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Big Delays, Small Laptops: OLPC XO Recipients Mad 165

PCWMike writes to tell us about the growing concern over the failure of OLPC to deliver laptops to some of its customers. PC World editor-in-chief Harry McCracken notes that record-keeping was poor for some of the people who paid via PayPal. A report on LinuxJournal also suggests that customer information was lost due to errors in the database software used by OLPC. Quoting PC World: "OLPC spokesperson Jackie Lustig acknowledges problems with the ordering and the fulfillment process, but says the biggest challenges are a short supply of XO laptops and the organization's ability to meet consumer demand for the XO laptop. Some also wonder whether chronic delivery problems for Give One, Get One donors may bode poorly for the 15 countries slated to receive nearly 500,000 XO notebooks. Lustig says delivering in bulk to just over a dozen countries is infinitely simpler than processing and delivering 80,000 individual laptops."
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Big Delays, Small Laptops: OLPC XO Recipients Mad

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  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:19AM (#22180278) Homepage Journal

    Starry-eyed desire to save the world is a good drive, but fulfilling the orders and delivering on the promises requires a lot of mundane work. One needs to get "all corporationy" to provide consistently good service...

  • Re:It *is* simpler (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:38AM (#22180432) Homepage Journal

    He is absolutely correct; a half-million units shipped to just 12 to 15 destinations *IS* simple by comparison. Just look at the complexities of UPS' operations in moving 80000 packages within the boundaries of the US, and that becomes apparent.
    Yep. This is why any company that does significant amounts of shipping has an entire department and sometimes more than one department devoted to it. Some companies even have entire shipping divisions. Moving a large number of packages quickly is a significant undertaking and that's why there's an entire industry called the logistics industry devoted to it. A friend of mine works in the logistics industry and her job is to coordinate the shipping of packages and crates to various places around the world. It's a big job.
  • by Robwiz ( 864947 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:55AM (#22180570)
    Doesn't "Big Delays, Small Laptops: OLPC XO Recipients Mad" imply that some XO Recipients are mad because the laptop is small?

    The actual article is "Big Delays for Small Laptops", it's some of the people who haven't received them yet who are upset.
    I was expecting mine (in Canada) some time in February based on the initial delays in shipping to Canada. So I was quite pleased when it showed up last week.

    I guess that make me somewhat ineligible to advocate patience if you're still waiting for yours, but I can say that I wasn't disappointed in mine once it arrived.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:55AM (#22180576) Homepage Journal

    Actually not true, in fact getting 'all corporationy' really means how far can you minimise ...

    And the answer is not far at all... Just wait for these orders to finally arrive and people try to get support for them... Dell got a lot of flaming over outsourcing support to India — OLPC outsourced it to the even worse-trained rural teachers, etc. There'll be more horror-stories — watch this place.

    All OLPC needs to do is ... subcontract those services out to a logistics company

    Yes, I agree, that's one way to get "corporationy" — unless you can name a logistics co-op/commune, that is...

  • Re:Please reconcile (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Captain Chaos ( 13688 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:13AM (#22180782)
    The large shipments to developing nations take priority over G1G1 donor shipments. This was made clear while the program was running, but it appears some people must not have paid attention to that. I donated and I am still waiting on mine, but I'm not hopping mad like some people seem to be. I knew getting me my laptop wasn't the top priority, as was made clear on the site. I am anxious to get my hands on one, but I just got an update Wednesday, so it may not be too much longer since I am in the shipping queue for the next shipment.
  • Not mad at all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gruuk ( 18480 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:08PM (#22182240)
    I'm a December 14th donor; while I'm a little disappointed that it hasn't reached me yet, I've no problem cutting OLPC quite a bit of slack, as what matters most is the "GIVE 1" part of the G1G1 program. There are plenty of articles showing that kids in less fortunate areas have started using them and they are a hit. Because OLPC is fulfilling that part of the promise, I will be patient and forgive them those delays, although I am somewhat less forgiving of the subcontractors (but not terribly so).

    I can wait a couple more weeks; the only thing that bugs me is that I can't play with it right now, as I've seen and handled an XO and it is so neat :)
  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:42PM (#22182688)
    I ordered two -- in the first hour of the first day of the promotion -- to be shipped to my house in the US. As of today, I have nothing. No laptops, no email, no nuthin.' I phoned and confirmed that my order number does exist and indeed I have been charged for both the laptops (in November) and $50 for shipping (the day after Christmas).

    But it's not the lack of laptops that's turning me from an interested and cheerful donor, to mild annoyance when it didn't show up before Christmas, to contemplating reversing the charges. It's the lack of information. Sure, there are delays. Sure, there are priorities for getting big shipments out to major educational recipients. But I gave these folks $850, and I don't even get the courtesy of a *status* message?

    According to the schedule, mine should have showed up a month ago -- at the absolute latest. Before Christmas. I made the mistake of telling my kids about it, thinking I would teach them something about partnerships and donations, etc etc, and that's my own fault. But *still* even after phone calls and tracing and corrections... when I check the page, it tells me the order number is invalid, and that my email address is not found.

    The kicker is that I work for a UN agency that manages large refugee aid programs, and I had to borrow an OLPC from a friend to show it to the Education & IT department directors. They're very interested in the OLPC, as it fits some of the educational needs pretty nicely. What am I going to tell these guys when they ask whether the project is well-run, has decent governance, and can deliver?



  • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @01:20PM (#22183322)
    All I want is for OLPC to survive and make a positive impact worldwide -- and that's why I participated in G1G1. But let me tell you, it's amateur hour as far as logistics go. They naively thought that because the laptop hardware was ready, everything else would magically fall into place, so they rushed all starry-eyed into shipping laptops before Christmas. As it turns out, their completely untested shipping and support infrastructure was inadequate given the load.

    I've received a total of 3 different tracking numbers for my single laptop over the past 2 months. All 3 are invalid according to Fedex. I've called, verified that they have my correct address and been told my laptop was in the queue to ship a month ago. I was subsequently promised a delivery by the end of the year, then by January 15th, both of which have come and gone. Then they promised to reveal the shipping date by this Wednesday in an email sent on Monday. On Thursday they backed off of that claim, and said that hardware supply issues were at fault and assured me that I would receive another email at some point in the future with a shipping date. And so the saga continues...

    Look, I'm cutting them a lot of slack because they're a non-profit trying to get off the ground and the primary goal here is to get laptops into the hands of needy children... but the problem is that they've been a model of evasive, unhelpful and secretive with regard to logistics problems from the start. If they had said, "hey we'll do our best to get you a laptop by March 2008" from the beginning, I think we all would have gone on with our lives, but for a not insignificant number of us, it's been one story after another -- all of which leads some of us to wonder whether the organization is hiding something with regard to our charitable donations.

    Anyway, I fully comprehend that G1G1 logistics issues do not imply that they'll have problems fulfilling orders overseas. And in fact, the G1G1 program was for the most part an afterthought with regard to OLPC's primary mission. However, I think they've hurt themselves a great deal by not getting their act together with G1G1. Third-world purchase estimates have been cut by orders of magnitude since the heady days when Dr. Negroponte went around boasting that they wouldn't even talk to countries who weren't willing to buy a million laptops. The G1G1 program has become an instrumental tool in seeding laptop programs in places where reluctant national governments have backed off of early purchase promises. By pissing off G1G1 donors, they've essentially bit the hand that feeds them, and this will make it that much more difficult to realize Dr. Negroponte's original vision of one laptop per child.

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