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Novel OS Drives the '$100 laptop' 174

Posted by Zonk
from the not-novell dept.
jrwr00 writes with a link to a CNN story about the $100 laptop's unique operating system. We've discussed the OLPC's UI before but the article offers a few new piece of information on the project, which is expected to roll out this year. From the article: "The XO machines are still being tweaked, and [OLPC UI] Sugar isn't expected to be tested by any kids until February. By July or so, several million are expected to reach Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, Thailand and the Palestinian territory. Negroponte said three more African countries might sign on in the next two weeks. The Inter-American Development Bank is trying to get the laptops to multiple Central American countries."
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Novel OS Drives the '$100 laptop'

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  • Novell OS? Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @07:39PM (#17466914) Homepage
    I read this story on CNN first as well, and my first thought at seeing the headline was nightmares about a Novell operating system.

    In any event, it doesn't really sound particularly novel to me.
  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @07:43PM (#17466976) Journal
    From TFA:
    "In fact, one of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint," Negroponte wrote in an e-mail interview. "I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools.
    Go on my son! Kids should be exploring, not training to become the paper-pushers of tomorrow. Computers have so much more to offer than that.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:29PM (#17467554) Homepage
    "it still falls victim to engineered obsolescence"

    How do you know? Have you inspected the hardware?

    I've never understood the concept, really. How does one engineer a product to work properly through the warranty period, but magically fail when it's out of warranty? Certainly, some manufacturers use inexpensive parts when they think they can, and sometimes those parts fail, but it's hard to imagine that's an intended effect.

    Maybe I'm naive.
  • by Nazgul_Cro (868869) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:30PM (#17467562) Journal
    OLPC can give kids Internet connection where they would usually have none.
    Web browser is, overall, the killer app. The pure difference in being able to access the Web, and not access it is remarkably huge. By giving children access to Google, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and billions of other sites and web applications it is the single most useful tool a child could have. It also comes with RSS reader, chat, AbiWord and eToys along with several games.

    Mesh networking is the point by itself, as its main function is not only to connect OLPC laptops together, but to also connect them to an Internet gateway, which will be provided by schools... This will have an overall effect of propagating Internet access through OLPC-targeted countries.

    I just don't see what would children "need" Office and Photoshop for.

    In developed countries, a child will have its computing needs satisfied already, by having access to regular computer. OLPC targetted child has no such privilege, and a difference between owning an OLPC laptop and not owning it will be huge.

    Porting software to OLPC is not hard. While Sugar is the interface, it is still founded on X Window System, and it runs Python apps as well... And newer versions of OS will have more apps that are already announced.
    Plus, judging a platform for not having enough software for it when it hasn't actually been released to its end-users yet isn't really fair. I predict it will create a very decent software library of its own, and that we'll see first of it quite soon after it goes fully public. It has happened to pretty much every platform around during the last 50 years.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:33PM (#17467610)

    Where are the apps for this platform?

    How about a web browser, or an e-book reader? Those certainly sound like important apps for learning. Or how about a scientific graphing calculator? Perhaps some interactive learning software? There's already apps that could be very usefull. Really the hard part isn't really the apps, it's the content and curiculum that're more important.

      Can anybody name one app, accessible to end users (e.g., no recompiling required), that is compatible with the Sugar UI, mesh networking, low-end specs, and other unique features?

    You're asking the wrong crowd here as there's not many people on slashdot develop for, or familiar with this machine. Just because no one has given you an answer means very little.

    Go into a shopping mall and give a random person an OLPC -- what would they do with it?

    Huh? What does a random person in a shopping mall have to do with the needs of someone in a 3rd world country that's never even used a computer have to do with each other? I think you're really missing the point here.

    Hardware has always suffered from a chicken/egg problem. You need interest in the hardware to generate interest in developing software, but you need available software for the hardware to do something.

    My guess is the hope is that more specific apps will be created for the purposes of learning. But using a pre-existing OS will bring enough apps that're already available for Linux to make the thing usefull from the start. Personally I'd be more worried about the curriculum and infra-structure for kids to learn how learn from these things.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:35PM (#17467620)
    You and I can do a lot more by donating to charities or 'adopting' a child through a group like World Vision.

    Fuck charity, we need to change the global economy. If you want to help the poor in the third world then don't give them charity unless they are literally starving. If you want to help you should buy what they produce, lobby your government to write off the debt they made them take on and lobby your government to remove trade restrictions. Your country is fucking the third world in the ass and given you live in a democray they are doing it in your name. You need to stop the fucking, not start the giving.

  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:40PM (#17467668) Homepage
    Forgive me if I use the term 'engineered obsolescence' a bit more broadly than I should have. I don't mean component failure specifically, and certainly not with respect to warranty duration.

    Do you know if this $100 laptop is upgradable? I'm sure that as the lustful fires of consumerism awaken in these nations' loins, they'll want harder, better, faster, stronger laptops that these corporations will be all too happy to *sell* them, as the OLPC simply doesn't meet the gluttonous standards of a modern consumer. It looks to me kind of like what a drug dealer might do with 'free samples'.
  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:46PM (#17467734) Homepage
    Linux desktop is getting nowhere, despite it's technical excellence,

    1. It's very easy to argue it's getting somewhere because of the variety of distros out there. Just because NetCraft or whatever research name you look to for credibility can't/won't measure or validate the progress means absolutely nothing.

    2. Putting together a coherent desktop is difficult to say the least. Your average Linux desktop won't be competing directly with apple/microsoft, but you will find pragmatic IT people deploying them everywhere. No, none of those people have been the subjects in desktop market share research either.

    because it lacks key apps (i.e., Office). Pull a few key apps from MacOS X (e.g., Office, Photoshop, etc.) and see what happens to adoption.

    This is a well-worn and ultimately invalid opinion. History shows us repeatedly that the switch happens when one platform has something a consumer **really** needs. Making look-alike office and graphics apps is not the answer. The answer is a little deeper. Maybe openoffice.org might have something really great lawyers would switch for. Maybe gimp has features that animators want they can't get from Adobemedia. (filmgimp?)

    We know it hasn't happened yet, but it's already begun. Proprietary software companies like Microsoft and Adobemedia will tighten the noose by raising prices and offer progressively less innovation. History shows this over and over again.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:46PM (#17467740) Homepage
    "Do you know if this $100 laptop is upgradable?"

    Do you know that it isn't? Do you know if it needs to be upgradeable? I've got a laptop that's several years old, and I wouldn't even consider upgrading it.

    "I'm sure that as the lustful fires of consumerism awaken in these nations' loins,"

    OK, holy cow. Could we please dial back the rhetoric a little bit?

    "they'll want harder, better, faster, stronger laptops that these corporations will be all too happy to *sell* them"

    Yeah, sell them for $100. And these people who may or may not want upgraded laptops either will either buy one, or not. Or they might set up a cottage industry to upgrade their neighbors' computers, thereby earning money. You know, kinda the way the rest of us do it.

    I find that a lot of people who argue about the evils of consumerism are more interested in telling me what I should or should not do with my money than actually looking out for peoples' best interests.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:49PM (#17467776) Homepage
    So basically, computers should stop getting faster so that you won't feel bad because you bought one?

    Uh, no.

    Computers do not lose capability over time. (Except for Windows machines.)
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @08:50PM (#17467790)
    Go into a shopping mall and give a random person an OLPC -- what would they do with it?


    Last I checked, the target market for the OLPC was not "random people in shopping malls".

    Sure, it has some included apps, but that can't be sufficient to meet the needs of millions of kids with every need and in every environment imaginable.


    Correct. Many things that children might conceivably want out of a computer will not be provided by the OLPC. It will not be a game platform to rival the PS3, for instance.

    Its an educational tool being marketed to national ministries of education with a common application set being developed focussed on that market, optional accessories (like the satellite downlink system and donated satellite time) related to the role it is envisioned filling in providing a system for delivering educational content.

    That it is also a general purpose computer for which other existing applications can be adapted and new applications developed is, of course, a bonus for its capacity to be adapted to different environments and to its ability to be supported and customized apps provided by the large institutional purchasers to whom it is being marketed (or third-parties), but its not being marketed as a general solution to all conceivable computing needs (which, at its price, shouldn't be a surprise), or even a general competitor to existing desktop and laptop commodity computers for mainstream use (which, again, given its price, shouldn't be surprising.)
  • by muszek (882567) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @09:00PM (#17467930) Homepage
    By giving children access to [...] Slashdot [...]
    ... you give them one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn how to calculate maximum amount of pr0n that fits on any cutting edge storage devices.
  • by wall0159 (881759) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @09:10PM (#17468022)
    Where are the apps for this platform?

    The OS is Linux, so it will run anything that runs on Linux (subject to computing power, RAM, etc).

    no recompiling required

    There will (hopefully) be hundreds of millions of these machines. I think someone can make binaries for the kiddies if they want.

    Linux desktop is getting nowhere, despite it's technical excellence, because it lacks key apps (i.e., Office).

    Ahhh! so you really mean commercial applications. I don't see why 'perfect' compatibility with Word documents is so important to children.

    Look - it comes with applications: Broswer, RSS reader, text editor, and others. And it has a compiler, so kids can write their own applications. This computer is about liberating these kids, and giving them computer expertise - it's not about making them consumers of software. Difficult to understand, I know.

    I like to repeat myself every time an OLPC story is posted

    Well, saying the same thing many times doesn't make it more true or relevant.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dan828 (753380) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @09:31PM (#17468206)

    ...they'll want harder, better, faster, stronger laptops that these corporations will be all too happy to *sell* them, as the OLPC simply doesn't meet the gluttonous standards of a modern consumer.


    Oh good God. The point is they can't afford standard consumer electronics as it is. That's what the whole project was about-- provide a low cost computer to people that can't afford current computers. Great insight there. With out a doubt OLPC will soon be trying to sell the latest core 2 duo laptops to the children of Bangladesh. Hell, they'll probably start a new campaign, One Widescreen HD Plasma TV Per Child (OWHDPTVPC), next, just to sucker those unsuspecting s fools in even more.
  • by Cal Paterson (881180) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @10:25PM (#17468624)
    And it has a compiler, so kids can write their own applications.
    Perhaps a little ambitious, considering these children are probably seeing a computer for the first time.
  • Re:OLPC Sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 2short (466733) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:55PM (#17469342)
    I do beleive he was assuming the previous poster, and then you, were trying to say something with some possible relevance, and attempting to devine what that might be. So rather than getting all upset he guessed wrong, perhaps you could enlighten us?

    "engineered obsolescence" certainly implies some intent; Do you suggest a $100 dollar laptop, or any laptop, could possibly be designed such that it would not become obsolete?
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday January 05, 2007 @01:57AM (#17470084) Homepage Journal
    Ya know, back when I was 11 years old, I would have given all my pocket money and done weeks and weeks of chores just to be able to write BASIC on one of these things. These kids, who have never even seen a computer before, will get to code in Python/Smalltalk, browse the web, talk to their neighbours, and write a blog..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 05, 2007 @03:01AM (#17470422)
    You are arguing like you don't care about other people's replies, you are just pulling out ones to support your arguments.

    First off, "killer" applications: text editor and browser.

    Even something that can display simple HTML is a big plus to not having access to the Internet at all. You don't seem to understand that there is a lot of compromises that have to be made here. There's cost, physical/environmental conditions, the purposes it is being used, etc.... You should think of these machines more as educational tools, rather than a multi-core multimedia centre/game machine. Do you really expect these machines to have the power to decode next-gen hi-def videos? What exactly did you think these machines are for? They are supposed to be quite cheap and affordable, even for 3rd countries.

    As for running Java/AJAX, etc... so you think that having access to internet without Java is worthless? might as well have nothing at all? what is your point here?

    Another thing here, if this thing goes as planned, automatically there's going to millions of users. So perhaps the commercial value may not be as high per head, it's a huge market nevertheless. Linux initially wasn't developed for its market values. Once people have better idea what applications are needed, you can be sure that there will be applications ported to/written for it.

    You want a whole suite of applications, covering every conceivable use for people in developed counties with decades of computer experiences, ALREADY written/compiled/ready to be used for a platform on a first gen machine that has not been field tested, has significant limitations and designed for educating kids in third world countries?

    "If the open source community wants to help, stop arguing with me, recognize the problem , and start porting apps (and providing tools to port apps)."

    "Why not just send them parts to build their own computers?"

    These two quotes just shows you are trolling.
    Your arguments are _ALL_ based on "if we can't have _EVERYTHING_, there's no point having anything.".
    You are nuts. Or extremely short-sighted. Or both.
    If you think this should be done another way, state your ideas, not drivels like these.
  • by The Monster (227884) on Friday January 05, 2007 @11:12AM (#17473506) Homepage
    In a few years these people will be old enough to work in an office (not saying they will, it's just a possibility), and set me tell you, I think they're not going to *want* to touch Windows, MacOS, or KDE/Gnome with a fire poker -- it's too messy. They won't want to work on their computer, they'll want to work on their *tasks*.
    Given the target audience for OLPC, I predict that long before these kids make it into the workforce, Sugar will be available for Ubuntu, either as an app to run on top of a windowing environment or as a standalone interface.

    In fact, there will probably be a fork of Edubuntu with a name like Subuntu, Sedubuntu, or OXubuntu, unless the devs figure out how to fit it all on the same CD anyway. In that case, different users logging into the same machine can have different default sessions. Those who feel confined by Sugar, who make the effort to learn the desktop paradigm, can use GNOME, KDE, etc.

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