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Eben Upton comments on open source Pi concerns

by Rob Zwetsloot

Raspberry Pi’s will have the Wolfram Language and Mathematica in future versions of Raspbian, but issues about it being non-free software have arisen

The primary mission of the Raspberry Pi has always been to teach kids how to code the same way the BBC Micro did. In this issue we have another ten fantastic projects you can use it with, but for the Raspberry Pi foundation this is just a happy side-effect of the way they’ve created it. It also doesn’t hurt that these kind of practical applications can get children interested in technology as well.

To further this aim, the Raspberry Pi Foundation have announced a partnership with Wolfram research to bundle the Wolfram language and Mathematica with Raspbian. While there will be no charge for the software being on the distro, there are other concerns in the open source community about it not being FOSS. As the community has a done a lot itself to support the Pi, they’re worried about the message this may send.

Eben Upton, co-creator of the Raspberry Pi, was keen to point out the ways Raspberry Pi actively gives back to the community:

“Every time we sell a Pi, we make a small profit. Because we’re a charity, we don’t have shareholders, so every penny of that profit gets invested either in the charitable mission (creating teaching materials, making the case to Government for more investment in computing education), or in improving the platform. Because we’ve made the decision to stick with our current hardware for the foreseeable future most of the investment in the platform goes into software, and most of that goes into open source software. We believe we’re the only SBC vendor making a significant investment of this sort. I’m currently spending a little over $100k (£60,000) per month on projects“

Some of the specific communities it gives back to are: Wayland, the next generation display server; Scratch, the game coder for children; Webkit, a lightweight and open source web rendering engine; XBMC, the most popular Linux-based media centre software; the Linux Kernel and a few more.

It’s fantastic that the foundation are supporting these projects so actively, however some people in the community would prefer dedication to be using as much free software as possible. For now though, the good they do for the community, far outweighs this one use of non-free software.

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    • jsebean

      I wish they’d stick with free software, because it’s free software that lets you “hack” around with. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to use non-free software, you need it for the pi to even boot up, id still like for them to stick with free sw for the core project.

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    • jeff_albertson

      The programs costs 195pound so this seems like a good way to get their foot into the door. An up-sell.
      It is neither a common language like C nor a standard.
      Its the main part of the proprietary Mathematica and seems like a dead end for most other projects..

      Not sure what Pi gets from this but I know what Wolfram gets out of it at zero cost.

      Why not just go for the big boys while youre at it?
      How about .NET or C# for the PI while were at it?

      And I still have to see the RPi people do something in the educational arena which helps interest a new generation to coding.
      Right now from what Ive seen, its kids who have parents who are geeks, young people who are interested in technology and would have been with or without a Pi, some school projects and LOTS of old farts.
      Those people would have been doing the same even without a Pi.
      To get numbers you have to go outside the usual suspects and bring in kids who might not otherwise be interested or even know about coding. Smart kids but who have no one to guide then is what has to be reached out for.