Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit '08, Göteborg (Day 2) - 26/10/2008, 19:55

Here is another blog with an article about the GISS conference from the day before:

Ok. So today it was the second and final day of the Free Society conference here in the IT University, Göteborg, and I got there late because I couldn't hear my alarm clock:

- "Educational Software on Mobile Devices", by Knut Yrvin. Initially I didn't like this conference very much because I felt it focused for too much time on QT and too little on "educational software". After speaking with Knut during the lunch, I understood why he spent 30+ minutes on QT, so then I actually liked the conference, even if it was not my favorite. I still think 30 minutes spent on QT is too much, though I understand, QT being the only toolkit "natively" present on mobile phones ('cause Nokia bought it) and Nokia being his employer, naturally he had to talk a great deal about it.
In this conference we were presented with a history of QT, and some numbers on the pervasiveness of mobile phones vs. PCs. So we were presented basically, with the reason of why developing stuff for phones with QT is such a good idea: there are lots of phones. However I do feel that numbers alone hide a few facts that I feel were partly overlooked by the presenter: even though most people are more likely to own a phone than a PC, and even though for many people a phone is essentially the first computer they'll get their hands on (literally), I'm not entirely sure people are more likely to have a smartphone than a PC. For now, of course..
Another advantage of phones is that they do not require as much power as normal PCs. He did mention the OLPC project, though he was very critical of it, and with good reason. Though I don't believe Negroponte actually said that ms software was better than Free Software, I was also extremely disappointed when he announced they would start supporting a (surely shitty, like the XP starter's edition) version of Microsoft Windows on the OLPC. That's actually why the OLPC banner was dropped from my blog.
Knut then showed us that graphical applications could be ported for smartphones relatively easily using QT - he showed us some pictures of KOffice and other programs running in a mobile phone, as well as a live demo of a "cover flow-esque" application that looked very nice.
He also showed us a video of a very nice program done by students - a software to record pictures as a stop-motion video and send them to their friends (sorry for not remembering the name -- I'll try to track it down).
He argued about elders wasting children's time by teaching them office software. I fully agree - I never really cared for learning much of office software, and the skills can definitely be acquired "on the fly", that's how I learned (while the teacher in my secondary school explained all that boring stuff I think I was actually finding out how to hide from him the Garfield screensaver installer I had just downloaded). Instead Knut believes is that we should focus on making software that is fun and teaches kids about natural sciences, culture and history.
I asked him a question I immediately realized was pointless: Being that kids at least today are more likely to have a portable games console instead of a smartphone, wouldn't it be "more efficient" to port QT to that platform?
Why do I think it was pointless? Well, 'cause QT was bought by Nokia. So Nokia probably doesn't give a damn about unofficial development on game consoles which are very locked to development. He answered me that phones were very popular and that game consoles where essentially a very propietary locked system.
That's essentially why I mistrust big companies buying all these free software projects - they are no longer that 'free' to choose what they'll do next.

So, in summary, for now, QT is the only way to port Free Software 'easily' into mobile phones. And that could benefit the educational sector. Fine, but for me, "Educational Software" is not only about QT, and "Mobile devices" is not only about smartphones. So I still feel the title is slightly misleading.

- "Tango, by Andreas Nilsson. Andreas is part of the design team for the Tango icon set project. They have very good and clear guidelines for icon design. I'm really not much of a designer but I can say that most of these guidelines are pretty much compatible with what experts consider to be a good way of designing icons, as the subject was brought up several times in one of my recent classes.

The other conferences I attended were "Coreboot" and "Squeezing the evil out of the music industry", which I'll blog about probably tomorrow. I must stop, as it is already 3 a.m. here ;)

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