by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 24th 2012 7:59pm
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Mar 6th 2012 8:27am
from the hidden-benefits dept
The Raspberry Pi is a $25 credit-card sized computer that has succeeded in making GNU/Linux not just newsworthy, but downright desirable. The initial batch of boards sold out in minutes, and eager customers crashed the server where it was being sold.
The original vision of the Raspberry Pi was to promote amateur programming and to re-invigorate the teaching of computing in the UK (and elsewhere) by providing a very low-cost and easily hackable system. Naturally, though, its open source code allows it to be applied in many different situations. Here, for example, is a plan to create a secure chat system for activists that can be used in countries where communications are routinely under surveillance, using a program called Cryptocat:
Because of their low-cost and small size they can then be shipped to activists and NGO's in areas where free-speech is difficult.
An interesting consequence of Moore's Law and the ready availability of free software is that powerful computers can now be produced for just tens of dollars, and in an extremely small package. The low cost means that organizations supporting activists can send in many such systems to countries with human rights problems, and replace them if they are discovered and confiscated or destroyed. The size makes it much easier to import them discreetly, as well as to conceal them in countries that try to keep computing under tight control.
"This is especially useful for activist organizations, human rights organizations, any group composed of a few dozen people who need to have an internal secure communication service," said Mr Kobeissi.
Small, portable Raspberry Pi computers set up to run Cryptocat, he believes, may be a quick way to build such a service.
And it's not just the Raspberry Pi that will be making this possible. Its high-profile success is likely to mean that in due course other systems will be produced that are cheaper and smaller. That will ensure they are even more popular with the educational market and hackers -- and even more problematic for oppressive regimes.
from the we've-got-spirit,-how-'bout-you? dept
Interestingly, though, other notable languages that have risen in popularity have done so under the direction of large corporations. For example, Apple is the main cheerleader behind the recent popularity of Objective C -- especially as this superset of C is now one of only 4 languages approved for coding iPhone/iPod/iPad apps. Also, Google's Go language has been getting noticed because it's a shiny new offering from everyone's favorite "do no evil" buddy -- and because it explicitly supports concurrent programming.
But with no major company pushing for C, it may be getting a bit long in the tooth as multi-core processors inspire programmers to increasingly use multi-threading techniques. C will certainly never die, but the last revision of C was adopted as an ANSI standard in March 2000. So it's been quite some time since C has been updated. In fact, the ISO's proposals for C changes also appear to be pretty conservative -- which is a good thing for stability and eliminating any confusion over what is supported. But will C be able to evolve and stay relevant?