A OLPC Give One Get None Horror Story

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OLPC G1G0 Sadness

When One Laptop Per Child announced Give One Get One, Jon Camfield worried about the unintended consequences of USA sales on XO laptop distribution in the developing world. Specifically, Jon was worried about grey markets allowing XO theft to vandalize education.

Sadly, we now have another theft to add. Bob was a victum of Give One Get None:

My OLPC box arrived today... WITH NO PC IN IT!!! I got the Give One, Get NONE!

In a word. Disappointment. I have to suspect somebody inside FedEx. I wonder how long this is going to take to straiten out..

Now which "straighten out" might Bob be referring to? The theft of his laptop that shows the level of XO lust this Christmas? Or the reality check this gives Nicholas Negroponte's "post office truck" anti-theft theory:
:JP: How can you reasonably believe that these very valuable devices -- worth more [than] two working people's annual salaries in poor nations -- will not be stolen and resold?

NN: Having them stolen may become our distribution model, for all I know! Seriously. Usually people steal because there is a secondary market. There is not much of a secondary market for post-office trucks, so not too many are stolen. Also, imagine a UN blue rubber laptop, with the crest in it. How many of those will be stolen? I know, some will be, and people may even try to take them to a body shop to be transformed. If the market is supplied with near-$100 laptops, that helps a great deal.(Technology Review, 2005)

The only condolence to Bob might be that Bitfrost could be active on the G1G1 XO laptops. Then he could rest assured that if prodded enough, OLPC could deactivate, or brick, the XO, rendering it useless to the thief.

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Its very sad and utterly disappointing to see you in distress. I wonder if you called the OLPC customer support or FedEx. With that tracking number sticker thats still on the box FedEx should be able to track the person who delivered it and also how many of the XO's were actually delivered by that person or truck.

Bummer. Can't see how you can blame this one on Nic. Whoever stole it is just a common thief, they probably had no idea what was in the box.


It kind of clearly states on the side of the box what it is, and with all of the press, I have almost not met a single person who didn't know at least that the program existed. I'm guessing they knew exactly what was in the box.


I'm not blaming Nick for the actual theft, but I do dislike his nonchalance to the very real threat of XO theft on this and a much larger scale once laptops start going to countries in big numbers.

Theft is a serious problem everywhere, and while Bitfrost my brick the laptop, it will not stop people from stealing from children (or adults). Especially when people learn that the big green XO on the outside means a laptop on the inside.

I don't know why mfgs seem to think it is a good idea to put their logos on shipping cartons. It just invites this sort of thing, and is also kind of inconvenient for parents this close to xmas.

Of course, it is possible thqat this is a screw-up at Brightstar. Hard to believe, but from my days in manufacturing I know it is possible to ship an empty box.

I'd look for the missing XO on ebay... Keep monitoring for a seller without the necessary manuals and user guides.


I know a lot of tech types (programmers, etc. - not specifically tech in education) and very few have heard of it. Those that have still think it has a hand crank. I still think this was common thievery. I don't know for sure but I'll bet lots of stuff gets stolen from Fed Ex, especially this time of the year.

You're right about the Nick's nonchalance, if there was a market for mailtrucks people would steal them, even here in America. The reason they don't steal them is because they're hard to get rid of. Not a problem with the XO.

Hopefully they can extradite another one to Bob while this gets resolved.

Coincidentally, the other people who have heard of it saw it on 60 minutes so I hear a lot of 'why are WE shipping computers to Africa when American kids don't have them? or They need food, not laptops!' I tell them it's a donation and if they don't like it send their money somewhere else.

I saw this story early this morning. It burns me up that someone would be that low as to steal an item like this.

If it's an inside job at FedEx, I hope that they can quickly locate the culprit by reviewing the tracking records for that parcel, and perhaps checking security tapes. I hope the lowlife (or lowlives) responsible for this get caught, and I hope OLPC can replace the laptop for Bob free of charge.

I do have to agree about wishing that there were no logos on the box anywhere. It just invites someone to try and steal it.

I hope things get resolved and he gets his laptop. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Yeah, I also have to agree that logos on the box, while cool, are a bad idea--especially when you're dumb enough to allow FedEx to deliver without a signature.

If I'm not mistaken one of the pieces of box art on the XO boxes is the OLPC laptop icon. Who's bright idea was that??

I'm beginning to think that the whole delivery/distribution thing has been nicely botched by whoever is in charge of it. Between random people getting theirs first (so much for 1st come, 1st served), no tracking numbers being emailed and no signatures required upon delivery, to me, it's amazing more people aren't in poor Bob's situation.

Let's hope Bob gets his situation worked out fast and that those of us who are still waiting actually get our XOs.

I'd be interested to know if the box itself was taped up before being shipped. If so, was the shipping tape removed/missing when delivered?

Shipping boxes should ALWAYS have sealing tape. Sending a box through any company without any packing tape is like pasting a sign on the box saying 'Please Steal Me'

After reading the associated information behind Bobs picture/webpage it seems the bottom of the box had been opened and taped back up. This highlights the need for proper security/signature delivery. I'm also curious about whether the shipping cost that purchasers paid included insurance.
I would hope so...

Sounds like another good reason not to use FedEx (or as they are commonly called around here: FedUp). I recommend DHL.

Jon, I hope you get your laptop soon. Your story has got me worried now. I think I'll call FedEx early Monday.

Who's bright idea was it to not require a signature and put stickers on the packaging. Alot of people in this country know what this thing is now.

This story worries me - given that no tracking numbers are issued, recipients might not even know for weeks that their laptop was stolen. An empty box at least lets you know to start looking and calling. If no box arrived at all, then you'd just wait, thinking it was the G1G1 Lotto problem.

I fear the "resolution" will be a check for the value of the XO - $175. I have my fingers crossed this is resolved to Jon's satisfaction and *pray* this is a rare occurrence.

I doubt it was FedEx. Do you think a driver at FedEx would really risk their job to steal a $400 laptop? That just doesn't add up. Probably someone passing by, delivering hand bills door-to-door, etc.

Very sad, all the same.

OLPC: good idea, not-so-good execution. This theft is just proof of that.

Better, I think, to get solar power in these areas so you can support not just computers, but also light bulbs (good for studying books at night). With solar power, you could take a bunch of existing (older, but still good) PC's, install the OLPC version of Linux on 'em, take 'em over to Wherever, and get going. You also keep those older (but still good) PC's out of the landfills, always a good thing. And less incentive for theft than a laptop, too.

It looks like when Update.2 comes out for the XO in March, it'll have "Active kill capability for stolen laptops"


In the last sentence of Nick's response he says, "If the market is supplied with near-$100 laptops, that helps a great deal." It has been my personal experience that when I talk about my G1G1 order (especially amongst other geeks) their first questions is "why not an EeePC?". Nick has paved the way for commercial implementations of low-cost notebooks which, to any adult, are far more desirable and viable. I think the idea he is getting at is who would pay $100-$200 for an XO when you can get a more suitable machine with an adult-sized keyboard for a similar price?

I am in the same situation and it really sucks. My laptop was delivered by FedEx last night and stolen while we were at home. FedEx did not even bother to ring the doorbell! I am waiting on a call from the driver and if I don't hear from him withing 24 hours, I am to call the shipper and have them file a claim. I can already see that this will be a long ordeal.

An empty box is no proof Jon doesn't have the XO himself.
OLPC shouldn't ship a replacement on that basis. Lots of people would show empty boxes if they thought they could get away with it. I assume FedEx checks the weight of packages somewhere along the way. They set their shipping charges by size/weight. If they left it entirely up to the sender to weigh packages then I'm sure they'd lose money. They're not stupid. Surely they check to see if someone is sending a brick or a sponge. If the weight changes along the way that should be enough to indicate when/where something went wrong.