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Open-source vending machine 'gaining momentum'

Get your software while it's hot

It looks like a vending machine but it doesn't spit out chocolate or coffee. Instead, it's providing free, open-source software (Foss) in more than 30 locations in South Africa.

The bright orange, refrigerator-sized machine is equipped with an internal computer 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 schools, libraries, science centres 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.

Using a touchscreen interface, users can obtain for free nearly 20 Foss programs, including Linux, Ubuntu, Firemonger and Knoppix. All they need are blank CDs.

Onscreen information is available about the software users have selected, including how many blank CDs they'll need. 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 as having only 1.8 percent internet penetration.

Additional information about the Freedom Toaster is available at www.freedomtoaster.org.


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