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First Look At Final OLPC Design

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the thinking-of-the-children dept.

Portables 224

blackbearnh writes "At the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, AMD hosted a presentation of the final Industrial Prototype (Beta 1) of the One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop. Linux Today has extensive reporting, including new photos and details about power consumption, networking, and the logistics of distributing and servicing what will be the largest rollout of any computing platform in history: 5 million units in the first year. This will represent nearly a 10% increase in the total worldwide laptop production for 2007."

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Design issue alert! (2, Funny)

zanderredux (564003) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537526)

You have to look at this through the needs of a child [in the developing world]. A child doesn't want to play the latest video games. he wants to be able to read a book.
It seems that they got the design requirements wrong! Where I came from, people couldn't care less about books as long as they could play Tetris....

Re:Design issue alert! (1, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537546)

Tetris schmetris. It should come with duke nukem forever preloaded!

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537658)

Tetris is hardly "latest".

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537694)

Does anybody want a computer to read books? There's already a perfectly good device for reading books. It's called a book. Computers are great. They're interactive and versatile. But they shouldn't be seen as a replacement for books. Books are great too and there are a lot of them not avaialable on a computer.

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

starwed (735423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537718)

These computers are cheaper than a big stack of textbooks, though. I think that's the main point of them.

And note that the article itself mentions that part of the project is getting media for these machines. (And apparently Mexico converts a lot of Spanish language textbooks into e-books.)

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538368)

Are the computers really cheaper than the textbooks, or are they just cheaper than buying books off the publishing companies? It's not that expensive to print something out on paper. You can buy some pretty thick books for under $10.00, and that's with the cost of a nice shiny cover, retail space, salesperson wages, and a bunch of other unnecessary stuff built in. I think the money could go a lot further if it went towards the publishing of free textbooks, which could be produced very cheaply and given or sold for cost to these countries. The stuff you learn in the first 16 years of your life dpesn't changed all that much. It would be much better to just sell the countries cheap textbooks. The laptops will all be broken within 3 years, and they'll have to buy new ones. Whereas, if they had bought textbooks, some of them might be in bad condition, and might need to be rebound, but I don't think they would end up completely broken like many of the laptops will.

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

starwed (735423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539204)

No, I think it really is cheaper than the textbooks. Especially when you factor in the ability to hold so many classic works. (The laptops are supposed to be pretty damn durable; no moving parts inside.)

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539358)

My cell phone doesn't have any moving parts either. That doesn't stop the fact that accidentally dropping it, or banging it up against something will cause it to break. Things happen to computers, especially laptops. Sure they'll last 3 or 4 years, maybe longer, but There's books at my local library that are over 50 years old. I doubt that the laptop will last that long. What about batteries. I haven't seen a battery that lasts beyond 3 years of frequent charge/discharge cycles.

Re:Design issue alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537732)

Books cost. Much. Once the laptop distribution has been done, distributing an ebook file over the mesh costs almost zero).

Re:Design issue alert! (5, Insightful)

Curien (267780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537756)

Books are also very expensive. Even in mass production, a non-trivial book can cost around $20 each, and smaller run books are much more expensive due to (lack of) economy of scale.

Not to mention that large-scale distribution is not inexpensive, especially in the market areas for one of these laptops (poor infrastructure makes shipping more expensive). I imagine a government could actually save a good amount of money (if the laptops prove successful and long-lasting) by giving school children one of these laptops and then just having digital textbooks.

Re:Design issue alert! (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537952)

Exactly. It's the same as with girls. The digital version is much cheaper than the exteriorized rib edition.

Re:Design issue alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537984)

you need to get out more

Re:Design issue alert! (5, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537974)

That's great, until you realize that ebooks hardly cost less than physical books.

I'll admit that there's quite a few free ebooks, but the majority of them are 'literary classics' that a child couldn't read if it wanted to and college-level textbooks that a child couldn't read if it wanted to.

If they can get some ebook publishers to donate books for use on these OLPCs that'll be great, but I'm not holding my breath. With the exception of MIT, Gutenberg and Baen.com, I haven't seen a lot of generosity in the form of books. (Physical or electronic.)

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538166)

I don't know what the OLPC crowd count as a "child" but by the age of 14 a bright child could probably tackle as many Gutenberg type "literary classics" as many adults: if they were interested. Alice in Wonderland is in the Gutenberg archive; I'm sure there are many more children's books there too. Something like Frankenstein contains some ponderous language, but still has the capacity to grip a developing reader.

TFA also mentions that the Mexican government is working towards providing all curriculum textbooks as OLPC compatible ebooks.

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538634)

I was reading the Illiad and Bhaghava-Gita at 11, because there was no one around to tell me I wasn't advanced enough. Dickens, Twain, Conan Doyle; piece of cake; although perhaps my favorite work was the Larousse Encyclopedia of Astronomy. I lugged that puppy most of the way from Cananda to Guatamala. That one's not in the public domain, but most of the material in it is.

It's amazing what a kid can accomplish if there isn't someone force feeding him "age appropriate" material at a graded rate. The modern American education is actually designed to hold you back.

KFG

Re:Design issue alert! (3, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538774)

Remember that even if the electronic edition costs the same per child, the non-trivial costs of transportation will be removed from the equation.

If you take out some or part of the cost of printing, the deal becomes even sweeter.

This is a win-win situation - the price of the books go down because they don't need to be printed. This means more books are sold at a possibly higher profit margin. The books can get as large as needed because they are not on paper - encyclopedias can grow to unlimited size. The children have more books because the government can afford more and thus, I hope, the children get a better education and economy improves. And because they don't pollute when are made or transported, the environment wins.

Come on... It's an easy sell.

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538808)

If they can get some ebook publishers to donate books for use on these OLPCs that'll be great, but I'm not holding my breath.

Or just develop them at cost. Considering that basic education books are mostly a "write once" project, I'm surprised by the costs. How much would it really cost if you can spread the cost over 5 million PCs? I mean there's not even that many people in my country, and it still happens somehow (but ok we're rich).

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539138)

That's great, until you realize that ebooks hardly cost less than physical books.

Which is another problem that needs to be fixed. There's absolutely no reason in the world why we shouldn't have a complete set of open content textbooks covering all of a basic liberal education. Public and private schools spend ridiculous amounts of money on books that contain basic knowledge that's been known for decades, even centuries, and there's no good reason for it other than to line the pockets of scholastic publishers.

Sure, writing books takes effort, but it's an effort that only needs to be performed once. Rather than buying what the publishers have to offer, the public school systems should commission the creation of the necessary texts, hiring the writers directly and placing the result in the public domain. Then, when they need printed texts, they should put out a request for competitive bids and buy the books from the publisher who can produce the printed, bound copies for the best price and with adequate quality (and durability). The cost of printing a high-quality, hardcover textbook is less than ten dollars, but schools presently pay three to five times that much because they're buying the content, not just the printing.

US public schools collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on textbooks. If we're very conservative and assume that it's only $100M per year, and that paying for printing only, not content, only reduces the price by 50%, that still leaves $50M per year for commissioning of new or updated texts. You can pay more than 200 full-time textbook writers and editors for that much.

And for students who can use e-books, the printing costs can be eliminated as well! Finally, given a reasonably well-written basis to start from, much of the maintenance and enhancement of open-content textbooks can be done by the teachers themselves, a la wikibooks [wikibooks.org] . The schools would probably be wise to pitch in a little cash and hire some professional editors and subject matter specialists to oversee the process, but that would cost very, very little when divided across, for example, all of the school districts in all of the states in the US.

Bringing this back to the OLPC project, the solution is obvious. The same nations that buy these laptops for their kids should also set aside a little of their textbook budget every year for producing open-content textbooks to be delivered in electronic format (or in printed format for kids that don't have the laptops). Particularly with international cooperation and the assistance of the teachers (and perhaps even the students!), after only a few years there would be a complete set of native-language texts for basic education.

Books are NOT that expensive to print (5, Interesting)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538684)

Speaking as a publisher, there is no chance whatsoever that children's textbooks need to cost twenty bucks each to print.

Go for it, you find me quotes from printers for runs of over five thousand books where they cost any more than, oh, five bucks apiece. And that is assuming conventional paper, hardcover (which is, btw, a terrible design approach compared to, say, tyvek over soft plastic), and the book being the awkward size and design of "normal" textbooks.

But then what would I know? I've only done textbook production work for Harcourt-Brace, Houghton-Mifflin, and Scholastic, not to mention collateral materials and periodicals production for The Trumpet Club, Time, Inc., McGraw-Hill, and, oh, right, my own publishing company.

No, the pricing of textbooks is a result of back-assed production systems, government contractor pricing, schoolbook adoption board warping of design, and terrible legacy choices related to all of the above. And with new digital printing systems coming on line all the time, real world limitations are dropping every year.

Admittedly, I'm delighted at all of the above. I'm just now bringing my first bound products to press and I expect to underprice the buggers by fifty to eighty percent.

But don't believe them when they tell you their mahooah about printing costs. You might as well take Halliburton's word for it on their costs.

Re:Books are NOT that expensive to print (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539012)

Go for it, you find me quotes from printers for runs of over five thousand books where they cost any more than, oh, five bucks apiece. And that is assuming conventional paper, hardcover (which is, btw, a terrible design approach compared to, say, tyvek over soft plastic), and the book being the awkward size and design of "normal" textbooks.

$5 is considerably more than "free", of course. And then there's distribution costs.

Re:Design issue alert! (1)

hahiss (696716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538724)


I'm a bit of a bibliophile, so I'm totally sympathetic here. However, if you don't have access to a (real, physical!) library AND you have a computer with network access, then you have access to a *ton* of books electronically---many of which are available for free.

I don't live in the third world, just a ruralish part of SW Pennsylvania , and having the access to electronic texts means that my access to texts far outstrips my university's ability to store such documents (especially academic journals). I prefer to read them on paper, for sure, but if the choice is between no access and only electronic access, I vote for electronic access.

I should add that I can carry more electronic texts with me on a laptop than I can in my bag. Heck, an electronic copy of Unix Power Tols is lighter than the print copy---and that includes the weight of my laptop! ;)

you sir are a fool (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537956)

olpc is FLAMEBAIT

Re:Design issue alert! (3, Interesting)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538540)

I live in Argentina, which is one of the target countries for OLPC. Daily through the streets of Buenos Aires I come across many many indigent children who either beg for money, perform little juggling acts for coins, sell small items or collect cardboard and other materials from the trash which they later sell. These kids were usually found as well in Arcades, playing with some hard earned coins, out of someone's good will, or hungrily peeking over someone's shoulder. They normally play real good and act as on-site advisers for kids with money to play. When Arcades started disappearing in favor of small joints dedicated to on-line games, they moved over... and now they sometimes spend hard earned change for an hour of Counterstrike (historically the most successful on-line game for this kind of places). ... So I assure you... poor kids certainly do care about games, and I have no reason to think they'd rather read a book.

And if you aim higher, towards the working class children, the lower middle class, or middle class, then there's no question either: as a rule kids don't like to read in this country. I think it's likely that overall children books are less popular here than in the US, and reading in adults is less popular as well. Kids normally don't like school or studying (no surprise here, I guess), and they avoid it as much as they can. We don't have SAT exams here, or any other kind of exam which require a certain level (except for some high schools which have an acceptance exam), so most kids stick to getting marks just high enough as to pass the class.

So I can't imagine why someone would think that kids would rather use the computer to read a book than to play games. What I would believe, is that many kids would rather chat and browse through social network sites (Fotolog.com is very popular in Argentina and Brasil) than play games. Girls specially. In fact, I'm really happy that thanks to SMS and IM apps, kids now have a reason to read and write ten times more than they did before... even if they do it in garbled kl00l3z-5p34k. I'd like teachers to embrace this fact and help kids improve their on-line writing.

Re:Design issue alert! (2, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538656)

***It seems that they got the design requirements wrong! Where I came from, people couldn't care less about books as long as they could play Tetris....***

Of course the kids are going to use the OLPC to play Tetris and other games. It's not an either Tetris or read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch" thing. The OLPC looks to be able to do both, and it's a safe bet that it will be used for both.

When I worked in a K-8 school, I asked some teachers if I should take Solitaire of the Windows machines. Some didn't care. Some WANTED it on the machines so the kids could play it at appropriate times. Nobody wanted it to be disappeared.

Couch-device? (4, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537544)

I have to admit that the more I read about the OLPC the more it seems like an ideal device for couch-centric web surfing and ebook reading... ;)

But respect to the project for getting this far, I for one hope they make it all the way. Information wants to be free, after all.

Re:Couch-device? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537692)

Well, for couch-centric web surfing, you need appropriate software. Hmm, that's a daunting engineering task indeed. I guess OOP has finally run out of steam here. The time has come to invent Loafer-Oriented Programming.

Optimized for p0rn distribution (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537562)

Wirelessly distribute porn clips through the P2P mesh. Also a camera to shoot your own!

Designed to Corrupt the kids of the third world with porn from USA

Re:Optimized for p0rn distribution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537592)

They will be children using these devices, you prick.

Re:Optimized for p0rn distribution (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538058)

Well I, for one, can remember seeing porn passed round in school (paper-based, in the days before the internet). Plenty of interest in actual sex as well, and clearly some people were succeeding looking at the number of pregnancies...

Looking at current statistics and surveys I see no reason to believe it is any different now. I think the figures are around 1% of UK 13-15yr old girls are acutally getting pregnant, so the % of that age group having sex must be much higher, and the % looking at porn is most likely higher still.

I see no reason why the OLPC users should be any different from other schoolchildren - so, if they can use it to find porn, they almost certainly will.

Re:Optimized for p0rn distribution (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538502)

They will be children using these devices, you prick.

Children who, for the most part, probably get to see a modicum of real life fucking going on.

Most of the world does not operate by the prudish to the point of psychosis standards of Peoria. They live too close to the metal of reality.

KFG

Forget the iPhone as the next Newton Replacement! (4, Interesting)

VE3OGG (1034632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537566)

I saw the pics (which are quite nice!) and the first this that jumped into my mind was the ages old (by hardware standards) but infinitely cool eMate 300 [wikipedia.org] based on Apple's Newton platform. Those things were nigh indestructible and were marketed at he education market. All of those schools that are looking to invest thousands of dollars for computer equipment should really turn an eye to this unit -- cheap, infinitely flexible, and incorporating a lot of things that could be educational...

the Newton (2, Interesting)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539144)

Agggh, the pain! Yep, the wondrous, neglected Apple Newton, stranded to die an abandoned death by the Jobs regime for reasons they never did really justify.

"It canniblizes our other sales"
Really, now? The Marine corps wants to carry iMacs into battle?

"It puts us in marketplaces we can't afford to focus on."
Oh, you mean like education, already a core market, and vertical stuff like insurance that is vastly profitable?

"There was never really any demand."
Funny, that's not what, say, Infoworld said, let alone teachers, doctors, mobile salespeople, and, as mentioned above, the U.S. Marine Corps.

"Shareholders are upset about all that investment in plant."
So better to just write it all off and cut your profit numbers down further?

"We can't afford the distraction from important projects."
As CNet showed two months ago, the Newton is still better than most of what's out there. And from the scuttlebutt I heard from folks inside Apple, there were plenty of people wanting to buy the rights to the molds, the IP, the whole damn package. Apple (read Jobs and buddies) was just too snitty to accept any of the offers.

I'm impressed by what I'm seeing about the iPhone, though a little more comparison to the Nokia 800 and various Psions would be appreciated. But this is pissant compared to what we would have now if we had gotten TEN FRICKIN' YEARS more improvement of the Newton.

I wonder how far MS got installing XP on one? (4, Interesting)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537616)

MS has had prototypes to try and install XP on, does anyone think they were successful? It looks like an amazing amount of thought has gone into the design and execution. MS must be scared to death of this thing.

Re:I wonder how far MS got installing XP on one? (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538288)

MS has had prototypes to try and install XP on, does anyone think they were successful?

Probably, based on the colour scheme. =8o

(Yes, I know it's aimed at kids and will no doubt be available in other colours; put me down for a red one to go with the devil-horns antennas.)

Re:I wonder how far MS got installing XP on one? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538432)

XP is so 2006. I want to see Vista running on these machines.

Re:I wonder how far MS got installing XP on one? (1)

perfessor multigeek (592291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539168)

XP is so 2006. I want to see Vista running on these machines.

Really? Are all of your tastes so perverted? ;->

because (1)

TheCybernator (996224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537622)

OLPC because every child has a right to have MySpace account!!

Re:because (0, Offtopic)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537986)

OLPC: Overtly lustful pedophiles, celebrate!

Goodbye, Commodore! (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537644)

"Linux Today has extensive reporting, including new photos and details about power consumption, networking, and the logistics of distributing and servicing what will be the largest rollout of any computing platform in history: 5 million units in the first year."

Well, so much for the C64 world domination. It was fun while it lasted.

... Wait! With this production rate, it's more than three years to go, isn't it? Hmm, I guess I can snog my little lovely breadbox for some more time.

When will consumers be able to buy these? (5, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537670)

I'd pay $300 for a rugged laptop that runs 6 hours, can be stuffed into a small bag, has wifi, browser and other functionality. I'm sure a lot of other people would too - who knows perhaps it would be great way to subsidize the educational version.

Re:When will consumers be able to buy these? (3, Informative)

alnapp (321260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537780)

Via Ebay ? ! ?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6246989.stm [bbc.co.uk]

As posted below, but more pertinaint as a reply to your post

Re:When will consumers be able to buy these? (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538718)

Interesting. If that were the conditions, I'd say yes to it. I wouldn't want sugar UI - just Fedora & GNOME / xfce or similar, but other than that I can live with it the way it is, even down to the lime green finish.

Re:When will consumers be able to buy these? (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539332)

we can buy one only if we spend the money on one for the needy, as well? shite -- I was, and still am, willing to pay nearly 300 for one anyway, so i'd call it a done deal.

Exactly! (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538192)

I could use thousands of machines like these and at the moment am stuck between using full laptops with all of the associate cost and bollocks or palm like devices which are useless for anything but reading the occasional appointment.

These machines are substantially below the market value, in particular the built in mesh networking is interesting. What's going to happen is that they will be diverted in large numbers to places like ebay. What would you do if you were handed something worth a year's salary? To stop that they'll have to release the units generally to the public, hell it's even a good idea, the increased production would reduce the cost per unit significantly and will subsidise the educational version.

"The first units will be closer to 100 Euros than 100 dollars," admits Bletsas.
Of course the dollar has dropped in value by 40% over the period the OLPC has been in creation, so perhaps it isn't the best standard to compare the price against.
 

Re:Exactly! (1)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539242)

Yea... I could see lots of potential as field computers for engineering purposes. The ability to charge it via the crank itself is a good option in necessity. The size and form and apparently weight is great. You don't need top of the line laptops for the purposes I have in mind... but handhelds are just too darn small. This would be the perfect solution.

soon (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538658)

"The backers of the One Laptop Per Child project plan to release the machine on general sale next year." according to the BBC [bbc.co.uk] .
and it will be twice the price (so $300 seems about right as they cost $150 to make at the moment)

Re:soon (1)

VE3MTM (635378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539454)

Or how about this idea: in developed countries, sell them at a fairly significant profit, and put those profits into subsidizing the cost to the governments of these countries? If the cost is around $100 (it's higher now, but $100 is the target) to manufacture these laptops, they could even double the cost, turning the mass market sales into a kind of sponsorship, where buying one of these means also "buying" one for a child somewhere.

I'm with other people here when they say that these sound like sweet little devices for web browsing and other low-powered computing.

What about heat? (2, Insightful)

Yeti.SSM (869826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537770)

Just wondering... What happens when somebody forgets the thing on direct sunlight (which is IMHO quite likely with kids)? Won't it damage the LCD or battery if left there for a while?

Re:What about heat? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538244)

Just wondering... What happens when somebody forgets the thing on direct sunlight (which is IMHO quite likely with kids)? Won't it damage the LCD or battery if left there for a while?
They've suggested that one reason they want to give the machines directly to kids, and not to schools, is that the kids will value them more that way, have a sense of ownership, and look after them better. By that logic, once they've learned that leaving one out in the sun kills it (if that's the case), they won't do it again.

The question then is, how easy is it to get a replacement? Make it too easy, and you lose the incentive to look after the one you have. Make it too hard, and there'll be deserving children with no laptop.

Re:What about heat? (5, Informative)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538314)

As I recall from the couple OLPC mailing lists that I read, they did (and continue to do?) a lot of LCD and overall 'destructive' testing. The LCD was sourced very carefully can contains a special UV filter, in fact last I heard there was a 'desert' and 'not desert' version of that to deal with the different environments. Similarly, they've done a lot of battery testing and there are improvements that will go into the revised and more final hardware.

The OLPC does not contain any real moving parts (hard disk, etc) and the motherboard is behind the LCD panel, not under the keyboard (where the battery is). The processor runs nice and cool (in fact, it's underclocked).

I worked at one for a while and it was a welcome relief from my 'burn your lap' ThinkPad with a PIII : ) That said, proper suspect and power management isn't done yet, so they have a lot more to do in these areas.

Wow, you're so smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539210)

I'm sure they never thought of that. It probably never occurred to them these things might be used in sunny places. You should be on the design team.

Software (4, Interesting)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537786)

There is one aspect of the OLPC that really worries me: the software. The machine will ship with many pieces of entirely new software, or at least new frontends for existing programs (e.g. Firefox). I think that this is a significant risk. There is a lot of code to be designed, written, and thoroughly tested before their first deployment on millions of machines. Those machines may not see a network connection after they are sold, so the software has to be right first time. It also has to be secure.

However, the OLPC folks seem unworried:

With two more betas to go before the summer, Bletsas was unfazed by the glitches. He also called the current state of the software "barely useable," but again was confident that it would be where it needed to be by launch.

I hope that this confidence is not misplaced.

Re:Software (5, Interesting)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537958)

You don't have to take their word for it; you can grab the complete software stack and test it yourself, if you want. The OLPC team provide OS images [laptop.org] that you can use to run the software in any x86 virtualization platform (they recommend qemu, but people have it running in VMWare and Parallels as well).

It's worth checking out just to see their new "Sugar" UI -- which is pretty cool IMHO.

Re:Software (3, Interesting)

vhogemann (797994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537962)

That's where Python comes into.

It's not like you can't shoot yourself in the foot with python, its just harder to do so. You don't have to worry about pointers, it has a HUGE and stable library, and integrated unit testing.

Also, the GTK bindings are very mature. So if all you need is rewrite some UI code, Python probably is your safer bet.

Re:Software (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538494)

Whoof, you must be kidding. One of the two single best development tools ever created by man (of course, some women were also involved of course -- thanks, Mrs. Goldberg! ;-)) will be sitting on the flash disk just next to that messy disorganized snake thing and you suggest ignoring it?

Re:Software (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538066)

Security is not really a great concern in the ones which will never get networked, and those that do can be updated.

Re:Software (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538292)

Security is not really a great concern in the ones which will never get networked, and those that do can be updated.
But the intention is that the vast majority will be networked. Almost all will join a mesh with nearby machines. Provision of Internet access to communities is part of the project.

One nod to security is that each application runs in its own VM. (Why am I replicating TFA??)

Re:Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538224)

Those machines may not see a network connection after they are sold, so the software has to be right first time. It also has to be secure.


Actually, not seeing a network connection should remove the need for security. There's got to be a Windows joke here somewhere...

worried about the software .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539182)

"There is one aspect of the OLPC that really worries me: the software"

I thought OLPC [fedoraproject.org] was based on Fedora Core [redhat.com] sponsored by Red Hat Inc. so I wouldn't worry.

"Those machines may not see a network connection after they are sold, so the software has to be right first time. It also has to be secure.

If they won't be seeing a network then how would security be a problem.

However, the OLPC folks seem unworried:

With two more betas to go before the summer, Bletsas was unfazed by the glitches. He also called the current state of the software "barely useable," but again was confident that it would be where it needed to be by launch.
Do you have any links or citations that quotes Bletsas as saying this?

was: Software (Score:5, Interesting)

Playstation buttons (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537806)

The four buttons just below the screen and to the right are marked Triangle, Circle, Square, X.

What's the story there? Did Sony suggest it? Were Sony asked for it? Is it product placement, or did the OX designers see merit in the culture-agnostic use of geometric shapes?

Re:Playstation buttons (1, Funny)

daranz (914716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537890)

It's another one of Sony's uncoventional and widely ineffective marketing campaigns. This one targets third-world children as potential PS3 users.

Re:Playstation buttons (0, Redundant)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538544)

I could see this helping for language agnostic buttons, but I think they were a complete failure on the Playstaion I,II,III. The problem for new gamers is to remember which button is where. Since you don't associate Triangle, circle, square and X with any position, it's hard to remember which button is where. Granted I find it weird that the NES put B on the left of A, but that's easy enough to remember. Maybe other people like it, and after a while playing on it, probably don't find it that bad. But my experiences, where I visit a friends house, and play NHL hockey or some other game, find it very frustrating. Which ones the shoot button. oh that's circle. and I have to keep on looking for where the circle button is. If you ask me, the GC has the best button layout. You can Identify all the buttons by feel, and the "Home" (Big green A) button always makes sure you know which button you are on. It also makes sense that since in 90% of games you are pushing 1 button 90% of the time, to make that button nice and big.

Has Bletsas ever met an actual child? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537870)

OLPC should get to know their customers a little. This quote is a gem:

"You have to look at this through the needs of a child [in the developing world]. A child doesn't want to play the latest video games. he wants to be able to read a book."

Yes, those pure, innocent children of poor nations, unafflicted by the ills of our modern society, only want to study and advance themselves. Just look at the preferences of most children in the society with which you are familiar. And the children in poor communities -- they are even more focused on knowledge and self-improvement!

It sounds like these MIT engineers are using themselves as a focus group -- if they were children in a poor country, knowing what they know now, that's exactly what they'd want!

Someone's smoking crack... (1, Funny)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537878)

"You have to look at this through the needs of a child [in the developing world]. A child doesn't want to play the latest video games. he wants to be able to read a book."
What reality does this dude live in that he believes a kid would choose "Pride and Prejudice" over Halo?

Re:Someone's smoking crack... (1)

electronspiraltoroid (946356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538040)

Apparently according to someone on 4HV who has played with one of these, the stability of the software may be an issue as it crashed three times during testing. Its possible they had a bad unit though. I'd make the OS open source, so bugs like this can be fixed by Flash update (perhaps with a reset button to prevent brickage) -A

Re:Someone's smoking crack... (2, Insightful)

BigTom (38321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538094)

And that, in a nutshell, is why the next generation of US and European kids are going to be serving coffee and noodles to the highly motivated, well educated immigrants who will be doing all the real work by then.

Re:Someone's smoking crack... (1)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538228)

And that, in a nutshell, is why the next generation of US and European kids are going to be serving coffee and noodles to the highly motivated, well educated immigrants who will be doing all the real work by then.
Please, if 3rd worlders were that educated then 419 scams wouldn't be half as funny.

Furthermore, I'd take the general knowledge base of an average American any day of the week over someone who grew up in a country where it's 'common knowledge' that sleeping with a virgin can cure AIDS.

Re:Someone's smoking crack... (1)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538400)

Furthermore, I'd take the general knowledge base of an average American any day of the week over someone who grew up in a country where it's 'common knowledge' that sleeping with a virgin can cure AIDS.
A majority of Americans don't believe in Evolution.

Re:Someone's smoking crack... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539044)

Furthermore, I'd take the general knowledge base of an average American any day of the week over someone who grew up in a country where it's 'common knowledge' that sleeping with a virgin can cure AIDS.

You're just jealous because there are no virgins left in the US.

i do declair, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538002)

this totaly ROCKS!

Remember the other day... (0)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538054)

...when you asked me what irony was? Ironically they might have to resort to third-world cheap labor as the final solution to pumping the cost down to $100. Good thing little Paco* is learning how to use a laptop, since the only decent job in his country is putting them together! *Random spanish name chosen because Brazil was one of the first countries on the list

Re:Remember the other day... (1)

perdelucena (455667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538112)

Brazilian people speak Portuguese, and no our capital is not Buenos Aires

Re:Remember the other day... (1)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538384)

They'll most likely be assembled in Taiwan and mainland China, you know, like where all your current electronics are assembled. I don't know how to put this eloquently, but the OLPC is an empowerment and education project so that those kids will grow up with skills and access to information (like you have), enabling them to have a nicer life later and improve their own country/economy. The $100 price is due to economies of scale, subsidies, etc.

As for your ignorance of the language and people of Brazil... wow. But the other reply explained that to you.

Re:Remember the other day... (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538534)

...I'm sick and I haven't slept in 25 hours due to work. Sorry about that. I was aware of the language of Brazil. But that issue that every reply continues to drive is trivial in this context (yes, knowledge is good. And yes, pointing out other people's ignorance is good. But there's no need to kick a man who made a simple mistake while he's down. I don't have enough time to do research on every word in every one of my posts. If you think all slashdotters should research the proper names for characters in cruel jokes, then by all means. Personally I don't know any *real* names that would work in the joke.). The point was a "made for children...by children" sweat-shop kind of thing. Odds are children don't make electronics, but are used primarily for textiles (I honestly don't know about this either) in sweatshops (if used at all). And yes, I understand the purpose of this charity. I've read articles about it...I was trying to make a point mixed with some humor.

alright, sorry... just sick of the anti-OLPC FUD (1)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538614)

I am sick too, similar situation. Sorry.

I just really care about this project, it means a lot to me and I believe in it. I guess I get really defensive about all the FUD being spread about it. Here's an example of a website set up as a FUD/astroturfing thing whose purpose is to make people see the OLPC as a very bad thing:

http://olpcnews.com/ [olpcnews.com]

You see enough of this crap and then you start to get kind of upset (at least, I do). I don't know who hired that guy, for instance, but they really ought to be ashamed.

Re:Remember the other day... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538576)

Random spanish name chosen because Brazil was one of the first countries on the list
Too bad they speak Portuguese in Brazil.

Re:Remember the other day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538600)

Err... Brazil = Portuguese... rest of Latin America = Spanish.

Re:Remember the other day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17538662)

*Random spanish name chosen because Brazil was one of the first countries on the list

Jeez you must feel stupid then. After all, Brazilians speak portuguese, which isn't "spanish". Moreover, Paco isn't a Portuguese name either and it isn't at all a common name in Brazil. I guess you fail at smarts.

Won't someone think of the environment! (0, Flamebait)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538102)

Great 5 million laptops all needing more power. Say 100W per laptop, 500MW extra power is now needed to run them, allowing for 1/3 loss due to transport of said electricity and thats nigh on 700WM!?
If they are being deployed in developing countries you can be the power comes from fossile fuels (being cheap and readily available, heck it's why the developed world uses them. Plus the UN/US wont let anyone else have nuclear technology as there is a potential bomb-risk).

Re:Won't someone think of the environment! (2, Informative)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538318)

RTFA - they run on average at 3W and will include a hand or foot cranked "Yoyo" for charging. Presumably in the countries they're going to solar power would be an option too.

Re:Won't someone think of the environment! (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539370)

Even in a thunderstorm in Belgium a solar panel will still produce 5 watts without problems.

Re:Won't someone think of the environment! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538426)

Say 100W per laptop. . .

Say 3w at cruising speed; 5w flat out. Less than a standard nightlight.

2 1/2 hours of manual "labor" for a full charge, or 2 1/2 seconds of lifting the brick to the ceiling if you're a bit clever.

KFG

brickwork! Mod parent up, please (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538968)

2 1/2 seconds of lifting the brick to the ceiling if you're a bit clever.

I had to noodle on that a moment before the image became clear. Good one! And I think right in line with the kind of creative interaction that OLPC hopes the kids will get into.

Re:Won't someone think of the environment! (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538438)

Great 5 million laptops all needing more power. Say 100W per laptop, 500MW extra power is now needed to run them.
Why speculate about the power requirements, when you can RTFA?

Peak consumption is around 5 watts for high-demand media applications, it falls to around 3 watts for browsing, under a watt when used as an e-Reader in black and white mode, and only 350 milliwatts to participate in the mesh network.
... and in many parts of the world the power will be generated by the owner pulling on bit of string.

I accept that manufacturing and distribution will have an environmental impact. Whether or not an empowered and informed next generation of world population offsets that, I can't begin to guess.

I guess even glancing at the article.... (1)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538466)

...was too much to ask

The final selection for power generation has yet to be made; it will be a yo-yo-like device that can be pulled by hand or foot, with a strap that can attached it to a belt or table. The yo-yo generates around 10 watts, while the XO consumes a mere 3 watts in non-intensive computing. This means, for example, that that for every 10 minutes of power generation, a child should be able to surf the internet for a half hour.

Re:Won't someone think of the environment! (2, Informative)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538492)

No, you did not read the article did you? The XO consumes between 350 milliWatt when only it's only meshing, and 5 Watt when it's doing heavy multimedia applications. It can be powered by handpower/solar/ or a generator running off all the hot gas you produce when you open your mouth.

Out of touch? (2, Insightful)

Hodr (219920) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538470)

"You have to look at this through the needs of a child [in the developing world]. A child doesn't want to play the latest video games. he wants to be able to read a book."
- Bletsas

They may be in the third world, but believing that most children would rather read an e-book than play a video game seems a bit out of touch. And before the rabbid Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter fans chime in, a couple things to keep in mind are that not all children can read, and of those who can and want to read, books tend to occupy less of their time [anecdotal I know, but seems intuitive] than most other activities (including playing video games).

Is this really the best idea (1, Interesting)

haijak (573586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538478)

It would not surprise me if others have brought this up, but I have not seen it.

Is the target market for this thing really those kids we see on the Christian Children's Fund adds? If they are, I think a better goal for the worlds resources would be something like "A pair of shoes for every chilled" I would imagine that starving people in the Sudan, or wherever they end up distributing these things, will pass them of in a heartbeat if it gets them a meal for a day.

If the goal is to give computers to people who don't have them, a good place to start would be in developed and nearly developed countries. Right here in the US, 2000 census [allcountries.org] claims 42% of American households have a computer, and only 22% have internet access. That leaves millions of kids in American schools who don't have a computer. I think they, and those like them in other countries, should be the real targets of a project like this.

Re:Is this really the best idea (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538748)

Is the target market for this thing really those kids we see on the Christian Children's Fund adds? If they are, I think a better goal for the worlds resources would be something like "A pair of shoes for every chilled" I would imagine that starving people in the Sudan, or wherever they end up distributing these things, will pass them of in a heartbeat if it gets them a meal for a day.

We're probably not talking about refugee camps in famine-struck areas -- those really are people with more pressing needs.

But there are villagers in the developing world who are not starving, but who are definitely "knowledge have nots". We're in the realms of "give a man a fish / give a man a fishing net" here.

stealing food from starving children .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538772)

"I would imagine that starving people in the Sudan, or wherever they end up distributing these things, will pass them of in a heartbeat if it gets them a meal for a day"

The people of Sudan and elsewhere are starving because of continual civil war brought on by the use of other technology sold them by the west, namely GUNS. Providing them with the OLPC and a meal are not necessarly mutually exclusive.

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/sudan1103/ [hrw.org]
http://www.ecosonline.org/back/aboutus.html [ecosonline.org]

Is this really the best idea (Score:1)

Think about it (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538884)

What would happen if you put them over here? For simplicity, let's say that every kid in every decent-sized city has one of these things. The mesh could potentially spread across the entire city. Which means a total blanket of Internet access. Do you have any idea exactly how, in a word, PISSED the telecoms would be about this?

Wait, that gives me an idea!

Re:Is this really the best idea (1)

jimmyfergus (726978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539464)

This reads like thinly veiled nationalism/racism.

That leaves millions of kids in American schools who don't have a computer. I think they, and those like them in other countries, should be the real targets of a project like this.

It is "those like them in other countries" that these computers are going to be sent to. Didn't you just contradict your own point? Or are the kids in Brazil etc. somehow not like American kids? Who exactly are the inappropriate targets of this plan, and how are they inappropriate?

Nothing is stopping the government (or private ventures) in the wealthiest country in the world, backing OLPC to educate and supply its own poor (except greed, corruption, and an inane support for "Free Market" dogma). I'm sure if the US wanted to sign up to OLPC, the project would greet them with open arms.

Toss em in the dump? (1)

Der Reiseweltmeister (1048212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538594)

One thing that I notices when I read the article is that the distributors were suggesting that for most failures other than an LCD failure the thing would probably just be discarded.

That suggests that in the not to distant future we could have millions of these things in the dumps of the third-world countries ill-equipped to process the waste. There is no mention of whether this has been considered, or if these devices may be RoHS compliant. I kind of doubt it, considering the (slightly at present) higher cost of RoHS compliant equipment and manufacturing.

MESH .. Yes, please! (1)

SlOrbA (957553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538608)

I really really like the mesh networking.

There is no way that Phone or Network hardware companies can make it happen. There is no question about the future being mesh, but the issue is when.

Maybe I'm just a sap (1)

Azathfeld (725855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538814)

. . . reading this makes me cry a little. I think I love you, AMD.

I have a copy (1)

xxdesmus (932581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17538832)

I have a copy of the OS and I must admit it definitely is a bit confusing. The icons are not really all that intuitive. (I played with it inside of a VM)

I don't think the OLPC is a good idea (0, Offtopic)

lbbros (900904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539004)

I don't like the idea of the OLPC because there is some fundamental problem that needs to be fixed before that. That is, a good deal of the so called third world countries that will need it aren't democracies. Now, what gain would it be if you give the chance to obtain information that has been already altered and censored? I'd say to worry about that problem first.

Re:I don't think the OLPC is a good idea (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539410)

I don't like the idea of the OLPC because there is some fundamental problem that needs to be fixed before that. That is, a good deal of the so called third world countries that will need it aren't democracies. Now, what gain would it be if you give the chance to obtain information that has been already altered and censored? I'd say to worry about that problem first.

I've been reading about the USSR recently. One of Lenin's beliefs was that the interim proletariat dictatorial state would wither into an state-free utopia once the right conditions were engineered, and that abuse of power would not be possible because the people would not allow it. Of course, notwithstanding Lenin's own exercising of state terror, Stalin blew that theory away. I'd say that one of the aspects that prevented "the people" from reining in Stalin was the state of communications. A Ukrainian peasant couldn't really know what was going on in (for example) Khazakhstan (in fact later on, an increase in travel associated with service in WWII opened people's eyes to what was going on in other parts of their Union, and fuelled resistance to Stalin).

Distributing these computers is a step towards empowering these people with mass communication. As the OLPC people point out, people tend to find workarounds for state Internet filtering. Maybe increased education and communication is a tool to foster democracy, rather than something to introduce afterwards?
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