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Eben Upton comments on open source Pi concerns

Raspberry Pi's will have the Wolfram Language and Mathematica in future versions of Raspbian, but issues about it being non-free software have arisen

The primary mission of the Raspberry Pi has always been to teach kids how to code the same way the BBC Micro did. In this issue we have another ten fantastic projects you can use it with, but for the Raspberry Pi foundation this is just a happy side-effect of the way they’ve created it. It also doesn’t hurt that these kind of practical applications can get children interested in technology as well.

To further this aim, the Raspberry Pi Foundation have announced a partnership with Wolfram research to bundle the Wolfram language and Mathematica with Raspbian. While there will be no charge for the software being on the distro, there are other concerns in the open source community about it not being FOSS. As the community has a done a lot itself to support the Pi, they’re worried about the message this may send.

Eben Upton, co-creator of the Raspberry Pi, was keen to point out the ways Raspberry Pi actively gives back to the community:

“Every time we sell a Pi, we make a small profit. Because we’re a charity, we don’t have shareholders, so every penny of that profit gets invested either in the charitable mission (creating teaching materials, making the case to Government for more investment in computing education), or in improving the platform. Because we’ve made the decision to stick with our current hardware for the foreseeable future most of the investment in the platform goes into software, and most of that goes into open source software. We believe we’re the only SBC vendor making a significant investment of this sort. I’m currently spending a little over $100k (£60,000) per month on projects“

Some of the specific communities it gives back to are: Wayland, the next generation display server; Scratch, the game coder for children; Webkit, a lightweight and open source web rendering engine; XBMC, the most popular Linux-based media centre software; the Linux Kernel and a few more.

It’s fantastic that the foundation are supporting these projects so actively, however some people in the community would prefer dedication to be using as much free software as possible. For now though, the good they do for the community, far outweighs this one use of non-free software.