OLPC Birmingham Surprise: Internet and Routers Needed

   
   
   
   
   

The Birmingham Board of Education is quickly learning that the full implementation costs of One Laptop Per Child are much greater than a $200 laptop. This week's lesson? The Birmingham News reports that the BoE was just told it needed buy routers to provide wireless Internet service in every school.

[Bob] McKenna attended last week's seminar on the XO Laptop in Boston. "You need to add a router to every school and as long as there is one, every computer in that field can tap into it," McKenna said. "Depending on what type of router you buy, it's about $39 plus a monthly fee."
Now John Katopodis, adviser to Mayor Larry Langford, says he already has a solution - a router donation from Texas - but does he know about the OLPC Active Antenna?
olpc wifi
The Active Antenna is a standalone version of the wireless mesh network interface used in the XO laptop. It connects to a host or power source through a 5m (16ft) USB cable. As a mesh networking interface, it both serves as network interface for any host connected through USB and as a repeater node in the mesh.

Two or three Active Antenna are used with each School server, one may be connected to an XO or other laptop to allow mesh networking, or they may simply be connected to a wall brick providing power. If connected to a USB host (and not just a power supply), it requires a specialized driver which uploads firmware and manages the mesh functionality.

Not only is this more cost effective than John's routers, it will also extend mesh networking outside the classroom, so children can learn outdoors too. I'm thinking OLPC Planetarium!

Sadly, B'ham School Board member Virginia Volker was thinking about a whole other use for the XO laptop: XO porn. And what was Bob McKenna's answer?

McKenna said filters would have to be added to the school routers, but parents need to be on the lookout as well. "We need to look at bringing all parents together to make them understand the power of this technology," he said.
Yep, parents have responsibility too, and need to be included in OLPC implementation. Concerned and engaged parents like Betty Dingus's friend.

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75 Comments

From the wiki -
Obtaining one
If you have a need for one or more Active Antenna for a project that OLPC might be interested in supporting, please apply through the developers program. Currently, our supply is very limited, but we hope to have enough to provide them to qualified developers.
---
But couldn't you attach one of the PCs to a wired Ethernet connection and use that as an antenna? In one article on 1-1 computer the laptops are set up to only access the internet through a school portal. That's how they filter the content. However, what about kids that don't have internet at home?

point from the comments
Overall, giving kids access to information online is a step forward. Computers are great at bringing a world of information to your eyeballs. However, you have to manage that information. I want to see the actual lesson plans that these computers are accompanying. But the mayor didn't even discuss this with the school board before he ran with it. These teachers are not going to have a plan for even using these computers. That's just my prediction.

"However, you have to manage that information."

Could you explain what you mean here?

It can be everything from providing a portal, like this:
http://www.kennisnet.nl/

To full scale censorship:
http://www.spectacle.org/freespch/faq.html

I know there are people who rather have children die than expose them to nudity (this is not an exageration). Many that talk about protecting the children against the dangers of knowledge are actually using "pornography" as an excuse for full out religious and political censorship.

Almost all parents are quite willing to weight the risks against the benefits. The main problem is that most parents actually are ignorant about the reality of the dangers. Here only good information can help. Alas, there are many powers that are only interested in furthering their own agenda.

Winter

I don't think that having to provide internet access is a deal-breaker. From the very beginning it was understood that buyers would have to incur the extra expense of hardware (school servers, antennas, etc.).

The greatest danger for OLPC today is the lack of features that non-technical users take for granted when thinking about a laptop:

1. Printing - being able to print some projects is very common practice for students of all levels in the USA.
2. Internet-based multimedia - the ability to access and play content in the most common formats: Mp3, Flash, Quicktime, WMA, etc.
3. 3rd. party software - people will want to install their favorite applications, like AIM, ICQ, Skype, MS Word, PC games, spreadsheets, etc. I'm afraid most users will see the lack of 3rd. party applications/games/software as a major issue.
4. CD-Rom/DVD Drive/Burner - people will expect some sort of device to bring files in and out of the computer
5. Conventional storage device / hard drive (kids can produce a lot of files in a very short period of time)
6. A conventional (ala Mac/Windows) GUI
7. An implementation plan, along with relevant educational applications, for schools to adapt to their own needs - very few teachers will have the knowledge, capacity, time or desire to undertake the gigantic task of becomming programmers in order to develop educational software for their students.

Regardless of how critical some of the items on the list above are, people will expect the XO to conform to their "ideal" of a full-featured laptop/desktop. Fair? Unfair? It doesn't really matter, as Walmart and many others have painfuly discovered when they tried to market products that did not meet people's taste (remember Lindows?).

The OLPC leadership urgently needs to bring people on board that will help them have a more consumer-oriented, realistic approach to the XO. It's the only chance this initiative has, and time is of the essence, with competition everywhere from Intel, Asus and even Mary Lou Jepsen herself (promising a laptop better than the XO for 1/3 of the price within 2 years!)...

Winter,

I hope someone from OLPC America reads your post because the porn issue comes up over and over again. In America we don't mind murder and mayhem but a naked breast? The horror!! The kennisnet portal looks like the right direction, however censorship is more our style.

For example, my child goes to an magnet school with a world class art studio program. The have nude models for figure study, student generated nude drawings, photographs and sculpture in the hallways but the internet is filtered and they can't go here: http://www.rmichelson.com/Artist_Pages/Nimoy/pages/Nimoy%20Gallery.htm

Here's a guy running a trial (using eee's) in a high school.
Main complaint - the machine's not tied to the curriculum. Something for the people in Alabama to keep in mind. Glad to hear Alabama's still on track.

http://henrythiele.blogspot.com/2008/01/asus-eee-series-pc-student-trial.html

> 1. Printing - being able to print some projects is very common
> practice for students of all levels in the USA.

Print is going to be added soon in software.

The XO has a screen nearly at the same quality as paper, have you seen it? It is perfect for reading books on. So read your school books, websites on it in black and white reflective mode and it does not strain your eyes. Thus children using XO need to print much less than kids using eye-straining conventional LCD screens.

> 2. Internet-based multimedia - the ability to access and play
> content in the most common formats: Mp3, Flash, Quicktime, WMA, etc.

Type in a command in the Terminal to add Mplayer and Adobe Flash. All these codecs work on the XO, it just not comes with them preinstalled cause that would be ILLEGAL.

OLPC could add a one-click repository install system to download and add those softwares without having to type in the terminal.

> 3. 3rd. party software - people will want to install their favorite
> applications, like AIM, ICQ, Skype, MS Word, PC games, spreadsheets,
> etc. I'm afraid most users will see the lack of 3rd. party
> applications/games/software as a major issue.

IM, Skype, SIP all of that is available now, just type some short thing in the terminal.

Right now built-in IM is based on Jabber, and I think somekind of SIP based video and voice chat is going to be added soon. They just need to make it work smoothly using open-source free open-standard audio and video codecs such as speex and ogg theora or something like that.

You can install proprietary Skype, mpeg4, h264 based video and voice chat software typing a few words in the terminal. Again OLPC could add at any time a one-click download and install repository thing to install those without having to type a line in the terminal.

> 4. CD-Rom/DVD Drive/Burner - people will expect some sort of
> device to bring files in and out of the computer

Have you heard of $5 USB sticks? Or $8 SD cards?

Anyways the goal here is to rather back everything up on the School server, which also would be available from anywhere on the Internet to synch up and continuously backup all data on. Basically the goal is for each laptop to have basically unlimited storage out there on the cloud.

No need to CD, DVD and all that. If you want to use that, then just get a $15 external USB DVD burner drive.

> 5. Conventional storage device / hard drive (kids can produce a lot
> of files in a very short period of time)

The school server comes with 200GB, and can have terrabytes if the school can afford it. Google could provide each student unlimited storage in the cloud of the Internet, which also would have the content buffered on the school server.

If you want to use a hard drive, just plug a FAT32 formatted external hard drive to the usb connector of the laptop. Microsoft's proprietary NTFS formatting doesn't work well with Linux, nothing can fix that other then Microsoft.

> 6. A conventional (ala Mac/Windows) GUI

GUIs are completely irrelevant. A child can learn to use Windows, Mac or whatever GUI in about 45 seconds. There is absolutely no use to "train" or "teach" in learning of computer interfaces. That's not where the learning lies, not in learning GUI, but in learning STUFF on the computer. Reading stuff, finding CONTENT, watching VIDEOS, writing stuff, composing music, being creative.

Learning or using Windows GUI is practically irrellevant. But Microsoft has 40 software engineers working on it right now and it will be available. And in case Windows does provide a few usefull features such as opening some existing Windows based applications, using some Windows based apps, or to have that 45 second "learning" of the Windows GUI. Well just insert the Microsoft SD card in the laptop and you'll be able to boot it. And if Steve Jobs wants kids to try Apple GUI as well, he could make his SD card as well.

I'm surprised these are surprises. I would expect the costs of providing internet service/routers to each school that is slated for an XO laptop deploy would be #1 after the purchase of the units. And internet safety is something that should be handled at a policy level by school districts (implemented locally, but there should be clear policies and technologies selected at some greater level than individual schools, to ease parent fears about internet safety district-wide), don't you think?

Perhaps, though, there are lessons being learned and information we can compile on a wiki page for future US-based deployments or pilot projects. Anyone care to rush the wiki to start a "Deployment Considerations" page of some sort? Perhaps this exists already, I honestly haven't looked into it yet.

@Charbax

I know that the XO can be "expanded" by adding peripherals, and I also know that many things can be adapated to work with the XO with varying degrees of efficiency.

However, I also know that people expect most of those things OUT OF THE BOX. And that was my point. Consumers can't be reasonbly expected to know, let alone use, the Linux command line.

Consumers need a computer that (right out of the box) will print, store, install, open programs, play music and video, access the internet, bookmark webpages, etc., in a way similar to what they are used to, with a speed and smoothness similar to what they are used to. This is especially true of users in the USA - that's the reason Prof. Negroponte never wanted to sell the XO in the USA or Western Europe, where consumers are far more demanding, experienced and knowledgeable.

irving:

"Consumers need a computer that (right out of the box) will print, store, install, open programs, play music and video, access the internet, bookmark webpages, etc., in a way similar to what they are used to, with a speed and smoothness similar to what they are used to."

Apparently you are unaware that the primary taget for the XO is developing world children who have never owned computer.

My guess is the Mary Lou's new company will provide something like what you are describing, so there will be a choice between the XO and more consumer-oriented models.

@ maddie

two things

one, thanks a bundle for telling me about the repositories, i thought u couldnt play flashed based games on the xo...ummm..i dont know quite how to phrase this because we cannot talk about illegal stuff on the xo forum (could force the website to be shut down). so if you could send me a nice e mail...yeah...that would be greatly appreciated.


about the gui, i disagree..there is such a thing as a bad gui, and sugar has it. i understand that the kids can in a sense go "around" it. get used to it, adapt to it, learn it, etc, but i dont think too many kids will like it too much. maybe i'm wrong. personally i think in the olpc news form should come together as a community and start submiting, organizing, and clarifing ideas for ways to make the sugar os better. i think sugar is great, but needs alot of work.

Maybe I am out to lunch but I never compared the XO to say a Dell laptop. The OLPC site was very clear about the fact that it was NOT an adult laptop.

I see it as a NEW tool designed for young children. I love the fact it can be dropped, and is water and dust resistant, and has a smaller keyboard for smaller hands. The features the xo offers have also been very well represented.So no one should be surprised.

I do not have mine yet. After it comes I will in a better position to judge it's educational value for the kids I teach. But the real test will be how the children it was designed for accept and use it.

Internet access for schools should not be a pre-requisite for laptop learning.
No Internet = No Porn

Curriculum formats should be developed by education managers deploying the technology and provide all resources for students to access on the school server.

This scenario is already developed and being provided by OLPC to schools.

I'm frankly surprised at the fuss and this article. XO deployment was never meant to be stand alone.

2. Internet-based multimedia - the ability to access and play
> content in the most common formats: Mp3, Flash, Quicktime, WMA, etc

Irrelevant when it comes to the subject of education. It is possible to convert these file into open source format such as ogg Vorbis or Theora. Why forcing proprietary format on developing countries?

The mesh antenna is NOT an option. A router is needed.
Why ? Simply because the mesh antenna is not available yet.
I applied to get one prototype and didn't even got a reply from OLPC... Are they really serious about what they are doing. I start seriously feeling NO !

@ jrghoull
the forums (http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php) are full of information on how to make the XO do things the designers didn't expect people wanted to do.

@marc
I thought if you could connect one XO to the internet (like through an ethernet to usb device) you could use that XO as an antenna via mesh.

@kelley
I think Alabama is an example of a low-ball estimate. When the mayor presented this he only quoted the price of the XO. Now's he's going back with everything else the program will require.

I think calling the XO an 'educational tool' instead of a 'laptop' would reduce the confusion. I'm sure very few people on Birmingham have done research on the topic and when they hear 'laptop' a certain image pops into their mind. I think that's where a lot of people who are unhappy with the XO went off the track. They heard 'laptop' not 'beta test'.

@eduardo
the target may be children in developing countries but OLPC recently formed OLPC America so that's a target group with entirely different expections of a 'laptop'. See (http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=1813.msg13711#new)

eduardo Montez wrote:

"Apparently you are unaware that the primary taget for the XO is developing world children who have never owned a computer. "

Several things are wrong with your statement:

1. The target is no longer "developing world children who have never owned a computer". Anyone qualifies today, from regular folks in the G1G1 program to kids in Peru, to kids in the USA. There are even talks (don't know how true) of a G1G1 program being considered for the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

2. While the "primary target" (USER) is a kid, the people making the decision to buy the computer for that kid are adults, who will make sure they are getting a good product for that kid. It's what everybody does, isn't it? And adults will inevitably compare the XO with a regular laptop bacause, unfortunately, that the way Prof. Negroponte chose to market his device from the beginning: he has said on a number of occassions that the XO is as functional as a regualr laptop costing ten times more. That's why people become extremely disappointed upon realizng that that's not the case.

3. If anyone has any doubts as to why people are comparing the XO with regular laptops, they need to remember that the project's name is "One Laptop Per Child" and it has been heavily marketed as the "$100 Laptop" that can do "anything" that regular laptops do.

Anyone does not qualify today as a target for the XO laptop, for the simple reason that only until recently has OLPC announced interest in providing the to the developed countries. So far, most of the resources have gone to support pilot projects and present and future implementations in developing countries (why else test the laptop in very cold/very hot temperatures, design it to withstand humidity and dust, if not to make it fool-proof against the environmental and real conditions many kids of developing countries live in?
Anyway, the original discussion was about the xo laptop's out of the box consumer experience, but you are forgetting this isn't a typical consumer laptop: it is a totally open box, and its customers, the government and school districts, are free to add the video and audio codecs they wish to the OS, and otherwise customize it any way they see fit, even to the point of changing how it works internally, as it is all free software. They could even take out the Sugar Gui and install XFCE or other interface, or even install their customized Puppy linux OS (but I think they would be loosing a lot doing that) or even install Windows XP when it comes out for it (which would be a greater loss, closing down a platform and locking it to a single vendor is not peachy for education).
And I agree with Charbax, school and communities around the XO implementations would be wise to use the free unpantented, royalty-free, and well supported codecs that abound (for music, ogg vorbis and flac, for video, ogg theora).

You dont need a router to provied wireless internet! My iMac can do that for easily so long as it is being fed internet via one of its other ports (ethernet, etc). Go to preferences/sharing.

Since this article is about Birmingham I think it's CRITICAL to OLPCs plan that this goes off without a hitch. If it requires financial support on OLPCs part then that's what they have to do. If this plan fails--if the XOs end up on ebay or someone downloads (or makes their own) porn, or the teachers just don't use them, or the kids play all day and test scores fail, or anything else that may go wrong -- there are reporters/bloggers waiting to report the bad news.

Remember, we're not talking Mongolia where no American reporters going to go and all of the bad news is in a foreign language. This is America where talk radio loves to bash - teachers, poor people, non-white people, public schools. If you don't believe it listen to am talk radio some time.

Irving, OLPC can have a repository system to add new software in a one-click user friendly process.

If you want mpeg4, mp3, mpg, wmv, qt so many other codecs included by default go talk with your elected politicians and tell them to change software patent laws. Installing Mplayer on Linux is illegal, shipping the laptop with Mplayer or VLC pre-installed is illegal in certain countries such as the USA. OLPC cannot change the laws.

If you want full screen smooth Youtube on the XO, send a letter to Adobe, tell Adobe to optimize the Flash player for the XO hardware now. Nobody other then Adobe can do this. The hardware is powerful enough, Flash for Linux simply isn't optimized enough to display the latest versions of Flash smoothly.

If you want more softwares, simply wait for OLPC to add a repository of somekind, or can't you just install .xo files by simply downloading them using the browser and clicking on them? Thus a repository for more software is simply a web page with links to all the software to install on the server.

Thus the school server homepage could be a bunch of .xo files that students can click on to add software such as Mplayer, Opera, Flash, Skype, Stylesheet and whatever else. There are a million Linux apps out there and all can relatively easilly be ported to work on the XO, many already are. It is plain wrong to say software for the XO Sugar OS isn't good enough. All Linux apps can work, the point is to port them and to optimize them so they take as little storage space, as little RAM, use as little processing power as possible and are displayed nicely in both backlit and black and white mode as well as integrate the Sugar OS standard interface buttons to make it easy to use the software.

@Irvin:
"And adults will inevitably compare the XO with a regular laptop"

That is like saying that parents will not buy children's bikes because the adults cannot ride them. Or no childrens books because they bore adults.

You really don't get around the whole "children" and "educators" thing.

Winter

@Maddie:
"This is America where talk radio loves to bash -"

Is there any outcome possible, any at all, that they won't bash? They would find a way to ridicule world peace and end of hunger if it was achieved.

But you are right, the Birmingham implementation should be flawless. But is that even possible with an ideal system?

To prevent loading porn they should only distribute among 6-7 year olds, I think.

Winter

Charbax wrote:

"...If you want mpeg4, mp3, mpg, wmv, qt so many other codecs included by default go talk with your elected politicians and tell them to change software patent laws....

...If you want full screen smooth Youtube on the XO, send a letter to Adobe, tell Adobe to optimize the Flash player for the XO hardware now...

...If you want more softwares, simply wait for OLPC to add a repository of somekind..."


Why bother, Charbax?

I can just get a run-of-the-mill computer that does all those things out-of-the-box.

The OLPC Project is dying a quick death, drowning in a sea of arrogance mixed with a complete and bizarre detachment from reality: "the XO is so good that people will have to accept it even if it is not good at all!".

Truly insane...

Eduardo Silva wrote:

"school and communities around the XO implementations would be wise to use the free unpantented, royalty-free, and well supported codecs that abound (for music, ogg vorbis and flac, for video, ogg theora)"

Why, then, doesn't the OLPC people provide this features out-of-the-box as a courtesy to their users?

It does.

I understand that Terminal can unlock or install many option, I have used it to upgrade, install Doom, and unlock write (return write to Abiword). Does anyone know of a website that lists all the Terminal commands and all the programs that can be installed by terminal?

@ Winter,
You're right that talk radio is going to find something to hate in the Birmingham program. They'll probably hate it more if it works.

Hopefully OPLC America is planning to make Birmingham their PR showcase. Also it's good that there's no language barrier and most of the OLPC developers (paid and volunteer) are working in English. They just need to keep in mind that any sentence that starts "You go into terminal and...." induces sleep in 9 out of 10 people. An OLPC education portal with one-click installation of useful tools would be great for educators and casual users.

Actually, this page is not bad if it were reorganized into a user-friendly (as opposed to a programmer-friendly) format http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Activities. It should be instantly apparent what tool to use for studying this week's vocabulary list.

@Irvin:
The whole consumer, out of the box thing etc.

Irvin, it seems you are unaware about how procurement for large orders go. If a customer orders hundreds of laptops for a specific aim, eg, children in elementary school, they always order an image. So if they would order Dell laptops, they would tell Dell what software would have to be on the disk: The Image.

It might surprise you endlessly, but the OLPC works just like that. They have made a showcase Sugar image. But if you go there and order many laptops, you can just ask what software is installed. You can have all the printing, MP3, and Flash you like. And someone can be found who will just add that to the laptops. For MP3 and Flash you might be required to pay extra license fees to the "owners". Then, the children can print and watch YouTube to their hearts content.

The OLPC delivers to USA consumers, not because that has become a target group, but because they were deluged by requests for the laptops from all those fools who love the XO (as you always describe them). The fact that the XO leaves a lot to tinker for these adult US-ians is something they might love even more. But I suspect that you could not understand that.

And your remarks about that if the OLPC would just do what you asked them, so they could be replaced by another laptop, these are just silly. The XO can do things no other laptop can do at any price. And it costs less than every other laptop you can buy. That you cannot imagine that you could use an XO is your problem, not that of the OLPC.

Get over it Irvin.

The OLPC has produced a laptop that is cheaper than every other laptops and technologically more advanced than all of them. The Classmate is a neutered laptop with less than half the capabilities of the XO, and it is still more expensive.

So just admit that you don't have a clue about the laptop and it's use. I think you just cannot stand Negroponte and that's why the OLPC must die a horrible death.

Winter

@Maddie
"I thought if you could connect one XO to the internet (like through an ethernet to usb device) you could use that XO as an antenna via mesh."
In theory, I suppose it is possible. But how to do that ? Any tutorial somewhere ?

@Marc:
"In theory, I suppose it is possible. But how to do that ? Any tutorial somewhere ?"

Maybe you can start here:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Establishing_a_Mesh_Portal

Not really a tutorial, but it might be a starting point (if I understand correctly).
Maybe someone who knows more about it can compile a HOWTO?

Winter

Winter wrote:

"Get over it Irvin....The XO can do things no other laptop can do at any price."

Sure, Winter. The XO can do things that other laptops can't. The problem is that those "things" are NOT good things:

1. The XO makes it impossible to print directly from the computer. No other laptop in the world has this paper-saving "feature".
2. The XO prevents users from bookmarking pages as part of their normal web browsing. This spectacular technical achievement (soon to be licensed to Dell) is meant to prevent kids from easily going back to their favorite porn sites.
3. The XO can't handle Flash, Mp3, Java, WMA, etc. A truly unique and revolutionary "feature" clearly aimed at preventing kids from being exposed to the sins of western multimedia.
4. The XO has a price tag ($200) that is twice the advertised price ($100). Onnly a marketing genius would thing of this novel way to instantly double the buyer's joy at payment time.
5. The XO has a battery life measured in hours, not days, in spite of the contrary being one of the many selling points. Great "feature", aimed a preventing kids from wasting too much time on the internet.
6. The XO has a non-existent "human powered generator". No other laptop in the market comes close to shipping with this invisible "feature".
7. The XO is the first laptop in history to ship with a suspect "MESH NETWORKING" that delivers far less than promised:

[quote]

We have painfully discovered the limitations of the mesh and current collaborative software in Mongolia, where the convolution of the number of laptops with bugs #5335 (more mDNS traffic than expected) and #5007 (mesh repeats multicast too much) make the perfect storm, which prevents anybody from using the network. We will continue to improve the mesh performance, but clear guidelines are needed as to what network infrastructure to deploy under what conditions. Once a certain density of students is exceeded, a wired backbone and conventional access points will be required.

[/quote]

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Current_events

Great attention should be paid to the last sentence:

"Once a certain density of students is exceeded, a wired backbone and conventional access points will be required."

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrry interesting....


Well...I could go on and on...but you get the idea...the XO is certainly 'different'...but not in a good way...

@Irvin:
In short, you claim the XO is not as perfect as you say it must be as you (mis-)interpret Negropontes words!

Irvin, no other laptop can do ANY of these (the software matters were already solved). And you even forgot the security of the XO! Oh no, that can't be important as it works (or you don't understand it?).

The bookmarks, mp3, printing obsession shows you are unaware of the distinction between software and hardware, and how easy it is to supply the software of choice. (You want Cups, or MP3, or Flash? Please tick on order form.)

And I did noticed you switched your arguments form "Printing" in general to "print directly from the computer".

"No other laptop in the world has this paper-saving "feature"." you say. Indeed, and all other laptops waste more power, and are bigger, and other kalashnikovs shoot more rounds per second than an XO, and the Nano car can drive faster. What use are these comparisons for school children in Nepal, Mongolia, or Nigeria?

Claiming the XO is a total failure because it is now sold to end-users for (gasp) $200 instead of $100 cannot hide the fact that there is no other laptop selling for under $200. The XO is still the cheapest by far. The limitations of the mesh also cannot hide the fact that there are no other laptops that even HAVE a mesh capapbility.

And your ignorance on (hand-)power managment can be classified as "legendary". You have played this card so often without bothering to even look at what the OLPC doing that it becomes laughable.

In short (again), you cannot come up with a laptop that will be even USEful to elementary school children in poor countries, other than the XO. (don't forget to include a power generator and collaborative software for the Classmate)

For you, children need printers and MP3 players more urgently than computers. They cannot ever use Ogg Vorbis because YOU don't need it, isn't it?

Winter

Winter wrote:

"Irvin, ... you claim the XO is not as perfect as you say it must be as you (mis-)interpret Negropontes words!"

My expectations are actually much lower. I think it is fair to ask that the XO's price and features actually match the advertised price and features. It's called "truth in advertising" and it should be of paramount importance to a non-profit like the OLPC Project.

So far, the claims (of battery life, human power genrator, actual mesh capabilities, software, price, ruggedness, etc) are completely out of synch with the actual product delivered to customers.

That's a recipe for failure and an ultimate betrayal of the public's trust.

@Irvin:
Thanks for the link. There was some nice news, like:

"School server: John Watlington reports that the school server software is moving along: a new release, including web caching and minor bug fixes, is being tested and should be ready by Monday. This release will also allow web filtering—we plan to use DansGuardian for now—to be easily enabled. Countries will be responsible for selecting and providing a list of filtered sites/content, but there are a number of commercial suppliers of suitable lists as a starting point."

Sorry you missed that one. It has been discussed quite often on OLPCnews.

And about the batteries:
"These data, along with a closer examination of the GoldPeak data sheet, make it pretty obvious that batteries don't work so well in the –20 to –40C range. The extreme cold makes the output voltage drop considerably. The result is that at around the 50% capacity mark the voltage is so low that the low-voltage cutoff kicks in and shuts the laptop off."

They are working on that one, but they note it could be a problem if the children take the supsended laptops out to -20C.

On the Mesh bugs, you see the report on #5335 here:
http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/bugs/2007-December/028981.html
(sounds like they should adapt Avahi. Avahi is an Implementation of the DNS Service Discovery and Multicast DNS specifications for Zeroconf Networking.)

The report on #5007 is here:
http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/bugs/2007-November/026868.html
Interesting tidbit on next message:
"You should be getting one echo of the frame from every direct neighbor of its source."
The bug is closed as invalid, as it seems to be normal behavior.

However, the echo's might become a problem in dense networks, as was experienced in Mongolia. In that case, it might be useful to set some upper rate with randomly chosen echos. However, that requires knowledge of the protocol which I utterly lack. I assume some networking gall or guy will step in.

There is also some background information about the design choices for the Mesh network in relation to the school servers:
"10. Mesh: Cramming 500 laptops under the same roof is a difficult (but tractable) engineering problem. We haven't done any testing of such deployment scenarios and Mongolia is not really the most convenient place for that testing. Despite that, common sense can still carry us a long way. We have set the limit of XO laptops to school servers to 180 (60 per channel in mesh mode)—after optimizing the laptop for “dense” deployment (which hasn't been a priority in our software development schedules). However, deploying more school servers under the same roof doesn't immediately translate to increased capacity, since school servers don't add spectrum. While a school server still costs several hundred dollars, it is more economical to install standard low-cost access points instead of multiple servers. (The OLPC mesh implementation was to maximize the “connected” time for sparse deployments (children in villages in Cambodia, rural schools in Rwanda) and to simplify and extend connectivity away from an access point."

There seems to be nothing beats real life.

Again, thanks for the link, Irvin.

Winter

@Irvin:
"I think it is fair to ask that the XO's price and features actually match the advertised price and features. It's called "truth in advertising" and it should be of paramount importance to a non-profit like the OLPC Project."

So the OLPC acted truthfully by refusing to add printing and closed media protocols. So why are you complaining? :-)

And I am pretty sure that they are still maintaining their initial stand that the power management will be only complete after they added the advanced capabillities to their Linux kernel. Which they stil have scheduled. There is more on the wiki:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Power_Management#Power_Management_Support

And the prices were in 2004 dollars in 1 million quantities. I think 150 euros to be rather close enough in single orders. You won't win a suit against Negroponte on that account.

Anyhow, it is completely ridiculous to use a 2005 speculative anouncement of an impossible machine in a "truth in adverticing" suit in 2008 when they actually delivered laptops with the desired features. You are nitpicking.

If you really claim you did believe you could get the equivalent of a $1500 Mac laptop for $100 (in speed, features, and storage room) as you wrote elsewhere, you are clearly delusional. Everyone is amazed by what Mary-Lou and her team did. And you are desperately looking for something, anything, to make it look like a complete and utter failure.

As I wrote above, I think you just cannot stand Negroponte and that's why the OLPC must die a horrible death.

Winter

Maddie wrote:

> In America we don't mind murder and mayhem but a naked breast? The horror!!

I hate to intrude on this mutual admiration society but pornography consists of a trifle more then an uncovered titty.

If you two can take time out from admiring each others urbane sophistication you might be able to give some thought to the fact that pornography that's the product of some pretty warped minds is just as accessible on the Internet as that naked breast. Let's see how well that extended pinkie-finger dismissiveness serves you when you have to try to undo the damage done to a seven year-old by the inadvertent watching of a video of a violent gang rape.

Winter wrote:

> In short (again), you cannot come up with a laptop that will be even USEful to elementary school children in poor countries, other than the XO.

Oh, has it been established that the XO is useful to elementary school children?

I'm defining "useful" as clearly responsible for measurable, significant improvements in educational attainments not in the amount of giggling and smiling engendered.

@Allen:
"I hate to intrude on this mutual admiration society but pornography consists of a trifle more then an uncovered titty."

In Saudi Arabia, holding hands is already considered pornography. But if you scroll up, you will find a quote about the new school server with filter software from the OLPC.

It is NOT the task or privilidge of the OLPC to decide what the children are allowed to see or not on their computers. That power rests with the government and parents.

@Allen:
"I'm defining "useful" as clearly responsible for measurable, significant improvements in educational attainments not in the amount of giggling and smiling engendered."

That is a VERY limited sense of useful. You give a definition of a scientifically proven improvement of educational achievement.

I chose the word "useful" because it signifies an artefact or method that can be shown to have USE in education.

As it has been proven all over the world that school children can USE word-processing, IM, email, and the internet both in and outside of their schools laptops are definitely USEful to school children. However, conventional laptops cannot be used in most of the target schools for very obvious, environmental reasons: They are too expensive, too breakable, require too much power, and are too unsafe (you may add more). The XO can actually be used by these children, so it IS a USEful laptop.

Whether anyone thinks it is cost effective in their educational system depends entirely on the situation (technological, social, ediucational, and political)

Winter

@allen,
In America the FCC levied a huge fine over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" and cheered for "Shock and awe", thousands of Iraqis getting killed tight there on CNN. I don't think it's easy to find gang rapes on the internet, but I'll admit I haven't looked. I thought most hard-core porn requires registration and credit cards, so any kid that sees that it's because an adult close to him put it on the XO. Can't see how you can blame OLPC for that.

If you go to a museum you may come across the occasional naked body. I'd guess on-line museums are the same. If you want to call that porn on the internet have at it. If you want to put pants on Michaelangelo's David, fine. I say let the school system/government/parent set the filter for what they think their society/child can handle. Or else let the parent be able to opt-out of participation in the program.

> In Saudi Arabia, holding hands is already considered pornography.

I'm sure different cultures have differing ideas on what's appropriate for children of a given age and what isn't. Hooray for diversity. I'm also quite sure that a disdain for those standards is not the way to convince people that OLPC will prevent danger from threatening their children.

Since both you and Maddie seem unaware that you don't get to choose the make-up of the constituency to which you must appeal there are going to be some of those dumb bible-thumping talk radio listeners in the group. Dismiss their concerns about bare breasts as contemptible, as you'd similarly dismiss the concerns of Saudi parents of exposing their children to promiscuous hand-holding, why waste your time trying to convince them to accept the OLPC? Dismiss their concerns and you discard their support. You won't be moving too many XO's under those circumstances.

If your measure of educational utility is learning to use word processing software, instant messaging, e-mail and the web then you don't have to worry about critics. No one's going to want to tie up substantial amounts of funding to teach anything as trivial as the basic and easily-acquired skills you've identified. But of course that isn't your measure of educational utility otherwise you wouldn't have pointed to Dutch PISA results as proving much of anything. IM'ing isn't going to teach you calculus or chemistry and that's what parents, and even education bureaucrats, are looking for for their children.

@Allen:
"IM'ing isn't going to teach you calculus or chemistry and that's what parents, and even education bureaucrats, are looking for for their children."

I think we are quabling about words. No one can create a universal standard of "pornography". That is something the parents and their government should do themselves. It has always bin so. Therefore, the OLPC can only hand over the tools. As they did.

Useful in education is not the same as ensuring better grades. Cleaning school sanitation is useful, but has no direct and measurable effect on grades. IM is useful, not because it teaches mathematics, but because it enables children to collaborate when doing homework and eases the communication between students and teacher. Better homework can indeed increase grades, but that will be very difficult to pin down. I am seriously NOT saying that learning to use "write" should be an aim in education.

See:
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

Winter

@ allen

Most public computers (libraries and schools) have filters installed. If they don't it's because the country chooses not to. If the children are using them at school they have filters. It's possible to set up the machine so that it has to access the internet through the school portal, which is filtered.

There are serious issues/roadblocks to OLPC America, I think porn (however you define it) is a minor one.

Actually, I think porn can be a huge problem - as the article below shows that spyware and an incompetent judge sent a substitute teacher to jail:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2007/01/substitute_teacher_faces_jail.html

Couldn't that happen on any computer? In the case you show there was no anti-virus, spy-ware protection or filtering. Isn't that the school system's responsibilty, not OLPC's? How safe is the XO from viruses and spyware?

The only way to prevent what happened to this poor teacher is to disallow internet access entirely.

Funny, funny comments by Prof Negroponte:

"The cost of electronics is dropping so fast that if you make electronic devices, the cost of the electronics is going to be 50 percent less in 18 months. If you carry that and keep handing the cost savings to the consumer, you're going to have products that drop so fast that these are not necessarily the ones that have the kinds of margins and returns that people expect or want.

And so what do they do? They add features. And I say this not meanly or cynically, but the features get added with the hope that 18 months ago whatever features were there previously, there are now sufficiently more features that you'll at least pay the same price.

This happens all over. Cell phones, laptops, software in general. What happens is an obesity occurs. That obesity turns most things, including laptops, into SUVs, where most of the gasoline is used to move the car and not the person. And that's what happened with the laptops."

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/130567.asp


Funny that the Mad Professor would say that, having just released a product (the XO) where he took features out (like the crank power generator, extended battery life, etc.) while doubling the price(from $100 to $200) in a span of 36 months!

If Negroponte's words had an ounce of truth to them, his crippled laptop wannabe gizmo would be functional and sport a price tag of $25...

@Irvin:
"Funny that the Mad Professor would say that, having just released a product (the XO) where he took features out (like the crank power generator, extended battery life, etc.) while doubling the price(from $100 to $200) in a span of 36 months!"

So you show you not only are completely ignorant about technology and education, but also about comerce and economics. Negroponte quoted the price of a non-existing product using components that had not yet been invented, to be marketted in two/three years.

Maybe, just maybe, he was smart enough to try to include the price drop into his own estimate? Would that not be possible? Maybe he was not that mad when doing his sales talk?

And maybe, just maybe, he did not quite anticipated the fall of the US dollar and the rise in inflation in the meantime. Or maybe he just was not smart enough to accurately predict the sales volumes (not yet millions) and resulting component prices?

Contrary to you, who have insisted from the start that the OLPC would just fail to deliver anything interesting.
I quote you from January 10, 2007:
"Why would anyone pay $150 for what is essentially a re-packaged 10-year old machine?"
http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/price/olpc_xo_to_go_retail.html

And even you knew a year ago that it would not be build for $100, so why complain now? Are you so lost for derogative arguments that you have to resort to name calling and grasping at straws?

@Irvin:
"If Negroponte's words had an ounce of truth to them, his crippled laptop wannabe gizmo would be functional and sport a price tag of $25..."

Yes, indeed, if it had been sold in January 2005. However, it did not, so you have to come back in 3 years.

And this "wannabe gizmo" is the talk of the town and is already changing the industry.

WARNING, PERSONAL ATTACK FOLLOWS WITH NO CONNECTION TO THE CURRENT DISCUSSION:

But I think you just hate Negroponte, as you expressed already in your very first comment:
"Mr. Negroponte makes a number of hard-to-believe assertions that make me question his morality. I just can't believe the guy truly believes what he says."
"The blatant lies go on and on..."
http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_netevents.html

So that might be the reason you want the XO to fail so badly.

Winter

@dickey45:
"Actually, I think porn can be a huge problem - as the article below shows that spyware and an incompetent judge sent a substitute teacher to jail:"

@Maddie:
"How safe is the XO from viruses and spyware?"

See the Bitfrost page(s) at:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Bitfrost

Basically, the XO runs a "reinforced" Red Hat distribution. It contains any security measure they could find.

It should be completely immune against the kinds of attacks used against Windows machines, eg, virusses and spyware. Ivan Krstić does claim to still lies awake wondering about threats he might have missed. As he should ;-) Because there is no such thing as perfect security.

The US case about the substitute teacher is more an illustration of the disfunctional operation of US justice than of a real threat in other countries.

Winter

People must not read the posts above their own. As was quoted in the post by Winter above, Dan's Guardian, a well respected web filter, is installed on the school servers. It needs to have an additional component to block whatever the local school district believes to be inappropriate, namely a filter definition. These are available both commercially and for free. So quit bringing up pornography. The XOs in school deployments access the net from behind the school server.

Secondly, the active antenna does not provide the internet connection. The school server connects to the mesh via the active antenna. The school server also needs to connect to the internet, presumably over an ethernet port to a router of some kind (satellite connection perhaps, or in Birmingham, presumably a conventional ISP connection via a cable modem, DSL, T1 or whatever). The school server gates internet access through Dan's Guardian.

maddie wrote:

> In America the FCC levied a huge fine over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" and cheered for "Shock and awe", thousands of Iraqis getting killed tight there on CNN.

And the value to the utilization of computers to improve education in poor countries in your observation would be...?

> I don't think it's easy to find gang rapes on the internet, but I'll admit I haven't looked.

Do yourself a favor and don't exert the effort. I can think of images I'd just as soon do with out that make violent gang rape look relatively tame by comparison and that's *without* going on a quest and I'm not even slightly put off by the sight of a bare breast.

The outer limits of human imagination are not for the unprepared and that, by definition, is children.

> Most public computers (libraries and schools) have filters installed. If they don't it's because the country chooses not to. If the children are using them at school they have filters.

I know that, which is an indication that whether it's a "bare breast" or holding hands the exposure of children to pornography is a real problem and sneering condescendingly at those who are offended personally by images you find inoffensive isn't at all helpful to your professed admiration of the XO. You're just indulging your prejudices and there are places for that like the student union or bars with the Confederate flag prominently displayed.

winter wrote:

> IM is useful, not because it teaches mathematics, but because it enables children to collaborate ...

Collaborate on what? Without the course materials - textbooks, e-textbooks, simulations, learning assignments, whatever - all the kids can collaborate about is neighborhood gossip.

One of the big knocks on the OLPC initiative is the dearth of materials. When the minister of education gets over being dazzled by being in the presence of Dr. Negroponte the question will arise as to the quality, availability and even existence of learning materials. If those materials, in some form, aren't in evidence then the OLPC project is not "about education" it's about hardware, all claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

If you're operating under the assumption that sufficiently sophisticated collaboration tools will spontaneously give rise to learning then feel free to point to supporting experience that's relevant. But I warn you, it had better be pretty damned good quality evidence because it'll fly in the face of most people's experience and assumptions. That'll make any such claims of learning in the absence of learning materials fall under the heading of an extraordinary claim and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, to quote Carl Sagan.

@Allen:
"If you're operating under the assumption that sufficiently sophisticated collaboration tools will spontaneously give rise to learning then feel free to point to supporting experience that's relevant."

Think of what computers do to any kind of jobs. One side is the "target" programs, the other side is communication (hence IC Technology).

Collaboration enables peer tutoring, the single most effective educational strategy after a teacher. There is a lot of experience with peer tutoring and its effects on education. Peer tutoring is based on communication.

Another aspect central to modern education is group collaborative work. This is used in EVERY field in modern schools. That too is based on communication.

The main problem with these collaborative strategies is that the students need to get together. And that is a problem in overcrowded schools.

The XO is special build to help out here. It can be used to collaborate even when the students are not bodily present. I can see the power of IM in collaborative work every day in the children around me.

And almost any curiculum will be improved if children can be made to work together longer because they are not constrained to the school buildings anymore. (those that aren't are in need of an overhaul, I think).

Winter

Allen,

OLPC is leveraging current initiatives to produce free knowledge and educational materials, as well as from those from the governments to create them. The most popular example of the first kind is wikipedia, but there are other efforts akin to it in other matters, like "wikijunior" but outside of wikipedia as well (some of them even got quite a moral boost and are moving forward because technology exists that can provide a cheap and good-enough "vehicle" to present their creations).

Of the second kind, take the example of Nepal governments recent initiative to digitize and release as free ebooks their primary school text books (I don't remember if it was for secondary schoolbooks as well, but it was well reported recently in the weekly news at wiki.laptop.org)

You also seem to totally disregard software in how it can affect, potentate, or worsen learning and teaching. See etoys, a program specifically developed to teach mathematics, geometry, etc., and for which education materials abound, much of it in print form, but in the last years more and more in digital form.

Regarding the "proof" of appropriate technology being helpful in a classroom (and outside), If I had done my own research, been involved with education all my life, written a paper about it, I would be quick to tell you what I had learn. But as that is not the case, and I have only my personal experience with computers, and my less often than preffered readings, I suggest you do your own personal research: the web, and good libraries, are plentiful of past and present reports and research on the matter, and you can also get into contact easily with the people involved , that it should be sufficient to get you good overview on the matter.

Sorry for the double-post, I got to a page error the first time I submitted it.

Allen,

You certainly spend a lot of time thinking about something you hate and all the reasons why you hate it.
Why?

@Allen and @Eduardo N.H. Silva:
"Regarding the "proof" of appropriate technology being helpful in a classroom (and outside), If I had done my own research, been involved with education all my life, written a paper about it, I would be quick to tell you what I had learn."

You can always look at this link repository with a very large collection of relevant studies if needed:
"Quick guide to useful resources related to the monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education initiatives"
http://www.infoDev.org/ict4edu-evaluation-resources

I have reposted this link from Mike from infoDev several times to the same question.

Winter

winter wrote:

> Collaboration enables peer tutoring, the single most effective educational strategy after a teacher.

Let's say that's true, that peer tutoring is the single most effective educational strategy, you might want to think about lining up some supporting evidence since the assertion stands in direct opposition to the way education is done in virtually all institutional settings.

Just to prevent you from wasting both our times, I'm fully aware of "Hole-in-the-Wall" and while it's tantalizing it also has a long way to go before it'll impress people who, unlike me, aren't willing to be impressed. The evidence of efficacy will have to be substantial because, unlike many fads in education, "Hole-in-the-wall" lacks an appeal to vanity.

> The main problem with these collaborative strategies is that the students need to get together. And that is a problem in overcrowded schools.

Getting together's a problem in an overcrowded school? I'd say *not* getting together is what's likely to prove difficult in an overcrowded school. Besides, overcrowded schools don't seem to have been the driving force behind OLPC. Rather the opposite, schools in rural areas seem much more the target of the XO although I suppose even in some dusty agricultural village a school can be overcrowded. But then what's the point of the XO?

Also, I'm about as impressed with the objective evidence for group collaborative techniques as I am for peer learning; you can always find successful examples of each, you just can't find a way to generalize the techniques.

eduardo wrote:

> OLPC is leveraging current initiatives to produce free knowledge and educational materials, as well as from those from the governments to create them.

How's that going to work when you show it to the education minister? You going to tell the minister that a disparate group of volunteers whose credentials consist of a willingness to do the work are what the rather substantial investment required to roll-out the XO depends upon? Not my idea of the best proposal to put to a career bureaucrat.

> take the example of Nepal governments recent initiative to digitize and release as free ebooks their primary school text books...

This is referred too as "dump-ware". You just dump a print book into digital form without any regard to the potentials, and limitations, of computers. It's obviously not optimal but it's better then vapor-ware and cheaper and more certain then purpose-developed educational software.

Eduardo, I've been following, and involved in, educational software development since the early 1980's. I've developed educational software for the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Commodore PET. I've played with the PLATO IV system at some length. I'm not new to the idea or the technology. What I have seen is a couple of decades of big promises that, when they're made good at all and they quite often aren't, are disappointing.

I'm one of those people, like quite a few people, who simply *knows* computers are going to have a transformative effect on education. I'm also not cynical about the failure of computers to, so far, transform education but I am past getting excited about every "this time for sure" idea. The XO rises above typical educational fads in that bringing working hardware into mass production is a much more demanding task then claiming the next educational breakthrough. But it's still just another computer until proven otherwise all the feverish fan-boy defensiveness notwithstanding.

maddie wrote:

> You certainly spend a lot of time thinking about something you hate and all the reasons why you hate it.
> Why?

I'm sorely tempted to respond in a manner appropriate to the question but then how am I going to ascend to sainthood giving in too temptation?

Ask a specific question, one that isn't quite as obviously self-referential as this one and I'll answer it.

Dang, I think I just undermined my "sainthood" campaign. Oh well.

@Allen:
"Let's say that's true, that peer tutoring is the single most effective educational strategy, you might want to think about lining up some supporting evidence since the assertion stands in direct opposition to the way education is done in virtually all institutional settings."

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/7672/A-Review-of-the-Literature-on-Computer-Assisted.pdf
Appendix A. The other factors heigher on the scale are teacher based or not affected by the educational system, like home situation.

Did you visit a high quality school lately?

@Allen
"Getting together's a problem in an overcrowded school? I'd say *not* getting together is what's likely to prove difficult in an overcrowded school. Besides, overcrowded schools don't seem to have been the driving force behind OLPC."

That is a useless play of words. And you have not read the available papers of the OLPC and supporting literature. Overcrowding and a chronic teacher shortage are THE problems in education in the developping world. If you try to argue that, you have to come up with some better statistics.

"How's that going to work when you show it to the education minister?"

Incompetent politicians are not a reason for the OLPC to deliver bad quality to the children. If they want bad education, we don't want the OLPC to help them.

"This is referred too as "dump-ware". You just dump a print book into digital form without any regard to the potentials, and limitations, of computers."

But you asked for pre-translated books in another comment? However, the XO is also an E book, and reading material is a priority.

In will summarize, you have no evidence to back up your convictions, show no insight in the problems of children in the developing world, and have not bothered to look up even the relevant materials posted on OLPCnews. So give me a reason to spend my time to spoon feed you all the statistics. I have serious doubts that you even will not bother to read the links I have posted in the comments here.

Winter

winter assesses Allen:

"you have no evidence to back up your convictions, show no insight in the problems of children in the developing world, and have not bothered to look up even the relevant materials posted on OLPCnews. So give me a reason to spend my time to spoon feed you all the statistics. I have serious doubts that you even will not bother to read the links I have posted in the comments here."

In other words: "Allen, you are like Irvin. A bad boy who sees through my transparent lies and contradictions. I don't like you. Bad, bad, bad boy. You and Irvin. You don't know anything. Bad, bad, bad. Bad boy."

ROTFL!

@Irvin:
"Allen, you are like Irvin."

Not quite. Allen at least shows a genuine interest in the OLPC and it's mission.

It is just tiresome to repeat the same statistics and links over and over again. Even basic points like overcrowding of schools in the developing world. I DID write a complete post about all the above discussion points:

http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

I will admit my errors to anyone, you included. But only if there is some evidence to show me that I am actually wrong.

Irvin, insults over substance any time.

Winter

Irvin wrote,
"How's that going to work when you show it to the education minister? You going to tell the minister that a disparate group of volunteers whose credentials consist of a willingness to do the work are what the rather substantial investment required to roll-out the XO depends upon? Not my idea of the best proposal to put to a career bureaucrat."

You _have_ heard of wikipedia right? With regards of career bureaucrats who may not be swayed by arguments, that's really a moot point, because you could imagine all kinds of politicans who find any change a bad one. In fact, I think the reason OLPC is targeting the developing world is because of that. No current government in the developed world would have the courage to go against the establishment of laptop manufacturers, Microsoft, etc.

" > take the example of Nepal governments recent initiative to digitize and release as free ebooks their primary school text books...

This is referred too as "dump-ware". You just dump a print book into digital form without any regard to the potentials, and limitations, of computers. "

I was replying to a question about a lack of educational content, and I agree with you, the computer provides far more possibilities than just reading from a book, but it is still very important to do so. Practice without theory is bad, and vice-versa.

"
Eduardo, I've been following, and involved in, educational software development since the early 1980's. I've developed educational software for the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Commodore PET. I've played with the PLATO IV system at some length. I'm not new to the idea or the technology. What I have seen is a couple of decades of big promises that, when they're made good at all and they quite often aren't, are disappointing.

I'm one of those people, like quite a few people, who simply *knows* computers are going to have a transformative effect on education. I'm also not cynical about the failure of computers to, so far, transform education but I am past getting excited about every "this time for sure" idea. The XO rises above typical educational fads in that bringing working hardware into mass production is a much more demanding task then claiming the next educational breakthrough. But it's still just another computer until proven otherwise all the feverish fan-boy defensiveness notwithstanding.
"

I do think the XO is an educational breakthrough. If you keep expecting for the big one, the final revolutionary solution to education, you may never spot the smaller accomplishments.

Also, let's stop with the name calling, shall we? Calling me, or others, fanboy, just because our views are more favorable to OLPC than yours is just ridiculous.

Again, I misname the people I'm addressing to... The above is a reply to Allen's post.

@Allen:
"I'm one of those people, like quite a few people, who simply *knows* computers are going to have a transformative effect on education."

Think of it like cars and plains. From early in the 20th century it was clear that both cars and airplanes would change the world of transport in unimaginable ways. But it took the arrival of cheap mass production (Ford T and the large carriers) to get beyond the thresshold of mass adoption.

The PC and internet were another such case.

We all expect the mass adoption of ICT in education. We see it in the West (really, no child in my country can do without a computer).

The OLPC is the first computer that has a fighting chance of being implemented. But you are right, it can still fail this time again. But the advances will stay with us and maybe then the next time it will succeed?

Winter

@ Allen,
I'm sorry you can't answer a very simple question. If you've already determined that you're right and everybody else is wrong why do you bother, why do you devote so much energy to thinking about OLPC? If other poeple actually like the XO why does that annoy you?

However, since you can't answer that question I'll have to ask myself, why do I bother answering Allen? I think I'll stop.

"> 2. Internet-based multimedia - the ability to access and play
> content in the most common formats: Mp3, Flash, Quicktime, WMA, etc.

Type in a command in the Terminal to add Mplayer and Adobe Flash. All these codecs work on the XO, it just not comes with them preinstalled cause that would be ILLEGAL.

OLPC could add a one-click repository install system to download and add those softwares without having to type in the terminal."

To have them available on a repository does not make all of them legal. The fact that we have access to multimedia codecs, in the US, from US repositories just proves the utter contempt that the establishment has for Linux, this would be SO easy to prosecute that it could mess up the Linux experience for a while. Yes, some of them just ask for an EULA, but then you're better without. I am happy with Ogg and such, and actually call the lack of Acrobat and Flash a blessing. I got weaned off Quicktime from the constant popups from Apple when I still was a windozer, watch DVDs in a $30 player instead of my computer, where I never upgraded the CD player.

As to porn, do read the comments from school IT guys. The aforementioned link is amazing.
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2007/01/substitute_teacher_faces_jail.html

And is it right to filter porn out?
Yes, it is true that it is mostly Christians who insist on it. Face it, Christians can be right, such as in this instance. Without going into detail, we all understand that porn builds on stereotypes of denigration, of lack of respect, misuse and abuse. However, for some strange reason, liberals seem to find it OK, maybe because they get a chance to snub at Christians?

I do agree that whatever is going on with that teacher is pretty weird, at so many levels. Why don't they just use Firefox with a nice popup blocker, especially if "that was common occurrence"? Can she sue the school district for not providing her with a safe working environment?

Finally, nudity is not porn. If you do not know the difference, ask Geraldo.

@Yama:
"Without going into detail, we all understand that porn builds on stereotypes of denigration, of lack of respect, misuse and abuse."

So does Rambo, and a host of other violent stories.

But porn is not feared for the stereotypes. Most religions and conservatives fear the human reproductive drive for a host of reasons. Most of these reasons are against the interests of (young) adults. Porn is not hated for it's effects on children, but for it's effects of adults (they threaten the stability of mariages). But this is all very Off Topic.

Claiming that "liberals" (the use of this name suggests you are from the USA) would promote porn for children is a political move without evidence.

"Finally, nudity is not porn. If you do not know the difference, ask Geraldo."

Ask the Saudi police.

Winter

@winter
I agree with you that this can easily get very off topic. It is still on topic as long as we keep the matter within the framework on its impact on the OLPC or other such subnotebooks as programmes, and in their users.

I humbly dissent with your assertion that "reasons [to oppose porn] are against the interests of (young) adults". Anyway, the problem is not just about young adults but kids and grown ups of all ages, which will end up using and/or misusing OLPCs, and even if reduced to young adults, it is inherently absurd that there is a single good reason - outside of the massive money involved - to support porn or prostitution, for any age.

I believe it is a valid concept and a necessity to provide a filter in the continuum between total restriction and total access, and the fact that this was not considered in the first place is going to cause endless and often stupid grief.

I am afraid that "liberals finding porn OK" (nuance with "promoting" you misquoted) has plenty of evidence, but I will drop following that because it is clearly off subject, I'm sorry I even got into it.

The Geraldo line is a USA joke, sorry also. This famous TV personality once said that "he just knows" the difference between bein' nekkid and P.

I wonder how many filters are killing this page because it uses the P word... :-)

Yes, Austin, Texas

@eduardo wrote:

> You _have_ heard of wikipedia right? With regards of career bureaucrats who may not be swayed by arguments, that's really a moot point, because you could imagine all kinds of politicans who find any change a bad one.

Those politicians are the ones who'll make the decision to deploy, or not deploy, the OLPC. How do you expect to get the OLPC out to those poor children if those education ministers aren't convinced it's a good idea to buy them? Your opinion on the subject of the value of the OLPC is immaterial unless you are one of those ministers or you're in a position to influence their judgment.

> No current government in the developed world would have the courage to go against the establishment of laptop manufacturers, Microsoft, etc.

As opposed to governments in the less developed nations which are simply stuffed with far-seeing and courageous politicians? Sorry Eduardo, there are more substantive reasons to be shy about authorizing an OLPC purchase then a lack of courage and those reasons have already been covered at length.

> I do think the XO is an educational breakthrough.

You are certainly welcome to your opinion but so far the response by those authorized to purchase XOs hasn't been what I would expect to see in response to the availability of an educational breakthrough.

> If you keep expecting for the big one, the final revolutionary solution to education, you may never spot the smaller accomplishments.

I've been waiting a long time to see computers deliver on even a small part of their promise. I don't need a big breakthrough to be impressed but so far I've seen *no* value in the use of computers in education. Quite the contrary in that they inevitably end up as substantial expenditures that produce no observable results.

> Also, let's stop with the name calling, shall we?

Lead by example then. Starting out your post with "You _have_ heard of wikipedia right?" isn't the most persuasive means of bringing an end to name-calling.

@winter wrote:

> But it took the arrival of cheap mass production (Ford T and the large carriers) to get beyond the threshold of mass adoption.

Trust me winter, you don't have to tell me about the importance of the Model T. But the comparison is too inaccurate to be valid.

If I wanted to buy a Model T Ford and had the money, I could just go and buy it. Until G1G1 there was no legitimate sales conduit for an individual to purchase an XO which is where the comparison falls apart. And as a sales channel the G1G1 program is seriously flawed in that it disqualifies anyone who isn't willing to pay for their own computer *and* someone else's. Imagine how many Model T's Henry Ford would have sold if he'd required buyers to pay for two, one for themselves and one for some deserving individual too poverty-stricken to afford the purchase.

Selling to individuals is what made the Model T the transformative success it was. There's no analogous sales channel for the XO which, by the way, has been one of my consistent complaints about the program.

> We all expect the mass adoption of ICT in education.

And some of us have been expecting it for coming on thirty years. It's rather past the time wherein technology can be viewed as the problem or the solution. If the solution to the problems lay in the technology then the solutions would have long since surfaced. As of now, no one seems to have any better grasp of the means by which technology can accelerate education then thirty years ago unsupported though fiercely defended claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

> We see it in the West (really, no child in my country can do without a computer).

Sure they could do without a computer. Ink-on-paper still works just fine as the unimpressive PISA scores you tout confirm.

> The OLPC is the first computer that has a fighting chance of being implemented.

It certainly has some advantages going into the fight: cheap, rugged, open source-based, clever engineering, convenient. The problem however lies not with the technology but with the institution and that the OLPC can't change.

If the problems of education were addressable by improvements in the technology I would have expected the technology-based solutions to become more compelling over time. I would have expected to hear success stories incontestably resulting from the use of technology that by now would've been fairly common. Yet far from being common the stories of success are rare with "Hole-in-the-wall" being the only one I can think of.

Given the incredible changes that've occurred in the technology over that time period I think it's unreasonable to place the responsibility for so little visible progress in the use of computers in education on the technology.

@Allen:
I am not sure what your message is. But I get the impression it can be summarized as:

Just give up!

And about the PISA scores.

The highest ranking ones mostly have high ICT per student. My country, the Netherlands, is infamous for it's under-average investments in education (and research) but still ranks high in both (even according to PISA). The explanation is a highly efficient system (always on the brink of collapse) and a liberal use of broadband and ICT. See the "official" school portal:

http://www.kennisnet.nl/

The Dutch government betted a cut-back on education on the implementation of ICT. It paid off, but not without a lot of misgivings and false starts, I admit. And that is the carrot dangling in front of education ministers: Getting better education with only a modest increase in spending (and a large one-time investment). The fun thing is, that parents seem to like their kids getting laptops. Therefore, they will tend to support the initiative, even if it costs them money.

Winter

Then you should try to learn to ignore your impression. It stands in direct contradiction to what I've written.

I admire the cleverness and thoughtfulness of the hardware. I also admire the fact that there are assembly lines churning out working hardware. I have rather less admiration for many of the decisions made with regards to distribution and sales which I regard as driven more by a literally monumental conceit then the announced intention of the project.

I could go on but my ideas and thoughts have no place in your, or Maddie's, world view. You've got to force them into the self-serving and convenient misrepresentations typified by Maddie's querying about why I spend so much time on something I hate so. Since the notion that I hate the OLPC project in any sense is simply silly, incontestibally so if you've written anything of what I've read, the explanation for this misrepresentation lies elsewhere.

http://www.kennisnet.nl/

Moderately nice site but if there's something specific there that supports the computer-based education revolution you purport to be occurring in the Netherlands then please point to the relevant articles. With the assistance Google's translation service I perused to site at some length without uncovering evidence of "better education with only a modest increase in spending".

@Allen:
"Then you should try to learn to ignore your impression. It stands in direct contradiction to what I've written."

I must have misunderstood:
"It certainly has some advantages going into the fight: cheap, rugged, open source-based, clever engineering, convenient. The problem however lies not with the technology but with the institution and that the OLPC can't change."

@Allen:
"With the assistance Google's translation service I perused to site at some length without uncovering evidence of "better education with only a modest increase in spending"."

A small misunderstanding.

The Kennisnet link is one of the portals set up by the Dutch government to support the move towards a larger dependence on ICT in high-school. The site itself is not particularly innovative, but it does collect curriculum material in Dutch for the schools. It has it's own editors.

This complements the "constructionist" (it is NOT called that way) approach to give students more responsibility and opportunities for their own education. The contents are compiled to give students access to these educational materials that everyone seems to demand from the OLPC. Don't be surprized to find that these materials are not revolutionary different from "normal" educational materials. They don't have to.

The other policy component is a dependence on ICT for communication. For instance, high-schools will change their teaching schedules on a daily basis to accomodate all kinds of contingencies (illnesses etc). Children know about these changes by looking at the school calendar from their home computer. Home work is delivered as emails, students work together using IM, etc.

Btw, the Dutch government introduced ICT to DEcrease spending, NOT to increase it. It is the developing world that hopes to improve education by INcreasing spending.

Winter

Indeed, you have misunderstood.

As I've stated before, the problem of education as an agency of government is that the political necessities intrude upon the educational mission.

When budget time rolls around the education agency, however important you may think education, is just another contender for government funding. Which is more important? Funding the expansion of Rotterdam harbor facilities or renovating the schools in Gelderland? Increase the subsidy to wooden shoe makers or expand teacher education facilities and teacher hiring?

Your certainty of the importance of education to the long-term success of Dutch society is met by a similar degree of certainty by people who are sure their issue is just as crucial. How funding issues are resolved is a function of political influence and the OLPC, and ICT in general, become just another budget item with any claims becoming just a part of the ongoing political debate.

You say ICT, and the OLPC, will result in significant cost savings and a more effective education system. As the minister of transportation I'll view your claims against the transportation needs of the nation with the knowledge that your *promised* returns on the investment will come at the expense of the immediate transportation needs of the nation. I can quantify and prove the value to the nation of various infrastructure improvements. Can you, as the minister of education, show similarly quantifiable and verifiable returns to the nation in the purchase of XOs?

Does any of the above sound like "Just give up"? It doesn't to me although you can certainly apply any interpretation you wish.

If anything, I have a stronger claim on title of cock-eyed optimist on the subject of the use of computers in education then you do. I've been disappointed for far longer.

The trouble is, I suspect that a fundamental shift in assumptions about what constitutes education are necessary to access the transformational benefits of computers in education. I admit I don't know what those changes to assumptions consists of. Do you?

Do you know what education will look like when computers do to education what they've done to other industries? I don't. If you do then describe it.

@Allen:
"Do you know what education will look like when computers do to education what they've done to other industries? I don't. If you do then describe it."

The Dutch do have to loose a good name of being more Scrooge McDuck than Scrooge himself. So the Dutch spend as little on education (and police, armed forces, etc) as they can get away with. On the other hand, nothing is too expensive for Rotterdam harbor, indeed. We are just like any other country. ICT was implementened in our education BECAUSE they thought that it would mean a reduction in spending.

What I think about education with ICT is written in OLPCnews:

An Un-American Use of One Laptop Per Child
http://www.olpcnews.com/content/localization/american_laptop_child.html

OLPC XO: A Cost Effective Violin
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_effective_violin.html

OLPC XO Will Improve Teacher Productivity
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

That sums it up more or less. But I am fully aware that I will have missed everything that is really imprortant. Who would have predicted eBay and Google in 1995?

Winter

winter wrote:

> So the Dutch spend as little on education (and police, armed forces, etc) as they can get away with. On the other hand, nothing is too expensive for Rotterdam harbor, indeed. We are just like any other country.

Welcome to the wonderful world of politics where your absolute certainty of the critical importance of your issue runs up against the absolute certainty of the critical nature of everyone else's issue. Now let's get busy showing the craven, self-serving nature of those whose expenditures endanger fully-funding your project.

And you're right, in this way the Netherlands is like any other country. That being the case, your resistance to the consideration of non-political solutions to your problem - improving eduction in poor nations - isn't particularly rational.

> ICT was implementened in our education BECAUSE they thought that it would mean a reduction in spending.

Intentions aren't accomplishments. Has the introduction of ICT resulted in significant cost reductions without a negative impact on education results or not?

Oh, and do yourself a favor and don't dredge up articles with a distinctly snotty attitude towards the U.S. That may be the height of fashion among yourself and your friends but the only purpose served in doing so is to satisfy your conceit.

@Allen:
"Oh, and do yourself a favor and don't dredge up articles with a distinctly snotty attitude towards the U.S. That may be the height of fashion among yourself and your friends but the only purpose served in doing so is to satisfy your conceit."

You mean about US-ers not wanting to learn foreign languages? Is there ANYthing in this post that is not true? If so, please, inform me so I can correct it. Given the number of snipes I get for being a European, I wouldn't expect such sensitives toes.

The fashion overhere is currently how to survive yet another burst "credit bubble" from overseas paid by our savings (besides the problems left over from cleaning up after US soldiers in Afghanistan). But that is irrelevant to OLPCnews.

I must appoligize, though, in that I don't seem able to make myself clear.

I do think many, not all, of the problems of the developping world are aggrevated by a severe and chronic shortage in educated people. Any solution to their problems HAS to include some improvement of education. Without it, neither the health problems nor the lack of investments and the low productivity can be solved. And many in the developing world seem to subscribe to the same view (albeit, with more sophisticated reasoning).

That said, there is the question of HOW to improve education in regions where the shortage of teachers runs into the millions, with no solution in sight.

IF politicians don't see a lack of education as a grave problem, there is no need to seek a drastic solution. You are right. And for those politicians we can all go home now.

But for those politicians that do see improvement of education as the way forward, some solutions present themselves. ICT is the most prominent of the solutions now known. And the OLPC tries to cater to that specific type of solution. One thing OLPCnews discusses is to what extend the XO is a good solution to the stated problems.

Your allusions to policial wheeling and deeling sounds very USAish to me. If you look at politics in South America and Asia, you will see that it is completely different from Europe and the USA. Any talk about "Liberals" and "Socialism/Communism" leads to completely unexpected results.

That is, the name "Liberal" equals "Free Market/Neo-con" everywhere outside the USA, and these are widely loathed, and quite some politicians and presidents are proud to be socialists or communists. Also the way "tax-money" is seen (and spent) is completely different. Even the assumption that some minister will claim a budget because s/he thinks it will benefit the countrie most is in many places revolutionary. Often, budgets are claimed because they can, or as a fief.

Winter

If you're claim to intellectual superiority rests on facility in more then one language you ought to set your standards a bit higher.

I'm bilingual and while it's occasionally fun it's a lousy marker of intellect. Most of my family speaks at least two languages with the older generation typically speaking five and the dumbest of my relatives, and I write that with due regard to what is an otherwise decent and good man, speaks eight languages. Acquisition of a language isn't that much of an accomplishment, little babies do it all the time.

> Is there ANYthing in this post that is not true? If so, please, inform me so I can correct it.

Sure. Bowing to necessity is not the sign of a great mind.

If you want to extract the virtue of multi-lingualism from Europe's blood-drenched history, and the attendant hatred and isolation of peoples living mere miles apart, don't expect me join you. I know why you speak more then one language and the prize isn't worth the price.

> The fashion overhere is currently how to survive yet another burst "credit bubble" from overseas

Don't worry, we'll save you. Just like every other time.

> besides the problems left over from cleaning up after US soldiers in Afghanistan

Can't be much of a job based on the number of non-U.S. military in Afghanistan.

> But that is irrelevant to OLPCnews.

Finally, something we can agree upon.

> Your allusions to policial wheeling and deeling sounds very USAish to me.

Does it? I'm sure that outside the U.S. politicians, particularly Dutch politicians I suppose, are a distinctly superior breed. Because they don't speak just one language, right?

> If you look at politics in South America and Asia, you will see that it is completely different from Europe and the USA.

Really? In what way?

In democratic regimes in South America and Asia compromises that satisfy no one *aren't* made on a daily basis? Political influence *doesn't* count for as much or more then moral outrage?

Please shed some light on the "completely different" nature of politics between the various regions and peoples.

> Often, budgets are claimed because they can, or as a fief.

That's all I'm saying. If it's part of the political process you can't be too surprised that political considerations can't be ignored.

You seem to stuck on the notion that because your purpose is so noble you shouldn't have to have your requirements subject to those dreary political machinations. That's not working out for you very well, is it?

@Allen:
Before you accuse me of feeling superior, please read the post you are criticizing.

The relevant text is about the fact that most humans have to learn a second, third etc language. This is something every human who can speak can achieve. This fact was (and is) underreported in discussions about education in the developing world and I think it will be an important use of the XO. The title refers to the fact that due to quite unique socioeconomic circumstances, Americans don't HAVE to learn or even think about "foreign" languages. And that it therefore is outside of the scope of most publications and reports about the OLPC.

@Allen:
"That's all I'm saying. If it's part of the political process you can't be too surprised that political considerations can't be ignored."

First, I am wondering if you realize how deep the popularity of the USA has dived. Our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan in a war that is widely seen as botched by the USA. Now our savings are reported to being wiped out due to a politically motivated credit bubble in the USA. And this discussion still doesn't belong on OLPCnews.

I have yet to see someone who argues that political considerations don't count in selling the OLPC. But these are NOT the same considerations as in the USA. Politics differ between countries.

Both Bolivia and Brazil have socialist presidents. The discussions there about how to tax and spend are completely different from those of the USA. Especially as these are countries where most of the taxes are not paid by the voters of these presidents.

My point is that trying to sell the OLPC with arguments that would persuade a US politician could fall completely wrong in another country.

And as you seem to interpret differences in terms as better/worse, the fact that I think politics differ between the USA and other countries has NOTHING to do with them being either better or worse. They are just DIFFERENT. Which means that no one, including the OLPC, can run a single marketting campaign for these laptops over the whole world.

On the whole, your sensitivity here seems to betray some uncertainty about your own arguments.

Winter

> The title refers to the fact that due to quite unique socioeconomic circumstances, Americans don't HAVE to learn or even think about "foreign" languages.

I don't know what "title" you're referring too but you are right about Americans not having to learn more then one language to exist quite nicely. Speaking more then one language is for most people, in most places, a necessity. Life's full of necessities so I don't see one less necessity as a bad thing. As I wrote before, I'm bi-lingual and it's not a sign of superior intelligence. It's just the result of my particular circumstances.

> And that it therefore is outside of the scope of most publications and reports about the OLPC.

Huh? Believe me, Americans who only speak English are quite cognizant of the fact that many people don't speak English. What of it? I don't see why that would impact coverage of the OLPC other then to limit coverage to publications worth the bother of translating and even that limitation's coming off with automated translation.

> First, I am wondering if you realize how deep the popularity of the USA has dived.

We've got an illegal immigration problem. Apparently the unpopularity of the U.S. doesn't extend to people willing to take considerable personal risks to enter the U.S. I think the opinions of people willing to risk large sums of money they can ill afford and their lives to enter the U.S. easily trumps the opinions of people who sit around in comfortable surroundings making disparaging remarks about the U.S. I will avoid the virtue of brevity in this case to avoid appropriate vulgarity.

> Our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan in a war that is widely seen as botched by the USA.

By "widely seen" I assume you mean "among the people I associate with". In any case, I don't care. The previous Afghani regime hosted religious zealots who were responsible for murdering 3,000 American civilians. If anyone wishes to criticize the competence of the campaign by which a repeat of the situation is prevented feel free to criticize.

Dutch involvement is a result of treaty obligations under terms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. If the Netherlands wishes to withdraw from the treaty, as a sovereign nation, that's the right of the Netherlands.

> I have yet to see someone who argues that political considerations don't count in selling the OLPC.

What you've been arguing isn't that political considerations don't count but that they shouldn't apply to the issue about which you are passionate.

You seem quite unhappy about the amount of funding that goes to the Rotterdam port authority. If, however, you were talk to employees of the port authority, I assure you they'd have a very different outlook. I'm sure there are quite a few projects that they'd view as vital to the health of the Dutch economy aren't being funded and they are entirely sincere.

> Politics differ between countries.

No, it doesn't. The details differ but the basics of politics doesn't differ. It's satisfying contending, sometimes contradictory, demands without resort to violence.

> Which means that no one, including the OLPC, can run a single marketing campaign for these laptops over the whole world.

What marketing campaign? Initially, the marketing campaign if it can be honestly characterized as a marketing campaign, was an invitation to the various nations of the world which met Dr. Negroponte's criteria to line up and buy XOs according to his dictates. Some nations weren't sufficiently worthy to receive the XO. Some nations were at which point their duty was to have enough in their bank account so the check wouldn't bounce.

That's not a marketing campaign, that's a royal edict. Didn't work out too well, did it?

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