Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

OLPC Project Interface Revealed

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the warm-edge dept.


BogusToo writes to mention an EE Times article describing the interface for the OLPC project laptop. Using some fairly intuitive UI concepts (like simplified web browsers and a chat client), the Linux-based system attempts to do away with the kludgey parts of computer use. A video demo of the interface has been placed on YouTube. From the article: "Earlier postings around the Internet have also shown how the physical design of the laptop has changed, including the elimination of the much touted on-board hand crank that was supposed to power the cheap, lime green laptop. It's still there, reportedly, but has now been moved to the power adapter. The OLPC's produced earlier this week in Shanghai still need to go through loads of testing, such as knocking them off desks and dropping them in mud, as kids are wont to do. They may also be kicked around, like soccer balls, a popular sport in 99.9 percent of the world."

cancel ×


Kick it around like a ball? (1, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975196)

So when was the last time you say a child use the family laptop for a soccer ball? Grow up please.

Re:Kick it around like a ball? (-1, Flamebait)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975588)

Perhaps you should go visit a 3rd world country where the average brainpower is about the same as a rock.

Then you might see this 'sport' take place.

Re:Kick it around like a ball? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975980)

So poverty is now equated to intelligence?

smarts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976242)

staying ignorant when presented with new ideas and techniques might contribute to it, and yes, probably a matter of intelligence *in some cases*. It is not a universal thing, but applied generally..sure. If you have a group of folks who think raping 2 year old girls cures AIDS, yep, I'd call that lack of smarts on several levels leading to continual chronic poverty, both from ignorance and just..well..stupidity. I mean, that practice is just *stupid*, no two ways around it. How about thinking "dragon bones" are some sort of magical elixir? Is that ignorance or just ingrained, inbred stupidity? There's a fine line there some place...

    And I think this is one of the goals of the OLPC, get some fast good way to get some real knowledge out to millions of more people in developing lands, so that this sort of thinking can be replaced with something a little better. Even starting with the youngest generation at least you might have a chance, kids are sure a lot easier to educate than older adults in most cases. The only way to replace ignorance is with better data, and the only way to work around stupidity is a lot of patient repetition of good data, in a variety of ways.

You obviously don't have children. (1)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976432)

...because if you did you wouldn't have asked such a question:

So when was the last time you say a child use the family laptop for a soccer ball?

Never underestimate the destructive capacity of a three year old--especially a bored three year old. Angry three year olds are serious occupational hazards for hapless parents.

Perhaps the older children and adults that would be typical users wouldn't mistreat the machine like this, but these machines must survive households in developing nations, and I'm sure very many of them contain three year olds that are siblings and offspring of these users (and would be potential future users of the machine). A great deal of these families are of modest means as well and I'm sure they have to share close living quarters and have no place to keep the machine out of reach of the younger children. Perhaps the rather non-spherical OLPC unit wouldn't inspire toddlers to try using it as a soccer ball but I'm sure their fertile imaginations would come up with other means of destruction.

Re:Kick it around like a ball? (2, Informative)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976470)

Family laptops are bigger [e.g. what we're used to], usually kept safe by the adults. These are smaller and meant to be used solely by kids.


Re:Kick it around like a ball? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976500)

I've seen people do stupider things to their computers and bring them in to have them fixed and I live in the 'brilliant' USA...

A lady brought in her favorite keyboard, wanted it repaired. Did not want a replacement, as she only liked that keyboard. The keyboard's problems were two fold:
a: Her daughter had taken it out back and used it for a rousing pickup game of baseball (as the bat)
b: her daughter had found the cord to be a nuicance and cut it off with a pair of scissors.

I've had SEVERAL machines come in with the VGA connector pulled off the motherboard when people try to detach the screwed on cable without unscrewing it first.

I had a business owner carefully disassemble his hard drive and bring in the platers in a zip lock baggie because we told him if he brought in his harddrive we might be able to recover the data (the drive had not been dead, just generating a lot of errors when he replaced it.) He needed the data on the drive for a tax audit begining at 8am the next morning.

I often talk to people who can't get something to work primarily because it isn't plugged in. For example, no dialtone on the modem because there is no phone line hooked to the computer. No video signal because the monitor is not hooked up to anything (there are no cables coming off of the monitor at all... heard that more than once... that's because you didn't hook the cables too the monitor that came with it).

Printers regularly get sprayed with WD-40.

A customer took a wireless router from us and wanted to mount it on the wall, so he drilled two holes through the middle of the router and screwed it to the wall. Then expected a refund when it didn't work. Another tech tells me a tale of someone drilling a hole through their LCD display to mount it on the wall, but I'm not sure I believe that.

We had a laptop back there last week which had several muddy boot prints on both top and bottom, and numerous dings where it obviously got tossed around. According to the bringer, it's their son's laptop and he just brings it in from college, tosses it on the floor, and regularly walks on it.

We had a customer that bought several of those 'small' Dell computers (business machines that are small tower/desktop units... bookshelf style I think they are called) in a row. They were the cheapest thing dell was selling in the line, and came with about a 60 day warranty. The all died in less than 6 months. The customer was putting the Pentium 4 computers in a desk drawer and then piling papers on top of them. I've also had a customer use their computer to block a heating vent in the winter because they didn't like the warm air blowing directly upon them.

I've had people cut the wires on their fans because they didn't like the noise (or even better, jam them with a stick).

Someone whittled down the power connector to plug in a new hard drive because it didn't fit (had it upside down) and killed the drive.

A supposed A+ certied tech brought us 5 machines he was building. He had tried to hammer the processors into their sockets (he hadn't pulled the lever up).

And finally, I worked on an Amiga 500 once that had no keyboard... just the membrane pad underneath it with letters marked on it with a sharpie. Upon opening it there were about 500 22 gauge wires inside. Why? because the owner had physically picked the machine up and thrown it across the room where it hit the doorframe, destroyed the keyboard and physically broke the motherboard in half. I was just adding memory to it, at the time (a year or two after the breakage) it was actually working.

Durable Laptop? (5, Interesting)

0jjjjjjjjjj0 (1024211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975234)

Having worked for a school, I know how durable these devices are going to have to be to withstand day-to-day use. The Compaq, Toshiba and NEC laptops of 10 years ago didn't take much more than a nudge to the back of the LCD to crack it or break the backlight, leaving the (admittedly rich) parents to fork out another $3,000 for a replacement unit, or $1,200 for the out-of-warranty repair.

I hope that these computers end up being not just "cheap" but inexpensive to own, operate and repair. Insurance premiums on cars go up if the cost of parts/repair is high; the perceived value of this device changes in inverse proportion to this - why would a school/state/country buy thousands of them if the spare parts/repair cost is going to be high?

Here's hoping it's right when it comes out ...

Re:Durable Laptop? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975358)

My problem with the OLPC is related to the whole low power/low spec business. I keep hearing about how important it is to save memory, CPU and power on the machine. And yet... the GTK widget set that it uses has gotten slower and slower with every release since GTK 2.6.

The GTK developers simply have no idea what they are doing. They ditched all the old X code and moved to Cairo which massively increased the RAM and CPU requirements for GTK apps... particularly hurting phone/PDA users like Nokia google for it... it's all there on the web). On top of the Cairo problems, they also made changes that sabotaged the performance of the various widgets. Basically, every version of GTK past 2.6 has been a fucking performance trainwreck, and the developers responsible (people like Owen Taylor) have just snuck off quietly and not taken responsiblity.

I remember the GNOME mailing list discussions about adopting the then forthcoming GTK 2.8 -- adopting it meant taking a risk on GTK getting it RIGHT since they would be reliant on untested code. Lots of credulous developers said that they should adopt it because they had faith in the GTK developers not screwing them over. Mugs.

Half a dozen versions later, and GTK still sucks fucking balls... and what's more, the OLPC suffers from it even worse because it is a low-performance system. Essentially... it runs like shit because of the GTK developers never having heard of stuff like optimization and benchmarking.

Mod parent up (0, Redundant)

Zweideutig (900045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975392)

This is insightful.

GTK question (also mod parent up) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975462)

One of the things that sucks the most about GTK is the non-standard file dialog that doesn't allow you to type in a location or browse directories in a sensible way.

Unfortunately it is hard to avoid this, because many popular applications use it (Firefox, Azureus, and GAIM, to name but a few). Additionally, the GTK developers appear to be married to this design, despite many complaints (including a complaint from non other than Linus Torvalds, who called them "fucking idiots", IIRC :)).

Is there any way to make a sensible file dialog appear instead? Like a 3rd-party patch that changes it?

Re:GTK question (also mod parent up) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975852)

Yes: take the GTK libraries, rip out all the guts and insert your own. Just make usre it uses all the same function names and parameters so it's compatible at the API level.

This is likely to be a big enough change that your modified version would be considered a new work in its own right. So while you're at it, change the licence from LGPL to GPL. That way, those greedy closed-source developers will be prevented from linking against it.

Re:Durable Laptop? (1, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975838)

There's nothing stopping you from using the 2.6 version of GTK

Re:Durable Laptop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976278)

Apart from the fact that the GNOME software stack is dependent on later versions. So there is a shit load of software with bugs and security problems that FORCE YOU TO RUN SHITTY SLOW VERSIONS of GTK.

But apparently you, and your moderation admirer, can't read properly.

gimme a terminal! (4, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975402)

I agree, I hope they can stand the rough climates of some of the third world countires... for example Chiapas climate (in Mexico) can be really hard for electronics (humidity and rain) and if this is going to kids who have never owned a high tech portable equipment they must be quite durable.

One thing I was wondering while watching the video is that it seems there is no way to open a terminal. I agree that the interface MUST be dumbed down a lot but I am also completely sure that there MUST be a terminal in order to access more "complex" things in the computer. I know (from personal experience) that the kids are the first ones to learn the new technologies and exploit them. If you are going to give them this computer, then lets make them able to get the most out of it.

A terminal and a python enabled system would be enough (IMHO).

Re:gimme a terminal! (3, Interesting)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975532)

I agree that the interface MUST be dumbed down a lot

Why? My 4 year old granddaughter seems to be pretty capable of cruising around limited parts of the house PC. Her aunts, uncle, and mom seemed to be pretty capable of doing the same when they were that age. Kids are not dumb. They will quickly learn whatever interface you put in front of them.
Seeing as how the big box stores are selling standard laptops for $400 and under (somtimes a LOT under) this week...when you consider the vast difference in purchasing power...the "OLPC" concept is mostly already here in the west. It's just not backed by a fancy organization.

Re:gimme a terminal! (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976412)

The thing with the "simplified" (I think that is a very relative term in relation to any GUI) interface is that not only are the kids going to be using it, but there are going to be teachers using it too. Teachers who have never used a computer before. And while I agree, children have no problems picking up the basics of different UI's (having the practical example of my sister, who, at six, had absolutly no problem using the standard Windows Interface, Gnome, and a hyper-minimalistic Litestep skin with a dock at the bottom of the screen) older people (in my case, parents and their friends) need what essentially amounts to a basic tutorial on what is where if the UI changes in the least. If slightly older people who encounter computers on a daily basis (or even teens who think about not the concepts of the UI, but formulaicly think "click this for this, then that, and then that happens") have issues going from one UI to another, or even using the UI they are used to, then how can you expect someone who has probably never encountered and/or used a computer before to do so? You have to make it as simple as possible. They basically just removed all the stuff that is likely to confuse someone. For the kids growing up using these, the UI looks similar enough that even if they formulaicly think "this and this for that" and don't think about the concepts, they shouldn't be lost on most typical UI's.

Re:gimme a terminal! (4, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975732)

Take a look at the software components list [] . It looks like they are planning to add a shell, and a lot of the system is already Python based. I really do hope the shell gets included as standard. As a Ruby fan (and someone intensely hating the Python indentation stuff), I question the choice of Python, but I guess it's better than nothing ;) (and inevitable when Redhat is involved...).

I don't agree it must be dumbed down - I started programming on a VIC-20 where almost anything remotely interesting required lots of PEEK/POKE. I was 5 at the time, and didn't know a word of English. By the time I was 7 we got a C64, and I could program it better than my dad (who wrote programs for it as part of work) within months. I was an exception among my friends, but even the ones that didn't take up programming had no problems picking up whatever they needed to do what they wanted to with the machine.

It's adults without computer experience that needs dumbed down interfaces, not children. All you need is some examples they can copy and modify to get them started.

Re:gimme a terminal! (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976168)

I'm curious why you hate python's use of indentation.

Indentation-wise, my current C code (and my C code from 10 years ago) looks no different from my Python code.

Most people I know who complain about Python's use of indentation stop complaining once they realize that it doesn't apply to line continuations within open parens, brackets, etc.

Re:Durable Laptop? (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976502)

Which is why my daughter carries a old C640 laptop for school. I can buy a complete replacement for dirt compared to new laptop prices and parts are very readily available.

Fools give kids a new laptop that costs > $500.00US And yes I am calling many rich people fools.

Why is the GUI non-standard? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975288)

Why is the GUI non-standard?

Seriously... a lot of development effort must have gone into this thing - lots of custom applications and lots of new design. But why? Why not just use an off-the-shelf GUI: KDE for example? Surely there is a lot to be gained by mimicing the de-facto standards established by MacOS and Windows. It helps your users, and helps your developers, and helps third-party developers in the future.

I just don't get it: what is the benefit of reinventing this particular wheel?

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975296)

what is the benefit of reinventing this particular wheel?
Probably the CPU cycles & energy that can be shaved off by the GUI.

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (4, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975596)

Why is the GUI non-standard?

Because all the existing GUIs in the world today --- including System 6 --- are overweight, overcomplicated, way more powerful than are needed, fiddly, baroque, inconsistent, difficult to use, difficult to learn, and in fact are downright scary to people who aren't accustomed to computers.

KDE, Gnome, Windows, OSX, etc are all completely inappropriate for a machine of this nature.

(In fact, I still think they have a lot of work to do. The relationship between activities isn't particularly clear. Some applications, such as the word processor, still use popup menus, which is very bad. Etoys --- that's Squeak, isn't it? --- is visually inconsistent with the rest of the system. But at least they're heading in the right direction.)

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975752)

> Etoys --- that's Squeak, isn't it?

It look like squeak, smells like squeak, and, squeaks like squeaks.

I was blown-up. One million childs growing with Squeak. *That* would be a good idea.

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975886)

I was blown-up. One million childs growing with Squeak. *That* would be a good idea.

Unfortunately, I loathe Squeak. Smalltalk is very cool, but Squeak have managed to wrap one of the greatest programming languages ever with a user interface designed by anally-retentive O/C monkeys. Admittedly, in this context the fact that it behaves like nothing else on earth isn't an issue, but Morphic still requires far too many weird CTRL+SHIFT+right mouse click+drag combinations to do simple things like moving windows around --- it's ergonomic hell, as well as being difficult to learn. By combining the process of constructing applications with using them, I believe that they've achieved something that does both very badly. Not to mention the fact that it looks like someone sneezed on the screen. (Literally. All those coloured blobs...)

Admittedly, the last time I used it was with the Croquet demo image. I spent half an hour trying to figure out how to make it do anything --- mainly trying to resize the Croquet window to fill the VM window --- and then gladly nuked it. It was an utterly loathsome experience.

I need to download the OLPC demo image and try it out and see if they've improved it any.

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975828)

You got that right. Yesterday I installed a PC for one of our retired profs. Since he isn't on payroll he hasn't been up for upgrade for quite some time, when I went by him he was working on a 80486sx, using dos and WordPerfect 5.1. The main reason for upgrade is that I fear his old box will quit if someone sneezes at it, but upgrading meant giving him a windows XP box. Now this is the first time he has used windows, ever! That man was scared of the new stuff he had to learn. (And I cant blame him).

Ohh and why not just put in a Dos with wp 5.1? Well do you still have the install discs lying around?

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975950)

Actually, I was in a resale store the other day and there was a stack of Windows 3.11 floppies sitting next to a stack of WordPerfect 5.1 floppies. I was sort of in shock, seeing those. :-)

On the other hand, you could have used FreeDOS. I'm not sure about the WP, though. Hell, at least he wasn't used to WordStar.


Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976498)

I wouldn't be... I've still got my boxed set of Dos 3.2 in my desk drawer at work and also have an old twin floppy "laptop" with cga screen that runs DRDOS GEM 2 just to prove to folks you don't require wizzbang hardware to run a gui on... here's the beasty... []

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975988)

Ohh and why not just put in a Dos with wp 5.1? Well do you still have the install discs lying around?

Caldera OpenDOS is available for free --- if you hunt around a bit --- and works pretty well. You may also want to give FreeDOS a try, it's probably decent enough to run WordPerfect.

Alternatively, you could give him one of the OLPC LiveCDs and see how he gets on with that!

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976488)

I have dos 6 floppies around but I don't have wp 5.1

I also have a win95 bootdisk, and a winNT bootdisk in my pile of old software for just in case.

I also have every version of windows between windows 3.0 and win2k.

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975876)

Definitely a lot of work to do, I thought it was still rather clunky and non intuitive. It looked like even the guy demoing it had difficulty navigating the system sometimes. This needs waaaaay more polish before it's ready to be given to the kids. If it's not simple and fun they won't use it. I hope they can end up with something worth while :)

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976036)

That's like trying to use KDE for you Cell phone...

Re:Why is the GUI non-standard? (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976364)

"Why is the GUI non-standard?"

Because there's no such thing as a standard GUI?

OLPC BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975294)

It takes a world full of nerds and geeks to come up with a project like this where a big bunch of the planet still has NO electricity and NO running water, not to mention little food and illiteracy on a large scale.

Twits. Just because YOU have a laptop doesn't mean starving kids in (fill in the blank) need one so they can chat on the net. What frickin' net will they have access to anyway? Pull your geek brains out of your asses.

How about starting up the OBFPG project and get every Geek a Blowup Female?

Sadly, this actually makes more sense.

Starving kids? (1)

Marcus Green (34723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975376)

Why do you think that this is aimed at starving kids?

Re:Starving kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976460)

OH, my bad.

This isn't aimed at starving kids? Why the fuck not? My POINT exactly. It should not even exist as a project until the starving kids ARE taken care of. It's purely a Geek project with Geek interests.

Who the hell is going to teach the recipients of the laptops how to use the damn things?

Are you planning on shipping a can of internet with each one?

Does each one come with a rod and reel and a net and some bait? You'll need these if you want to teach them how to fish rather than just giving them fish.

This whole idea is just plain stupid. Misguided in it's target. Why not send them all mood rings and ouiji boards while we're at it. Oh, and bags of rocks. And don't forget the magic 8-balls.

If this project is aimed at kids that already have the capacity to use a laptop and have an available infrastructure to get on the net then it's just good to create more Geeks.

Re:OLPC BS (2, Informative)

Wooloomooloo (902011) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975424)

Sigh. It has been mentioned in every single OLPC discussion here in Slashdot that the laptop is not intended to be used in poor countries "where people starve all day inside their mud huts" (as people like to say here), but in places where kids have the most basic needs covered already, like Argentina, Lybia and [some parts of] Brazil.

Re:OLPC BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975536)

I thought about putting together a similar program to deliver proper iPod adornments to kids living in areas stricken with moderate affluence, like Toluca Lake and such.

Sure these kids have their basic needs covered, Porsche, Fendi handbags, big screen plasma, but you won't see even one diamond encrusted Pave iPod case anywhere. All the kids in Montecito have diamonds all over their iPod cases and I'm tired of watching this parade of suffering pass by.

Re:OLPC BS (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975878)

even so- rather than spend $X on this laptop project, why not take that same money and put it to countries that -don't- have the basics like food then? $208 per kid should cover a lot of food.

So the question is, what's more imporant- kids that barely have food get laptops (which is admittedly quite valuable for education purposes), or kids that have nothing get food.

Conceivably, the generation that get the laptops can then move on to feeding some of the ones that didn't get laptops, but meanwhile those people starve. So, do we enable more people to help others, at the cost of those starving today- or do we feed those starving today and then worry about educating them all once the basics are covered?

Re:OLPC BS (2, Insightful)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976252)

I like all these people who are so eager to poke holes in other peoples charitable ideas, but dont have their own projects (or they'd have mentioned them). If we gave the OLPC money to the kids in the third world countries (ie, mudhutland) then yes, they would live, but once they grow up they wouldn't be able to get jobs. They don't just need food, they need medicine, education, shelter, clean water, revolutions (to overthrow corrupt governments).... It's not like first world countries where absolutely anyone could get a job, even if its cleaning sewers. Meanwhile, the kids in the second world countries (ie, where the OLPC project is designed for) grow up and can't compete in a country where the vast numbers of people and the scarcity of jobs (although not as bad as in third world countries) means that they don't have any advantages (eg, computer literacy) they can use to work in companies, or start companies, which would generate economic growth, and bringing them out of the second world. With extra jobs and less population growth (the affluent tend to have less children), the second world countries will start employing people from the third world countries, which further drives economic growth..

It's like the dilemma of "would you save one disabled person or 2 fully mobile people from a burning building" - yes it's horrible, but it's more effective to save the mobile people... the disabled person still has exactly the same right to be saved as the other two, but it's not possible to save all 3 given the available resources.

Re:OLPC BS (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976414)

If I had access to two fully mobile people, the three of us would probably be able to get the disabled person out.

But your point is well taken.

OLP2WC (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976434)

AH! So this is aimed at second world countries, not third world countries. You see, the name is confusing. It makes people think every child is going to get one. They should really change the name.

Re:OLPC BS (3, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975452)

It takes a world full of nerds and geeks to come up with a project like this where a big bunch of the planet still has NO electricity and NO running water, not to mention little food and illiteracy on a large scale.

While you are correct in part also consider the old saying: give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for the rest of his life.

If people are dying in a village because they have no food they need food first but after that what? Do you expected a never ending trail of planes dropping food forever? The unit could be used to help educate the village into doing what's right for themselves. By teaching better practices to the ignorant we can hope that they become self sufficient. Education is the foundation of a solid society.

It's not like they're shipping these things out with Counter Strike installed. These machines could become a keystone in fighting bullshit like illiteracy. They can learn the dangers of certain water sources and make better decisions on what crops grow best under conditions that these people can directly interact with.

A lot of the third world's problems would become vapor with a bit of the education that you and I take for granted.

Re:OLPC BS (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975774)

I think it's a bold experiment. What will poor children do when enabled with knowledge obtainable from the web? What happens when they have all the knowledge of the world at their fingertips? Will they continue to live as peasants? Will they rise up and build better lives for themselves? Will the realize that the rest of the world is horribly messed up for working so hard yet not obtaining the happiness they have [] ?

Re:OLPC BS (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976010)

I think we will have to wait and see. I can understand if these kids pull short of the normal day bullshit that we put up with but being able to create a situation in which you have good food and water and the ability to take care of each other has to be a step up from waiting for handouts and dying a premature death from diseases that are easily dealt with.

In the end even if we only get these communities to the point where they become self-sufficient and not integrated into the over all culture of the world we won't have to continue to throw money at them hoping that eventually they get on their own feet. If there is anything that is clear in a "welfare state" it's that feeding the poor doesn't make them more productive, it just makes fatter poor people. Maybe with an education instead of a bowl of rice and a Twix bar these kids will pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Even if we only really help 3-4% of these people it may be a wise investment.

Re:OLPC BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976236)

"Do you expected a never ending trail of planes dropping food forever? "

The more interesting question is what they did before planes or laptops.

Most of the extreme poverty and disease is a result of brutal regimes, the stealing of their land, deforestation, oil wars, chemical water poisoning, tribal wars with modern weapons, and the destruction of their way of life.

I am personally for these laptops as I feel that modern technology is largely responsible for ruining these people lives, so the only way they will ever have any power is to get control of technology.

Re:OLPC BS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976296)

What we really need to conquer is elitist bullshit like people thinking that half working cut rate versions of the laptop they use to search Wikipedia will finally impart knowledge of which water sources are polluted to poor Africans when 5,000 years of accomplished that taks 4,999 1/2 years ago. Same thing with crops.

When will you Westerners figure out that no matter how great you think you are the entire rest of the world does not have to learn to mimic you to survive. The problem in Africa isn't that your average tribesman is just too dumb to find water, it is that every untainted watering hole is guarded my men carrying rifles made in your country and shipped here by your government, standing at the ready to put a bullet in any head that isn't on their side. Their side being the side that will let Westerners pillage the country in return for more rifles to guard more water sources to kill by attrition anyone who isn't complicit in the scheme to carve up the entire world and hand it over to the West.

Keep your laptops.

Re:OLPC BS (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976362)

When will you Westerners figure out that no matter how great you think you are the entire rest of the world does not have to learn to mimic you to survive

Yeah, and if we'd do nothing to help the "entire rest of the world" we'd be told that we're greedy and stingy. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I happen to like this method.

Re:OLPC BS (2, Insightful)

Upaut (670171) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975478)

If they survive, the machines will be shipped off to places like Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Thailand and Libya, where strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi signed a deal with Negroponte to supply the country's 1.2 million children with the machines and supporting infrastructure for $250 million.

Look at the list of deployment. These are not horribly poor countries. They have electrical infestructure, access to medical care in many cases, food, clothing, and domestic products they sell. What they lack is a well established educational system, or funds for the ever changing textbooks. This laptop is to eliminate the second, and help build the first.

Not to mention in even poorer countries, such as the Dominicain Republic, the best hope for leaving poverty is to get a job in the tourism industry. What are the qualifications for the best jobs? English. Computer skills. People skills. This project could help hundreds of kids grow up with a decent future that does not involve baseball in another land... Then as these people grow and earn more, their savings will be reinvested into improving the lives of themselves, and their families, lives. Better houses. Improved streets. Creature comforts. And a better school for their children.

Re:OLPC BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975740)

I love how willingly Slashdot barfs up the Standard Propaganda. Third world countries are not poor because of some ethereal "lack of education." They are poor because we have their resources. Period. Its peasants and kings folks; the only difference is we got a few more kings now.

Re:OLPC BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975528)

while much of the criticism is valid (why give a kid a laptop when you could feed an entire village for a year for the same amount) this project does not target world hunger. The same criticism might apply to many charities; Why have missionaries when you could take all that money going into air fare etc and give people food, why fight aids when third world hunger may be a more pressing problem (and I am not trying to diminish these problems, they are quite serious and yes I donate some of my money to hunger specifically) But the idea is there are places in the world where while hunger may not be a solved problem, there are socioeconomic classes which can eat, but can not afford lots of other things. This being one of them.

Okay great well what's that going to do for anyone? If suddenly some of these people are globally connected to the rest of the world, they can tell us very directly what their problems are and how they would like to world to act on them. They can get access to free information whe they might not even have a proper library in the area, they could conceivably culture the skills which would help them in their own communities in ways various charities haven't considered, and more rapidly. Has the water become contaminated? They may be able to research a sand filter. They could find out about the Germinated Brown Rice method, and increase the quality of local nutrition, or form international communities of developing locales that may exchange processes and information pertinent to ALL. This is just about empowerment, and the people who seriously can't feed themselves aren't going to need, want, or get these things.

Anyhow, just feeding someone won't solve the economic hardship that may have caused the hunger, where fair trade and human rights could improve their quality of life dramatically. Giving those countries a louder voice might be a big step there.

OLPC a huge waste of time? Maybe, this has yet to be seen. But why are we attacking a genuine effort to empower the voiceless when we should be demanding that our governments and communities jump in and take action?

Your most compelling argument is "Where do they get internet access from?", and that is probably the biggest problem with this plan, not that the laptop is worth a thousand pounds of grain. At least this is the way I see it.

Re:OLPC BS (2)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975968)

This criticism keeps coming up, but it's a non sequitur. It's a bit like saying "We can't cure cancer, so there's no point in trying to cure minor infections". Or like saying "As long as there's even one miserable person in the world, nobody should be happy".

The OLPC is for people who already have access to food, water, shelter and so forth. There are plenty of other initiatives to provide more basic needs. Support those if you want to, but don't knock this project. It's got the potential to do great things.

You can try it yourself (5, Informative)

pieleric (917714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975320)

Actually, although the youtube demo shows mostly everything, you can try it yourself using emulation (it runs on a x86 after all).
Intructions are here [] . It uses QEMU and a special 100Mb system image.

Happy slashdotting...

Mod up "Informative." (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975394)

I would have, but I needed to make a snarky comment.

Thanks pieleric!

Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (3, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975352)

These people are hungry! Isn't it more important to get them clean water? Why would people who make less than a dollar a day want a computer? It's all a plot to enable the next generation of outsourcing. These people need sewing kits, not computers! If you give computers away you are furthering the evil cult of altruism. The color is uggggggly! How can I buy one?

There. Did I miss any?

Now you can talk about the contents of the article rather than blather about the same stuff that comes up every time the One Laptop Per Child project gets discussed.

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (1)

torpor (458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975474)

With an OLPC in some remote village or two, with children around to use it and learn from it, basic services in that area can be improved -drastically- over the course of a single generation.

Education is a significant factor in resource management and environmental/subsistence control. Imagine the poor kids on wastelands learning how to make their own filtration system, step by step, with bio-sensor assistance from their updated-daily OLPC's receiving advice and guidance from a-far ..

Putting these in remote, desperate places, may seem at first blush to be a terrible waste of time, but if the software is right, it will be fixing the problems in front of the user. For kids in poor places, that means learning more about how to manage their environment and improve it by applying education.

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975748)

OBFPG Shipping Notice

Please so not reply to this notification

This message is to inform you that your Blowup Female from the One Blowup Female Per Geek project has been shipped.

The funds that were utilized to bring you this much needed missing aspect of your life were provided by starving children without running water and electricity. They read your messages on Slashdot and figured that you needed the Blowup Chick more than they needed your "help".

Included in your shipment is a sample packet of GOO-GONE so you can keep your Rubber Gal in tip-top shape.

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975804)

Did I miss any?

Not much, just every other OLPC discussion plus the comments above and below yours that explain that this IS NOT AIMED AT COUNTRIES WHERE PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY. Check the fucking buyer list for christ's sake. I swear, /. gets dumber by the day.

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975944)

And you obviously missed the entire point of the message you just replied to... Try reading it again, and keep an eye out for sarcasm..

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975858)

Do you want to feed a hungry man or teach him how to fish? I feel that teaching has a much more lasting effect than a cup of rice (which they will get in any case regardless of the OLPC being a success or not.)

Re:Here, I'll get these out of the way . . . (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976448)

Just as I got to the RSS client part of the video I thought about this issue. Gives new meaning to the phrase "feed the third world".

This is ridiculous. (0, Flamebait)

Zweideutig (900045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975354)

Why are we doing this? These people don't need computers. They need more medical attention and food donations. If we give these people everything they want beyond what is needed for immediate survival, they will never feel a need to become self sufficient. This is global welfare gone bad.

Re:This is ridiculous. (2, Insightful)

PGC (880972) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975408)

You want to feed them fish , OLPC is trying to teach the coming generation how to fish.

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975520)

You want to feed them fish , OLPC is trying to teach the coming generation how to fish.
And a useful skill it will be in the absence of fish :)

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975410)

Why does everyone keep thinking about Africa?

The main targer for these are places like Brazil, and India... where basic human services are in-place.

Re:This is ridiculous. (0, Flamebait)

Zweideutig (900045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975426)

My point is that we shouldn't be wasting our money on other people, we should be helping ourselves.

Re:This is ridiculous. (3, Informative)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975490)

And how are you "wasting your money on other people" seeing as the countries who want this will pay for it themselves?

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975730)

No, they're only paying for half of the manufacturing cost, and obviously not for all the free R&D labour.

I think many governments of India could pay local companies to develop a better and more appropriate product for their needs. And that would create jobs in India, rather than in Chinese slave camps.

We? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975518)

What do you mean 'we'? You aren't helping with the project, so what's it taking from you?

You are right (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975526)

please start working to get some orginization, private or government or both, to buy a million of these for low income/no income children in the united states.
You want to help the people, get on it.

Bear in mind, that all the countries are paying for these.

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975466)

The main targer for these are places like Brazil, and India... where basic human services are in-place

You clearly have never ventured far into either of those countries

Re:This is ridiculous. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975648)

Did the post say that basic human services are in place everywhere in Brazil and India? No. Hell, they're not in place everywhere in the U.S. But basic human services still exist in those countries.

What, did you think that it was people living homeless in the jungle that are responsible for Bollywood and taking our IT jobs?

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975550)

People need the freedom to choose for themselves what they want, and to work for it, without constant political and physical interference.

Parents need the space to educate children to live in their culture and environment instead of pining for a life they can't have and might not actually want if they got it.

Corrupt governments and crooks need more snake oil fantasies to sell to the population and more non-indigenous resources and power to leverage.

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975638)

I disagree, it's hardly even welfare. It's a low-cost embedded device targeting a specific class of users which has been wholly neglected. The OLPC could empower these people to autonomously learn and compete in a global marketplace. Many of these countries aren't even developing the same way that america has, it's a truly different world, and that calls for truly different approaches.

You can't just type in a location? (5, Insightful)

Nermal (7573) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975356)

From TFV:

"Note that there is no url bar" (in the browser)

I really hope there's more to it than that. I mean, I realize that google isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but having any single search engine be the mandatory primary interface for the web, to the exclusion of even being able to type in urls directly seems insane to me.


Re:You can't just type in a location? (2, Informative)

gdek (202709) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975682)

Bzzt. The prototype I played with last Tuesday did, in fact, have a URL bar in the browser.

Nice try, though.

P.S. it's unbelievably cool in person. :)

Re:You can't just type in a location? (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975904)

Tim B-L's first browser didn't show URLs... they were meant to be technical implementation details and not exposed to the user. In practice, though, an idealistic approach like that is never going to work because people still want to include URLs in plain text documents, and there's no sensible index of the Web to use as an alternative.

Re:You can't just type in a location? (0)

1310nm (687270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976116)

Yeah, who the hell thought up this interface? Why wouldn't you just let the kids use an existing WM like XFCE, gnome, or KDE? This isn't going to be a very good learning tool if nothing works like it does in the real world. You don't learn anything by being put in a rubber-walled room with a couple of rubber balls, you learn by being in the real world and making mistakes. Who broke their DOS install as a kid and had to reinstall from scratch? These kids aren't retarded, they're just not exposed to modernity.

They are using Squeak (smalltalk) for the EToys (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975360)

That is pretty cool :)

Smalltalk is way way way better than perl, python or ruby and Squeak is a neat VM for smalltalk.

Thank goodness these children will be learning to use a real language which is clean.

sweet! (1)

operato (782224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975414)

now they can google to find out how to stick a leg up instead of training a doctor or a nurse!

Really a nice direction .. (1)

torpor (458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975432)

.. to see Linux moving in. Custom interfaces for task-molded computers, and cheap too.

My only gripe with the OLPC is that I can't buy one for my son or daughter .. yet .. but for sure I will.

Re:Really a nice direction .. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975646)

My only gripe with the OLPC is that I can't buy one for my son or daughter

Why? The price? Considering that BestBuy was selling (limited quantitise) of standard Toshiba Satellites for $250 today, factor in the vast difference in annual imcone/purchasing power, and you're already there.

What's holding you back?

Re:Really a nice direction .. (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976020)

The key term here is "limited quantities" for $250.00

Ever heard of a "loss leader"?

Try to buy a few million of these laptops at $250.00 each and I think you'll discover that it's not possible.

You'll also be stuck with a Windows virus magnet(tm) that will make the machine unusable within days (minutes) of connection to the Internet. Plus you won't get all of the educational software bundled with the machine and you won't get the mesh networking (probably for the better if you're using Windows) and you won't get the low power consumption that makes the machine usable where power isn't readily available or reliable.

Re:Really a nice direction .. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976360)

Yes, limited quantities
Yes, loss leader.

I was addressing a /. reader who wanted one of these for his kid(s). Why? It would seem to me for the $100 price. But he's probably not the target market for these particular machines. Something a little more expensive wouldn't be nearly as much financial burden.

Laptop prices (as with just about all electronics) have been falling rapidly. Even at regular prices of low end machines ~$400, the concept of "OLPC" is mostly already here. Expecially for most people reading this.

Stuck with Windows? What, exactly, is preventing you from instaling the OS of choice?

Re:Really a nice direction .. (1)

torpor (458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976318)

What's holding you back?

I can't go look at one at my local consumer-toy outlet, buy it right then and there, and bring it home with me.

Sure, there are other things on those shelves, equally fun and interesting, but the OLPC is a class product. Clone it someone, please.

Re:Really a nice direction .. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976408)

I can't go look at one at my local consumer-toy outlet, buy it right then and there, and bring it home with me.

Do you want a laptop for your kid, or do you want this laptop for your kid? Why this one in particular? The interface? Price? Power consumption? What makes this one so special for someone (presumably) in an affluent western country?

My question is... (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975436)

....why is it only One Laptop Per Child, I mean, how stingy is that ?

Weirdos (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975450)

They may also be kicked around, like soccer balls, a popular sport in 99.9 percent of the world.

If you thought curling [] was a strange sport, get ready for laptop soccer!
All the kids are doing it, well 99.9% of them at least!

New UI - why?? (3, Informative)

Richard_J_N (631241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975662)

I don't understand the reason for the new user interface? It can't be due to resource limits, since they already ship GTK (with firefox), and it can't be for reasons of complexity, since most kids pick up computing skills really fast. So why re-write all the apps? I think that it's quite wasteful of programmer effort. Wouldn't it be better to work on reducing the resource requirements(*) of Gnome (refactor it to make some parts of it compile-time options)? Existing minimal linux distros (eg DSL) are very good at providing good programs with low resource requirements; they just need some "tidying" to make them more user-friendly.

* For lower resources still, use the excellent IceWM. But if we already have firefox, then we've already loaded GTK, and may as well use Gnome. Anyonw who wants a demonstration of how fast simpler programs can be, please try Dillo.

Re:New UI - why?? - Agreed. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975870)

I agree. This is a terrible mistake, and a terrible waste of time. It breaks software standards and de-facto user interface standards. It makes it hard for both users and applications to move between the OLPC and any other computer.

If I'd been on the OLPC team, I'd want to get everything done in the simplest way possible: I'd want to reuse software as much as possible, and I'd want to comply with every standard that I reasonably could, including user interface standards. Thanks to the extensive library of free software, it would be easy to get almost everything needed without having to write any code at all. But it seems that the OLPC developers knew better. I'd love to know why.

Re:New UI - why?? - Agreed. (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976034)

Presumably it's a memory issue. With 128MB or 512MB RAM (the website and the video seems to conflict) and flash as the only secondary storage (meaning you really don't want to swap) running a heavy desktop environment really isn't something you want to do.

Re:New UI - why?? - Agreed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976164)

Presumably it's a memory issue

Understood. But the machine is already loading the GTK libraries for Firefox. Those are huge. And it doesn't answer this question: why not just use a lightweight window manager?

The thought of all the extra work required to build, test and support this thing makes me feel ill. Especially when I know that KDE will run comfortably in 192Mb of RAM in "low graphics" mode (I have a six year old laptop with up to date KDE on it). And there are much lighter window managers than KDE!

Re:New UI - why?? - Agreed. (5, Insightful)

eggz128 (447435) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976384)

and flash as the only secondary storage

Speaking of which, the word processor is using a picture of a floppy disc to represent saving a file. Since a)The OLPC doesnt have a floppy disc and b)The target users may never have seen a floppy disc, they may need a new icon...

Misread (1)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975692)

The OLPC's produced earlier this week in Shanghai still need to go through loads of testing, such as knocking them off desks and dropping them in mud, as kids are wont to do. They may also be kicked around, like soccer balls, a popular sport in 99.9 percent of the world.
Hmm... kicking OLPCs around is a popular sport?

Including minesweeper is tasteless (3, Funny)

bazorg (911295) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975708)

There, said it. :(

Not just minesweeper (1)

pagaboy (1029878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975792)

On the same note, they should remove "Solitaire" from all computers belonging to geeks.

I tried running the Linux image last night (1)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 7 years ago | (#16975928)

I thought that it was very cool, but I wonder how confusing the Squeak "playground" might be without some hands on training/tutorial.

I only spent 20 minutes running the image, but one thing that I did not notice was region-specific documentation for water cleanliness training, etc. I thought that these would be customized for each country/region. Does anyone know about this?

I was telling a lot of non-nerd friends about this project at a big Thanksgiving party yesterday, and not only did everyone really like the idea but no one seemed to think that this would seriously take away money from food, fresh water, etc. programs.

Scrap this UI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16975966)

Scrap this UI! It's very crap thing.

Either use GNOME or KDE. But if this two can't be used, use IceWM with all the links pre-configured. We don't need to reinvent the UI again!!! Stop this non-sense and waste of time.

Worse than ms bob? (1)

hikerhat (678157) | more than 7 years ago | (#16976222)

Is this worse than bob? If removing tool bars and menus and only allowing one application to run at a time maximized was some sort of user interface panacea, I think every OS on the planet would already be operating that way. The actual reason for removing tool bars, menus, and forcing applications to run maximized: that's really easy to do. It is much much much harder to actually _create_ some kind of new user interface that will be 'easy' for anyone in the world to pick up and use, and then write applications that take advantage of that revolutionary new interface (there's no way to force existing applications into that hole). Much as it sucks, the WIMP paradigm is still the best anyone has ever come up with. Selectively disabling portions of WIMP (based on how easy it is to disable, not usability) doesn't make WIMP better. It makes it worse.

Mystery Meat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16976480)

Wow, I haven't seen that much mystery meat navigation since I uninstalled that proprietary Flash garbage.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account