Appreciate the Background on OLPC Technology Choices

   
   
   
   
   

Stop the OLPC second guessing!
Over time, I have seen countless comments about the choices of the OLPC along the lines of
  1. "Why did they think it was better to run an odd keyboard and an odd desktop (sugar) rather then just a cut down Linux distro with XFCE and carefully selected applications?"
  2. "Why add a 'View Source' key, almost no kid will use it"
  3. "They didn't write an education plan because they don't believe in 'regular education and teachers'."
  4. "The XO is useless because you can't play MP3, watch Flash, or print"
I think not everyone appreciates the background of these choices. These comments actually describe the Classmate. And in my opinion that is NOT a great computer for elementary school children.

Why Sugar?

Basically, the Desktop is a lousy interface. Deep down, it is based on a menu selection system. A menu is a tree based search which gets confusing VERY fast. Even grown ups cannot understand all the menu choices in, eg, an Office application. The reason experienced *nix users love the command line is that this allows you to break free from these confusing, isolated menu selections.

The designers of the XO took the view that an education computer for children should work like a child thinks. It should work like a toy. That is because toys are designed to work for children. The desktop metaphore was designed for adults and mimmics their work experiences. It was also designed to overlay a hierarchical (tree based) tool structure, that is, a menu. However, small children in the developing world probably have little experience with "File cabinets" and "Directories" in office buildings. Furthermore, the hardware imposed severe limitations on memory use, eg, no virtual memory.

olpc sugar groups
Next year's Sugar groups?

The interface, Sugar, had to transparently combine:

  • Group work activities (sharing)
  • Context sensitive choices
  • Show the current state of the system, eg, how much memory is used by each activity
  • A file system with built in version control like Git, to hide the intricacies of storage from the children. The children must NEVER lose any work and back-ups should be automatic (if you think you understand file systems, that proves you don't)
  • Basic connections between work and the applications that access it
  • Have state-of-the art security for users who might not know what they are doing and who can't use passwords
  • Automatic, viral, and extremely safe updating
  • Automatic anti-theft systems to protect the CHILDREN from mugging and violence
  • Loads of other things not done under *nix
  • The Keyboard should be as small as possible for making a smaller laptop.
  • Also, children should never be exposed to a caps lock key and other cruft.
  • And this should all work for children who can hardly read on a system with less than 1GB memory.
Maybe this above gives you some more appreciation about what the OLPC coders have achieved. Because, they succeeded in all of the above.

The Need to View Source

And the "View Source" button is there for an extremely good reason. One of the defining moments in the history of the World Wide Web was the decision by the Mosaic team to include a "View Source" menu option. This single addition allowed thousands of users to become web designers.

It allowed me to set up a complete web site in the early nineties. All the arguments against the "View Source" button on the XO could have been leveled against the "View Source" option in Mosaic. And they were ALL proven wrong. If you want the people in the developing world to contribute to the OLPC and their own country, they need a "View Source" button. If not as children, then they will reap the benefits when they grow up.

It is rather fashionable to look down on Geeks as Lost Boys who don't want to grow up and who's opinions can safely be ignored. That vision gave us Vista. But these are the people that succeeded in making the impossible true. They all REALLY understand what they are doing. Some of the best software architects on the planet, or their students, were one time or another involved in these decisions.

OLPC in Education

The same holds for the educational aspects of the OLPC. It has been fashionable too to bash Alan Kay's ideas, but it will be difficult to come up with a living specialist who is both better and willing to tell us he is all wrong. It has been written many times, even by me, the OLPC is about communities that simply do not have enough teachers to teach all the children. There are too many of these communities (around 900 million children are affected) and they are too diverse to even contemplate designing curricula for all of them.

The OLPC decided the best they could do was to help those communities (teachers, children, and parents) to cope with this shortage and adapt the content of the laptop and the teaching. It is no use to try to integrate the laptop into the curriculum as this won't be possible anyway (there often aren't even books to adapt), and this won't increase the productivity of the teachers enough to off-set the costs in hours of the integration.

olpc free music project
We wanna sing and dance!

In short, "Never judge a man until you have walked a thousand miles in his shoes."
(I know the joke version, but it is you who will then be a thousand miles from home)

MP3 and Flash

To get back to the last comment:

"The XO is useless because you can't print, play MP3, nor watch Flash"
MP3 is patent encumbered, so can't be distributed. Anyhow, these children can hardly be expected to have large MP3 libraries laying around. I think they can manage with Ogg (which has better codecs).

Flash is a resource hog and, in my opinion, a largely useless format only invented to block saving movie streams. There is an open source implementation, Gnash, and it will be possible to include it into the software mix if needed. Still, Sugar has its movie format, so Flash would be needed only for YouTube. Given the current problems with getting these children on-line, I don't think the education boards will view the inabillity to download YouTube movies a major problem.

olpc xo printer
OLPC XO: printed

XO Printing

Getting down to printing from the XO

Printing has been promised for this spring. Personally, I would give priority to PDF (eg, in a PDFCreator set-up). PDF is a good archiving and interchange format. Native PDF printers are arriving, and whatever Linux printing architecture will be chosen in the end, it will be able to handle PDF.

Not that paper and ink are so cheap in the developing world that printing should be a priority. Think of taking a regular laser printer to the tropics (40C/120F) with 95% humidity, no airco, 200 miles from the nearest distributor of toner and paper. Guess how long this thing will print. Use an ink-jet printer, calculate the cost per sheet.

I can understand the lack of priorities in this department. It might be a negative outcome of the G1G1 program that the OLPC now feels obliged to spend their scarce time to write a printing infrastructure for the XO.

Related Entries

65 Comments

Truly bizarre reasoning. The facts are very clear: the entire world doesn't see much value in the choices made by the OLPC team, thus the lack of orders or interest.

This post is a perfect example of the incompetence, arrogance and utter dishonesty that has derailed Prof. Negroponte's initiative. Luckily for the rest of the world, the charade is so transparent, it doesn't take much effort to realize that the whole thing is just a bad technological solution trying to find a matching educational problem.

Yes, there is a need to improve education in many different parts of the world; no, the XO -at least in its current incarnation - is not the solution.

And no, it is not my opinion. It is the world's opinion. The lack of orders is a clear, loud and undeniable rejection of all the bizarre, dishonest, incompetent ideas that the writer is trying to sell.

With their silence, people have spoken. The answer to the sales pitch is a firm "No, thanks!"

@Irvin:
"This post is a perfect example of the incompetence, arrogance and utter dishonesty that has derailed Prof. Negroponte's initiative."

Irvin, are you lost for sensible arguments that you resort to name calling? And why blame Negroponte and the OLPC for my post? No one in the OLPC has ever heard of me?

@Irvin:
"Yes, there is a need to improve education in many different parts of the world; no, the XO -at least in its current incarnation - is not the solution."

Those working and enduring education (teachers and students) all seem to clamour for the OLPC. But, according to you, this is not the solution. Please enlighten me and point out the direction where the solution can be found. And if it is more teachers, tell us where they can be found. The world is literally missing many millions of teachers.

@Irvin:
"The lack of orders is a clear, loud and undeniable rejection of all the bizarre, dishonest, incompetent ideas that the writer is trying to sell."

I do not really see the logic here. Does the world need more Kalashnikovs because they are in such heavy demand? Do they create a better Africa because of the trade volume?

Anyhow, Irvin, you are very welcome to write down your arguments and all your reasoning in a post to Wayan. He will undoubtedly all too happy to publish it here.
Just order all your arguments and facts and once and for all silence my optimism.

Winter

On the topic of printers (and computers) use in the topics. Here is a link:

http://www.on-samui.com/pc-tropics.html

I also forgot some other aspects of the tropical climate in relation to printers.

I expect printers to be really good hiding and nesting places for all crawling fauna in the tropics. Except, of course, if the ants take over, then will monopolize your printer.

In drier regions, dust will prevent the animals from surviving inside your printer. I am not sure whether that will be good.

Winter

Once again, the writer is reaching crazy conclusions based on bizarre, untrue premises:

"Those working and enduring education (teachers and students) all seem to clamour for the OLPC"

There is no evidence whatsoever that that's the case. It COULD be the case if pilot projects had been conducted under scientific, serious conditions. But we already know what the OLPC leadership thinks of pilot projects...

"I do not really see the logic here. Does the world need more Kalashnikovs because they are in such heavy demand? Do they create a better Africa because of the trade volume?"

The world WANTS many things - some good (food, education, wealth), some bad (guns, drugs, etc.). For good and bad reasons. However, the world DOES NOT WANT the educational "solution" that you and Prof. Negroponte claim the XO to be.

So, rather than trying to force people to buy into your absurd vision - or lack thereof - you'd better concentrate on finding the real reasons that virtually nobody in the world believes that the XO is a suitable solution to their education problems. It's the smart thihng to do.

Bottom line is this: it doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what you think. What matters are the facts. And the facts are that nobody wants to buy. Why?

When you decide to give that simple question an honest answer, you will be on the road to enlightenment (I'll give you a clue: the XO is severely lacking in many areas, as even some of the most ardent fans will admit). Until then, you are just making a fool of yourself trying to cover the sun with a finger....

"There is no evidence whatsoever that that's the case. It COULD be the case if pilot projects had been conducted under scientific, serious conditions. But we already know what the OLPC leadership thinks of pilot projects..."

Ah, you mean like here at the BETT
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/bett_guest_post_happy_ending.html

And all the other reports of weeping children and raging teachers that had to endure the XO.

@Irvin:
"you'd better concentrate on finding the real reasons that virtually nobody in the world believes that the XO is a suitable solution to their education problems."

I think it will be possible to fill Tien An Men square with people who do believe it. And you can find them well represented at OLPCnews.

@Irvin:
"And the facts are that nobody wants to buy. Why?"

No one wanted the internet. Bill Gates himself told us it was just a fad. The reason governments buy or don't buy things have to do with a lot of things. One obvious reason not to spend tax money is that the benficiaries do not vote for the politician that controls the spending. The USA does not have universal health care coverage political reasons, not because it would not be cost effective.

So political spending decisions are very poor measures of merit.

But you can always come with facts and opinions related to the post, instead of political rages that are irrelevant to my post.

Winter

"Ah, you mean like here at the BETT
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/bett_guest_post_happy_ending.html

And all the other reports of weeping children and raging teachers that had to endure the XO.:"


As always, anecdotal data doesn't count. I'm pretty sure you can find a dozen pages on the internet praising Hitler. That does NOT translate into "The world loves Hitler".

Nobody is going to accept a couple of pictures of kids smiling while using the XO as proof that the XO is great or wanted by everyone in the world - you would be the first one to reject the same "evidence" if the computer in the picture is a Classmate.

The rest of the post is so devoid of honesty or commmon sense ("No one wanted the internet"), that no further comments are necessary.

""Ah, you mean like here at the BETT
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/bett_guest_post_happy_ending.html

And all the other reports of weeping children and raging teachers that had to endure the XO.:"


http://digitalambassadors.wordpress.com/2007/12/22/the-classmate-pc-powered-by-intel-for-emerging-markets-worldwide/


These children are also "weeping" of joy using their Classmate. Does that automatically mean that the Classmate is the solution to the world's education problems?

@Irvin:
"These children are also "weeping" of joy using their Classmate. Does that automatically mean that the Classmate is the solution to the world's education problems?"

Maybe, at least for the teenagers and older students they portray. I am glad we agree that ICT might indeed be helpful in education. Laptops in general might indeed help older high school children and college students, at least in some situations. Eg, where there are enough teachers and reliable power and internet connections.

However, given the situations in many countries, they are rather useless for younger children. Intel generously donates power generators together with their more expensive Classmates to make them at least borderline useful for high schools.

The OLPC has targetted younger children, even those without a reliable power connection and those who are nearly illiterate. That is indeed a giant leap forward.

Winter

olpc is designed to get tech into the hands of kids that need it. If the olpc helps create just one more kid out of uneducated poverty the it is a success. Sure the OLPC is slow for a super dual core 22" widescreen society, but it does me just fine. does it have to be fast to "work"? No it just has to provide a way to educate and it does that just fine. And like the ubuntu distribution was in 2004, "rough around the edges" it will get better.

Hi Winter,

Interesting comments. You make it clear that the design decisions so far have a solid basis and background. They give us a foundation but we have to build on that to realize the most educational value from this innovative platform. So there's a lot of work ahead to build the right pedagogical tools.

My position is that we need an active dialog between teachers, students and developers to create something really useful. Getting that constructive and honest dialog underway is the biggest challenge and should be the short term focus of our work. It doesn't seem that Irvin is helping but to the extent that his criticisms are valid to real teachers and student we should consider them.

On the subject of printing, we do have an interim solution for that.
See:
http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/InsideSystemStorage?entry=printing_on_xo_laptop_with

we're going to move that documentation to the OLPC Wiki at:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Printer_Support

It remains to be seen if printing is really important to the initial XO deployments. We also have more work to make printing easier to install and make it available in activities and/or the Journal.

I need feedback on how printing will really be used in schools. If anyone has first hand information on how XO users in developing countries want to use printing, please leave me a note on my OLPC Wiki talk page:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User_talk:Gregorio

I give OLPC credit for launching a major platform and getting it in the hands of people who can benefit from it. Now begins the hard work of making it as effective as possible.

Count me in on that effort!

Thanks,

Greg S

@Winter
This is going to seem fanboyish bear with me. I finally found a website that explains the IP (Ingress Protocol) codes for protected enclosures. After reading that link, it seemed worth investigating.

IP42 (the one widely reported) means protection from anything bigger than 1 millimeter and dripping water at a slight angle (15 degrees).

IP53 (mentioned on the wiki) means dust protection (but not dust tight) and dripping water at a large angle (60 degrees). I'm guessing this would be a closed XO (ears down, lid secured).

Now, I know the testing is still in progress, but do you think if the XO passed both of these would last long in tropical regions?

Sad that this became a name calling between irvin and winter about the OLPC not about those arguments.

back to the article: a note on the view source code. Even if one expect that this key will not be used by 99% of the students it's nice to remember that the xo keyboard also got away with other useless keys such the printscreen, caps lock and num lock. Adding one extra will not be aburden to those who do not use it and will be very useful to the 1% that does (which will help the project as a whole)

The Classmate and XO in action!


"Within a few weeks, however, both computers were barely being used, benched, as it were, by lackluster performance and frustrating bugs. The problems were bad enough to turn off our kids."

....

"Raymond said he supported the idea of bringing computers to needy kids, but said a school might be better off with a dozen really good computers in a computer lab rather than mediocre computers for every child."

....

"And at the end of the day, 'it's still better to have a really good teacher,' he said. 'They're a lot more important than computers.' "


http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/GadgetGuide/WireStory?id=4186350&page=1

If only 1% of kids use the View Source key then it's a waste of keyboard real estate and one additional point of failure/element of cost. The other keys - Print Screen, Caps Lock and Num Lock - have, at least, the justification of being on zillions of other keyboards. Besides, anyone who wants to learn Python isn't going to be deterred by the lack of a View Source key. It hardly seems necessary to burden the keyboard with a key that presents so little value to the few kids who are going to want to "View Source".

Also, Winter's comparison of HTML and Python is simply nonsensical.

Functionally and conceptually HTML and Python, any programming language, are worlds apart.

HTML can be obfuscated but it's conceptually simple. You're controlling how stuff - text and graphics - shows up. Any programming language encompasses concepts by comparison to which HTML is trivial.

The difference shows up in the volume of knowledge needed to achieve understanding. One could learn something useful about HTML by viewing the source of this web page even though it's a real, as opposed to an instructional, example. Try to learn Python, from a starting point of no knowledge by viewing the source of real, as opposed to instructional, examples and see how far you get.

OLPC is an education project, not a laptop project. These kids will learn hard facts as well as soft ones such as reading, writing, and other communication skills. To give them a MS Windows computer would be to teach them Windows and Microsoft products which is what Microsoft wants. I'm sure if Intel had a low power CPU like the AMD one OLPC is using, Mr. Negroponte would have used it. Through G1G1, I have an XO and the little green machine is one rugged, parsimonious piece of hardware.

There are many other ways of computing; Linux and open source being the best bang for the buck where bucks are scarce. The XO is a blank slate upon which these children will learn, create, and collaborate on their own without the heavy hand of Microsoft and our first-world priorities burdening them.

The author's comments about MP3 and Flash are way off. In Negroponte's interviews, he always boasts that the XO laptop was driven by design decisions about what is and is not important for education. If something was not considered important (such as having a lot of storage space) it was eliminated to save cost. If something was considered important (high quality screen for reading, advanced mesh antennae for collaboration and Internet connectivity), then no expense was spared.

In those same interviews, he stressed that Internet browsing was considered to be one of the most important applications the XO could offer. He vowed that for all things Internet, the XO laptop would provide a top-notch experience.

But as we have now seen, the design decisions have failed to support the objective of providing a compelling Internet experience. MP3, Flash, and Java are part of the Internet landscape. Without those tools, a rather large number of important educational websites are inaccessible, and the problem will continue to grow as websites continue to evolve in ways that rely on video, audio, and interactive widgets.

Some have portrayed that these things were left off the machine for philosophical reasons (not open-source), but could be added on later. Many G1G1 users have reported that this claim is not really true. The XO laptop appears to not have the basic horsepower (memory or CPU) to run these apps. As far as I know, no one has successfully been able to watch a YouTube video with fluidity on the XO laptop. This is not to say that YouTube is the end-all killer educational laptop, but it is a sign of everything the XO laptop cannot do that it is supposed to be able to do. It is obvious that the Internet is trending in this direction, and XO users will be unable to take advantage of the many websites that will be developed.

This is why people are criticizing the design decisions of OLPC in this respect. It's fairly obvious that Internet browsing is a killer app that needs to be supported well by the XO laptop; it was promised to be supported well, and in this respect, the XO fails.

I read an interesting post once about designing solutions for problems in another culture. Basically the point was the designer has perfectly valid reasons for the design choice but those choices don't always fit the needs of the user (in this case the government that buys the XO, not the children). What typically happens is the designer then gets insulted because the user "doesn't get it". The user gets mad because the designer is "being imperialistic".

What's my point? There's reasons for every decision OLPC made but the user wants something different. They want to print and use spreadsheets. They want to find their files. Some countries may want the hardware but not 'child ownership' or 'constructionism' or some other thing that's important to OLPC. Maybe the first thing they do will be to remove Sugar, install XP and then lock them in the schools at night. Since they paid for them they can use them as they want.

http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=23456 (note: these guys are designers and you should see them go on about Arial vs. Verdana)

Puzzler,

1) "Some have portrayed that these things were left off the machine for philosophical reasons (not open-source), but could be added on later. Many G1G1 users have reported that this claim is not really true."

Sugar/Fedora is not different in that respect than many other Linux distributions (eg Ubuntu), thanks to the strict licensing laws in USA. However, there's nothing stopping third parties adding these software and more technically inclined users do it already - only a matter of time for a tool to add them automatically (again, as in Ubuntu) to appear. In fact not just that, in a matter of weeks you'll have other Linux distributions running happily (see my next point) on the XOs generally available for download providing not just software you mention but also desktop environments computer users in developed countries are more accustomed to.

2) "The XO laptop appears to not have the basic horsepower (memory or CPU) to run these apps."

That's not correct. As it is, the XO's hardware is 'good enough' to run most of the software comfortably - checkout the ('proof of concept')video showing concurrent multimedia apps using another Linux distribution:

olpc-usb-boot
( http://tinypic.com/player.php?v=80m5z49&s=1 )

Other point - I keep reading that Sugar is designed for 'kids that have never seen a computer'. Unfortunately it's being paid for by people who have.

Also, in most of the pictures I've seen there are computers already, just desktops, not laptops. For instance in Mongolia do the kids have to switch back and forth between Sugar and whatever's on the desktop or did they switch the desktops to Sugar or do the kids not use the desktops?

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Image:IMG_1435.JPG

Irvin,

Thanks for the link to the article - it seems the author's 10-year-old niece is rather pleased with her XO (and as noted earlier, printer support can be added also):

"My niece Rebecca is defensive about her "cute" computer: "It has really fun games and it's easy to carry around and its fun to figure things out on it," she says.

This week she is trying to write a Personal Immigration Story on it for a class assignment, and she says she is especially pleased with the "small keyboard with really squishy keys that are fun to type on." The battery, she notes, lasts all day, but she's having trouble printing the paper.

While Rebecca was gaining some affinity for her OLPC..."

Maddie,

1) "I keep reading that Sugar is designed for 'kids that have never seen a computer'. Unfortunately it's being paid for by people who have."

Yes, the XO's Sugar is designed for kids. But even more importantly it adds integral functionality no other desktop can provide right now - collaboration. It's clear that most people are not aware of just how powerful the collaboration function is in Sugar - I think OLPC should have more demos to show of this feature...

2)"Also, in most of the pictures I've seen there are computers already, just desktops, not laptops. For instance in Mongolia do the kids have to switch back and forth between Sugar and whatever's on the desktop or did they switch the desktops to Sugar or do the kids not use the desktops?"

You picture clearly shows a 'computer room' not a classroom - the old PCs, if available like in your example, can be easily converted into servers. Here is normal classroom situation:

( http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Mongolia/Ulaanbaatar )

XO is a great innovation, there is no doubt about it. It's a cross between laptop and mobile phone. It's created a new market - small cheap PC connected to Internet.
Great news - XO is already in children's hands.
I think now it's time to focus a little bit more on end user experience.
It would be interesting to know what's going on in OLPC pilot schools: http://www.laptop.org/en/children/learning/
I hope it's not classified "XO-Files"

Delphi,
Nice picture but I can't see the whole classroom from that angle. In any case, these children have 'seen computers' because the school has them. But you right that OLPC should show off the mesh more if that's the primary selling point over some other solution. I don't know what OLPC's target is but they seem to be reaching children in functioning schools.

Grishel,
the report from Thailand, seems complete , particularly the 'issues to be discussed' section (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Thailand/Ban_Samkha/trial-200705). The others don't seem to have much follow-up and Mongolia's new.

winter: "the OLPC is about communities that simply do not have enough teachers to teach all the children. There are too many of these communities (around 900 million children are affected) and they are too diverse to even contemplate designing curricula for all of them."

Exactly. Those who say that oplc should stick with the standard educational model either don't understand why it can't possibly work with this huge group, or don't care.

Eduardo,
Maybe it's not "don't understand or don't care." Maybe they think the children don't have teachers because their government chooses not to fund education. Maybe they wonder how/why those governments are going to fund the XOs.

Since OLPC has no control over the XOs once they are purchased the governments will use them however they want. So OLPC's educational policies are irrelevant.

- Mp3 is proprietary. Support for it can only happen through installation of third party proprietary or software patent inferinging software.

- Flash is proprietary. To get a smooth Flash video playback, Adobe needs to come and contribute an optimized Flash player for the XO hardware specifically. Even though it would be a proprietary third party software, that is Adobe and nobody else who can optimize Flash to make it work smoothly on the hardware.

OLPC could make a very easy user-friendly GUI system for installing third party software. Something like: "Type in here the name of the software" and "Type in here the URL for the software repository". And then a one-click installation of all these third party proprietary softwares. So responsabillity is to the user of the laptop, the distributor and host of the third party software to make sure it doesn't infringe on software patents, on proprietary licences, on copyright and such. Point simply is this: OLPC cannot ship with proprietary software and even less with software that requires negociated patent royalty licencing. But OLPC could make it as easy as possible I think though, for proprietary software makers to still be able to make their software easilly available in a one-click process. But make sure OLPC should not facilitate piracy or breaking of the patent and licencing laws, so the XO cannot ship with preinstalled repository to unlicenced or uncontrolled proprietary software.

It's like with Windows XP, it's going to work on the XO, but it will not be made available by Microsoft before the XO is shipping to millions of children. It's probably going to be the same for Flash, official Nintendo roms emulator, one-click install of Skype, Opera, Mplayer and all these other proprietary licenced non-open-standard softwares.

@Puzzler:
"MP3, Flash, and Java"
Ogg replaces any MP3 codec, and is even much better in all respects. MP3's value is in existing recordings, but these children don't have any. Flash has little to recommend it over anything else, Theora would do fine. Why add another language while the kids already have Python?

@Maddie:
"Maybe they think the children don't have teachers because their government chooses not to fund education. "

Maybe the governments have no clue how to entice people to become teachers in rural and unsafe areas, nor has anybody else. Maybe the governments have neither the perso-power nor the money to train and pay for the hundreds of thousands of teachers they need.

Winter

Winter,

Or maybe they believe education (like food and medicine) is power and want to keep it for themselves and their supporters. Maybe they feel educating the 'lower classes' will result in competition for their kids, who I bet are getting a great education.

The only way to know for sure is to go back two years from now and see where the XOs landed and how they were used.

Maddie

@Maddie:
"Maybe they feel educating the 'lower classes' will result in competition for their kids, who I bet are getting a great education."

Sadly, I know how politicians, or rather the elite, in the West have often manipulated higher educational policies for exactly these reasons.

@Allen:
"Functionally and conceptually HTML and Python, any programming language, are worlds apart."

I can understand the feeling, but I still disagree. In all respects, HTML is equivalent to a programming language. XHTML with CSS even more so. The fact that it is simpler and not Turing complete is not relevant. By learning HTML you learn some of the basic skills needed to learn how to program.

But that was not my point. If you want to learn a programming language (or any language at that), you need to read existing code. The more, the better. To learn how to USE HTML you needed to read web pages. As such, the View Source button will be just as invaluable for the XO as it was for web development. And it really was a decissive point in the development of the WWW.

@Puzzler:
"This is why people are criticizing the design decisions of OLPC in this respect. It's fairly obvious that Internet browsing is a killer app that needs to be supported well by the XO laptop; it was promised to be supported well, and in this respect, the XO fails."

The OLPC had to make choices to build a sub $200 laptop (or even $100). Choices meant that some things had to go. Anything not FREE (as in speech) went out first. Licenses are a hassle and cost that can be done without. Anything that was a memory or CPU hog went out next. It was either that or no XO.

I see Flash as belonging to both categories. Java too (at the time, and it can be replaced by Python). Both can be done without for children in the developing world. YouTube running on Flash instead of Mpeg was a business decission, not a technological one. If YouTube wants to keep these children as a customer, they can switch to Theora. If they don't, someone else will.

The OLPC was building a new platform for children that had no legacy stuff lying around. And it had to be extremely, impossibly, cheap. MP3, Flash, nor Java can cope with that. Too bad for them, I think. Expecially given that the alternative would have been NO laptop.

Winter

It is incredible that most people think that OLPC is just a bunch of geeks that want to spread the geek love. The founders of OLPC are academics that study how children learn, and had the common sense to have real geeks help them.

If anyone really wants to see why the sugar interface is like it is, read this page: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines

The printing issue can turn to be very big. At least in Latin America, the printed paper is quite important as proof and testimony; I don't mean just legally, but culturally. It doesn't even matter that you don't read, to have a printed copy stating something turns it into "reality", into something tangible.

I've seen this many times: from pictures at middle-class homes to birth certificates for people in Andean towns, the mere existence of something depends on its "paperness"... a digital file is mistrusted, obviously at different levels and different forms depending on context, seriousness of the issue for personal or business reasons, and cultural background. But the printed word (and image) is still terribly important, so besides all the reason you may find to dismiss the usefulness of paper, its cost and its significant burden for conservation, it will take a while to lose its cultural significance.

@Chrisotpher:
"It is incredible that most people think that OLPC is just a bunch of geeks that want to spread the geek love."

I generally see that opinion expressed by people who use it as an argument to dismiss the XO. If they admitted that experienced educators and experts were involved, they couldn't just ignore their opinions. But if they are all just "geeks=nerds=fools", then you don't have to take their arguments seriously.

@Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla:
"But the printed word (and image) is still terribly important, so besides all the reason you may find to dismiss the usefulness of paper, its cost and its significant burden for conservation, it will take a while to lose its cultural significance."

But I assume these people often do not all have a personal printer/copier and have to go to a "print shop" to print.

In that case, a pdf could be a solution too. Just transfer the pdf to the shop's computer. Or does anyone know whyc this wouldn't work?

Winter

Winter wrote:

"In that case, a pdf could be a solution too. Just transfer the pdf to the shop's computer. Or does anyone know whyc this wouldn't work?"

It would work, of course, but it is a Rube Goldberg "solution":

http://www.rube-goldberg.com/

OLPC's leadership urgently needs to subscribe to the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) methodology of design.


Printing is not a luxury; printing is a basic necessity. Anywhere in the world.

The b&w sunlight-readable and tablet-mode screen was developed specifically so it could replace reading on books, to avoid the environmental and money costs of printing. It will support printing, the OLPC folks just haven't gotten time to do it (It's more or less a matter of installing CUPS (printing system in *nix systems) and putting on a print button somewhere on the GUI.

Follow-up: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Enabling_CUPS shows how to install printing system CUPS on the XO.

@IRvin:
"Printing is not a luxury; printing is a basic necessity. Anywhere in the world."

Didn't follow the link?
http://www.on-samui.com/pc-tropics.html

A very good explanation why it is a bad idea to have a printer in the tropics without airco.

Those people refered to by Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla do not have their own copier at home. They go to a copy shop. So I do not yet see why they would like an expensive to operate printer?

Anyhow, if they need, they can install cups. So what is the problem?
If you do not know what Cups is, it is the Common Unix Printing Architecture. It can print to almost any printer

Winter

Winter wrote:

"A very good explanation why it is a bad idea to have a printer in the tropics without airco."

Truly bizarre statement.

Ironically, Professor Negroponte's only clients so far are Peru and Uruguay, places where printers are completely run-of-the-mill, mainstream technology.

The same can be said of every other country in Latin America. The same can be said of virtually every other country in the world.

The very FEW places (if they exist) where a printer can't be used are such minority, that it doesn't make any sense to deprive the entire world of this basic computer feature in order to accommodate the handful of places that are not even interested in buying an XO!

Fortunately, the OLPC leadership has acknowledged that they blundered terribly and promised to fix their egregious oversight in the future.

Dude, Irvin, already in the initial mock-ups of the UI there was a presence of printing capabilities, so it was always planed, and the support is there. Today. Immediately with the typing of a yum install command. Just not with a pretty gui, because they just haven't got around to do it.

I am the product of an indigenous family in North America, and I grew up in the fifties. Books, magazines and anything written on paper was valuable to myself and my brothers, cousins and friends. Paper has credibility and portability- it is a powerful object under some conditions.
I do not wish to be unkind, but I have been reading OLPC news for some time and it seems that many critics and also, friends, of OLPC approach the little laptop from a skewed eurocentric perspective. You cannot know what is important or how things work or are used, in certain cultures you have not experienced. Period. The XO is hardly perfect, but it is sufficient for the present moment.
There seems to be a deep urge for handholding- taking care of some imaginary little charges out in the middle of nowhere. Think again.
I have taught indigenous children from the remotest area of the American West and have worked with third world students and experienced firsthand the resourcefulness and intelligence of people who can easily be tagged as "Have-nots." I can say with confidence that they will ably adapt, and overcome situations that would discourage many of us.
Knowledge is vital to poor people. Modeling is one of the best teaching tools in existence,and ready access to information is powerful.
Despite alleged shortcomings in design and execution, the little green laptop can and will deliver those things I just mentioned and more, and will create a revolution around the world in short order.
I say to those who are critical of every facet and nuance of the XO, go build your perfect version, please. Distribute it in large numbers at every corner of the globe. The job that needs doing will require many minds, hearts and hands.

QUOTING WINTER:

1. "Why did they think it was better to run an odd keyboard and an odd desktop (sugar) rather then just a cut down Linux distro with XFCE and carefully selected applications?"
2. "Why add a 'View Source' key, almost no kid will use it"
3. "They didn't write an education plan because they don't believe in 'regular education and teachers'."
4. "The XO is useless because you can't play MP3, watch Flash, or print"

END QUOTE

Wow I say 1-3 most of the time!! LOL ! YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!

1. The small-ness is ok, but the caps-lock and THE CHANGES ARE NOT IMPORTANT to education. They are pointless re-thinking, the mark of the huge egos involved. Menus and the caps-lock are part of the grown-up real-world computer world. Regular compiled-code Linux is faster and works today.

2. The 'View Source' option is important, and BELONGS IN THE HELP MENU of all applications -- right next to the 'About Application' option. The use of the button will be occasional, not many times an hour, so it is a waste of a button.

3. Their beliefs about education are _insulting_ to the educators that DECIDE ABOUT education BUDGETS and plans. This may be ONE OF THE REASONS THAT the huge bulk ORDERS that would keep the project going HAVE NEVER MATERIALIZED.


Well,
I agree with you about number 4.

@Spence:
I think I agree with every word you wrote. Thank you.

@Irvin:
"Ironically, Professor Negroponte's only clients so far are Peru and Uruguay, places where printers are completely run-of-the-mill, mainstream technology.
The same can be said of every other country in Latin America. The same can be said of virtually every other country in the world."

Ironic, isn't it, that people who do not have computers need printers more than laptops or internet access?

However, I would really like to see some more "evidence" that paper and printers work in humid and dusty climates without an airco. The link is to a person working in Thailand. He is unable to run any computer equipment without a lot of trouble due to the climate. Even his floppies and CDs fail.

I suspect that paper will be the main problem. Unless you feed the paper sheet-wise, big stacks of humid, dusty paper will jam any printer.

But this whole discussion reeks of desperation.

Anyone who orders 100,000 XOs or more can simply ask to get CUPS installed to drive any available printer, and any other software they want. And they will get it delivered for free. There is NO way that the children will be required to install their own packages.

If Brazil, or any other country, makes a deal with MP3licensing.com, they can get MP3 encode/playback installed. These same with Adobe/Flash etc.

Really, I see these as straw men used by those desperate for attacking the OLPC.

@Nathan Dbb:
"Wow I say 1-3 most of the time!! LOL ! YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!"

I am at a loss about your comments, sorry. As many readers of OLPCnews, English is not my native language. I suspect that I am missing some crucial points in your text. What part of the article are you refering to, and what is your position on that?

And if EVERY prgram should have a "View Code" menu option, why isn't it good to make that a key on the keyboard? And dit you ever meet a child that used the CAPS LOCK KEY? Was it happy?

Winter

Winter, please don't be offended but you are way too prejudiced about living in the developing world.

Peru is not a tropical country. It may lie very close to the Equator but most of the target group of OLPC lives in the Andean region, where the problem is dryness, not humidity. Those living close to Ecuador (the country) do experience almost tropical weather, but it is a quasi-urban area; those in the Amazon jungle are not currently targeted, since that area has a number of issues, including violence and widespread drug trafficking in some parts, and very low population density in others. Lima is a terribly humid place but not particularly hot or cold. Right now, in the middle of summer, we can expect 30 Celsius tops but with 75% humidity or more.

Also, my observation about the importance of the printed page is cultural, and has very little to do with the presence of copy centers or the use of PDF files. For instance: the Judiciary and the public service administration demand that every single piece of action is initiated by a "solicitud", a motion; this are drafted in legalese and demand expertise not available everywhere; around the areas where this kind of paperwork is required, a bunch of people without formal legal training are scattered with their typewriters (yeah, those things) and charge a little for drafting the "solicitudes" for you. The alternative is hiring real lawyer or doing it yourself. Way too expensive or complicated.

This happens anywhere in Peru, hot or cold, wet or dry,low or high. Tech has adapted (and stayed the same) for the needs of the system.

This paper-centric attitude is widespread. It may be wrong. But it exists. And people know that computers can and will print if you have to use them, even though you don't feel comfortable using them. I've seen a lot of middle class people paying the equivalent of USD 3. for getting a guy to fill their online USA Visa applications, for fear of making a mistake.

So please, don't think it's a matter of practicalities or software. It's something more complex. And remember that printers, inks and papers, as well as electric appliances and a lot of other stuff, sold in hot, tropical countries, have been "tropicalized", that is, adapted for those conditions, for decades. The Brazilians produced huge amounts of office paper, wonderful, heavy bond paper, and as long as you keep it in its wrapper, it works perfectly. I know: Lima is not that hot, but still, it's humid enough, and I can print very well, thank you very much.

@Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla:
"Winter, please don't be offended but you are way too prejudiced about living in the developing world."

I am rather difficult to offend. And I am indeed prejudiced about living in the developing world (as in completely ignorant).

In no way did I doubt your point. I have seen the same spirit in Italy.

And I agree that most of the population will live in regions where the climate is less of a burden (as it is less in more parts of South America).

My point is, that I cannot see how this would affect children that presently do not have neither a computer nor a printer. If they need things in print, they will need stamps and signaures on them, a lot of them. This is not about the occasional school work print-out. So the extra step to make a really good print on good paper would be worth the effort anyway.

I have never been in Peru, but I am pretty sure most people in the target population have neither a printer nor a copier to their disposal. So I assume they will go to an internet shop/print center to get something printed or copied. The OLPC only adds new capabillities to the equation.

Moreover, if the Peruvian administration thinks the children need acces to printers, there really is no reason to asume that the OLPC will not oblige them. All the software is available.

Winter

@Winter

I believe that the OLPC XO is good, but the software and the philosophy is causing trouble.

Starting with #4:
MP3 support and Flash speed support are not important. Flash will get faster, and if you have access to the internet to get mp3's then you should be able to download packages.

#1 The Sugar desktop is a waste of developer time:
Every few years a company thinks that it can make a full interface and a wide-coverage application suite. The Psion and the PepperPad come to mind, but there are dozens of examples. All these companies have more-or-less failed.

#1 A cut down Linux distro with XFCE and carefully selected applications would have been working a year ago. The printing support would have been free if they used a standard Linux distro with XFCE. Printing, due to drivers, is difficult -- all the more reason to let the main distro provide a solution.

Why not spend your developer time to make existing applications work with Avahi (a version of Zeroconf).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avahi_%28software%29

#1 The OLPC project should have used a standard keyboard:
The top row should have the standard function keys labeled (F1-F12, perhaps using the fn modifier). Many people will someday install non-sugar applications on their XO, and it would help if the Function keys were labeled.

#2 Caps-Lock omission and View Source key addition:
The caps-lock key is not useful, but is MORE useful then the view source. All applications should have a Credits/About Application option, but we do not want a dedicated key for viewing the application credits.

#3 Constructionist education is insulting to decision makers (educators):
While it is fine for the important people in the OLPC XO project to not believe in traditional education, it has not helped them get the project adopted by the education establishment.

Constructionist/Egos is THE NUMBER 1 REASON for the projects slow adoption (aka failure). The lack of pilot projects is the number 2 reason, and that is related to Sugar not working.

Clarification:

Avahi could be used for the collaboration features. It would help users of Sugar, and users of standard applications. Using existing applications means less developer time is used making basic features, debugging the basic features, and making security updates.

Avahi and a good 'browse the local network' application that showed current activities would be a better use of developer time. It could also be good for desktop/laptop Linux users.

.

Why do big-ego'ed developers always think they can make a full computer interface and application suite? It is like 'DO NOT get involved in a land war in Asia' -- with so many examples, only fools don't know this fact!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/trivia

@Nathan Dbb:

Sugar is not a waste of time.

Maybe I have dabbled too much in interface design, but the desktop is a very bad design. In general, it is a complete waste of screen space in information per square cm, and the tree based menu options are useless.

Moreover, a desktop presupposes some kind of hiearchical file system. But children must have a version system to prevent wholesale loss of data. You cannot display a version history meaningfully on a desktop.

The development was not in the desktop replacement, but in making all the applications work with the journal, bitfrost, the virtualization, and within the memory bounds. Sugar was nothing but the icing. All these things had to be done anyway, whatever the distribution.

Although printing can be installed, I still am rather doubtful whether the memory is well spend. It will be added standard anyway.

The keyboard:
The caps lock key is not only useless, it is positively harmful. I have seen work-floors where people put coins between the caps-lock and it's neighbors to prevent hitting them.

View Source created the WWW, so I can really understand why children should expect it from EVERY program. If you don't need it, why deny it to others that might indeed use it? I am pretty sure that no child below the age of 12 will even try to remember function keys. I rather refuse to myself. Function keys are for office workers (yes I am exagerating).

If you have no teachers, or way too few, why should they be insulted by an approach that intends to free their time for addressing the needs of those students that cannot learn without help? Attacking constructionism does make it look as if you still think it is somehow experimental. (Google was founded by two guys from a Montesori school)

If you design a tool for children, it never pays to use the "interface" designed for adults. Never!

Winter

"Avahi could be used for the collaboration features. It would help users of Sugar, and users of standard applications. Using existing applications means less developer time is used making basic features, debugging the basic features, and making security updates."

It also means less integrated collaboration and less collaboration in general.

Collaboration is more than IM. The children will now have collaboration integrated in applications, security, and their journal.

Winter

Many inferior designs make money and beat out better designs, right or wrong (google "Dymaxion"). This is usually because the bad design is in place before the good one.

You can modify Gnome to get rid of the title bars, and things like that. I posted a bunch of pictures of Gnome running at 800x480 when debating a similar subject elsewhere.

A hierarchical file system can include a version control system, using hidden files.

View source did make the WWW take off, and NOBODY had a button -- they had a menu option.

I've GTG...

Nathan,

"The printing support would have been free if they used a standard Linux distro with XFCE. Printing, due to drivers, is difficult -- all the more reason to let the main distro provide a solution."

You seem to confuse a few things here - they *are* using a main distro as the base. It's called Fedora. Printing is not exposed in Sugar not for technical reasons you seem to think but as the result of design decision. It maybe that the decision was a wrong one, especially now that the XOs are are available in developed countries as well - in which case it will be (and is already for technically minded users) a rather easy (and, of course, free :) feature to add.

@Nathan Dbb:
"A hierarchical file system can include a version control system, using hidden files."

I think I have not been completely clear. I will make this somewhat more abstract.

The "conventional" desktop is a semi-static view of the file system (hard disk). Nothing more, nothing less. It is VERY bad at conveying dynamic information. That has to be displayed in separate windows.

Children are limited and can hardly be expected to master the layout of a file system, however viewed. They will understand a version system, but only in terms of a time line.

Sugar was designed to display dynamic information. Most importantly, it must display the availability of limited resources, ie, memory layout, and collaborations.

The ring tells a child how much memory is available and what activity must be closed to get room for a new activity. The display of the mesh environment is crucial for initiating transparent collaborations. Both are inherently dynamic.

Sugar also does away with the distingtion between data and activity. All data belongs to activities. This distinction is just a liability in Linux and Windows (OSX can work around it). It is useless for children. The version system gives children a time line in their work. Version systems are crucial in any collaborative work, and anything children do.

The fact that these things can be done in a desktop environment doesn't make that environment the best way to do that. In my opinion, a desktop is the oposite of what is needed for displaying dynamic information. Personally, I consider a desktop a complete waste of pixels.

And I cannot understand that you hate the View Soruce button so much, while you seem to get along with the Caps Lock and Print Screen buttons (and 12 time 3 function keys). Even you can see a use for the View Source button, but I think you will be challenged to find a child that can use the Caps Lock or Print Screen buttons. And what child will memorize 12 (+shift+alt) function keys per applciation.

Winter

Here is a review of Sugar (and the XO) that illustrates most of my points.

Examining the XO Activities and Durability
http://blue-gnu.biz/content/examining_xo_activities_and_durability

It also shows some points where things should improve (video and audio recording, and I am a fan of ODF too).

Winter

@delphi

If you rip out the desktop, the window manager, the printing, etc. then you are not using the distribution. These changes are a lot of work, hence the new systems are not yet working.

@Winter

Kids can't understand containers/boxes/folders, but they can understand a version control system? My boss's 4-year-old uses the mouse, and can open applications and files on his Tablet PC -- I don't even think she can read.

I never mentioned print screen. Keys can be omitted or put into a super-secret-shift modes -- but they should be printed on the keyboard. In general the function keys 1-12 and the caps-lock key is about having an experience that is like the other computers.

All data is only used in activities, even on my computer. Data can be used by more then one application -- like making music or photos and then putting them in web pages.

In short:
If they can make Sugar work that is good, but it does not work today. The world has spoken, and they only thing that we still get to find out is if they have said NO OLPC XO or NOT YET (or not without Microsoft Windows...).

"If you rip out the desktop, the window manager, the printing, etc. then you are not using the distribution."

Err...you are. Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu have the same base. The standard Fedora, of course, includes both Gnome and KDE. It'd be rather trivial for the Red Hat team to add (and if the won't, someone else will :), say, Xfce or Enlightment along with Sugar to XO's Fedora base they're using now and even more trivial, contrary to what you claimed, to include printing support/drivers as per standard Fedora distribution.

@Nathan Dbb:
"If you rip out the desktop, the window manager, the printing, etc. then you are not using the distribution. These changes are a lot of work, hence the new systems are not yet working."

No. Ripping out things from a Linux distribution is trivial. Writing a window manager is work, indeed. And that does work. Maybe not like YOU would like it, but it is completely functional.

@Nathan Dbb:
"Kids can't understand containers/boxes/folders, but they can understand a version control system?"

I think this is a misunderstanding. Children CAN understand containers/boxes/folders, but they cannot memorize a directory tree 5 levels deep containing thousands of files
(Test: tell me the exact location and filename of your last email message on your hard disk).

@Nathan Dbb:
"My boss's 4-year-old uses the mouse, and can open applications and files on his Tablet PC -- I don't even think she can read."

Indeed, but is she able to administrate the tablet PC?

The XO laptops will become the properties of the CHILDREN. They have to be able to take care of EVERYTHING. And if you read the OLPC wiki, you will see how they achived that. And children can indeed understand version control, as a simple time line history.

@Nathan Dbb:
"I never mentioned print screen. Keys can be omitted or put into a super-secret-shift modes -- but they should be printed on the keyboard. In general the function keys 1-12 and the caps-lock key is about having an experience that is like the other computers."

Which is about as useful a criterium as applying a law from the time of Richard Cœur de Lion because it has been around so long. Print Screen and Caps Lock are positively harmfull keys.

I am an adult and have used computers from the start of the 80's, but I have never been able to remember the function keys. Why extending the size of the keyboard with a complete row for something that useless? These functions keys would have made the size of the laptops larger. That alone justifies their removal.

@Nathan Dbb:
"All data is only used in activities, even on my computer. Data can be used by more then one application -- like making music or photos and then putting them in web pages."

Yes, but how many people do you know who actually know what a file format actually is? Why should we bother children with these completely useless details? A file is part of the activity that can use it. If the child wants to combine data from different applications, there is an extended clipboard (scrapbook) to handle that. And the OLPC team did think of combining data to make a web page, or a document.

Btw, the way files are opened is also managed for security reasons. A compromised application will be unable to open other file types. Therefore, a compromised Internet application will be unable to spy on other files.

"In short:
If they can make Sugar work that is good, but it does not work today. The world has spoken, and they only thing that we still get to find out is if they have said NO OLPC XO or NOT YET (or not without Microsoft Windows...)."

Strange argumentation. Why MS Windows? Why not KDE or Gnome on linux?

I have yet to hear from someone else that Sugar doesn't work. What I hear is complaints that it is different, but I personally see this as a compliment.

And if you say "The world has spoken", I can answer "And the world wants AK-100's". So maybe the world might not always know what is good for them?

Although it is an important consideration for the OLPC, it is not a good argument against Sugar. Especially not as the alternatives without Sugar and with a classical keyboard are also not bought by the educational world.

Winter

Irvin said: "If you rip out the desktop, the window manager, the printing, etc. then you are not using the distribution."
They were not ripped out. You clearly don't know how distributions are put together. It is more akin to building blocks, in the form of software packages, than a big bundle of code. That is the reason why so many people have been able to _easily_ "rip" out Sugar, OLPC's user interface, and put other interfaces like XFCE. It is the same reason that you can install a printing system, as been told to you many times and you keep ignoring.

Irvin also said:
"These changes are a lot of work, hence the new systems are not yet working."

Not at all. The major work, from my layman point of view, as been with the creation of probably the first in-depth redesign of security of an operating system in the last years, called bitfrost, as well as create the UI, the Journal and the datastore (backend of the Journal), along with the unique Sugar colaborative features, and so on, and so on. Again, customizing Fedora, or any other distribution with a package manager, is not a case of "riping" things out of it, like you said, but "pluggin" out , and it is the reason why they can as easily be "plugged", or re-installed with a simple call to the package manager.

This is quite common with other distributions. Take for example, Ubuntu, one of the most popular free distributions. It is based on Debian, and they work like this: Every 6 months they pick all the packages currently available in Debian developer repository. Then they have 6 months to nurture it, to take update packages which have bugs, and so on.

After 6 months, they repeat the same process. So, as you see, if Canonical can hire so few to do so much in 6 months, so has OLPC. And it also must thank the thousands of open source and free software users, testers, documenters, translators, developers, funders, which share their work to a world-wide commons, from which now OLPC is picking from, and which such variety that it can deliberately choose from many.

For example, on another post here it was commented that there was no spreadsheet for the XO. Soon, many commenters, including me, could find a half a dozen spreadsheets, raging from the more simple, to the web-based, browser-locally-based, interactive, and so on.

@Winter

"Kids can't understand containers/boxes/folders, but they can understand a version control system?"
It's not so much 3 in front of a kid, it's 3 boxes, with 3 boxes each with 3 boxes each, with... yep, a hierarchy. Good for organizing stuff back in the beginnings of the computer age, but we now have better ways. Or do you tell me that when you want to find something, you still go to Yahoo! and click on the categories?

"My boss's 4-year-old uses the mouse, and can open applications and files on his Tablet PC -- I don't even think she can read."
Great! Have you told your boss about OLPC?

"I never mentioned print screen. Keys can be omitted or put into a super-secret-shift modes -- but they should be printed on the keyboard. In general the function keys 1-12 and the caps-lock key is about having an experience that is like the other computers.
"
An experience that is like the other computers? Then you should just ignore the XO laptop, and move on. It is intended to be much better than other laptops, even if that involves taking risks which may clash with common notions of how we "must" use a computer.

"All data is only used in activities, even on my computer. Data can be used by more then one application -- like making music or photos and then putting them in web pages.
"
I don't get it, you couldn't do this on the XO? Kids in Uruguay have been able to do that all the time last year, posting from their XO's to their school blog: http://olpc-ceibal.blogspot.com/

"In short:
If they can make Sugar work that is good, but it does not work today. The world has spoken, and they only thing that we still get to find out is if they have said NO OLPC XO or NOT YET (or not without Microsoft Windows...).
"
Phew, so many conclusions, so many of them wrong. Sugar is adequate today for common computer usage. Sugar will be better when the unique features of collaboration, versioning, security, design, and versioning are refined and/or finished.
And the world has indeed spoken, and that has been passionately for it. It touches the heart of many a people who it crosses paths with, making a lot of them consider and help out. The OLPC volunteers that you hear so often haven't been recruited, they came out of their own will to be a part of this movement. Negroponte is right, "it's not a laptop project, it's an educational project", and I would say a modern one.

As to Windows, who knows what they are doing? Do you how their port is going?

Cheers!

Btw, My previous post was a full reply to Irvin's, even if there is a @Winter in the middle.

Eduardo wrote:

"Btw, My previous post was a full reply to Irvin's, even if there is a @Winter in the middle."

Curb your enthusiasm a bit, Eduardo. You were not responding to my post. You were responding to Nathan's. Read carefully and you'll see who wrote the things you comment on.

What the...? You're right! Tells me not to post late at night again!
Oh well, at least I provided lots of interesting info in there, give it a read.

Wow. After having painfully read some of the criticisms of the XO here, I have come to the realization that people are of the opinion that the software is the main product of this project. I disagree wholeheartedley.

Right, you actually can remove the interface and put your own on the XO. Isn't that GREAT? And governments who purchase the computer in bulk have an opportunity to create something for their children by creating their own interface for the platform.

Printing's paramount in your country's culture? Great, add support for it. Printers too expensive for your country? Great, leave them out. Want your students to create their own audio files? Add something with MP3 support, OGG support, whatever the need may be.

My point is, it is the HARDWARE that should be looked at as the pinnacle achievement of this project: an open platform that is sturdy, durable, usable in harsh environments, portable AND inexpensive?

Can we GUI-centric people stop bickering about the plusses and minuses of the Sugar environment, stop trying to argue that no one in the world will benefit from the existence of the project? Can we start using our gigantic yappers to work together to provide some improvement to the project, instead of spending our time berating the hard work of others that brought us this far?

Enough already!

@most:
Plugging/Ripping adjverb is not important, the fact is that a new interface for tasks requires a huge amount of work. The pre-GUI level is Fedora, but GUIs are a b!tch to program, QC, and debug.

Ditch your Fanboi attitude and live in the real world. Bitfrost and other features are cool, but they COULD HAVE BEEN ADDED TO AN EXISTING DESKTOP INTERFACE. This would have made the whole system more modular and robust.

Nobody cares how fast your car is if it breaks down every few days -- it is then a bad car to own.


Quote gefitz
Can we GUI-centric people stop bickering about the plusses and minuses of the Sugar environment, stop trying to argue that no one in the world will benefit from the existence of the project? Can we start using our gigantic yappers to work together to provide some improvement to the project, instead of spending our time berating the hard work of others that brought us this far?

End Quote

gefitz, the sales team(s) are trying to sell the package -- hardware and software. The sales force should start showing the hardware with WORKING software. A quick improvement could be realized by porting the cool ideas of Sugar to a working light weight interface, that is why we user our "gigantic yappers" to push for that path.

Quote Winter
Strange argumentation. Why MS Windows? Why not KDE or Gnome on linux?

End Quote

That can be any OS and window manager. It just needs to work for everything and it needs to be working a year ago (100 percent solid). It is hard to get people to allocate millions of dollars for a non-working product (unless it the buyer is the military).

Again, in summation:
The HARDWARE ROCKS, and it just needs software that matches its level of completion. We here all want the next generation of computer users on Open Source software, but Sugar isn't ready.

At this point, they should be showing the XO with a full set of speedy & stable applications with introductory reading, math, and geography textbooks pre-translated and pre-loaded.

Anything less then that is just saying:
"Please order millions now, and just trust us."

@Nathan:
"At this point, they should be showing the XO with a full set of speedy & stable applications with introductory reading, math, and geography textbooks pre-translated and pre-loaded."

You have still not explained why the traditional desktop GUI is so great for chidlren. The fact that YOU are not used to it is irrelevant. The fact that it is not yet shipped with other computers is irrelevant because the target group will not see other computers for YEARS. In this post+comments alone, a lot of arguments were given why the traditional desktop GUI is really bad for children. And why Sugar improves markedly on that.

Your basic claim is that Sugar is buggy, a drain on resources, and a cause of delay. The same has been said of mesh networking and the screen. Power management is still not even completed, so that is even worse.

But why single out the GUI for removal? Because the other aspects are good and Sugar bad? But you have not given a reason why Sugar is bad for children. Other commenters and myself have given many reasons why Sugar is better for children. You might start by saying why we were wrong.

And if buggy software were a reason to stop distibuting, I quote "(100 percent solid)", Microsoft and most other suppliers would be out of bussiness immediately.

So the simple fact that there are bugs in the software is not enough. And the countries do not have to trust the OLPC, because it is open source. They can hire whomever they want to correct the errors. But given the appeal of the XO, I think they don't even have to hire someone.

And I don't think you have thought over the effort needed to pre-translate the curricula for 100+ countries. For a starter, the national curricula are already in the right language. You don't want to suggest that the OLPC should write all the textbooks from scratch for all these countries, do you? Because it is the target country that decides what books are to be used, not the OLPC.

In short, why must the OLPC deliver "100 percent solid" code the first try (which is simply impossible, irrespective of the amount of testing) and why must the OLPC also deliver all textbooks in all languages?

Winter

WINTER: You have still not explained why the traditional desktop GUI is so great for children.

ME: Non-Sugar is better because OLPC programmers could move on to fixing the other problems (power management, mesh networking, educational software). As I said (see above): This would have made the whole system more modular and robust.

WINTER: They can hire whomever they want to correct the errors.

ME: Countries DO NOT WANT to hire people to correct errors. Many of these countries don't have a large software industry. Also, government officials are not known for managing software development.

WINTER: And I don't think you have thought over the effort needed to pre-translate the curricula for 100+ countries.[...]

ME: If the OLPC project wants a major chunk of a country's education budget, they should show that money can be saved from other parts of the budget. Math and Geography books should be easier to translate then other books, and can benefit from being on the computer. Reading was chosen because many of the users will be learning to read while they learn to use the laptop. The OLPC project does not need to translate these books for 100+ languages, but for a pilot project of 5 languages or so (Peru, Mongolia, etc.).


Quoting Winter:
Stop the OLPC second guessing!

Quoting Me:
Stop being a blind Fanboi!

.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanboy

It seems to me that the reason some people here are complaining specifically about the Sugar user interface, is in anticipation of the release of Windows for the XO.

I also wonder if Microsoft wasn't working on the port, they would not focus so much on Sugar, and instead move their targets to all parts of the system. It all smells to me as astroturfing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing , and the creation of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt .
Fortunately, we live on the 21st century, so the truth is out there (on the web).

@Nathan:
"ME: Non-Sugar is better because OLPC programmers could move on to fixing the other problems (power management, mesh networking, educational software). As I said (see above): This would have made the whole system more modular and robust."

Why do you think dishing Sugar would have helped? You still have not explained why the intended benefits of Sugar do not justify the costs?

My primary point in the initial post is that Sugar DOES have benefits for children using the XO as a replacement of the desktop.

Prove me wrong, and I might accept your reasoning. And buggy software has never stopped MS from going life. MS have always prefered fast releases over quality. And that did them a lot of good. So maybe the OLPC are good in this respect. That is, if Sugar is indeed so useless as you insinuate.

"ME: Countries DO NOT WANT to hire people to correct errors."

I must have been not clear enough. You claimed the governments had to TRUST the OLPC on software quality. I claim they don't have to, but can take the reigns in their own hand. That is, they are free to dish the OLPC. You now claim they don't WANT to be free.

"Math and Geography books should be easier to translate then other books, and can benefit from being on the computer. "

Why translate books? Especially these substandard US ones (they bicker about whether pictures of a family look Arabic or Armenian). All these countries have books, and Google is scouting the world for books it is allowed to digitize. You are demanding something the clients most certainly DO NOT WANT.

Winter

This is how Walter Bender say they designed Sugar:

Sugar does include some unique quirks—”things we’ve done that we’ve done because we thought they were necessary, and because we had the opportunity to correct things that were just wrong in other systems,” in Bender’s words. For instance, Bender has a grudge against double-clicking and overlapping windows, two user-interface conventions that he says are “fundamentally bad ideas” and are notably absent from the XO. But “we are not reinventing the wheel if we can help it,” he says. The operating system on the XO is Fedora, a free version of Red Hat Linux; its Web browser is a version of Mozilla’s Firefox; the word processor is based on Abiword, a popular open-source program; its streaming media player is a free version of RealNetworks’ Helix system.

http://www.xconomy.com/2008/02/01/the-xo-laptop-its-the-software-stupid/

Winter

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