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New President for OLPC Organization 251

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the roll-the-dice dept.
haroldag writes "After Walter Bender's resignation as president of OLPC, Charles Kane enters to take his place as the new boss. Kane says 'The OLPC mission is a great endeavor, but the mission is to get the technology in the hands of as many children as possible. Whether that technology is from one operating system or another, one piece of hardware or another, or supplied or supported by one consulting company or another doesn't matter. It's about getting it into kids' hands. Anything that is contrary to that objective, and limits that objective, is against what the program stands for.'"
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New President for OLPC Organization

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  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:19PM (#23278494) Homepage Journal
    More importantly, OLPC should be putting software into the hands of these kids, not just a license to use a copy of some software owned by someone else.

    --
    Note: I am not a sock puppet, comments to that effect are not needed.
  • by gnutoo (1154137) * on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:22PM (#23278528) Journal

    RMS has blogged about the harm non free software will do to OLPC (summarized and linked to here [slashdot.org]). He's urging developers to come to Sugar's rescue and for OLPC to keep acting as an advocate of freedom. I'm afraid that OLPC will be soundly thrashed in the market if they fall for the obvious trap that a Windows port is.

    The last time Slashdot talked about this, Bruce Perens presented an excellent technical explanation of how non free software would harm the core mission of the OLPC project [slashdot.org].

    Given all of these good reasons for avoiding non free software, how can anyone take Microsoft seriously?

  • The Price Is Right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:23PM (#23278538)
    Whatever Nicholas Negroponte's price was, Microsoft seems to have found it.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:27PM (#23278596) Journal
    Why don't they use OS X? I seem to remember seeing an article here on /. that Steve Jobs had offered OLPC a version of OS X for free, would definitely be closer to Linux than Windows XP.
  • It's an education project, not a technology project. The point is not to get technology into kids hands. The point is to create a system for better education of the entire world's children. If it could be done with books, then so be it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:30PM (#23278640)
    Charles Kane, you have single handedly assured the world that the OLPC project is irrelevant. Anybody can buy a PC from anywhere, and there's really nothing special anymore about the OLPC, now that you've made it manifestly clear that your objectives are no different than any other OEM. You are making 'Sugar' the digital analog of crack, for kids. Shame shame shame.
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:36PM (#23278724) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    Negroponte says [...] "The mission is learning and children. The means of achieving that were, amongst others, open source and constructionism. In the process of doing that, open source in particular became an end in itself, and we made decisions along the way to remain very pure in open source that were not in the long-term interest of the project."

    Open source was not only a way to get cheap software for the laptop, it was also a means to enable constructionism. A key idea of OLPC, from the very beginning, was that children would have complete visibility into the software. At higher levels, Sugar and all of the OLPC applications are interpreted, so the "View Source" key on the keyboard allows for dynamic modification. At lower levels, of course, you need compiled code for performance (especially on the OLPC's low-power CPU), but with Linux kids who were interested in digging down to that level could.

    Abandoning open source means abandoning constructionism to some extent as well, since whatever closed-source binaries you use are opaque and unavailable for exploration. If industry buy-in is necessary to get the machines deployed, and if using Windows is the way to achieve that, then fine, but it should be done with a clear understanding of what educational goals are being damaged by the decision.

    "When I went to Egypt for the first time, I met separately with the minister of communications, minister of education, minister of science and technology, and the prime minister, and each one of them, within the first three sentences, said, 'Can you run Windows?'" Negroponte says.

    I had to laugh a little bit at that part. I mean, there's no way the OLPC is going to be able to run the common Windows software packages that I'm sure the leaders think are desirable. It just doesn't have the storage, RAM and cycles required by those heavyweights. But if you run Sugar and the OLPC apps on top of a Windows kernel you've gained nothing at all, functionally or educationally, and you've lost some educational value.

    Honestly, if Egypt is worried about teaching its kids to use Windows, then the OLPC is the wrong choice for them, regardless of what kernel it's running. They should focus on the Intel ClassMate. It's not as flexible or as cheap as the OLPC, but it is more powerful, powerful enough to run modern Windows applications, albeit slowly.

  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:39PM (#23278754) Homepage Journal

    Look, M$ wants to try and compete here? I say let them
    OLPC wasn't founded to give Microsoft a new market to compete in. It was created to give impoverished children access to self-maintaible technology. They made sure that you didn't need an ISP to communicate between laptops. They made sure that you didn't need an AC grid to operate the laptops. They made sure that you didn't need GeekSquad to fix your laptop.

    By picking open-source software, then even made sure you didn't need a corporation to fix or improve your software. If they shipped with Windows XP, without it being open-sourced, then they are failing in their objective, because the operation system of the computer could not be maintained by the owner/operator of the computer, but only by Microsoft.
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:56PM (#23278948) Homepage Journal
    I really wonder if there is anything Microsoft touches that doesn't get corrupted to its core.

    OLPC was about empowering children. Now it seems poised to be about giving flashy black-boxes to kids.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday May 02, 2008 @03:56PM (#23278954)
    Microsoft doesn't care if they ever become prosperous enough to afford Microsoft software.

    It's the "barrier to entry" that concerns Microsoft. If the kids are given a laptop, then it is just up to them to learn to program with the FOSS tools for the FOSS environment that they've been given. The "barrier to entry" has been, effectively, removed. And NOT in Microsoft's favour.

    Microsoft wants to keep the "barrier to entry" just high enough so that Microsoft platforms look most appealing to anyone who manages to cross that barrier.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:01PM (#23278998) Journal
    Why don't they use OS X? I seem to remember seeing an article here on /. that Steve Jobs had offered OLPC a version of OS X for free, would definitely be closer to Linux than Windows XP.

    That would be much better. You can't have kids running around with ball and chains that aren't trendy, or all the people in the chat rooms will tease them. What kind of an iLife is that for a child?
  • Re:GUI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:07PM (#23279054)
    The leaders he mentions are not high-tech. Most people in those positions refer to the GUI on a computer as "Windows" whether it's Gnome, KDE or FVWM.

    I don't know whether that's true or not.

    What I do know is that if OLPC starts making hardware and software decisions based on what education ministry bureaucrats ask for, instead of what provides the best benefit to the students, they have already lost sight of their mission.

    Honestly, I suspect that Windows XP/XO will never see a release. I think it's all just a ruse to keep OLPC distracted, and delay governments from making a purchase decision, long enough that a separate computing program for developing nations, centered on Microsoft Office for Vista no doubt, is ready for market. And what remains of the OLPC brain trust is falling for it.

  • by g2devi (898503) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:13PM (#23279122)
    It's actually worse than that. By changing the OLPC to fit a proprietary OS, they've:
    a) Increased the cost of the hardware because Windows XP just doesn't run with the same resources as a lighter OS like Linux...especially since Windows XP already has it's own GUI that needs exist under Sugar.
    b) Limited their ability to pick hardware, such as non-Intel chips, which Windows XP doesn't support.
    c) Tied themselves to security updates and the release cycle of a third party of a foreign country.
    d) Limited the ability of children to tinker.
    e) Limited their ability to to provide an integrated environment that will actually help children...Sugar on another OS would inevitably have an impedience mismatch.
    f) Alienated the community that was helping to build the OLPC project, thus reducing credibility and further contributions.
    g) Lost any differentiation between the OLPC and the competing Classmates project, since Sugar should be able to run on Classmates.

    Points (a) to (e) go directly against the OLPC mission. Point (f) reduces that chance of OLPC's success. Point (g) splits funds from other projects. Since each project has a fixed administrative cost, and the design split delays deployment decisions (like the HDDVD vs Blueray war hurt DVD adoption), this reduces the funds that are actually used to help educate children.

    I can think of no reason to change the OLPC's original constitution. If proprietary stuff like "Flash" is required and Gnash isn't up to snuff (yet), doesn't it make more sense to as Adobe for a Flash port rather than throw the education deprived baby out with the bath water? At least with this solution, there's some hope that Gnash will eventually be fully Flash compatible or Flash will be superseded.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:20PM (#23279222)

    Look, M$ wants to try and compete here?

    You're saying when running a charity, Microsoft should be "allowed to compete"?!? This is the same Microsoft that has been repeatedly convicted of undermining fair competition through criminal antitrust abuses? This is the same Microsoft that is still in the process of being prosecuted for ongoing antitrust abuses? This is the same Microsoft that is being investigated for bribing government officials and standards bodies?

    I say let them, they are going to have to up the hardware costs of the machine to get an XP port running, and it will inevitably be significantly less functional than what is already available for less money.

    Great, then the OLPC brand is poisoned and there is confusion about what the capabilities of the different versions are. Then MS can undercut others on price in order to lock in a new market early and then bleed them for the next twenty years like they have been other markets. I'm less than impressed with this idea.

    I sincerely believe that a foray into M$ for the OLPC will bring to light the inherent advantages of free software.

    You're assuming people will try both and objectively compare them on a level playing field, then choose what is best for the kids. Given MS's history, their piles of cash, and their incentive here, why do you think that?

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:28PM (#23279340) Journal
    ... the mission is to get the technology in the hands of as many children as possible.

    I was under the impression that "the technology" included the source code. And "in the hand" included the ability to make improvements to it and build new things based on it (thus including an appropriate build, execution, and interpretation environment).

    If this is not included, it is not "the technology" that has gotten into the children's hands. Instead they hold a product of the technology, while the technology itself remains in the hands of a rich foreign elite.
  • by oever (233119) on Friday May 02, 2008 @04:47PM (#23279596) Homepage
    When Microsoft comes up with a cool project that is not meant to destroy all competition but to help people to learn to help themselves, we will not complain. However, Microsoft always works from the mindset that there can be only one operating system and only one company. They crush competition in the bud. Some competitors are allowed to live a bit to appease some governments that are not 100% under the companies influence.

    So if children in the development world are not brought up with this mindset, they may become competition to Microsoft or otherwise weaken Microsofts position. This must be avoided. They must be brainwashed into equating computers with Windows.

    Now the OLPC was not meant to teach children about linux or windows. It is meant to teach children whatever it is that children need to be taught. And teaching them that they need to use windows to use a computer is not what should be taught. No company should be able to force their products into any school. School should be a marketfree place.

  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:04PM (#23279768) Homepage Journal

    Anyone posting on this thread should be aware that "gnutoo" is a sockpuppet account of twitter. He's just shilling his own posts to pretend someone agrees with him.
    Which is ironic, because other people _will_ agree with him because, as trolls go, he at least produces original works that are mostly inline with Slashdot's demographic.
  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:10PM (#23279820) Homepage Journal

    Publish a list of specs and requirements, and let anyone who can meet them submit their OS. Anything else and you're subsidizing a product that has no competition; that almost always leads to an inferior product.
    That's fine, as long as access to the source code, and authorization to freely modify and distribute is one of the requirements. If Microsoft makes a product that conforms to that, and works better and/or cheaper than Linux, then use it. If it turns out that BSD or Solaris is a better choice, go with them. It doesn't have to be Linux, it just has to be open.
  • by Sentry21 (8183) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:25PM (#23279950) Journal
    Never mind the fact that OS X is built on large amounts of open-source software, and can play host to a large amount more; in contrast, vast amounts of open-source software and tools either don't work or don't work properly on Windows, even with Cygwin installed.

    It may not stack up to your ideals, but it's a damn sight better than anything Microsoft has to offer, even ignoring that OS X apparently scales down very well.
  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday May 02, 2008 @05:27PM (#23279960) Homepage Journal
    I thought OLPC was about using technology to help kids to learn technology so that they can do any number of things that technology can potentially offer them. I though that that was why Free software seemed to make so much sense.

    Well, apparently you thought wrong. By "learn technology" they didn't really mean to give the kids the understanding to develop their own computer industry. The technology that the kids are supposed to learn is using Microsoft software, so that their present and future masters will want to hire them in entry-level jobs. No understanding of the underlying computer technology is necessary for this. All they need is how to use the specific Microsoft apps that their employers want to pay for.

    Free/open software only makes sense if you want to impart understanding. But it's a threat to the kids future masters, as it would empower them to take control of their own computer systems and develop their own products.

    It should come as no surprise that the wealthy folks in any country would eventually notice this, and exert pressure to restrict what the kids can learn with their little computers. Understanding of the computers isn't what's wanted. The ability to use of a small set of commercial apps is what's wanted.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:20PM (#23280372)

    I thought OLPC was about using technology to help kids to learn technology so that they can do any number of things that technology can potentially offer them.


    OLPC was about that.

    OLPC is about something else now.

  • by sracer (534850) on Friday May 02, 2008 @06:32PM (#23280452)

    That's all nice in the theoretical and spoken by someone who doesn't actually own an XO laptop.

    A big reason for getting a flavor of XP on the XO is due to the fact that Sugar is broken and incomplete. Progress on implementing missing features is moving extremely slowly. There's still no viable power management for the XO, the ebook mode is incomplete, the stylus areas are still non-functional, and the "view source code" button is missing.

    I don't care what OS is running on it. I just want one that fully utilizes the hardware to its fullest.

    The fact that Sugar is open source hasn't made things quicker and easier for implementing those missing functions. Maybe if the open source community comes to the assistance of the Sugar development they can help get Sugar where it needs to be.

  • by DECS (891519) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @02:19PM (#23285436) Homepage Journal
    And don't forget the Interstate road system, which was a huge socialist program that snuck through congress as a "defense" project because it could be used to truck around missiles.

    Not many Capitalists would want to drive around a country where the means of transportation were maintained and tolled by private enterprise at market costs rather than shared as a socialized national expense.

    Now if only California's High Speed Rail could figure out how to link itself up with war hysteria or terrorism ("trains are hard to shoot out of the sky or drive into a building!"), maybe it will get built in our lifetime too.

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