Notes from emails from Gernot Heiser about L4 and Education
The importance of investing into school kids cannot be underestimated, although I see them as the future technologist, not a free work force.
Particularly in the present situation where in many industrialised countries kids are losing interest in technology and science. If this trend continues we will create a society with a very strong class structure, where the majority has no understanding of technology and limited access to its benefits, and even less understanding of its dangers. Needless to say, this is also a big threat for the economic competitiveness of those countries.
I have been tangentially involved with outreach activities at UNSW. And the scary thing is that in high school, it is essentially too late. The kids have already decided whether they are interested in science and maths, and those who have decided they don't like it are essentially already a lost cause. Regrettably, this is particularly true with girls, who at this age are very sensitive to peer pressure, and are being told by their peers that maths isn't a girl thing. In Australia, there are also studies showing that high school career advisers are also discouraging girls from science and engineering.
Essentially, the battle is already lost in high school, it has to start earlier. Our experiences with running workshop for year-five pupils (especially girls) are much better, they are still open at this stage. This is the time where the interest needs to be nurtured.
The observation that "systems research is irrelevant" has been made before by Rob Pike (http://herpolhode.com/rob
The reality, though, is that some of this is the inevitable result of the commoditisation of PCs, and the resulting huge inertia in the basic architecture, processor as well as OS. I don't think there's much hope in changing the PC world in the foreseeable future.
Embedded systems, however, are a different ball game. The embedded systems industry, in different verticals at different times, is realising that they have reached the use-by date of their RTOS technology. Hence they are forced into a change of OS technology, and this is the chance to put in something that's good. I sure believe that this is L4, and that's the reason we have set up Open Kernel Labs.