The wind-up laptop

Let’s hear it for the MIT Media Lab and its $100 Laptop project. The idea is to get inexpensive but modern laptop computers into the hands of school children in the developing world. Several nations have signed on to the project to distribute them to literally millions of school-children.

The BBC World News reported about it last night, but didn’t say where to find out more. One of the teasers is that the computer may be powered by a handcrank, which makes me think that it could have wide applications in development and disaster work. Since they’ll be already WiFi-enabled, imagine how that could have improved communications in — say– New Orleans. But don’t get out your checkbook yet: they’re a couple of years shy of development, and, no, they’ll not be sold to individuals.

Here’s the information page:

$100 Laptop (Nifty!)

Still I wonder, as an individual consumer. The operating system will be Linux; will it be one available to non-$100-Laptop-users? Like Edubuntu, due out in about two weeks?

And what about a solar batter option for those of us out of the loop?

The Bible opens up

In my recent post Is the mainline church closed-source? I resigned myself to using the King James Version of the Bible. Last night, I installed more open-source software on my computer — I’m loving the Ubuntu Linux, but that’s another entry — and GnomeSword2 Bible Guide had a translation I had never heard of: the World English Bible, the WEB. (There are Sword Project versions for Macs and Windows.) It is a revision of the 1901 American Revised Edition: the “grandparent” of the New Revised Standard Version, or the “grandchild” of the King James Version, depending on how you look at it.

There are a couple of problems. First, it isn’t done so says, but I can’t find the Old Testament books that are missing, or perhaps the “missing” ones are just not done with editing. Christmas 2005 is the full-text rollout date. They hope.

What I’ve seen reads well, and would probably be good for public worship, but (1) it uses contractions in the New Testament to reflect the koine Greek, and (2) spells out the Tetragrammaton, that is, the name of God often mistranslated Jehovah. I’ll want to research how it make translation decisions more before I go hog-wild about it.

But it has to be better than what I would confect.

And if you were looking for other public domain goodies, see this page at Wikipedia. (And the World English Bible is there, too.)

Reviewing a writer's rights

Derek commented, in reference to his Galatians project, “So open source it will be… even if it is KJV.”

I’m not sure if he meant that he’d have to use the King James Version because it is in the public domain, or if he intends to release his work into the public domain (probably the former) but there are licensing options that come between the full ownership rights that come with copyright and releasing an item into the public domain. While I believe the sources of faith should be the common property of the faith members of a communion — which amounts to the public domain, unless it is a very small communion — the particular works of individuals needn’t be. But it might be useful — and a good way to establish a reputation — to give some of the work away.

Creative Commons has some licensing options that work; these are well known to regular blog readers as a number of bloggers have entered their thoughts into a “copyleft” situation this way.

Hard-core contributors “share and share alike” have adoped and adapted the GNU Public License — founded for free and open-source software — for written works.

Yes, I’m thinking about what kind of licensing to adopt; right now I claim copyright.

Is the mainline church closed-source?

I like open source software. It is usually financially free, and while I don’t develop software, I do benefit from those who use the freedom is provides. When InfoCentral, a church and not-for-profit management software project decided to follow a Java development line, some other people forked its development (under the name ChurchInfo using a scripting language (PHP) I have a better understanding of.

Open source software is a model of progress and collaberation. I like it very much, and admire the values it tends to cultivate.

Now, what about worship in the mainline churches, by which I include Unitarian Universalism?

There a practice I have seen in Unitarian Universalist pulpits that annoys me. It isn’t so much the elevating fragments of colleague’s sermons as “readings” (which isn’t so hot) but the endless attribution. Worship begings to sound like a term paper with footnotes.

So, let me cut to the point. Who owns — intellectually owns — worship?

In “modern” churches, even those that biblical readings and not the above situation, who owns the pieces? Modern translations of the Bible are under copyright. Modern prayers are under copyright. New hymns — all since 1923, unless released into the public domain — are under copyright. Likewise the choral and instrumental music. Of course, the sermon is under copyright. For those churches that use them, the modern English versions of the ecumenical creeds are under copyright, plus any denominational confessions. I’m pretty sure the Revised Common Lectionary is under copyright, its use on a number of websites not withstanding. Someone owns just about everything we do on Sunday.

That bothers me. Faithful people — here read Christian or Unitarian Universalist depending on how you got to this site — in communion need the sources of their faith to be held in common trust without ownership. Which begs a question: who owns the much-quoted Principles and Purposes? Does anyone?

Now, here’s the exception that proves the rule. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer — the American one is the one I mean here, but there are others — is not in copyright. If you have one, grab it and look for a copyright page. (Hint: there isn’t one.)

I suspect that’s why when there’s ever been a “default liturgy” needed in a non-liturgical church (and I use that term advisedly, since all churches have a liturgy though not a set or printed one) the Episcopalians have been brought to use.

I suspect that’s why, except for the historically singular exception of King’s Chapel (and its former chapel, First Church in Chestnut Hill), that “liturgical” Universalist and Unitarian rites have pulled more from the Episcopalians than the “Puritan style” or even high Reformed rites.

So, what could be a commonly-owned common core? And how would we acquire one?

Here’s the irony: the most conservative Protestant churches — using old hymns and forms, and reading the King James Version of the Bible — already have one.

Now I want an open-source core for the faith, too.

New OS . . . from the Mountain State

More than a geek, I’m an ENTJ. Big N. Big J. (We examined our MBTI types at The Day Job.)

True to type, I like break my unbroke home computer, and fix it in a new way. (Remember the old versions of this blog?) Last night, I installed a new Linux operating system on my computer, and really like it. The efficient package (application) of Debian matched with easy one-disk installation. And that one disk has a full suite of home and business software. So even if you’re something of an F or P, you might like MEPIS: the finest operating system to come from West Virginia.


Open source in churches

Following up on the open source software in the church office idea —

Just found this ministry. Just the thing. How did I miss it?

What is the Freely Project?

The Freely Project was setup for the promotion of Open Source Software (OSS) and Linux within churches. Members of the project have a range of technical abilities and denominations.

Why was the Project setup?

The Freely Project was setup following the realisation that churches could benefit greatly from using OSS and Linux, and the belief that there are sound ethical and philosophical reasons why this should happen.

What does the Project do?

We hope that, over time, the project will:

  • Provide free consultancy on the use of OSS and Linux within churches and Christian charities
  • Coordinate with Linux users and local LUGs to provide installation services for churches and Christian charities
  • Promote the use of OSS and Linux to churches – recognising that OSS for Windows may provide an initial step for the majority of churches
  • Promote awareness of the ethical/philosophical reasons behind Linux and OSS, and also the issue of piracy and/or licensing issues
  • Promote and be actively involved in the development of open source applications specifically designed for churches

Freely Project
Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

More on Wiki

Philocrites , when carrying on my reportage of the newish UU Wiki, noted “because I can’t quite get my head around the uses of this technology.” That deserves a reply.

Consider the UUA’s Worship Web, which Philo knows very well. It says it is still being developed, but I rather doubt much happens to it any given week. (Which would be a shame.) But it has a lot of resources from a number of different authors.

If, instead of it being managed by staff members, it could be amended, edited, and tweeked by the reading public (under a set of rules) and if the end product was maintained under a license so broad that anyone could use the material and alter it at will — then you have an idea of what a wiki is like. (The name comes from Hawaiian wiki-wikis, or quick buses. See the Wikipedia page on wiki.)

In other words, it is a tool for broad-based mass collaborative work. Not useful for all situations, but good for a great many. Those with fragile egos need not apply, for instance. It is, however, good for the kind of person who corrects typos in printed books, as many wikis can be edited by any reader. At first, I thought it would be hostage to every crank and spin-doctor. But when you have many, many eyes judging against bias the truth will usually win out. (Here’s an article under dispute, as an example of the kind of discipline that can be engendered.)

Apart from the Wikimedia Foundation wikis, most are small and never get the critical mass to make a go of it, and that’s a shame. (Just today I used Wikipedia at work to learn more about Japanese postal address conventions, and at home to learn about Hungarian cuisine.)

It could be a handy repository of folk wisdom and technology, news updates, and trial balloons; in essence, it could be a counterpart to the UUA’s InterConnections magazine. For my part, I intend to start writing for the UU Wiki as soon as I read all the standards.

Lastly, the article I wrote (and others edited) for Wikipedia on “our” John Murray.

UU Wiki

There’s an emerging Unitarian Universalist wiki (read: the now and next big thing for cooperative work on the internet; the biggest one is the ultra-helpful Wikipedia)

So far, it mostly has information from a few UUA sponsored mailing lists, but it rests on the same software as Wikipedia, so it has the power to grow to being the most useful collaborative resource for the denomination.

Just a matter of getting traffic, support, and writers.

UU Wiki

Wikipedia comes close to home

I love Wikipedia, the best open-source online encyclopedia around. When I need terms to distinguish between different kinds of dim sum, or want a list of the world’s subway systems, or how many people live in Malta, I go there.

They seem to have an article for everything. Of course, there’s one for Universalism, but that has an error in the telling of the Murray-Potter legend. So you take the good with the bad.

But who would have thought there’d be a listing for . . .

Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship or the Magi Network?

[2009. Indeed. The Magi Network article has since been deleted for lack of notability.]