Windows of Clarity on OLPC + XP Clarifications


Happy with Sugar on OLPC
I love the media judo that One Laptop Per Child program garners around Microsoft Windows on the OLPC XO. There is so much spin and dodge you might get confused about who is working with whom on what. Let me take the opportunity to offer "Windows" of clarity on XP for the XO:

First, with the current BTest-2 machines + an SD slot or the BTest-3 hardware upgrade, it is technically possible to run Windows XP on the OLPC.

Now why the SD slot was added is unclear: Nicholas Negroponte says its was specifically for Microsoft, while Jim Gettys disagrees. Either way, no one has actually run Windows on the OLPC, not even Microsoft. Reuters quotes Will Poole, corporate vice president of the software maker’s market expansion group saying:

We have been engaged in dialog with Nicholas Negroponte and his team regarding the plans for OLPC for some time. As part of our ongoing discussions, OLPC has provided us with a number of beta XOs. With those in hand, we currently are in the process of evaluating the feasibility of running Windows on the XO device.

While we are pleased with the progress to date, we still have significant work ahead to finalize our analysis and testing processes.

As Microsoft attempts to wedge its bloatware onto the XO, the OLPC developers are not giving them any special treatment. They are just another of the 1,500 developers working on the student laptop. Ars Technia says:
According to Walter Bender, president of Software and Content at OLPC, there is no agreement in place between OLPC and Microsoft to offer XO laptops with any version of Windows. Bender also indicated that Microsoft has not contacted OLPC regarding its $3 software bundling program, nor have any governments requested that the XO be outfitted with Windows. In short, there is no existing collaboration between Microsoft and OLPC aimed at outfitting the XO laptop with Windows.

"We are a free and open-source shop. We have no one from OLPC working with Microsoft on developing a Windows platform for the XO. MS doesn't get any special treatment from OLPC," Bender told Ars.

Even better than no special treatment, it seems the OLPC developers might just be having a little fun with Microsoft in its efforts. Chris Blizzard reports that:
Microsoft has some XO machines. They are trying to get Windows working on it. Sometimes they show up and ask random hardware questions. The OLPC guys say "look at the code." They go away again. Sometimes they brick machines (because they have to replace the awesome firmware we have with a poopy PC BIOS) and send them back to the office to get them unbricked. Sometimes they complain that the machine has hardware problems and we reply that it works fine here.
Now if Microsoft does, finally, succeed in developing a Windows variant that works on the Children's Machine XO, then oddly enough, OLPC is not against countries wiping off the amazing and innovative Sugar/Lunix operating system for a Windows replacement. According to Mary Lou Jepsen in Wired:

Mary Lou Jepsen of OLPC
The One Laptop Per Child project is committed to free, open-source software, according to CTO Mary Lou Jepsen. But it also believes in operating system choice.
Microsoft has "had our hardware now for about a year," says Jepsen. "We decided that, as much as we embrace open-source at OLPC, it is about choice, and we don't want to exclude anybody from making software for our laptops.
Then John (J5) Palmieri elaborates further on just what One Laptop Per Child developers mean when they say the Children's Machine XO is "Open Source":
I am quite startled by those who predict gloom and doom because Windows (embedded) will be able to run on a general purpose OPEN computer like the XO. Is our goal a protectionist society where an elite group tells you what you can or can not use on your computer? Or, is our goal an open society where we win on merit and innovation? For our part, the Red Hat Sugar team believes it is building a best of breed OS for the target audience. [...]

I personally am not in the business of forcing people to use my products but rather developing the product for specific needs and letting the customer choose. I’m in the business of building better systems, period.

And now let us be sure that the Sugar user interface running on Red Hat Linux is really the best learning experience. Let there be head to head testing of both operating systems on the OLPC XO. Even if we all believe that OLPC vs. Microsoft is a clash of civilizations and Microsoft code is wrong for XO's or education.

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"Microsoft has some XO machines. They are trying to get Windows working on it. Sometimes they show up and ask random hardware questions. The OLPC guys say "look at the code." They go away again. Sometimes they brick machines (because they have to replace the awesome firmware we have with a poopy PC BIOS) and send them back to the office to get them unbricked. Sometimes they complain that the machine has hardware problems and we reply that it works fine here."

What does this suggest:
- MS are not used to develop hardware drivers
- MS developers cannot read other peoples code
- MS XP cannot boot from other BIOS

Sounds like the XP code-base is completely unlike FLOSS.


And we still don't have XP on OLPC in the wild. Maybe Windows cannot run on OLPC! But who will admit that? Certainly not Microsoft or Negroponte.

the official MS position still states that WINXP min sys requirements are at least 1.5gb just for the OS. It might be possible to clean xp code, to add extra memory via SD for the OLPC or to install a upgraded version of win 2000 or 98 specially fitted for the green machines, maybe even with a luna user interface.

But I seriously doubt that MS is putting aside enough developers resources to those, vista is just fresh out there, and there is not much money to be made on it. Microsoft is probably waiting to see how negroponte goes, and then later they will take care of it. By the time Sugar takes at least a 0.5% market share maybe it will have been already upgraded again..

But thanks for clarifying all those issues. I am sure that there is already a lot of FUD from us the geeks concerning this system war..

you can install windowsXP with well below 1,5 gb. 800mb are sufficient. winxp will complain, but install nevertheless. the problem is that you will be missing out on additional drivers and will have to put in the cd/ various driver cd's every time any hardware changes.
so it is quite possible to streamline xp to a specified platform with no difference in hardware.

Microsoft is having trouble with XP on the OLPC. Check out this from the AP:

However, Microsoft Corp. says it's uncertain whether it can fit Windows on the laptops. Will Poole, who heads Microsoft's emerging-markets group, says the limited storage space (recently upped to 1 gigabyte of flash memory) and other original elements on the One Laptop Per Child program's "XO" computer aren't welcoming for Windows.

"I don't know how to get the thing to run on less than 2 gigs," he said. Plus, at least 10 custom drivers — which tell an operating system how to interact with hardware — need to be designed, Poole said.

@Peter: You are so yesterday. ;)
Try this:
350MByte is no problem. And maybe even less, if everything is taken out, that is normally necessary to cater for hardware changes. But do we really want MS-Windows on the OLPC? I don't think so. However, adding a SD-Card slot is a good idea, as it allows a backup of the user data, if a machine has to be repaired or exchanged.


Microsoft Windows XP on the OLPC is back in the news with this missive from Znet:

The OLPC's philosophy of openness is behind its decision to allow Microsoft software on the machines, according to chairman Nicholas Negroponte.

"It would be hard for OLPC to say it was 'open' and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open," Negroponte said.
According to Negroponte, the XP announcement is the latest development in a long-running collaboration between the project and Microsoft.

"Microsoft has always been working on Windows for the XO. We put the SD slot into our laptop over one year ago, for them," Negroponte said, explaining that the SD slot allows the XO's memory to be expanded, making it easier for users to run Windows.

"[Windows on XO] has not only been happening with our consent, but [also our] collaboration. Some of the first engineering models from any given build go to them," Negroponte said.,1000000091,39290416,00.htm

Why not W2kProSP4 ?
It's 650M disk by default, nLite can easily
lower it below 400M.

The hard part is to find a non-bloated AntiVirus these days..
That's a beauty of Linux, it never runs out of
security :D