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A key theme of this year's summit is Red Hat's participation in the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. The leader of the project, Nicholas Negroponte, is due to speak at the show on Friday, but Red Hat's engineering manager for OLPC, Chris Blizzard, was on hand to discuss his company's part in the scheme.
Blizzard said OLPC is not being driven by the desire to spread the open source message around the world, but by higher ideals. "It is about learning, it's not to do with putting open source in people's hands. These laptops contain ad hoc wireless networks — all those kids can share and collaborate with each other."
Red Hat has faced some tough techical challenges shrinking its desktop software onto the laptop's 500MB of flash memory, but claims to have reduced the footprint from around 1.5GB down to around 120-130MB by creating a "remix" of its distribution. "How we take what we have today and add it onto this laptop is one of the biggest issues," said Blizzard.
Technical issues aside, Red Hat says the key to the project's success is to imagine the benefit it could bring to one child, and hope that that can be replicated to millions of others. "We talk abut social impact — 300 million kids could be impacted — but we have to think about one kid and keep one focus. If we can replicate that 100 million times then we have suddenly had a massive social impact," said Blizzard.
Described by his boss Matthew Szulik as a "rock god" of the open source community, Red Hat principal software engineer Havoc Pennington unveiled a project known as Mugshot.
The software, made up principally of a Web site enabled with collaboration tools, is designed, according to Pennington, to bring open source to people who may not have encountered it before via a "live social experience around entertainment".
Mugshot will allow users to collaborate online and discuss and exchange information around topics such as music and television. "Mugshot is not just a site but about connecting desktops of users. What has this got to do with Red Hat? The reason I got into open source is because it's about collaboration and freedom," said Pennington.
Mugshot will initially only be available via a limited user trial, on a first-come, first-served basis. You can find out more about the project here.
Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, took the final keynote slot at the first day of the conference.
He held forth on the misuse of digital rights management technology by companies such as Sony, claiming that such technology was fundamentally "unscientific".
"Open source is science, and before science we had alchemy. The difference between alchemy and science is that science publishes its findings. DRM is not grounded in science because it is founded on keeping things secret," Doctorow said.