Many reading my blog will not have heard the name Richard Rothwell and thus will have very little idea of his significance in the early days of DFEY.
I first encountered Richard, like many others, via the Schoolforge-uk (SF-UK) mailing list, with his posts on free software and LTSP related subjects.
Ben Webb and I, on hearing he would be speaking at Manchester Free Software group in May 2008 about Sustainable Education Solutions, went along to see what we could gather.
As probably one of the only Manchester Free Software talks that was not been videoed (release of the videos is a separate issue!), it was a talk that I vividly remember regretting it was not being recorded mid-talk. I regret this to this day.
Some may know that Richard was a important (I think Chief) Examiner for one of the exam boards in GCSE ICT (I think) and at the time, I was having a really hard time with my AS ICT Applied double courses.
I really enjoyed his talk which, whilst focusing on his deployment of LTSP in secondary schools, gave some very insightful ideas into what an school which fully embraced free software could turn out like.
He mentioned that the idea of running the network on LTSP came from two technologically adept 15 year olds.
He explained how they approached him with this distro that did basic LTSP, and so he took them out of lessons and got them to demonstrate how it worked to him on two old machines. Once the potential became clear, as I understand he deployed LTSP on a largish network with minimal resources, saving oodles of money and using recycled computers.
To me, a place where IT staff not only listened to the students, but interacted and were willing to look into ideas shared by the students is amazing, but for them build this system *around* free software is a utopia.
I think Richard persuaded me that there were better places out there, and it was worth working hard to work towards those.
I hope this is what I’m doing now.
A true legend, remembered well.
Richard sadly died on Friday 17th July.
There is a tribute website set up for him at http://tributestorichardrothwell.net, where you can leave your condolences.