WSIS - Open source from the vending machine

Free and open source software is available through a vending machine in South Africa.

It looks like a vending machine but what it spits out is something far removed from Coke or candy: free and open source software (FOSS).

The bright orange, refrigerator-size vending machine is equipped with a computer inside that burns CDs, a process also known as "toasting" in the open source community, hence the name: Freedom Toaster.

The machine is up and running in more than 30 locations in South Africa, including schools, libraries, science centers and retail outlets, according to The Shuttleworth Foundation, which is sponsoring the project.

Launched in 2004, the project has been gaining "considerable momentum" in recent months, a foundation spokesperson said.

The device was developed by foundation member Jason Hudson.

Founder Mark Shuttleworth, a prominent figure in the GNU/Linux community, is currently funding the development of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system.

Through a touch screen interface, users can obtain for free nearly 20 FOSS programs, including Linux, Ubuntu, Firemonger and Knoppix. All they need are blank CDs.

On-screen information is available about the software users have selected, including how many CDs they'll need to copy it onto. If they don`t have enough, they can quit and return later. Some locations offer CDs for sale at a nearby stores.

With its Freedom Toaster, the foundation aims to help people in areas with limited or no bandwidth available to download the software.

The foundation cites the Internet World Stats Report from July, which lists Africa with only 1.8 percent Internet penetration.

Additional information about Freedom Toaster is available at: http://www.freedomtoaster.org.

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John Blau

IDG News Service
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