Going XO Laptop Green is Better and Cheaper

   
   
   
   
   

Mary Lou Jepsen of OLPC

If there's a trend that is universally welcome is the greener technology trend. But in most industries green is sold at a special premium: from organic food to electric cars, you are paying for your eco-conscience. But Mary Lou Jepsen has different approach.

At first when told that to go green would be more costly the OLPC was willing to sacrifice a greener XO for a cheaper but not so green laptop. But as she progressed on the design process it became clear that to build a laptop that cost less also means a laptop that consumes less resources as a whole. In her words:

"People are trying to make a buck off of green. Green is actually cheaper. Green isn't about (sigh) buying more stuff."
According to a very inspiring keynote she gave at the Greener Gadget conference in the beginning of February the factors of making a laptop green are:
  • Consume less power. According to Mary Lou if every computer in the consumer market had the power footprint of the XO, their total energy consumption could fall 95%. Also by reducing the necessary power it needs to run you put the laptop under the threshold that can be provided by some clever and surprisingly low tech sources, as cows, bicycles or cheap solar panels.
  • Expand the lifetime of the product. Surprisingly enough that's a factor rarely factored in when figuring out the impact of a product: how long will it last?
  • Repairing is more important than recycling. If disposed the XO battery can be "consumed by soil bacteria" but Mary Lou has a bigger point: by making the laptop easier to service will prevent it from being dumped in the first place.
You can check the highlights of the presentation above, but I would highly recommend anyone actually watching the whole 50 minutes presentation where she talks a bit about the purpose of her new company PixelQi, the deployment of the laptop and the history of the design.

Or if you attended you could have done as Crackhead did and actually get Jepsen to sign your XO.

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20 Comments

They have not learned their lesson, from what i can see.

They are still going around spreading they bogus claims, without regard for the truth or respect for their customers.

Examples:

1. "The X0 is half the size and half the weight"

Sounds very good, but have the size and weight of WHAT? Different laptops, similar laptops, any laptop, any computer?

2. "2.5x typical laptop lifetime (5 years)".

Where did they get the idea that the "everage lifetime" of a laptop is 2 years? Most places would say 3-4 years, with the caveat that moslty what makes laptops obsolete is the advance of technology (hardware and software). Besides, nobody actually (including prof. Negroponte and Co.) knows how long the XO will last...

3. "4 times battery lifetime of typical laptop"

See #2 above. Equally bogus.

4. "5-10% power consumption of typical laptop"

Blatantly false, as has been widely reported. As of TODAY, battery life on the XO is not much better (and certainly not 10 times better) than an average laptop.

The rest of the video is full of equally misleading/false statements.

no wonder they haven't found many buyers. i'd be scared to deal with these used-car-salesman tactics.

@Irvin, Update 1 has not yet been released yet, so hold your tongue.

All of the figures are NOT false, can you show me facts and figures that prove otherwise? I don't think you can!

You have been discredited time and time again on here... when is enough enough for you?

Goney3 said:

"@Irvin, Update 1 has not yet been released yet, so hold your tongue."

ROFLMAO!

Is that a supreme state of denial or what?

Shouldn't the OLPC people be the ones to "hold" their tongue until the wonderful Update 1 takes place?

Until then, it is just lies and misrepresentations, like the one about battery life being "measured in days, not hours".

@Irvin: you are so quick to jump to a conclusion, to run a smear-campaign about a project, because you are impatient?

Are you that short-sighted? This project is just beginning. I believe OLPC will reach its goals. With announcements of nano-lithium batteries out in several years, the XO would have an expected run time of several weeks.

This is a long-term global humanitarian cause! Get with it Man! *slaps you*

%5 -> %10 power consumption of a typical laptop does will
not get 10 -> 20 times the battery life unless the battery
is the same size. The olpc has a smaller battery than the
typical laptop. Actual power consumption numbers for the
laptop are available on the wiki.

I have measured the power consumption of my xo and it is
very low, but I can have only measured power at the DC input
port, that is not the power levels required by the electronics.
The DC/DC converters (not used when on battery only) eat
some of the power.

After upgrading to some of the joyride builds, power consumption
dropped to 6W with full backlight and not suspended.

Mark

Irvin is partly right.

The size, weight and power claims should be contrasted with reference to a typical laptop's size, weight and power consumption. "Smaller and Lighter than almost all in production laptops" is true of the XO.

The 10% power consumption claims are not impossible, if the electronics are as well-designed as they say. I hear they are. The software needs to catch up and implement aggressive power management. Existing software also needs tuning to reduce wakeups and polling (Ex: a recent patch for Python does just that). Software doing polling and forcing wakeups keeps the XO from going into suspend for extended periods.

Mark Bauer called it on battery size. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison. If they manage 10x better battery life WITH the XO's smaller battery, then they deserve all their hype. They'll be up there with Apple or Palm (back when Palm didn't suck).

Nobody really knows how long any tool will last nor how long owners will use it. Everything is an educated guess. Anecdotally, most of my friends try to keep a laptop for 4-5 yrs. A few wealthier friends always upgrade every 3. Sometimes, they can pass on their quality older laptops; sometimes they self-destruct. I think Jepsen could claim that the XO should last long enough to pass on to someone else. There is also value-added over the life of the product through free software updates which increase functionality and reliability.

In summary, I am against hyperbole, but I do believe the XO-1 is a marvel of engineering. I deeply respect and admire what OLPC has managed to accomplish and can't wait for what comes out of them and Pixel Qi next.

Weren't some of the battery life predictions made before the specs were changed to use the LiFePO batteries?

From www.olpcnews.com/hardware/power_supply/olpc_power_boost_lifepo4.html

[[The LiFePO4 battery promises to be safer, less at risk for explosions, and colder running batteries. Lithium iron phosphate is an intrinsically safer cathode material than LiCoO2. The traditional downside of this has been lower voltage and less energy density.]]

Surely this is one of the reasons why the actual battery life is not as long as the amount of time predicted early on.

Having said that, we do have some users who've got developer's builds on their XOs, who have posted on the olpcnews forums that they've gotten 10 hours and more out of a charge. No, it's not "days" on one charge, but ten hours is nothing to sneeze at. Are there any other laptops of any size that can run that long before needing to be recharged? Needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing the power managment features in the upcoming builds become available in a stable release.

Most reports on the forum go for 4.5 hours of battery life, more or less:

http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=937.0

The genral concensus is that battery life will be dramatically improve (to perhaps 10 hours - never in the "days" range originally promised) with Update 1. We will have to wait and see how true that is, given the OLPC's long history of over-promising and under-delivering.

@Irvin

"3. "4 times battery lifetime of typical laptop"

See #2 above. Equally bogus."

The XO's battery can be recharged 2,000 times which is 4 times the 500 recharges of a typical laptop battery.

Ben wrote:

"The XO's battery can be recharged 2,000 times which is 4 times the 500 recharges of a typical laptop battery."

And the proof that your statemnt is true is...the statement itself!

C'mon, guys. It's ok to support an initiative like the OLPC, but that support doesn't require that you become an irrational apologist.

In fact, the OLPC Project would be in much better shape today if the supporters had demanded, from the beginning, that Negroponte & Co. stop the false claims, the hype and outright lies.

Silly denials only contribute to the crisis, but minimizing the need for an honest assessment of the work being done and the work to be done in the near future.

Isn't it quite bizarre that, in spite of the many broken promises and outright blunders committed by the OLPC leadership, the usual supporters have never exhibited the intellectual and moral integrity to say:

"Well, Prof. Negroponte, we love you. We love your work and feel your initiative is a noble one. Great!. But, please, could you stop the lies and misrepresentations? A humanitarian mission needs complete transparency. Rather than continuing with the lies and outlandish claims of a wonderful tomorrow that never comes, why don't we just concentrate on making the XO a better product, one that actually resembles the educational laptop you originally promised? Do you have such low opinion of your own product that you deem the lies absolutely necessary?"

I guess I'm wrong for expecting behavior not compatible with a sychophant's nature. A man can only dream...

Irvin,

just trying "LiFePO4 battery charge cycles" in a search engine would get you plenty of alternative sources for those numbers. The first result from Google, for example, was an electric bike site that said "5. Longer cycle life: In comparison with LiCoO2 battery which has a cycle life of 400 cycles, LiFePO4 battery extends its cycle life up to 2000 cycles."

If you can't be bothered to do a little research, then please give people the benefit of the doubt before accusing them of lying.

"The 10% power consumption claims are not impossible, if the electronics are as well-designed as they say. I hear they are. "

The 2 watt Mary-Lou mentions seems to be close to what is actually measured. Indeed, not all the software is yet up to the task of taking full advantage of the hardware. The biggest savings can be got from fast on/off switching of the CPU. That seems to be still lacking.

If there is anyone who knows what she is talking about, it is Mary-Lou. And her figures are backed up by research. The XO is "green" because it has low energy and resource uses, and is recyclable. I have not been able to fault her facts, but if you or anybody else knows about errors, you should certainly communicate them.

If all computers were equally well designed, with low power chips and displays and fully recyclable, the world would indeed be a better place.

If anyone does NOT know about the technology involved, I would vote for the first commenter. And he tends to misinterpret everything said in favor of the XO or OLPC. (and he seems to live on insults)

Winter

Jecel wrote:

"just trying "LiFePO4 battery charge cycles" in a search engine would get you plenty of alternative sources for those numbers. The first result from Google, for example, was an electric bike site that said "5. Longer cycle life: In comparison with LiCoO2 battery which has a cycle life of 400 cycles, LiFePO4 battery extends its cycle life up to 2000 cycles.

If you can't be bothered to do a little research, then please give people the benefit of the doubt before accusing them of lying."


What if they, LIKE YOU, are LYING and I have, in effect done my "little research?

I'll demonstrate my point besed on your "proof". Yes, let's do the search you suggest and see how truthful or accurate your own "research" is.

1. Let's do the search you suggest. The first result is , as you say, a page where the "2000 charges vs 500" is made. You're right so far and your 'evidence" seems legit. Link:

http://batteryjunction.com/rc375reliba.html

2. There is a big problem, though: you forgot to mention that the SAME link also offers "evidence" of only "1000 charges vs 500":

http://batteryjunction.com/2rc375reliba.html

So, as you can see, the numbers are not very clear, are they?

Maybe you are the one who needs to do a bit of research? Maybe you're the one who needs to show a little more intellectual integrity?

As it is, you're just being a pretty dim groupie, trying to cover the sun with a finger. Pretty sad...

Irvin:
"What if they, LIKE YOU, are LYING..."
"As it is, you're just being a pretty dim groupie, trying to cover the sun with a finger. Pretty sad..."

Insult over substance anytime, don't you Irvin.

Trying to find a conflicting leaflet quote without reading is NOT substance. And I suspect Mary-Lou knows more about batteries than you do.

Anyhow the discussion is about whether the XO is really "green" compared to regular laptops:
"The XO laptop has earned the highest environmental certifications: it is in full compliance with the European Union’s rigorous RoHS(a) standards; it has qualified for Energy Star 4.0 Category A (the most stringent ranking); and it has received the US PC and notebook environmental ratings agency EPEAT Gold(b) rating, one of only eight laptop computers to do so."
http://www.olpcnews.com/laptops/xo1/olpc_xo_greenest_laptop_made.html

So, go battle with the RoHS and EPEAT ratings if you don't agree.

Winter

Hi, Winter

I thought you resolution to not "acknowledge" my presence/posts would last longer than 48 hours, but I guess I'm irresistible!

:-)

That said, what do you think of my refutation of Jecel's silly "proof"? Wasn't that good? (I must admit his argument was very weak, so I don't get too many points on that one).


As for your suggestion I go and fight with RoHS, EPEAT and assorted acronyms, I will politely decline. I'm more interested in pointing out the repeated lies and misrepresentations made by the OLPC Leadership, as I have done on numerous occasions (the false claims are numerous, too).

In any case, thank you for your input.


:-)

[[Most reports on the forum go for 4.5 hours of battery life, more or less:

http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=937.0

The genral concensus is that battery life will be dramatically improve (to perhaps 10 hours - never in the "days" range originally promised) with Update 1. We will have to wait and see how true that is, given the OLPC's long history of over-promising and under-delivering.]]

My own experience is that the battery lasts approximately 4 hours with the backlight on, and approximately 5 hours with the backlight off. But I have Build 656, not one of the builds that are still in development. Because my goal with the XO was to try different kinds of software and hardware to make it accessible to disabled users, I've decided to stay away from non-stable builds. (If something fails, I don't want to pull my hair out trying to determine if it was the adaptive software or the developer's build, or some combo of the two, that caused the trouble.) I look forward to the increased battery life that the future builds will provide, even if the improvement is measured in hours instead of days.

And I need to ask again, was the guess-timate of "days" of battery life predicated on using a different, longer-lasting kind of battery than the LiFePO4? Because obviously, the spec change would have rendered the original prediction of battery life obsolete. The tradeoff, however, appears to be a battery that is less expensive, safer, and one that will withstand more charge cycles before needing to be replaced. I think the disadvantage of "hours vs. days of battery life" are balanced out by the benefits of using the LiFePO4 battery.

Donna:
"The tradeoff, however, appears to be a battery that is less expensive, safer, and one that will withstand more charge cycles before needing to be replaced. I think the disadvantage of "hours vs. days of battery life" are balanced out by the benefits of using the LiFePO4 battery."

I remember that the discussions about battery safety were conclusive.
http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/power_supply/olpc_power_boost_lifepo4.html

However, longer battery life reduces the number of recharge cycles needed and thus the useful life of the battery. So a shorter battery power life is bad both ways.

In the end, it all depends on whether the XO can switch the CPU off/on fast enough and often enough during idle time. If they do not succeed in that, all the earlier projections are way off.

Winter

Irvin,

I said you could find the same numbers OLPC uses quoted by people entirely unrelated to the project, and you did. I don't see how that makes me a liar.

There is nothing I can do if a single site (it wasn't one of the ones I had seen) has two very different figures for the same product. And you have to always be careful about what results you find - I saw a site saying that a regular Li-ion battery has a lifetime of 15 thousand charges, for example.

About the duration of a charge, my BTest-2 machine only gets one hour and forty minutes with the backlight on (have fun quoting this number for your arguments!). That is how things are. Newer hardware and newer software gets four hours and there is still a lot they can do to improve just in software.

For your information, Irvin, I am an OLPC competitor, not a fan boy. Every machine they get my government to give to a child is one less that I will be able to sell. But that is no reason for me to attack them like you do.

Jecel wrote:

"I said you could find the same numbers OLPC uses quoted by people entirely unrelated to the project, and you did. I don't see how that makes me a liar."

What makes you a liar is your willful attempt at obfuscating an evident truth. It is hard to believe that a person like you, who takes pride in doing his "research" before expressing his opinion, would "by pure coincidence' only notice the number that fits the bogus OLPC claim.


"There is nothing I can do if a single site (it wasn't one of the ones I had seen) has two very different figures for the same product."

Yes, there is something that you can do: you can, like me, have the intellectual integrity to say that the OLPC's claims are unverified, and possibly bogus, given their history of hype and outright lies. But if you are not so daring, if you lack the cohones, you could have said their claims are just "not yet verified".

"And you have to always be careful about what results you find - I saw a site saying that a regular Li-ion battery has a lifetime of 15 thousand charges, for example."

Shouldn't you have followed your own advice before asking me to go and "google" the numbers? As it is, your accusation of me not "doing my research" has backfired completely, hasn't it?

"About the duration of a charge, my BTest-2 machine only gets one hour and forty minutes with the backlight on (have fun quoting this number for your arguments!)."

Not necessary. Besides, I only deal with facts. That's why it is very hard for the sychphants to stomach my posts. they know i'm making valid points.

"That is how things are. Newer hardware and newer software gets four hours and there is still a lot they can do to improve just in software."

I quoted "around 4.5 hours", as you can verify. So, I'm dealing with the issues in a fair, honest way. The ones not being honest are the ones making the claims of "battery life measured in days, not hours" like that's true. Or even the 'updated version' that has the battery life down to '10 hours'...when the magical Update 1 comes!

Shoudn't the claims match the CURRENT reality, so that people can form an imformed opinion?

"For your information, Irvin, I am an OLPC competitor, not a fan boy. "

Irrelevant, to people of honesty.

Competitors, followers, fans, everyone should express opinions based on reality, not on promises of future wonderful things that never materialize, like the human power generator, access (code view) to application code, battery life 'measured in days, not hours', a $100 price tag, etc., etc.

"Every machine they get my government to give to a child is one less that I will be able to sell."

Once gain, this is irrelevant. You sohuld deal with the issues in a truthful manner, no matter what your situation.

"But that is no reason for me to attack them like you do."

If telling the truth is attacking them, so be it. I'm not in a popularity contest and, unlike you, I have no financial stake in the OLPC Project failing or succeeding.

My commitment is to the truth and to the well-being of poor children in the world.

Irvin wrote: "Shoudn't the claims match the CURRENT reality, so that people can form an imformed opinion?"

It is important to make clear what are plans and what is the current situation, but this isn't a released product. Much software is still to be written and there is still hardware being developed. Many people are interested in what it will be like when all that is done. It would be silly not to allow to discuss that even though it does cause some to confuse plans and reality.

When Nicholas first showed some PowerPoint slides with computer generated images of a possible design (mid 2005) the headlines we got from the press said he was demonstrating a prototype. But things evolve. In November of 2005 he had a physical mock up and in mid 2006 a complete prototype. Some things you are saying were true in the past but are not true now, and some are true now but won't be in six months.

In normal product development you don't see that kind of thing, but here they are being very open (and some would like them to be more open still). That means that you get to see the version that can't suspend at all, the one that accesses Flash at 1/10th the speed of a pen drive, the one where your work can't be saved across upgrades and so on. But stick around and you will see something better.

About research using the Internet, I stand by my previous posts. It is a good idea to do this and then to use common sense to evaluate the results.

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