Here’s a way you can give something to everyone while getting something for yourself (other than our nice machines for your kids, or for you to use at the beach, or when traveling, ….).
Last time I blogged, it was about adopting and amplifying good ideas for the free desktop in general. One project I mentioned, the Façades idea, is of particular importance. Free software is often built by, and used by experts. Since the Gimp is so easy a target, I’ll pick on it (though it has improved its usability over the years considerably, it has a good way to go).
One of the precepts of OLPC and the Sugar environment is “Low barrier to entry; no ceiling”. While I don’t think we succeeded at avoiding a number of gratuitous ceilings (our choice of window manager comes to mind, which we plan to fix), the fact is we have wonderful software like the Gimp which is too complicated for an 8 year old to use. We do have nice things like TuxPaint, which is a (child) crowd pleaser; but those do not scale up as the child grows.
As Façades applied to the Gimp demonstrates, any application that is built using at-spi (the accessibility framework), in concert with Composite in the window system, alternate (in this case, simplified) user interfaces can be built. More speculatively, one can see how to build applications that are literally “composited” together out of piece parts, if something like UNIX pipes can be arranged.
This would allow us to build much more tuned interfaces for particular paths; simpler interfaces for children, better use by the disabled, who may not be able to use certain UI elements effectively, etc, that are now not feasible. While GUI builders have had this promise, in practice, they seem not to have actually succeeded at delivering this promise (you have to know too much to use them, and many applications have been built without them); maybe Facades can. As a child grows, (s)he could add features as they age, without having to switch tools altogether and start over.
Taking Facades ideas from research prototype to the free desktop would be a real case of “Give one, Get Many”, for you personally, the children and any disabled people in your life.