Freedom Toaster dispenses FOSS… for free

The Seneca College Linux Club figured out a fantastic way to help promote Linux to a wider audience. They took some surplus hardware and made an Open Source software vending machine. That is and isn’t a play on words. The project itself is an open source project, and the goal is to dispense other open source software in the form of CDs and DVDs.

Their build page shares all of the details. They acquired an older server cabinet which was on the way out from the IT department. It’s more than large enough to fit a person inside, which is overkill but it makes it much less likely that someone will try to walk off with the thing. Inside you’ll find a computer, two monitors (one is a touch screen for consumer use, the other is just an extra hidden inside for maintenance.

You must bring your own blank CD-R or DVD-R (but the burning is free). You can see the DVD shelf at waist-level on the fully painted kiosk above. The only thing we think is missing here is a USB port for brewing up a bootable USB stick.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Comments

  1. Dax says:

    The irony is, that once you got the CD, and try to install the software on your Linux machine, you’ll quickly find out that you’re missing dependencies or you’re running the wrong distro, or wrong version of something or another.

    Or like most people when they first encounter software installation on Linux: “Where the f*** is the setup program? What the h*** am I supposed to do with this c***”

    • Daid says:

      The irony is, that that has little to do with Linux. But more with OpenSource. I’ve got a lot of headache with OpenSource projects that simply don’t supply a good installer, or working build scripts. This is just as bad for windows as for linux, maybe even worse for Windows.

      In Linux, you have a package manager, anything you install from there will work.

      • Dax says:

        It is sort of Linux’s problem, because the platform is so fragmented and heterogenous that it’s pointless to try and target them all. Just drop the source and hope someone somewhere picks it up and makes it work.

        Using a package manager doesn’t really solve the problem of offline installation because of dependencies, so trying to distribute software on a CD becomes an act of futility anyways. Plus, you’re at the mercy of the distro lords to get your stuff into the repositories. If some Gandalf has a grudge on you, thou shall not pass.

        In Windows, you kinda sorta have to have a working installer, or not require one, or very few will bother to use your software. Once you do, everybody can – there’s no gatekeepers.

        And that is the irony. The closed platform is actually more open when it comes to getting new software in.

      • Dax says:

        Even if I do have a package manager, dropping in a random .deb or .rpm that I downloaded from Google won’t guarantee that it works. Sometimes even when it’s supposed to be for the same distro, but depends on a version of a package that is not available until you upgrade etc. etc.

        It’s like living in a hippy commune where someone is always tearing down walls and putting up new ones to “improve the feng shui” while you just want the bathroom to be where it was yesterday.

  2. Kyle says:

    I like this idea! Now I really want to build one for my university.

  3. pall.e says:

    I think it would be great if they included a way to buy media for a dime or quarter. I often don’t burn distros just because I never have any media around and it is only worth it if you buy it in bulk. Would also take out the guess work of whether this media will work with this burner.

  4. nathangray says:

    Agreed.
    Better would be if they could have one of everything burned already. You could put in a quarter, get a disk, then the kiosk could burn a replacement to restore inventory.

  5. Derpderderp says:

    We had Freedom Toasters on campus in 2005 odd, think they were donated by Canonical (I seem to also remember their plans, scripts etc were open). At least the images were fairly easy to replace – lmos all round.

  6. supershwa says:

    Very awesome idea – would prefer a USB port I could plug a jump drive into, though. That’s more likely to be in my pocket than a blank CD. ;)

  7. Justin Sabe says:

    Interesting question, can you block it from loading a HID device plugged into the port?

    • GrizzlyAdams says:

      Sure, you just have to blacklist the usb hid driver. Or alternately using udev/eventd rules block any device except mass storage on the external port.

  8. Ren says:

    Does the kiosk have Internet access? That could allow the sysadmin to keep the CD image up to date with the latest patches.

  9. vonskippy says:

    If you don’t have an internet connection, pretty much everything sucks. Brand new spins of every distro I ever saw required 100’s of megs worth of patches the second after it’s been installed. If you do have a internet connection, then why would you need this? Seems like a solution looking for a problem.

  10. libredrs says:

    It’s GNU/Linux. FOSS is also a meaningless acronym. Free means non-proprietary. Open source doesn’t necessarily consider user freedom.

  11. Natalie says:

    Cool use of spare parts and nice paint job! Maybe it will pique some ones interest in Linux.
    But yea, sort of agree that “most users” are better served downloading the latest distos from the net…. provided ya have a high speed line, which not everyone does, maybe that’s the target audience?

  12. Hirudinea says:

    Mabye they shoud adapt this kiosk to distribute pirated movies, just to piss the MPAA off.

  13. N0LKK says:

    Ah man. The logo has CD coming out or going into a toaster. They should have used the top from a chrome art deco toaster for the CD slots in the cabinet. Just can’t teach kids style these days. ;) Far out project, but unfortunately it’s likely to turn off people to the concept of FOSS than it is to win converts. FOSS take too much effort for too many in the US.

  14. Welsh Mullet says:

    Got one of these on Aberystwyth campus in Wales. 3 dvd drives, sits in the Comp Sci reception. Apparently 3 major students have tried and failed to modify the code to work with usb. The toaster software we have is the last offical branch from the original devs in africa i think. It runs on an out of date version of debian and is a bitch to get working at all… Images are easy to update though

  15. Someguy says:

    I’ve seen this particular “toaster” in person didn’t make it burn blank dvd tho as I already had linux at home.

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