PyCon Day 1: OLPC Has Excited me.

by jesse in ,


Many other people are blogging about it - but this morning opening Keynote by Ivan Krstić of the One Laptop Per Child project was easily one of the best keynotes/presentations I have ever seen.

My view of the project has changed. Significantly. Ivan described the intent of the project as "changing how children learn" - and one of the quotes that made me want to stand up and cheer was this (paraphrased):

Before age 5-6, when school starts, learning is curiosity driven, all-day, peer-based, happens everywhere. After that, learning is authority driven, select hours, unidirectional and happens in a particular place.

In context, this is what they want to change - by putting a device capable of pulling information from anywhere, learning goes back to being a personal, spontaneous thing. You, in theory, are no longer enslaved/tethered to bad teachers or lack of information Another quote:

Rid the need for Kids to be dependent on others for learning.

Ivan went into a lot of the why open-source (in a tool for learning, you have to be able to let children pull everything - software included - apart). His comments on "why Python" were excellent - in a simple way, Python is perfect for something limited in space, and in a machine where adding a compiler and other things like make/automake/etc can cause serious space issues and complications., etc. If you want to have children have access to the source, the source *must* be the application (interpreted yay!).

Did you know that the OLPC machines have a "show source" button?

One of the main things that got me excited is when he was talking about the filesystem - now this is something I could sink my teeth into. Apparently, they implemented their own filesystem in Python to support/manage the limited amoiunt of space on the laptops (512mb - 1GB with the new filesystem).

Apparently, it's an Object-Based filesystem supporting revisioning, efficient n-way sync, delta, compression, metadata tracking all within the OS. Pervasive search. Sort/filter/etc. I think he said the name was "yellow".

Let me say this - an object based filesystem on a mesh-style network is hot. In python, even hotter. The fact it's open source makes it awesome. I'm hoping to talk to Ivan more about this later on in the conference.

All told? A wonderful, inspiring Keynote. This is probably one of the first open-source projects that makes me feel like a contribution could readily affect the world. I'm going to have to find some free time.