Wanted: Peruvian One Laptop Per Child Folk Heroes

   
   
   
   
   

Peru has ordered over 260,000 OLPC XO-1 laptops. These machines will be running Sugar on GNU/Linux. Forty thousand of these are already in warehouses in Peru, with Sugar builds 656 or 703 installed. That means over a quarter of a million kids will use Sugar/GNU/Linux in the next few months - and you can directly influence their lives! Your software, documentation, support expertise, ideas and insights can improve the education of a vast number of kids.

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Pointing to a OLPC Peru future

Wanted: Peruvian Folk Heroes. Will you become one?

I am C. Scott Ananian, a developer for One Laptop Per Child. Yet I'm not trying to convince you that you need to pledge loyalty to OLPC and not question its decisions. In fact, you don't have to agree with OLPC's press releases: OLPC seems intent on making its own mistakes, but someone needs to keep doing the work that will help the kids regardless. But why invest in third-party infrastructure when we could just be reusing OLPC's lists/servers/builds?

Because, in fact, OLPC is badly resource-starved, and often doesn't have good infrastructure to build on. Even though OLPC is growing its software team, it takes time to hire good people, and it will take more time for them to settle in and be productive. In the meantime, we need more non-affiliated developers and community, and more third-party infrastructure to expand past OLPC's lists/servers/builds.

The external mailing lists, code trees, build and test infrastructure, generated API documentation, etc you create will ensure a healthy external development community for Sugar/GNU/Linux. That empowers all of us who share the OLPC dream - from OLPC's Cambridge headquarters to Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Nepal, and towns and children yet unknown.

We need you to pitch in: there are a quarter of a million Peruvian kids who need your code, documentation, support and ideas. Few people have ever had the opportunity to make such a difference to so many. You, the OLPC community, are in a position to become Peruvian Folk Heroes. Will you take up the challenge?

C. Scott Ananian is a developer for One Laptop Per Child and hopes you'll be one too.

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12 Comments

What a wonderful letter and so true. I feel about marketing the XO the way Scott feels about the technical work. I just hope that NN will wake up and let us get them out there. I am glad Peru purchased so many and wish all government would but I think that is a dream. We need to get them out there anyway possible. A 1000 of us could get thousands of them out there.

There has been press reports about problems with distribution. A significant large number of computers is on the field but not activated because of manpower issues, not enough officials from the ministry able to go to all the places and activate the machines. This wouldn't be solved with volunteers, apparently, due to the need of trusted personnel doing the activation for a number of reasons, which I guess is understandable.

This post confirms how OLPC has run smack into reality when it came time for implementation, even in a country where, supposedly, the young educators "get" constructivism (or constructionism).

@Ken Hargesheimer - the problem is not to "get them out there" but to write the educational software and courseware and to build the infrastructure of communication and servers and chargers and support that should have been the first objects of research and development. Most of that work has to be done by Peruvians in Peru. Yes, people here can help, but there's no way we could substitute for the programmers and developers in Peru.

The anticipated advent of Windows XO is a marketing gimmick meant to mollify the politicians and ministers who believe that, as in previous eras with IBM, nobody ever got fired for going with Microsoft. If we're lucky the mere announcement plus a small tribute paid to MS will allow otherwise unmodified XOs to enter the procurement processes of many countries. However, I wouldn't bet on it.

There's a lean and hungry Microsoft (which can never have enough market share) waiting for this first step so they can proceed to remove or block alternatives to their way of doing things. Mark my words, they will continue to run according to their genetic code, which expresses itself through the ethos "what's mine is mine - what's yours we'll negotiate about".

I strongly suspect (though I hope not) that these XOs in the warehouse will never get out to kids. They won't be scrapped, just probably sold off as surplus, though it pains me to predict it.

Me and I think a lot of people would love to help. If there wouldn't be a small problem: I'm not sure if OLPC will screw up anyways.

It's extremely frustrating and a very bitter decision, but if OLPC continues like this they simply deserve to die.

OLPC still has no clear community concept, no decision making process, no release management, a broken developer program and nobody who thought about giving laptops to some teachers too (what a strange idea for an education project).

So if you want to bring OLPC forward please start doing things like implementing a clear development processes like the Python PEPs (http://www.python.org/dev/peps/) or Ubuntu Blueprints (https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu) and set up a developer and teacher program that actually works.

And please don't spend your time whining why nobody wants do CPR for Sugar, while OLPC continues to punch it into the face.

Windows on the XO is the greatest indictment of Linux's capability. Prof. Negropnte is, in effect, telling the world:

"Look, I admit, it: Linux doesn't cut it, in any of its thousand incarnations/distributions. We need Windows to get this thing moving".

Why ANY open-source advocate would support the OLPC after such blatant show of disrespect for open-source ideals is beyond me...

Irvin wrote:
"Windows on the XO is the greatest indictment of Linux's capability."

but where is this Windows on the XO? We have a multi-billion dollar company with a few years of experience putting their OS on x86 based computers and laptops but where is it? Where is any proof that Windows on the XO does a better job than a handful of volunteers and a few salaried open source developers have done in less than 2 years? From what I read, Sugar was implemented by three OLPC developers.

So, where is this great operating system and desktop replacement for the XO? Do keep in mind that we are talking about the same Microsoft which created Windows CE/Windows Mobile and I still hear of phones crashing. And remember that a much much smaller company called Apple took their UNIX based OS X and built a phone platform( iPhone ) the world is still talking about and not because of iPhone OS crashes. Where is this great OS for the XO from Microsoft so we can see why or how it could be better than what's being done on Linux with Sugar?

Doug asks:

"Where is this great OS for the XO from Microsoft so we can see why or how it could be better than what's being done on Linux with Sugar?"

Could you, please, read my post again? Perhaps you'll get the point then.

I'm NOT coming here to tell you that Windows is better or worse than any other OS. I have better topics to discuss.

My point is quite simple: every OLPC retardo/follower should have an ounce of common sense to realize that the person RESPONSIBLE for Windows in the XO is none other that your beloved -do-no-wrong Prof. Negroponte.

He is the one giving the OK to a version of Windows on the XO. It is not Bill Gates, The Devil or the voices in your head. It's Prof. Negroponte.

so, your questions are best re-phrased thus:

"Where is Prof. negroponte getting the idea that Windows is this great OS for the XO? how can it be better than what's being done on Linux with Sugar?"

Until then, my assertion stands true. By announcing with great fanfare the imminent arrival of Windows on the XO, Prof. Negroponte is essentialy telling the entire world: "guys, what we wanted can't be done with Sugar/Linux and its legions of developers. We need Windows to straighten this ship".

Andreas said, "OLPC still has no clear community concept..."

I never thought of it in that way, but I think that pretty much sums it up. Most techno-junkie devs out there don't want an emulator - they want a cool piece of hardware to play with. Without making that hardware available to them, there goes your legions of developers and the concept of a community with them.

And, sadly, C. Scott and OLPC's software dreams follow.

"none other that your beloved -do-no-wrong Prof. Negroponte."

WTF are you talking about? Everyone who criticizes Windows-on-XO idea, disagreed with Negroponte's endorsement of it. Heck, the only reason why we even know there is (or, to be more precise, may be) a Windows-for-XO project is his own words. If you are trying to base your trolling on the premise that his opinion is taken by everyone as a fact, your efforts are hopelessly misdirected.

C. Scott Ananian, I take it you work for OLPC?

I've heard many times that the OLPC management is non-transparent. They don't communicate and they don't give much love to the community. That's gotta change if you want more community support.

OLPC shouldn't be overly resource-starved when they have so much grassroots goodwill lying around and when, if my math is reasonable, they are selling $50,000,000 worth of laptops to Peru alone. Can't, say, 10% of revenues go toward staff funding until the software is somewhat complete and stable? And can't OLPC do some sort of fundraising? Ask people loudly for donations! Sell the laptop in the first world for a premium! Not G1G1--but just a higher price to cover development and PR/marketing costs. Then you can hire more staff, and ultimately make the project even more successful.

But maybe I don't know what I'm talking about; after all, I get all my OLPC news from olpcnews.com. Correct me or agree with me, but I hope you'll respond to the comments here.

66 OLPC laptops have been stolen in Huancayo, Peru. This saturday 66 XOs have been stolen from the primary school (Institución Educativa N° 31939)in Huancayo.
http://www.rpp.com.pe/detalle_127207.html

OLPC in Peru: Delays, Migrations and Presidencial Mistakes
From a report published today in el Comercio

http://www.elcomercio.com.pe/edicionimpresa/Html/2008-06-22/recien-desde-hace-semana-ninos-luquia-comenzaron-usar-sus-laptops.html

"While the computers were delivered three months ago, they have recently begun to be used and through no fault of teachers, but because they were in English, and some were spoiling batteries."

"Happiness is never complete. Of the 68 enrolled in school Luquia, now only 44 attend. The other left the classroom to go with their parents in search of a better fate because they could no longer continue living from agriculture and cold they had snatched the little they had won."

"In a moment of dialogue with El Comercio, the director recalled when the president, in a burst of euphoria, surrendered five laptops to peasants and herdsmen who were passing through. Days later, officials found the program to farmers asking them to return equipment, but they refused and assured that he was a presidential gift. The remain in their homes, unless they give them another gift in return for higher value, they said."

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