While we gave a passionate rebuttal to his glowing Classmate review, Jonathan and I found an interesting ability of the newest XO Sugar build: On both the B2 and B4 "mesh view", we could see other computers.
And I'm not talking other XO laptops, but whole other computers that were unrelated to One Laptop Per Child. Lacking local mesh network support, Jonathan asked the Devel mailing list what this might be, and he got a worrying response from Sjoerd Simons:
There is no (real) difference in the telepathy-salut you can install on your normal machine and the one on the XO. So you can talk to each-other.Um, yeah, Sjoerd, I am very worried about abuse. And so is Jonathan. He thinks it is unrealistic to assume someone is "safe" because they access to a machine that was ordered in quantities of 250,000. I think its bad enough we have porn on the XO, we sure don't want unauthorized lurkers inviting kids over to "play" on their computers. Luckily, this isn't technically possible yet according to Dan Williams:
Joining the mesh without an XO is hard though (as afaik there are no other machines supporting 802.11s). I'm assuming the Jonathan was using a normal wireless network when he saw others online, not a mesh.
If you're afraid of abuse. How to differentiate your friends and other people/children on the mesh is still subject to discussion.
The mesh has a completely different frame format, so normal laptops are not able to speak olpc mesh. However, to get the mesh stuff up, you have to bring up the normal 802.11 interface in ad-hoc mode, which means it beacons, which means you'll see "olpc-mesh" from other machines.But technical possibility could only be a matter of time as Quanta explores taking its FCC-approved WiFi to the consumer market. A technical possibility that OLPC is working to make visually understandable if and when it happens so children will know who is who and who can do what in their digital world. Something like Eben Eliason's proposed solution:
One direction this might head is one I discussed with Walter several weeks ago, and that is the possibility of changing our scopes to Home, Neighborhood (with friends and groups being selectable filtered subsets therein), and World.Jonathan agrees that OLPC needs to plan for a non-homogeneous computing environment with the XO and consider situations where a cell phone toting parent wants to send a text message to their kid at school. The XO should try to enable, not restrict, cross-platform communication.
The World view, then, could take advantage of these "outsiders" and appropriately label them as such so that their presence and abilities within the UI are clear and well defined.
I would only propose that there be teacher and/or parental controls on who can enter a OLPC mesh network and what outsiders can do there, so that children can have a safe place to play and the developing world not have Internet fear-mongering around child predators.