One Laptop Per Child is Straying Dangerously Off the Track

   
   
   
   
   

One Laptop Per Child needs high quality software on its machines, but the amount of abuse ladled out over OLPC's developer community is incredible. First they are called "terrorists", and then it was "fundamentalists".

olpc windows xo
The future XO OS?

Nicholas Negroponte now seems to think that all of Sugar's problems can be solved by outsourcing a Sugar-on-Windows port to developers in Uruguay, who will be funded by Microsoft.

In a clever rhetorical trick, this allows OLPC to continue to insist that it "gets no money from Microsoft" and that it "pays no money to Windows developers" even though it employs a number of people who (presently and in the future) work full- or part-time on supporting the Windows-on-XO effort.

Any competent management team would realize that this fanciful porting effort spells nothing but years of delay, while time is spent refactoring Sugar for the port (and not adding needed features!); Negroponte apparently exists in a dream world where Microsoft is a benevolent software company which both cares about the world's children and plays nicely with its smaller "partners".

It may be a good time to e-mail Nicholas Negroponte or OLPC's Board of Directors and let them know that OLPC is straying dangerously off the track.

OLPC needs to concentrate on its core missions and deliver on its lofty promises, not waste time on counterproductive distractions.

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14 Comments

Look, the reality is that this is Prof. Negroponte's project and he will do whatever he wants with it. He is the one who had the idea, the one who got the money to get it started and the one who has led the effort 100% of the time. Whether we disagree with it or not, Jepsen, Bender, Krstic, Sugar and everything/everyone else is just an accessory. They can be replaced as needed.

The problem here is that the XO's has become the weapon of choice for the retarded anti-Intel, anti-Microsoft minority to further their unrealistic dreams of killing the corporate giants. Professor Negroponte harbors no such stupid desires, so he naturally has a different perspective.

The current situation is very amusing: the people who blindly supported Negroponte often did so without regard to the intrinsic merits of the XO as a revolutionary tool for improving education in the world. They supported the initiative because it presented what they saw as a golden opportunity to deal a lethal blow to their "enemies" (Intel and Microsoft). They didin't care that the XO is of dubious educational value.

Now, it turns out, Negroponte is forging the worst possible alliance: he is in bed with the enemy (much like he was in bed with Intel). Yes, it is a miscalculation on his part. Yes, nothing positive will come out of it. But the Nutty Professor thinks otherwise, and he is perfectly willing to betray his only followers one more time.

My question for the jilted open-source lovers is this:

When will you stop blaming the other guy (Microsoft, Intel)?

When will you admit that your wife (Negroponte) is cheating on you and that the men in bed with her (Microsoft, Intel) are NOT raping her?

When will you accept that the reationship is CONSENSUAL?

Rather than crying and begging, accept that your wife wants new, better lovers because she is not happy with what you bring to her bed. Move on, losers...or at least, stop blaming the lovers (Microsoft, Intel).

Your wife (Negroponte) is the one hurting you!

Do I understand well, that the Windows-on-XO deployment will be delayed by years, while the Linux-on-XO deployment is currently available? And all the costs will be born by MS?

Why should I regret this?

Winter

That's normal

Negroponte is a friend of Bill Gates, and this kind of thing was expected.

Microsoft is the king in OS and it it needs to run in the XO. IMHO, yes, it's an education project but is a laptop project too. It needs to run conventional windows and conventional Linux well for it to work.

Everything is good if it helps selling more XOs (to anyone). If OLPC needs Windows for that, I say it's OK.

As the number of XO units deployed goes up, the more interest will come from ordinary Linux distributors. After 5 million XOs deployed you can be sure that the more important distros (like Ubuntu) will support the XO natively.

Irvin wins this thread. :)

Actually what'd be nice is if Nicholas got Canonical to help. The amount of $$ Shuttleworth is probably paying out of pocket for the ShipIt (google it) program tells me he could probably get some developers. Or maybe he could sponsor an OpenBSD hackathon or two and get that pesky firmware working, and a lighter-weight OS setup. Ah well.

I'm still glad the kids in Mongolia got 3 laptops 'cause of me, and hope that by '09 or so they'll be able to do even more with 'em, despite the bellyaching/posturing going on halfway around the planet over the software. :)

Microsoft's power to destroy is incredible. First they make ISO a laughing stock, now they turned wonderful charitable project into corporation's "partner".

I think it makes sense to port Sugar to the Windows platform. A big reason is because it's easier to develop for Windows. Another reason is OLPC won't have to waste months maintaining the OS, which has absolutely nothing to do with educating children. I mean, unless you really think that the Linux kernel recieves a lot of patches from high-schoolers.

Sugar is a program that would probably take someone a week to implement from scratch using Visual Studio. Really, it's just a launch menu. From my limited experience, developing graphical applications in Linux is pretty difficult. I've yet to see a decent RAD tool, mainly because no one can agree on which GUI API to use! Also, since Visual Studio Express is now free to the masses, developing Sugar and supporting educational apps can still be a community/volunteer effort.

I think that any competent management team would realize that sticking with Linux is begging for years of delays over the lifetime of OLPC. How much longer do I have to wait for Update.1? In the same amount of time that I've been patiently waiting for Update.1, I've seen whole projects start and end successfully at my office. From analysis, to build, through several passes of test, and release. All because MS has catered to businesses who don't have time to debate over what the best scripting language is, or what the best way to integrate several applications is. They catered to people who only care about the end results.

And THAT I think is why NN is labeling Linux/Open Source developers as fundamentalists. Because they are, they do things out of principal. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it really doesn't help when you're trying to run a business in a timely maner. I've seen this community slam OLPC for not acting like a business, and now it's slamming OLPC for thinking too much like a business.

I just went and saw "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden" last night... it really puts things in perspective you know?

They showed the "schools" that would be getting the XO's in Afghanistan... seeing the people, the interviews with the locals, seeing the need for not only clean water and food, but an EDUCATION.

$500,000,000,000 thrown into a "war" that still has not rebuilt the schools etc... and here we are ARGUING what is better Windows/Linux?

This is disgusting! IT DOES NOT MATTER ... these people are literally dying out there! As Nicholas said, we just need to get them the opportunity to learn (ie laptops) and here we are fighting about it?

The OLPC Community needs to refocus its goals and mission statement. This kind of squabbling is horrendous!

"From my limited experience, developing graphical applications in Linux is pretty difficult. I've yet to see a decent RAD tool, mainly because no one can agree on which GUI API to use! Also, since Visual Studio Express is now free to the masses, developing Sugar and supporting educational apps can still be a community/volunteer effort."

I am sorry to say, but "Sugar" is more than meets the eye (pun intended). And the collaborative features of sugar activities are not even available for love or money.

And all the complainers about the journal have not been able to come up with a better method of protecting the children against deleting their work (the journal is a versioning system, if you don't know what that is you are missing out in a big way).

And then we didn't start about Bitfrost.

Winter

Isn't Sugar/Linux better suited for children whereas XP is better suited for business users? Yes, Sugar certainly needs work, but the design and the bundled applications were thoughtfully considered for children of Africa, Mongolia, Peru, etc.

With XP, there's "stuff" to distract and worry about -- the registry, installers, viruses, default admin permission, patches every Tuesday, and the problems bundled with Internet Explorer. In the U.S., there's an eco-system to deal with all this. No such infrastructure exists for the children of the above countries.

Has Negroponte forgotten all this?

Michael asks:

"Isn't Sugar/Linux better suited for children whereas XP is better suited for business users?"

The clear, direct, simple answer is: yes/no/who-knows

Why?

1. The overwhelming majority of XP users are just regular folks, not "business users" (yes, of coursse, there are business users, but they are a minority).
2. We don't know who Sugar/Linux is "better suited" for, given that Iit has not been tested enough.
3. The answer to your question is a moving target. Freetards & Negroponte sychophants will shamelessly switch positions on the issue, depending on what they think will best accomodate their agenda: one minute, Windows is a completely flawed OS, a virus magnet and a crash machine that will make MS Office zombies of anyone who comes in contact with a Windfows-infected computer; the next minute Windows is great and absolutely needed for the ultimate success of OLPC and the corresponding benefit of children all over the world...

:-)

Dear Negroponte--

This is blasphemy. This is MADNESS!

Eightbt:
"I think it makes sense to port Sugar to the Windows platform. A big reason is because it's easier to develop for Windows. "
... No. Go develop on Linux for a while, then seriously try to claim that. It's quite typical for a Linux distribution to install gcc, make, python, perl, and more 'out-of-the-box'. More to the point, tons of working example code to do virtually anything is available -- the way things work is readily inspectable and you can try bits of it in your own code.

"From my limited experience, developing graphical applications in Linux is pretty difficult. I've yet to see a decent RAD tool, mainly because no one can agree on which GUI API to use!"

Fair enough (the only RAD tools I use are Python + IPython). On the other hand, IPython provides the facility to interactively construct/debug GUIs made with your GUI toolkit of choice .. as in, you can make any changes to your GUI instantly and as exactly as you want. After I started using this, I stopped wanting a GUI builder completely, because they seem crippled in comparison.

The other thing to consider is that GUI development is just plain hard. It's easy to make a bad GUI (there's plenty of these everywhere. Include all necessary facilities, but haphazardly without any consideration for optimal access speed; obscure functionality by having it hidden behind right-clicking on some particular element; prompt users or provide a configurable preference when the program can automatically do the right thing 95% of the time, show elements constantly even though they don't relate to the present task; Include features that really aren't very helpful 95% of the time, and so on..), and it takes a great deal of testing, thought and some luck to make a good GUI.

Wow, really wow (first few posters).

Some people really drink a lot of koolaid these days.

Irvin, no man is a island AND NN lost his availibility to dictate what happens when he announced that OLPC is charity project and involved lot of volunteers.

In fact, all I see is this:
a) NN has really good idea how small laptops could help education in third world countries;
b) He goes to and talk to lot of people, some subscribes to his idea, some just shrug him off (Bill Gates for example);
c) Then he gets feedback from interested parties that laptop should be very open (so no dependency on vendor) and everyone could fix it;
d) NN can't get MS or Apple subscribe to this (precious IP);
e) Then NN turns to RedHat and open source people. Lot of cheering and real interest;
f) Everything calms down and work is started, first prototypes of box and Sugar is delivered;
g) Hype is growing, first working boxes, etc. Everything start to looks cool. Microsoft start to point their ears;
h) Dev. boxes are delivered, everyone is excited, Sugar and whole stuff looks cooler and cooler. Intel starts to also notice movements;
* At THIS point Bill made decision to disturb OLPC project
i) First they teamed with Intel to test waters and hit down requests for XO;
j) Nice dirty tactics from MS and Intel, lot of them;
k) OLPC project is stifled with this actions, also bunch of organisation problems and really bad PR (NN, please hire PR stuff);
l) Bill starts to use friendship with NN to impact XO, NN due of problems is very open to listen to Bill. Brainwashing starts;
m) G1G1 starts, OLPC with partners are overhelmed with requests. Sold lot of laptops, but also have lot of angry donors which didn't get their boxes. Again, really bad PR - due of total vacuum of information;
n) OLPC gets bashing about G1G1, also prise;
p) NN sees lack of sales, in result of brainwashing thinks it is because of non-Windows platform, panics, asks Bill for help;
r) in result we are here;

In fact, I think NN just aren't ready to admit failures and it is reason why OLPC has stuck in this position. It is also clear that nor XP will be good enough for current generation of XOs, nor Sugar will be ported until end of this year. This mean in closest OLPC will be capable to offer Windows with Sugar on XO only next year spring. It means OLPC will lose just year because of brainwashing from MS.

And this is MS needs. They will roll out their own "solution" with nice "lock-in" feature end of the year and NN only then will understand the truth.

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