The Freedom Toaster
The Freedom Toaster project aimed to design a software and content vending machine-like kiosk where users could access a range of stored open source operating systems, software and other content, select their desired packages and burn these to CD or DVD which they could then take home and use. This would be of particular use in areas with limited bandwidth, where content could not be easily downloaded or for use at educational institutions where a range of content can be provided quickly and easily.
The project led to the development of custom software for use on the Freedom Toaster that makes use of a basic computer system, touch screen and multiple CD or DVD drives, allowing more than one disk to be burnt at the same time and negating the need for a keyboard or pointing device to be attached to the system. This allowed for users to make their selection of software and content on the touch screen via an easy-to-use interface which could then be burnt on multiple disks simultaneously. One could, for example, burn the four CDs needed for a Mandriva Linux installation in the few minutes that would be required to burn one CD conventionally.
But the Freedom Toaster was also developed with openness in mind, so that anyone in the world could download the software and required content and build their own Freedom Toasters. Systems have sprung up all over the world and used in museum exhibitions, universities and for special events. As the Freedom Toaster makes use of an open source operating system and interface, it can be easily customised to run on just about any computer and for the needs of whoever is building it. An official Freedom Toaster unit is moved around to convenient locations and events where anyone is welcome to choose from the variety of software available and burn their own CDs. Some of the content that is generally made available on the Freedom Toaster includes the Ubuntu and Gentoo Linux operating systems, open source software for Windows such as the Firefox web browser and OpenOffice.org productivity suite and electronic books from the Gutenberg project online.
The Freedom Toaster has also been used as a collaborative tool for musicians and producers who can upload and download each other’s Creative Commons’ licensed sound samples from the Toaster. The Freedom Toaster team is also constantly on the look out for new applications and content to use with the Toaster and innovative ways of administering the system, including remote access using mobile data connectivity. The Freedom Toaster project is now independent of the Shuttleworth Foundation in line with the organisation’s policy to grow projects of this kind to become self sustaining.
A new company, Breadbin Interactive has been formed and will continue to develop and provide customised implementations of the Freedom Toaster as a profit-driven business. The Freedom Toaster was one of the first projects initiated by the Foundation and has evolved into a resounding success story.