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Microsoft Wants OLPC System to Run Windows XP 553

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-now-they-want-in dept.
Stony Stevenson passed us a link to an IT News story about Microsoft's recent request that the folks behind the XO laptop redesign it to suit their needs. The company now wants to be able to run Windows XP on the highly-publicized and inexpensive portable. "Microsoft general manager ... Utzschneider says a shrunken version of Windows XP could potentially run on 2 Gbytes of flash memory. The XO, however, can only hold 1 Gbyte. As a result, Microsoft wants the XO's designers to add a slot through which more memory can be added via a secure digital (SD) card, Utzschneider said. Microsoft's renewed interest in participating in OLPC might be viewed by skeptics as an admission that a rival offering for developing markets called Classmate — which uses an Intel processor on Microsoft software — has failed to catch on."
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Microsoft Wants OLPC System to Run Windows XP

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  • arrogance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:04PM (#21603173)
    Ahhh, good old arrogance. Is there ever an opportunity for Microsoft to be arrogant that they won't pass up?
  • by Gideon Fubar (833343) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:05PM (#21603185) Journal
    Negroponte might be ok with Microsoft's involvement, but unless they're willing to give it all away for free, OLPC can't actually afford it.

    also, don't you love it when people who go out of their way to ruin a party decide it's ok for them to attend when no one shows up to theirs?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:05PM (#21603193)
    Microsoft will want Windows to run on any hardware they aren't actively trying to kill - it spreads their monopoly. If the OLPC project succeeds, it shifts from being a competitor to kill to a platform to run on.
  • by psychicsword (1036852) * <The.psychicsword@com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:06PM (#21603207)
    They are probable horrified because if all the kids grow up on linux they will prefer linux in the future. I know I use windows more because that is what I learned when I was younger and so it is less work to get adjusted to the next version.
  • What?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:07PM (#21603243) Journal
    One more thing to break, probably (including a 2GB SD card) a $40-$50 increase in cost per machine, for what advantage?

    Given the nature of the machine, I don't see why MS should have any trouble shrinking XP to under 1GB.

    Anyway, what help has MS given to the project and/or what help are they offering to make this request even remotely worth the consideration of the XO project?
  • by WeirdJohn (1170585) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:08PM (#21603255)
    Let's say there was the capacity to add another gig of flash, and XP could run on it. How much educational software would then fit in the machine? How much development tools would fit for the kids to develop apps (I'm thinking specifically of the capabilities Squeak/EToys gives the XO here)? How secure would the grid computing model be?

    I think Microsoft are looking at XO as a low cost laptop instead of as a delivery platform for education and collaboration.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:09PM (#21603281)
    From the article: "Microsoft's call for changes to the system that would add features but increase its price could provoke a backlash from OLPC purists who maintain that the XO must be produced at the lowest cost possible."

    Then I guess I'm a "purist" on this one. An internal SD slot would be nice, but then so would a Core 2 Duo... you have to draw the line and when you're shooting for $100 you have to draw it very soon. I don't think the OLPC will succeed by conforming to Wintel; by definition, if Microsoft really understood this niche, it wouldn't exist for OLPC to fill!

  • Amazing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davidsyes (765062) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:11PM (#21603307) Homepage Journal
    Such a project was no priority until Negroponte and others made OLPC come to the fore.

    Too bad that back around '96 we only heard fudware/vaporware from the likes of and from ms when others kept demanding smaller windows footprint in disk space, RAM, and other resources. When competition fell and died, ms never really followed through.

    Now, with virtualization (WINE, Win4Lin, VMWare, Virtual Box, Bochs, et al), numerous terminal setups, kiosk modes, a besieging amount of Open Source software, populous countries with attractive budgets, and other factors make ms just go into me-too, and copy-cat mode, innovation being just a buzzword to check off on marketing brochures and bandy in conventions.

    Now, if only Open Source developers would somehow garner the attention of human interface design and make thinks vastly more polished and less rickety/designed-for-the-nerdgineer, and if people like myself (non-developers) could make use of Eclipse, Glade, Trolltech's software, and things like that, we could spark a whole new renaissance of non-ms stuff that could level the playing field.

    How dare ms try to push manufacturers to add more than Linux requires to get OLPC out there. This is just to dick up the manufacturing process to delay boxes otherwise slated for OLPC assembly and deployment, at least as I see it...
  • Luckily (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:12PM (#21603325)
    Luckily Mr. Negroponte is an intelligent man who is not interested in profits, but in doing the right thing, and can happily tell them to fuck the hell off.
    That's what I'd do anyway.

    Who in the right mind would try to educate young kids about computers while using Windows?
    Yes, a lot of us new geeks started on Windows, but as soon as we got to "know Unix" we jumped that crappy ship and never looked back.

    GNU/Linux and FOSS are the way of the future. It's like p2p networks and RIAA. You can't magically stop the spread of open knowledge.

    Negroponte will give them a stable and innovative learning platform that will benefit both their computing skills and more importantly their general education and knowledge.

    Just the other day I thought about making a bumper sticker or a shirt that says "Microsoft is the reason you suck at computers."
    (I've just trademarked that.) (Or is it copyrighted? WTH, I'll do both.)

  • by Josh Triplett (874994) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:13PM (#21603363) Homepage

    Negroponte might be ok with Microsoft's involvement, but unless they're willing to give it all away for free, OLPC can't actually afford it.


    For a system potentially going out to millions of new computer users, and shaping the way those users view all future technology, yes, they probably would give it out for free if necessary. The first hit comes for free. :)
  • by Gideon Fubar (833343) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:14PM (#21603381) Journal
    I think they're looking at it as a long term threat in a market they're not willing to develop themselves.. Call me idealistic, but in that sense they might actually be right..
  • by Techguy666 (759128) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:18PM (#21603465)
    From the OLPC website http://www.laptopgiving.org/en/explore.php [laptopgiving.org]:

    OLPC's commitment to software freedom gives children the opportunity to use their laptops on their own terms. The children--and their teachers--have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, hardware, and content. There's even a button located on the keyboard that allows children to view the programming behind certain applications.


    So, Microsoft wants the XO to run their operating system? Are they willing to release the source code to Windows XP *and* let kids rewrite it??

    This isn't merely Microsoft wanting to change one little hardware spec. The ramifications are that the laptops will probably require more power to run that extra SD slot; the laptop will cost more for the redesign, re-molding, extra parts; the whole philosophy of the software will change and the kid's desire to explore and tinker stifled. I don't think Microsoft cares beyond a "developing countries == potential market" attitude...

    p.s. If you want to buy an XO, that's also the link: http://www.laptopgiving.org/ [laptopgiving.org]
  • by twistedsymphony (956982) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:19PM (#21603475) Homepage
    Forget giving it away... why change the specs to suit MS? If they really want their OS on the platform they would be well served to streamline it enough to fit and run properly. Heck the Xbox consoles at their core run a highly customized version of WinNT and they only take up a few MB why do they need 2GB for the OLPC?
  • by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk&gmail,com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:20PM (#21603495)
    I agree... if MS is willing to subsidize the extra cost associated with the upgraded design and will give the "shrunken" Windows XP to the project for free as an optional choice for those who wish to use it instead of the custom OS, then there's no reason to refuse. However, if it would add 1 cent to the project, or adds any type of restriction at all, I think the response to the request should be an emphatic "No."
  • Re:What?? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:29PM (#21603669)
    Yeah, an additional $45-$50 for the hardware and then an additional $50 for the OS.... and oh yeah another $50+ for office. That triples the cost. Why? So that MS doesn't lose marketshare? Why doesn't MS use some of their billions to sponsor their own project, make it compatible with the same apps and protocols and then let it compete with the OLPC project and see which one wins in the market? OLPC scares the crap out of Balmer because he knows this is the beginning of the end for their business model and revenue stream.

    Think of the millions of kids whose first computing experience WON'T be Windows. Kids that will, after a few years view the Windows interface as inconceivibly "alien" to them. All of them in growing markets.
  • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:30PM (#21603677) Homepage Journal

    Let's say there was the capacity to add another gig of flash, and XP could run on it. How much educational software would then fit in the machine? How much development tools would fit for the kids to develop apps (I'm thinking specifically of the capabilities Squeak/EToys gives the XO here)? How secure would the grid computing model be?

    Good points, all. Let's just summarise by asking one simple question: Why?

    The XO has everything it needs already. I've done a month-long evaluation of one of the late prototypes and I can assure you that there is no similar combination of software available for Windows. And even if such a beast existed, there is no way it could be made to run as well on 128 MB RAM and a 400 MHz processor. And even if it could, it wouldn't be as nicely integrated into the overall environment. And even if it were perfectly integrated, there's no way it would come as cheap. And even if it did come as cheap, there's no way people could get the source and alter it to their individual needs.

    ... But let's just summarise by asking that one simple question: Why?

  • by john_heidemann (104993) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:35PM (#21603783) Homepage
    The article says Windows wants 2GiB of flash memory.

    If they need secondary storage, doesn't the laptop already have both an SD slot and a USB slot? (See the OLPC specs [laptop.org]!) And if the SD slot is non functional, can't XP boot off of a USB flash disk?

    So what's the problem?

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:37PM (#21603811)
    Windows is actively damaging to a child's education. It's like teaching children creationism instead of evolution. Windows encourages a poor mental model of computation, right from its inappropriate file system metaphors up to its "piracy is bad" and DRM crap, and lack of exposed internals (the OLPC with it's Python UI allows hackery of the interface by the smarter kids). C

    Copyright law is a great evil in society, and it's important that children are taught to question it. Windows won't do that.
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:40PM (#21603863) Homepage Journal

    They are probable horrified because if all the kids grow up on linux they will prefer linux in the future. I know I use windows more because that is what I learned when I was younger and so it is less work to get adjusted to the next version.
    I used MS-DOS when I was younger. By your logic, I should be using FreeDOS.
  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony (765) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:42PM (#21603895) Journal
    Of course they did. Since it comes with the operating system, you pay for it when you purchase the OS.

    If they gave IE away for free, I could legally download it and install it under Wine. But I can't legally do that. You have to have a copy of MS-Windows, which means you're really just getting an upgraded component (web browser) of the OS.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:04PM (#21604293) Homepage
    I think the hackability of the OLPC will be precisely what makes it interesting to use. Ultimately, in all other ways, it should be used to replace books. There's a great deal of value in putting pen to paper in that for many, it also puts pen to mind in a more indelible fashion. But the hackability aspect will give greater ability for young minds to learn and create processes as well as learning to create and engineer a bit with objects. These principles go well beyond the realm of working with computers and into structuring thought and logical analysis of just about anything in life that comes their way.

    Teaching people how to think is one of the biggest holes in current educational systems I have experienced. And learning to hack on a toy computer can offer up a lot of educational experience in that regard.
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@@@beau...org> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:11PM (#21604389)
    > if MS is willing to subsidize the extra cost associated with the upgraded design and will
    > give the "shrunken" Windows XP to the project for free as an optional choice for those who wish to use it

    Nope, wrong attitude. OLPC isn't just giving out hardware, they are trying to provide an end to end solution. Just getting XP to boot does nothing. If Microsoft wants to order large lots with additional flash they should be offered the opportunity.... provided THEY intend to provide an operating system, applications, the Microsoft based server infrastructure to support the mesh networking (from Windows clients) back end data store, Internet connectivity, securing the laptops from malware and theft, etc. I.e. the total solution OLPC is offering.

    But since OLPC has already expended countless hours of both paid and contributed labor designing the current system and since just an offer of XP (even if offered for $0) adds zero functionality and would require a total redesign of both the hardware, software and infrastructure it would be pointless for OLPC to consider switching at this late stage.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tarlus (1000874) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:20PM (#21604527)
    ...wow, that is so far off.

    When/How did politics get involved with any of this? What, at all, does OLPC do that is immoral? How does "hypocracy" at all come into play with OLPC's mission statement? Where the hell do you get the idea that there are FOSS advocates who simply use the OLPC as a way to spite Microsoft?

    What OLPC is about is bringing computers to parts of the world with low income. So what does that mean? The computers have to have as much of an inexpensive design as possible while still being functional. Therefore, it is necessary to choose an operating system that 1) is least demanding of powerful hardware, and 2) is cost-efficient. A GNU/Linux distro immediately solves number 2. Zero cost. As for number 1, an open-source operating system allows you to truly fine-tune it to only include what is really needed, thus allowing you to remove unnecessary things that would eat up memory and disk space. Windows won't let you do that.

    OLPC could really care less about trying to shoot Microsoft out of the water. If people choose to pay for Windows and Office, more power to 'em.

    But if they have a truly low budget and want a functional computer for the least amount of money, then OLPC would be the best way to bring computing to their children and schools.

    No "FOSSies" "using" children. No "rabid" extremism. No hypocrisy in any of that.
  • by marvelouspatric (1112793) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:36PM (#21604813) Homepage Journal
    then again, if microsoft really wanted another half million, i'm sure they could just have bill gates go through his couch cushions. that would probably be a lot less hassle.
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:46PM (#21604951) Journal
    Why? Because it's easier to ask the OLPC people to add 2 GB of flash than do some development work themselves, that's why.
  • Re:Yes (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:56PM (#21605075)
    But explains why it doesn't exist anymore ;-)
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:01PM (#21605137)
    I don't understand OLPC - at all.

    I really don't get it.

    Sure, it's great to give a kid a computer. Isn't it better to give the kid some medicine, drinking water, or food?

    You guys may find it hard to believe, but there are places that are three days away from ELECTRICITY. A kid spending his day farming isn't going to say, "man, I could really go for a /. break right now." Nightlights are a foreign concept to these kids. Never mind paycheque to paycheque - some folks live day-to-day, eating whatever they can find.

    So why are we giving away laptops? Is it because we think that we can genuinely help them by providing a computer to a remote village? Do we have nothing else we can give? They don't want code. They want food.

    Or am I missing something here?
  • Wrong analysis. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:06PM (#21605203) Journal
    This has nothing to do with XP on OLPC, or a measly half a million dollars. What it has to do is with country after country after country choosing non-Microsoft products. When these children and their parents see how well open source software works, they will consider alternative products for their businesses and governments, rather than Microsoft's offerings. This could add up to $billions of lost sales for our friends in Redmond.
  • Re:nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gonoff (88518) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:24PM (#21605467)

    something more important

    There are very few things more important than decent communication skills!

  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:32PM (#21605565)

    I think Microsoft is more concerned about OLPC machines being able to run Windows XP versus actually giving XP away. I don't doubt that they may give away demos of XP or something similar, but more than likely Microsoft sees a huge market sector they are guaranteed (at this point) to miss out on.

    Almost, but not quite.... What M$ fears is all these children (and adults) learning to run a computer that uses Linux-based software. People are creatures of habit. Once they do that, it's unlikely they'll want to use Windows--and they certainly won't want to forced to pay for an OS.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jorgevillalobos (1044924) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:34PM (#21605593) Homepage

    I partly agree, but it's kind of an over-simplification. There are of course intermediate levels of poverty where children have access to the very basic resources as well as education, but their families or schools can't afford your average computers. OLPC is aiming to that crowd, I think, which is likely to be quite large and will largely benefit from it.

    There are already thousands of these being ordered worldwide, so the idea can't be that bad.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mustpax (983305) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:46PM (#21605763)

    You might be surprised to find that in shanty towns in Johannesburg people have TVs even though they don't electricity. How you ask? They use car batteries. [thenakedscientists.com]

    You underestimate how important consumer electronics and information access are to people. People don't just go without water because their homes are not connected to the water supply. They grab it from the nearest well. Same is true for electricity.

    Famine relief is important, but different types of aid are not mutually exclusive. And one might even argue that the OLPC project is more beneficial in the long term. You know, the whole teach a man to fish cliche. People make this sort of argument about any kind of cause: why do we care about human rights in China when people are dying of AIDS in Africa. People help in ways they are in a position to help. Folks at the MIT Media Lab are best at making gadgets, god bless 'em for putting their skills to good use. I'd rather them work on OLPC than mail flour to Sudan in bulk. Other organizations have the expertise and the resources to provide that kind of relief.

  • Re:Wrong analysis. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gideon Fubar (833343) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:59PM (#21605945) Journal
    Thing is, Redmond would never have this potential revenue stream in the first place without OLPC, because they're simply not willing to develop it themselves. They simply cannot make enough money per customer in developing countries to justify the amount they would spend on providing tech support, patches, etc..

    As far as they're concerned, it's just too much effort.. and they'd have to wait for the economies of those countries to build up enough to actually collect that revenue, and then they'd loose their cheap outsourced coders and tech support in the process.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:10PM (#21606063)

    I don't understand OLPC - at all. [...] Sure, it's great to give a kid a computer. Isn't it better to give the kid some medicine, drinking water, or food?

    It is a very subtle and idealistic concept. The entire idea behind it is that the real problem of the third world isn't about medicine, drinking water, or food -- the OLPC is really targeted at kids that have their survival needs taken care of. It's based on the assumption that the real problem is a lack of education and access to information. That if you could give children these two, they would be able to obtain better medicine, drinking water and food.

    You guys may find it hard to believe, but there are places that are three days away from ELECTRICITY.

    That's why it can be wound up.

    A kid spending his day farming isn't going to say, "man, I could really go for a /. break right now."

    Really? I suppose he wouldn't be too interested in the Natalie Portman jokes or iPhone banter, but neither most poor people nor most slashdotters are so insular and parochial. The OLPC and the Internet facilitate people talking to people, and is thus an absolute good.

    This attitude that all slashdotters are ignorant of poverty, and that all the poor people on Earth have no interest in technology or the availability of information is deeply snobbish, imho. I don't know if this was exactly your point, but I just wanna be on the record as against it ;).

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:20PM (#21606187)
    Apple knew that if it got people using the Mac at an early age they'd use it later.

    What planet are you on???

    Over here in Europe, I've worked in IT/Telecoms support for 20+ years now, have a whole heap of friends in the computer industry and I have seen or heard of someone owning a Mac a total of ***THREE*** times:

    1. A close buddy of mine has been given a Mac by his IT department because it came into their hands somehow and they didn't know what to do with it. He doesn't have much idea what to do with it either.

    2. An American tutor on a training course I was on some two years ago had a Macbook.

    3. A posing student-type was sat with one in the corner of Starbucks in my home town the other week - and he was making damned sure everyone saw his little silver Apple logo.

    Sorry, but by that track record I know of ***MORE*** people using Commodore Amigas and AmigaOS than I do owning a Mac!!!

  • by Agarax (864558) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:23PM (#21606217)
    ... teaching kids how to use the dominant operating system on the planet may not be a bad thing.

    Yes Linux is gaining ground and is now on par with Windows or better, but in this case the diversity could be a good thing.

    No matter how the OS war goes, MS Windows will be a significant OS for a very long time.

    Teaching kids the ins and outs of it could benefit them.

    If the country buying the laptops wants to teach their youth Windows, let them. If they want to teach them Linux, the same should apply.

    *BUT*

    OLPC should set down the ground rules for MS:

    - The version of windows should be provided to OLPC for free.
    - The additional cost needed to upgrade the hardware to support WinXP should be covered by MS.
    - The upgraded hardware should be compatable with the Linux based OS that OLPC is using (incase the customer state wants to switch OSs)
    - If MS decides that the contribution is not in their interests in the future, they must continue to support those countries that bought the XP version.

    MS would jump on these conditions because it creates a future market for them, and only benefits OLPC because there are more options for their clients.

    Just my 2 cents

    MODS, remember that there is not a -1 Disagree for a reason.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther (647209) <pluther@u[ ]net ['sa.' in gap]> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:51PM (#21606487) Homepage
    I help run a group called Geeks Without Borders [gwob.org] that has a similar mission, providing computers and related technology to developing areas.

    We get this question a lot. It's a good question.

    Isn't it better to give the kid some medicine, drinking water, or food?

    Yes. If a child doesn't have access to medicine, clean drinking water, or food, those are all more important.

    But, even more common than communities that don't have access to those, are communities that do, but still don't have access to education, or communications.

    A kid spending his day farming isn't going to say, "man, I could really go for a /. break right now."

    No, but he might say, "I wonder if I can sell some of my excess crops within a reasonable distance", or "Can I get some other kinds of seeds that can grow here" or "Is my brother who I haven't heard from since he fled the village after the last war out there somewhere?"

    And the teacher in his school might say "I wish I had an encyclopedia in my language I could show these kids to aid in their lessons."

    And his doctor might say "I'm so glad I have a way to consult with my colleagues to help diagnose this kid's disease so he has a good chance of recovery."

    So why are we giving away laptops? Is it because we think that we can genuinely help them by providing a computer to a remote village?

    Yes. Yes we can. In addition to the above, how about the AIDS educator who can put together a better presentation to try to convince the local city council to help out?

    Or the orphan who is able to learn some bookkeeping and is thus able to get a job in a local shop? Or the girl who's able to learn enough science to earn a scholarship to a nearby university?

    All of these, of course, are examples from real projects where people have used computers donated by GWoB or other organizations.

    They don't want code. They want food.

    Depends who you mean by "They". There are people who are, literally, starving. Long before they can make use of any donated computers, they need food, then help with infrastructure for growing food and getting a steady supply of clean drinking water. Though in most cases, that's more of a political problem. Extra resources won't help if the local warlord intercepts them because he wants to exterminate you.

    But that is, overall, only a tiny portion of the entirety of what's needed out there. OLPC, GWoB, and many other groups are addressing some of the rest of it.

    And, just as an extra note about the local tyrant, it is of note that the indigenous people of Chiapas were able to bring pressure to bear on their government because they were able to get the word out quickly thanks in large part to their access to computers, and the internet. Without the internet, there would probably be no Maya left in the area.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:51PM (#21606505) Homepage
    There's a difference between saying "I think copyright is being used unreasonably" and "Copyright law is a great evil in society".

    It's also fairly ridiculous to claim that copyright needs to just up and disappear. Aside from its long-held presence in the common law, it's also good logical sense and enshrined in legal codes around the globe.

    See, one of the lovely things about copyright law is that the author of the work gets to decide what to do with it. If they feel like their work should be distributed to whomever, whenever, however, they can certainly decide that.

    There are other people who do not want that. By obliterating copyright, you remove their rights.

    Nobody is forced against their will to charge money for people to view or redistribute their work. The site you quote does not appear to even consider these issues in the most cursory manner.

    There is an argument to be made that copyright is too long. On the other hand, there's the opposite argument that copyright should be eternal and instead the definition for derivative works should be loosened slightly.

    As a writer myself, I favor copyright. If at any time I wish to allow my works to be distributed freely in their entirety, I can do that. If I wish it to happen on my death, I can write that into my will. But why should you decide what I may or may not do with my writings?

    In fact, most current copyright laws contain exceptions to make reasonable derivative copies, and further, basic themes aren't subject to copyright anyway.

    However, I cannot in any respect see how copyright law is evil. It may be unenforceable; it may be unreasonable, even. Neither of those equates with evil.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:53PM (#21606523) Journal
    I'm all for Microsoft products and you only have to look at my posting history to see where I stand on most matters Microsoft. However, I think that giving kids a non-MS alternative is the way to go. I am so pro-Microsoft because I have been using Microsoft products since DOS 3.3 and I understand how they function at the core. I learned some x86 Assembler. I cracked some copy protection and messed around with INT13 and various other system calls to make the computer do funny things. I remember when DOS 5.0 came out it came with a "huge" 300+ page manual that detailed all of the components of the OS and how the worked. The Microsoft of today doesn't offer that level of documentation and the ability to really tinker with the computer to make it work. The Microsoft of today obfuscates things and goes about doing things in a very non-standard way. I don't really support Microsoft because I think they do things the "right" way. I support them because I can make the Microsoft stuff do what I need it to do and that is good enough for me. But for my children, for the children of the world... I'm all for them learning Linux. Linux is to computers today what DOS was to computers in the late 1980s when I was getting into them.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @08:12PM (#21606717) Homepage
    ### But why should you decide what I may or may not do with my writings?

    Because laws are there for the good of society, not just to please the individual.

    ### However, I cannot in any respect see how copyright law is evil.

    The idea behind copyright is a good one, since it encourages creation of new content, the current implementation however is god awful one and completly unusable in the day and age of the Internet. The only reason why society hasn't collapsed yet is because the copyright laws are hard to enforce. If you would enforce them you would end up with huge parts of society, especially the younger one, having big trouble with the law.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @08:25PM (#21606843)
    I think the grammatically obnoxious construct "Um... [noun] much?" was what the OP was likely complaining about, not the meaning of "zealot".
    Consider: "Um... Fireplace much?".

    Even so, it's hardly zealotry to call for the end of copyright monopolies, highly respected economists and many artists having been doing so on a reasoned basis for ages now. A highly whiny minority still support copyright monopoly law though.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WestCoastJTF (1192081) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @08:38PM (#21606993) Homepage
    Ultimately, in all other ways, it should be used to replace books.

    This is precisely why the OLPC project is so laughably absurd. Take a $200 device that is fragile (it's ruggedized but still electronics), is an environmental hazard to dispose of, and has a lifespan measured in years...and use it to replace books, which are far more rugged, cheaper to produce, and have a lifespan measured in centuries. There are good reasons to spread information technology, but "should be used to replace books" is not one of them.

    OLPC is a rich man's idea of what poor men need. It's like donating an expresso machine to a homeless shelter.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @08:50PM (#21607131)
    Exactly, and they need "computer skills" not just "Microsoft Skills" I can't tell you how many upper-level tech people I have ran into that have no clue how any OS other then Windows and DOS work, and even then they really only know which programs to install and how to fix common problems, anything beyond the GUI is unknown to them. Most of them hardly know a thing about Linux and OS-X and even when they do it is only from what they have heard from the media or someone else, very few of them are true hackers. Now there are some that I have met that have skill, they can think beyond the "Microsoft Skills" into "computer skills" they know how an OS works and can recommend an OS rather then just "Well XP is fast and Vista is slow but looks nicer" and they can also program enough to know how a computer works at the lower levels. The moment we start teaching "Microsoft Skills" == "Computer Skills" they are forever doomed to a life of slavery to MS and *insert other evil empire that comes after MS falls* and they know nothing else other then MS, and they start thinking that an operating system == Windows, and Word Processing == MS Word and then Internet == Internet Explorer, these are the pitfalls that most Americans have fallen into and why most Americans don't know a thing about computers only about Microsoft and even then, you put them on Office 2007 or Vista, they are immediately puzzled even though the core of the OS/Program is the same in order to make it look "new" MS changed the GUI so radically and they are alienated by it. If the third world knows how to program and use a computer and understand source code, they have hope, otherwise they will be with America forever following the industry leader mindless of any other choice.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @08:51PM (#21607135)
    Remember the old FSF party line: "Without copyright the GPL would be unenforceable. It would also be unnecessary".

    Kids today. Sheesh. Think about it: if copyright doesn't exist, freely copyable binary-only software is competing with freely-copyable source-provided software. My money would be on source-provided software doing better - it has a killer extra feature! the source!. Programmers would be paid to code up new features (less boring wheel reinventing code, too!), computer users would still want and buy newer, faster computers. The people who would lose would be boxed software distributors. Like, er, Microsoft.
  • no books for you! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:13PM (#21607315)
    ..sorry, but we at the "better than you" society have determined that you should not have any books. Nor shall you have writing materials, or space and tools to draw, or the ability to communicate with your neighbor electronically, or to look at code, at the latest weather and market reports, you must sit in a dark hut after the sun goes down, forever and ever.. This is because we have detected you subsist on cheetos, don't get enough fresh air, and wear slave labor produced footwear. So, we are removing your services because you don't need them, and until you have corrected these flaws first, you will remain restricted from those prohibited items, because you have higher priorities that WE decide are more important for you.



    In other words, yes, you have missed the big picture. For just a smidgen of a start, think of it as a way for those kids to have a very good selection of cheap school books and other sorts of books, instead of being a "laptop" like you might use one (pron and games), and maybe you'll start to "get it". What's the cost of publishing, printing, binding and shipping dead tree books in, compared to electronically transmitting and storing ebooks? ebooks cost pennies at cost, dead tree books cost dollars. Right there it's a helluva deal. There is no possible way to get books cheaper to kids, you know, that "education" thing?

    This just isn't rocket surgery to "get" this, and it isn't the only sort of help these folks might receive. Should we fault the other aid agencies and NGOs for providing what they provide, because it isn't something else? "sorry food and seed guys, you aren't providing water wells, you fail it". "Sorry water well guys, you aren't providing medical care, you fail it" "Sorry medical care guys, you aren't providing dead tree books and shoes, you fail it"

    Do you "get it" yet., or do I have to make it even simpler than that?

    This constant complaining about a big ebook plus reader because it isn't this "other" thing is just too sucky and hypocritical...and just plain stupid.. for words coming from privileged first world citizens who already enjoy "all of the above". Here's a clue, read the titles to articles and don't click on the ones you "don't approve of" and go back to your important video gaming and MP3 collecting, you know, that stuff you do that goes to help them poor "darky" folks out.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ryanov (193048) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:52PM (#21607655)
    Schoolbooks do NOT have a lifespan measured in centuries. USSR or Yugoslavia, anyone?
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by curveclimber (17352) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:54PM (#21607669)
    While more fragile than a book, yes, what is the value of all the books in the world?

    Text is the easiest thing for a device like this to store, access, and display. By having one a child could have every text ever digitized available to them. To me that sounds more valuable than $200.

    Also, while rugged, physical books are not perfect in a developing, rural environment. How much space would $200 worth of books take to store? How do you keep them from getting wet and dirty?
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:07PM (#21608185) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't even necessarily call the OLPC more fragile than books. It's just differently fragile/tough. More vulnerable to some things, less to others.

    How do you keep them from getting wet and dirty?

    Very good point. In a humid environment, I could see books rotting before the OLPC would fail.

    Figure a textbook on the cheap is 5 bucks. This is 1/10 to 1/20th of what many class textbooks in the USA cost. It'd also be very close to physical cost, after all, we're talking about large books here, frequently color.

    Then the break even point is 40 books(assuming the books, in electronic format at least, are free). It would have been 20 if they'd managed to meet their original cost goal. Stick some extras in there like an encyclopedia. There's many options.

    For a 'normal' course load, I'd figure on 5 books a semester. Stuff like Math, Reading, Writing, History, Geography. While you could consider Reading/Writing one subject, you can also tack on a foreign language, speech, science, etc...

    So it'd take 8 semesters or 4 years to pay itself off - if all it did was replace textbooks. Which it doesn't - it can also be used for test taking, quizzes, notes, additional reference materials, helping the parents apply for an online loan, etc... I'm sure somebody will produce educational games for it eventually - sure, it might have minimal specs for today, but it's still an order of magnitude more powerful than the machine I played Oregon trail on back when I was in school.

    Perhaps the most important thing it could do is help the next generation become comfortable with technology, and resist superstition. We are talking about some very poor areas here.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysticgoat (582871) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:21PM (#21608287) Homepage Journal

    The OLPC with its native mesh networking and internet connectivity will put libraries in the hands of many students for less than it would cost to buy, ship, and store the hardcopy books they would otherwise need for a good K-12 education. Looked at only as a method of distributing traditional written materials, the OLPC is a fantastically good idea.

    Additionally, OLPC provides any high school student with access to the expanding world of OpenCourseWare (OCW). The complete curricular materials for about 1,800 MIT undergraduate courses are now available as OCW. Carnegie-Mellon, John Hopkins, and an increasing number of other post high school facilities are adding to the OCW libraries, as well.

    The OLPC is not only ruggedized, it has been designed so that field maintenance can be done by persons with no special training or tools. Some will break, obviously. They can be cannabilized to keep others functioning.

    The world is changing. Try to keep up.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cecil_turtle (820519) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:35PM (#21608371)
    There are already programs that try to supply third world countries with food, medicine, drinking water, infrastructure, etc. Nothing is stopping anybody from continuing to support those efforts. OLPC is taking a new, unexplored direction. It may work out it may not, we have yet to see. I for one see a lot of potential with the project and have high hopes in it working out. The existing strategy for helping poor countries has been unchanged for a long time and the overall problem doesn't seem to be getting better from a global standpoint, so a new approach to the problem should be welcome.

    I don't see any logic in taking an extremest point of view of identifying the worst problems and suggesting that doing anything other than dealing with those problems head-on is a waste of time. It's not how mankind has advanced to where we are now. Progress can be made along multiple paths at the same time, and OLPC isn't slowing down any of the other existing support systems.
  • No matter how the OS war goes, MS Windows will be a significant OS for a very long time.

    Why?

    When you answer that question, you'll begin to see just how disruptive a technology the OLPC is, and why it scares the shit out of Microsoft.

    Teaching kids the ins and outs of it could benefit them.

    Except you can't, not to the extent you can with the OLPC.

    Specifically: There's a hotkey to get the source of any running program. If you screw it up, you can restore the original. Can you imagine a better platform to learn to program on?

    "But", you cry, "They won't get to learn MS Visual Buzzword! They won't learn the wonders of Word and Excel!" This is true, and were they in, say, a US high school, only a few years away from joining the US Corporate Workforce, you might be right -- although there are still plenty of places they could go.

    But consider: Word is for printing, and where will they get a printer? Excel is most often used for managing money, and what do they have to manage? And by the time they have that much, chances are, one of their friends will have written a spreadsheet -- a small, light spreadsheet that'll run like greased lightning on any OLPC. Or they'll be connected to the Internet, and to better, Web-based tools.

    The people and businesses they will be dealing with will be local, and they will be whatever wins the give-computers-to-3rd-world-kids war. If that's OLPC, it'll be Linux, with the OLPC software (which kicks ass).

    The version of windows should be provided to OLPC for free.

    That's a given. In fact, MS already has us beat there -- they are giving away Classmate PCs wholesale. (Someone still has to pay for the OLPC.)

    The additional cost needed to upgrade the hardware to support WinXP should be covered by MS.

    I assume the reason they are asking is because they don't want to do it themselves.

    If MS decides that the contribution is not in their interests in the future, they must continue to support those countries that bought the XP version.

    Ok, here's a question: Who buys the copy of Windows when the kids grow up and get their first real computer? The first hit's free...

    MS would jump on these conditions because it creates a future market for them, and only benefits OLPC because there are more options for their clients.

    More like, they'd demand more in the hope that OLPC will take any cash it can get...

    And this hurts OLPC more than just about anything, short of not giving away the computers at all. If some of them run Windows, and some run Linux, will they talk to each other? Will a kid be able to, for instance, share a document with his friend as easily and transparently? Or just see his friend's computer by where it is? Will the Mesh network work?

    Does OLPC really need even more fucking roadblocks as they try to solve these issues -- that wouldn't be an issue if Microsoft would do the right thing?

    Specifically: The OLPC is not in any way going to look like any "real" computer, and if it does, it won't be able to do its job nearly as well as what's done now. Microsoft attempting to butt in at the last second is not motivated by generosity -- I really seriously doubt there's anything Windows would teach them that this Linux wouldn't that is of any real use to them. No, this is motivated by greed and fear -- the fear that these kids will grow up without Microsoft, or any proprietary software, and Windows will suddenly no longer be a majority; and greed, knowing that if these kids grow up on Windows, it's more money for them in the long run.

    Because if Microsoft really just wanted to help, Bill Gates would pull some money out of his Foundation -- or out of his ass -- and just give it to the OLPC project. If they wanted to influence the direction of it, rather than trying to butt in at the last second, they'd have contributed money and development over the years leading up to this.

    Mods, there is actually a -1 Disagree. It's called "Overrated".

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wirelessbuzzers (552513) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:45PM (#21608437)
    Disclaimer: I think that a limited form of copyright is a good idea, but that the current copyright goes way too far. I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.

    See, one of the lovely things about copyright law is that the author of the work gets to decide what to do with it. If they feel like their work should be distributed to whomever, whenever, however, they can certainly decide that. There are other people who do not want that. By obliterating copyright, you remove their rights.
    Copyright isn't a God-given right, and there's nothing inherently wrong with removing it. It's not guaranteed in the US constitution, so the US could remove it too (but this would require withdrawing from treaties).

    Furthermore, you can still limit redistribution of your work. When you distribute it, require that the recipients sign an appropriate contract.

    Nobody is forced against their will to charge money for people to view or redistribute their work.
    No, but they are forced to copyright their work (it's automatic). This means that unless the author explicitly says otherwise, nobody can redistribute their work at all (except when this would constitute fair use) until 70 years after their death. Since many publications are anonymous or pseudonymous, obtaining a redistribution license is often unduly difficult. In cases like this, copyright inhibits cultural development, and doesn't give anyone anything in return.

    In addition, trivial and incidental use of a work is still infringement, and often isn't covered by fair use (because it's not transformative/criticism/parody/research/teaching). This turns audio and video projects into a copyright minefield. Your documentary catches a single frame of The Simpsons on some random TV in the background? Copyright violation. $15,000 per copy you made, or maybe (if we're feeling nice) we'll just enjoin you from distributing your documentary. Your song's melody sounds vaguely like some other song? Violation. Heck, if you tell to a co-worker a joke that some guy cracked on the subway, that's also a violation. Even if you attribute it.

    There is an argument to be made that copyright is too long. On the other hand, there's the opposite argument that copyright should be eternal and instead the definition for derivative works should be loosened slightly.
    Those arguments, at least the ones I've heard, are garbage. They revolve around the idea that "intellectual property" is the same as physical property, in that copying it is the same as stealing. In this case, it shouldn't expire: physical property rights sure don't. But then they assert that intellectual property is different from physical property, in that you can sell it to me and I still won't own it. (Or rather that when you say you're "selling" it, you mean something which is totally different from the sale of physical property.)

    Or perhaps you had a different argument in mind. In which case, please elaborate.

    [W]hy should you decide what I may or may not do with my writings?
    Why should you be able to restrict the freedom of those who purchase your writings, and who have not signed any sort of contract with you?

    However, I cannot in any respect see how copyright law is evil. It may be unenforceable; it may be unreasonable, even. Neither of those equates with evil.
    There's a $15,000 maximum fine for humming a tune as you walk down the street. Do this repeatedly, and you could be thrown in jail. I can see how that would qualify as evil, even though it's never enforced.
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Friday December 07, 2007 @12:22AM (#21608717) Journal
    Dear Microsoft;

    Over the years, we've disagreed on many things, not the least of which is whether you should morally be able to enter a field late and badly, and still take over.

    Now I hear that you want to do the same with the OLPC project, and Microsoft, I have a suggestion for you.

    Fuck off.

    Seriously. I'm sick of you, I'm sick of your attitude, I'm sick of your superiority complex. If the universe suddenly switched directions and you actually provided the best solution in a timely manner, I STILL wouldn't choose it.

    So really, Microsoft. Fuck off. Nobody wants you hanging around anymore.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:07AM (#21608989) Homepage

    Exactly, and they need "computer skills" not just "Microsoft Skills"
    I'd argue that to focus too much on it being a computer, is missing the point. OLPC is a general purpose education tool. We don't teach "brush skills", we teach art. We don't teach "pen skills", we teach writing.

    OLPC is a device for communication and creativity.

    With its word processor, you can learn to write.
    With its drawing package and its camera, you can learn to create art.
    With its eBook reader you can learn from literature and textbooks.
    With its email and chat programs, you can share your work, ask questions of remote peers or teachers.

    OLPC can help people learn geography, maths, science, history, wind generator maintenance, sustainable agriculture, etc. Any "computer skills" picked up along the way are purely a side benefit.

    This is one reason non-FOSS software has no place in it. It would turn a communications and creativity exercise into just another way of building a market.
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fissure_FS2 (220895) on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:28AM (#21609131)
    Books cheaper? Apparently you've never had to buy books for college courses...
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alsee (515537) on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:04AM (#21609371) Homepage
    good logical sense

    Copyright law originated for the sole purpose of government management and censorship of that pesky newfangled printing press invention. If not for that quirk of history origin and inheriting the descendant of that system, it is FAR from obvious that copyright inherently makes any "good logical sense" at all.

    If I'm sitting alone in my cave and I have a chunk of wood, it makes obvious good logical sense that I have every right and freedom to stick my finger into some black ash and finger-scribble whatever scribbles I want on my chunk of wood.

    It is far from obvious good logical sense that you have some right to come into my cave and steal all of my stuff on the sole basis and sole rationale that the stuff I freely scribbled on my chunk of wood just happened to be the same as the stuff I saw you scribble on your chunk of wood.

    It makes obvious good rational sense that I have the basic freedom to write whatever I want on my paper.

    It if far from obvious good rational sense that you should have any particular right to sue me in court and take my money, on the sole basis and sole rationale that what I decided to write on my paper just so happens to be the same as something I saw you write on your paper.

    one of the lovely things about copyright law is that the author of the work gets to decide what to do with it

    That is true with or without copyright law.

    What you want is the right to control what other people do with their property, on the sole basis that you object to what they chose to write on their property.

    By obliterating copyright, you remove their rights.

    Despite what you might think from what I wrote above, my particular position is not that copyright needs to be obliterated, my position is that we need to elimiante some recent abominable changes to copyright law such as the DMCA.

    That said, even if we were to "obliterate copyright" your characterization of "removing their rights" is wrong.

    According to the US Constitution (and apologies to the rest of the world but I am going to explicitly discuss my national legal basis of copyright here), the default initial state is that everyone has the liberty to write whatever they like, even if what they write happens to be the same as something they see or remember that someone else happened to write. The initial default state is that the general public has the liberty and all the rights to copy anything they like. From this point, the Constution authorizes Congress, if they feel like it, to TEMPORARILY seize the right to copy a particular work from the public and to LOAN those collected rights exclusively to the author, and Congress may only do so for the sole purpose of promoting progress for the public benefit. And when that loan expires, those copying rights revert back to the public where they originated and where they inherently belong.

    The public is collectively VOLUNTARILY choosing to loan their copying rights exclusively to the author, via Congress, and the public voluntarily chooses to do so not because the author has any inherent right to it, and not for the authors benefit. The public chooses to do so because they consider it to be in THEIR OWN BENEFIT to do so, they choose to do so in the hope that a temporary loan of that exclusive copyright to the creator will encourage more creators to contribute more works to the public domain.

    The US Supreme Court has quite explicitly ruled that authors have absolutely no inherent right to an exclusive copyright. The Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that copyright does not exist for the benefit of the author and that congress is PROHIBITED from creating any copyright for the purpose of benefiting the author, that the sole permissible purpose of creating copyright is for the public benefit by encouraging more authors to create and contribute more created works to the public domain.

    So if we were to "obliterate" copyright, it would merely be the public collectively deciding tha
  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SolitaryMan (538416) on Friday December 07, 2007 @06:43AM (#21610559) Homepage Journal

    OLPC is a rich man's idea of what poor men need. It's like donating an expresso machine to a homeless shelter.

    As you may or may not be aware, Nicholas Negroponte used to work in African schools. What he says struck him the most is exactly the fact that poor kids were so much interested in technology.

    Giving them these laptops is giving them access to millions of libraries, teachers, friends. Yes, the idea of the project is not to give shelter to homeless, but the idea is to give enough education so they can build it themselves (in metaphorical sense).

  • by DarthBobo (152187) on Friday December 07, 2007 @09:49AM (#21612065)
    Windows XP - the full, bloated ugly version - runs fine in 1GB of memory. In fact, for most of its lifecycle, very few people every ran it at 2GB. All of the clinical workstations in my hospital still run it at 640MB (mostly just web-based apps), and many desktops in our organizations run it in 512MB. Admittedly, the latter machines are cripplingly slow, but it makes the point.

    Microsoft has been porting XP to the OLPC for a while. The problem they are running into is that WinXP is nothing without its applications. In fact, MS isn't even worried about educational apps - its worried about Office. Check out the size of even a minimal install of Word - its not insignificant. However, without Office, XP just doesn't offer that much over a open source OS. *This* is their key stumbling block.

    Frankly, this is a no win situation for MS. Unlike most PCs, in the OLPC "form follows function", ie the hardware is explicitly designed to support a certain set of priorities and functions. It can't be back-engineered so that Windows can run on it without either a) making it much more expensive, or b) turning it into just a stripped down Windows machine. If Negroponte holds firm then Windows will always be an inferior, second choice on the machine. Expect MS to hammer at the OLPC for being all sorts of terrible things and Negroponte for being an anti-capitalist obstructionist who belongs in Sweden eating French cheese with John Kerry.

  • Re:OLPC is tanking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Friday December 07, 2007 @10:24AM (#21612515)
    Quite true, however, if someone wants to benefit from the work you do, they owe you compensation for it

    That is a very sad world view.

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