2B1's for Bangkok and Chiang Rai


While the Bangkok Post thinks that the One Laptop Per Child program is UN-initiated, an affront to the dedicated technologists at MIT, it does have interesting news about the Thailand 2B1 Children's Machine distribution.

Like Thailand's Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced, Thailand will be testing 30 laptops in October. Now the Bangkok Post is reporting which school districts will receive the laptops.

Suwat Saktrisoon, Educational Technology Director of the Office of the Basic Education Commission, is quoted as saying the 2B1 computers will go to fourth and ninth grade students in the state-run Sri Ayudhya School in Bangkok and Mae Sai Prasit School in Chiang Rai.

In a not unexpected twist, it seems that Mr Suwat and other Thai officials are not happy with the basic 2B1 configuration. They are reported to be asking MIT to upgrade the 2B1 memory to 1,024MB from 512MB, and upgrade the battery life to run 12 hours non-stop.

While the Bangkok Post believes that will raise the cost of the Children's Machine from US$100 to US$120, any reader of One Laptop Per Child News will know better. The 2B1 is already the €100 euro laptop and while the memory switch is easy, the 12 hour battery requirement will be a major challenge.

Maybe OLPC will come up with a unique power supply, one that uses hand crank foot pedal strings?

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Is there any method of alternative power generation that you wouldn't mock? The hand crank was abandonned because it put too much stress on the machine, but every idea they've come up with since then has been lampooned by this site.


I would not mock a power generation method that was based in reality, physics, and a working prototype.

The hand crank was dismissed as a marketing gimmick that didn't pass the physics test the day it was announced, and yet OLPC kept saying it would work. The foot pedal idea was a take on sewing machines and bicycle-powered computers, and could've been an option but was never taken to prototype stage where people could test it.

The string idea also seems to be a random straw grabbed in desperation - not a single word said about its design since they floated the idea, and yet they talk about a power generation ratio that is beyond current possibilities. http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/power_supply/string_hype_vs_reali.html

Now they are talking about "gang-charging" the laptops. I don't know about you, but "gang" anything doesn't sound right to me in relation to kids. My preference would be for solar, wind, mini-hydro, even bicycle, as all those are proven alternate power generation techniques, but I am open to any realistic idea that works.

"Now they are talking about "gang-charging" the laptops. I don't know about you, but "gang" anything doesn't sound right to me in relation to kids."

And here is an objection that isn't based in reality or physics but in English-specific nomenclature.

I see OLPC like the digging of the Channel Tunnel between France and England. On one end you have Nicholas Negroponte getting design houses to make pretty models and promising the world, and on the other end you have the engineers working with circuit boards and python code. They are both digging toward each other, and eventually they'll meet in the middle and we'll have a laptop.

Sometimes mistakes come from Nick's side, and we get silly things like comparing OLPC to the church, or pie-in-the-sky hand cranks. And sometimes mistakes come from the engineering side, which is where we get "g is for gun" and "gang-charging."

One side is great at marketing but doesn't understand the tech completely, and the other side knows the tech but sometimes trips on their PR.

And to me, this is exactly what OLPC needs. It needs the contribution of both marketers like Nick who aren't burdened with the knowledge of what isn't possible, and engineers who are free to experiment with circuits and code without worrying about the marketing verbiage.

With this separation comes these slip-ups, but I can forgive Nick for wanting the crank, and I can forgive the geeks for "gang-charging." I remain confident that the two sides will eventually meet in the middle, although I don't think anyone knows exactly where that is.


You're choice of the Channel Tunnel is interesting. While we can both agree that it is an engineering marvel - I've taken it several times myself - it is still a financial catastrophe for everyone involved.

The marketers' hype promised results that actual use didn't deliver and several rounds of investors were burned. Now instead of "investors", use "developing world governments" and the losses shift from those who can absorb the risk of technology over-investment to those who can ill-afford any sustained losses on the scale of $140 million-plus per OLPC order.

Or in short - the technology dazzles, and they will come close to the hype, but its the implementation that gives me pause.

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