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Open Source Educator (Part Three: OLPC Intern) March 1, 2011

<polyachka> what is Fedora vs Sugar?

<mchua> The Fedora, Sugar, Fedora+Sugar focus is definitely an artifact of myself and Sebastian spending so much time on POSSE, because that’s exactly the intersection of the two communities we work in.

<mchua> Well, Fedora is a Linux distribution. It’s an operating system, and its mission is not education, but instead to rapidly advance Free Software (and content) as much as possible. In part by making it easy for people to run and get their hands on the good stuff – trying to make our packages as up-to-date and close to upstream as possible, that sort of thing. The two projects intersect in Sugar on a Stick, which is a Fedora spin. Which means that it’s a custom Fedora version that’s designed to boot Sugar by default and run Sugar activities.

<polyachka> to me Sugar is for children, is there anything similar to it but for adults, like college students and above? I mean from the user perspective

<mchua> Well, if you’re looking at Sugar as a platform with open and extendable tools that people can use for learning… I would say that really, any open operating system can serve that purpose for older folks.

<mchua> I used Fedora myself in college. And the community is also really supportive of newcomers, encourages people to learn and play and explore.  (this isn’t limited to Fedora – lots of other open source projects have great supportive communities too!)

<polyachka> where did you go to college?

<mchua> In Needham, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston. I attended Olin College (http://olin.edu) which was brand-new at the time, I was in their second-ever graduating class.

<polyachka> and what was your major?

<mchua> My major was somewhat arbitrary – I couldn’t decide, so I used a dartboard to decide for me. :) But the dart landed on “Electrical and Computer Engineering,” so that’s what my degree says.

<polyachka> so how did you get into the project with Elsa?

<mchua> It’s actually where I learned a lot of the ways of thinking that have come in handy for me in open source. I was the first Oliner who got involved in OLPC.

<mchua> Nikki Lee came along shortly afterwards, and she started the club that got Elsa Culler and others involved.

<mchua> Ian Daniher and Sebastian Dziallas did a sort of reverse migration, getting involved in OLPC and Sugar first, and finding out about Olin through that, and now they’re both students there.

<polyachka> when did you get involved?

<mchua> I started becoming an active contributor when I was 20 – my senior year of college, very start of the spring semester… so that would be January, February, 2007.  Just kept on showing up at the office in Cambridge pestering people for things to do. :)

<mchua> I realized the engineers there were all overworked and couldn’t handle volunteers much, but that there was this army of engineers who wanted to volunteer help, and a bunch of work (Activity creation, for instance) that wasn’t getting done.

<polyachka> and what did you do?

<mchua> So the first big thing I did was to organize the first OLPC Game Jam, which was at Olin the summer I graduated.

<mchua> http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Game_Jam_Boston_June_2007

<mchua> It was a win-win for everyone; the volunteers showed up, the engineers showed up and taught everyone how to make Activities, and by the end of the weekend we had a bunch of volunteers who could make Activities. And they went on to teach others (Wade Brainerd, one of the original volunteers from that Game Jam, went on to be the first leader of the Activity team, and so forth).

<polyachka> that is really cool

<mchua> It’s just about unblocking people who want to do good stuff, that’s all. Easiest job in the world. :) You’re letting people who want to do work, do work.

<polyachka> I couldn’t agree more!

<mchua> Well, a little after that – I kept showing up at the office in Cambridge, sitting there and working on whatever seemed most useful… at some point, Walter Bender (who was still OLPC’s president at the time) walked up to me and said “here, sign this, we’re going to hire you… and can you go to Taiwan in two weeks?”

<polyachka> sounds great to me!  :)

<mchua> So that’s how I started my official tenure at OLPC – right after I signed my internship papers I jetted off to represent OLPC at Wikimania in Taipei. They brought me on full-time later as a QA/Support engineer.

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