There are hundreds of gift guides this holiday season filled with junk you can buy – but a lot of time you actually don’t own it, you can’t improve upon it, you can’t share it or make it better, you certainly can’t post the plans, schematics and source code either. We want to change that, we’ve put together our picks of interesting open source hardware projects, open source software, services and things that have the Maker-spirit of open source. Some are kits, some are open software projects that you’ll need to build hardware for before gifting, and some are just support for the projects/groups that do open source. Included in this guide are things you can get from the MAKE store too (we try and have as many open source goods as possible).
And we’re not done, post in the comments on what -you- think should be in the Open source gift guide and we’ll add it! Just stick to the same format we did, name, link, couple sentences. We need your help, send in other great OS gifts and if you’re spending money this season support open source, give a gift that gives back!
Here is my suggestion for the friend who already has everything: make a donation in their name to one of the many great organizations that work tirelessly to support the ideals of open source and free culture, including, but not limited to:
- The Free Software Foundation. The one, the only, the original standard bearer for the idea that software users have rights. Richard Stallman and I don’t always see eye to eye, but you have to keep a warm place in your heart for him as a classic example of Shaw’s “unreasonable man” who changes the world.
- The Open Source Initiative. The guys who brought open source into the mainstream, and made the point that free software was a practical choice, not a religious one. OSI continues to do the ugly work of certifying open source licenses. Even though companies are getting better at choosing standard licenses, there’s still a lot of sheep herding to be done to make sure that “open source” means something.
- The Creative Commons. Larry Lessig’s brilliant initiative to take the ideas of free software and put them into the broader context of free culture. Creative Commons has given us new ways to think about copyright, and the balance of rights and responsibilities that come with copyright. I’m writing these guys a big check. So should you.
- The Internet Archive. Brewster Kahle is my hero. He was one of the first dotcom millionaires, and the first to turn his thinking to charity. But what a charity! With amazing forethought, he realized how much of our digital culture is evanescent, and set out to preserve it, building a new digital library of Alexandria, the home of all human knowledge. Google’s highminded goal is to give access to all the world’s knowledge, but Brewster is responsible, more than any other, for making sure that that knowledge will still be there to be found. The archive hosts not just old web content, but old films, old pamphlets, and all the ephemera of culture that will give insight into who we are and what we thought.
- The Long Now Foundation. Stewart Brand is another one of my heroes, and this is the latest in a long line of eye-opening projects he has set in motion. Their goal is to encourage long term thinking, with thought-provoking demonstration projects such as The Ten Thousand Year Clock and the Rosetta Project, as well as a monthly series of public seminars on long term thinking.
- Worldchanging.com. Worldchanging focuses on what it will take to build a sustainable future. Their website is a fount of information about technologies and people who are working to change the world for the better. If you’re not inspired to give them a donation to support their work after checking out the site, you might consider giving their just-pubished book, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century as a gift. It’s a gorgeous book celebrating people, tools, and ideas for creating a better world. Worldchanging’s manifesto: “worldchanging was founded on the idea that real solutions already exist for building the future we want. it’s just a matter of grabbing hold and getting moving.”
- The Network Startup Resource Center. Not as high profile as the others, NSRC does great work funneling donations of equipment, books, and training to people providing internet access in developing nations. I’ve donated books to them for years, plus money to help get the books overseas. (In a related vein, though I don’t see any place to give donations, Rob Flickenger’s hackerfriendly.org is doing some really cool collaborative publishing to build free books for networking in developing countries.)
Note: All initial links in the bulleted lists above are to the donation pages for the organizations in question. Even if you don’t give a donation, if you aren’t familiar with these organizations, navigate to their home pages and check out what they do.
P.S. Forgot one! I sat down to write some checks, and remembered the The Electronic Frontier Foundation (of which I am a proud former board member.) The EFF stands up for your rights online — everything from civil liberties in cyberspace to voting rights and the right to tinker and reverse-engineer. They aren’t always right, but they are always on the side of right. And they stand up to be counted when there’s no one else standing.