Adult OLPC OS: Red Hat Global Desktop or Ubuntu Mobile?


Thinking about One Laptop Per Child commercial sales, specifically who would buy a "$100 laptop" when the XO retail price is more like $325 and the Sugar UI is designed for children, I wonder what adult operating system OLPC might bundle with the XO.

olpc red hat

First, there is Red Hat's Global Desktop:

The software borrows from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with about 95 per cent of the code overlapping. The OLPC uses an adapted version of Red Hat's Fedora Linux.

The Global Desktop won't share the OLPC's 'Sugar' user interface, but will come bundled with applications such as Firefox and OpenOffice.

With that code overlap, Global Desktop seems to be the natural choice for a commercial "$100 laptop" - it would take the least work to modify it for Christmas XO sales.

But that might annoy the commercial hardware vendors that have already lined up to ship Intel-powered Global Desktop computer systems. Vendors actively courted by AMD and who don't want to compete with the "$100 laptop" vision, even if its not $100 dollars.

Now there is a second option, Ubuntu Mobile. Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, has a close relationship with Intel, OLPC's newest Board member:

olpc ubuntu
Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded Edition will provide a rich Internet experience for users of Intel’s 2008 Mobile Internet Device (MID) platform. To achieve this, Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded will run video, sound and offer fast and rich browsing experiences to the MID target user.

Optimized for MIDs based on Intel's low power processors and chipsets, Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded edition is expected to deliver fast boot and resume times, and reside in a small memory and disk footprint.

Now doesn't that last sentence sound interesting? Like Ubuntu Mobile could be paired with an Intel Inside XO form factor? Better yet, check out what Mark Shuttleworth said about Ubuntu on the XO:
I think it's a really beautiful project and I'm very supportive of the work, they are doing some great innovations in there. I expect that some of the countries that will go down that road will choose Ubuntu and if they do that, we would help them to make Ubuntu work very well on that platform.

At this stage obviously everyone is waiting to see how it will pan out, my own sensing is, that it's already a triumphant success in terms of shaking up the industry and getting the industry to think about both new technologies and new markets.

And the most explosive shake up to the global computer industry would be an OLPC product mix with either operating system. Just listen to Christopher Blizzard talk up the goodness of OLPC's speedy suspend/resume, wireless mesh, and dual mode screen to the BBC:
Doesn't that functionality, in an affordable laptop, sound perfect for adult XO users?

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If governments wipe out the OLPC foundation's platform and put Ubuntu or some other OS on the XO, what happens to all the security developed for the kids? The kid-friendly security software that's supposed to be intuitive so they don't have to remember passwords as well as the stuff that would allow school administrators to render the laptops useless if they are stolen?

Wayan, I think you are on to something. I am guessing most adults would prefer a standard linux desktop to sugar.

Jim, perhaps kids should be taught about Internet security?

Considering how much the Internet is a part of everyones lives it should become something that we learn from a young age.

I constantly deal with people that have no idea about security and leave themselves open to having their identity stolen. We live in a digital age with digital problems and the fact that millions of children are exposed not just in affluent societies but soon in poor countries really worries me.

Covering up the real problem (uneducated computer users) does not help anyone.

Now the topic of discussion points out that a computer is hardware and can have any software platform that can be made to work on it.
With the amount of work thats been put into Sugar and the RedHat code to reduce power consumption (something that Ubuntu will probably not do) I doubt the same performance in terms of power usage can be obtained.

Users are more likely to keep Sugar/OLPC as the OS rather than lose performance using anything else.

What about Puppy Linux? This is supposed to be optimized for machines with about
64MB of RAM . . .

Maybe I wasnt clear before.

Any OS used on the XO must be able to manage power on the hardware.

I'm not 100% sure whether the power management is done at the BIOS level or by the OS but its a fair bet that they have a close relationship.

As a result of a non-power-management OS being used the power consumption may be up to four times greater resulting in a quarter of the battery life between charges. Just the action of Suspend/Resume between keystrokes will save a lot of power.

You probably want to watch the video with Chris Blizzard above if you still dont understand.

Hi Robert . . .

I just viewed the video and I still don't understand. :-)

That was a very interesting tutorial on
how the screen settings (color vs. black & white) can affect power consumption
but it doesn't explain (to me, at least) why Puppy - or any of the several other hyper-efficient flavors of Ubuntu Linux that are out there - could
not be be tweeked to make an "adult"
version of Sugar for the XO. Sorry for the stupid question but what is BIOS?

"Jim, perhaps kids should be taught about Internet security?"

That will take some time. They start at six.

So what do we do to protect them until they have learned? And what do we do with those that are very slow learners?

And why should we force an unsafe office OS on these children? The are not yet office clerks. They are school children.


I'm actually interested in working with Sugar. I think close hardware/software integration is what can make a platform great-- as is the case with the Macintosh, for instance.

I just recently learned how the apps. that load into memory are displayed on the "donut" in the center according to their memory size. I think that's pretty cool. It's a good way to show resource usage and even to teach people about how computers manage memory, etc.

BTW, I've tried to compile Sugar in Ubuntu, but it seems like I'm no good at compiling apps, even with clear instructions. I wish someone would post a binary for Ubuntu and maybe even make it available in the repositories.

Benjamin, All flavors of Linux have the Kernel at their core, surrounded mostly by fluff (also known as a GUI or Graphic User Interface) and ancillary tools.

If the Kernel is designed to control the hardware (as most good Kernels do) then the power consumption will be significantly lower that just by installing a Vanilla Flavor linux. So yes, you could, if so inclined, take Puppy Linux and recompile the Kernel to take advantage of what RedHat has done with Sugar GUI.

Winter, No matter what system kids use they are not going to be protected from sexual predators, identity thieves, scammers, or any number of other forms of human created atrocity. The answer is and always will be education for those that use the Internet.

I don't think Puppy Linux will be on the OLPC anytime soon. Not if Kenneth Hensley has anything to say about it. Check out his opinion of the OLPC program as told to LXer:

Q: What happened with One Laptop per Child? What went wrong?

A: What happened & went wrong? Corporate interest of course. Every corporation trying to sink their teeth/name into the project. Everyone including Apple, Microsoft and Intel. To state that people have shelter and food, and what they need is an education seems ridiculous to me. It is the educated world who seems to bring the weapons and strife that cause poor under-developed nations to become worse than what they already were.

Now they want to educate these people ? Get real, most of these countries are up to their necks in debt thanks to the World Bank or IMF whatever they call themselves, and it comes as no surprise that they would want to finance these countries more money for computers. And these countries I speak of mostly consist of African nations, because the developed world has already realized it's all a scam.

"I don't think Puppy Linux will be on the OLPC anytime soon. Not if Kenneth Hensley has anything to say about it."

LOL. As Kenneth said himself: "...I am not a developer...I do not speak for Barry" or other developers, for that matter, who either help Barry directly or work on other Puppy versions - the moment these guys get they hands on XO they'll have Puppy running on it in no time (whether Kenneth will write a guide on Puppy for XO is another matter ;)

I think it would make a lot of sense to build any "distribution for adults" based on the fedora kernel currently on the XO. Lots of optimization for power consumption, latency, integration with BIOS. Starting from scratch, or with a kernel optimized for other embedded devices is not necessarily a good choice. In fact, this is why Linux was a very good choice since the beginning, since its modularity allows the combination of parts from different sources, depending on the target.

"I think it would make a lot of sense to build any "distribution for adults" based on the fedora kernel currently on the XO."

Sugar is inherently collaborative. I understand from all the calls for an adult OS that this is something office workers (adults) have no need for. They just need a desktop to lay their head on?



the kernel and the overlaying desktop environment are two separate entities. You can have GNOME or KDE running on top of the OLPC kernel. All the work that had gone to build Sugar (including collaboration, etc) has very little to do with kernel optimization. What I am trying to say is that you can have your "common" desktop environment of choice built on top of Fedora optimized kernel. The immediate advantages are to be seen in power optimization, which is, to me, what the XO is great about, compared to other laptops.

In fact, I'll push this even further. OLPC kernel optimization should be used in general by Linux distributors that would like to really make a "laptop" version of their distribution.

"OLPC kernel optimization should be used in general by Linux distributors that would like to really make a "laptop" version of their distribution."

I am convinced the kernel people are wild about this. The OLPC attracts really top level people.

Getting the laptop power optimization is something the kernel developers are working on for years now.

Suspend and resume is difficult, partly because of the diversity (and inadequacy) of hardware and drivers. With the XO, they get the control over the drivers and hardware that allows them to do it right.

The other, invisible, revolution going on in the OLPC kernel is the application level virtualization. Every "activity" runs in its own virtual kernel and (empty) file system. That indeed, gives the security walls between the different applications. They got that too with incredible little overhead.


Pepper Linux could ship on a commercial version of it:

Pepper Linux is based on Fedora and is optimized for the AMD Geode processor and small screen size.

There could also be such commercial software as the Opera browser and Flash pre-installed on the commercial version:

Most usefull for OLPC, is for the OS that ships with the commercial version to be so that the software that will be developped and optimized for the commercial OS easilly can be ported over to the educationnal Sugar OS.

I actually think that the Sugar OS would be totally usable by adults also, and the Mesh and the whole presence aspect of the Sugar GUI is totally usefull for everyone and not only children. Though I think that the keyboard and screen size may be usefull to provide in larger size for adults to use more comfotably on a commercial version.

of course, the larger screen and adult-sized un-waterproof/sandproof keyboard will not be included if that would disturb in any way the mass manufacturing of the XO-1 which is the absolute priority.

So only if CMO, Quanta, Redhat, OLPC has got extra staff to dedicate to customizing the commercial adult versions will those commercial versions be any different than XO-1, it really doesn't have to, cause XO-1 can perfectly also be marketed commercially since people will buy those for children to use anyplace where the governments aren't yet buying XO laptops for every child.

I don't think that the current X0-1 design will make for a suitable machine for general use by adults. The keyboard is simply too small to be confortable for adults. I do believe that adults will also use the X0-1 for some (limited) applications. But overall this laptop is designed with children in mind. I could however envision someone like Intel working on an grown-up (I was going to say "adult") version of the X0 which would probably be some weird genetic mixture of the X0 and the Classmate PC.

Hi folks . . .

Thanks for the clarification, Robert, on Linux Kernels, GUI and Sugar (sounds like a breakfast cereal recipe!) I'll have to admit overall ignorance of what really goes on with computers in so far as programming language, codes and the like.

I simply want to get an XO for myself and, perhaps, eventually get a handle on all this Linux source code stuff like all the third world kids are going to be encouraged to do.

Very interesting to read the comments of Puppy Linux's Kenneth Hensley. I'm finding out that there are as many Linux variations as there are forms of molecular life itself . . . and all proponents seem to have guarded respect for each other, at best, or rather dim views of each other's motives, at worst.

It's all very much like what was happening back in the 1930s when televison was first being invented . . . Philo Farnsworth going up against David Sarnoff, etc. Speaking from the perspective of a end user, Chistoph, I absolutely love the form factor of the XO just the way it is. Why change anything?

I've always hated conventional laptops as they are ultra expensive, fragile and have way too many exposed holes - even when closed - to let dirt and moisture in. I'd be inclined to take the XO places where I wouldn't dare carry a more conventional portable (I fly model airplanes and spend a surprising amount of time hanging out in dirts fields.)

If I want to write the next full length novel or do intricate vector graphics with Illustrator, I'll stay home and do that on my Mac. :-)


If the kernel people are so wild about how OLPC is doing power management, does anyone have any knowledge of OLPC's work going back into the base Linux code?

The only rumor that anyone is mainstreaming XO code is the Global Desktop announcement, which hasn't been followed up by reseller announcements of Global Desktops shipping.

Except for being cuter than any other granddaughter, my 8 year old is, as far as I know, average. When she asked to use my computer with Ubuntu (*not* Edubuntu) I figured she wouldn't care for it. I showed her the Applications (Start) menu in the upper left. From there on she took off with it. Within half an hour she'd found things (mostly regarding games) I hadn't found after using it 6 months. “Children's'” operating systems will directly benefit teachers more than children.


"I don't think that the current X0-1 design will make for a suitable machine for general use by adults. The keyboard is simply too small to be confortable for adults."

Mary Lou Jepsen has said that the keyboard on the new version is plenty big for adult hands. That while she found it tedious to type on previous models, this one is quite comfortable.

"If the kernel people are so wild about how OLPC is doing power management, does anyone have any knowledge of OLPC's work going back into the base Linux code?"

It already happened:

Paragraph 6.

OLPC's work directly benefit to Fedora since being part of the project thus benefit to Free and Open Source world.