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A Dream Job - CTO of the OLPC Project

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the changing-the-world-one-laptop-at-a-time dept.

Businesses 84

weibullguy dropped us a link from the IEEE's site. They've voted the CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project as a 'Dream Job 2007'. Held by Mary Lou Jepsen, a former CTO for Intel, the position entails world travel, speaking with heads of state, and dealing endlessly with the technological challenges of a project designed to change the world. In the article, she relates some of the details of her first task on the job - redesigning the OLPC's display. "According to Jepsen, the display her team eventually marshaled into existence requires, depending on the mode, only between 2 percent and 14 percent of a typical laptop display's power consumption. ... To save watts, the display can switch between color with the backlight on, in low light, and black-and-white with the backlight off, in sunlight. OLPC's engineers trimmed battery usage further by, among other things, adding memory to the timing-controller chip, which decides how often a display refreshes. That trick enables the display to update itself continually without using the CPU if nothing changes on the screen."

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Dream Job Dream? (0, Offtopic)

kihjin (866070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879616)

Maybe next year, CmdrTaco, next year...

FP?

OLPC is gay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880950)

...and so is CmdrTaco. These articles are nothing but flamebait.

I wouldn't want the job (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879622)

There are too many opposing constraints. Sure, jet setting would be fun. But in the end, nothing would get done.

Wait, maybe I do want the job.

OLPC is gay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880860)

I wouldn't want to be publicly mocked for being affiliated with such a foolish project.

Re:OLPC is gay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17885998)

Right, because slashdotter's comments matter.

Why didn't they oh I don't know (1, Troll)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879636)

actually choose someone who came from one of these countries? Maybe someone who actually has firsthand knowledge of what is really needed as opposed to someone who probably never had to go hungry a day in her life. Meh, in my opinion this is just another example of the west's hubris, ie"we know what is best for you and will tell you what is best for you instead of letting you decide". It's failed before and will probably fail again.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879668)

CTO stands for "Chief Technical Officer" as opposed to "Chief ToThePlaceAndFindOutWhatTheyReallyNeed Officer". The project starts with the (possibly wrong, but there's only one way to find out for sure) axiom that a laptop will be useful for these people. Perhaps technical qualifications in building laptops are more important to the CTOs position than precise knowledge of one particular area where they would be used. Note, that not only could you not have the technical knowledge if you spent your time in the places where the product would be delivered, you wouldn't even be able to tell about the special needs of the other places.

I'm personally not sure about whether OLPC is going to be a success, but the desperate knocking and bad advice the project gets seems to suggest to me that some really big commercial interests are deeply afraid of this. I wonder why? Afraid to lose your cheap labour? Afraid that it will drive the success of free software? Afraid the poor will rise up? What is it? To me it seems like a fairly innocent technology experiment which will probably be a partial success but won't live up to the wild dreams of it's originators. It's probably going to cost a bit and give an economic return which is a little bit more than the investment. Who cares? Why not leave it alone?

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880090)

Afraid to lose your cheap labour?

Huh? Their labor will always be cheaper relative to the "first" world no matter what's done. By giving them more technology you get a better educated workforce, and one that's cheaper than in the developed world.

Afraid that it will drive the success of free software?

Huh? Hardware companies would love to have free software, they could sell more product as now there's no software tax.

Afraid the poor will rise up?

Yeah, that's what the companies are afraid of cause they're always putting the common man down dude!

Perhaps companies and people are against this as it is another welfare check to corporations to make them look good while doing nothing.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880618)

<whoosh>
  --> the sarcasm-->

  <====#=)   <- a submarine

     O <- your head
     ^
     |
</whoosh>

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17892298)

I'm personally not sure about whether OLPC is going to be a success, but the desperate knocking and bad advice the project gets seems to suggest to me that some really big commercial interests are deeply afraid of this. I wonder why? Afraid to lose your cheap labour? Afraid that it will drive the success of free software? Afraid the poor will rise up? What is it? To me it seems like a fairly innocent technology experiment which will probably be a partial success but won't live up to the wild dreams of it's originators. It's probably going to cost a bit and give an economic return which is a little bit more than the investment. Who cares? Why not leave it alone?

We've been in economic war with that part of the world for centuries. (I'm talking the entire developed world here.) We don't want them to become anywhere near our equals. It's basic common sense. We are having problems enough adjusting to the concept of India and China trying to raise their standard of living to our levels. India's success has scared our unemployeed IT professionals and recent grads. We don't want the third world to have free education that's at our level. We want them to pay thousands like we had to for the college degree. OLPC would be long term good for humanity and would be globally good overall. For the US and the existing developed world power block? It might not be. Why take a chance with allowing them to develop? It's sort of the mindset of if we had working nanotech or genetic tech sure we'd let them develop to our current levels, but we don't have anything that pushes us that far ahead of the rest of the world so we keep our existing economic warfare up so our section of the globe is still in charge/in control somewhat.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (4, Informative)

Weston O'Reilly (1008937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879672)

Maybe its because they need an effective CEO.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (2)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879698)

Yea, because third world countries know exactly what needs to be done, right?

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (2, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879738)

India and China certainly did. Their economies have been sustaining growth rates around 10%(and sometimes exceeding it in the case of China) for at least the past decade. That is an amazing growth rate, something the west hasn't seen in a long time. And how did they achieve this? It certainly because some white guy at MIT decided that he knew what was best for them. It wasn't philanthropy at all, it was greed, pure and simple. They started to privatize businesses and now more people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 20 years than probably ever before in recorded human history, and greed helped them, not charity.

In fact, Africa has probably received more charity than China or India and is doing much worse than those countries. There are a lot of other factors involved of course, but it shows that charity isn't some magic bullet that can solve all of societies ills. If a country wants to get out of poverty, they have to do it the same way every developed country in the world did, lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Anything else does more harm than good.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879892)

And how did they achieve this?
Doesn't china just use 90% of their people as slaves (more or less) to build all their shit? Well.. they surely are cheap. No wonder they have those growth rates.

India still looks like one big mudhole to me. :/
There still a _long_ way to go.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879950)

If a country wants to get out of poverty, they have to do it the same way every developed country in the world did, lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

This is misguided.

Please read some history. Specifically, read about western feudalism, imperialism, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, slavery, and imperialism.

Short summary: Feudal Europe became rich through feudal slavery and imperialism. Wealth began to be redistributed through violent revolution, but slavery continued. It eventually ended, which caused the need for new cheap labor and markets to hock our wares. This trend continues.

The West didn't lift itself up by its bootstraps. It enslaved a few billion Asians, South Americans, and Africans to push us up from below.

Even if you disagree with this summary, you must agree that the West had a head start through sheer historical accident.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888654)

Even if you disagree with this summary, you must agree that the West had a head start through sheer historical accident.
Nope.
Independent of your definition of "historical accident" I can think of another bossibility. Depending on your definition, I can think of several.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (2)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880032)

It wasn't philanthropy at all, it was greed, pure and simple. They started to privatize businesses and now more people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 20 years than probably ever before in recorded human history, and greed helped them, not charity.

I'm not to sure the OLPC falls squarly under philanthropy or charity. I mean sure they are doing a good thing, but they are still going to charge the countries for the technology. It's not like we are giving them food. Each country can choose or choose not to take the OLPC offer. India didn't take it. I really see your point as irrelevant because we arn't pushing any thing at a 3rd world country. This is a take it or leave it. AND they have to pay for it. Sure there may be no hard monetary profit in doing this, but I want you to take a look at the technology that's going into the OLPC. There is a lot of profit in aplying those technologies to a more developed market.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880130)

... luckily "we" had the bootstraps of african slaves handy when "we" got greedy.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (4, Informative)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880228)

>In fact, Africa has probably received more charity than China or India and is doing much worse than those countries.

Exactly my point. If the third world countries knew what had to be done, they wouldn't be third world countries anymore. Africa is a perfect example- they get millions, even billions in "aid" and the government officials just end up buying nice cars and planes with the money. Africa doesn't need money or food, it needs serious investment in its infrastructure and education system. It needs economic development, and that is something the Africans can't provide. In South Africa, the unemployment rate is hovering around 40%. During the Great Depression, an American unemployment rate of 25% - almost half of South Africa - was a global crisis.

Lookie here [marginalrevolution.com]

"In other developing countries, legions of unskilled workers have kept down labor costs. But South Africa's leaders, vowing not to let their nation become the West's sweatshop, heeded the demands of politically powerful labor unions for new protections and benefits. According to a study conducted in 2000 for the government's finance department, South Africa's wages are five times higher than Indonesia's, even though its workers are only twice as productive.

To the great detriment of its people, South Africa's leaders have been successful. South Africa is not the West's sweatshop."

Third world leaders do not know what needs to be done. The knowledge, the 2 centuries of economics research, exists in the west. A country that has never before had a thriving economy can't be expected to suddenly spawn one.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (2, Insightful)

Socguy (933973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882170)

If the third world countries knew what had to be done, they wouldn't be third world countries anymore. Africa is a perfect example- they get millions, even billions in "aid" and the government officials just end up buying nice cars and planes with the money.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but knowing what needs to be done and doing it are two very different things. It's one thing to say that then need education and investment and an economy, but you fail to take into account, that right now Africa is a seething cauldron of political instability fueled by political, religious and ethnic divisions and now to top it off family units devastated by disease (notably AIDS). This strife was created deliberately; first to enable the colonial powers to maintain dominion over such a large and resource rich content, and was subsequently adopted by the current crop of leaders for essentially the same ends. Keep this in mind when you talk about 'aid'. The western governments and banks new exactly what they were doing when they loaned billions to the warlords of Africa. By-and-large, they didn't care that those in power were all about personal enrichment, they knew that the people of the country would be stuck with the debt, regardless of any benefit they may (or likely not) have received from that money.

Your comments, and other like it, tread dangerously close to 'blaming the victim' in a rape case.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17885324)

Just so you know, China, for one, is not doing a hell of a lot better than South Africa right now.

Chinese cities are going gangbusters, and if you are lucky enough to live in one, your standard of living has gone up exponentially. The Chinese countryside, on the other hand, is still suffering in terrible poverty, comparable to anything in the third world. China essentially has an existing apartheid system, where peaseants do not have the right to move into the city, and often suffer under a tax burden many times greater than their city relatives. (And this is ignoring actual ethnic discrimination in China, which is rife against the "minorites")

Check out the book- http://www.amazon.com/Will-Boat-Sink-Water-Peasant s/dp/1586483587 [amazon.com]

In the countryside, AIDS and Hepatitis are rife in some areas, and basic healthcare is poor or nonexistant. China is still a largely rurual society, although the cities have been filling up with migrants who have few or no rights when they arrive. Their population, because of the 1-child policy, is aging rapidly, and there are serious concerns about the political instability caused by the rich/poor city/country divide.

China has serous 3rd world problems, hinding behind some glitzy first-world cities.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (2, Insightful)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880300)

If a country wants to get out of poverty, they have to do it the same way every developed country in the world did, lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. Every developed country in the world did it at the expense of other countries, which were invaded, pillaged, plundered for slaves, or enslaved as vassal states. This is still going on and probably always will till we have a world government/dictatorship. The idea that history has ended and the world has seen the capitalist light belongs in the 1990s, and should have died by now.

The rise of India could perhaps be attributed to privatised business, though frankly I doubt it, it's not suddenly transformed into a free-market haven because of cancelling some external tarrifs, though Dr Singh may be trying to pass reforms and privatise some industries, that'll take a while. It's probably more to do with promotion of outsourcing in western countries and the move of a lot of manufacturing and now even services over to India/China in the 80s/90s. China could possibly conform better with your argument, though again their strong position has a lot to do with govt. intervention (the yuan being pegged for a start, and subsidies/tax breaks for development zones, plus the suppression of workers rights).

Africa doesn't receive much charity - I suspect the total annual figure is far less than the outlay on debt servicing - the external debt is around $300 billion for Africa in total. We definitely make more from them in arms sales (£1 billion in 2004 from the UK alone) than we've ever given in charity and I suspect the arms sales have a more dramatic deleterious effect. The colonial legacy and the wars which came after are the cause of their current problems, not charity.

Now of course charity doesn't necessarily solve all ills and can be downright damaging, especially given the cynical, pernicious way state aid is given nowadays, and enterprise can be useful, but to claim some sort of free trade enlightenment has swept the world is nonsense. Hell, the US is a very successful state, and many industries are heavily supported by import tarrifs and subsidies - steel, aerospace and agriculture among them. Their success has been in persuading others link India to lower their barriers for things like agriculture at the same time as remaining protectionist.
However every successful society makes up their own myths to explain their success and the otherwise inexplicable failure of others.

Going back to the OLPC project, it's not strictly a charity anyway - they're talking about selling these things to governments to make money so they can make more laptops. Kids will make of these laptops what they wish, but without them it'd take a lot longer for IT to take off in developing countries. I think it's an enlightened idea, and will hasten the development of global thinking and a truly global market - in that sense you should welcome it. Perhaps when many more people in Brazil or elsewhere get laptops, we'll see an influx of people more informed about other countries on these boards - frankly it can do nothing but good as at the moment they're dominated by westerners and the western point of view.

political stability (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880382)

If a country wants to get out of poverty, they have to do it the same way every developed country in the world did, lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Anything else does more harm than good.

No country can bootstrap itself out of poverty if it has civil war or guerilla in the jungles. The main reason of poverty in the Africa is political instability and infighting. That also the reason why economical/humanitarian help is not reaching its destination. Political instability means corruption, no investment, inflation, outflow of profit and escape of qualified workers from the country. No way any economic development could occurs in such conditions. If you want get rid of poverty the only fast way to do it is to drop overwhelming military force into country, clean it's government and law enforcment and keep the force couple of dozen of years until civil peace settle. But that cost blood, not money. And works only half of the times.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879774)

Yea, because third world countries know exactly what needs to be done, right?

As well as anybody else and better than most. Living closer to the metal of life they have to. Means are the issue, not knowledge.

KFG

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879918)

Riiiiight, because the World Bank, IMF, US, and EU have done such a bang-up job when imposing their policies as conditions for loans and aid. Truly, well done I say.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879722)

A gentleman went up country in Laos and asked the isloated rice farmers what they wanted to make their lives better:

They asked for crankable computers with wireless internet. It might be your western hubris that thinks they want a Hershey bar and some caveman shit.

And there are places in this world where a person owns one T-shirt and doesn't know where they'll get the money to replace it, but likely eat better than you do; and others where people are walking around in a thousand dollars worth of clothes and don't know where their next meal is coming from.

KFG

"these countries" (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879958)

The countries that have expressed interest in the OLPC are very different from each other, and someone who was too close to the problems in one country might have a hard time designing something that properly addressed the problems in the other countries.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880196)

I don't think the OLPC project ever claimed to bring food on the table in third-world countries.

This project is about education, with an interesting twist. What if all the children of third-world countries got educated and could, at any time, seek the knowledge they want?

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

Monsuco (998964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883198)

Maybe someone who actually has firsthand knowledge of what is really needed as opposed to someone who probably never had to go hungry a day in her life.
Well, perhaps she does have a tad bit more knowledge that you. See, OLPC isn't really aimed at selling to the starving nations, instead it is more or less aimed at nations that are capable of feeding themselves, but not capable of buying books and the like for their schools. Not everyone in Africa is startving or dieing of AIDS you know, those are just the ones you hear about. In fact, I believe there are a few American school districts (particularly poor districts that cannot afford computers to teach. I know a few districts in America decided to buy standard laptops instead of books, and I wouldn't be suprised to see well off school districts desire to purchase OLPC laptops too, though it is debatable whether an e-book can replace a textbook.

People think OLPC is taking atvantage of starving people, but it really is aimed at those that have the basics but not anything else.

Re:Why didn't they oh I don't know (1)

Sterling2p (922774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17885014)

I saw something very interesting on TV a few years back. Some people designed a water pump that was powered by a bike or something. The farmers were buying it and singing it's praises to other farmers. They say not having to hoist buckets of water out of a well to water their plants increase their productivity many times over. They saved up to buy the pumps and were willing to do the physical work to make it run. There were even groups of Africans who were trained in welding so that they could make pumps for sale. So I would say that sometimes designing and building a tool for people and selling it to them is an honorable thing in my opinion.

Also it is interesting to see that this tool (OLPC) they are building is catching the attention of so many people especially the ones not even in their originally intended audience.

Uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879664)

My dream job involves me, a yacht, two super-computers, and hookers. I'm sure the OLPC CTO has it good, but it can't possibly beat super-computing with hookers on a yacht.

Re:Uh.... (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879838)

My dream job involves me, a yacht, two super-computers, and hookers. I'm sure the OLPC CTO has it good, but it can't possibly beat super-computing with hookers on a yacht.

My dream job involves a yacht. I'll leave you the computers and the hookers...

Re:Uh.... (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879890)

One good mate beats the shit out of a whole yacht full of hookers.

Unless the hookers know how to take a Sun sight and are willing to go over the side to scrape the hull. Then maybe you've got something.

KFG

Re:Uh.... (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880126)

Unless the hookers know how to take a Sun sight and are willing to go over the side to scrape the hull.

Hmm. Those sexual innuendoes are real thinkers.

Re:Uh.... (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17899708)

Well, I provided the setup, but it looks like nobody could come up with a punchline, so I'll just say goodnight, Gracie.

KFG

su laptop es mi laptop (2, Interesting)

mikedeanklein (1052254) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879682)

They had better distribute 10s of thousands at a time...otherwise they'll be theft targets. Amsterdam had to do same thing with their yellow bikes.

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (2)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879706)

I remember reading that the cases would be large and bright orange so they can easily be spotted if stolen, and so if people see an adult with one it will be embarrassing- because he stole it from a child.

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879962)

I remember reading that the cases would be large and bright orange so they can easily be spotted if stolen

You can spray paint anything flat black.

KFG

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17888700)

The voice of experience?
(just kidding)

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17893298)

The line is attributed to Alexander Calder when asked if he could make a mobile out of solid gold.

KFG

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17879966)

It's not likely that the thief would be using the laptop himself. He will sell the laptop to parents who are in need of a laptop - because they haven't won one in a national lottery, for example, or if the child had his/her laptop stolen or broken.

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881392)

"...[The thief] will sell the laptop to parents who are in need of a laptop - because they haven't won one in a national lottery, for example, or if the child had his/her laptop stolen..."

Hmm.. quite a racket they've got there, selling stolen laptops to people who've had their laptops stolen. What a great service to society they'll be performing.

Re:su laptop es mi laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880094)

Except those bikes were white. And they looked funny, so everybody around you would know you had stolen the bike.

my bad! (1)

mikedeanklein (1052254) | more than 7 years ago | (#17886302)

you're right...they're white.

Sounds very nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879708)

Best of luck!

Not first (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17879856)

FUCK ISLAM

The OLPC is cool. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880024)

I've been following this project for a while (meta-blog here [laptop.org] . Aside from the innovative hardware (especially with the screen and mesh network), I've been intrigued with the bizarre GUI, called Sugar [laptop.org] (review of HIG here [plan99.net] . It's a freaky interface that goes way beyond the traditional desktop metaphor where you run "applications" and save things in "files".

Best of all, soon kids in 3rd world countries will be able to annoy the crap out of their parents [laptop.org] with funky casio beats.

Re:The OLPC is cool. (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880432)

And it's all open source, including the BIOS. The LinuxBIOS and OpenBIOS are very, very useful tools that easily outperform the commercial versions: children's laptops booting up in seconds are going to make the owners of more expensive, "feature-laden" laptops quite jealous.

Re:The OLPC is cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880528)

Have you seen one boot up? I happen to have a 'B1' prototype sitting in front of me. While boot time can be measured in seconds to be sure, you need an awful lot of them - like about 3 minutes' worth. My crufty old Powerbook G4 boots far faster than the XO.

They've made some big improvements to Flash access which I don't have on my machine yet, but that alone won't be enough. There's still a lot of work to do before the laptop boots in 'seconds'.

Re:The OLPC is cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880670)

Well, my B1 also lasts many many seconds to boot up, but some people have already managed to boot it up in 2 seconds by tweaking the kernel. And, as far as I know, this is still the goal.

Pretty normal (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880050)

It's late, over budget and nobody's written a check for one yet. Pretty normal.

STOP HELPING THEM! (5, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880112)

Start trading with them.

Buy those shoes, suits, created with "slave wages", buy African corn, sugar, peanuts, tomatoes and apples.

That's how to lift people out of poverty.

We've been waging economic war with developing and third world countries for several generations now. It's only just starting to end. You can't buy African agricultural products (about all they can produce) because of the subsidies we give our own farming sectors to produce products at below market value.

The OLPC? Frankly it's irrelevant. What 3rd world countries need is first infrastructure and education. The OLPC isn't a particularly good way to educate people and there isn't enough infrastructure to make real use of it. The money spent on producing it would be better spent persuading American and European politicians to remove agricultural subsidies.
 

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (5, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880344)

OLPC is a very useful tool to education: being able to Google or Wikipedia for farming information, getting legal information and market information for poor farmers threatened by their landlords or lied to about crop prices, and simply getting detailed weather information locally are all amazingly useful. OLPC is about communications as much as any other grand purpose. And being able to shop around for better selling prices for their goods, or buying prices for food, fuel, and fertilizer may easily pay for the laptop within a year for a poor family.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880606)

So you can buy fertilizer and sell bananas on eBay these days?

Yeah, yeah, yeah... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880782)

OLPC is a very useful tool to education: being able to Google or Wikipedia for farming information, getting legal information and market information for poor farmers threatened by their landlords or lied to about crop prices, and simply getting detailed weather information locally are all amazingly useful. OLPC is about communications as much as any other grand purpose. And being able to shop around for better selling prices for their goods, or buying prices for food, fuel, and fertilizer may easily pay for the laptop within a year for a poor family.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they can balance their checkbook, take classes on line, their lives will turn around in just a year, their land become "The Land of Milk and Honey" and they'll become successful members of the world community.

What WILL happen is that they'll get these machines, and if they're not stolen first, those very poor people will sell them for what they really need. This program is just a pipe dream created by a bunch of clueless sanctimonious Westerners who think that technology is the cure for everything.

You wait and see.

And when it does fail, it will blamed on the administrators of the program - not the fact that it's a dumb idea.

I also hope that I'm completely full of shit and this is raving success!

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881038)

By itself a OLPC instance is useless. What you describe assumes a whole infrastructure including a network connected to the Internet. That is assuming an enormous amount : very qualified people will have to maintain it and work on it daily. This is not going to happen.

In the poorest countries in Africa, something as complicated as a well quickly becomes unusable because of lack of maintenance. In past decades people in such countries knew how to dig and maintain wells, but due to AIDS, famines, warfare, rural exodus and general poverty so much of the knowledge held by trained adult just vanished. Also wells have to be dug deeper these days due to desertification.

Wells are often now dug by first world volunteers, which is all good, but these people require first world technology meaning pumps and engines that require petrol. Eventually the volunteers leave and the local people are left to fend for themselves with technology they know very little about. The volunteers often train some local people to look after the pumps, but these people with such skills can find employment elsewhere and leave. Experience shows that the wells quickly becomes unusable.

OLPC is nice but reflects the huge gap of understanding required to lift most of Africa out of its quagmire. In fact its a toy for 1st world technologists.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882584)

Yup, that is why wells are usually fitted with manual pumps in rural areas. The mechanism is simple enough that common folk can understand it and the water isn't wasted, since it requires elbow greese to pump it.

Communication infrastructure is immensely important to uplift Africa. The cell phone plays a big role. It is relatively cheap to deploy and the users only have to buy sim cards as a minimum - then they can borrow someone else's phone. Usually the taxi drivers have phones for use by their passengers.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883220)

And we have yet another person who completely ignore that countries that are struggling with situations like the ones you describe are hardly likely to be spending the money needed to purchase OLPC's. Take a look at the list of countries that have pledged to buy them so far.

You also ignore that the OLPC has specifically been engineered to be able to be useful with as little infrastructure as possible: No electricity supply is needed, and the OLPC's can create it's own mesh network.

Right, what connectivity do they have? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883116)

OLPC is a very useful tool to education: being able to Google or Wikipedia for farming information
Would that be over the 1gbit fibre that the African telcos are running out to the farming villages?

 

Re:Right, what connectivity do they have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17883932)

No that would be the MESH network that these devices create by themselves. Moron.

Re:Right, what connectivity do they have? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17889032)

OLPC is a very useful tool to education: being able to Google or Wikipedia for farming information
Would that be over the 1gbit fibre that the African telcos are running out to the farming villages?
Bare minimum: a mesh network with their peers. No Google or Wikipedia here: but basic chatting, email, sharing between locals.
Next step: a local server for shared resources. Part of the mesh. Basically an OLPC with extra storage: snapshots of sites like Wikipedia, e-books, locally produced content, homepages and blogs, etc.
Next step: non-local connectivity, however basic. Ranges from something like Motorman [laptop.org] , or maybe a scheduled dialup, right up always-on, depending on circumstances.

The point is, something (however modest) is better than nothing.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17881454)

Buy those shoes, suits, created with "slave wages", buy African corn, sugar, peanuts, tomatoes and apples.

That's how to lift people out of poverty.


No, the way to fix it is to get local trade working again. Take a look at New Orleans if you don't understand, you can tell us to buy stuff made in New Orleans, but that's not going to make workers magically appear complete with magical houses to house them. Otherwise, what good is it if you pay for a suit, and then turn around and compete with the tailor for their dinner? Will their "slave wages" be able to compete with foreign money for african corn and sugar? Doubtful.

The way to fix it is to stabilize the government, stabilize their economy, and convince people that they can exchange their extra food for slips of paper that do actually mean something. Which will take infrastructure and education.

Subsidies, no. OLPC possibly... (1)

LeDopore (898286) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882174)

I agree with you 100% about subsidies; let's try to think of a way our politicians could drop them without losing too much of the vote. Maybe they would have to be blanketly against special interests...

That being said, if you're a tech geek and not a politician, playing to your strengths and helping the OLPC project is better than trying to start an anti-subsidy lobby effort. Also, it could be that OLPC will help open source projects over here as well as the 3rd world. If you subscribe to the /. dogma, maybe the fact that someone's designing a laptop specifically for open source hardware + firmware is a good thing regardless of the effects on the 3rd world.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883056)

Buy those shoes, suits, created with "slave wages", buy African corn, sugar, peanuts, tomatoes and apples.
Right. Because sending more money to their corrupt government will really help them out...

They won't then use it to crush any protests over unlivable working wages, and the like. Of course not.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (2, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883268)

If you're really so ignorant that you think all the developing countries in the world are without basic infrastructure, then you really have no business talking about what they need. As for education, that's a major purpose of the OLPC.

As for "helping them", as others have pointed out, this is a take it or leave it offer of a solution they have to pay for. It's not something they'll get without making a commitment. The countries that have signed up so far have the money both to pay for the OLPC's and to pay for additional infrastructure.

Nigeria, for example, wiped out about $10 billion in foreign debt over the last few years, and had an additional $8 billion written of in return, saving them far more than the $200 million they've committed to for OLPC's so far in interest in a single year alone. That's not a country with no money. It's a country with tremendous problems, yes, and they've decided that OLPC's can be part of the solution in improving education for their children.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

Walter Carver (973233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883844)

I agree with you, but not entirely. The OLPC is not for countries that starve, it's for countries that can provide the necessities and just want to provide education education too. I am listening that some US states will be using OLPC.

Re:STOP HELPING THEM! (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17892166)

We've been waging economic war with developing and third world countries for several generations now. It's only just starting to end. You can't buy African agricultural products (about all they can produce) because of the subsidies we give our own farming sectors to produce products at below market value.

The OLPC? Frankly it's irrelevant. What 3rd world countries need is first infrastructure and education. The OLPC isn't a particularly good way to educate people and there isn't enough infrastructure to make real use of it. The money spent on producing it would be better spent persuading American and European politicians to remove agricultural subsidies.

The OLPC is just taking our economic warfare into the next century. We don't want the 3rd world to become industrialized and a potential threat to us. By giving them the OLPC, we kill off any domestic IT firms trying to develop there. Yes, their next generation has better educational resources, but they'll have to leave their country and go to some place like India or China to make use of those high tech IT skills that they've picked up unless they want to work at a local call center that is 1/100th the cost of an Indian call center. They could use the educational tools to develop their part of the world, but why bother if it is easier to use the tools and find a job and move to one of the developed countries. OLPC will have a breeding effect on the populations. Those that can will raise up and move out ASAP. Those that can't stay there and will work at alave labor prices to us. Economic warfare is what really won the cold war. We should study it abit and find out why we really won instead of using it unintentionally. In many respects, all humans are in a constant economic war with each other. Maybe economic war should be a primary school subject. Wealth and power is good if you have it, and here is how we've been keeping ours.

Hardware as aid not just propaganda? (0)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880122)

In Capitalist West you gift cheap computer to developing countries
In Soviet Russia cheap GKES* computer gift developing countries you!

Be interesting to see if cheap technology can create the same enthusiasm expensive cold war propaganda did.

*State Committee for Foreign Economic Relations

E-ink (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880176)

It most certainly is much too expensive for the OLPC project, but just out of curiousity: how would a display made with E Ink [eink.com] technology behave in a laptop? It will be too slow for playing games, but can it be used to do word processing etc on? Power consumption will almost certainly be lower than that of an LCD screen I think.

Re:E-ink (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880998)

E-Ink would make the concept of a mouse-cursur impossible.

Re:E-ink (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881090)

Good point. Why didn't I think of that?

Re:E-ink (1)

LiquidRaptor (125282) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882742)

Thats true, but would be wrong with getting rid of the mouse cursor and going with a touchscreen for menu interaction? It seems that way it would be even easier for people to use, instead of point and click, it's just point. Plus, with an eink screen, you would not need to worry about fingerprints and smudges like you would on a traditional tablet.

MiNus 5, TroLl) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17880354)

Linux as BIOS and Windows as OS? (2, Interesting)

Bernhard.Fastenrath (1029002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17880758)

The OLPC has a LinuxBIOS but it would be able to run Windows as well (and it probably will [1] [laptop.org] ). If the Linux community was really pushing Linux to gain market share wouldn't you expect a dramatic increase in activity on edu.kde.org [kde.org] by now?

There would also be some larger development projects to be done. (How about some educational games like Genius - Task Force Biologie [wikia.com] , Chemicus II - die versunkene Stadt [wikia.com] , Mathica [wikia.com] for the OLPC, using Wikipedia articles as the knowledge part of the game?)

Of course it probably doesn't matter much if Microsoft offers a more or less free copy of Windows for the OLPC or Linux is used as the OS.

sad they caved to Microsoft (2, Informative)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882700)

They actually added a Secure Digital port for Windows. This is yet another hole that allows water and dust to get into the laptop while reducing the strength of the case. It also costs money. The "Secure" part of Secure Digital is of course DRM, which is also offensive.

Microsoft could have been easily locked out by choosing a big-endian CPU. At best, a stripped down version of the bare OS might be made to run in big-endian mode. (the Xbox360 may be so, or perhaps Microsoft runs PowerPC in little-endian mode) None of the normal apps are tolerant of big-endian mode, especially when exchanging file formats and Windows-specific network protocols with the rest of the world.

We'll be seeing every one of these laptops with a copy of Windows, with Microsoft once again benefiting from the network affects of unauthorized copying.

Re:sad they caved to Microsoft (1)

Bernhard.Fastenrath (1029002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883316)

There is no strategy change. The OLPC is continuing to develop a Linux-based software set for the laptop in conjunction with Red Hat.

I'm not aware anybody 'caved'. Microsoft just isn't locked out and may provide a sensible alternative to the default (Linux).

Impressive, but.... (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881062)

Will it run Vista's aero interface?

Other dream jobs (3, Informative)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17881140)

I'm a member of IEEE, so I get the magazine. Here are the rest of the dream jobs (I'll leave their names out):

Electric Detective- basically an electric/electronic CSI
Computerized Paleeontology- Uses neat equipment to help find fossils (he likes dinosaurs)
Bird watcher? - tracks birds with cellphone tech (he likes birds)
Volcano wathcer- installs and maintains volcano sensors on the Soufriere volcano (his hometown)
Lap top girl
Laser light show- designs and produces laser light shows. Also holds laser safety programs.
Electric sport cars- designs, builds, and races high speed electric cars (up to 130 km/hr with 1 G acceleration)
Chess master- built what is considered the best computer chess program (he likes chess)
AI robot designer- makes AI robots
Wireless wildman- installs wireless networks in remote places, such as the Napaski Nation (about 1100 miles south of the arctic circle in Canada) - says he likes to fish

Re:Other dream jobs (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883180)

Volcano wathcer- installs and maintains volcano sensors on the Soufriere volcano (his hometown)
Lap top girl
Laser light show- designs and produces laser light shows. Also holds laser safety programs.


Come on! You give descriptions to everything that we could figure out for ourselves, and then leave the description off the one thing that we couldn't!! What does a laptop girl do, I'm dying to know!

Re:Other dream jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17884212)

Per haps 'Lap top girl' is the subject of the article, Mary Lou Jepsen.

However, the GP poster shouldn't have used the word 'other' if that is the case.

Re:Other dream jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17885052)

What does a laptop girl do, I'm dying to know!

She's only doing that to put herself through medical school.

Re:Other dream jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17890846)

I'm also an IEEE member and get the same magazine. The link to the full article is at http://spectrum.ieee.org/feb07/4893 [ieee.org] . The first page only lists the names and a brief description with links to each person's individual article.

Dream Job, For What Personality? (-1, Troll)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17882988)

I'm sorry, but a dream job isn't shoving a crippled laptop in front of people's faces who are in far greater need of basic necessities. My dream job is something that creates, um, jobs, and is a major contributor to increased wealth and freedom. OLPC, eh, that's just muddled and not so interesting.

Success of the $100 laptop won't be the hardware (1)

Mopar93 (1046032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17883264)

...but rather the software that is bundled with it and any additional software that could be used later on down the road.

The hardware has to be done right the first time and so should the bundled software. Hopefully they will get it right.

-Maurice
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