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Portables Hardware Technology

OLPC Available to the Public Early 2008 192

Zoxed writes "The BBC is reporting that the OLPC will be available to the public early next year on a buy-2-get-1 basis through eBay. With its cheap price, fully open spec. and full/open hardware support for Linux, expandability, 2W rating and LinuxBIOS booting it sounds like an embedded-Linux hackers favorite new toy."
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OLPC Available to the Public Early 2008

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  • OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @02:46PM (#17543490) Homepage
    The BBC is reporting that the OLPC will be available to the public early next year on a buy-2-get-1 basis through eBay ... it sounds like an embedded-Linux hackers favorite new toy.

    Between the Gates foundation, guys like mark cuban, the google billionaires, and this type of thing, I love how philanthropy in this millennium is poised to be dominated by nerds.
  • by ziggamon2.0 ( 796017 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @02:49PM (#17543544) Homepage
    Cause if it is the exact same, and they have now created a $200 value for the laptops, they can now easily be sold to collect the money, instead of the intended educational value...
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:14PM (#17543980)
    If PBS were the only source of coffee mugs and book bags, I guess you might have a point.

    I think your parent has a point. At some point we're going to see these on ebay, and we'll think, gee, I hope this wasn't one of the ones Pakistan bought to give some kid a future. And you just know there will be a Terrorist captured with one at some point, and it'll be a big story. Any way you look at it, there will be some retrospection on whether the laptops ended up doing what they were "supposed" to do, and somebody will use the word "misguided" to describe the whole effort. I hope they're wrong.

  • by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:19PM (#17544076) Journal
    It's designed to look that way to cut down on black market reselling -- not all possible cases, but those where where the product was diverted from its intended purpose. Basically if a bunch of OLPC's "fall off the truck" on the way to the schools, it's easier to go looking for lime green laptops.

  • Re:OLPC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:24PM (#17544170)
    I don't. I'd rather philanthropy be dominated by professionals who understand how to fix the problems, or even what those problems are to begin with. OLPC is questionable here, where things like clean water and vaccines can often provide a much bigger bang for buck. Providing jars of peanut butter can do more to raise IQ than giving every child in the world a laptop. Ironically enough, this is one of the areas where Bill Gates actually has it right.

    The OLPC project is still a great idea; nobody said philanthropy has to be all about fulfilling basic human needs like water and shelter. I'm not one of those guys who says we have to solve world hunger first zomg. But I'd hate to see philanthropy become dominated by the pet projects of nerds; pet projects of even smart computer industry geeks are still pet projects, and generally have little correlation with what's needed in reality. It's their money, but it's still a kind of benevolent despotism, where the lower classes are showered with money from the wealthy. Many times, charitable giving is focused on what the donor wants to give, not what the beneficiaries actually want.

    To counter that, there should be a diversity of giving. It takes all kinds, from experts in sanitation to experts in economics. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded last year to an economist who invented microcredit finance. Who woulda thunk it? We don't need philanthropy dominated by any one mindset, even if it's geeks. Rich geeks today are just the robber barons of the 20th century, and now they're doing the same thing those 19th century robber barons did, giving away their money to make themselves feel better.
  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:37PM (#17544440) Homepage
    Because lots of people in the first world do actually want one (myself included). If you don't satisfy that demand then free market 101 tells you that a grey/black market in them will spring up to satisfy that demand. The people running the project don't want that to happen so they are attempting to satisfy the demand themselves.

    From a personally perspective I would love to get my hands on one for my four year old neice. She is fasinated by computers and to give her, her very own personal one (preferably in pink) designed around her needs would make a fantastic educational present.
  • by gwn ( 594936 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:49PM (#17544682)
    I provide volunteer IT support in a school and I would love to see the over priced, over engineered, fragile, feature rich, but utility poor machines we currently put in schools replaced by machines along these lines.

    Look at what the computers really get used for in our kids classrooms and you start wondering who is really benefiting from them being in there... hint, not the students, think big business.

    If I could convince a parent, teacher, principal, or school board to buy OLPC computers with the added benefit of outfitting a student, class, school, or school board in the developing world at the same time... FANTASTIC! Partners in a global community. Where do I sign up?
  • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @03:52PM (#17544718) Homepage Journal
    OLPC is questionable here, where things like clean water and vaccines can often provide a much bigger bang for buck.

    Absolutely not. Now, giving water treatment facilities and facilities to produce vaccines, THAT is helpful. But simply giving the people the things makes them dependent on you, which is what a lot of these organizations really want. "We want to save you - and only we know how!"

  • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @04:04PM (#17544938) Homepage
    There are billions of people outside the indusrialised western world who have all their basic needs (shelter, water and food) satisfied that are looking to move to the next level. This is for these people. When did you last hear of starving children in Lybia for example?

    Yes if you are have more basic needs it won't help, but not everyone in Africa is starving in a mud hut.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @04:05PM (#17544962) Homepage Journal
    What happens when it is taken as a political message that these are being distributed to certain regions, and groups who oppose the symbolism move to suppress it?

    It's only being distributed to people who pay for it. I don't think they're going to deny any comers, though. It's not like these things are powerful enough to be classified as munitions or anything :D

    The whole world is becoming more modern... except those parts that have been shit upon by some more powerful organization (usually a nation, but sometimes someplace like the whichever-india trading co... with the assistance of a nation) and have thus been artifically kept back. This is an attempt to help rectify the rectum-enlargement the first world has imposed on the third.

  • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @04:13PM (#17545086) Homepage
    Yet another person who doesn't get it. Let me explain for the hard of thinking:

    OLPC laptops are for children in developing and developed countries whose governments are interested in moving their education system forward. They are not, and never have been, something that a government should spend money on if there are higher priority needs such as sanitation, food, shelter or an energy network. They are targetted very specifically at countries who have a working sanitation and drinking water system, who have a viable food market, who have a working power infrastructure. Don't be thinking that the countries who are signing up to this are populated by starving Africans who have no electricity and drink from a muddy river. That is not the case. Most of the countries who have joined in are actually not in Africa, and all of them have the necessary basics in place already. Hell, one of the countries on board is the USA (well, a state in the USA, but hey..).

    The OLPC project seeks to improve the IT education of children in countries who are providing the basics but cannot (or will not) afford IT equipment. That is a problem, and it's one that is being solved in an innovative and exciting way. There really isn't any downside.

    If you feel your money will work better donated to a different cause then spend it elsewhere. You have that choice. I'm glad you're thinking of others. That's more than a lot of people manage. Personally, I'll buy a couple of these computers if it means a couple of kids in Tunisia get a chance to hack some Python. Who knows, they might be the ones who create 2020's version of Google.
  • Re:OLPC? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@earthsho[ ] ['d.c' in gap]> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @05:45PM (#17546854)
    If you give people clean water and vaccines, then they become dependent on you.

    If you give people the technology to purify their own water and manufacture their own vaccines, then they are no longer dependent on you.

    Now, it's an improbably large leap from giving kids to computers to expecting them to become white-coated boffins who are going to save the world, and I would certainly expect anyone who made such a statement to back it up with a long argument. But something good is bound to happen as a result of this. Give the right creative materials to enough kids, and some of them will come up with something amazing. Bear in mind also that while we might consider it primitive by the standards we've come to expect of a computer, a lot of these kids literally won't have seen anything like it before. It's a real hands-on learning tool. The main storage is a bit on the meagre side, but it ought to hold enough reading matter to last between opportunities to download some more. It's programmable in Python, which isn't exactly the hardest language in the world; and it's got a sensor input which allows for all sorts of experiments. I'm not suggesting that it's the first easily-programmed computer with the ability to attach weird and wonderful things to it; the BBC Model B had a nice fast structured BASIC and even more versatile user I/O, but you were lucky to have one beeb per classroom.

    With this thing, there's bound to be some kid smart enough to figure out something amazingly useful to do with it and who isn't put off by the thought that this computer is a bit limited. They probably won't invent a cheap, pocket-sized device that supplies unlimited free energy, purifies raw sewage into drinkable water and turns deserts into fertile fields; at least, not straight away. But what I can see happening is clean, safe, modern factories being built to churn these things out in the numbers in which they will be needed, where they are needed, and revitalising economies by creating good jobs. And I can see small but significant improvements to things like crop yields and medical treatment in less built-up areas, thanks just to better communication and information-sharing abilities. How much food is lost because a crop starts to bolt, and nobody else finds out in enough time to get theirs safely gathered in? Or how often do people harvest needlessly early, for fear that that will happen? How many lives could be saved by early intervention, if people only knew a bit of basic first aid and could recognise the symptoms of easily-cured diseases? How much other damage is being done by superstitions clung to out of ignorance? I honestly don't know. But when you've got whole maths classes analysing local data, and readily-available newspapers and textbooks on all subjects, this sort of thing really can't not happen.

    And these kids are never going to know anything other than the Open Source way of doing things. They won't have preconceived ideas about sharing vs. stealing. That ought to put the frighteners on the Closed Source software vendors.
  • Re:OLPC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dutchmang ( 74300 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @06:38PM (#17547790)
    See this is where I disagree. There are lots of good things you could do, and one does not preclude another. Books and libraries, for example, are terrific. But giving kids access to technology makes them think in a technological way. Since technology is a key tool to raising productivity, and a technology-savvy workforce is needed to exploit (not just tolerate) the tools, putting these things into kids' hands is all goodness. Education is good no matter how you view it.

    Also, this particular tool is an opportunity for kids to see what exists beyond their immediate social situation. Don't discount the power of your frame of reference to drag you down or lift you up. As someone raised dirt poor (yes in America -- Massachusetts even), it wasn't until I managed to get into college that my horizons expanded -- through peers, primarily -- to places that included stability, productivity, self-reliance etc. You're essentially giving these kids a window into a different world. Some will take advantage of it and some won't... but there'll be more than you would've had otherwise. You need people like that to raise a society's standards.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:59PM (#17549716)
    The OLPC can be justified on simple economic grounds.

    An OLPC comes with ebook textbooks. The cost of the OLPC is at worst the same as paper textbooks. The OLPC textbooks can be updated as often as necessary instead of being obsolete castoffs, and they are in the native language instead of a foreign language. The child can carry all of them around without weight penalty.

    They also provide light from the screen if necessary, and they provide communication with the other OLPCs and with the big wide world. Parents can get medical advice. They can find the best market for their farm goods instead of having to walk ten miles with thir goods and hope they get the best price possible.

    The idea that kids can learn about computers is NOT the main goal of OLPC.

    These are TOOLS.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright