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OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:38 PM EDT

Richard Stallman just switched to an OLPC XO, for the free bios, and at that same moment in time, Nicholas Negroponte made some odd statements about Windows and the OLPC. Walter Bender's replacement has just been announced, by the way:
Charles Kane will move from the part-time role as chief financial officer to oversee the organization's operational matters and distribution of the XO laptop on a day-to-day basis....The organization is in negotiations with Microsoft to load Windows on dual-boot versions of the XO laptop, which is being marketed as a learning tool for children in developing countries. In an open letter, Negroponte criticized the development of Sugar, XO's user interface, and asked developers to stop bickering, unite and jointly develop a Windows user interface to make XO laptops more appealing to customers.

However, when rms spoke with some of the OLPC volunteers, it turns out that Negroponte was disappointed in the community's help with software, and that is his primary issue. He thought more volunteers would help, but he didn't set up the project in a way that encouraged it. And there were other problems, such as Flash, that I believe can now be solved thanks to Adobe's recent announcement about Flash.

Update: However, note Mozilla's warning about Flash and Silverlight, and its point that in HTML5, Flash will not be needed for audio or video.

So, the pressures that Negroponte was feeling -- that is a problem that can be fixed, simply by restructuring the project to enable everyone to know what is needed and facilitate contributions to Sugar. Whether that is going to be what resolves the issue, or whether that is truly the issue, is unknown to me. When Negroponte said that he couldn't promote openness and then exclude Microsoft, I became aware that there are some fundamental issues he hasn't yet thought through carefully (like what about the key on the XO that a child can press and see the underlying code? -- in Windows that won't be allowed, obviously, so logically I conclude Windows does not contribute to openness, and hence excluding it does promote openness), but according to Stallman, it is not too late to change Negroponte's mind. *If* that is true, it is certainly worth doing.

So he's written an essay, which I thought it was important to republish here, since a lot of you are programmers and can actually help if you wish to. I should also mention that there is a group forming to extend Sugar outside of OLPC, essentially a fork [upon deeper research, I'd say it's not a fork, but rather a group working to make sure the educational aims behind Sugar are fulfilled -- whether the group can work with OLPC still, although separately, is yet to be determined]. I'll have more information on that for you as developments occur. The truth is, in true FOSS fashion, nothing anyone does at the top can destroy Sugar. It will be extended and improved, thanks to being FOSS. But the OLPC project -- that can be damaged and at the moment, it is being damaged. So what rms is asking is this, "Can we rescue OLPC from Windows?" Personally, I'd like some binding commitment from Negroponte that if all the software issues are fixed, he'll stick to Plan A. It's possible that could happen, I gather, but I feel obligated to say it hasn't to my knowledge happened yet. So before everyone rolls up their sleeves, it might be wise to do some due diligence.

I wonder if Negroponte has done that with regard to XP. Is it going to be improved and extended or even maintained? Who will fix it when it crashes? Who will protect the little children from malware, which Microsoft software is so prone to be a victim of? Sugar and the XO was set up to provide real security. Can anyone say the same about Microsoft's software? What are you doing to those children?

And what about the future? If some governments want Microsoft software so children will be ready to find jobs, as I've seen reported in the media, the right question to ask them is, will XP be the software in use when the children grow up? Considering XP's death sentence date has already been announced, obviously not. And Vista is... well, the kindest thing to say is that it won't work on an XO or any small laptop of that type. That is what he should be telling anyone that says the children need Windows XP to be able to find jobs. I doubt there will be any on XP when the children start job-hunting. Negroponte isn't an engineer, and I gather the new president isn't either, so they may not even know such technical things.

However, since there is a fork on the way, whether or not Negroponte changes his mind, your labor will for sure never be wasted. So, it's up to you. Here is the essay.



Can we rescue OLPC from Windows?

by Richard Stallman

I read Negroponte's statement presenting the OLPC XO as a platform for Windows in the most ironic circumstances possible: during a week of preparing, under a deadline, to migrate personally to an XO.

I made this decision for one specific reason: freedom. The IBM T23s that I have used for many years are adequate in practice, and the system and applications running on them are entirely free software, but the BIOS is not. I want to use a laptop with a free software BIOS, and the XO is the only one.

The XO's usual software load is not 100% free; it has a non-free firmware program to run the wireless chip. That means I cannot fully promote the XO as it stands, but it was easy for me solve that problem for my own machine: I just deleted that file. That made the internal wireless chip inoperative, but I can do without it.

As always happens, problems arose, which delayed the migration until last week. On Friday, when I discussed some technical problems with the OLPC staff, we also discussed how to save the future of the project.

Some enthusiasts of the GNU/Linux system are extremely disappointed by the prospect that the XO, if it is a success, will not be a platform for the system they love. Those who have supported the OLPC project with their effort or their money may well feel betrayed. However, those concerns are dwarfed by what is at stake here: whether the XO is an influence for freedom or an influence for subjection.

Since the OLPC was first announced we have envisioned it as a way to lead millions of children around the world to a life in which they do computing in freedom. The project announced its intention to give children a path to learn about computers by allowing them to study and tinker with the software. It may yet do that, but there is a danger that it will not. If most of the XOs that are actually used run Windows, the overall effect will be the opposite.

Proprietary software keeps users divided and helpless. Its functioning is secret, so it is incompatible with the spirit of learning. Teaching children to use a proprietary (non-free) system such as Windows does not make the world a better place, because it puts them under the power of the system's developer -- perhaps permanently. You might as well introduce the children to an addictive drug. If the XO turns out to be a platform for spreading the use of proprietary software, its overall effect on the world will be negative.

It is also superfluous. The OLPC has already inspired other cheap computers; if the goal is only to make cheap computers available, the OLPC project has succeeded whether or not more XOs are built. So why build more XOs? Delivering freedom would be a good reason.

The project's decision is not final; the free software community must do everything possible to convince OLPC to continue being (aside from one firmware package) a force for freedom.

Part of what we can do is offer to help with the project's own free software. OLPC hoped for contribution from the community to its interface, Sugar, but this has not happened much. Partly that's because OLPC has not structured its development so as to reach out to the community for help -- which means, when viewed in constructive terms, that OLPC can obtain more contribution by starting to do this.

Sugar is free software, and contributing to it is a good thing to do. But don't forget the goal: helpful contributions are those that make Sugar better on free operating systems. Porting to Windows is permitted by the license, but it isn't a good thing to do.

I am typing these words on the XO. As I travel and speak in the coming weeks, I will point to it in my speeches to raise this issue.

Copyright 2008 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide without royalty in any medium provided this notice is preserved.


OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows? | 146 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here, Please
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:49 PM EDT
Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here, Please
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:51 PM EDT
Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspick Discussion Here, Please
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:54 PM EDT
Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is there a list of issues?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 02:06 PM EDT
I'm personally interested in contributing in some area or
the other, but is there any published list of 'tasks' that
need to be taken care of or bugs in Sugar or any XO

If such a list does exist, can anyone provide a link?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Can we Rescue OLPC from Sugar?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 03:18 PM EDT
As someone with a OLPC, lets put the question on its head:

Can the OLPC project be rescued from Sugar and the open source zealots?

The open source mantra on Sugar is disruptive. EG, it deliberately does not
include a Flash implementation that works with youtube because of open source
rationalles. So cut out a significant fraction of the information of the

And Sugar itself is an abomination.

The hardware is brilliant: designed by experts, with an eye to the proper

The software is an abomination, and much of the open source mantra, that
everyone should contribute, doesn't help. IT needs focused, high quality, paid
developers in the same way the hardware was.

If the goal is a USABLE system, rather than one that pleases the open-source
zealots (eg, RMS would rather go with NO NET AT ALL than use a binary-blob
wireless driver!), Sugar needs to be chucked over the side. Windows NT 3.5 is
more usable than Sugar.

Not only that, but RMS is wrong: there are other cheap computers out there, but
nothing comes remotely close to the ruggedness, cost effectiveness,
repairability, and long lifespan of the XO (LiFeP battery, no electrolytics).
The XO is a unique device.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 03:28 PM EDT
The impression that I was getting lately is that they don't care about volunteer
contributions any more. For example, I opened about 5 bugs for issues related to
right-to-left support (and other issues), I took a step forward and scratched my
itch and provided patches that fixes all the mentioned issues, I got no response
for months, lately I discovered that they are redesigning major parts of the
Sugar UI that render may patches useless, and no body even cared about telling
me this (This is an important issue, since many of what so called "first
buyers" are using RTL scripts).

I think a free, truly open fork might be the way to save Sugar.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nothing wrong with Stallman? Seriously.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 04:15 PM EDT
In response to the deleted thread:

Disabling a functionality is the way a engineer signals there is a problem with
the code.
Something wrong can be a bug, a patented loop hole or simply not free;
It is, if i may speak for the folks, "The Debian way".

Personally I can live with a close source driver and there were times I wished I
had one when I bought the wrong hardware.
The wifi manufacturers have ONE chip for the world
any many regulations taking care by the driver.
The video hardware world is also a twisted place the open there source, they
have a lot to learn and discover.
We can't wait for them to get there live online.

Disabling the bad code will remind the developer "I should fix this
and is a reminder to the user "I should buy open source friendly

Think about this: Most distro's can be sold or sued,
but the Debian folks guarantee there will always be a open Linux left.
It started with a open ls dos 2.10 and grew down to the kernel, Now it's time
for the drivers and the bios.

So considering something is a problem or not,
is a deeper view of understanding.


PS: How did this chip get into the OLPC ?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 04:31 PM EDT
M$ has been working vigorously to undercut and destroy OLCP.
We are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. Its is
the same old EEE M$ tactic. Unfortunately, it is a very
effective tactic. Even those who claim to be the wiser
fall for it. I'm just a nobody, but I am sad to say that
I'll be surprised if OLCP survives. I knew OLCP was going
to be polluted and destroyed the first time I heard that
M$ wanted to be involved. Maybe somewhere, someone who
really has enough power to seriously reign in M$, will
truly realize just how vile M$ is and actually do something
about it. Not very likely though because those in power
seem to value money and wealth more than anything else
regardless of what they may say.

[ Reply to This | # ]

development mailing list
Authored by: grouch on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 04:54 PM EDT
Stallman cuts right to the heart of the problem, as usual. Instead of looking for ways to stop Microsoft from being Microsoft, he calls for help to improve Sugar. Instead of extolling the technical virtues of the XO, he pinpoints its most important feature -- freedom.

We don't need another vehicle to carry the monopoly infection further. It already costs enough of the precious resources of schools and it already constrains enough children. Rescuing OLPC from non-free software is a worthwhile goal.

Developers who want to help may find useful information at software development mailing list for OLPC .

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

Maybe if it was more easy to get a device...
Authored by: Stefan Wagner on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 06:01 PM EDT
Maybe if it was more easy to get a device, it would be more easy to get

don't visit my homepage

[ Reply to This | # ]

Can We Rescue OLPC from the Fundamentalists?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 06:16 PM EDT
Yesterday I wrote under another thread of the dichotomy of OLPC.
Perhaps this was not the right word as replies suggested it
can be solved only by either : or, then the subject is in danger
of tearing itself apart. A successful project has management skills
to balance the forces of business and community so that they push
in the same direction.

Witness Google, Yahoo, Sun, Red Hat, Suse, &c, &c. Here are Wall St
recognised trading companies, using and building on the open source
ethic. Geeks in garages can go so far in developing and publishing
software with all the legal niceties that the GPL demands. But add in
hardware and business systems, and you a take a step with the other
foot. Forward progress requires synchronised steps from both feet.

OLPC is not just Sugar. It is injection molded plastic cases; circuit
boards to be etched and plated; chips to be soldered in; the whole
to be screwed together; crated, and containers shipped 20,000 km
past pirates and Port Authorities; warehoused and redistributed;
foreign deposits to be held in escrow; suppliers on five continents
to be paid; exchange rates to be hedged. And this before a single
child sees anything.

No amount of niggling about proprietary microkernels can avoid
dirty hands while dealing with hardware products. And geeks in
garages aren't going to cut it unless they have some serious
business chops. I agree with most here that Microsoft is not a
suitable head for OLPC, but I suggest that somebody with around
10% of MS' strength in the marketplace will be needed for this
project to succeed.

One blog I read yesterday referred to Negropontistas and
Benderites, but it should be noted that those two tribes are not
(yet) at war. All the sound and fury is coming from Blogistan,
which is not a significant player in the game. To stretch another
metaphor, when the crew divides to opposite ends of the ship,
we need a resolute captain at the helm to steer for calmer waters.
Microsoft has proven itself unsuitable for that task.
Suggestions welcome.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"I doubt there will be any on XP when the children start job-hunting"
Authored by: kawabago on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 07:49 PM EDT
What about child labor? If those children knew their way around XP then they
could be exploited now, no waiting till they grow up! They could be earing
income to support their families who are in desperate need right now! Their
families might be dead if all they do is learn and consume resources. Doesn't
this prove that forced learning actually causes poverty?

The Alex de Touqueville Shaky Foundation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 08:39 PM EDT
XP on the XO is a bad idea, but no real threat.

In a year or two Microsoft is going to stop selling XP to OEM's, because it is
trying to force everyone to Vista. But Vista is way too bloated to run on the
XO, so any XO sold from then on is going to be Linux only.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 08:41 PM EDT
"what about the key on the XO that a child can press and see the underlying
code? -- in Windows that won't be allowed"

From what I understand, the key shows the application code, not the os code.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC is a difficult project
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 08:43 PM EDT

A couple of reasons why Sugar and the OLPC project is hard to get involved with:

  • Even though it can run without the hardware you're likely to be more enthusiastically involved if you have it - and it's impossible to get a machine outside of the USA - and even then it was quite late in the piece.

  • Like most early projects, there are a lot of painful dependencies to get a dev env up and going. And without a bit of kit to actually run it on the payoff is pretty low.

  • It is so novel and different it is hard to even think of things that can be done within it, or for it. Such a novel approach needs a real direction and shared vision to come to fruition - and it is difficult to understand as it is. In fact it really needs a pretty solid base before it can be opened to the world without quickly losing direction.

  • The emphasis on python - I don't know if c can be used, but i'm sure i'm not the only one who has no experience with python and no desire to learn it. I don't know if this is the case with sugar, but unfortunately language zealots can easily hold a project back - and these days there are too many niche languages out there vying for attention. I looked into sugar reasonably early on but as soon as I saw the python thing I lost most of my interest almost immediately.

Contrast that with the linux kernel. It ran on the common platform of the day - x86, so almost every computer user was a potential developer. It uses C which is a very popular language, and certainly at the time the language that everyone would be familiar with (C++ was still working out what it wanted to be, and nobody but the military would use ADA - well even if it made sense for a Unix clone). It was also hard to set up - but the win was bigger since you had a real os rather than windows, and multiple distributions quickly sprang up anyway.

But RMS is right - if it moves to using windows the project is at worst dead, and at the very least - a wasted opportunity. Unfortunately too many public servants are too easily swayed by misinformation and misunderstandings (and corporate bribery i'm sure) - so it may be dead anyway. People who think learning to use some version of word is the only thing you need to learn at school are at best, simply fools.

If poor countries cannot invest in their own children's education they will just stay at the bottom of the heap. Wasting money on licensing fees sent to a foreign nation on a product they cannot touch, customise, or learn from is bordering on treason.

  Michael Zucchi

[ Reply to This | # ]

Rescue = application software = schools pooling money for Free software!
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 09:37 PM EDT
If every school put 100 into a bucket, for the developement (pay the rent, food,
insurance, light, heat, kids college fund for the education of workers), then
that would be money to pay for a development team (core).

If every school put in $1000 how much would they get back in return.

There is a model for this. The GPL license (combined with the idea of a
co-operative software development trust). There are proprietary versions of
such a trust (Avalanche Technology Co-operative is one). However, this could be
done for desktop school educational software as well.

We offer scholarships for some children to University, what about offering a
point system for software code development for software developers to use those
points to be able to send their own kids to a good university?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Negroponte is seriously lost in his mission
Authored by: gard on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 10:22 PM EDT

Negroponte said (
I believe the best educational tool is constructionism and the best software development method is Open Source. In some cases those are best achieved like the Trojan Horse, versus direct confrontation or isolating ourselves with perfection.

Remember the expression: perfection is the enemy of good. We need to reach the most children possible and leverage them as the agents of change. It makes no sense for us to search for the perfect learning model.
We need to reach the most children possible, but with the right tools and the right message. There is a reason common folk expect higher standards of ethics and morality (even if they don't always find it) from teachers. With children, the messenger is a part of the message. Children interpret everything; not just the words they are told or shown, but also how.

He is not committed to constructionism, FOSS, or perfection. Or, any of the words above, except "... reach the most children possible and leverage them as the agents of change"

The first message the children will receive with his new vision, I imagine, is a EULA. How well does that support "a philosophy of education in which children learn by doing and making. They explore and discover instead of being force fed information."? (

The new XO is going to restrict the doing, making, exploring and discovering. It is about to become the newest Ritalin Dispenser.

RMS is an optimist. Personally, I think it's too late to redeem OLPC.


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Sugar fork is a great idea
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 10:36 PM EDT
Hopefully soon someone can build a Linux distribution for regular PC's around
it. Then it will really start to see some user interest. Also hopefully the
Sugar fork will be developed in a more open fashion so that individuals such as
our frustrated patcher can make contributions. As an example, the Fedora
project is very open to community contributions. I am just a casual Fedora user
but they have accepted several of my patches.

[ Reply to This | # ]

XP, Indeed
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 11:04 PM EDT
If some governments want Microsoft software so children will be ready to find jobs, as I've seen reported in the media, the right question to ask them is, will XP be the software in use when the children grow up? Considering XP's death sentence date has already been announced, obviously not.
Not only will XP not be in use when the children grow up, neither will Vista. In five or six years, Microsoft (at most) Microsoft will pull the plug on Vista, as it is already doing with XP. And another five or six years after that, they will pull the plug on Windows 7.

So what Microsoft OS will the children be faced with in the workplace when they grow up?
Tom M.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Wesley_Parish on Monday, May 05 2008 @ 09:05 AM EDT

The major reason why I think the OLPC should use only FOSS software is because I know of a number of cases where people were not told how various products were made, and made up a mythology to explain it in accordance with their traditional beliefs.

I'm referring to Melanesian cargo-cults , where the Europeans had all these amazing devices that made life so much easier, and which they used in trade with the New Guineans. But they never showed the New Guineans how these things were made. So they had only one option - to use the long-tried and true ritual means, to try to get those self-same goods.

I get that feeling about using closed-source software with expensive and thus out-of-reach software teaching and development tools - such as Microsoft Windows XP on a teaching and development tool. Cargo Cultist in orientation. And inevitably, in results.

I'm in some ways surprised at the indifference that a fair number of African nations have shown towards this - I met an African engineering student once who was rather bitter about the way European companies would "offer" various concessions, training, etc, as long as said company was the sole beneficiary of the people trained, etc. I had greater respect for Africans than various Africans appear to have for themselves.

And as far as having the source code as a valuable means of education and training goes, you can't get any better than Andrew Tanenbaum's comments in the first edition of Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, pg 13, which I do herein quote:

Unfortunately, teaching only theory leaves the student with a lopsided view of what an operating system is really like. The theoretical topics that are usually covered in great detail in courses and books on operating systems, such as scheduling algorithms, are in practice not really that important. Subjects that really are important, such as I/O and file systems, are generally neglected because there is little theory about them.

To remedy this situation, I decided to write a new operating system from scratch that would be compatible with UNIX from the user's point of view, but completely different on the inside. By not using even one line of AT&T code, this system avoids the licensing restrictions, so it can be used for class or individual study. In this manner, readers can dissect a real operating system to see what is inside, just as biology students dissect frogs. The name MINIX stands for mini-UNIX because it is small enough that even a nonguru can understand how it works.

And of course, Aho, Sethi and Ullman, in Compilers: Principles, Techniques and Tools, pg 82, which I now quote:
A good way to learn about implementation techniques is to read the code of existing compilers. Unfortunately, code is not always published.

This is serious - an MS Windows XP-stuffed OLPC would be as relevant to learning as a boat-anchor - in the middle of the Sahara Desert, or the Gobi Desert. Unless Microsoft changed the habits of a lifetime and granted the same rights to the MS WinXP source tree as granted by the GPL to the Linux source tree.

And in the face of Microsoft claiming that FOSS never ever innovates - you see them screaming it's not fair when the Sugar interface isn't immediately ported to MS Windows. Make them a deal, OLPC, give them a offer they can't refuse - the last small NT source tree to be released by Microsoft under the GPL; the Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 source tree to be exact, and the MS Windows 95 source tree to be thrown in for fun, likewise under the GPL - and you'll port Sugar to it for the OLPC. Anything less is selling at a negative price, paying Microsoft +$ to buy. We can bring the older source trees up to scratch faster than Microsoft imagines, and make it better anyway.

finagement: The Vampire's veins and Pacific torturers stretching back through his own season. Well, cutting like a child on one of these states of view, I duck

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about "terminalization"?
Authored by: oro_meister on Monday, May 05 2008 @ 11:40 AM EDT

If the children really must have an experience of Microsoft Windows, why not do it through remote access? Schools that feel the need to expose their students to Windows could run a (possibly virtualized) Windows Server with Terminal Services and the students could remote into it with their XOs. The XOs run Linux, the children get experience with MS Windows (if that's something you decide you even want), and the bureaucrats get the super-sized price tag that they seem to crave.

Of course, configuration of such a setup would be offered as an add-on, preferably at quite the premium price, which could help support other OLPC development priorities.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft excludes openness!
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, May 05 2008 @ 02:04 PM EDT
"When Negroponte said that he couldn't promote openness and then exclude
Microsoft, ..."

I think he has that backwards. If he is talking about keeping the platform open,
then Microsoft has chosen to exclude itself. Ever since Bill's letter to
hobbyists, way back in the CP/M era, he has positioned Microsoft as the opposite
and worst enemy of open. I find it appalling that it has taken so long for a
significant number of people to realize just how much control they have given to
him. Hopefully the pendulum will swing as far the other way now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's more than just "betrayed"
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, May 05 2008 @ 04:07 PM EDT

Those who have supported the OLPC project with their effort or their money may well feel betrayed

'Betrayed' is a vague word that can mean any of a range of things.

I'd put this a lot more strongly.

People have given money and time to the OLPC project because they were told it was a genuinely educational project: giving kids computers, not just so that they could be turned into office workers able to write memos in Microsoft Word and present charts in Microsoft Powerpoint, but so that they could learn about the software by reading and modifying it. All of it.

Now Kane tells us that after they took our money, and our work, they're going to forget about their side of the bargain. I call that fraud. We need to find a lawyer and file a class action lawsuit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OLPC's Marketing Is Mindless
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, May 05 2008 @ 06:00 PM EDT

Negroponte is clueless when it comes to the marketing/providing laptops under the OLPC project. Anyone with business acumen knows "to stay with the business that you know."

Negroponte is a techey/idea man; but knows nothing about marketing! Had he brought someone else in to do the marketing; then he could have focused on managing the hardware and software development. The outcome - Negroponte failed on the marketing, software and likely the hardware.

Anyone, with marketing skills, would know NOT to combine the development, marketing and selling of a ONE-OF-A-KIND laptop with the notion of CHARITY. It's two different businesses (yes... charity giving is a business!)

Reminds me of a non-profit community revue type cinema Board that decided to charge 100% more for people coming to see movies on Friday night; in order to pay for impaired hearing system (infrared earphones). The Board couldn't figure out why Friday attendance dropped by 80%! The latter plus other bad decisions caused bankruptcy (after 14 years of operation!!!)

Negroponte is repeating the exact same mistake as the cinema Board.

Instead, the OLPC should have been marketed (and sold) as the "ONE- OF-A-KIND laptop" at a price of $300 to individuals (and NOT marketed as a OLPC laptop). That would have produced $100 profit per laptop sold.

Then the $100 per laptop would go the the OLPC Foundation. The OLPC Foundation could have then taken the $100 times the 5 to 10 million units sold, plus added several million in donations from other Foundations; and supplied the OLPCs to the impoverished kids at no cost or at the $200 price per unit to governments and NGOs.

By the way, I offered to market the OLPC for the total sum of One Dollar several years ago; Negroponte sent me back a nice letter saying they weren't quite ready to market yet; never heard from him again.


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My 5-year old's experience with OLPC
Authored by: markonhawthorne on Tuesday, May 06 2008 @ 05:25 PM EDT

I gave three and got one OLPC. I'm all for this project.

My five year old is somewhat frustrated with it. She goes
to use a control near one of the corners, and invariably
overshoots the control slightly only to have the control
covered up by Sugar invading from the borders. She will
usually try one more time before giving up in a huff
(our normal computers don't do this). It's sad to watch.

Did the OLPC software developers ever watch a child try
to use the laptop? I have my doubts that 1) they did
and 2) that they even had time to before first shipments.

I have to supervise every aspect of my 5 year old's use
of this computer, because she gets stuck at every turn.
Not so much with Ubuntu and Windows.

Sugar is a lot like my experience with most run-of-the-mill
open software; it starts out slowly and improves with age.
*I* can deal with this either by working around it or
waiting for it to mature. Kids really can't deal with it
without trained supervision.

If Microsoft can make the OLPC usable for most kids out
of the box, then the OLPC mission is forwarded.
All power to them.

Best regards,

Mark Mason
Engineering Design Team

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OLPC Decision Not Final, RMS Asks: Can We Rescue OLPC from Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, May 10 2008 @ 04:58 PM EDT
Wasn't the Sugar UI, which most people complain is the weakest part of the
OLPC, mandated, designed, architected and implemented primarily by the
MIT OLPC software team and therefore under the primary control of
Negroponte himself?

There are messages on the web stating the internal development team was
frustrated and crossed/overridden by NickNeg many times. Hence the flood
of resignations. Note that the "Vision/People" area on
still shows
people who have resigned. Scummy on a good day.

So why are FOSS, linux, Fedora and RedHat taking a beating over the loss of
OLPC to Microsoft? Why do people keep saying linux sucks because the UI on
top of it is pathetic and unusable, something largely not designed or
implemented by the FOSS community?

The messages and statements on the web by Negroponte clearly place blame
on FOSS and cast MS as the savior. It's disgusting.

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