Red Hat + Intel = Classmate PC Over OLPC XO?

   
   
   
   
   

Now that there is a new political economy for One Laptop Per Child, partners are starting to mix and match to form very odd couples. First we had rumors that OLPC and Microsoft were working together to put Windows on the XO, and now we have a full fledged press release that says Red Hat is partnering with Intel:

red hat classmate pc
Red Hat + Classmate PC
Red Hat and Intel are taking advantage of Global Desktop's high performance and minimal hardware requirements to support a wide range of Intel's current and future desktop platforms, including the Classmate, Affordable, Community and Low-Cost PC lines.
What is even more shocking is that the Global Desktop software developed by Red Hat is a direct result of the One Laptop Per Child program:
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.
No longer will the OLPC computer be the sole techno-marvel that can have speedy suspend/resume, nor be the only hardware platform maximized for the Sugar UI. Very soon, I predict that Intel's Classmate PC will not only have the Sugar/Linux operating system, they'll have the Marvel wireless mesh, and even the dual mode screen - a perfect Classmate and OLPC situation.

Then, with Intel's usual local assembly practices, the One Laptop Per Child program will not be so compelling to purchasing Ministries or even grandstanding politicians.

In fact, even at this point, what would be the proposal-winning reason to commit to OLPC instead of Intel/Red Hat? Especially if you are an Education Minister who values an implementation plan or constructionism?

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24 Comments

As has been the case beofore (MediaLab Asia, Europe), Negroponte was the creator and killer of his own project.

I knew the OLPC project was doomed from the beginnig because Negroponte has been 100% against running any sort of test or pilot project for his computer. He was hoping that people would not ask questions, but reality is very different.

You know something is VERY WRONG when the project director (Negroponte) says:

“This is not something you have to test; the days of pilot projects are over. When people say ”well, we’d like to do 3 or 4 thousand in our country to see how it works..” SCREW YOU! Go to the back of the line and someone else will do it, and then when you figure out that this works, then you can join as well”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5ySOqtxhbw&mode=related&search=

at 5:28 into the video.

*****************************

Who, in his right mind, would trust this man with hundreds of millions of dollars?

Troy,

The transcripts of the TED Talks with negroponte can also be found on OLPC Talks: http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_ted_speech.html

What I would not like to find on OLPC News is more "screw you" comments. While we all at times find hair-pulling frustration with the OLPC leadership, I do not want that to become the theme of comments.

Wayan,

I think it is VERY IMPORTANT to know EXACTLY what Negroponte would answer to legitimate questions.

You can check my posting history and will soon realize I have NEVER used such nasty language. Quoting Negroponte is VERY NECESSARY inorder to give people a perspective on what the man really thinks.

I apologize if my post offended you and, if you ask, I will stop posting immediately, no questions asked. However, if you want me to participate, I must be allowed to quote the main characters in this saga, no matter how ugly THEIR exposed side might be.

I'm just the messenger, Wayan...

My judgment of this news is very different to that of troy. I think the envolvment of Redhat with Intel/Classmate will enhance the probability considerably that there will be large numbers of children receiving laptops not only this and next year but for many years to come.

Why? This initiative is about education not laptops. Now there is another industrial team providing another laptop (Classmate with Redhat Linux) that has realistic chance to fulfil the kids' needs as well (I doubt that MS XP could do that) and to reach the necessary order numbers. With this customers have a choice and there is competition. And with competition the strength of the market forces will make both projects quickly correct their flaws, mistakes and personal peculiarities in order to stay in the game.

With Redhat dancing at both weddings there is even a very valuable chance of establishing open interface standards for school IT infrastructure at a very early stage of the development.
What do mean with this?
If I was a minister of a target country I would immediately require that both machines the XO and the Classmate have must interoperate with each other. Such that it would be technically possible to have schools and villages with mixed population of XO's and Classmates and they can communicate with each other use the each others servers etc. So a child can visit a relative in another city or even country and take her laptop with her and it will also work in the other place.

Why is this so valuable?
Neither the XO nor the Classmate will stay as they are now nor will they remain the only children's laptops. The more new kinds of laptops appear the more it is important that they all seamlessly interoperate. And this is only possible if the communication is based on open standards (not proprietary ones like usual with MS). Now Redhat has the understood and practised the advantage of open standards for many years. Being part of both projects and working on the software they have a unique oportunity to fix standards very early.

Having those standards protects the investment in laptops of the countries since they can operate different makes and different generations of laptops concurrently. It ensures that there will be a open market which again ensures highest quality at the lowest price. It also ensures that there is no vendor lock in as usually is the strategy of monopolists.
These standards also facilitate the development of content compatible with different makes of laptops. So there might also grow a market of interoperable content.

If this happens many of the flaws still inherent with the current projects will disappear very soon.

Therefore this new initiative of Redhat and Intel is the best thing that could happen for all concerned parties even OLPC.

Roalnd,

If you go back and read my post again, yu will see that I commented on the OLPC project exclusively. I did not express an opinion on this anounced RedHat initiative. The reason: it is just a press release with some grandiose claims (like "the desktop metaphor is dead"); there are thousand of them every day, from big and small players.

In all fairness, they, too, will have to provide evidence that their product (whatever it is) will be good value for the money. When the time comes, the questions will appear. I personally will not question anyone any less than I have questioned Negroponte. It is the ethical and smart thing to do.

troy,
you are right. There are still many unanswered questions in both projects. However long or loud we lament about those questions here at OLPCNews still nothing will happen. But as soon as the ministers have comparable competing projects they have a much stronger position to get the answers they want. They don't have to accept Negroponte's "Scr.. you!" anymore. (Sorry Wayan, I won't do it again;) And in the long run flaws in the teaching method and the content have a much better chance to be corrected in an open environment than in a monoculture.

Roland wrote:

"...as soon as the ministers have comparable competing projects they have a much stronger position to get the answers they want. They don't have to accept Negroponte's "Scr.. you!" anymore. (Sorry Wayan, I won't do it again;) And in the long run flaws in the teaching method and the content have a much better chance to be corrected in an open environment than in a monoculture. "

I agree 100%, Roland.

The next problem, of course, is whether the ministers really use their strengthened position to ask the right questions.

The report on the peruvian minister of education did not convey the impression as he was absolutely on top of the game.
But I am sure there are also better informed and more critical ministers who will enforce their countries' interests more rigorously.

Let's remember that the number one target for olpc is the 500 million children who live in rural areas of developing countries. They have no electricity, often no classrooms and hold classes under trees, and there is a great shortage of teachers. Olpc is designed for this group. Classmate, since it needs electricity, is no competition at all.

off topic:

I know Wayan doesn't like off-topic links, but I couldn't resist this one.

http://www.heise.de/mobil/artikel/88916

Most interesting things I learned:

"Negroponte and Kemal Dervis, head of the UN's Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement at the World Economic Summit 2006 in which the UNDP promises to use its 166 offices in almost all nations to support the OLPC project from initial contact with education ministers all the way to logistics. "

and: "After manufacture, the OLPC will make sure that the laptops reach governments. The governmental agencies involved will handle logistics on location, possibly with the assistance of the UNDP."

Eduardo,
OLPC's XO has indeed this unique feature of low power consumption making it the only choice for remote areas with bad electricity supply to date. But there is also a large number of children in countries and in cities that have sufficient electricity supply to operate Classmates. There will be markets for both. And the romantic picture of a child sitting under a tree because there is no school building rythmically pulling the power cord while playing tam-tam because there is no electricity supply might be rather an exception than the rule because those countries with the poorest electricity supply can even less afford to buy millions of laptops. Face it that there will remain many millions of kids without laptops. So OLPC's name should read anyway "one laptop per child per country that can afford it"

Refer also to: http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/build_schools_buy_olpc_xo.html

When the Classmate was first announced, I mentioned here that since the OLPC software was all Open Source there was no reason why it shouldn't also run on Intel's hardware. You can even see the Sugar interface running on a Classmate with the Tuquito version of Linux near the end of the video linked from this page:

http://www.tuquito.org.ar/

Having used both machines, I would prefer the XO if I had to pay the same for them. And that was before the B3 upgrades. That said, I see people making a big deal about stuff like the mesh networking without understanding what parts can and can't be trivially adopted by the Classmate.

Roland,

I agree that there will be a market for Classmate. Though it would be interesting to test sugar versus window on the Classmate and see who does better.

"those countries with the poorest electricity supply can even less afford to buy millions of laptops"

Well, maybe. I am not sure how much money will be coming from the outside. Also, Nigeria is quite interested, and it has both lots of rural poor without electriticy and lots of oil income, if it should decide to spend it on education. Also there is the case of China, which could well afford it if it choose to (by the way, does anyone know why China has been so cold on olpc?)

Roland,

I agree that there will be a market for Classmate. Though it would be interesting to test sugar versus window on the Classmate and see who does better.

"those countries with the poorest electricity supply can even less afford to buy millions of laptops"

Well, maybe. I am not sure how much money will be coming from the outside. Also, Nigeria is quite interested, and it has both lots of rural poor without electriticy and lots of oil income, if it should decide to spend it on education. Also there is the case of China, which could well afford it if it choose to (by the way, does anyone know why China has been so cold on olpc?)

Eduardo,
concerning china's hesitance there might be the following reasons.

A) Given the extremely large numbers of laptops that China is going to need it will cost extraordinary sums. China definately prefers to keep that kind of money in their country. So they will prefer to produce it locally. Probably that would also be possible with XOs.

B) China as a superpower is probably too proud to use a foreign design. They want to show their own people and the world that they can do such things on their own. 2 or 3 years ago they started to manufacture their own CPU's called Godson-2 equivalent to a Pentium-3. And last year they presented a low cost (desktop) computer. Check this link: http://linuxdevices.com/news/NS6301677114.html
In addition I could imagine that China is particularly sensitive if a foreign laptop comes with a design from the USA and with the main manufacturer from Taiwan. Both are countries that have quite different political interests than China.

C) The last but not least reason could be the one I tried to point out in a earlier post mentioned above. http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/build_schools_buy_olpc_xo.html
China has to choose whether they first bring their education infrastructure to a similar level everywhere before they introduce laptops or whether they bring soon laptops selectively to certain areas and which ones. The situation is agravated by the fact that the one-child-policy has led to hiding millions of children from the authorities - mainly girls in the country side. They are not sent to school but work in the fields. Officially they do not exist. China has already today tremendous social tensions with the poor country people leading to many riots (more than 50'000 riots in 2005!) that have to be violently crushed to keep the government in power. If a crack opens too wide in that pressure vessel everything could blow up. A kids' laptop could solve many problems there. But introduced in a slightly wrong way it could throw the country in turmoil.

None of this has much to do with specific technical features of XOs or Classmates.

Jecel wrote:
"...I see people making a big deal about stuff like the mesh networking without understanding what parts can and can't be trivially adopted by the Classmate."

Jecel, then please help us to better understand it.

What exactly are the strong points of the Classmate? And is intel commited to continue to sell and support it if the OLPC project fails?

http://www.classmatepc.com/classmatepc-system-hardware.html

- more expensive
- worse screen
- 1/2GB flash storage
- no mesh wireless, just standard wifi
- no SD slot
- 4 hour battery life
- USB? (I think it has, but I couldn't find it)
- Can run XP

I think RedHat will have trouble to port the Sugar interface with the low resolution of the screen.

Winter

(PS, it seems some of my posts have been lost in the earlier outage)

Eduardo wrote:

"Let's remember that the number one target for olpc is the 500 million children who live in rural areas of developing countries. They have no electricity, often no classrooms and hold classes under trees, and there is a great shortage of teachers. Olpc is designed for this group. Classmate, since it needs electricity, is no competition at all."

False.


The OLPC's #1 target is ANY country/entity/person/whatever willing to buy at least 250,000 units (down from the unrealistic 1 million).

As far as the XO reliably working in places without electricity, we only have Negroponte's promise. The power source has never been settled; this is what the OLPC team has to say regarding the power source:

"...actual shipping units will use an off-board human-power system, connected to the power brick. Candidates include a foot-pedal charger similar to the Freecharge portable charger, solar panels, a crank, and a pulley system."

Translation: the XO machine MIGHT very well need traditional electricity sources, just like the Classmate. We just DO NOT know at this point.

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_myths (myth #2)

"Translation: the XO machine MIGHT very well need traditional electricity sources, just like the Classmate. We just DO NOT know at this point."

Troy,

You seem to hate to get informed. Or are you just selectively quoting? And I though you were against ANY type of computers in the classroom without years of testing? Or do Negroponten and the OLPC laptop have a special place in your heart?

The OLPC needs traditional electricity power. It uses additional hand-power to make it useful in locations with unreliable power. Which is all places that could use the OLPC.

This hand power has been ridiculled in the Western press. But this only shows the ignorance of the authors.

Hand powered torches, radios, and cell phones are VERY popular in the target population of the OLPC. And they have really been liberating those populations.

As has been explained many times over by the OLPC project, hand-power is additional, but without it no electrical appliance is useful in many (most?) parts of the world.

There have been demonstrations of the most popular solution, a hand winch. So it is not a mirage. Pedal power is well understood (from sewing machines). As the hand power is external to the laptop itself, it's design can be replaced until rather late in the process. So the OLPC decided to test the designs before commiting themselves completely.

But I tend to see you want things that are not ready yet to have been decided long ago. But with everything that is ready you complain that the OLPC are to rash and should test it first for a long time.

Winter

Winter

The evidence is there for anyone who wants to analyze it in a rational, unbiased way.

This is what I said:

"Translation: the XO machine MIGHT very well need traditional electricity sources, just like the Classmate. We just DO NOT know at this point."

I'll further expain:

The above sentence means that, WHEN THE XO IS READY TO SHIP, the XO may or may not have this EXTRA crank (or whatever it is). AS OF TODAY, there is NOTHING that WORKS, and we DON'T KNOW IF THERE IS GOING TO BE ANYTHING TOMORROW - WE ONLY HAVE NEGROPONTE'S PROMISE.

The point? We can't compare products based on PROMISED features. That's why I don't compare the XO to ANYTHING, including the Classmate.

As far as your statement above:

"This hand power has been ridiculled in the Western press. But this only shows the ignorance of the authors.

Hand powered torches, radios, and cell phones are VERY popular in the target population of the OLPC. And they have really been liberating those populations."

Among the people skeptical of this idea we have the inventor of the crank himself!!!!

Look how his involvement was announced:

"The British inventor whose clockwork radios brought the poorest and most remote parts of the world into the broadcasting age has been asked to help bring them computers.

Trevor Bayliss has flown to America to help design and build a wind up generator for a new laptop computer that is hoped will bring the internet to even the most impoverished and far flung parts of the third world."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/18/nbayl18.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/10/18/ixhome.html

This is what the guy had to say, after a FEW DAYS:

"Baylis, who invented the clockwork wireless radio, was recently invited to MIT Media Lab to meet Negroponte and see the prototype, but said that it "could have put together with a Lego kit".

"Nothing worked. I was expecting him to show me the screen in action or the wind-up feature, but I saw nothing but a basic prototype," he said.

"If Negroponte has done it, full marks to the guy, but I am not 100 per cent convinced. It was all something of a PR stunt."


http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2146399/uk-wireless-radio-inventor

As you can see, the issue is not very clear, Winter...so rather than attacking me, you should invest your energy and time into learning to think independently. Have your own criteria; Negroponte is something of a celebrity, but that should not prevent you from using your intelligence to form unbiased, informed opininions.

Good luck!

"

"This is what the guy had to say, after a FEW DAYS:

"Baylis, who invented the clockwork wireless radio, was recently invited to MIT Media Lab to meet Negroponte and see the prototype, but said that it "could have put together with a Lego kit"."

This was published 18 October 2005. Not quite the latest news, isn't it? So you complain that the OLPC project couldn't produce a fully working prototype 1 1/2 year ago? Or are you complaining they test all the options carefully? Or should they have had a complete system ready in 2005?

In 2005, everyone was complaining about the theoretical display screen. Actually the most vocal people told us the project should drop the new screen and go for conventional B&W lcd.

Anyhow, you have repeatedly expressed your unwillingness to collect up-to-date information or contact anyone at the OLPC or elsewhere for questions you have. There are school systems that use computers successfully, and representatives can be contacted easily. If you are REALLY interested, you could simply ask around.

The current state of power problem is something you can just email the OLPC and ASK them about. Instead, you unearth a 2005 quote from an outsider.

Btw, the original crank was dropped because the OLPC asked engineers and they told them the torque could crack the hull. So they try out different desings, targeted at different users (small children, large children, with and without access to alternative power sources). Sounds rather clever, doesn't it?

Some links on what is going on recently:

XO laptop is fun for child's play
http://www.webwereld.nl/articles/46188/xo-laptop-is-fun-for-child-s-play.html

Potenco's String Power Generators: For You, Me, and OLPC
http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/power_supply/potenco_string_power.html

Lee Felsenstein on OLPC's YoYo Power Generator
http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/power_supply/felsenstein_yo-yo_power_generator.html

Potenco: Powering Possibilities
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/potenco_powerin.php

Battery and power
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Battery_and_power

Freecharge portable charger (obsolete, but to complete it)
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Freecharge_portable_charger

Winter

So, Winter

What power generator, if any, will ship with the machines?

I predict we won't get a straight answer...because you have no idea, in spite of your desperation to cover the sun with a finger.

But, to save some energy and time, I'll just provide you with he official OLPC abnser to my question (along with the curresponding translation, of course!)

Question:

"What power generator, if any, will ship with the machines?"

OLPC answer:

"The units will ship with some kind of human-powered charger that plugs into the DC socket. "

TRANSLATION:

"Nobody knows at this point".

Source:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Battery_and_power

(second paragraph - see how nice I am?)

Have a great weekend, Winter, and don't forget to work on looking at data in a smart, unbiased way.

"What power generator, if any, will ship with the machines?"

I have tought over your writings. And I think we completely agree.

- Your point is that the OLPC currently has not decided on the human powered solution.

- My point is that I expect that the OLPC will ship with a human powered solution.

These could both be true at the same time. I do know that the OLPC has not yet made a decision.

You could say, if you want, you expect that the OLPC project will fail to supply a human powered solution in time. Given their current HW track record, that would be a bold prediction. But in the end, you might be right.

So I am at a lost what we were arguing about.

Rob

Roland,

I seepeople mixing three separate issues:

1) the focus on "presence" and sharing for all activities
2) the implementation of 802.11s mesh networking
3) a separate power supply for the wifi circuit so it can keep working as a relay between distant machines even when the rest of the computer is turned off

Adding 3 to the Classmate would require a small redesign of the hardware (or a slightly larger change depending on the wifi chip they currently use).

Adding 2 might just be a matter of replacing the driver or it might require a hardware change.

But all this is at what we call the logical link layer in the OSI reference model for networking. When you go up a level, to the internetworking (IP) layer, these details don't matter. The software will see exactly the same thing whether you have a mesh network, a conventional wifi, wired Ethernet or something else.

So adding 1 to the Classmate means just installing the OLPC software on it. Chidren will be able to "see" each other, draw together, write together and so on.

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