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Power Scheme for OLPC Project Falling Into Place

timothy posted about 8 years ago | from the pulling-for-pleasure-says-george-carlin dept.

126

robotrachel writes "According to Technology Review, the $100 laptop intended for children in the developing world will be powered in much the same way that you might start an outboard motor on a boat. The new power system will 'make the laptop much easier to power than it would be with a hand crank, in part, because the users will be able to operate the generator in a variety of ways, including holding the device (the size of two hockey pucks) in one hand and pulling the string with the other, or clamping the generator to a desk, attaching the string to one foot, and using leg power.'" There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.

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Great (5, Funny)

tweek (18111) | about 8 years ago | (#15770820)


There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.


The next generation of geek will have massive calfs and thighs instead of a single massive forearm ;)

Re:Great (5, Funny)

tktk (540564) | about 8 years ago | (#15770840)

You underestimate the power of porn.

Geeks will always have one massive forearm.

Ouch! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15772034)

You underestimate the power of porn.

Geeks will always have one massive forearm.

Uh, dude, you're really not supposed to be gripping that hard...

Re:Great (1)

Shadowlore (10860) | about 8 years ago | (#15772189)

You underestimate the power of porn.

Geeks will always have one massive forearm.


Iyam what Iyam and thats all that iyam - I'm Popeye the software man!

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15772418)

Hey, I've got 2 massive forearms. (Callouses require alternating hands....)

Re:Great (1)

Fusione (980444) | about 8 years ago | (#15770852)

I'm pretty sure that they'll still jerk off as their main source of sexual interaction. - Make that huge calfs, thighs AND a single massive forearm.

Re:Great (1)

Tackhead (54550) | about 8 years ago | (#15770895)

> I'm pretty sure that they'll still jerk off as their main source of sexual interaction. - Make that huge calfs, thighs AND a single massive forearm.

Huge calfs? Explains a lot about my cow-orkers.

Meanwhile, this Homsy guy sounds like a real perv. From TFA:

With a hand-crank system, if you're gung-ho about it, you can get about five watts out of it. But you get tired after about a minute or so," says Geo Homsy, a partner and designer at Squid Labs. With the new system, generating 20 watts is comfortable, and it's possible to generate 10 watts for "as long as you want," the developers say.

[ ... ]

The new generator is also quiet -- one of the key design requirements. "If you imagine an entire school room full of kids using this thing, it needs to be as quiet as possible. Otherwise it will drive everyone insane," Homsy says.

Personally, if I go gung-ho on the hand-crank system, I get pretty tired after a minute or so as well. Can't imagine why I'd want to generate 10 watts for any longer than that. And dude... that next paragraph... that's just sick.

Re:Great (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 8 years ago | (#15770929)

Now just imagine a beowulf cluster of porn addicts powering everyone else's laptops!

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15770968)

...and will be better at multi-threading, too.

Re:Great (2, Funny)

rHBa (976986) | about 8 years ago | (#15770972)

RSI 2.0 for the WEB 2.0

Re:Great (1)

uhlume (597871) | about 8 years ago | (#15771641)

Plus, a massive PR boon to the US offshore garment industry.

"Oh, those -- those aren't sewing machines; they're OLPC trainers."

What _I_ want,... (1)

Yewbert (708667) | about 8 years ago | (#15771651)

... for any computer, laptop, desktop, whatever,... is a hand-crank not to generate power but to marginally increase the voltage given to the CPU (or whatever exact component) to give the same effect as overclocking it. This would be SO satisfying (at those times I'm waiting and waiting and wishing LotusNotes would Hurry. The. F*ck. Up. and Launch! Awready!) to be able to put some muscle into a crank and actually make the machine run faster.

I want one! (4, Interesting)

QuantumFTL (197300) | about 8 years ago | (#15770843)

These machines are actually starting to sound like something some people in the US might even like. I can imagine sitting outside in some remote area, working as much as I like without even worrying about running out of batteries (and getting exercise at the same time).

What'd I'd really like to see is an inexpensive laptop which has a screen that's highly visible, even outdoors. I could get a lot of work done that way, and work on my tan at the same time. Does anyone know of any? I'd assume it'd work best with grayscale.

Re:I want one! (5, Informative)

Fusione (980444) | about 8 years ago | (#15770903)

What you're asking about is transflective lcd displays. Basically, a semi transparent mirror is placed right behind the lcd panel, with the backlight and backlight substrate behind it. So the traditional ccfl backlight shines through (at reduced efficiency) AND ambient light is reflected back out through the screen by the mirror. Look at any decent pocket pc, and you'll see this technology at work. So screens that can be read without any backlight do exist, and there are some notebooks that incorperate the tech.. but you won't find them at the local electronics depot. I haven't looked into them in a long while, but check out the panasonic toughbooks. I remember they used to have transflective options for this series of notebooks!

Re:I want one! (1)

karmaflux (148909) | about 8 years ago | (#15772022)

Transflective displays suck. Dell puts them in the Axims, and I can tell you they don't work. The OLPC uses a dual-mode display that shows up as a greyscale LCD in the sunlight -- like a wristwatch, or an older cellphone.

Re:I want one! (1)

Fusione (980444) | about 8 years ago | (#15772432)

I have a non transflective display in my carputer, and a transflective display in both my ipod and Axim x30, the car tft is not usable at all in daylight while both the axim and ipod are perfectly usable. Yes, the colors are not 100% accurate to backlit colors.. but the screen is perfectly readable and useable. The only way to get a display that is true to original colors to work outside is to pump 1200+ nits through the screen, and have an exceptional ARAG coating such as the 3m vikuiti coatings. having a 35w backlight isn't practical on a laptop, the heat alone becomes an issue with that many ccfl tubes running through it. Kisoks that have such displays are usually pretty bulky, often with active cooling to keep the inverters from going kaput. :(

Re:I want one! (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 8 years ago | (#15771984)

The OLPC laptops have exactly that kind of screen.

Re:I want one! (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15772117)

Well, I'm not sure if it's been dropped from the OLPC at this point, but early prototypes were supposed to have a screen that either worked in color (with a backlight, I think) in dim/indoor light, or as passive high-contrast monochrome displays (with higher resolution and longer battery life) when in direct/bright light. I'm not sure where I read this; I think it was in a Wired Magazine article.

Sounded pretty neat to me. Until a while back, I had a monochrome-display Apple laptop that I still used for basic word-processing/email/Telnet text-based stuff, when I was sitting out on my deck next to the pool. I didn't care if it got wet, and it was the only machine I've ever owned that worked well in bright sunlight. You could just turn the backlight on the screen down to zero, and still read stuff. (Unless you had the sun glare right in your eyes; then it wouldn't work obviously, but anything else it was good for.) In the end, its battery died and that was all she wrote, but even as it was getting old, it could still run for an hour or so without the screen backlight.

If the OLPC incorporates such a screen, I really would like to see them become more common. I'd love the ability to switch from regular-rez color to high-resolution, low-power monochrome when I'm working in well-lit environments.

Solar Cells? (4, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | about 8 years ago | (#15770856)

I am not sure if something like this [21st-century-goods.com] is powerful enough or even cost-effective, but what about solar cell technology to power these laptops?
Was this even considered?

Re:Solar Cells? (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | about 8 years ago | (#15770894)

Does a great lot of good indoors or on a rainy day.

-:sigma.SB

Re:Solar Cells? (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 8 years ago | (#15770910)

I'm going to guess that it was considered, but since you are looking at 1/4 of the total laptop cost for a power source that is unusable after dark, it simply isn't in line with what they are trying to accomplish here.

Re:Solar Cells? (3, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 8 years ago | (#15771062)

Ok, $30 for something that can temporely power a cell phone. Assume 4X for the power requirements of the $100PC, giving a $120 to power the PC.

Ok, after spening $120 for the solar cells, how much is left over for the $100 PC?

Or, if you decide to only use 3 of these cells (for $90), you have $10 for the rest of the PC. I'm sure that can make a useful PC for less than the cost of a cheap calculator.

Heck, 1 of these is almost 1/3 the price of the entire $100 PC. And then it will only work during clear daylight hours. If you add batteries for continuous work, then you will have to leave your PC out in the sun when you go to work. Good opportunity for someone to collect up several of these (theft) sitting out in the open. Even if the theif only got $1.00 for each one of these he stole, that is still *very* good money in many of the countries being targeted, where the average wage is often less than $40 per year (less than $1.00/week).

Re:Solar Cells? (4, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | about 8 years ago | (#15771158)

Probably not ...

1) Doesn't work in the dark.
2) Expensive (that little one, only powerful enough to charge a cell phone battery, $30 ... this is the $100 laptop).

Re:Solar Cells? (4, Funny)

brunson (91995) | about 8 years ago | (#15771445)

Plus, it involves geeks going out into the sunlight. I, for one, don't want to lose my unhealthy pallor.

Re:Solar Cells? NOT! (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 8 years ago | (#15771161)

but what about solar cell technology to power these laptops?

Aside from the reality that have of the time is night, enough solar cells to power this properly might well remove the concept of rugged, portable, laptop from the existing idea.

Re:Solar Cells? (1)

mdielmann (514750) | about 8 years ago | (#15771848)

Was this even considered?

I'm sure it was. But tacking on another $30 to a project with a $100 limit starts limiting your options, whereas a $5 generator has far less impact. And the generator will probably last longer.

Re:Solar Cells? (1)

Shadowlore (10860) | about 8 years ago | (#15772282)

what about solar cell technology to power these laptops? Was this even considered?


Doubtful. Solar is not cheap. Last I recall PV is still around 3.5-4 USD per watt. At a 20 watt target that'd cost you about 70-80 bucks. Not a good cost for a 100 USD laptop. This device is supposed to cost ~10 USD. From solar you'd only be getting 2-3 watts or so for that price.

Sell me the generator (1)

gumbo (88087) | about 8 years ago | (#15770873)

That sounds awesome. Literally, since they say it's much quieter than your usual hand-cranked generators. And 'generating 20 watts is comfortable, and it's possible to generate 10 watts for "as long as you want," the developers say."

Free energy and a little exercise in the process. I like it. Watch it cost $250 for just the generator in the US.

Re:Sell me the generator (1)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#15771359)

Steal a Mabuchi 360/540 from a busted R/C car. Wrap a string around the shaft. Pull.

OK, so you'll want to add some pulleys to get up to an optimum rev range, but that's the basic idea.

Hook it up to a bicycle crank and the average, untrained person can put out 40 watts for hours at a time, equivilent to only 8 mph road speed, not much exercise actually if you're in any sort of shape at all (i.e. you'll actually loose fitness if you restrict yourself to that level).

An experienced cyclist can average about twice that speed for at least a few hours, a couple hundred watts (the watts aren't merely doubled because wind resistence goes up with the square of speed, which is why an amatuer racer can draft a pro world champion all day, possibly leading to the delusion that he's nearly as strong as the champ).

When you watch someone like Erik Zabel sprint you're seeing an output, for a matter of seconds, of about 1200 watts.

KFG

Re:Sell me the generator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771444)

Et tu KFG?

"loose" fitness...

Re:Sell me the generator (1)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#15771589)

Yep, me too. You'll even find the "its vs. it's" and "there" vs. "their" vs. "they're" SNAFU amoung my writings.

This just in; I fall far short of perfection. Post at 11.

KFG

Re:Sell me the generator (1)

NickFortune (613926) | about 8 years ago | (#15771730)

Target price (IIRC) is 300 bucks for private buyers - you get a free laptop with every PSU. That's cost plus 200% which buys two laptops for kids that can't afford them.

Nicholas Negroponte has also said that he does't think many adults will want one after they've seen one. A combination of the colour scheme, the size of the keyboard, and the fact that they've been designed to be appealing to kids, but not to adults. I think what it comes down to is that they don't want adults to want them.

Me, I still think they sound cool. Shades of the The Producers anyone?

Re:Sell me the generator (1)

gumbo (88087) | about 8 years ago | (#15772044)

Yeah, the picture in the article doesn't look very appealing. I'm more interested in the generator side of it in the hopes of using that with who-knows-what. Maybe a regular laptop, maybe other portable devices.

Re:Sell me the generator (1)

NickFortune (613926) | about 8 years ago | (#15772340)

Yeah, sorry. I got that - I just went into autopilot.

And yeah - the generator sounds really cool,I agree :)

Sweat Shops (-1, Troll)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 8 years ago | (#15770875)

Powering these laptops will be no sweat.

I mean, these children of the 3rd world already know how to power a sewing machine as they've (sadly) worked in sweat shops all their lives.

The Professor could not be reached for comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15770924)

This seems even a worse idea than The Professor's zero-impact bamboo exercycle. Perhaps these guys should consult orthopedic surgeons or even Sherwood Schwartz for some design changes.

Re:The Professor could not be reached for comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771301)

Duh!

This is the $100 laptop. It is geared toward people with no lights, no phone, no motorcar. Not a single luxury!

Life immitating art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15770925)

It was a long time ago, probably in the 80s; but I know I've seen a cartoon of a woman in the stereotypical secretary role, with the computer powered by a foot tredal.

OLPC? (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 8 years ago | (#15770927)

OLPC = One Leg PC?

Re:OLPC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771078)

Okay, that reminds me of the old joke...what do you call a woman with one leg? Eileen. And in Japan?......Irene.

Re:OLPC? (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | about 8 years ago | (#15771157)

Yea, I thought it was OLED at first.

OLAP (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | about 8 years ago | (#15771476)

I thought it was more like One Legged Alternative Power

Yo-yo (2, Funny)

bobs666 (146801) | about 8 years ago | (#15770934)

Make the string the power coord and you could have a yo-yo.

Fun and power.

Open Popular Mechanics (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#15770936)

The best mechanical coupling design would have a open interface. A rotating bolt that can take the pullcord attachment, or a sewing machine pedal cam, or a bicycle tire clip, or a homemade windmill/waterwheel/goatwheel, or any mechanical rotation.

Then include in its desktop a link to a blog for new powerup inventions worldwide. Necessity is the mother of invention, and local materials the father. Give these kids a way to improve and share, and we'll all get the benefits of their unique insights. What better way to harness the power of global kids?

Arrrrr!!!!!! (1)

MarkByers (770551) | about 8 years ago | (#15770974)

What better way to harness the power of global kids?

You could use them to hunt for pirates [slashdot.org] ! Arrrr me matey!

Re:Open Popular Mechanics (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about 8 years ago | (#15771330)

Should this come to pass, I give it less than 24 hours before the first pics of hamster-powered systems hit the net.

You know it's true

Re:Open Popular Mechanics (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 8 years ago | (#15772483)

Hampsters not cutting it?
Upgrade to my enhanced Gerbal or premium Ferrit power systems for only 49.99 and 199.99 each!
-nB

Re:Open Popular Mechanics (1)

forrestt (267374) | about 8 years ago | (#15772236)

What better way to harness the power of global kids?

With a team of monsters doing slapstick of course.

She's Out of Our Haaaaaiiiiiiiiirrrr! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 8 years ago | (#15772291)

Yes, I have a small child. No, she hasn't watched it into oblivion yet (she's working on destroying "The Incredibles" at the moment).

Profit? (3, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 8 years ago | (#15770953)

There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.
That gives me an idea -- I'm going to ride the technology wave by converting all the 8-year-old sewing-machine-treadle-operators in my sweatshops into 8-year-old server-farm-power-treadle-treadlers.

To anyone who objects, please note that this is a carbon-neutral technology and therefore won't contribute to global warming except for the hot air from 'activists.' The Free Market -- gotta love it!

Power... POWER! (2, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 8 years ago | (#15770954)

[..] or clamping the generator to a desk, attaching the string to one foot, and using leg power."

Why not just attach the string to an electric motor? That way the legs/feet would be free to operate the rudder pedals.

With a key? (0)

hal2814 (725639) | about 8 years ago | (#15770963)

"According to Technology Review, the $100 laptop intended for children in the developing world will be powered in much the same way that you might start an outboard motor on a boat."

I used to start my old outboard by priming the fuel bulb, choking a bit and starting it with the electric starter. Seems like a lot of steps just to turn on a computer. Then again, it was a lot of steps just to start a boat so I got one with eletric fuel pump, choke, and starter. Now I just turn the key.

Re:With a key? (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 8 years ago | (#15771063)

The old Compaq proliant servers I used to support had a key.....but my computer never got "Started Up" until the Rolling Stones whored themselves out to Microsoft.

Layne

Aha! At last the GET-RICH scheme is revealed... (5, Funny)

bratwiz (635601) | about 8 years ago | (#15770994)


Aha! At least the get-rich scheme is revealed... hook them on pull-string laptops and then sell them replacement strings when the string breaks... ingenious! My hat's off to you Nicholas Negroponte!!! :)

Even worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771093)

A change of string will cause the machine's hardware signature to change, requiring an OLPC string activation. This effectively ends cheap generic spool twine refills as only proprietary string can be used.

Needs attachments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771024)

I'd think it'd be cool if they could come up with a hamster wheel attachment to the power supply. When I was a kid, it seemed like my two pet hamsters had to be generating at least a kilowatt between them while running on darn thing.

New source of electricity for local rulers? (1)

alpinerod (970358) | about 8 years ago | (#15771032)

I can totally see this -- a cluster of laptops.. err.. kids.. cranking or pulling away, but no, they aren't powering their laptop... The electricity is instead routed to a high-speed fan that's blowing over the local overlord.

But you can own your very own... (5, Informative)

4solarisinfo (941037) | about 8 years ago | (#15771034)

Don't forget boys and girls, You too can own what is sure to become the ultimate geek accessory and make a charitable donation all in one fell swoop. Sign up now to donate $300, recieve one computer, and know you've sent two where they are needed.

http://www.pledgebank.com/100laptop [pledgebank.com]

Well, maybe you can own one, but your only chance of getting one in the US is probably to sign the pledge to convince everyone it's a viable solution.

Re:But you can own your very own... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#15771087)

Well, maybe you can own one, but your only chance of getting one in the US is probably to sign the pledge to convince everyone it's a viable solution.

I think I speak for the majority of people when I say I'll just wait until they show up on ebay.

Seriously though, I've had this conversation before, but I'd pay $200 and bankroll one for a kid in another nation, but I'm not buying three and only getting one. I simply don't feel that charitable.

alternative (1)

4solarisinfo (941037) | about 8 years ago | (#15771270)

Well, if you really want to be charitable, you could also go to http://www.heifer.org/ [heifer.org] , and for $300 sponsor a llama, a trio of rabbits, hive of honey bees, and a flock of geese.

But then you wouldn't get the cool OLPC, that they aren't supposed to sell in the US commercially...

Re:alternative (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#15771325)

But then you wouldn't get the cool OLPC, that they aren't supposed to sell in the US commercially.

Well, I think that is stupid. Sell them for $150, and reinvest the profits into the project. Just as I think you'd have an order of magnitude more orders at $200, you'd probably have ANOTHER significant jump at $150. I wouldn't mind paying $150 for one, although that's about the limit I'd pay; But I WOULD donate $100 to buy one for some kid somewhere if I could also buy one for $100 at the same time. I am NOT, however, donating two of them. I recognize the necessity of improving education worldwide but I'm not prepared to foot the bill.

Re:But you can own your very own... (2, Insightful)

Constantine Evans (969815) | about 8 years ago | (#15771612)

That pledge seems doomed to failure. Having 97000 more people sign up before the end of October is inconceivable - it would require around 3 people signing up every 4 minutes for the next 90 days. The petition is worded in a way such that if there are not 100000 signatures, none of the pledges are valid: nothing less than a fully successful drive can be submitted for consideration. Even then, it would only be a suggestion. Articles on the laptops have repeatedly stressed that these will not be for sale, and I don't recall anything that indicates something like this is even being thought about by the association itself.

Unfortunately, due to the demand for them in demographics such as the Slashdot readership, this probably means that there will be a somewhat lucrative market for laptops taken from or sold by the students. The colour and other such anti-theft features won't prevent them from being desireable to people who actually want the specific laptop. While there will certainly be abuse in these sales, if a student can sell their laptop for $400 and then claim to have lost it, using the proceeds from the sale to purchase a replacement, then the only ones hurt by the sale will be those who subsidise the production. It may be that OLPC will be compelled to sell to the general public for this reason.

You shouldn't vote either (1)

4solarisinfo (941037) | about 8 years ago | (#15771741)

You're right; you can't make a difference, so no point in trying to encourage others to pledge either. As you so eloquently pointed out, there IS a geek market for these, but that's no reason to try and support the only current legitimate suggestion for supplying that market. Better off to point out that effort is doomed, and it'll be better to get a hold of them fraudulently.

FYI - school children in NO country will be able to 'buy' these. Sponsors provide them, if children sell them (I guess at the nearest Kinko's express in Djibouti's badlands?); they go without until another round of upgrades or distribution. They are not expect to distribute any of these in the USA, but rather in more primitive developing nations without accessible libraries and schools connected to the grid.

Re:You shouldn't vote either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771768)

No, there's no point. It is doomed to fail, so why bother? You won't get your laptop, and the two kids won't get theirs - even if you sign up.

If it didn't have a minimum requirement of pledges, then there would be at least 6,000 donated computers - but instead there will be 0.

Re:You shouldn't vote either (1)

Constantine Evans (969815) | about 8 years ago | (#15771999)

The point is that one could make a difference, but not with this pledge. Why does the wording not only include the 100,000 disclaimer, but also add "only if" to this? This is like adding "I don't support this proposal if it doesn't get over 75% of voters in favour" to a vote. It is quite possible that far fewer than 100,000 people would be enough to convince the OLPC to sell the laptops in this way, but this restriction makes the pledges much less clear. Furthermore, the pledge is restricted to $200, which, from the cost estimates I have seen, is less than the cost of two of the laptops. Why not just have a pledge that says something like "I would buy one for a significantly higher price if available."?

A better way of making a difference, in my opinion, would be to send letters to the OLPC Project, instead of just signing up to the flawed pledge. This presents the argument more directly to the people who can actually make this decision.

Re:You shouldn't vote either (1)

4solarisinfo (941037) | about 8 years ago | (#15772178)

The point is that one could make a difference, but not with this pledge.

Well then bravo, but somehow, I didn't get anything like that in your first post. Was it after "That pledge seems doomed to failure."

or just before you said "I don't recall anything that indicates something like this is even being thought about by the association itself."

Was it near the optomistic "there will be a somewhat lucrative market for laptops taken from or sold by the students."

or the "the only ones hurt by the sale will be those who subsidise the production"

where you were touting the other, more helpful options, rather than just flaming away at how stupid everything else was?

Sometimes, having something to say, and actually saying it are very different.

The $100 laptop was already invented! (1)

blindbug (979761) | about 8 years ago | (#15771040)

BUT, it had only one program that when you pulled the string you got responses like "The cow goes MOOO!" Long live the talking wheel!

Until I read the article (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 8 years ago | (#15771047)

I was assuming that you had to wrap a rope around the fly-wheel and pull, repeat, until the damn thing started(my outboard was a really, really old two and a half horse British thing. Damned if I can remember the name), and an electric starter kinda defeats the purpose, no? Now with the foot peddle idea mentioned there, I'm sort of worried that a bunch of slave kids will be used to power a beowulf cluster of these things, like they are doing with the looms now.

Is it just me or .. (0, Troll)

Rorian (88503) | about 8 years ago | (#15771071)

does the concept of a pull-string operated laptop seem a little insulting?

Also, what real use can you glean from a PC these days, without a network connection? 90% of the use I get out of my PC is from the broadband connection giving me access to wikipedia, google, various developer networks, digg & slashdot.

So does anyone out there have a non-connected PC hooked up performing some life-changing work, or are they just useless when disconnected from the wwworld?

Re:Is it just me or .. (2, Insightful)

NetRAVEN5000 (905777) | about 8 years ago | (#15771217)

"Also, what real use can you glean from a PC these days, without a network connection?"

The laptops will have network capabilities. Didn't you read about them?

Whether or not there's Internet for these children doesn't matter anyways - there's no Internet without computers, and they need the computers before they can have Internet. Maybe later someone can give them Internet.

"So does anyone out there have a non-connected PC hooked up performing some life-changing work, or are they just useless when disconnected from the wwworld?"

Does anyone out there have a connected PC hooked up performing some life-changing work, or are they just useless when connected to the wwworld?

When's the last time most people have done anything life-changing with a PC, with or without the Internet? Sometimes the Internet is detrimental, too - a lot of people spend entirely too much time online, and setting down a small schoolchild and letting him use the Internet all day isn't so good.

PCs don't need to be hooked to the Internet to be useful. There were useful programs and stuff before the Internet became mainstream.

And at least when the kids do get the Internet, they'll already know how to use a computer.

No internet needed. What did YOU learn on? (2, Insightful)

doctorjay (860762) | about 8 years ago | (#15771937)

I agree its not the computers but whats on the computers that matter.

My Apple ][ GS can still give some of those poor kids a hellva education with all the software i have for it. Thats what I learnt on ..fraction munchers.. number munchers.. puzzletanks.. math blaster.. logo.. that was the stuff. No internet there.

Re:Is it just me or .. (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | about 8 years ago | (#15771830)

They have WiFi and mesh capabilities, so you only need one net connection in a village and all laptops in the area will be able to access the one connection. I'm not saying it's going to work well, but they did at least think of this problem. :)

Just out of curiosity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771089)

did they even talk to any potential end users of this device? I'm serious, as much as this is a laudable effort, it just seems like one of those pie in the sky "good intentions" things that will never materialize. People have tried this in the past and met with failure. Not necessarily out of any design flaws, but the fact is that poor people simply didn't want it. Let them decide what they want, it's easy just to say, "Here! Technology will cure everything!! I even designed a computer for you! Take it from us, Technology!" but how much good does it actually do? All the technology in the world isn't going to help people that cannot or will not use it.

Re:Just out of curiosity (2, Funny)

indifferent children (842621) | about 8 years ago | (#15771521)

did they even talk to any potential end users of this device?

Yeah, they tried asking a user who had never seen a computer before to type up a set of requirements, and make some simple OS choices. Those ingrates were totally unhelpful.

Re:Just out of curiosity (1)

IMustBeNewHere (899319) | about 8 years ago | (#15771626)

The OLPC is first and foremost a teaching tool for children. It will replace paper textbooks and possibly, depending on how the touchscreen/trackpad design turns out, even notebooks and pens to some degree. So the device does not have to be complicated to use at all. I guess it will save money for the schools too, e-books are cheaper to print and distribute than paper books.

OLPC -^v^ to simple for americans (1)

deviceb (958415) | about 8 years ago | (#15772159)

The idea of cranking some power into a laptop has had me following the OLPC project from the start. When out in the forest/mountain where you need power for a device like a laptop & sat-phone the product line gets extreamly narrow.

You need 2 methods to effectivly power your stuff.

Solar being the most obvious sence it powers life on this planet ~~
For solar you need a good inverter & good panels. Flexible panels make it much easier as you can get more panel per square inch to send to the inverter.
Here [oksolar.com] is a decent setup

The second would be for at night or in low light. Your gas or for lightweight & low sound.. crank, peddal or plain old electronic car lighter hook up. Whatever gets juice into uour batterys!
I heard a few fit hampsters could work nicely as a non-stop power supply.
-Now if your into rugged outdoor equipment & have some time to drool.. check these links.
Itronix [itronix.com]
gobook3 [gobookiii.com] Itronix laptop

Do they really need a computer (0)

Poopypuppy (990723) | about 8 years ago | (#15771094)

Why is it that fat Euro/Americans think that poor kids will be saved by laptops powered by a foot peddle or otherwise. At $100 per laptop progress could be made providing food, water, medicine, education or maybe reliable power. Nope they need laptops. For What?

Re:Do they really need a computer (4, Insightful)

Ksevio (865461) | about 8 years ago | (#15771154)

Well you know the old saying about the man and the fish.

Sure you can give them food and water, but if you also try and get them computers to learn then they might be able to pull future generations out of poverty and improve the overall living conditions of everyone in the area.

Re:Do they really need a computer (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771297)

Why is it that people who troll this subject can't get it through their thick skulls that these laptops aren't intended for children who don't already have food, and water.
 
There's one of you every damn time this subject comes up on /. Go read about the OLPC project and look at the list of countries they are going to provide computers for. Then read about those countries if you don't know what their economies/lifestyles are like.

Re:Do they really need a computer (1)

Brickwall (985910) | about 8 years ago | (#15772237)

1. Get free $100 laptop

2. Pull string

3. .....

4. Profit!

It's all in the combining (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 8 years ago | (#15771147)

A machine that combines exercise for the body at the same time it's providing exercise for the mind. Boy, those 3rd world countries are really getting a deal here.

Of course, they could put in a modern Pentium and heat the house at the same time that they train for the Olympic team.

Tree Power (1)

Eddy_D (557002) | about 8 years ago | (#15771159)

These types of generators are great as you can use very simple wind-powered cyclic motion devices to power the generator. You could even use a tree branch that was moving in the wind. Saves having to pull the string yourself.

Re:Tree Power (1)

alyawn (694153) | about 8 years ago | (#15771861)

You could even use a tree branch that was moving in the wind.
Right... then, after a few days, your spaceship will return and finally take you home.

the old ways are sometimes the best (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 8 years ago | (#15771241)

In World War II in the War in the Pacific, American planes were outfitted with a special emergency device. This was a hand crank generator coupled to a Morse Code transmiter on a spindle much like a music box. As you turned the crank it would power the trasnmiter and the spindle would key the correct di di di dah dah dah di di dit (SOS) and some other information so a search plane or ships with direction finding equipment could find you.
The slang name for this box was a "Gibson Girl".

Re:the old ways are sometimes the best (2, Informative)

vmcto (833771) | about 8 years ago | (#15771457)

RAAF not US... It was a kite with the line being an aerial for the broadcast...

Re:the old ways are sometimes the best (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | about 8 years ago | (#15771579)

It was called a "Gibson Girl" because of its mandatory shape. You see you needed one hand to operate the morse code key, the other hand to crank the generator, which left nothing obvious to hold the transmitter with. You HAD to have somethign to hold it as you're probably in a flimsy rubber life rafs, so you can't set it down, and all that cranking requires some way of holding the transmitter to keep it from spinning on you. Some bright enginner figure you could hold it between your legs if it was shaped just right. So it got an hourglass-shaped case. Ergo "Gibson Girl".

Attn: California To Be First Test Bed (1)

IflyRC (956454) | about 8 years ago | (#15771260)

After the power grid fails, these will be rolled out to allow people to work. Since there will be no internet connectivity, static Myspace.com pages will be included to keep teenagers from rioting.

Does everyone in the 3rd world have a boat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771377)

According to Technology Review, the $100 laptop intended for children in the developing world will be powered in much the same way that you might start an outboard motor on a boat."

How long will a boat battery power a laptop? How do you recharge it without the boat motor going.?

This idea sound more suited to more afluentcountrie, where people oly use thier boats for recreation and thats for the summer, so they aren't being used 9 months of the year.

Yet another well-meaning 1st-world-centric idea (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | about 8 years ago | (#15771621)

So it's going to be a "laptop". With a pull-start power source. So your laptop is going to require:
  • Somebody to operate the computer.
  • Somebody else to HOLD DOWN the laptop.
  • A third party to do the pulling.
  • A fourth party to explain to the gathering crowd why the third party is huffing and puffing.
  • A fifth person to go find some nylon rope. To replace the pull-rope that will break about every 288 pulls.
  • A sixth person to go grow some food and earn some money, to feed #4 and #5.

Sheesh!

Fat and the American Computer User (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771633)

We have been discussing this kind of thing for a very long time where I work. According to the news, Americans are some of the most heavy in the world, and to narrow it down further, most of those heavy people are computer professionals. (http://www.obesity.org/subs/fastfacts/obesity_US. shtml) and (http://www.perspectives.com/forums/view_topic.php ?id=40450&forum_id=64&page=3) We designed and built a very simple solution to this problem... We took a stationary bicycle and attached a generator to the rear wheel...it is a small enough generator to provide for a laptop...12 v, 15 a... Now, to get 8 hours of work done, we use a small battery (about an hour's worth of power) and you have to pedal for approx. 4 hours to get your 8 hours of power. Next we will try an elliptical exercise machine, and maybe a treadmill... Theoretically, this little generator could be hooked up to any kind of weight machine...

What about the network infrastructure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771682)

So, we have a class of 100 students treadling away for 1 minute every 10 to power their $100 laptops. So far so good. Unfortunately, the teacher will have to power the server (for backup), printer, WiFi hub, satellite uplink etc. That's going to be more like the mountain stage of the tour de France :-)

Seriously - the weak link here is how data gets in and out of these machines. Printers, servers and satellite uplinks seem unlikely in this scenario. Heck, it is touch and go getting broadband in rural areas of the first world. 500MB may be enough for personal data - but if the laptop fails, bye-bye data. Backup will need infrastructure. Printers will last until the consumables run out. "Viral" peer-to-peer redundant storage sounds fun, but will 500MB per node - in a (probably) closed, isolated community be enough to make that work?

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Give a man a state-of-the-art carbon fibre fishing rod and you'll feed him until the line breaks.

what about lawnmowers? (1)

mary_will_grow (466638) | about 8 years ago | (#15771748)

wouldn't that have been a more appropriate/identifiable analogy than an Outboard Motor? Most people don't live on the water, you insensitive clod.

what has happened with the obligatory ... (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | about 8 years ago | (#15771779)

"imagine Beowulf of those"? Is slashdot going down the tubes?

If only they could apply this to desktop systems (1)

NeuroManson (214835) | about 8 years ago | (#15771908)

I'm pretty sure that there's a lot of computer users (including myself) who could really use the exercise. Hell, just hook up a treadle to an alternator, and run that to trickle charge a UPS, so if you stop pedaling, your computer switches to hibernate mode.

What happened to the kinetic keyboard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15771987)

I seem to remember years ago that a PC company (compaq, perhaps?) made a laptop with a keyboard that actually harnessed the energy of typing to charge the battery.
Of course, that was only useful back in the days when people typed. Now that we do everything with a mouse, keyboard capable of charging a battery is less useful. But if you're in a developing country, with no internet, you might find it useful to type something rather than just surfing for porn...

Sounds like a lot of work; maybe they should... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 8 years ago | (#15772316)

...consider an electric starter.

(sorry, just couldn't resist).

Repurposing the Puck (1)

JumpingBull (551722) | about 8 years ago | (#15772354)

If it is as small and low speed as it seems to be, a treadle isn't the only way to use it!

As a low speed generator, it could be used in a smaller windmill, too. And as the generating element in a micro hydroelectric system.

Has anyone found any details on this little unit? Squid labs doesn't yet appear to have any information on it.

And, since the OLPC unit is running linux, that means cross development onto something like the Atmel AVR, MicroChip PIC, or Zilog Z8 might be just a short step away. Since I know that the AVR has app notes for using their parts as low speed USB devices, this may mean that building out infrastructure in a developing nation may just have gotten much, much easier.

At least, that is my hope ...

I'm not the troll you're looking for (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | about 8 years ago | (#15772525)

But I still have to question how useful this will be in the overall scheme of improving conditions in the countries where it's targeted. While the laptops aren't intended for places where there's no running water or a lack of food, I'm not convinced that you can jump-start a country's development by skipping important steps like industrialization and infrastructure.

Understand, I'm not arguing that there's no point in doing this, I'm merely suggesting that 50,000 hand powered laptops might not be the most efficacious method for moving third world countries along on the path to development. Especially as these seem destined to wind up in the hands of children, for whom there will be little computer-related work once they reach adulthood. Unless we're training them to be $100 laptop technicians.

The project won't be a total loss of course (even if it fails it's stated goal) but I have to believe that there are better things that we could be doing with the time, effort, and money that's going into this project.

negroponte did not found the media lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15772620)

not that it really matters but negroponte did not found the media lab. it was founded by former president jerome wiesner, as the actual name of the building clearly indicates. negroponte took over after dr wiesners's death in the 90s.
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