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I have dream: Affordable, Accessible computing

Alaa's picture

Affordable, Accessible computing

This is an attempt to articulate few things I been thinking about for a long time, the thoughts here where hashed out while attempting to join the WSIS Arab NGO Caucus and through discussions with the /dev/cabal folks and Adel El Zaim from IDRC.

Warning

thats about the end of the organized well thought out part of this document, my mind is very jumbled, I'm writing this down to help me think about it.

So whats the issue at hand

computers are supposedly getting cheaper and cheaper and easier to use, their use is spreading and they've practically become standard feature of modern life.

the use of ICT changed our life's considerably, most probably for the better.

many organizations are involved in ICT for development, they use these technologies to make people's life better, Egypt is relatively new in the field but a wealth of information and past experience exists that can be leveraged and turned into successful development projects.

etc etc etc, I guess we all hear and help spread these sentiments, while I basically agree with them I think we need to examine them a little bit.

the more I look deep into things the more I feel ICT is a potential but it is yet to be leveraged at all.

here is my analysis

Computers are getting cheaper

sorry not anymore.

this may be unique to Egypt but the price of computers has reached a plateau for a few years now that is if you ignore the specs.

you see while the relative price of the megabyte of space, the giga hertz of processing power and what have you has dropped the older stuff that was supposed to get cheaper disappeared from the market.

today the cheapest PC you can assemble from new components with warranties and all will cost you anywhere between 2000-4000LE depending on how smart you are.

4 years ago the price for the cheapest PC was exactly the same, of course today's cheapest PC has more power in its CPU and GPU, more RAM and VideoRam and more Harddisk space than the ones from 4 years ago, but hey you'll be using it to do the same thing exactly.

at work we have a PII 233mghz PC with 64MB ram that is capable of playing divx movies (about the only thing that changed in average user usage pattern in the past 4 years), if you discard games from the equation this old PC can do everything most people do.

and if you give it 32 more MBs of ram and run GNU/Linux it will even run the same software you'll be running on today's latest and greatest comfortably.

ok I'll admit things are getting cheaper, I now can afford to buy a DVD-RW 4 years ago CD-RWs was the best I could do for the same amount of money, USB memory sticks are now affordable who heard of them 4 years ago, but the fact remains the entry barrier is still the same.

so if I'm poor computers are not getting cheaper (froogling around it seems the problem is not that severe outside of Egypt, you can buy older components, but I'm sure if you look at entry price and ignore capability you'll find the rate by which things get cheaper is much slower than what you would be lead to believe).

this barrier is very high by Egyptian standards, consider that the per capita GDP in 2003 was 4000$ a year, at that time the PCs price was close to 1000$ we're talking 1/4th of your average income for the entry level PC here, now consider that 16% of the population is below the poverty line (calculated as 300LE per family per month AFAIK), and that unemployment is anywhere between 12%-20% PCs are simply very expensive.

they're even expensive by comparison to other house hold appliances, consider that a full automatic washing machine costs slightly less than our entry level PC, is generally considered a luxury item and is expected to live for about 15 years (warranties typically cover 5 years of active use). while PCs IMO should be considered a necessity, and their life is typically only 5 years (with warranties between 1 and 2 years).

the use of computers is spreading, this alone is obvious, unfortunately we don't have very concrete numbers, the government claims that 10% of family units has access to computers, they don't tell how they reached these numbers so one can assume that anywhere between 10%-40% of Egyptians have computers at home or use them at work or school.

on the other hand there is no evidence that people are using the increased capabilities of their computers to do more with them.

ICT is changing our lives

now I'm not about to dispute this, look around and you'll see, but what I want to look at is are we utilizing ICT to its full potential?

I'll ignore institutional ICT usage for now, we don't have enough information about private organizations to really know whats going on, the government is only now beginning to computerize its procedures so its too early to tell. while I may have many anecdotal stories about the new computerized national ID cards that are not accepted in the army, or the banking sector that takes 24 hours to put some money in a credit card account I'll just assume that this is not indicative of anything and focus on individuals and small entities (SMEs and NGOs).

lets see in the early 90s computers became popular, they where mostly used to do office type of work, near the end of the 90s people started building LANs to better collaborate on office type work and they started using the internet as a communication medium, then in the early Y2Ks they began using the internet and PCs for entertainment, for keeping up with world news, and to a lesser extent for finding information, it is now common to see Egyptian Internet communities covering all sorts of topics (entertainment, politics, religion, technical, sports, etc.)

so far so good, now lets start from scratch, what are computers and computer networks good for?

Storage, retrieval and processing of data/information

well we do that when we use our Office Suits right, and it did make life much simpler than when we had to deal with only paper, but IMO the change is not fundamental at all (ok we waste more time on layout and formatting now that we have all these funky tools), its mostly a change for convenience, we can edit the stuff, we can store huge amounts in small space, and we can make copies for negligible costs and coupled with the internet we can share the stuff very easily.

but all these are things we humans where already good at, what computers are supposed to add to the equation is ability to easily search through all this data, ability to do complex processing, and ability to automate repetitive tasks.

now your average computer user does not have adequate tools for searching, processing or automation and does not have the skills needed to do that, witness how spreadsheets are used, only the most basic calculations are done on spreadsheets.

it gets even worse when you consider that even if someone does use her computer to do complex processing she does not communicate this new found skill/knowledge/experience so it remains an isolated thing, we have many internet communities but non that are used for transferring this kind of knowledge AFAIK.

the tools they use do not help in this kind of knowledge transfer either, I saw a micro loans management package done with Excel that seems to be popular among NGOs, the thing requires huge amounts of ram to work, is very slow and is very fragile, if you mess with the underlying spread sheet without running the macros it stops working.

Sharing of data and resources

networks supposedly makes it easy for us to share data, to collaborate on working with this data and to share resources.

sharing of resources works fine more or less, of course resources are wasted since your average CPU spends most of its time idle but lets ignore this for the moment and assume the sharing of resources works.

what doesn't work that well is data sharing, the tools average PC users have for sharing data and collaborative work are brittle at best, they require strict policies and guidelines that are not easily enforceable (if at all) by the computers themselves.

for instance in a typical small business environment files stored on a network share tend to get copied all over the place, after a while you have many copies, some are duplicates some are not, each person made changes over some copy and there is no simple way of resolving this, which version is the correct one? how do we collect the changes from all the different versions?

it gets even worse when the organization needs centralized databases, some stuff has specialized apps (shared address books and calendars) some needs a generic DBMS, and in both cases its a pain to setup and maintain, its too complex people just invent their own schemes that always rely on everyone understanding and following a procedure (in some cases the procedure is informal).

communication

ok no problems here, Egyptians are very good at utilizing any new communication technology or medium, no need to worry here.

my only gripes here would be about the average users' inability to handle spam and virii.

there are also some localization related problems, your average egyptian mailing list uses a soup of character encodings (in many cases not arabic encodings at all), again its the tools fault people should not need to worry about character encoding anymore.

but like all humans we're good at coping with noisy communication channels so its not such a big deal.

Information publishing

ok this is data sharing but on the internet more or less.

lets see, I don't think Egyptians have a big problem with searching the internet for info.

what they seem to fail at is following trends like blogs, rss, wikis etc and so the average users ability to find information is slightly less than what it could be.

the problem is with the lack of local content, ok lets admit the internet will always be predominantly English, there is no fighting that, but the amount of Arabic information on the web is still very small for such a big (potential) userbase.

this is connected to the real problem, which PUBLISHING, to most Egyptian organizations having a website is still a big project, local companies that sell hosting, support, design, webdevelopment all charge unreasonable amounts of money, they push technologies that the people don't really need just for the sake of it or to collect more money, they don't seem to have any experience in actually helping the organization choose and organize the content they want to publish, or have a reasonable procedure for it.

most organizations with a website either have certain employees dedicated to adding data to the website or don't even attempt to add data.

the revolutionary notion of self publishing, of eliminating the middle men (which is what makes webpublishing exciting IMO) simply does not exist.

not to mention the total lack of respect for standards and accessibility.

it doesn't get better when you look at individual publishing, very very very few personal websites (blogs or otherwise) exist, the democratizing nature of the web, the fact that we don't have to be readers/consumers only, our ability to get information from each other and not from designated agencies are not utilized at all.

its even worse than that, we don't seem to be active in communities focused on publishing, how many Egyptians contribute to wikis?

we're active in forums and mailing lists but thats about it.

I'm not exactly sure why this problem exists, but part of it seems to be rooted in the fact that most people assume these are expensive and complex tasks, and most lack any awareness of things like wikis, if they don't use them to find info how do you expect them to contribute to wikis.

of course being exposed to the internet through mainstream products, advertisement and schools only would never teach you about this whole thing but is that the problem? I mean it didn't take us long to discover bittorrent eshme3na ya3ni?

and please I do not believe in notions that we simply don't want to publish or have nothing to say, I meet lots of people who want to publish, who complain about not having a medium I know its not true.

Digital multimedia

ok we're good consumers of this, no problem in that department. even the independent and underground stuff seems to have an audience here.

but what about authors, publishers and producers?

we got all these bands playing in places like Al Sakia and the Jazz club, all these bands recording in small recording studios, and yet how many of these bands have music you can download?

where is our independent digital video and animation scene?

obviously people are not going to make money from publishing on the internet, but hey they don't make money anyways, I know independent artists they simply don't make money in this country.

its probably the same thing with the lack of publishing, but add to it the price of the equipment.

digital video cameras may be cheaper than the 8mm ones but they're still expensive by Egyptian standards.

having no web art scene, having a very small digital art scene seems to affect all use of multimedia.

organizations working on alternative education are not producing multimedia tools for education, when they do its crude unimaginative stuff.

personal publishing is lacking bardo, you don't see websites with photos, you don't see websites with home made computer graphics or sound files (there are some tab3an, but its not common at all).

are there cultural or political reasons behind this? what happened to the guys who did 'regal la ta3ref al mosta7il'??

divx, mp3, flash , cheap webhosting, multimedia oriented communities have been around for a while now, why is our local content missing? (pirated local content exists no problems in that department, its only the original stuff that is missing).

Cyber communities

again we're not very bad at that, I do have the impression that most thriving communities are entertainment oriented or religious in nature and do not have a profound influence on their member's lives, but thats very difficult to actually measure and I never put real effort into it.

what I do know is it is not common to use the tools of social software to organize a community that exists beyond the internet, the various NGOs, youth clubs and what have you may have mailing lists but they're not really used as tools of organization or even serious debate as far as I can tell.

but its not just organizations, while egyptians are very good at informal organization to cope better their lifes (from gam3eya to complex setups for importing rare foreign goods and transferring money without passing through middle men) they don't seem to use the web for this kind of thing, there are no good community oriented classified webpages, no municipal community webpages, where is the web as a bulletin board?

the commercial websites that aim for this kind of service re typically very targeted (edar can only be used to find expensive flats) or fail quickly (souk el kanto closed), most never grow community rules and laws to help sustain them (no one actually rates people in ewaseet) etc.

ICT for development

alot of the material available on ICT for development makes no sense in Egypt, they typically assume difficulties in the power and basic communication grid that don't exist in egypt, they assume lack of skills in the local communities that simply leads NGOs working in the field to ignore potential local talent and local solutions.

for instance most of the material on community media centers is focused around community radio, which is simply illegal in Egypt, or assumes a community with high rates of illiteracy needs complicated solutions for information delivery while ignoring the observation that almost no egyptian community does not have a mix of literate and illiterate people, hell in most communities you'll find highly educated people which can and should be an asset in your work, you can rely on children reading for their parents instead of getting outside volunteers to record audio tapes and then disseminate these audio tapes.

since I started the Abu Al Nomros CMC project I've been reading all the material I can get my hands on, and everytime the community surprises me with input that renders the material completely useless, I did benefit alot from discussing my problems with Gaspar from brazil who has extensive experience in building such centers so the fault could be in the material itself and the way its collected and not in extreme differences in circumstances between Egypt and the rest of the world.

but the fact remains that the effort required to do successful ICT for development work is big and requires attention to details and long term involvement, so far I don't see anyone doing so.

Reprise

so if you agree with even half of the above you agree that computing and ICT in general needs to be cheaper and easier to deal with.

the costs of equipment and connectivity is high, the skills required to realize the full potential of the technology are difficult and not widespread which adds to the cost and the tools being pushed at the average user are inadequate which makes the whole thing less accessible.

What needs to be done

so we need to make computers cheaper, we can find a way to supply less powerful hardware, recycle old hardware, and extend the life of hardware.

solutions may not be in trying to supply each individual with a computer, maybe municipal public access centers are the economically feasible answer.

but its not just equipment and connectivity that needs to be cheaper, the cost of doing complex/advanced tasks is quite high, we need to reduce this cost, part of the cost is in training, part of it is in the need to reinvent the wheel, part is in the small market and little competition and a great part is simply in your average user not knowing whats involved and thus being unable to judge how much time or money a certain task should cost.

affordability is not the only problem, one cannot expect all computer users to higher professionals for each and every small task, powerful computing has to become more accessible, people should be empowered to do more with their computers and to really use the internet to its full potential, what is needed is simple but powerful tools, material and opportunities for people to learn how to use these tools, the ability to easily store and transfer experience in the form of new tools, the tools need not only be easy to use they have to be localized and flexible enough to adapt to different needs, non of the tools should require and excessive amount of resources in order to maintain affordability.

FOSS can save the day

IMO FOSS is perfect for tackling this problem, its cheap, it works on old hardware, its easy to build cheap thin clients, cheap clusters, cheap whatever with.

there is a huge amount of software packages and projects available, most people think GNU/Linux lacks application, but consider that our biggest success in advocating FOSS to NGOs has been FOSS webapps and CMS systems there simply isn't an equivalent to these.

whats more important is that transfer of knowledge and experience is an implicit part of FOSS, most packages are scriptable and extendable and its easy to package these scripts, tools for quickly building small apps exist and are very easy to learn and use, the infrastructure to disseminate all these little hacks exist and even more important the infrastructure to support it.

due to the nature of FOSS development process and to its Unix heritage powerful tools for data processing, transparent data formats, modular systems, etc are the norm, you don't need to be a guru to write a quick script that handles a unique data processing task for you.

I know this sounds weird, I'm actually talking about normal people using or writing custom scripts, my favorite FOSS advocacy story involves, whirlpool, as a medical student with not much of free time he taught himself programming in python in a few weeks, he uses this skill to do various random tasks, when he is stuck he seeks help from his more knowledgeable friends but he knows what needs to be done and has a vague idea how one should go about implementing it, so a request to write a script to help deduce the pattern his professors use to make final exams took uniball only few minutes to write while a very similar request by a less savvy user would have required longer just to find out what the problem was.

the accessibility I'm talking about does not mean user friendly in the traditional sense of the word, it means something totally different and more important IMO, its this skill that whirlpool has and I believe FOSS pushes all software to be flexible in a way that benefits the whirlpool's of the world, and pushes for tools that makes their life easier and the way FOSS communities are structured makes it easy for people like that to have their needs heard.

with that in mind I propose we put some effort into thinking of activities that could tackle the affordable, accessible computing concept using FOSS, some general topics are obviously relevant.

FOSS and recycling old hardware

we got lightweight desktop apps and environments that seem to be able to do most of what people already do with their PCs, where they fail is in Arabic support, efforts/resources in arabizing software like Gnumeric, and Abiword would go a long way in making really old hardware useful.

a bit of advocacy is needed here too, full fledged KDE based desktops can run on a PII with 96MBs of ram comfortably no need for special software here, but people don't know that, and it may involve abit of tuning

Thin Clients

thin clients are superb, and in GNU/Linux they're very easy to setup (Mandrake has a wizard for crying out loud).

at cospe I set up a thing clients lab for the Abu Al Nomros project, for a server that cost us slightly more than 4000LE we can run 15 thin clients made of very old hardware or very cheap special hardware ala openbrick. savings here could be anywhere from 1000-1500 LE per PC.

if we run a fatclient (diskless machine that do all the processing, the server only works as a fileserver) the server can take up to 70 clients, with each client saving around 700LE.

these are huge savings, and thin clients have other benefits when deployed in organizations or when used to build community labs with them, due to the centralized nature there will be no need for a large administration team (only the servers need any administration)

one can imagine a national universal access plan that practically solves all the computing resources problem by building thousands of community centers costing no more than what it cost to build the Bibliotecha Alexandrina (a project with less impact IMO).

Clusters

the folks from the meteorological service tell a great story (a rags to riches story but in the world of computing capability) or how cheap ix86 based hardware coupled with cheap FOSS software with the proper knowledge and skill completely transformed their ability to model the weather and predict it, we are not talking about merely operating at

higher levels of efficiency here, we're talking about being able to do things you couldn't do before.

now GNU/Linux enables us to build very cheap clusters out of typical consumer components, these clusters can even compete with the world's top supercomputers, imagine what can be done with this processing power?

not to mention grid computing, using all the idle cycles in connected computers to do complex calculations.

its as if no one knows about this potential, supercomputing is not a topic that is ever discussed seriously in Egypt, yet it is very affordable and apparently accessible (there are live CD clustering solutions).

Web Publishing

lets just admit it, proprietary software hardly competes in this space, personal and independent webpublishing is simply a FOSS job, easy to use CMS systems, powerfully social software and easy low cost web development solutions all empower and enable anyone and everyone to effectively publish, communicate and collaborate on the internet.

personal websites, alternative media, multimedia publishing, knowledge management, anything you can imagine is easily available, trivial to implement and costs very little.

Multimedia authoring

I won't say FOSS is particularly good at that, I've no idea if its even good enough by pros standards, but the difference in price of software here is big enough to make it inevitable to consider FOSS as a viable solution even if it means setting lower standards, the bigger the userbase the higher the standards will get.

Scripting, standard and extendable subsystems

the solution to the data processing problem lies in the ability to quickly and easily forge custom solutions, FOSS is designed for quick hacking and scriptability. again proprietary simply does not compete here.

once can look into how to increasingly make these tools and skills easier to grasp but a simpler solution to making them accessible and affordable is finding ways to transfer knowledge and experience through packaged code.

ESR mentions separation of mechanism from policy as one of the virtues of the Unix design, he proposes many technical arguments to why thats a good decisions, one argument he does not focus on is how this separation makes it easy to transfer experience in policy from one user to another, you don't need to learn scripting you need to know how to find useful scripts.

a community process or a business model that enables any one to seek support in crafting customized solutions is all that is needed (assuming a large enough userbase is skilled enough to implement these solutions.

awareness and conceptual understanding

as you can see a large part of the problem is simply lack of awareness and understanding on a conceptual level of what computing is about and how it works (up to the fine details of relative costs).

while this does not directly relate to FOSS, FOSS offers two things that could help tackle this.

FOSS typically does not isolate the user from the details, while this generally results in a less user friendly experience it also empowers the user with more profound understanding.

but even more profound is the understanding one gains from the community dynamics of FOSS, by being involved in a community that is focused on the sharing of information, mutual support and collaborative development has much to teach you about computing.

now this does not mean that all users have to deal with the details of FOSS but it is still a tool that can be leveraged in any serious effort to tackle the general lack of understanding of computing fundamentals, it can be used to train the techies who will explain the fundamentals to end users, it can be used as aid in deciding what are the fundamental, one thing is clear more understanding is needed and the best way to get there is by playing with the guts of the system.

consider that most people have a rough idea of how plumbing works, they may not be skilled enough to fix leaks or do any actual plumbing work but they know enough to ask for professional help and be able to judge price of service, parts, and general quality of work.

a large part of this comes from trying to fix things yourself, or being exposed to people who do or try to fix themselves, when you get a pro to do it for you the process is very transparent you can see exactly what they do and you probably have some theory as to where to buy the tools and parts required.

now the same cannot be said for any random computing tasks, people have no idea what a virus is, or what an antivirus is, they don't know whats source code and what a programming language looks like, it gets even worse when we go into data formats, databases, networks, network applications (it takes us a looooong time to explain how google is an application and how people use GNU/Linux everyday when they use google).

even those who received basic computing education don't have this understanding, in school we studied basic inventions like the wheel, and we studied the internal combustion engine, concepts like energy, force, speed and acceleration, thus anyone who received high school education should already know or be able to quickly know the basics of how a car works.

but when it comes to computers, you receive little if any abstract algebra that could be used to explain software concepts, you spend much time learning about the bits and bytes and the differences between the RAM and ROM (for god's sake who even knows where the ROM is in a modern PC, who cares) and absolutely nothing that would actually help you understand ICT on the same level you should be able to understand your car.

And your point is??

my point is FOSS can be used now to help make computing more affordable and more accessible and help people get the full benefit of this technology.

so my real point is lets start talking about what we EGLUG and our various partners can do with that.

lets take each area I identified and see if we can have an event, activity or project focused around it that can demonstrate or help realize affordable accessible computing.

Random ideas for projects

old hardware

the special software needed to run old hardware is not fully arabized yet, we need to fix this before we can do anything in that department.

thin clients

  1. demonstrate the concept and prove it works
  2. bottle it to make it even easier to deploy
  3. collect practical experience on running community labs with thin clients
  4. do the math for a national universal access plan

clusters

  1. demonstrate the concept and prove it works
  2. pick a useful example and run it
  3. start a debate on how supercomputing can help Egypt

web publishing

  1. start a community server that offers free hosting built on FOSS CMSs

multimedia authoring

  1. evaluate the available software (get n00bs and pros to work on that)
  2. generate some community content just to prove it works
  3. tie this with community labs and community server
  4. do digital creative activities with children based on FOSS tools

data processing

  1. evaluate the thousands of packaged solutions
  2. develop use cases and try to tie them with solutions
  3. more sessions and trainings on required skills
  4. bottle some solutions

awareness and conceptual understanding

  1. a from metal to network applications workshop where participants observe how all the different tasks of computing pros work, kinda like a visit in a factory where you observe the whole production process and get to play around a bit.

Reprise II

I like some of the above ideas more than others, at least one of them (community webserver) is being seriously discussed with an interested partner (Adel Al Zaim).

lets collect more ideas, lets discuss them and come up with rough plans, then let us implement some of these plans and push our ideas at others who may be interested in implementing them, there is alot of good we can do regarding this issue, and throughout the process we'll prove how essential FOSS is to developing our local communities and to enhancing our ICT infrastructure.

this is the best kind of advocacy the one that just works.

Comments

Alaa's picture

too big

I just realized that this is too big to be on one continous page, but it probably needs a bit of editing before it can be split on multiple pages, I guess I should have posted it in the wiki.

anyways lets see if anyone will actually read through the whole thing.

Alaa


"i`m feeling for the 2nd time like alice in wonderland reading el wafd"

whirlpool's picture

my reply

Thanks Alaa, this was a nice read. And my reply is on the same wavelength, I am adding nothing new and may be incoherent. But here is my reply anyway.

its even worse than that, we don't seem to be active in communities focused on publishing, how many Egyptians contribute to wikis? we're active in forums and mailing lists but thats about it. I'm not exactly sure why this problem exists, but part of it seems to be rooted in the fact that most people assume these are expensive and complex tasks, and most lack any awareness of things like wikis, if they don't use them to find info how do you expect them to contribute to wikis. of course being exposed to the internet through mainstream products, advertisement and schools only would never teach you about this whole thing but is that the problem? I mean it didn't take us long to discover bittorrent eshme3na ya3ni? and please I do not believe in notions that we simply don't want to publish or have nothing to say, I meet lots of people who want to publish, who complain about not having a medium I know its not true

I think FOSS communities like eglug, should help in decreasing the entry barrier to blogging and wikis. Isn't this our killer app? then why aren't we throwing it at people. Either by reaching out and educating people, or by using their tools to create free, localized services. We should know what decreases the entry barrier, and this needs more reaching out too. May be we could experiment more on this. Finding already available communities and providing them with the awareness and the tools. May be telling them the basic logic of the internet, it will never be useful if we only consumed and didn't contribute.

Don't forget that FOSS multimedia authoring applications are excellent for education and teaching the basic concepts behind multimedia authoring. No need to invest in expensive software packages when you want to teach someone the concepts behind wire meshs, rendering or layers and transparency.

the solution to the data processing problem lies in the ability to quickly and easily forge custom solutions, FOSS is designed for quick hacking and scriptability. again proprietary simply does not compete here.

ESR mentions separation of mechanism from policy as one of the virtues of the Unix design, he proposes many technical arguments to why thats a good decisions, one argument he does not focus on is how this separation makes it easy to transfer experience in policy from one user to another, you don't need to learn scripting you need to know how to find useful scripts.

This is a very interesting point. As you have said separation of policy makes it easier to transfer experience. But also it makes it easier to ask for solutions(mechanisms) properly, as you have mentioned my exam problem. I probably forgot most of what I have learnt in python and I can only solve my easiest problems. But I certainly know how to formulate a proper question for a solution. Of course you have no choice if all the scripting and programing tools are not libre and expensive.

Personal Computing should be more about computing for your personal problems and needs. It will be a problem in itself, if I need to pay huge amounts of money for every problem I facing.

even those who received basic computing education don't have this understanding, in school we studied basic inventions like the wheel, and we studied the internal combustion engine, concepts like energy, force, speed and acceleration, thus anyone who received high school education should already know or be able to quickly know the basics of how a car works. but when it comes to computers, you receive little if any abstract algebra that could be used to explain software concepts, you spend much time learning about the bits and bytes and the differences between the RAM and ROM (for god's sake who even knows where the ROM is in a modern PC, who cares) and absolutely nothing that would actually help you understand ICT on the same level you should be able to understand your car.

Curriculum differs from place to the other. What you are saying is not basic computer education. It is more of driving lessons. They are useful to fill the requirement of basic computer "operation" knowledge in a job. But they are not useful to raise the awareness about computers and their useful existence to solve our everyday problems.

I personally feel that; when computers run FOSS, they become computers again. They become the machines that help in problem solving and aid decision.

whirlpool's picture

what Guido is saying

here is a nice excrept from the document I have linked to Even if most users do not program regularly, a familiarity with programming and the structure of software will make them more effective users of computers. For example, when something goes wrong, they will be able to make a better mental model of the likely failure, which will allow them to fix or work around the problem. They will also be able to assess better when they can make the changes themselves and when they will need the services of an expert. They will be more able to converse with experts, since they will now share more of a common language. An analogy is obtaining basic literacy in automotive maintenance: you know enough to check your oil and add a few quarts if necessary, but you also know that you shouldn't try to change your own brakes. When the mechanic says "your rotors are warped and you need new pads," you understand what he is talking about.

Alaa's picture

another empowered user

it actually is covering the point that Guido raises about the increasing need for such skills as we rely on more computer like devices, to assume total and complete integration under one unified easy to use fully localized GUI that does everything we need is ridicolous, to assume this can exist when we use millions of different devices and services that should from time to time communicate is preposterous, and finally to assume that this could be delivered without total monopoly over the whole stack of techs and very limited features is simply never even attempted.

Alaa


"i`m feeling for the 2nd time like alice in wonderland reading el wafd"

ramez.hanna's picture

that's great


the best things in life are free --- so as myself

whirlpool's picture

apparent majority

there are 2 types of people who go to buy PCs (in his opinion) those who have money and afford to buy expensive equipment (these are the majority) and those who buy PCs and can't afford to pay much and when they buy one they keep it for a long time so that makes it more convinient to computer vendors to only supply the latest for those who pay as they are more frequent.

I hope i made my point clear.

ramez.hanna's picture

yes you are right, but his po

yes you are right, but his point of view shows the sellers point of view


the best things in life are free --- so as myself

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