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Intel Portables The Almighty Buck Education Hardware

How Classsmate PC Stacks Up Against OLPC 284

Posted by Zonk
from the cheap-laptops-go-toe-to-toe dept.
lisah writes "While the One Laptop Per Child project pulled itself together and shipped its first Beta machines, Intel was busy developing its own version, the Classmate PC. Inevitable comparisons will be made between the two (especially since OLPC's chairman Nicholas Negroponte called Intel's move "predatory"), so Linux.com's Tina Gasperson and her kids took a Classmate PC for a test run to see how it does in the real world. The upshot? Good battery life, easy to use, and great with ketchup. 'The Classmate is so adorably cozy it make you want to snuggle up on a comfy couch or lean back on some pillows on the floor while you surf. Good thing wireless is built right in. Too bad the typical Linux foibles apply. The first snag was having to log in as root to check the system configuration because the Classmate wouldn't log on to the network. Something tells me most elementary and high school teachers with nothing but Windows experience aren't going to get that.'" Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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How Classsmate PC Stacks Up Against OLPC

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  • Below is the comment I posted under the story on linux.com. For those too lazy to read it there:

    After five days with three active kids, the Classmate PC still works, and shows relatively few signs of wear [...] We ran through the battery three times, but Classmate was running most of the time we had it; the battery life was pretty good, lasting at least two hours at a time.

    Five days with three active kids? The fact that you believe that this utterly minor quantity of abuse is significant displays an utter ignorance of the situation in which the systems will be used. And two hours? After which point it must be plugged in? Kids in many if not most of the locations in which the systems will be used will not have access to an electrical outlet. I know this concept is amazing to someone who has never thought about life beyond the borders of the first world...

    The ClassmatePC is utterly unsuited to use anywhere outside the rosy, warm and comfortable existence that we in the first world enjoy. I'm sure it makes a very nice toy for your children, however. Be sure to get back to us regarding its durability after they've drug that gigantic (for children) lug of a machine through the dirt on their miles-long walk to and from school every day, mm?

    (You can see that I am just as charming in other parts of the web as I am here)

  • Predatory? Ha! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) <joeXbanks @ h o t m a i l.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @12:55PM (#19256785)
    Ostensibly the "One Laptop Per Child" thing was meant to provide computing access to underprivileged youths. Now there's competition in the same market and somehow that's bad? If Intel strong-arms the OLPC project into oblivion but continues to provide the same "philanthropic", so to speak, service, don't the children still benefit?

    The more I read from and about Negroponte the more his true colors show through.
  • I wonder ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @12:56PM (#19256805) Homepage
    If they feel good competing AGAINST a charity. It's like trying to run the red cross out of town because you want your own select staff of employees to profit from the same line of work.

    Why didn't Intel work *with* OLPC to make a laptop to help educate people? Now all they're serving to do is divide the market and confuse customers [re: governments] with a laptop which imho is less suited for the task.

    It isn't like OLPC *has* to run a geode. I mean at this point a rework is out of the question, but they could have switched it to an intel chip a couple of years ago if a low power chip was suitable for the task.

    Tom
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @12:58PM (#19256841)
    "The ClassmatePC is utterly unsuited to use anywhere outside the rosy, warm and comfortable existence that we in the first world enjoy. I'm sure it makes a very nice toy for your children, however. Be sure to get back to us regarding its durability after they've drug that gigantic (for children) lug of a machine through the dirt on their miles-long walk to and from school every day, mm?"

    Do third-world children really abuse what they own like that? Or is that the way a first world child would?
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:02PM (#19256905)
    It's be pretty sad if there wasn't *some* advantage to the Classmate given the cost, but since low price was the whole point of these machines, any advantage is rather moot.

    I learnt to program back in 1978 on a 1MHz Z80 with 1K of RAM and no software other than a monitor program that let me type hex codes into memory. I turned out OK.

    If the point of this is to get computers into as many kids hands as possible, where cost was previously a limit, then cost should in essence be the only consideration once any other minimal design goals have been met. Putting in more features (able to run expensive Microsoft bloatware!) for a higher cost would seem to be a detriment to the overall goal rather than a benefit.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashthedot (991354) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:02PM (#19256907) Homepage
    The better value-for-money laptop should win. OLPC may be taking too long to get into production.
  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:02PM (#19256917) Homepage Journal
    And them there are some good points. Added to which, they can't even get the permissions correct? Oh wait they aren't tailoring the OS to the hardware are they. I can understand when I install Ubuntu (or whatever) on *my* laptop that I have to enter a password to access the wireless (actually I don't, but that's a different matter), but if they are trying to build something for children and for education, the least they can do is tie the OS to the hardware (al la the OLPC laptop).

    And as you said, they can only get two hours!? Thanks, I'll go back to lusting after the OLPC laptop (with a little extra storage space though thanks).
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:08PM (#19256987) Homepage Journal

    Do third-world children really abuse what they own like that? Or is that the way a first world child would?


    Do third-world children really have a choice? Many do not have a roof over their head and those who do live in horrid squalor with no toilets, electricity, running water or even floors. Their machines will get dirty just from exposure to these environments.
  • I'm a little more worried about the battery life comment. A little over two hours? The OLPC is designed to be able to run for 10 or so if you use it to look at static stuff (like ebook mode). It's designed to run for ~10 minutes for ever minute of effort you put into it's charger (when you're not charging it with that new-fangled electrical outlet thing).

    2 hours?

    Yeah, the classmate is a revolution. Amazing. I bet you can't even see the screen outside very well!

    This little "review" does nothing but sour my already dim views of the Classmate. It seems more proof that the classmate is nothing but a normal laptop that was miniaturized. The OLPC was basically designed from the ground up for this task. To be cheap, energy efficient, to be visible outdoors, to provide connectivity, etc.

    The classmate may work for people here in the US, or in relatively developed areas. But these things sound like they won't do very well if you put them in rural areas without great infrastructure, which is one of the main areas the OLPC is targeting.

  • Misleading Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asphaltjesus (978804) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:11PM (#19257047)
    There are a bunch of false assumptions with this review, not to mention Intel _must_ have put in quite a PR effort to get this story published.

    1. The family "just using it."
    I think there are enough admins here who understand that the OLPC will probably be delivered pre-configured.

    2. So, wireless, much less a steady _Internet connection_ is widely available in developing nations?

    The OLPC is getting destroyed quite publicly and there's nothing OLPC can do about it. They've been out-financed.

    Today's lesson: Selling to governments without 10's of millions of dollars for bribes of all kinds (including campaign donations)doesn't happen. This is a text book case of what happens to anything innovative (read: new vendors) in government.
  • Five days with three active kids? The fact that you believe that this utterly minor quantity of abuse is significant displays an utter ignorance of the situation in which the systems will be used. And two hours?

    My sister-in-law lives in Nigeria, one of the target markets. In town, she says they are lucky to have more than a few hours of power and lets not talk about clean power. It's a neighborhood by neighborhood situation, and she lives in a relatively nice neighborhood. Out in "rural" Nigeria it will be worse. In India, her second home, the situation is little better in many of the places she goes.

    For this to work, the systems should be sold to schools with a bunch of extra batteries and a huge gang recharging station for when the power is on.

    Why not focus on One Meal Per Child, Debt Forgiveness for the Third World, Free Medicine for the Third World, the Robert Mugabe Silver Bullet to the Dictator's Head assistance.

  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:17PM (#19257139)
    After which point it must be plugged in? Kids in many if not most of the locations in which the systems will be used will not have access to an electrical outlet. I know this concept is amazing to someone who has never thought about life beyond the borders of the first world...

    The ClassmatePC is utterly unsuited to use anywhere outside the rosy, warm and comfortable existence that we in the first world enjoy.


    The fact OLPC is targeted at the poorest countries of the world, where a family doesn't have an electic outlet, doesn't mean that all people who do have electrical outlets need to use cranks and pedals.

    Take for example the new EU member countries, Bulgaria and Romania. They're on a much lower level, financially-wise and technologically-wise, than the rest of the EU. I'm in Bulgaria.

    Trust me, we don't lack electrical sockets. We even have (gasp!) ADSL that can be delivered over the old copper phone wires in any school around the country.

    You're complaining how come Intel just made this laptop for the "warm and rosy" first-world countries, failing to see that A) first-world countries also need a classmate PC and B) poor country doesn't mean we run around naked in the dust and can't read/write.

    All in all, I feel OLPC and Classmate PC will fill two different niches, and both are great products. Now, Negroponte much be hurt that he's not the only one making children PC, but in the long term he'll realize that the world is a large enough place for two products of this kind.
  • Re:Predatory? Ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:18PM (#19257151) Homepage

    If Intel strong-arms the OLPC project into oblivion but continues to provide the same "philanthropic", so to speak, service, don't the children still benefit?

    While I agree that we shouldn't feel OLPC needs to be the only platform available to these people, I think your question indicates the source of people's concern: What if Intel strong-arms the OLPC project into oblivion but then does not continue to provide the same philanthropic service?

  • Re:Predatory? Ha! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:21PM (#19257199) Homepage

    Yep. Intel really has it right and proves Negroponte is an idiot.

    1. The classmate runs for about 2.5 hours on battery! The OLPC's low power modes letting it run 10 is just wasteful of precious electricity
    2. The classmate was easy for a kid used to Windows to use! That's perfect for the kids in small villages who've never seen an electric light-bulb. They'll pick it up like that.
    3. You can draw on the tab.... no... that's the OLPC.
    4. You can hand charge it when it runs ou.... no, that's the OLPC
    5. It has a Wireless, so you can surf the web when you're near a hotspot! The OLPC can only do that and make mesh networks across a small village so you don't have to be so close
    6. It's rugged against suburban 8 year olds who are used to being careful with a computer. Who needs to worry about dust storms and torrential rains and such. Oh, right, the OLPC does that.
    7. Well at least it costs le.... no, OLPC is cheaper.
    8. It can run Windows, which the kids are familia.... no, many won't have ever touched a computer.

    Like I said in a comment above, I can see how this might be a better option for more developed countries (US, large cities, etc) where things like power aren't as big a problem. But like I said the other day, the more I see of this, the more it looks like a status-quo laptop that was made 20% (or whatever) smaller.

    Not only is the OLPC hardware superior for a large class of people, I think it's design (including software) is fantastic, especially its emphasis on learning as opposed to "this is a computer, here, enjoy" that the classmate seems to have.

  • Ridiculous Review (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigwave111 (1046082) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:22PM (#19257209)
    This review makes me angry. Why the hell would you review something as though it were a consumer product for spoiled white kids who have two computers to choose from and who see if their children's version of "second life" works. OLPC is intended for kids who have one extremely endangered life and need to learn basic computer skills. The fact that they had to CALL a tech support place is the sign of Intel's failure. What, are kids in Africa going to walk 30 miles to a pay phone that they can't afford just to be put on hold and deal with call centers in Bangladesh? Are we trying to punish these poor kids?
  • I think the point was that 5 days with 3 kids in Tina Gasperson's cozy comfy home is hardly a test of ruggedization for normal use in a developed country let alone the conditions that may be encountered in a third world country.
  • Do third-world children really have a choice? Many do not have a roof over their head and those who do live in horrid squalor with no toilets, electricity, running water or even floors. Their machines will get dirty just from exposure to these environments.

    I'm not sure those are the children that the OLPC/Classmate are really being aimed for. Looking at the governments that are purchasing them, while they do have some poor areas, they're not exactly sub-Saharan Africa; I'm not sure that kids who lack electricity or a roof at home are probably going to be the first ones to get their hands on one. I suspect they're going to go to poor urban students, whose conditions are probably pretty deplorable by U.S. standards, but they're not dirt farmers either.

    I'm pretty sure that the population of a lot of Third World countries supports this; they have fairly sizable chunks of the population living in crowded cities. The utilities may be old and unreliable, but it's not a shack-in-the-woods situation.
  • by 'nother poster (700681) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:32PM (#19257379)
    So since they live in deplorable condition they should be kept ignorant so it propagates to the next generation?

    These machines, at least the OLPC, are not designed to be time wasting game platforms. They are meant for education. Rather than have 5-10 paper books to carry around and protect from the elements you will have a small computer and your books will reside on a USB flash drive. You will do your assignments on the machine and zap them to the teacher using the wireless, or a USB drive.

    Well, after thinking about it as I wrote this missive, you're right. When they find out they can't plaw WoW on their school property computers, they will throw them in the ditches and drop out of school.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:33PM (#19257391) Homepage Journal

    OLPC and this are feel good ideas when too much of this world does have clean drinking water and adequate medicine or food for the day.
    I think it was Smithsonian that ran an article about the impact of cell phones in Africa and how it improved people's nutrition.

    It's long been too expensive to run phone lines all across Africa. However, once the mining companies starting throwing up cell towers, poor people got a hold of used cell phones on their own. Now they are lining up buyers for their crops in the field, instead of harvesting them, trotting them all the way to market, and then letting them rot in the hot sun.

    I spent a 10 weeks with a poor indigenous family in Ecuador. They were more or less malnourished -- a 5-year-old looked like a 3-year-old. However, all their kids were in school. They brought home homework that they did in candle light in their open-air thatch-roof plywood-platform 'houses'. Poor people all over the world take incredible advantage of the meager tools they have in front of them. If they can talk to people in far away villages with an OLPC mesh network, they will. They will use it to communicate and improve their lives.

    Most people in the world understand that education, whether it's how to hunt monkeys in the canopy, or how to speak English to guide jungle tours. It's only in relatively wealthy countries with enough infrastructure and social programs that people can afford to stay stupid.
  • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:41PM (#19257509)
    OLPC and this are feel good ideas when too much of this world does have clean drinking water and adequate medicine or food for the day.

    So lets not work on anything else until these issues are solved. What are you doing posting on slashdot, you should be out feeding poor children.

    What do you say, you have more experience working with computers and would rather work on something you will be more efficient at than food provider. Tough, can't go educating people until everyone on the planet has food.
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:45PM (#19257589)
    From someone who lives in the developing world (Colombia), and I am in the "upper middle" class here, I can say this:

    $100 = 1-2 month's savings
    $200 = 2-4 months' savings


    That is, of course, if life runs *perfectly* well and you have *no* other expenses. And you get a good salary, with regular work.

    Right now, my cat's got to go to the veterinarian. Will I put off my kids' education for four months, or for two months?


    Note that these laptops are not pitched at "my" market as such, but to the lower middle and "upper lower" classes, those on a third to a fifth of what I earn. For some - most - of these people, the intel laptop is simply unattainable anyway, so no news there. Can the kids get on the internet? Can they play some simple games? Type out an essay for school? Learn to read and write in both English and Spanish? Switch to Portuguese in an instant? Read about their Inca ancestory? Wow, they could learn to program! Sold.
  • You're complaining how come Intel just made this laptop for the "warm and rosy" first-world countries, failing to see that A) first-world countries also need a classmate PC and B) poor country doesn't mean we run around naked in the dust and can't read/write.

    This is especially important because Negroponte actively avoids having the OLPC project being active in places outside of Asia, Africa, and parts of South America.
     
     

    All in all, I feel OLPC and Classmate PC will fill two different niches, and both are great products. Now, Negroponte much be hurt that he's not the only one making children PC, but in the long term he'll realize that the world is a large enough place for two products of this kind.

    Negroponte is hurt because when Bulgaria and Rumania start buying Classmates, along with school systems in the American Appalachia and Rust Belt states - the political agenda underlying the project will be exposed in sharp relief.
     
    [Rant]
     
    It's always bothered me how many folks of a liberal bent (in America) will send money, doctors, and missionaries to Asia, Africa, South America, etc... As well as adopting children from those regions. Will they do so for the 'hood or for Appalachia? Many that I've talked with react with horror at the very prospect.
     
    There's a word for that - racism.
     
    [/rant]
  • by Derivin (635919) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:49PM (#19257657)
    Intel is NOT interested in providing computing access to underprivileged youths. They are interested in keeping 30Million children from learning to use AMD based devices which htey previously called a 'toy', a 'joke', and 'of little interest to Intel's business'. In short, they are scared they will loose money, and they are correct. Competition in the market is not bad. The practices Intel is employing to kill off a humanitarian effort to protect their bottom line is.

    OLPC is a humanitarian project which is trying to provide educational devices to third world countries. These devices are 100% open (open hardware and software) with minimal maintainance. They are designed for the harsh environments and to have minimal environmental impact.

    Intel at first dismissed and made fun of the project, then realized that it could be a threat to their business. Instead of developing a better product with humanitarian goals, they created a piece of closed hardware junk with huge environmental impacts. These devices are not designed for third world environments, have a 2 hour battery life, etc, etc, etc. They are being sold well below cost, and Intel is flying all over the world to the governments which approached OLPC and spending millions to sell these devices to them. Not out of a humanitarian effort, but as a business transaction. While on the surface this may seem like competition in an open market, that is just not the case.

    OLPC is not a market driven business project. OLPC did not go to governments to sell their program, they announced the program and the governments came to them. In order to provide the devices cheaply, and allow the governments to develop the devices themselves, OLPC needs 3Mil units ordered. They were close to having that before Intel came along and started lobbying only these governments, and offering these junk replacements (internal cost estimate at $400, NOT the $200 under priced value, nor the $50 'introductory' price).

    The sole purpose of this is a predatory act to stop an AMD based device from gaining acceptance. This also ignores the software effort. The hardware laptop is only 50% of the OLPC project. The other half is the revolutionary new operating system and GUI being developed as part of OLPC, specifically for child learning. Intel doesn't want to be bothered, because they are not in the business of providing a learning device, they are in the buisness of selling intel chips.


    So yes its predatory. VERY predatory, because that is what the computer business is, and that is what Intel is. The stock holders and board members would not have it any other way. OLPC is something completely different, and is being hurt by their actions.

    Is this bad for the children? Just look at the two devices, and I think you have your answer.
  • by Bastard of Subhumani (827601) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:51PM (#19257695) Journal
    No, he eats until the local warlord comes along, steals his animals, burns his crops and rapes him with a bayonet.
  • Oh, to be clear, i have no intention of criticizing the OLPC project. I think it's a great project. My joke was more about the general attempts to "modernize less-developed countries", and the expectations and motivations involved in that process.

  • You can bet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spungo (729241) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @01:58PM (#19257793)
    As soon as Intel have driven the OLPC out of the market, they will hatch some limp reason why their own product will no longer ship. These piddling margins don't interest the evil that is Intel -- so they'll kill that end of the market in order to preserve their margins up the other end. It's about time we boycotted these bastards.
  • Re:OLPC in the US (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrsbrisby (60242) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:03PM (#19257873) Homepage

    why not just run windows 2000 on this thing? I've gotten 2000 to run acceptably on machines with far lower minimum specs than this.
    Uh, no you haven't.

    Windows 2000 needs things like a hard drive, lots of non-volatile storage, and a BIOS. It also costs more than the target price.

    Windows 2000 is also designed to be difficult to use and discover: It doesn't include a development environment, a word processor, any wifi support, or introspection tools.

    In contrast: the users of the OLPC are encouraged to extend the system, and write software for it, and to share that software.

    Granted it's not as 1337 as Linux, but a lot easier for non IT personel to run...i.e. middle school and K-school teachers
    The OLPC can make critical thinkers and sharp engineering minds out of these kids who simply don't have enough engineering challenges in which to learn these things.

    Since Windows 2000 - and all other versions of Windows ever lack the ability to engage and challenge its users to make a better system, it certainly cannot answer that call without writing a whole operating system on top of Windows.

    I also fail to see how the fact that you might not have to retrain a group of users who aren't even the target audience of the OLPC is a good thing, and since it means giving up all the other things that are good about the OLPC, I can easily see how it is a very bad thing.
  • by mrsbrisby (60242) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:14PM (#19258049) Homepage

    I run Ubuntu Linux on my Toshiba laptop. I had to install two proprietary drivers to get accelerated video and support for the wifi. Ubuntu does not install these by default. If I were a complete novice I'd have no idea that this would solve my problem nor would I know how to do it.
    Since Windows doesn't install on any Toshiba currently being sold, I fail to see what your fucking point is.

    You are confusing OEM Windows with Windows. Toshiba went and installed those drivers for you when they installed Windows. If they preinstalled Linux you quite obviously, wouldn't have to install those drivers there, either.

    Buying a laptop that works with Retail Windows is very difficult. Most require special drivers just to install it.

    The next thing that I consider a shortcoming to using Wifi on Linux is that if I don't have the Wifi radio switched on when I boot the machine Linux does not detect this and allow me to network automatically. I still don't know the solution but whatever it is on Windows and Mac OS X this is a simple no brainer operation. It should be completely automatic and transparent.
    So don't buy unsupported hardware?

    Seriously, if Toshiba made Linux laptops, they'd integrate WIFI hardware that sucked less.

    I have been trying Linux off and on for many years and still see areas where if it were "just a little better" I could replace my Windows with it. I'm looking forward to that day.
    FWIW, I've been using Linux as my only desktop operating system since 1994, and the trick is to buy hardware that is supported by Linux.

    This isn't that difficult, as Linux has far superiour hardware support over every other operating system, but it means that if you're installing your own operating system, you're doing the job of the integrator, so it's your job to make sure the hardware works.

    If you don't want to play integrator, don't: Dell is preloading Ubuntu today, and there are quite a few other OEMs that will sell you Ubuntu preloaded- including laptop makers.

    But every time you blame this on Linux, to some you're just making yourself look more and more like a idiot, and to people who know less than you, you're just confusing.
  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:17PM (#19258099) Homepage Journal

    [Rant]

    It's always bothered me how many folks of a liberal bent (in America) will send money, doctors, and missionaries to Asia, Africa, South America, etc... As well as adopting children from those regions. Will they do so for the 'hood or for Appalachia? Many that I've talked with react with horror at the very prospect.

    There's a word for that - racism.

    [/rant]
    No, the word for that is practicality. There comes a point where a large enough percentage of a nation has access to doctors, education, and the means of creating wealth, that giving them access to more of those doesn't equate to an increased consumption of them.

    In parts of Africa, Asia and South America, these resources can have a far greater impact than in any part of the USA. Sending 100 more doctors into the Appalachians or inner-city New York won't noticeably reduce sickness in either place. Sending the same doctors to Ethiopia would have a significant impact on the lives of a large number of the people there.

    So the question is, would you rather we put our resources to work for someone else, or have them wasted on ourselves?

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:22PM (#19258195)

    This is especially important because Negroponte actively avoids having the OLPC project being active in places outside of Asia, Africa, and parts of South America.


    In the real world, that's not true. For instance, Romania rejected the OLPC program, not the other way around. I'd be surprised if you could point to one concrete instance of any national ministry of education being turned away by the project.

    Negroponte is hurt because when Bulgaria and Rumania start buying Classmates, along with school systems in the American Appalachia and Rust Belt states - the political agenda underlying the project will be exposed in sharp relief.


    How do those government's buying ClassmatePCs say anything about the "political agenda" underlying the OLPC project?

    It's always bothered me how many folks of a liberal bent (in America) will send money, doctors, and missionaries to Asia, Africa, South America, etc... As well as adopting children from those regions. Will they do so for the 'hood or for Appalachia? Many that I've talked with react with horror at the very prospect.

    There's a word for that - racism.


    Uh, the same races found in the "'hood" are found in Asia, Africa, South America, etc. So even if you weren't inventing false characterizations of the OLPC project to jump off on this generalization, and if there was anything real behind it, "racism" almost certainly isn't the right thing to point the finger at.

  • by dedazo (737510) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:25PM (#19258255) Journal
    That was harsh.

    While I agree that this is probably not the best device for the 1-dollar-a-day regions of the world, perhaps it's a good fit for children of low-income families in semi-industrialized countries, like Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, Taiwan, etc. Even for low-income children in first-world nations like the US.

    The OLPC does not have the be the answer to all problems. Maybe there are different niches that other devices can fill.

    People around here complain about the issues with "monoculture". I'd hate for OLPC to be a monoculture as well. Just the differences between the Classmate running Mandriva and OLPC running Ubuntu represent a good type of diversity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:27PM (#19258273)
    Hate to break it to ya sunshine but *somebody* had to install "two proprietary drivers" on your Windows box too. You didn't have to because THE VENDOR DID IT. Guess what? Those new Ubuntu laptops from Dell? All the hardware in those will work right out of the box - why? Because THE VENDOR DID IT.

      Want some fun? Get a PC, with a blank hard disk, then try installing Windows on it and see how far you get. I have to do this weekly at our facility. Most occasions a Linux distro (usually SLES/RHEL, occasionally Ubuntu/Debian) installs flawlessly. Often it's the storage controller (either SATA/SAS, U320 RAID and occasionally Fibre Channel) that halts the Windows install in its text-based stage before it's even begun copying files to disk!

      Oh, not to mention the number of f**ktard manufacturers out there that make Windows drivers available only in floppy disk images for the machines they make WITH NO FLOPPY DRIVES. Most don't even have an FDD header on the motherboard so take a trip to buy a USB FDD - because Windows can't load drivers at boot time from any other sort of media like CD's or USB keys like Linux can. (This has FINALLY been fixed in Longhorn).

      As for WiFi (and a few other gadgets) there are a multitude of postings all over the net of totally lacking driver support in Vista for some devices. The only thing I had to do to get my laptop's (obsure as hell) WiFi card working was follow the instructions provided on the Ubuntu wiki and the whole process took a little over 5 minutes. (Yes, I still found that "scary" - I'm a hardware geek, software is some form of arcane black magic to me). It's the only device that didn't work out of the box and I have to re-do this every time I upgrade the kernel. The fault lays squarely at the feet of the hardware vendor for not making drivers available and not the community who have done a darn fine job of making their own.

      If you are waiting to switch because you "still see areas where if it were "...just a little better"..." then I suspect you probably never will, because you will always find some little reason not to.

    Sorry if it feels like I'm stomping on your toes. It is /. after all. :D
  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @02:44PM (#19258573) Homepage Journal

    Huh? Isn't the point to get 'puters to the po' folks?
    No, the point is to give them a self-sustainable means to access the information and information sharing abilities that the rest of us enjoy. The computer is just a means to that end. Intel's design isn't self-sustainable, it requires existing infrastructure for electricity, internet, and wireless access points. The OLPC can produce it's own electricity and wireless mesh network.

    Even putting aside the infrastructure issues, third world countries cannot build these themselves for their citizens. OLPC is giving them the blueprints, hardware and software, to make these for themselves. The XO offerings are a prototype and starter offering, the goal is to have each country providing the hardware and software themselves. It's the proverbial "Teach a man to fish", as opposed to Intel's "Give a man a fish".
  • by joseamuniz (790421) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:30PM (#19259325)
    Exactly.

    First of all, I have lived and worked in social projects in Mexico. It is not an exaggeration to say that laptops would definitely be exposed to mud on a daily basis.

    However, I think there is an even more important aspect that highlights the difference in nature between OLPC and Intel's alternative. OLPC understands that in a third world country, it is impossible to rely on teachers and parents to instruct the kids on how to use the computer. It is a tool for kids to explore alone, or while playing with other fellow kids. For that reason, the UI was redesigned and made simple, and the network is automatically set up for instant communication with other OLPC laptops.

    On the other hand, Classmate is designed for classroom environments. With a central computer in the classroom, you can control what the Classmates can see or even whether they can function at all. Parents can set up schedules for the kids to use the computers. In a third world country, teachers barely know how to read (not exaggerating, unfortunately). Further, there is no way a regular classroom (say, in Mexico), will have one computer for the teacher per classroom. Therefore, all of these features from Classroom will be left unused in a third world country situation.

    I am not claiming that the OLPC laptops are 'better'. I might be very biased because of school pride, but it really seems to me that Prof. Negroponte has certainly aimed for poor countries in a way Intel has not. Ironically enough, Mexico has bought several Classmate PCs and no OLPC laptops. No wonder we will never cease to be a third world country.

  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:32PM (#19259353) Homepage Journal
    Since nobody reads linux.com, here's a (trivially improved) copy of my posting there. It covers the main defects I saw in the article and the issues that the laptop HAS to satisfy before it is genuinely practical for its intended users.

    The review seemed selective, but I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. (Having said that, I recently worked for a place that paid the Wall Street Journal to run an "article" for them, so I tend to be more skeptical than I used to be.)

    First, if the laptop is aimed at overseas users, is the technical support going to be capable of handling that?

    Second, also for overseas use, this will be sent to people who have never seen a computer - big or otherwise - and are probably unfamiliar with the notion of GUIs or possibly even typing. In fact, you can't rely on anything we take for granted being known. Some of it probably will, but you can't know which bits for which people. Is the interface culturally-neutral?

    Third, two hours doesn't seem like a lot, when the nearest wall socket in Africa might be several week's walk. Is there an alternative power system? Doesn't matter what - solar cells, power crank, whatever. Without power, it's a lump of plastic-coated spare parts.

    Fourth, how is the internationalization? IIRC, Hebrew and Chinese are written right to left - does the typing tutor know this? Are the desktop icons themable to something meaningful in each culture? Did you look to see that the SIL packages and fonts for internationalization were there?

    Fifth, you mention wireless issues. But this would likely have been in a home with a wireless access point, or near a metro-provided WAP. This would be pretty useless in a school with no WAP, but only laptops. That would also be useless for mobile populations, where connections between groups will be at indeterminate times and places, but will need to be recognized and supported whenever they exist.

    Even in England, you have over a hundred thousand "Travellers" who would benefit from dynamic wireless routing, Mobile IP and NEMO support. Is the wireless support for these sorts of things there?

    Lastly, there's the durability. Three kids in a suburban, air-conditioned home is one thing. Whether you are talking about English Travellers, Mexican street kids or Tibetan Sherpas, the climates are more extreme, the stresses are infinitely worse, and the availability of replacements is next to zero.

    In the real world, you are looking at external temperatures ranging from -40 to +120. Usually not on the same day, but that can happen. You are looking at shocks that could exceed 6G. Water won't be a spilled glass of coca cola, it's more likely to be monsoon season. The case won't be so much scratched by bumping into a wall as it will be stabbed by the occasional 6' mugger's knife.

    When you get into the real-world situations, where "ruggedized" is really pushed to the limits, will this machine really stand up to the punishments it will receive? Or is it merely going to be a way for Intel to pocket some cash, with the customer ending up both financially and intellectually the poorer for it?

    All I ask of reviewers, OLPC, Intel or any other person involved is to convince me. Why me, in particular? Because I'm demanding but stay within the limits of what is practical, and am knowledgeable enough to set the limits to what is practical. So can many others - I'm nothing special - it's that I'm posting a set of measurable benchmarks and criteria, and that could theoretically be useful.

  • Re:OLPC in the US (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @03:43PM (#19259545)
    I would LOVE to get OLPC for my kids instead of a TI84 silver edition ($120) and required study guide books ($$), etc. I would have saved a lot by NOT having to get each of them a desktop (home built mostly, but still MUCH more than the cost of 3 OLPC) -- and I am in Virginia (CSA) -- which to those of you outside the USA is in the depressed South.

    Of course, our taxes are VERY high and the school system is building computer rooms full of shiny new Windows PCs running expensive edu-macation software.

    Are there graphing programs equivalent to those on the TI84 available for the OLPC? Of course, you could not bring the OLPC to the SAT or other standardized tests so I guess one would have to purchase at least one TI84.
  • With the iNTEL's low-price, low-performance model on the market, the black-market value of the XO might actually remain low enough to make it not worth stealing candy from babies.

    I think the answer is just to cut a hand off anyone who steals one. Aww yeah.

    Seriously though, they can be set to brick themselves, they can easily report their location if they are powered (don't even need to be turned on) and so on.

    Also, nobody wants the ClassmatePC. It has two, maybe two and a half hours of battery life. For $200, I can buy an ordinary used laptop that will last that long with probably four times the screen real estate, and a sizable hard disk.

    The ClassmatePC is a pile of shit that no one in their right mind would pay more than maybe seventy-five bucks for. But I'd happily pay $200 for the OLPC, and could probably be talked into spending $300 if I knew it would result in the donation of a system to a needy child.

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