Full speed into my new project

As some of you know, I have decided to resign from the Beijing LUG presidency in order to have more time to do things that I feel more useful for Open Source in China. To continue on the topic actually, I think it will be good for the BLUG to have a new leadership. It was a very rewarding experience for me and I am really glad it happened.

So just as I feel so free I am getting myself into pushing Linux to schools, and building something useful for that purpose. I already had one opportunity last summer (July 2007) in Qingdao and unfortunately the lack of good solution in Chinese killed the project. Early this year a second opportunity arose and I have decided not to let it vanish again. Benjamin Cooperman, teacher at BISS, brought this one on a tray and we now “just need to execute”.

For those not familiar with the details, we’re collecting old PCs from schools or companies, refurbishing them, installing a light weight Linux distribution with a suite of usable educational applications in Chinese and donating those to poor schools as well as providing training to the teachers.

The project wants to be distribution agnostic and (as the OLPC project should have been – I hope you sense my disappointment now) about providing the right tools for teachers and students to be successful.

First phase will be based on PuppyLinux as we have hardware limitations but ultimately we’ll have a software stack easily installable for a few distributions. CECC, one of the main Chinese contributor to E-pup, the Chinese PuppyLinux, is helping us in our endeavor and of course a few BLUG members as well.

More information on the BLUG wiki. We will need translators and people with experience in internationalization. Should you feel interested please do join our group, or contact me.

Riding the small dog

For those of you regularly reading the Beijing LUG site (or even participating in our events) you might remember our Old PCs Refurbishing Party lead by Ben from BISS and held early March of this year. After struggling with various flavors of Ubuntu because of bad Chinese support and heavy resource usage, we settled on 256MB of ram as a minimum requirement and had to manually customize every single install we did.

Not satisfied we decided to study other options such as mastering our own light-weight derivative distribution with the right packages and good Chinese support. We did get a lot of positive supporting offers from ThizLinux, Mandriva and Novell and it’s nice to feel you’re part of a group of great people.

After a few weeks, Ben pointed out a few Puppylinux variants and I am now playing with it: IMPRESSIVE! I am testing it on an old Thinkpad X30 with 256MB of ram with a Pentium III: so fast, so flexible. All the necessary applications are available, it’s very easy to make your own build (actually 2 ways of doing it) and you can even install deb packages (experimental feature).

We still have a long way to go, but it really seems we’ve solved our first issue: small footprint and easy setup. Puppylinux has also a very active IRC channel on freenode (#puppylinux) and a fairly good documentation. I’m almost considering using it as my full time distribution!

So whatever distribution we use at the end, I’m quite pleased to have had to dive into Puppylinux. It’ll give us a base to chose the right applications and do our own customization in order to get the project rolling!