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A Child's View of the OLPC

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the all-this-and-games-too dept.

Education 268

Finallyjoined!!! sends us a BBC account of a dad who traveled to Nigeria and brought back an XO laptop for his 9-year-old, Rufus. Here is Rufus's review, a child's view of OLPC. "Because it looks rather like a simple plastic toy, I had thought it might suffer the same fate as the radio-controlled dinosaur or the roller-skates he got last Christmas - enjoyed for a day or two, then ignored. Instead, it seems to provide enduring fascination... With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago, and the XO appears to be a more creative tool than the games consoles which occupy rather too much of his time."

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268 comments

In Soviet Russia... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682561)

America scams Nigeria!

radio controlled dinosaur, game consoles (plural)? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682581)

That doesn't sound terribly impovrished or deprived to me. Food is a lot cheaper than those things, and typically a higher priority on the to-buy-list.

Already? (4, Interesting)

4solarisinfo (941037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682587)



I returned from Nigeria with a sample of the XO laptop

I did RTFA, and no mention of HOW he got the laptop... I know everyone was talking about these things ending up all over the world in the black market, don't tell me it's ALREADY there.

Re:Already? (4, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682635)

I believe there's a pilot in Nigeria underway. Here's another person from Nigeria's view of the OLPC [olpcnews.com] .

Re:Already? (1)

Guillermito (187510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682809)

There's a pilot plan going on in Uruguay too. The spanish speaking kids from the chat mentioned in the article are probably from there.

Re:Already? (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682775)

>> I returned from Nigeria with a sample of the XO laptop

That's nothin'. I returned from Nigeria with my late uncle's ashes and 30% of his $20,000,000 estate.

I think I know your uncle! (1, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683605)

I returned from Nigeria with my late uncle's ashes and 30% of his $20,000,000 estate.


Please tell me your uncle is Bill Gates.

Re:Already? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683019)

I returned from Nigeria with a sample of the XO laptop ... and a few copies of Vista Ultimate... and Indiana Jones 4 and the next Harry Potter pre-production master on DVD... and a country's worth of spam in my inbox!

How about the kids in Iraq? Any OLPCs there yet? (2, Insightful)

PaulGaskin (913658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683113)

John Negroponte ("Director of National Intelligence", "Ambassador" to Iraq), older brother to Nicholas Negroponte probably doesn't let any of Nicholas' educational toys get sent to Iraq because they'll be handy to the resistance fighters. It must have been *torture* to have John Negroponte for an older brother. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Negroponte [wikipedia.org]

Re:Already? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683409)

So no information in the article about the Nigerian that should have gotten that laptop instead, huh? I'm glad that this laptop is helping a privileged child in England instead of someone that really needs it.

Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682623)

Now the boy can lookup and edit cognitive dissonance [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Translation (2, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682773)

What does this have to do with cognitive dissonance?

That typically comes from paying a high price for a low return (not just financially/materially either). In this case it is financial/material, and it seems more like a low price/high return.

How long will that one work? (3, Interesting)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682641)

I thought the XO laptops had a kill switch to disable them if they leaked out from their target demographic (african schools), into secondary markets?

Isn't the article's premise the exact situation which the OLPC designers feared?

Of course, the article mentions "a sample of the XO laptop", so I hope this this specific laptop wasn't obtained through such a secondary market...

Re:How long will that one work? (5, Informative)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682685)

First, the target markets are not all African schools. They have target countries on other continents as well. (Off the top of my head, I know there are several in South America.)

Second, it's not an automatic kill switch. It allows you to disable the laptop if it is reported stolen, and will disable the laptop if it hasn't been able to check with the server for a certain time period. If the laptop is properly configured with a school server, then (even across the Internet) it will still be able to maintain its lease, and it won't shut off.

Re:How long will that one work? (4, Insightful)

klubar (591384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683031)

This sounds a lot like WGA and DRM to me. The machine "checks in" with the server to make sure it's still authorized. What else does it report to the server?

Re:How long will that one work? (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683353)

Well, of course it reports all of your credit card details, fingerprints, blood type (those sharp corners aren't just due to low production costs you know!), and also all your thoughts using the built in brainwave scanner. Better not let your firstborn near it either, because they're programmed to fire out CDs to decapitate firstborns as a proper sacrifice (to help amortise costs).

Re:How long will that one work? (4, Informative)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683381)

Normally nothing else. But here is the main thing. Any student can request a developer's key. Once they have a developer's key they have full control over the computer and could disable the security system entirely. Now, how does one prevent a thief from requesting the key? Well to quote the spec: "The key-issuing process incorporates a 14-day delay to allow for a slow theft report to percolate up through the system, and is only issued if the machine is not reported stolen at the end of that period of time." To see the whole OLPC security specification see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Bitfrost [laptop.org] especially the "P_THEFT: anti-theft protection" section.

Re:How long will that one work? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683401)

Not just that, but how the heck do they manage this with an entirely open source project?

Re:How long will that one work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683535)

Oh, but the users of the laptops are NOT supposed to be the owners. This is DRM and it is good, its to ensure that the real owners of the laptops (the schools) can disable laptops that get lost/stolen. And since its not the users property, they also have no right to privacy when using the devices. Much like you have to right to expect disk space allotted to you by your school wont be looked at.

Re:How long will that one work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683595)

I believe owner/administrator must enable it upon receiving it. By default (i.e. from MFR), it is turned off.

And please don't curse a technology; curse the the immoral/gray business practices. Did you know a pen can kill? Not by writing but literally as a weapon? It's the user's intent that matters.

Re:How long will that one work? (5, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683691)

Err, only if it's enabled by the computer's owner. That's the big diff... the XO DRM is a user option (like Lo-Jack for laptops), while WGA/DRM is a vendor's option (and is always on whether you like it or not, unless you use EULA-violating tools to disable it).

So conceptually you have a point, but practically you're way off base.

/P

Something smells...and it aint my pants (-1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682647)

Reading the interview it kind of struck me how he managed to just "find" a chat function...and get connected wireless to the net...and now already have 3 chatting friends that he just "connected" with in the neighborhood, that doesnt make sense at all. Ive travelled around 10 cities over a YEAR with my Nintendo DS (that have a chatting function with WIFI built in) and never - ever - even seen ONE SINGLE CONNECTION win ANYONE in a chat room...so...if he...the child...with the OLPC laptop with its own unique chat-system that connects...to a nearby similar OLPC (hence how that system works)...how could he have all of a sudden be connecting to "3" of "them"?

It smells...not my pants...not this time! Sorry - aint buying it.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (5, Informative)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682661)

The XO laptops connect through a school Jabber server, so if his laptop was set to use the same Jabber server, then he could see all of the people at that school, even if he's not on their local wireless network.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (1)

mpeg4codec (581587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683641)

Actually if he's connected to a Jabber server and that server is connected to the internet, he can talk to anyone on any internet-connected Jabber server. Kind of remniscent of SMTP servers connecting to remote servers when necessary, although the mechanism is a bit different.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (2, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682667)

How does you wandering around with your DS have any bearing at all on how a totally different system with totally different software and totally different requirements works?

Oh yeah, it has no bearing at all.

Maybe you should go read up on the OLPC software stack.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (1, Interesting)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682945)

How does you wandering around with your DS have any bearing at all on how a totally different system with totally different software and totally different requirements works?

Yes, I realize that they have entirely different software, but as with ALL new things - its rarely so straightforward as that example. Heck...even with a WiFi enabled PDA its pretty difficult to get anywhere - let alone CHAT with someone - be it Jabber or anything else, you have to be in the right spot, all connections running perfectly and to get in properly. Its just painted so "rosy" that it seems more like a staged scenario rather than real life.

Believe me - I wish it success - but nothing like that happens the same day its released, give it a year or two - so many MANY people all over the world actually HAVE one - then we will talk.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683065)

"Heck...even with a WiFi enabled PDA its pretty difficult to get anywhere - let alone CHAT with someone - be it Jabber or anything else, you have to be in the right spot, all connections running perfectly and to get in properly. Its just painted so "rosy" that it seems more like a staged scenario rather than real life."

Hmm.

Install zsIRC
Type /server
You're chatting

How hard is that on a WiFi-enabled PDA?

Even easier on this XO laptop - software is preinstalled and there is a preset chat server.

The problem with the DS (at least in terms of your complaints) is that chat is (as far as I can tell) local-only, or with people with whom you have already exchanged friend codes. The DS design in terms of multi-person communication is VERY paranoid in this regard - chatting with random people isn't what it was designed to do, and for all practical purposes it's not even capable of doing such a thing.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683597)

Install zsIRC, Type /server, You're chatting, How hard is that on a WiFi-enabled PDA?

For you and I? Duh...

But picture this: Laptop for KIDS... then picture this: 3rd world Kids!
Many of these havent even ever seen a laptop.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683591)

The kid is connecting to a central chat server via his home WiFi, and chatting to other people who are connecting to the same server via whatever network is near them. All he had to do was switch on the machine, enter the wireless key, and view the people in his 'neighbourhood'. What part of that is painted as "rosy"?

You can download an XO virtual machine and try this right now if you don't believe it: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/VMWare [laptop.org]

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (2, Informative)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682683)

Apparently it's easy to use them to connect to WiFi networks, his dad already ran one, and then you can apparently join OLPC chat rooms over the normal Internet. Not really the same as directly connecting to other OLPCs.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (4, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682725)

Something smells...and it aint my pants

It's your pants. Totally.

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683329)

Can't it be both?

Re:Something smells...and it aint my pants (1)

AmaDaden (794446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683547)

The DS chat works very well. The problem is that it's local. You can only chat with people in the same room as you. People who are so close you have no reason to talk to them. In addition they need to be sitting and waiting in the chat room for someone to talk to. Not a lot of fun so no one does it. The only time I have used it for any kind of real reason was to talk to my friends in class with out bugging the prof. But after about 2 minutes on it we all would just say fuck it and start a game of Mario kart. The only story of it's use that makes any real sense to me is at cons. Where you are looking to randomly start talking to people you don't know. And even then it's kind of dumb.

I'm sure the OLPC chat is just a normal chat program. I'm sure it has a server somewhere and can work all across the world with just an internet connection, Just like AIM or gTalk. I'm willing to bet it can also do the local talk thing like the DS. Since it was designed with the idea of giant mesh networks in mind it should work way better.

Emulator? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682649)

Is there an emulator of this device out there or does the machine actually run a common distro of Linux? I don't know much about the project, obviously, but I'm wondering if this is more like a normal functioning laptop or more like a LeapFrog learning device.

Just curious.

Re:Emulator? (5, Informative)

Breakfast Cereal (27298) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682709)

From http://wiki.laptop.org/go/News [laptop.org]

Wolfgang Rohrmoser and Kurt Gramlich are proud to announce the initial version of their OLPC XO-LiveCD. This new project targets these goals:

  give children, students, teachers and parents the opportunity to participate and use the Sugar educational software on a common PC;
  support demonstration of OLPC software to non-developers;
  provide an easy maintainable Live-System for developers to test activities on the sugar desktop, this could be regarded as an alternative to existing OLPC virtualbox and qemu images.

The technology they choose embeds an unmodified official Redhat build into a framework (LiveBackup), which provides everything needed to run a live system. Going this way we are able to minimize the work for updates as new OLPC builds get released.

The ISO image are available at:

ftp://rohrmoser-engineering.de/pub/XO-LiveCD/ [rohrmoser-engineering.de]

as: XO-LiveCD_.iso

Images will be mirrored to:

http://skolelinux.de/XO-LiveCD/ [skolelinux.de]

Wolfgang and Kurt encourage everybody to try it out and give them feedback for improvements; please send mail to:

XO-LiveCD@skolelinux.de. Further information is available in the XO-LiveCD.pdf document at:

http://skolelinux.de/XO-LiveCD/XO-LiveCD.pdf [skolelinux.de]

Re:Emulator? (2, Informative)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682713)

It runs a customized, stripped-down version of Fedora Core 7 (details here [laptop.org] ). There isn't an "XO emulator", but since it's s standard x86 system, you can emulate an XO [laptop.org] using Qemu, VMware, Virtualbox, or another virtualization program. (It's not perfect, but it is close enough to see how the system works.)

Re:Emulator? (3, Informative)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682723)

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_images_for_emulation [laptop.org]

Enjoy. It's a modified RedHat distro with a special WM called Sugar.

Re:Emulator? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683239)

You can read a review of Sugar here

http://polishlinux.org/apps/window-managers/a-brief-look-at-sugarui-by-redhat/ [polishlinux.org]

Choice quotes

"The capabilities of the applications that come with OLPC arent much better than those of modern cell phones"

"In Abiword, the functionality has been crippled to allow only simple formatting (bold, italic, underline, insert image). What is quite astonishing is that the files are saved ... in Microsoft .DOC format."

"Basing on my observations, the RAM usage is not lower and not even comparable with the lightweight GNU/Linux distributions like Damn Small Linux (which needs only 31 MB of RAM when booted from the CD)."

"The main issues I see with the current SugarUI are as follows:

* No handy file navigation. Using Firefox we can save an image to a folder and then search for it and open with Abiword but what about file copying and deleting?

* The system is interesting and may be a nice toy for the kids, but it currently lacks the features to be an effective tool in school. No decent calc program, a very poor document editor and no PDF support make it quite unusable for a 12-year old.

* What about multimedia? The Flash plugin is not enough. What about handling the audio and video streams?

* The interface is not clear to me. What are these circles and dots doing on top of the screen? It would be nice to see some KDE-like tool-tips for the not-too-intuitive icons, as well as a simple desktop personalizer."

Re:Emulator? (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683399)

In addition to the emulator approach and the LiveCD, someone runs a PPA on Launchpad with Sugar (the OLPC software and API) packages for Ubuntu Gutsy. https://launchpad.net/~jani/+archive [launchpad.net] And if you run Fedora, i'm pretty sure it would be child's play to get it running, since the OLPC is based on Fedora.

Different languages (5, Insightful)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682675)

The one thing that struck me the most was the part where the kid asked about what his "friends" were saying to him, and how hes learned hola. This is more than enough of a learning tool to master a language. I personally know from first hand experience how this can work from a game I used to play that people from all over the world played. From starting the game at age 10ish one of my friends had learned english, finish, german and a little french. The ability to talk to other kids from different areas with language barriers is a great way for people to learn a language. Also for all the people who are talking about how food would be a better choice than education etc you are missing the point. There are plenty of charities and other donations to help starving kids. Not every kid out there is starving, but even some that are not starving are education deprived. I think this program could help alot of these countries get more education for thier children which in the long run will help them with money and food issues hopefully.

Re:Different languages (5, Insightful)

Araneas (175181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682769)

More so than that, Rufus' world is now a little bigger and his mind a little less narrow. A civil war in South America or a famine in Africa will have more meaning to him because it's not happening to some faceless other, it's happening to his friends.

Re:Different languages (5, Funny)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682837)

Marge: Lisa, you got a letter.
  Lisa: It's from my pen-pal Anya! [reads]
  Anya: [voice over] Dear Lisa, as I write this, I am very sad. Our
              president has been overthrown and
                [voice changes to that of a man]
              replaced by the benevolent general Krull. All hail Krull and his
              glorious new regime! Sincerely, Little Girl.

Re:Different languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683091)

Right, not faceless... just one face, because, ya know, they all look the same.

Re:Different languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683427)

More so than that, Rufus' world is now a little bigger and his mind a little less narrow. A civil war in South America or a famine in Africa will have more meaning to him because it's not happening to some faceless other, it's happening to his friends.
You know, there's already plenty of people caught under oppressive regimes like Russia and China who are connected to the Internet, and yet I never talked to one of them. However, I'm sure those who want to know more about $OPPRESSIVE_REGIME of their choice are already chatting even now as we speak with someone that keeps them informed of the current situation. There's millions of kids already connected to the Internet right now, how is that their mind was not expanded by contact with other cultures? Is it because there is no chat program installed on their computer, or because kids most of the time don't have much interest in international politics? The XO is a laptop, not some magic bullet that will suddenly make people care about the third world.

BBC reporter (5, Informative)

fishter (757646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682677)

The Dad is Rory Cellan-Jones [bbc.co.uk] , a seasoned BBC reporter on technology. A better link (with pictures) is here BBC News [bbc.co.uk]

Re:BBC reporter (1)

swab79 (842256) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683243)

And I believe this must be his son [youtube.com] using the laptop.

Re:BBC reporter (1)

fishter (757646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683441)

Not the same kid as the picture in the article. (see the link in my previous comment for the full article, not the print version in the OP).

Smart kid (3, Funny)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682691)

"With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago."

The kid has made such a fast advancement that he has already been offered a job by Chris Hansen.

Re:Smart kid (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682833)

The kid has made such a fast advancement that he has already been offered a job by Chris Hansen.
Better than being offered a 'job' by Michael Jackson.

A child's view of the $100 laptop is good and all (3, Interesting)

drhamad (868567) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682697)

But what about a child's view of the $200 laptop?

Also, somebody might have pointed this out already, but this guy took a laptop from Nigeria to bring to the UK? That seems to defeat the point (from how it's stated in the article, it doesn't seem that it was from the buy one/give one program).

children are overrated (4, Interesting)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683141)

or at least their curiosity is. I have a Macbook and a Ubuntu desktop, and my kids (14, 16) have zero curiosity about either. There is nothing about kids that makes them magically curious about computer gear, programming, or whatever. Yes, they'll play DDR or Prince of Persia on the PS2, and they can write homework assignments with Abiword or OpenOffice, but "file>save as MS Word doc" is about as complex as their usage gets. I'm always bemused by the optimism that kids are going to be hacking perl scripts if they're given the opportunity. Kids are individuals, and those who are curious about computers are just curious about computers. The rest are not.

I even tried to entice my son by talking a bit about encryption, thinking he would make the connection of "aha! I can hide stuff from the old man!" but even that lure failed to get him to open the Missing Manual book. I keep hoping to find an encrypted container indicating that he's learned something, but alas he lacks my secretiveness. Kids today!

Re:children are overrated (1)

xant (99438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683389)

I'm always bemused by the optimism that kids are going to be hacking perl scripts if they're given the opportunity. Kids are individuals, and those who are curious about computers are just curious about computers. The rest are not.


For that latter fraction who are curious about computers, if they're not given the opportunity they won't hack perl scripts. This is about providing the opportunity to everyone, and hoping that a few rise to the challenge and start stimulating the society to grow.

Societies are always driven by a few over-achievers, but those are more likely to succeed given opportunities. They'll never hack a Python script out if they're not given a Python interpreter.

oh, I agree (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683539)

which is why the house if full of books on dozens of subjects and magazines like Harper's and the Atlantic. But I think new parents are just a bit too optimistic, sadly so, that their kid will be different than those around him or her. Some kids are, but the thing about exceptional kids is that they are the exception. I'd love to discuss Godel Escher Bach with my son, but being an intellectual just isn't cool. I even have dark stuff around like Lavey or Baudelaire, but he wants garden-variety books on Wicca.

Admittedly, this optimism extends a bit beyond intellectual pursuits. I know a lot of parents paying for basketball camp hoping that their kid is the next Kobe Bryant. I guess it can't be avoided.

Re:children are overrated (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683391)

It could simply be that your child has alternative methods towards hiding things and while the encryption might be interesting in theory, he has a much stronger desire to keep it out of a realm you obviously understand well.

Check for hidden compartments in his closet that's he discovered behind loose pieces of wooden molding that look perfectly normal like I used to hide condoms, cigarettes, porn and other contraband.

Re:children are overrated (5, Insightful)

Mprx (82435) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683553)

Your kids are too old. Once they hit puberty the natural curiosity focuses almost entirely on social status and the opposite sex. A 9 year old typically has far more general curiosity.

Re:children are overrated (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683607)

Of course not everybody will be grabbed by the opportunities tech can provide, but if at least some do, it's job done. Look at the home computing craze of the 80s - many youngsters were exposed to tech at an early age; nearly all of them used it to play games; a small proportion started dabbling in programming; it was only a small group of people but it laid the foundations for a skilled tech workforce with a keen interest in complex areas of IT. In fact it could be argued that the current contraction in the home-grown skills base (certainly in my country, the UK) is at least partly due to the shift away from computers to consoles at the turn of the 90s (as well as web design taking creative people away from the nuts and bolts of technology).

Re:A child's view of the $100 laptop is good and a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683293)

The article doesn't make it clear where the laptop came from, but it probably isn't one of the production laptops (i.e. one sent to Give-One-Get-One recipients or to children in participating countries). This is supported by (1) the picture [bbc.co.uk] in the original article which doesn't appear to have the stippled texture that was added to the production laptop case and (2) the fact that the laptop came configured to point at a Jabber server shared between schools (afaik, production laptops won't do this). So it is probably a pre-production model, maybe used in the Nigerian pilot study [laptop.org] or for development/promotional purposes.

The BBC has been covering [bbc.co.uk] the pilot study, so perhaps the reporter was already in Nigeria to cover the story and was given a souvenir from the phased-out machines?

Conclusion: would be a great christmas present (4, Insightful)

mean pun (717227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682705)

The conclusion I draw from the article is that this would be a great christmas present for a lot of children everywhere. (And that's a hint to the makers.)

I don't doubt for a moment that this thread will be filled with the usual /. grousing about the usefulness of the entire project, but let's give credit where credit is due: it looks like they have made a product that appeals to children. Perhaps they know what they are doing?

With a name like Rufus... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682717)

With a name like Rufus, he's probably a nigger. Am I right?

Interesting reading about the chat feature (3, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682731)

I found int intriguing reading the part of the article about the chat system. He suddenly found himself able to chat with Spanish speaking kids. I wonder exactly how the whole OLPC chat system works and if this is truly a "feature" or a fluke. I say fluke because the article says the chat system identified itself as chatting with others in Nigeria. Will the OLPC's be "region encoded" so kids can only chat with other local kids? Or will kids be able to easily chat with kids from the other side of the world as well? I can see the second alternative, purposeful or not, as a way to help foster a knowledge of other cultures that these kids would otherwise be entirely unaware of. True, language differences would probably minimize the impact of this sort of thing, but as the article demonstrates even a language barrier isn't enough to keep curious kids from making friends half way around the world.

Re:Interesting reading about the chat feature (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683017)

>I found int intriguing

Why yes, signed 32bit integer values can be very interesting from many points of view!

Re:Interesting reading about the chat feature (1)

simong (32944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683047)

That was the feature that impressed me the most. My guess is that OLPC has established a bunch of Jabber or IRC servers as part of the product. How cool is it going to be for kids to click on the 'Chat' icon or whatever and suddenly be talking to other kids on the other side of the world? There are obvious potential downsides, but to me that's what the project should be about.

The miracle machine (3, Funny)

klubar (591384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683117)

The OLPC is just an amazing machine, not only is it able to connect with any Wi-Fi network (no matter how far away or how secured), instantly make your child a programming virtuoso, make them a math whiz it can also make them instantly fluent in any language. Merely possessing the machine enables them to read and speak the language of the person they're chatting with. Not even Apple is so insanely cool.

419 (5, Funny)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682797)

"a BBC account of a dad who traveled to Nigeria and brought back an XO laptop"

So...did he scam a Nigerian?

Re:419 (4, Funny)

technomom (444378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682925)

Dear Sirs,

The Central Bank of Nigeria is now in possession of 500 "One Laptop Per Child" that is earmarked for our schools. Unfortunately, our minister of education recently died in a tragic car accident. You have been named as his beneficiary and will be responsible for their distribution. As one of the benefits, you will be able to keep one for your own child. To release those laptops, we will need your credit card number and personal details concerning your children so that we may chat with him on our Jabber server.

Please respond to 1-888-OLP-CCON with your information.

Regards,
M'Bol Zarhari
Esteemeed Grand Puba, Central Bank of NIgeria.

Re:419 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682961)

Wouldn't that be a 914, since it's the wrong way 'round?

billions for offense, 0 for childrens' health (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21682799)

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

the georgewellian nightmare/fairytail continues.... to what end? time to get real yet?

you might be able to imagine millions of sickly children, & 10's of 1000's of disabled veterans, using their 'toy' laptops, to plead for some help, only to discover there is none/no one cares.

for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

Finally!! (2, Funny)

FireNWater (1182607) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682811)

All of those third world kids will finally get up off their butts and away from their Xbox 360's and Playstation 3's!!!!

My kid made the honor role (3, Funny)

us7892 (655683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682839)

So Rufus is using his laptop to write, paint, make music, explore the internet, and talk to children from other countries.

Sounds like Rufus is a lot smarter than your kid. Figuring out all this stuff on his own. Before you know it, he'll be like his Dad, buying goods off the black market.

Kids and computer (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682841)

My 3 year old son knows how to turn on PC + monitor, how to use mouse, double-click icons on desktop (Windows Vista Home Premium), knows which icon starts which program and so on. Heck, after a couple of minutes of practice he learned how to run Counter Strike Source, create a server and join the team he wants (usually CTs). He knows also how to start MS Paint and create some really cool post-modern art ;)

He likes to surf the web a lot, especially pictures of dragons and such. Because he can't read or write I wrote a little program for him which has image buttons that opens IE (embedded inside the program) to Google image search with predefined query parameters. Program uses a little XML configuration file so I can easily add more parameters to it.

9 year who can use OLPC? Wow! That's really amazing! ;)

Re:Kids and computer (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682889)

You have clearly missed the point. You taught your child how to do all of that. This kid pick it up and without help did what he did, not to mention in a non windows enviroment. Also the point of the article wasn't about a 9 year old using a pc it was how the 9 year old saw the pc as a tool for education and fun. But you probably didn't RTFA. Someone not RTFA on /.? Wow! That's really amazing! ;)

Re:Kids and computer (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683465)

Nowhere did GP say they had taught this behaviour.

My kids have picked up use of a PC with little or no instruction - interested kids have a way of just figuring stuff out by trying things (something we lose the tendency to do as we head into adulthood).

I have had to put controls in place to _stop_ them signing up for chatrooms, ebay, gambling sites etc. (because I found them doing it - way before I thought I would have to worry about it). The oldest is _6_. At no time have they been _taught_ how to do these things - they just click on stuff (including ads) and figure it out.

I have an 18month old who has found the main switch (at the power socket) that controls the home computer. He takes great delight in turning it off. Was he _taught_ to do that ? Hell no. He's figured it out by randomly playing with switches at some point and ealising that that one turns the screen off and gets a big reaction from the person using the computer.

I would expect a young child to pick up using any type of pc (XO or otherwise) pretty quickly - probably quicker than me these days. There is nothing special about OLPC in this respect, or indeed about any PC. Decades ago, thousands of children had similar experiences with the early home computers like the ZX81 etc. Most often, those computers went into homes where the parents had zero computing knowledge (we're talking 1981 remember), so there was no one to teach the children. The children still learnt, and fast, and with only a command line interface.

Re:Kids and computer (2, Funny)

us7892 (655683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682899)

Your 3-year old is advanced. My 3-year old always clicks the right mouse button and ends up with the "display properties" dialog window. Then he smears his fingers on the LCD.

Re:Kids and computer (5, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683203)

Your 3-year old is advanced.


Not really.

My son learned how to do most of that (not counting playing CS. Although he does play some Web-based games at Noggin.com) at about 3 - 3/12. Now before you go saying "Well your son is just a genius." Please be aware, my son has Autism. He's not "normal" in any sense of the word, other than being physically healthy.

His learning is definitely behind that of his peers, requiring him to need a special in-school tutor to help him along. He's 5 now, and struggling along in 1st grade. Still, we're impressed with his progress so far, and are now looking for ways we can use his affinity for computers to help educate him.

The truth is, if parents would take just 5-15 minutes to sit down with their child at a computer and begin to use it with them, they would find that most kids would very quickly latch onto it, and soon be doing things with it themselves. I suspect that this will begin to happen more and more and the generation that was born into a world with computers and the internet as a common thing have kids of their own. Heck, it's ALREADY happening, if my son is any indication.

Don't sell your kids short. Get them in front of a computer and learning today. Their peers have already started.

Re:Kids and computer (1)

Fez (468752) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682923)

We regret ever showing our 3 year old how to use the web. He's constantly hogging one of the PCs now playing games on Playhouse Disney's web site. He (thankfully) doesn't yet know which icon to click to start the web browser, but he knows how to get to the bookmarks once he's in. We do limit his time, but it's a fight when we tell him his turn is over.

He knows what buttons to push to turn the PC on, but by design, he can't. I bought server-style cases with doors that cover the buttons. It's only a matter of time before he figures that part out.

He'd hog the Nintendo DS, too, if we let him. Crayola Adventures is pure evil, I say! ;)

Re:Kids and computer (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683481)

Ditto. My daughter just turned 4 and already is addicted to the computer. Fortunately, all she knows so far is www.starfall.com, so it's still educational, but I don't like her sitting in front of a screen so much at that age.

Re:Kids and computer (1)

sgbett (739519) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683067)

yeah well *my* three year old daughter does all that on linux, (uphill. both ways!) ;)

Re:Kids and computer (5, Insightful)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683097)

So your 3-year old kid already plays Counter Strike: Source?

That's some pretty good parenting, right there.

Re:Kids and computer (1)

goddidit (988396) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683283)

I wrote a little program for him which has image buttons that opens IE
You must really hate the little bugger.

Another Kid's Review (5, Informative)

richg74 (650636) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683013)

On his blog, Freedom to Tinker [freedom-to-tinker.com] , Prof. Ed Felten at Princeton has two more reviews of early versions of the XO laptop, the B2 [freedom-to-tinker.com] and the B4 [freedom-to-tinker.com] , both (very well) written by a 12-year-old neighbor.

Speaking of the OLPC... (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683197)

Has anyone gotten their OLPC from the "Give One Get One" program in the mail yet? I have yet to receive mine.

Re:Speaking of the OLPC... (1)

unimatrixzer0 (1111335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683449)

That's because a 9 year old is "testing" yours. It's all a part of the Quality Assurance program that OLPC set up. Good way to lower overhead by having kids test the product. "Give one, Get one" == purchase one and one of our "QA Specialists" will get one as payment for their services, LOL.

Por fin... they can get ahead the EU & US (3, Interesting)

emj (15659) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683279)

Everyone says education is empowerment to the people, I think this is the first step to empower most people around the world. This is a step to help people/children easily communicate and play over large distances, talk and share ideas. You should take a million of these laptops and drop them on Lima, Peru, and see what happens. Imagine one million people using the computer to do new stuff, just producing new creative material, sharing, critizing.

This is actually a tool that would allow these counties to get ahead of EU & US. Because this will empower children when they are most active at learning, at 9 years old you can learn alot, that will get us alot of creative people, writers, programmers and artist in a 4-9 years.

The question is will these children need to learn english, or can they just create local economies, based on heir own language?

First 4ost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21683311)

of &BSD/OS. A

The Diamond Age (3, Insightful)

Number6.2 (71553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683335)

Why do I get the feeling that I'm living not just Science Fiction, but in "The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" (Neal Stephenson)? True education is subversion, because true education will give you the tools to challenge the status quo.

First George Orwell, now this. Where does it end?

Re:The Diamond Age (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683599)

I agree, wholeheartedly. Those who write this off as a gimmick are missing the big picture. Once the kids start communicating and learning from each other they will be empowered in a way we can only begin to imagine.

and I can't wait for mine to get here!

Review (4, Insightful)

loconet (415875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683593)

Not to take away from the article but I would like to read a review from a kid who has not been exposed to technology/computers as much as Rufus. It would be interesting to read about their reaction to this technology and how it affects their daily lives. I grew up in Peru and was not exposed to technology to the degree that I am now, I know a laptop like that would have made a world of a difference to me.

My six year old (1)

MoodyLoner (76734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683617)

My six year old was playing with one of these at a science-fiction convention and we only got it away from her with some difficulty.

If they became commercially available in the US I'd buy one - and yeah, I missed the "buy 2 get 1" promo.

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