now wearing a cast (2 more weeks to go), saved a Chinese man from drowning (and he was about twice my size) and plan to visit Qingdao again for the Qingdao LUG 2nd Anniversary! We also started a MIPS User Group or MUG and the official first meeting will be merged with Beijing LUG September meeting covering GSoC MIPS projects results. Hopefully we will be able to keep the rythm of one meeting a month and encourage other Gdium or Lemote owners around the world to do the same.

Last but not least we’re preparing hard for a Gdium trial around Beijing. We had the chance to get in touch with a passionate team of teachers and headmasters and hopefully we should be starting to deploy around end of the August.

Mplayer, a Webcam and ASCII Art

While discussing education and Open Source in Cambodia with a friend from the Phnom Penh LUG he gave me a little trick to play with mplayer if you have a webcam. Definitely something you can do with your Gdium and its built-in webcam, or any similar hardware. Open a terminal window and type:

mplayer tv:// -vo aa -monitorpixelaspect 0.5

Have fun!

Loongson day in China

loongsonclub

Today Sunday April 12th, 2009, is a special day this year. Not only it’s Easter Day and also the Khmer and Thai New Year (hello my dear friends), but this year in China the Loongson Club is organizing the Loongson Day in 10 cities around the country. Kudos for their effort, doing the same event in many places at the same time is really a challenge.

Of course Dexxon will be in the Beijing (the whole Chinese team) and Shanghai chapter (Freeflying will represent us) as well as Chengdu, where we sent a Gdium to Shi Nan, the person putting all these efforts in building a Loongson community in China.

Other cities covered (without a Gdium though) are Shenzhen, Wuhan, Hefei, Chongqing, Changsha, Guangzhou and Nanjing. So I wish a very nice Loongson day full of chocolate eggs and parties to every one!

OLPH presentation to CSDN

csdn.netI had the pleasure to be interviewed in Dexxon Beijing office last month (February 18th) by CSDN.net journalist Mr. Zhou (周至) about our now famous OLPH program. CSDN.net, for those not familiar with the Chinese developer scene, is one of the major source of information, news and knowledge about IT on this side of the planet, combining a portal, an professional IT community, an online education platform, a recruitment site and an offline magazine (Programmer). February was just when we started to deliver those Gdiums to OLPH members in China and we have since seen quite a lot of activity. One notable effort is actually the submission of a Google Summer of Code idea from openSUSE to have it ported to MIPS. Three students from Beijing have already emailed the mentor who contacted me to know if we still had Gdiums for his project (and yes we do…). A lot of other great efforts are being carried out and one should probably read our planet to know more.

Now back to the topic, you can find both the text version of the questions and the video of the interview (in English) on CSDN live channel with a direct link right here! As usual if you have any further question don’t hesitate to post them in the comment section right below or on OLPH forum (if you’re a registered Gdium.com member).

Gdium wikipedia entry…

Just came to read the Gdium entry on wikipedia and since wikipedia is definitely not the place to answer to the controversy section, I guess my BLOG is a good place to start. I will also not amend that section since it wouldn’t be ‘fair game’ for a Dexxon employee to delete what some people believe to be facts (?).  So let’s tackle each point one by one.

Gdium was originally planned for release in September 2008[2], but after multiple hardware and software glitches, the product was delayed until end of February 2009 for its soft launch. Gdium’s soft launch was on the Belgium market and received a mild user acceptance. The product delays are attributed to a number of factors, but the choice of a MIPS CPU and its Linux implementation is one of the main factor that impacted the product stability.

I personally have problems to see how this fits into any controversy section, most IT products come out late anyway. The product was delayed, that’s a fact that no one is denying. Whoever wrote that is definitely not involved in the project. There were 2 reasons that delayed the product launch: non-working keyboard due to some firmware issues and white plastic quality (we wanted something really white and it took more time than expected to reach this quality). So no MIPS or Linux port issue.

One Laptop Per Hacker (OLPH) marketing campaign draw numerous concerns from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation, and it was seen as a pale copy of OLPC own marketing campaign. While the OLPC fundation is a non-profit organization, Gdium is a for-profit commercial project managed by private company Dexxon. The OLPC foundation argues that Dexxon campaign is confusing the market and enticing people towards a commercial project. Dexxon has yet to provide a clear explanation on those allegations.

That’s a funny one. In fact I believe this can only be written by OLPC itself since no one else mentioned it. We did receive a letter from OLPC to contact them, which we did, but no one was available to take our call. Finally the latest I’ve heard is that we have a ‘gentleman agreement’. So much for it… Now OLPH is a friendly reference to OLPC except that it’s targeting hackers and not children and without any aim of educating them. Gdium also happens to be a foundation (non-profit organization) which goal is to provide a mean for every child to exercise its right to education. As the Wikipedia introduction describes it very well “Gdium is a brick inside a wider environment dedicated to knowledge“, which is a very different approach from OLPC. We also target a different age range (secondary and high school) being complimentary to OLPC and we’ve been working with teachers from the start, not governments, to reach our goals. We sell to anyone who wants a Gdium, and not only the countries that have decided to buy into the program and we have very little chances to be corrupted by Microsoft, running on a MIPS CPU 😉 . We probably need to improve on our communication about the project itself, but I believe that like every Open Source project we focus on getting our solution out and not just talking about it.

The target price of the Gdium at Euro 379[3] makes the Gdium one of the most expensive netbook on the market related to its hardware configuration. Analysts [4] have wondered if a market actually exist for it.

Last but not least, some negative and false comments about our pricing and market taking a poorly written engadget article, poorly in the sense that the author doesn’t see what’s exciting about coming up with a non-x86 compatible architecture and bringing real competition to the market. For the pricing part, we do have monthly market survey and for what it’s worth, in Europe at the time of this article 10″ netbook where priced between 299€ (Advent 4211) up to 599€ (Asus EeePC S101) with the bulk being around 400€. But that would be probably asking too much to the author of that section to verify his sources…

I, of course,  remain open to answer any related question the community may have. I felt I had to at least provide an answer. This is now done.

Gdium One Laptop Per Hacker Program

gdiumSeems like this Christmas will bring me a great gift: my time back! As you might have noticed I haven’t been able to write much, nor was I able to attend any of the last 6 months BLUG meetings or even spend time with my lovely girlfriend! All this time was not wasted, I have in fact joined a great new project managed by Dexxon, the company making the Gdium, which goal is to “provide access to information affordable to all, so that all can exercise their right to education”. So we’re building a 10″ MIPS based netbook (Loongson based to be precise – the Chinese CPU) running a customized version of Mandriva Linux (MS Windows won’t run on it) and developing an online platform to promote Open Education and provide the means to use Open Source Software and the community to build sufficient resources to make this dream come true. The “Gdium.com” foundation is being set up to manage the resources and ensure the durability and non-profit side of the project. 3% of all Gdium sales will go to finance that foundation. Of course we want to involve the community and developers straight from the beginning and as such are starting the “One Laptop Per Hacker” program where one can purchase an early release of the Gdium (with some known issues) at 250 €. So if you’re feeling like helping out and making this dream happen, please join us!

Meeting with Shanghai LUGs

Software Freedom Day

Time just flies! August meant a lot of travelling for me, as well as getting my hands dirty with the making of the Gdium and shipping out all the Software Freedom Day goodies. Yes Software Freedom Day is just around the corner, on Saturday September 20th and from what I can read on the mailing list everybody is hard working on its preparation.

Nevertheless I had the opportunity to visit Lemote office twice, get some special deals for the Beijing LUG and on my last trip to Shanghai even stop there and meet the nice people from Shanghai LUG and the Dining Philosophers.

It was for me the opportunity to see in real Lullideath with whom we regularly converse on IRC (and discover she was a girl…), meet again with Geek, one of the founders and core members of the Shanghai LUG and a few other great and enthusiastic people from Shanghai. Amazingly there was even a French guy who used to teach Mandriva at Supinfo in Qingdao! Among the many topics we discussed one was about Software Freedom Day in Shanghai and trying to get both LUGs coordinate and do something together, the other one was about regular monthly meetings in Shanghai which today are not so regular. Shanghai LUG has been increasing its meeting frequency from twice a year to quarterly events this year and the Dining Philosophers do meet monthly but not at regular dates. I do believe one of the success of Beijing LUG has been to be regular on our meetings and have a stable meeting date and point: every second Tuesday of the month at the same place. Location tend to be difficult to find and keep, and we have had to change yearly based on group size, budget and convenience. I sincerely hope Shanghai LUG and Dining Philosophers can join forces to have those regular meetings. It can start as just dinners and evolve into something more technical down the road. With companies such as Intel, Lemote, ST Microelctronics, HP, raincity, PowerE2E and many others it should be fairly simple to find speakers and topics that attracts the Shanghai Linux and Open Source crowd.

So good luck to you guys and hopefully I can return for your next regular monthly meeting!

Switched to Mandriva…

Mandriva Linux

I finally did it! Been talking about ditching Ubuntu for ages and never found the time (you know… backup, new install, restore, get familiar, etc.). It turns out that last Thursday while extending my /home partition with a LiveCD, for some reasons something went wrong and I ended it with my bigger partition having the same remaining free space as before being extended (I had a 20GiB unused space on the disk initially). Thinking I had been lucky not to lose anything, I backed up and installed Mandriva One. It’s a bit like going back to my first love Mandrake (second actually, started Linux with Red Hat when it was free many years ago)! Of course I preferred the name back then, but for obvious reasons they couldn’t keep it.

So Mandriva has actually a specific ISO file for Asia which can be downloaded from a Chinese mirror maintained by our good friend Funda. It includes all the necessary files to support Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malay and a few more languages I think. Installation was almost ok, couldn’t do it in 3D mode but hey, I can live with that (the install button just wouldn’t click).

The first 6 hours using Mandriva where a bit challenging in the sense that I had to get familiar with urpmi and how to do things. They do have a great Linux Control Center (mcc) where you can find all the things to be configured in one single location. Their network manager is also very powerful and has all the options one should expect from such a tool. Had a little rendering problem with my Chinese fonts (using English desktop with Chinese enabled) which was due to a conflict with the Japanese fonts. Well in short after two days of discussion with Patrick who visit us regularly, Funda and Freeflying on #mandrivacn I got everything fixed, missing applications from the repositories backported and a service that really impressed me: Kudos to Mandriva and its community.

Now an other reason for supporting Mandriva is that they’ve been trying to build a community here, have hired people to improve Chinese support and are even building the operating system that will run on the Gdium (the Loongson based general purpose Chinese CPU). So definitely an interesting distribution worth following and encouraging.

I again extend a big thank you to Funda, Freeflying and Patrick for their help, and recommend everyone to give it a try.

Back in town!

After 2 weeks in France I am finally back in Beijing and so happy to be here! The way back was rather hectic due to bad subway/train fare charging and no signage in the airport. In fact you can buy a subway ticket that let you take the train to the airport, however the fare is more expensive and you have no option to pay the difference on arrival: you arrive at the gate where your undervalued ticket doesn’t let you go out and there is no counter or staff around! Luckily someone was nice enough to use his monthly card to let me out (together with another lost soul) and send me to the wrong terminal. It’s probably too difficult for the French (Aéroport de Paris I should blame) to place signs telling travelers which airlines take off from which of the 3 terminals…

That being said the trip was rather ok with half of the time sunny days, no special trouble, my 99 years and six month old great-aunt perfectly healthy, my good friends happy to see me and a few unexpected encounters such as Mandriva‘s nice office and team, Mozilla Europe President and the people behind the Gdium project!

On top of that I also went to an Open Source meeting organized every first Thursday of the month by the Paris LUG called “Parinux” (among many other events they organize). It was nice to see how other countries and LUG do but what I can tell you is that the Beijing LUG is definitely the group to join if you want to see more girls and meet Open Source programmers ;). I was told that in France developers tend not to attend those types of events and that LUGs or other communities are rather influential with the politicians. As an example AFUL together with a few other associations just won a battle about a non-refundable pre-installed Windows against DELL for 50,000.- € just for 1 case. Class action suit is not allowed in France so each case is reviewed one by one. Of course you can imagine that there are a few cases in the pipeline and that manufacturers and OEMs do worry a little ;).

That’s about it for today. I will probably write a bit more about each encounter as they do warrant a full report!