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Re: [Fsfe-uk] BBC digital curriculum service in England

From: Ian Lynch
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] BBC digital curriculum service in England
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 16:47:40 +0100

On Sun, 2004-10-10 at 15:30, Kevin Donnelly wrote:

> There are three aspects:
> 1) will the material run on non-Windows platforms like Linux?
> 2) will the material use a free authoring/delivery system (eg something other 
> than Flash)?
> 3) will the material be made available under a free licence?

I agree. In order of desirability. Pushing to enable to run on a
non-windows platform is a step on from not being dependent on say IE
which I think they will be sensitive too. So

Must run in browsers other than IE. (They will probably take that as
Mozilla, maybe Opera)
Must run on a GNU/Linux platform. Even that in principle and allowing a
get out of "unless it can be shown to be particularly difficult to
implement and then only for a limited percentage of material" ie we say
that the vast majority will run and a few documented exceptions are just
that for specific reasons.
Using free software itself for the delivery applications I think will be
damn near impossible to achieve but we could try and negotiate at least
some input to development in return for not kicking up too much fuss ;-)
Licensing is an interesting one. It would be good to go for it but I
wouldn't hold out too much hope.

> (2) and (3) would be ideal, but ensuring (1) would be the most essential 
> IMHO.  

I agree. The starting point might be to go for everything but with an
acceptance that winning point one was the chief objective.

> As Alex says, for better or worse, Flash is now considered the default method 
> of presenting learning resources, but it does at least have a Linux player, 
> and some versions of the Studio can be run on Linux through WINE.  
> (2) is something that might be encouraged over the longer term, if an 
> alternative free system can be made viable.
> Good arguments can be made for (3), but I'm not sure how open they are to 
> that 
> (and there may be counter-arguments about "dumping", as Alex notes). 

But the proprietary suppliers are on a feeding frenzy of £100m a year on
ELCs which was a sop to this very argument. I'd say that if the BBC are
allowed to do this, the license is not that difficult *if* they have the
will to do it.

> But 
> Graham's point about free software methodology is very promising here.  For 
> example, if the material is built in such a way that different languages can 
> be slotted in, à la gettext, this would mean that porting it to a different 
> language would be a matter of editing the onscreen text, and recording 
> additional sound, where necessary, and this would be considerably simpler 
> than redoing it from scratch, or even re-editing the source files.  This 
> would apply to any minority UK language (eg Punjabi), and would neatly get 
> around the dumping argument, as well as being inclusive towards minority 
> groups (which both BBC and BECTA should be interested in).

And the BECTA Chairman is very interested in the use of Open Souorce
methods in education and was the keynote speaker at FLOSSIE. I can
E-mail him if necessary but I would need a well prepared set of
questions, points, demands or whatever.

Ian Lynch <address@hidden>

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