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back to article OLPC bumps prices, adds Windows capability

The $100 laptop at the heart of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) scheme is now going to cost $175, the organisation has announced. The machine, which originally was to run its own open source operating system, will also be capable of running Windows. OLPC is a non-profit organisation, set up by the former head of MIT's Media Lab …

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Anonymous Coward

Still don't get the point

What is the point in this project?

There are millions of Children dieing of hunger each day, in the third world, and the first. WTF are they going to do "Dont worry Jimmy, I know you need food, but look if you study hard one day you can earn a pitance working in a "Pissy Wierd" Call center and buy food... If you live that long..."

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Not unique

This has long been the practice around the world. In rich countries, these things are seen as 'essential' nowadays, and many don't understand how people can survive out there in the desert without their laptop. And why give education and tools to African people when it's food they need? Education and tools don't equal food. Food packages equals food.

Terribly faulty logic.

Then again, it's not just the west to blame. When I was recently in Indonesia, we saw that children MUST have a school uniform as a prerequisite to getting an education. Many families beggar themselves to provide a uniform (rather than, say, food, or clean water) when really it shouldn't be a barrier to education. There's a good deal of bright children who don't go to school at all because their parents just plain can't afford a uniform. How stupid is that? It's all a symptom of the same thing... and this laptop-in-every-school-and-for-every-poor-child nonsense is a waste of resources.

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Anonymous Coward

Lost project

OLPC has lost all credibility by even thinking about any partnership with Microsoft as far as I am concerned. Please don't give them any more publicity as the project is beginning to appear more like a long-term marketing vehicle for somebody - "Let's get them hooked on an old cut-down version of Windows so that when they get richer, we will screw them for a face-lifted version of the same crap."

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Fish / fishing rods

The point is to create new opportunities for people to help themselves, and by doing so to help their friends / families / countrymen.

Naked, raw, unashamed capitalism (free market economics) is the only hope left for Africa, but that needs the oxygen of communications to survive. The OLPC project will help people in Africa to communicate.

Computers enable the rapid exchange of complex information. This is a foundation stone to a freer society. A freer society is a foundation stone to the elimination of corruption. Corruption elimination necessary to eliminate famine during times of food shortage.

Of course, it’s a much more complex argument than this – I realise that. But the fundamentals of my point are correct, and yes – I’ve been all around this shitty bits of that continent and seen what the corrupt Big Men have done and what an incredibly positive effect the GSM systems have done there. I’ve big hopes for this project.

Roll on, Mr Negroponte!

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Chocolate Fire-guard anyone?

Totally agree, as a concept they've failed (no longer $100 machine) and as an idea it is crazy. What the hell is some child in a third world country, with bearly enough grasp of speech, let alone writting gonig to do with a laptop, except sell it for food.

Come on, these people need something a little more important than to play solitare in the baking heat.

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Silver badge

I've got an inkling . . .

"Naked, raw, unashamed capitalism (free market economics) is the only hope left for Africa"

I've got the sinking feeling that naked, raw capitalism is what put Africa where it is in the first place.

Somehow, I can't see Africa getting out of anything as long as us industrialized countries (the ones harboring the multinational monopolies) keep our capitalistic fingers in their pie.

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Sam
Bronze badge

Africa is a huge continent...

...and not every child is starving, contrary to obviously popular belief many children in Africa live in houses, go to school and get regular meals but are missing out the technological revolution. The OLPC project gives them a foot hold in IT.

Other charities are already looking after those children who are starving, feel free to give them a donation if you feel your money would be better spent there.

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Anonymous Coward

Africa

"...and not every child is starving, contrary to obviously popular belief many children in Africa live in houses, go to school and get regular meals but are missing out the technological revolution. The OLPC project gives them a foot hold in IT."

I understand that not all Africans are poor and starving. It was just a place I used with high levels of poverty. The point is many are. Also, what about all the children in the first world (where PC use is vital for even a McJob) who do not have acces to a PC, except for the few that there school has lieing around in the librery which they are only alowed to touch twice a year for some half baked ICT lesson taught by teachers who feal that a Calculator is high tech (I spent half my second year at uni with a friend of mine who was doing computor scientc trying to teach a group of our firends, who were doing Primary education, computing basics - Computor education among educators is that bad in some places)

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Anonymous Coward

can't save everyone

Poverty and hunger are intractible problems. Even if the developed world came up with the resources today to feed every starving person, people would still starve (due to politics, greed, corruption, and unequitable distribution). The only "solution" is to gradually pull the economies of these very poor nations up to the point where their own resources are enough to feed their poor, and then to hope they do it.

You can't save everyone.

So you do what you can. You save some people. It may be that improving the lives of the only-somewhat-poor helps in the bootstrapping process. So it may be that a $100 laptop does the trick.

But apparently a $100 laptop running open source software was just too subversive a project. What if a whole billion people discovered you could get computing done without the (hardware AND software) bloat of windows vista? Oh yes, what then?

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Anonymous Coward

TOTALLY CHANGE THE WAY WE EDUCATE CHILDREN

It is my opinion that the reason that the laptops are going to the third world is because of the resistance to change you would get from the teaching establishment if you tried to TOTALLY CHANGE THE WAY WE EDUCATE CHILDREN starting in the Non impoverished world. But if you can get it working on a large enough scale in the third world then us *Educated types would have to follow, "sink or swim" as the French say!

here is a snipit on one of the founding fathers of the OLPC Project;

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/papert.html

Professor Seymour Papert, visionary computer scientist and innovative developer of educational theory and technology, misses the good old days of "Big Ideas" about the nature of knowledge and human learning.

"I have been through three movements that began on a galactic scale and were reduced and trivialized," Papert said during the one-man informal symposium in Bartos Theatre on July 9. The three movements--child development, artificial intelligence and kid-friendly computer science--were especially vital and big in the early 1960s, he said.

For example, take world-renowned Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget--a "towering figure and a major theorist of how the mind works. Today, Piaget has been reduced to little strategies for presenting math problems," said Papert, who collaborated with Piaget in Switzerland.

"But the essence of Piaget was how much learning occurs without being planned or organized by teachers or schools. His whole point was that children develop intellectually without being taught! A 'Piagetian curriculum' is a contradiction in terms!" Papert declared.

cameron

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Maybe flawed, but still may be truly great

When I first heard of the OLPC project I dismissed it as yet more Negroponte lunacy. However after playing with a machine for a while and thinking about the rationale I am more convinced.

The project provides a conduit for education. There is a rather strange perception that the 3rd world needs food. It doesn't. Famines are due to political issues and wars, not lack of food production. Population explosions are due to ignorance. The best way to reduce the birth rate is to educate the women. The children of the third world have that same potential as anyone in the west. But ignorance will guarantee enslavement to poverty.

The OLPC isn't about teaching computer skills (although the concept of providing full Python source for all apps encourages it). But the wireless networking will encourage communication. Wide communication, and with it an ability to learn about anything, including politics and the freedom of speech.

It is a pity the device is increasing in price, but if you see one it is very difficult to see how it could be made for only $100. It is a pretty smart bit of work, with some very nice features. Perfect it isn't, but it is impressive.

As to Microsoft. It is hardly a surprise. Any fool can see that Linux on the OLPC may be the biggest long term threat to MS in the world yet. So trying to get their OS as the default platform is not a surprise. What will be a surprise is if they can somehow shoehorn the bloated mess that is XP/Office into the small memory and mass storage on the OLPC. It is all well and good to announce a future product and a price point. But whether they are capable of producing a build that works with acceptable performance will be interesting. The idea of going back to a machine with significantly poorer performance and storage much really go against the grain.

The deliberate monolithic nature of the base OS may make this yet another nightmare of software engineering for the boys from Redmond.

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Anonymous Coward

Rethink about Computers & Education

I wonder why everyone including some Top academicians in MIT think computers are going to change your education . Moreover, African education . If MIT can throw some light at the primary use of this device , whether this is going to be a Teaching Aid (like multimedia simulations of a chemical/physical Lab) or teaching Computers (like java. VB, .net, Window$, Xnix ).

For the above applications this devices are not useful (both need Full OS & more processing capabilities) . And more over you need lots of Educational material need to be ported as CBT.. and tooo in Local language ..(Africa is full of complications) .

But if MIT thinks teaching word & paint is computer training (or you are also tuned to think Windows is Computers) , I beg to differ . In every academic curriculum Basic & fortran or C or Unix is there, never seen a curriculum for Word, excel and Windows. (May be M$ could have convinced a corrupt African country to include as a exception)

I do wonder how many of you really visited Africa and seen a Primary / pre-secondary schools . Many of the Government owned schools don't even have a building , teachers , toilets , black boards . I always wonder why all NGO's and the great advisories from the Developed world don't think of real problems in Africa and venture into something which is impractical for Africa. Before everything you need class rooms, and teachers.. And the teachers to be taught first, then Higher learning institutions, Secondary schools then comes primary school in the order/priority in which computer training need to be implemented.

What would it cost to reach a Terminal / User average of 10 across Africa for the teacher training alone ? And when will be the Governments be able to achieve the same .

Leave alone this, securing a 30$ a mobile phone in Africa itself is a great concern across Africa including the Most developed South Africa . I wonder how a 175$ mobile Device can be securely carried by a Primary/secondary school student in Africa .

And after 175$ what do I get to learn is Paint and word and great M$. A 50$ Chinese toy does that today and I wonder why would someone buy a 175$ toy for a kid. Students across the globe are very innovative and can break, sabotage, steal anything for fun/heroism .

However rugged it may be ,what will be the life expectancy of this device , 2-3 years (As a Adult i never managed to keep a 1000$ laptop more than 2 years without dropping at least once ). Compare the same with a thin client device with life expectancy of 7-10 years with a full & flexibility of Operating System (including M$ something like SUN Thin clients), at 300-400$ per useable terminal which would be beneficial ?

I am not asking MIT to drop this , rather find something innovative (make a Thin client with flash/multimedia capabilities for Africa at less than 100$ , easy yet useful ..isn't ), make the hardware design open source , develop free to use educational materials to go with it .

Sure this is a Good thing as toy computer in developed world and People won't mind spending 175$ for the same. (Happy to have one at even 200$ for my 4 year Old ) . Sure without any prejudice, I can say .. This is not a Education Project .. for Africa at least .

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Laptops and Bibles

Just what the poor children of the 3rd world need, more self-serving donations like bibles and laptops. I guess Negeroponte is feeling a little marginalized by the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation, and so we have the latest MIT Media Lab boondoggle, meant to keep that useless organization in the news and keep all that government grant money rolling in.

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Research about OLPC

Many people in this list do not seem to have checked the OLPC website. ( http://www.laptop.org ) Click on the big "1" and see what they have to say for themselves.

Let me make this easy. Here is where OLPC answers several myths, including the one about Microsoft Windows:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_myths

What The Register reported is that Microsoft is working with Quanta to make a cheap computer. Quanta makes hardware for OLPC. Quanta is the worlds biggest computer manufacturer; they make computers for many companies. All OLPC did was tell The Register about it.

Microsoft is not going to ship on the same computers. Have you looked up the requirements for the $3 Windows? ( http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/winxp/WinXPStarterFS.mspx ) It needs 1.5GB of hard disk space and a CD drive, minimum. The OLPC laptop will have neither. OLPC requires "no rotating media", so that the computer will be harder to break, and the battery will last longer. ( http://www.laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/specs.shtml )

What will children learn with an OLPC computer? They will learn to talk to each other across a network. They will learn to find information on the internet. They will, as children naturally do, learn from each other. Children in different villages will work together on projects without ever meeting face to face. And because they may have their laptops outside of the classroom, they may be able to learn things that interest them on their own time.

Some teachers may use online lesson plans to teach children math. Or geography. Or how to dig a well. Or clean up sewage so that cholera can be avoided. Or build a community center. Or ask for help after a disaster. All of these are available to everyone right now with an internet connection.

That is what OLPC will bring to the people of 3rd world countries.

As Mr. Negroponte keeps saying, this isn't about handing out computers. It is about education. And improving lives.

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Biggest problem

My biggest problem with the whole deal...

*I* can't buy one. Not allowed to. Sorry sir, you're white, male, middle aged, educated, are not under the "poverty line" and not in a third-world country.

OK, I applaud the fact that someone is trying to create a CHEAP computer that EVERYONE can afford, included those in third-world countries. But can someone explain to me why this means *I* am not allowed to purchase one? It would be great for the smaller kids - wouldn't loose any sleep over a $100/$175 laptop in their slippery hands.

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I suddenly think less of them

I was all up for paying large ammounts to get my hands on one of these until now... I heard a rumor (which turned out to be untrue) that they would do a 1 for the price of 2 deal which I would have been up for.... I'd even pay for 5 of them to get 1.

But if they are going to run Windows, I won't touch them with a 3m pole. I want nothing to do with a project that inflicts Microsoft rubbish on the developing world.

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Anonymous Coward

Response to Keith Murray

hi,

I am a regular reader of OLPC website and even send a inquiry about buying a Laptop for my Kid and I do live in Africa .

I doubt anyone here is worried about M$ running on a Hardware , it runs on everything in earth where there is a market opportunity.

"What will children learn with an OLPC computer? They will learn to talk to each other across a network."

Who will build this network ? My friend you are not in a UK/US Village . Some of them don't even have a building . You intend to build Network based on thin Air?

"They will learn to find information on the internet."

What would be the cost of Bringing Internet to this people ? They dont even have electricity , water , money , and sometime food.

"They will, as children naturally do, learn from each other. Children in different villages will work together on projects without ever meeting face to face."

This is a Joke isn't ? You talk like you are in Cisco Sanjose Campus .. Please do visit Africa .

"And because they may have their laptops outside of the classroom, they may be able to learn things that interest them on their own time."

Please do come with your 300$ Mobile Phone and try using it in a Public street, and in a car with windows open. See how long your Mobile is yours.

"Some teachers may use on line lesson plans to teach children math. Or geography. Or how to dig a well. Or clean up sewage so that cholera can be avoided. Or build a community center. Or ask for help after a disaster. All of these are available to everyone right now with an Internet connection"

What costs more the On line lesson or the device to access it . As I told you before much of the on line lessons are multimedia intensive and this toys can't run them .

And there are better ways to deliver multimedia lessons without being online & connected . I hear Mexico runs about 6 TV channels focused on Education and Archives everything for Online use .

Please ask Mr. Negroponte, stop being a Media savvy, catchy words like this is not about laptop and it is about education is not going to change the final outcome of this project .

And you will never able to get the Pre-booking cash commitment from Governments (Procurement regulations /Parliament's Approvals / corruption-unless you are willing to bribe ) unless you manage to convince the WB /UN guys to pay for this on behalf of the governments . And if you donate it still it will be a short lived project .

I would wonder why a commercial company like DELL/Toshiba can't offer similar things to Governments. Pay now and when we reach 6 million orders , we can deliver a laptop at 100$ . I am sure for that kind of cash commit and volumes , any commercial company can do it better than you .

First it was M$ and now it is CitiBank .. two of the America's Major profit oriented companies are getting involved in a Education Project for Third world countries.. I see a reason ...It is no more a Education Project .

If you want to sell electricity build Power stations at free of cost, if you want sell Air time build Telco's at Free of costs (the Chinese are doing that across Africa), if you want to sell cheap used Cars build roads (Japan does that across Africa ), and now you want lure the Africans into Computers ..I see Companies see a potential for selling computers & networking gear .

I see you have done a wonderful job in the OS front which people haven't done for years , develop that further with good academic content , develop translation tools, find ways to package it nicely .(Hear of a good idea, a guy running Off line website In India using buses to refresh content ).

Think MIT.. Think ... Do something innovative.. Don't get into politics ...

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Moo

The reason of hunger

I know that many African countries suffering from hunger is not about the lack of food but the lack of literacy and democracy. Even my country could be starving if we were administrated by dictators and warmongers (...). This little project might trigger something and be one of the ways to reach unbiased information.

Or you can just google it and read some material like http://www.state.gov/e/rls/rm/2006/74821.htm

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Re: Response to Keith Murray

"Please do visit Africa".

Let's see... I am not African or even of African descent (well, after a few thousand years of cross-population, who can tell for certain ^_^) but...

Both my parents grew up in Zaire and I spent 7 years of my childhood in Algeria (not quite 3rd world, but by God they're trying hard to sink to it). So while I have not steeped myself in the squalor of the slums, I think I have "visited" Africa. And frankly, most of the problems I have seen with poverty in African nations (please note, there are exceptions, I know) had more to do with the Goverment trying to "keep up with the Western Joneses" instead of building up their local infrastructure (or doing it badly. During my sejourn in Algiers, I saw the same road being ripped up four times in less than a year - once to install new power lines, once for the water lines, once for gas and once for fixes to the sewage system. This was a major commercial road between Dar El Beidha - the airport - and the city centre... why they couldn't schedule things so they only had to rip up the road ONCE, I never understood... and I was 8!)

So yes, lack of proper drinking water and sanitation is a problem in Africa... but it is exarcebated by idiotic governmental practices.

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