Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going for Cheap: India’s $35 Computer - Digits - WSJ
I know I'm not the brightest guy in the world. But thank God I'm not a journalism graduate.

So, variants of the above article have been running all over the Internet, newsrooms, and blogoshpere this week. India has a $35 computer. Great!

Except that they don't, probably won't anytime soon, and likely shouldn't anyway. Shouldn't? Yep, they shouldn't. Yet don't expect any of our journalism corps to ask where, when, how, or why.

Here's my questions, the one our journalist friends won't ask:

Does a $35 computer leaves anything for the family of the person producing said computer? Should it? Consider: a $35 coffee maker is complicated enough to make. It has a case, a coil, and one electronic chip–the clock.

A computer, though, must have dozens of chips. Those chips are in turn constructed from gallium-arsenide and silicon and copper and gold and all sorts of minerals which must be pulled from the ground by men who put their lives at risk. Men who have families to feed, house, and educate.

Those minerals must be refined and shipped by smelters and truckers and longshoremen with families. The minerals must be grown into wafers, the other material deposited on them, then etched away in various long, complex processes. The chips themselves must be packaged; motherboards must be built to host the system; the lot all packaged.

Each of these processes requires intensely complicated machines; machines again designed, built, and operated by people with families to feed, house and educate. Likewise the display units have their own unique chain of families to support.

Add in all the supporting cast–the shippers who deliver the computer first to India itself, then to the remote areas of that vast nation, the accountants who make sure the miners and technicians and shippers are paid, the support staff who deal with firmware revisions, … that’s a long way to drag out $35!!!

What about these families; the children of all these workers?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rails 3 RC is out!
OK, this may not excite all readers here; its a bit on the technical end of things. But it is a long-awaited moment.

You see, we were promised Rails 3 like this winter. And it was to change everything. Turns out, the beta did change much, and it wasn't clear what all would work and stay. Hence the waiting on the Release Candidate.

To add to the suspense, the principles promised the first week on 8 June that the RC would come that week!

Riding Rails: Rails 3.0: Release candidate! has the last of the story. Hopefully the tutorial writers will be updating and releasing their works as well.

Mine is installed. Time to build an app from 3!

Monday, July 19, 2010

CK12.ORG - FlexBooks, edu 2.0, and the future of Education platforms.
Wednesday brought an Elluminate show with Neeru Khosla, leader of ck-12. ck-12 has done some amazing work the past three years in building open k-12 textbooks.

Amazingly coincidentally (maybe not), Steve Hargadon the next night interviewed Graham Glass, founder of edu2.0.

Both of these principles spoke of their vision of the future of online, tech-enhanced learning. Giving hope is what they have done so far, in such a small amount of time. Both efforts are under three years old, yet have very large and significant user bases. That would be amazing if they were simple web apps, but each is much more than that. Each is a robust, rich platform with a deep community and process built up around it.

Graham gives an example of what has changed to make this possible. One, cloud computing, lets him do remarkable things with little cash and time outlay for server assets. A second, Ruby-on-rails, lets him develop software at a fraction of the effort, time, and cost. The figure he uses is
  • Blackboard Moodle, the competing, locally installed, learning management platform, took 1.5 million lines of code.
  • edu2.0, with additional community features, and published api's for add-ons, took only 40,000 lines of code.
That's a huge difference in time and money to bring a platform forward.