OLPC in Washington, DC


While the first units were unpacked, turned on, and had many photos taken of them, Nick Negroponte was speaking in DC at the U.S. State Department's "Secretary's Open Forum" Wednesday morning. He summarized the OLPC project and goals, addressed some of the more common criticisms, and moved to questions from the room.

The OLPC laptop sitting on my 12" screen laptop

In the summary, a few new pieces of information shook out. Central America - from Mexico all the way to Panama, have joined forces and are making a combined purchase.

This approach dramatically reduces the risk exposure of any one country in making such a large purchase, and encourages (not to mention, formalizes) regional educational collaboration at not only the state level, but also potentially the school and child levels.

Hopefully more groups of countries (or even school districts within countries!) could take this idea up and work together to leverage the OLPC need for large scale orders with their own need for reduced risk and pilot programs.

Sadly, his prototype working model got caught in customs, so we in the audience only got to see the model. This is not always evident from the pictures of this, this thing is tiny! He did discuss some exciting developments in the mesh networking hardware, however.

As mentioned on the Laptop.org wiki, each laptop, even when closed, will serve as a router, helping to maintain the mesh network. More importantly, there will also be soda-bottle sized, solar-powered signal repeaters that can be nailed onto trees to allow children who live outside the area covered by the mesh to keep connected.

Update: The Inter-American Development Bank and OLPC have only agreed to support the development of new approaches to digital technology in Latin American and Caribbean education, not to actually purchase OLPC laptops.

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One idea I wanted to bring up regarding solar powered network repeaters was about actually making them Weather Stations as well (with minimal extra hardware).

By adding weather data into a mesh you can have children running a program with a hand drawn map of their area and placing the weather stations on the map. The laptops could build up weather statistics and allow the children to study weather and climate in their own environments.

Perhaps a cheap USB device with anemometer and wind vane could be designed? The children then have their own station at home linked to other kids sharing weather data.

off topic:

Things are looking bad for Thailand. The new ICT minister is highly critical of open source.


(from Slashdot)

Thanks for the tip Eduardo - the story's byline "New ICT Minister plans to overturn many of the decisions of his predecessors" sounds rather ominous, but noises coming out of OLPC seem to suggest that Thailand are still on board.

Only time will tell.

I remember something coming around for a pledge to buy two laptops for kids if I could have one. I'm still down for that but somehow it flopped. I have no problem whatsoever spending $300 for one of those - I think they seriously need to look into that. Those things would be a goldmine here in America - they can sell at a much higher price so as to afford the ones who can't afford them to buy them at a lesser price. Sliding scale or something.

Zach: There was a PledgeBank run at this; http://www.pledgebank.com/100laptop - but it didn't make its deadline. Nick mentioned this and similar related ideas in his talk, so I don't think it's dead yet. I suspect once there are full production runs that this might come back as an option. Heck, I'd buy if it comes with the pull-string generator; imagine never running out of battery again!

Also, re-reading my post, I'd point out that the Central American plan is not even on paper yet, but the IADB seems to be interested in the idea: http://www.iadb.org/NEWS/articledetail.cfm?artid=3407&language=En


OLPC will be selling laptops on eBay one day. 2008 maybe?

Before then you can always look to the grey market:

Do you have a refrence for "soda-bottle sized, solar-powered signal repeaters that can be nailed onto trees." It sounds interesting.

I am assuming that they are basically the Marvel chips without the PC. A repeater that draws only 0.5 watt when idle will not require much of a solar panel.

Tim: Sadly, no - Nick mentioned it in passing, but I've not seen any more about it yet.