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Microsoft Hardware

Microsoft Looking to Run Windows on OLPC 392

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the one-thousand-dollar-laptop-program dept.
pete314 writes "Microsoft has been provided with a number of test models of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child computers and is trying to get Windows installed on them. The current design runs a custom version of Red Hat's Fedora Linux. Running Windows will take quite a bit of additional memory: the OLPC has 512Mb of Flash, where XP requires a minimum of 1.5Gb storage."
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Microsoft Looking to Run Windows on OLPC

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  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:23AM (#17110864) Homepage Journal
    Why wouldn't they just try to run some variant of Windows Fundamentals [microsoft.com] on them?
  • A trap? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Metteyya (790458) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:25AM (#17110876)
    Bundled with level of corruption in OLPC-buying countries it seems pretty scary.
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp@gmail.cNETBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:28AM (#17110890) Homepage
    The author of the article (and slashdot) quote the disk space required for XP, but why wouldn't they use XP embedded on a device like this? According to Wikipedia XP Embedded only needs "32MB Compact Flash, 32MB RAM" [wikipedia.org]. They should be able to get it running even without using the SD expansion slot (although that certainly wouldn't hurt).
  • Windows Mobile 2003 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by clickety6 (141178) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:40AM (#17110968)
    If they can fit Windows on a Pocket PC device, some suitable modification of this might work on the OLPC PC. Pocket PCS between 32 to 128 MBytes of RAM and 32+ MBytes of ROM so would fit nicely. Remove the touch screen functionality, add some keyboard and other minimum functionality needed and you should still be well within the memory requirements.
  • by saterdaies (842986) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:55AM (#17111036)
    As much as I hate Windows, I think it's unfair to imply that it requires so much more than Linux does. I've installed Fedora before and it isn't small - definitely not small enough to fit on a 512MB footprint. But RedHat altered it so that it would require less. Likewise, Microsoft could alter Windows to require less. The big difference is that anyone has the right to alter Linux whereas Microsoft is the only one that can do that for Windows.
  • Re:Open Spurce? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:59AM (#17111050) Homepage
    Nor should he be.

    I'm a big fan of FOSS in general but concerns about free code, open standards and the like are first world luxuries that really aren't important compared to getting these people better lives. If I could take a whole african country out of poverty in return for shutting down the copyleft lliscenses all together I would do it despite how much it would suck for me.

  • Re:Open Spurce? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by madcow_bg (969477) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @06:10AM (#17111110)
    I don't think that having Linux on them is prohibiting installing Windows. You just may not have enough memory for the last one, but that's the life. It's the 100$, not the 1000$ PC.
  • by ehack (115197) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @06:25AM (#17111188) Journal
    Win 95 would be very happy with 512MB. So would CE, I guess.

    But the real question is why has Linux got so bloated ? When I started using Redhat, it ran very well in 16MB, with X. At the time Linux the system you installed to revive your obsolete PC with 4MB of RAM. And you could recompile your kernel with those 4MB of RAM. Now that Linus has moved to making multiprocessor kernels, you'de better buy an up to date machine to install any current distro.

    I can't wait for OLPC, because the necessity for supporting it will mean the resurgence of a slimware distro.
  • Re:Just sick (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaspeers (550101) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @06:29AM (#17111204)

    This is a charitable organization we're talking about here. Bill Gates is possibly the most generous philanthropist on the planet. Whatever you may think of his business tactics, the thought of DRM and activation on these cheap little devices made for the third world is just plain silly. The thought that Gates wants to use this little laptop to take over the rest of the world doesn't pass the laugh test.

    I'm not a MS shill. I'm worse than that. I'm a Mac guy. I just think the picture you're painting in your modded-up post is ludicrous and paranoid.

  • As a contributor... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @07:13AM (#17111478) Homepage
    As a OLPC contributor (see this [laptop.org]) and as a friend of an OLPC staffer, I have to say this is a pointless endeavour. The OLPC staff won't use Windows because it's too insecure, and isn't free.

    Remember, they want to send MILLIONS of laptops into the field and avoid downtime caused by viruses, bugs, overflows, etc. The laptops are going to be hardened down quite a bit so even if a user app is exploited the laptop as a whole is still ok. They're using GNU/Linux for more reasons than the fact it costs $0 to license. They have to be able to recover from flaws in the field, of which they want to have precious few of.

    And besides, even if Windows were secure, they would have to give away fully functional copies for FREE to make the budget. Even charging OLPC $1 for the license would hurt the budget ($1 * millions of laptops == no good). In short, there isn't really a "market" here other than trying to expose another generation to inferior software.

    Tom
  • by flanners (1035794) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @07:25AM (#17111518) Homepage
    I noticed a lot of Red Hat/Fedora books that looked useful on the shelves in Indonesian bookstores when I was there doing tsunami related work last year. I think both OSes would be hard to teach to people who had never been allowed to use a computer before, but I think that linux will be useful in teaching more fundamantal internet skills - creating websites, doing e-mail with text-based MUAs like PINE, using shell accounts. I was lucky to get provisioned with one of the laptops that IBM gave away after the tsunami, and was able to write up project proposals that got funded and work with images and create websites about the project I started, and keep my e-mail inboxes from always being overquota, but I was a little bothered seeing many of those useful tools used for entertainment in the midst of a tricky disaster recovery situation. Indonesian Red Cross volunteers used a neat satellite based remote site in Teunom mostly for viewing porn, and it was not maintained and usable for random people who showed up (like me) that often had critical information about the situation in sorrounding districts. IBM distributed laptops that were useless witout downloading a lot of free software, so having time and access to download OpenOffice and Adobe Reader was critical. I guess I see these laptops mostly as being useful in humanitarian emergencies, because that is my experience, but I cannot imagine growing up in that grinding poverty, with the occasional flash website to view for my edification.
  • by paintswithcolour (929954) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @07:34AM (#17111566)
    I too find it difficult to believe that even if Windows was free that they'd ever put it on these machines. Hasn't the OLPC programme already made a stance on this sort of thing already, with the rejection of Jobs' free OS X offer? It would seem odd to me if they suddenly made a reversal and stuck Windows on these machines.

    I suspect, as others have already said, that we're talking about Microsoft offering a version of Windows for the laptop, not trying to get it pre-installed.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @07:42AM (#17111600) Homepage Journal
    If Windows is installed on the OLPC laptops, then we'll have to also get antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-adware and perhaps a few system recovery apps. There will also have to be a Windows key on the keyboard, which in my view, may be a stopper right there.

    I am afraid that if OLPC machines are distributed throughout the Third World and Windows is the OS, we may see a global conflagration. We better be prepared to train a few million of the world's poorest people to be Support Techs. Microsoft might be willing to donate a few million MSCE training DVDs.

    If we took the cost of the Iraq War for six months, we might be able to improve these folks' situation enough that in a year or two they could afford to buy their own PC parts from Tiger Direct and put it together themselves, just like God intended.
  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @07:43AM (#17111612)
    The only question is whether they want to, exactly what they want to do there, and how much effort do they want to put into a computer whose price would more than double if they actually sold a Windows OEM license with it.

    They've already offered free Windows licenses for OLPC. I think it's a OLPC is a bit like Netscape, they basically want a product to compete with it, even if they don't see any money for the forseeable future. More generously, the Gates foundation pays billions to charity, and free Windows for the third world is probably worth it for the publicity.

    I think they'll run Windows CE on it.

    http://www.windowsfordevices.com/news/NS2619367620 .html [windowsfordevices.com]

    Though it's got a x86 compatible AMD Geode, so it could run XP or Win2K. Given the huge number of platforms NT&CE have run on (x86, x86-63, Itanium, Alpha, Mips, PowerPC, Alpha64, i860, ARM, Hitachi SH, Matsushita AM33, Mitsubishi M32R *) there are obviously some people inside Microsoft who are keen or porting things to new hardware.

    These guys, http://www.litepc.com/xplite.html [litepc.com]

    say


    The latest developments in XPLite now see clean installations of Windows XP in under 350MB and Windows 2000 approaching less than 200 MB (excluding paging file) with much smaller memory requirements! These sizes are obtained simply by running XPLite/2000Lite on a fresh install of windows. Enterprising developers should easily be able to strip out additional log files, INF files and unused drivers to reduce the footprint by another 50MB or so. If your goal is to run a dedicated task in as little storage as possible - then look no further than XPlite.


    And this is just hacking .inf files, I bet you could shrink it further if you could rebuild the binaries to strip out stuff that the hardware doen't need. You could probably go for an NT style non plug and play boot for example, where NTLDR just passes a hardcoded config to the kernel. You could strip out unused filesystems too.

    But XP in 300MB is no problem even if you just hack inf files.

    * OK, maybe not that huge but consider how many they absolutely needed to support. On NT, Mips, PowerPC and Alpha had negligable market share or support from applications and were eventually dropped. But despite that, someone in the kernel team decided to pay for the work to port to them. There's a document with the of PE processor types here

    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/platform/firm ware/PECOFFdwn.mspx [microsoft.com]
  • by db32 (862117) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @08:30AM (#17111842) Journal
    The world is a very large place, an OLPC laptop isn't. :)

    I still remember a story about one of those nice folks in Africa trying to spread the wealth of computing to the poor asking MS if they would support. They would...if he agreed to allow them to slap their name all over the thing and parade it around as a huge PR thing, and for doing this they would "donate" a bunch of MS Office stuff. Unfortunately by the time all was said and done it would cost him an order of magnitude more in funding to make use of their "donation" due to the increased hardware costs associated with running copies of Windows that he would have been forced to purchase.

    Even if they do get it stripped down enough to work, ignoring all of the associated applications and updates that you need on a Windows system, I think the killing point will be the fact that the OS will cost something like 2-3x the laptop itself.
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @08:57AM (#17111982) Homepage
    What I think a lot of people (who think XP would actually work) miss is that damn small linux (DSL) is the result of hundreds if not thousands of hours of development time porting OSS packages to fit (e.g. using dietlibc, changing build flags, etc). That sort of work would normally cost $$$ and would not be done for free in the XP cases as OSS developers don't have access to the source code.

    Not only that, but as you alluded, a default install of XP (fresh off the CD) doesn't have anything useful [for kids]. It has no Office suite, no PDF/SVG/etc viewer, no decent web browser, no media player (that isn't corrupt), no games, no educational games/tools, etc...

    Worse yet, is most commercial Windows software is written with "1GB of ram is standard, and 4GB of disk is nothing." So pretty much everything is bloatware and horribly redundant.

    The OLPC box has 128MB of ram and a 512MB flash. You'd be hard pressed getting a lot of tools on there. Hell, just MS Word takes ~150MB of space. Now add on Excel, Adobe Reader, IE7 (shudder...), etc... and oops you filled up the flash without even getting to the games or the users personal storage.

    Granted not all OSS is perfect either. IIRC they're leaning towards abiword/gnumeric for their document and spreadsheet tools. I'll bet because OpenOffice is too large, complicated, and requires too much memory (hey it's not perfect). They're writing their own WM to simplify the layout for kids and make it more fun to use. And various other things like that. But that's kinda the point. Because it is OSS based they are free to perform these modifications/ports without shelling out cash money.

    Tom
  • by trav242 (645556) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @09:36AM (#17112240)
    That's so true. I recently installed a copy of windows on our old computer, and I had completely forgotten that word isn't installed by default. It was kinda' one of those "oh, yeah" moments. Good thing for OO.org, huh?
  • by Dareth (47614) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @10:09AM (#17112548)
    Imagine a world where companies sell "individual" license to people to use their products. You pay your "daily,weekly, monthly,etc" Coke license and you can drink coke products anywhere they are offered.

    When you apply for a job, you list what software you are "licensed" for. Hiring will be done by qualifications and the completeness of your personal licensing. "I'm sorry, you are not licensed for our version of Microsoft Office. Next!".

    I once thought such scenarios were just a figment of my imagination, but more and more I see that this may well become reality one day.

  • Re:Open Spurce? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:26AM (#17113394)
    and for the pre-installed OS, price is a criterion (in order not to exceed the $100 target price)

    Wrong! Price is irrelevant; the only consideration is that the device must be hackable by the user. The developers of the OLPC are insisting on Free Software specifically because they want the kids to have the four freedoms [gnu.org]; no more, no less.

    By the way, if you don't believe me consider this: the OLPC people rejected Mac OS X even when it was offered for free (i.e., zero cost).

  • Re:Open Spurce? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by paeanblack (191171) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:34AM (#17113522)
    It seems amazing to me that you could pick up a hammer, use it to do things that are damn near impossible with your hands, and formulate no opinion on the value of hammers in the process. It's a basic part of human learning. This must be why this project is taking so damned long...

    Negroponte is avoiding the kiss of death for charities: getting involved in the open market.

    For example, imagine you are running the Red Cross, MSF, Salvation Army, or some other large charity that does large amounts of shipping. You may look at Exxon-Mobil's record profits and think, "this is insane...we're lining the pockets of this company's shareholders with money that could otherwise be helping the needy. Our mission burns tons of fuel, but there must be a better way." To fix this you start investing capital in your own not-for-profit private fuel suppliers, just to keep the costs in-house. A little later you look back and realize your suppliers are horridly inefficient because they never had to answer to the open market, all your working capital is tied up in wells, refineries, pipelines, and tankers, and your bureaucracy nightmare puts most banana republics to shame.

    This example is excessive, but it demonstrates the simple trap of a good idea ("Lets feed the needy, not Big Oil Inc.") becoming a living hell ("Why are we drilling for oil in Greenland instead of feeding the needy?"). Charities constantly make this mistake on a smaller scale, especially in the printing, mailing, and call-center businesses. The siren-call of "let's keep this in-house" is so tempting, it's hard to realize it's the same as signing an exclusive contract with a supplier that has no competition and no experience.

    Negroponte doesn't really care what operating system ends up on the OLPC, so long as it meets requirements. He does want to avoid getting into the operating system business.

    Negroponte only cares about the nail getting pounded in. If you can do it cheaper with a different tool, you're hired.

    Negroponte doesn't care about the hammer.
  • by ThePhilips (752041) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @11:39AM (#17113592) Homepage Journal

    They have already tried WinCE. Recall the device from AMD [windowsfordevices.com] also targeted at countries of 3rd world. And they - M$ and AMD - have miserably failed [slashdot.org].

    Shortly: nobody needs another closed, limited to single vendor platform.

  • Re:Open Spurce? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @12:29PM (#17114362) Homepage Journal
    Well I can back you up on that. I ran Windows XP for nearly two years on a laptop at home to "keep up" with what was going on in the other camp. Much like you, I was behind a hardware based firewall, kept all the security updates going, etc... I NEVER installed an antivirus program on it and never got an infection (I scanned the system before I wiped it at the end of that period and it was clean) once. For the first eight or nine months I ran with the stock XP using IE. My wife used the system as well (she's not a techy and visited some sites that definitely introduced some spyware). After having some odd problems and cleaning the system with Spybot S&D and AdAware, I installed Firefox, removed the "blue E" and pretty much hid IE from the system. The interesting thing to me is that when I would run Sypbot and AdAware, the system was clean every time. To me, that was ultimate proof that IE was the main culprit for Windows security issues. Never went back to IE and never missed it. In order to make Windows XP more usable I installed Cygwin on it and started building up the suite of things I felt were necessary. I was able to be somewhat comfortable but there were so many niceties that I experience in Gnome/KDE apps and the Gnome desktop that I couldn't take it anymore and my experiment came to an end.

    What did I miss? Mainly the ability to get an application for anything I wanted to do without having to pay an arm and a leg. Yeah... it was the "free beer". Even though I had to "brew" it, it was still better than having to pay premium prices to buy the premade stuff. The second thing I missed was how the apps in most Linux distros tend to have a lot more options (something that most users wouldn't care about) available for both GUI and especially CLI environments. I don't know how many people experience this in Windows, but I do all the time: "Hmmm.. I wonder if I can do action X with application Z"? Poke around a bit and find that you can't, or worse... you can but only if you upgrade to the deluxe version of the software meaning that you have to fork out more cash. And finally, the extensibilty of the OS itself. Unless someone writes a particular driver for something, you're pretty much out of luck if you're not an MS developer if you want the core OS (ie. kernel) to do something new. Again, to cite an example, I point to the Linux kernel's network block device support. All I had to do to enable it was compile the kernel/module and load the module, install a user space app for server and client and bam... I had new and amazing functionality. I was then able to export hard drives, CD-ROM and DVD drives as network block devices which could be imported to remote systems via TCP. This is NOT file sharing. It's basically like making a disk on one system appear as a disk on a remote system that can be partitioned, formattted or in the case of a DVD, played via the network.

    As much as I wish it weren't so, I think that people like me are relatively rare. Most people have no problem paying out lots of money for new functionality, or worse, pirating software. I'm in a situation where my interest in computers and software exceeds my financial situation. So GNU/Linux is a natural fit in that way. The XP system I was using was provided by my employer so it was no cost to me. But after having drank of the FOSS well, I can't go back for reasons more than just the finances... I've nearly eliminated Windows from my life other than at work (only on the servers I have to deal with from time to time. My workstation is Gentoo) and the occasions when I use a virtual machine at home to access Windows only online media. Whatever fits your situation... use it.

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