Windows to the End of a Sugarized Beginning

   
   
   
   
   

Tonight I shed a tear for Sugar. I am in sadness for it. I may even be in mourning, here on the eve of my wedding.


Not a Red Hat to be seen

I am reading Ivan Krstić blog about Microsoft and I see a repeat of history past in OLPC present. I see the death of Sugar, like so many other GUI dreams.

We will begin with a photo of Microsoft demoing Windows XP on the XO to OLPC. There I see happiness and awe. Geeks all excited about a new technology trick - fitting the fat Windows XP on the slim OLPC XO. Developers in praise of each other's work, a mutual respect of brilliance brought to bear.

And when I read, I hear Ivan's optimism, his exuberance, his dedication to technology innovation:

The folks running this work on the Microsoft side are good people. They have left no doubt in my mind that they believe in what we’re doing and want to play along. I am also confident we have made the right decision at OLPC by embracing their work instead of stonewalling it.
But I must admit I do not share his belief than Microsoft sees One Laptop Per Child, the XO laptop with Sugar, as a configuration they want to play along with.

I am confident that Microsoft sees OLPC the same way it viewed bigger, better, bolder companies: IBM, Apple, Linux in any form. It sees OLPC as a wedge, an infection vector, a new platform for greater market share. Nay, greater domination of a whole new market.

olpc windows

Here is a way for Microsoft to infiltrate an emerging computing platform - low-cost computers - that will be the growth market in the 21st Century. But don't believe me. Hear it from Bill Gates himself:

Emerging markets are growing for PCs, people are doing cheap PCs. We've always believed in cheap PCs. If the hardware were free, we'd be happy.

We're about the software. We're in literally over 100 countries with special versions of Windows, including Starter Edition. OLPC is nowhere compared to where we are on this thing. If that form factor, some people want to use that, we'll make sure Windows is available on that.

"Available" That's so polite. I wonder if he said the same thing about Netscape. I wonder if Microsoft will soon be saying the same thing to Ministers of Education in the developing world.

"Sugar? Yes, that's available on the XO too..."

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48 Comments

Mr. Gate's Windows may get on the OLPC's of the future. But never on mine.

Warren,

You've said it better than me in waaay less words. No matter what happens, there will never Windows on my XO. I only hope I'll not be the only one loading Sugar 2.0 on it.

Microsoft has proven to be totally ruthless in destroying competition. History demonstrates that they will do everything in their power to destroy any alternative to their software. Sugar is just the most recent threat to their hegemony and they will eliminate it just as they have destroyed or marginalized every other serious threat.

Goodthing about Sugar is that it is opensource and Windows isn't. Quite a few Python hackers will probably keep tweaking, so longevity of Sugar project won't be an issue.

Disturbing part of this whole story is though, the possibilty of unsuspecting children growing dependent on Microsoft marketing machine. Their future IT intellect and whatever assets will be sucked-out by western capitalists, much like their parents.

I only see this as an opportunity for the children of the world. English is the language of business, as Windows is the operating system of the world. Blocking windows is like forcing poor children to learn Esperanto. It sure looked like a good idea on paper at the UN, but in reality it's crippling their future opportunities.

Giving them the chance to learn what 90% of the world uses offers them the best opportunities for the future.

Gabriel is right except that Windows is not open source and is not free. It's like saying I would give you free beer for a month and after that once you get addicted, I would start charging (with complete monopoly on supply and price). I just hope this is not the case with Microsoft. Otherwise I have no issues with Microsoft OS, in fact if Microsoft takes oath not to make profit from the operation and takes allegiance to produce the same OS for the developing world's kids for ever, then it's better to have them side by side OLPC. Going by their track record from what they have done in the past, this would be a hard sell.

I don't know if I think this analysis is fair at all. I read Ivan's blog earlier and I didn't take the impression away from it that the OLPC team has any intentions of removing Sugar.

I got the impression that a bunch of geeks, the OLPC folks and the Microsoft folks, got excited about something geeks, especially hackers (used in the traditional sense) get excited about: seeing a technology used in a new and unexpected way. There was never a claim of superiority, merely interest. Now if you want to read into things that the interest in question goes beyond surprise that Microsoft did something new and somewhat forward thinking and assume that it's the OLPC team dreaming of giving up on Sugar/Linux then I suppose that's your choice, but its nothing short of sensationalism as far as I can tell, and hardly seems to have a place on a proclaimed "news" site without an editorial tag applied.

Quotes like "One commonly-forgotten truth about OLPC is that our commitment to open source and free software isn’t religious, but pragmatic — we believe Linux and Sugar constitute a better software platform and, much more importantly, a better learning platform." seem directly contradictory to your supposition that XP is replacing Sugar, but I guess are less interesting than continued nay saying and expectations of failure of this difficult and ambitious project.

Hackers put unexpected operating systems on new devices all the time. Ever see iPod Linux? Neat though it is I don't think it has ruined the iPod market quite yet. So I say sure, Microsoft, with their huge amount of resources, got a new OS able to run on the XO. Wonderful for them. Even as a fan of Linux and the OLPC project I can step back and go "Hey, that's neat, didn't think they'd be able to do that" but I'd never suggest replacing Sugar with XP, and I doubt the OLPC team thinks any differently. Perhaps you should take a step back as well, and comment on the complete article rather than jumping to conclusions supported by out of context statements and your objective thoughts about a hastily taken photo of some people surrounding a tiny little laptop.

> It's like saying I would give you free herpes for a month and after that once you get addicted, I would start charging

I fixed that for you.

Why did you need to insult beer?

Heng, I would not equate Microsoft to Herpes.....but I get your point. I understand that Microsoft has done a lot of bad but lets be honest, they are an American corporation. all they are doing is by hook or by CROOK, lets accept that for the sake of argument, increasing their shareholders value. Do you know any other company that doesn't do that? So lets put things in perspective, we all don't like Microsoft, I am a long time Mac user myself, but let's not go after them if they intend to help the noble cause.

Windows on the OLPC will not respect BitFrost. As such, stealing one of these laptops off a child and running Windows on it will soon open the flood gates of the gray market.

Hey, Binay,

1. I was kidding
2. My user experience with Windows was not like a night in a bar.
3. I actually like the idea of Windows on the XO. Not on *my* XO. But if some governments feel, that they need Windows, better give them XOs with Windows, than Classmates.
4. I don't think, that Windows is very addictive by itself. The addiction comes from hard- and software add-ons. There is much more to it, than just porting XP to the XO.
5. It's early in the morning and I didn't have my coffee.

Heng, no problem. I agree Windows might offer an additional choice to many.
Speaking of coffee, may be I need some too but no Starbucks is open at this time of the morning:)

"They won’t make XP open source, but they’re building mesh support, going to great lengths to support our security and theft deterrence model, and working on allowing Sugar and Windows XOs to collaborate and share seamlessly."

This is truely amazing. This would be the VERY first time that Windows actually would be able to read a Linux file system. And also to add REAL security. Real security on XP. The mind boggles.

If this diffuses into the other MS offerings, the OLPC will have really changed the world of computing. Imagine, a secure version of XP! I can't even imagine it.

And Wayan, did you ever believe that MS would allow millions of open Linux laptops to reach children? I was convinced from day one that they would either kill the project or get some form of MS Windows on it. Even if it would cost them billions.

They couldn't kill the project, so now they have to make really sure no child will be suffering Linux.

Before anyone starts, I am really convinced that the people that made the port did so with the most saintly of intentions (Ivan said it, they are good people). I expect that they really, really want to help these children. I also think that high up in the hiearchy of MS, they would rather kill the children than let them use Linux (figuratively speaking).

Winter

I suspect that Wayan is a little distracted. Either he didn't read Ivan's blogg post carefully, or he didn't check his writing. I too expect that MS will do some back stabbing to the OLPC and will try to knife Sugar. However, that is not the same as suggesting Ivan changed camp.

Ivan Krstić wrote:
"We’re jointly making it possible to install XP on an arbitrary XO — subject to the constraints of the Bitfrost theft deterrence system — and then convert the machine back to Linux easily. I have made it clear that the XP port will not receive my security signoff without this Linux rollback feature, and have no reason to believe it won’t be implemented."

I think the CEOs and marketting of MS expect to steamroll Ivan's security clearance ("Ivan who?"). But this could backlash if Bitfrost gets supported by real security people. Still, it would be reassuring if Linux remained avalable as a rollback option. However, given their criminal past, I wouldn't trust MS managment more than a junk on cold turkey.
(Ivan, try to get people like Bruce Schneier to evaluate Bitfrost, his media profile would help enormously).

Ivan Krstić wrote:
"Our existing customers agree, and we think new ones will continue to make the right decision while being reassured by the availability of Windows as a fall-back. To claim we should prohibit XO customers from running XP in the interest of freedom is to claim everyone should be free to make a choice — as long as it’s a choice we agree with."

I think this is the only tenable (and professional) choice. Either you work for your customers, or you simply don't work.

Winter

More on Microsoft's effort to put XP on XO
http://www.news.com/8301-13860_3-9829735-56.html

As expected, XP won't fit in the XO and has to use a 2GB boot card:
Quote:
"Microsoft's current plan is to get its low-cost Windows and Office bundle to fit on a 2GB SD card that can be added to the laptop. It also has to write new BIOS software to ensure that the operating system can boot directly from an SD card."

Quote:
"Utzschneider said Microsoft normally wouldn't have even talked about its XO effort this early, but was concerned by statements made by Nicholas Negroponte that suggested Windows was ready to go on the XO."

So Negroponte destroyed their surprise attack strategy. The idea was obviously to come out with this when it would have done most dammage to OLPC sales. Negroponte decided he could make use of MS to help the XO sales and strengthen the OLPC's bargaining position. He can now also point fingers at MS telling they are technically incompetent when they don't deliver, like Mary-Lou did with Intel, and use their marketting strategy to the OLPC's advantage when thy do.

Quote:
"We wanted to come out and say flat out that's not the case," Utzschneider said. "Despite all of the rhetoric, we don't think we can have a production version until the second half of 2008."

According to Pamela Jones:
"I think I've heard this song before. IIRC the title of the song is "Vaporware"."
Because, booting an OS is not the same as running applications. Remember that MS has repeatedly quoted minimum system requirements that could just boot the OS and nothing else.

Quote:
""It's clearly our goal to ship a release," Utzschneider said. "But we are not confident that the combination of all of this will work with the quality people would expect with Windows XP running on a laptop."

Translation: We still hate the OLPC and would knife the XO any time if we could.

Winter

Aren't you all being a little overly dramatic here? Personally I am looking forward to being able to run Sugar and XP (and possibly Ubuntu as well) on the XO and think that having options can only be a good thing.

Remember this is an education project, not a laptop project. Having something open source or being able to see the source code is only one part of that goal - I would go so far as to say that it is only a minor part. The principal benefit to seeing the source code from a user's perspective is where the end user is interested in learning more about software/coding - which given the target markets would be a miniscule number of overall users.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that it is an open source project as it opens it up to a network of developers around the world who are keen to help but I think everyone here overstates the need for seeing source code for the intended users.

In my opinion, it is much more important that the laptops provide access to textbooks, teaching activities and the internet.

The underlying software is secondary to that goal. Sugar is not automatically the best option, just the first one so far.

"mourning"

I am an IT person and a long time Ubuntu and Windows user. I am generally against Microsoft due to its disgusting business behaviour.

However, having been using Sugar a couple of days now on a G1G1 XO, I believe that OLPC does need a fallback option. I am afraid, Sugar development was not particularly well designed and organized. Applications (activities) are half-baked (I had to install Opera to get a decent browser) and generally the whole thing is needlessly different from a normal desktop Linux.

It would have been a much better choice to take a simple lightweight desktop (like Xubuntu or Fedora with Xfce) customize it to the XO hardware and put the collaboration features into the applications. I know from experience that children can very easily deal with normal desktops too. My 9 year old daughter could start all of her games and play them without help after a couple of minutes watching me. I saw even smaller children doing this.

Sorry to say that, but I think a lot of valuable resources went to waste with custom Sugar development most of which cannot put back into the original applications because development was simply forked and done by OLPC/Redhat separately (at least it seems like that).

I am not saying that Sugar is useless, I am only saying that customizing Xubuntu and making it children friendly and collaborative would have gained twice the result. [sarcasm: and we would have working suspend-resume on G1G1 laptops, now]

I understand what they wanted to do but I fail to see that Sugar is what children need (especially older than 10 years). I am afraid, a lot of decision maker will get the same result even in the developing world.

Now, what can OLPC do in this situation? Obviously, a lot of countries already look at Sugar as something which is not on par with Windows and not standard Linux either. (Ubuntu is quite on par with Windows but Sugar is a different page) For them running XP may be more acceptable than Sugar. So with Windows the XO stays in the game which is a good thing.

Dropping Sugar is probably not an option (and OLPC would never admit that the whole OS / GUI development concept was flawed) due to the message it would send about the project.

So Windows on XO is not such a bad thing, let's hope it doesn't turn out to be some nasty trick from Microsoft.

I hope that some Linux distro maker will be willing to create a more desktop-oriented edition for the XO (Canonical: please, please, please) which would be more suitable for older children and adults.

Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of this project and it is possible that I will even get to like Sugar one time :).

GBC wrote:
"Aren't you all being a little overly dramatic here? "

"The principal benefit to seeing the source code from a user's perspective is where the end user is interested in learning more about software/coding - which given the target markets would be a miniscule number of overall users."

Experience has shown that little can be learned from MS software. Whatever you learned about previous versions of Windows has become worthless now. Whatever you learn now, will be worthless when the next version comes out.

Furthermore, with XP, the children are not allowed to contribute to their educational environment. MS software is a one-way street: Everything comes from the supplier, consumers are not allowed to give anything back.

In short, the children will be FORCED to become consumers. MS never allows users to run their own web-sites, chat-sites, mail servers, or distribute their own add-ons unless they pay up hefty.

In my opinion, MS has the worst papers when it comes to create independend, creative, and productive adults out of elementary school children.

That is why we would mourn the replacement of Sugar by XP.

Winter

Why isn't hardware free? Why shouldn't software developers be paid for their work? Why can't countries choose windows if they want?

re: Sugar - this guy thinks kids 'learn' sugar so easily because they're not afraid to bang on the keys until something happens. Adults, not so much.
http://www.graphpaper.com/2007/12-23_challenge-if-you-cant-say-something-nice-about-olpc
http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=23928&search=olpc

(Yet another gentle cough) . . .

Of course, if everybody shouts loudly enough they could get some wealthy, public-spirited person --- who also wants to make another simply massive fortune, not to mention living on in the immortal memory of, etc etc --- to invest in setting up Illlumination and the Lightbook.

No use for Windows, doesn't need electricity supply, has own OS which actually works out of the box, so need never be beholden to anybody * in the slightest degree,

(nip over to our forum to read all about it.)

Of course it only publishes and reads books (and newspapers, magazines, brochures, manuals, erudite papers and rude ones, and so on) but, hey! the Digital Age is going to take us all in that direction . . .

[ * Well, except me, and I'm jolly benign and will be dead soon anyway. ]

cheers'n luv, martin

something everyone seems to have forgotten, this is supposed to be affordable. once you beef up the hardware to run windows, you will be paying more for these boxes, and the cost remains a critical issue. ms would obviously rather limit the scope of the project than compromise on the 'windows experience'. once these kids have some experience in using a computer for more than games, they might be ready to choose windows, or other linux distros, perhaps at that point they should trade in their xo for a more standard laptop or pc, how user-upgradeable is the xo, can a kid get a ram module and increase the basic capability himself, or will it have to go to a service depot?

the xo wasn't meant to replace a more conventional laptop, they were meant to be an 'exceeds minimum standards' tool for learning and social interaction. therefore, it seems that microsoft really has no place in the olpc project.

has intel thought of pitching the classmate to a different audience, ie those who make it to secondary or higher education? by that time, they may actually find the windows interface useful as a skillset that can make them employable (not that xo-sugar skills won't do that too, but...).

intel has been a bad partner choice for olpc ever since the amd chip was decided on. that should have been a known quantity.

Winter quoted:
"It also has to write new BIOS software to ensure that the operating system can boot directly from an SD card."

Modifying the BIOS to boot directly from the SD card may not be required; boot loaders like grub (used by the XO) can redirect the rest of the boot process to other devices recognized by the BIOS. I don't have my (Canadian) XO yet, so I can't verify. Anyway, by the time I receive it, maybe it'll be discontinued for one with a little "Made for Windows" sticker...

"Modifying the BIOS to boot directly from the SD card may not be required; boot loaders like grub (used by the XO) can redirect the rest of the boot process to other devices recognized by the BIOS."

For security reasons, the XO requires a developer key to boot from an extern al SD card. This is obviously unacceptable if the XO is intended to boot from another "secured" OS on a SD card.

As I understand it, that is the reason for the BIOS change. If your XO arrives with XP, you should be able to restore Linux on it.

Winter

I think that this work Microsoft is doing to release a light version of Windows XP is fantastic. Thanks to all your work, to this OLPC project, soon enough Windows XP Light will have to be open-source. I see this happening within 2 years. There is no other way Microsoft could compete with Linux.

Actually first step is Windows XP Light will be available for nearly a free price not only in the developped countries (as this $3 Windows XP licence announcement was about), since $200 PC and laptops will become popular in developped countries, Microsoft will firstly have to provide their OS super super cheap if they want people to use it. Then in terms of competing in optimizations, optimized new software, customizations, Microsoft eventually will have to release an open-source and free version of Windows XP Light.

Can you just boot the XO with a Microsoft 2GB or so SD card and it shows the dual boot screen? Or do you have to load the Microsoft OS off the SD card and into the internal memory and replace Sugar for it to boot? Cause I would find it perfect if the students simply can insert the Microsoft branded SD card they got for free from Microsoft to have somekind of experience of the OS that most people in the developped world have been using for the past 10 years. As long as the complete Bitfrost comes with it so you can’t run Windows XP Light off an SD card neigther on a stolen XO.

Maddie asked:

"Why shouldn't software developers be paid for their work?"

Developers are paid to work with free software.
The OLPC Red Hat team is payed. I'm paid. Please read :
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

"Why can't countries choose windows if they want?"

Wise governments will not choose Windows, because it sucks.
Check the "Operating System Sucks-Rules-O-Meter" :
http://srom.zgp.org/ ;-)

With regard with your worries about Sugar:
Sugar is not for Windows blinded adults, it's for open eyed kids.

As long as Microsoft brings down Windows requirements to fit and operate within the current XO design, then I see no problem with that. I think it is a bit silly to require the underlying OS and drivers to be open source. These educational laptops can still be tools to help children learn without the need to expose kernel and driver source code.

What on the surface appeared to be a reasonable charitable movement is being exposed as a trojan horse for Linux zealotry..... sad.

@ Scott,

I too don;t think the OLPC team has any intention of removing Sugar - its Microsoft that will make sure that Sugar is an option - on a Windows machine.

I think this article is really feeding into the FUD train, which I've already commented about on my blog. To really get a handle on this, lets backtrack a few steps.

First of all, the XO laptop is a poor windows platform. It has very little storage, has a drastically underpowered CPU (as far as Windows is concerned, that is - Linux loves it just fine), and no removable media aside from USB drives. I've tried to run Windows XP on a 400mghz PC. It's truly a painful experience. When I saw the comment about running Office on the XO, I literally burst out laughing.

Please, people, read the article Ivan posted a few more times. The dual boot option will allow the machines to be configured either for Windows or for Linux, and flipping them is trivial. There is no chance Windows will ever be a viable tool on an XO, due to the foresight and careful design by the hardware team. Sugar + Linux will always be far faster, far more geared toward what the target audience for these machines is - children who need the basics of a computer. A place to write, a place to program, and a place to browse.

To re-state what is still one of the best quotes about the entire project... "The XO laptop is for use by children, not by the snarky bloggers."

Dbs wrote:

"To re-state what is still one of the best quotes about the entire project... '"The XO laptop is for use by children, not by the snarky bloggers.'"

Ironically, it's the very same "snarky bloggers" and assorted clueless geeks who have saved the OLPC Project for the time being, through the G1G1 program.

I'd not be so quick to dismiss my only real clients...

Linux, Sugar, XP, & OS X. That makes for a hell of a start up screen. I'd love to see SD cards for each. Would that make everyone happy? Can't wait to run iMovie on an XO. That will be blazing fast!

I say give everyone the option of everything.

Funny feeling: I normally don't agree with Winter, but I do think he said it perfectly: "In short, the children will be FORCED to become consumers."

One of the perspectives normally absent in the discussions here is the big managerial issues a country's political administration has to deal with. English is the language of business, yes; Windows is the OS of choice in the business world, yes; but the fact is that the usage of Windows has to do with a number of business issues and not with technical excellence; also, Windows is a closed system and makes innovation and creation of content more complicated and more expensive than using open software. From the point of view of an education minister, dependence of Microsoft for innovation is a terrible thing; it's not that the alternative is easier, it's actually more complex and expensive: to hire and train a lot of programmers to create the content and systems needed for an educational implementation is not for the faint of heart, and going to Microsoft for help is the easy way out. We tried it in Peru in 2001/2002 and it was a mess and a failure, but allowed for our President to take his picture with Billy Boy and feel like he was doing something.

I dislike and take issue with the current implementation of OLPC in Peru and with the whole idea, but I do believe that a completely open computer would be the best thing to have in an education system, for a number of reasons, including the ability of lookup code, of course, but mostly because it will force governments to develop solutions instead of buying them. That's actually one of the problem of the Classmate, being a "kiddie" business computer.

Irvin wrote:
"Ironically, it's the very same "snarky bloggers" and assorted clueless geeks who have saved the OLPC Project for the time being, through the G1G1 program."

I'll bite (again).

Irvin, didn't you consider Geeky and Clueless synonyms?
Are you angry with them because they prevented the OLPC project from dying?

Irvin "ein Geist der verneint"

Winter

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla wrote:
"Funny feeling: I normally don't agree with Winter, but I do think he said it perfectly: "In short, the children will be FORCED to become consumers.""

Oh, that is simple. You have real experience implementing ICT and working with the children in a developing country. I am just an armchair philosopher from a rich country ;-)
(but I generally value your contributions)

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla wrote:
"From the point of view of an education minister, dependence of Microsoft for innovation is a terrible thing; it's not that the alternative is easier, it's actually more complex and expensive: to hire and train a lot of programmers to create the content and systems needed for an educational implementation is not for the faint of heart, and going to Microsoft for help is the easy way out."

My experience (not as an armchair thinker) are that managing the security and health of a windows network is a genuine nightmare.

The result is mostly that users are denied every right that can be denied. I know many people who are not even able to move the powerpoints they create to a computer attached to a beamer. They have to email them to some webmail address, and download them to a computer with a USB slot.

If 70 children in an elementary school class get Windows laptops, they will NOT be allowed to change ANYthing on the machines for fear of a complete collapse of the school network.

Winter

Good grief... so much drama over what amounts to an R&D project. Nowhere does it talk about Windows REPLACING Sugar anywhere. Few people who are interested in purchasing OLPCs (individuals like many of us or large programs) are going to want to add on to the cost by licensing Windows and limiting the available software due to the form factor.

No shortage of FUD, though...

>> Experience has shown that little can be learned from MS software. Whatever you learned about previous versions of Windows has become worthless now. Whatever you learn now, will be worthless when the next version comes out. > Furthermore, with XP, the children are not allowed to contribute to their educational environment. MS software is a one-way street: Everything comes from the supplier, consumers are not allowed to give anything back. > In short, the children will be FORCED to become consumers. MS never allows users to run their own web-sites, chat-sites, mail servers, or distribute their own add-ons unless they pay up hefty. <<

Examples, please? I have access to a Windows machine and I can install 3rd party (and free) web servers, mail servers, and other "add-ons" without paying Microsoft a nickel. Some examples of things that are free and run just fine under Windows:

Apache (web server)
MySQL (database)
PHP (web scripting language)
Ruby (programming language)
Rails (web framework for Ruby)
PostgreSQL (database)
Java (programming language)

... for that matter, Microsoft even makes versions of their own development tools available for free.

Sql Express (database)
IIS (web server - included with most Windows installs)
Visual Express editions (programming environments for .NET)

... so where's the "pay up hefty" as it relates to OLPC's market?

Nice... looks like the comment system ate a good deal of my comment. Probably due to using angle brackets to quote earlier comments.

No way that I can see to go back and edit it either...

Back up a minute. I thought OLPC was supposed to be about the education of young children. Right now there's a boatload of free educational software available for windows and linux (
http://eduforge.org/ and http://sourceforge.net). Sugar, not so much. If the buyers want windows why can't they have it? Because this tool was developed at MIT and they're the only ones that know how it's *supposed" to be used? The buyers have no say because we know more about it than they do?

Sure, kids can learn Sugar but they can learn a standard interface too. Unless the plan is to have Sugar take over the world. It looks like right now the effort is in porting existing software into Sugar.

Maddie,

"Right now there's a boatload of free educational software available for windows and linux (
http://eduforge.org/ and http://sourceforge.net). Sugar, not so much.
...
Sure, kids can learn Sugar but they can learn a standard interface too. Unless the plan is to have Sugar take over the world. It looks like right now the effort is in porting existing software into Sugar."

Sugar (which is a desktop environment not an OS) runs on top of Linux (Red Hat's Fedora) so anything that runs on Linux can run on XO (I've heard of people running Firefox, Skype already). But the installation of those (non-Sugar apps) is messy right now - I'd love to see installing and running existing Linux (of course, thru wine even Window ones is possible) apps integrated (a special 'activity' in Sugar perhaps). Even better would be possibility, especially for older kids, to be able to switch (thru key shortcut?) from Sugar to more standard interface (eg Xfce).

delphi,

Why not let them learn a standard interface in the first place? Why the training wheels?

re: Xfce, personally I don't know a thing about Linux and don't have to, yet. That's why I can see Sugar being a stumbling block. If the interface looked even remotely familiar the buyers (ie the governments) might not have such a problem with it. After all, this is supposed to be about education, not showing off what brilliant programmers they have at MIT.

Maddie,

"Why not let them learn a standard interface in the first place? Why the training wheels?"

The concept of 'standard' changes over the time (when I showed to my work colleagues windowed version of WordPerfect (WordPerfect was, of course, a 'standard' then:) on my Amiga in '87 they said they'd rather use MS-DOS version as it's less 'confusing' and..., of course, 'standard' :). But the main point to remember is that OLPC XO Sugar interface [1] was specifically designed for small children who, in majority of cases, never have used a computer before let alone know what 'standard' GUI is...From kids' point of view the Sugar interface is much simpler than what you and I use on Windows or standard Linux desktops and allows them what pre-internet designed GUIs didn't cater for: collaboration. As 'Bud the Teacher'[2] has said: "Windows doesn't do I want kids to do"... I can foresee a rapid development in both the speed and functionality of Sugar now that XO hardware (state-of-the-art - thank you Mary Lou:) has been done. On the other hand, both for marketing reasons you mentioned, but also to make this wonderful little computer as universal as possible and more 'acceptable' for more 'traditional' users, I would really like to see an easy way to switch between Sugar and other and more 'standard' desktop environment - see Eee PC for an example of a good implementation of this.


[1] OLPC - Getting started - Home view
( http://laptop.org/en/laptop/start/homeview.shtml )

[2] Budd the Teacher ( Bud Hunt)
( http://www.budtheteacher.com/podcasts/budtheteacher/Bud010408.mp3 )

it's really hard for americans to understand and sympathize with, but in many of the foreign countries use different standards for language, using english, french, or other language in school, and an ethnic spoken language when they are with their families. also school attendance can be erratic due to various factors, countries with warring or unstable governments may find parents unwilling to put their child at risk by sending them to school.

the big value of the sugar interface is that one doesn't need to be able to read to use it, but using it will encourage one to read. these books are being given to kids, some of whom will learn to read and write at a similar age level to american and european kids, and some will only learn a functional subset, like their signature or common notices. the best language teachers are immersion and practice, and as most web content is rendered as formatted text, there is great encouragement to learn. not everyone will be an academic standout, but the best way to get anyone, kids included, to do a given task is for them to want to do it.

i think sugar can and will be outgrown by some, but it still seems to make sense for the purpose intended.

if kids are able to read and write in one default language that is supported, a standard interface *might* be preferable, but the sugar interface might still be useful when sharing with family members who may have missed out on schooling early on.

funny thing, when linux seemed to be mostly done from cli, everyone needed icons and symbolic representations. now that a totally iconic interface is acheived, the no text thing seems to be a problem.

snarky bloggers generally know very little about the target audience of the xo, which in some instances may effectively live in a different century. they are really only capable of reviewing the machine or interface from an a preinformed (educated) geek pov, and that is insufficient to gauge the usefulness of the sugar interface for kids who range from illiteracy to literacy on par with the us and most of europe.

a readily available alternative might be a good thing, for those who are fluent in a supported language, but even then, if a terminal app exists on the xo they can conceivably make those changes themselves when they, not the geek naysayers are ready.

delphi,
These kids (in India)learned windows with absolutely no instruction.

http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/india/kids.html#03


mikelist,
the buyers, those people in other countries, want windows and a *standard* interface. It's Americans that say they're *supposed* to use Sugar.

http://www.globalvision.org/sample/videos/quicktime/how/aftermath.mov
(2 minutes)
from http://www.globalvision.org/program/how/how.html

very interesting. It's a different approach to the same problem but he also concludes that children can learn a lot on their own.
Note: NIIT (the sponsor) is a private company and this program is totally independent of the school system/government. The kids use the machines on their own time. I couldn't find info on exactly what software the machines are running but it seems that the OS is irrelevant, it just works.

Don't need to read in order to use Sugar? How do you figure? Whether you're talking about Windows or Sugar, you can START programs and activities by clicking icons on a readily available desktop or task bar. No need to read...

BUT... once you're in a program or activity, you do need to read to navigate the UI, in both Windows AND Sugar.

Have you used an XO? How would you navigate these without reading?

Word Processor (multiple tabs/pages that need to be read - Activity, Edit, Table, etc)
Browser (multiple tabs/pages, not to mention the starting HTML page)
Turtle Art (each block has text that must be read and the blocks themselves are organized into tabs)
Pippy (interactive Python Editor)
Paint (multiple/tabs pages organized via text)
Tam Tam (instrument names and organization scheme based on text)
etc.


... I'm trying to think of Activities that CAN be navigated without reading and without our XO in front of me, can't come up with any offhand. Maybe jigsaw puzzle?

Actually, he answered this last April. Hint, it has to do with geekcorps

http://www.olpcnews.com/software/operating_system/mandriva_classmate_linux.html
search for geekcorps

@Winter

"Experience has shown that little can be learned from MS software.
Whatever you learned about previous versions of Windows has become worthless now. Whatever you learn now, will be worthless when the next version comes out."

Not so. The difference between Vista and XP is much smaller then the difference between, say, Ubuntu and XP. It's compares favourably to the jump between OS9 and OSX. The computer skills you learn using XP are still applicable with Vista, and to a lesser degree with Linux and OSX. Sugar is so different, that making the switch to XP or OSX (you know, the OS's that actual buisnesses use) will prove difficult.

"Furthermore, with XP, the children are not allowed to contribute to their educational environment. MS software is a one-way street: Everything comes from the supplier, consumers are not allowed to give anything back."

This is rediculous. First of all, the XO's target audience is highly unlikely to be able to make any contributions. Secondly, XP is an OS, most of the educational content will come at the software level. Since when did MS forbid people from writing applications? Not only does MS not stop peopple from writing software, they actually distribute free IDE's for doing so.

First off, money speaks...and hopefully it will speak loudest of all here....In my experience of teaching in Uganda you see alot of "If it is cheaper and it does what I need why spend the extra money?" I think that this mentality will protect Sugar as I don't believe Microsoft will give away XP.

Next in regard to the comments that go along the lines of
"Most of the world uses Windows so it should be on the XO"

16.7% of smartphones sold worldwide during 2006 were using Linux*
Linux holds 12.7% of the overall server market*
85.2% of super computers run on linux
These people use linux - http://mtechit.com/linux-biz/

...is it really a bad this that children are introduced to Linux based systems?


*figures from wikipedia linux article

In response to many of the questions regarding the changes in the
OLPC project, and specifically the decision to base the project at
this juncture to a Microsoft Operating System, proponents of this
change have come out swinging against Free Software developers who
have worked for the current Free Interface, code named Sugar. A
large segment of the critique of the against Free Software developers
like Bender is that they have put their "Open Source" agenda above the
welfare of the project. Others claim that the "Open Source" advocates
should be pleased with the what has already been done and that the
project as it stands can either be relaunched or has already met
goals.

The problem, though, is that in many ways, the marketing and financial
positioning of the OLPC program is harder to develop then the hardware
and software. And the goals that have been met are small in light of
the original mission of the OLPC project.

An operating system is more than a commodity. It becomes the looking
glass that develops how the user thinks and it literally shapes
the mind of it's users. A system which is at it's core designed to
disenfranchise users from the learning experience, especially in how
the user views the software itself through learned expectations, and
forces information access through monopolistic channels and filters,
undermines the development of critical thinking skills. In geek terms,
the operating system reprograms the end user. The Microsoft operating
system is designed to do so from the ground up. It is in fact the only
intended use of the Microsoft Windows Operating System franchise.

The interaction between technology on human and societal development
dates to the beginning of civilization, if not even before that.
One interesting scholarly article on the topic which is archived at
http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources/technology_changes_how_we_think.txt
by Robin Wilson explores how the Gutenberg printing printing press causes
an explosion of mathematical usage and development, and how a large part
of that was developed by the standardization of mathematical symbols
for universal communication and expression.

" Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (around 1440)
revolutionised mathematics, enabling classic mathematical works to be
widely available for the first time. Previously, scholarly works, such
as the classical texts of Euclid, Archimedes and Apollonius had been
available only in manuscript form, but the printed versions made these
works much more widely available.

At first the new books were printed in Latin or Greek for the scholar,
and many scholarly editions appeared. The earliest printed version
of Euclid's Elements, published in Venice in 1482, and there is an
attractive 1492 edition of Ptolemy's Almagest. Apollonius's Conics
appeared in 1537, and seven years later the works of Archimedes were
published in both Latin and Greek, and there was a celebrated edition
of Diophantus's Arithmetic in 1621, reissued in 1670, with the Greek
text, a Latin translation by Bachet, and comments by Fermat, including
his famous marginal comment on the 'last theorem'. ....

The invention of printing also led to the gradual standardisation of
mathematical notation. In particular, the arithmetical symbols + and -“
first appeared in a 1489 arithmetic text by Johann Widmann. Surprisingly,
the symbols x and (division sign) were not in general use until the seventeenth
century “ we'll see how — developed shortly; the division sign·
was introduced by John Pell.

Needless to say, the quality of the mathematical printing in those days
was very variable. Here we see two version of Pascal's arithmetical
triangle from the same year, 1545: Stifel's publisher was having a
good day, while Scheubelius was less fortunate."

The most important point Wilson makes as relating to the OLPC project
is in these paragraphs:

"Record was such a fine lecturer that his audience regularly applauded
his lectures. We don't know what he looked like. For a long time, there
was only one known picture of him, but recently severe doubts have been
raised as to its authenticity. One might well ask: ‘Is this a Record?'

Record's books were written in English, and ran to many editions. The
ground of artes of 1543 was an arithmetic book explaining the various
rules so simply that "everie child can do it". As with all his books,
it was written in the form of a Socratic dialogue between a scholar and
his master."

Prior to this era of copyright and DRM encumbered communications,
the printing press caused a prodigious discovery of the potential
of the human intellect and from it's most early uses western masters
used it to communicate with the masses, specifically targeting children
for education. The art of printing explodedr. It's teaching as a trade,
science and technology every bit as vital to the democratization and
economic development that the West would experience as any other cultural
influence. From that very day in around 1440 when the press was invented
it became the essential tool of Western advancement, more important that
gunpowder or navigational tools.

In the short 600 years since technology has revolutionized communications,
through the printing era, into the wireless and wired analog era, through the
broadcast media era and on until to today's digital media
humanity has evolved directly in response to the use, development,
deployment and education of state of the art communications media,
while diverse (classically defined) liberal education became the cornerstone
of worldwide civilization as it has spread from the West to every corner
of the globe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her ground breaking book, "Infidel", repeatedly
describes how her interaction with libraries and booksi influenced her
thinking and growth. Why surrounded by a world of Islamic Brotherhood
lectures and learnings with the repeated mantra of "TOTAL OBEDIENCE" repeated
by local figures in her life such as Boqol Sawm and Sister Aziza, Hirsi-Ali
found comfort in cheap romantic novels. This unlikely wellspring of Western
learning deeply impressed upon her what possiblities she could inspire towards.
She writes, " But the allure of romance called to us from the pages
of books. In school we read good books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen,
and Daphne du Maurier; out of school Halwaa's sisters kept us supplied
with cheap Harlequins. These were trashy soap opera-like novels, but
they were exciting — sexually exciting."

Hirsi-Ali has the advantage of literacy and the support of a free press.
The purpose of the OLPC project is also literacy. Not just the literacy
of the pen, and the literacy of mathematics, politics and arts,
but computer literacy, the new medium which will be required for the
development of children worldwide to fully share in our emerging enriched
worldwide culture. There are too many stumbling blocks even for Westerner
to overcome as there is. The quoted material above was far too arduous
from me gather into this message. The text, instead of being able to be be
quickly cut and pasted into this window had to be typed by hand because online
resources like Google-Books have been legally prevented from making it
available as text. It was only because of my 20 years of steep education
in this topic, and my ability to reverse engineer the protections that have
been enforced in this media that I was able even locate the appropriate material to
present on this point to an interested public.

The Microsoft Operating system is designed to restrict digital
access to information in order to optimize a monopolistic,
non-competitive agenda, the most essential restriction being the discovery
of the basic tools and carnal knowledge of the computer systems internals, both
hardware and softwar. The modern printing press, itself has been shrouded in secrecy.
This directly conflicts with the core OLPC charter and goal. While that can be
ridiculed as an "Open Source" agenda, an irrational hangup, I'd argue based on the
historical evidence that the accusatory tone of such statements make are fundamentally
flawed and very much more in line with the kind of rationality which one might
expect from a despot philosophy such as which might come from controlling
Communist Party in today's Red China.

The agenda, design and functionality of the Sugar interface, and it's
origins in GNU software and and the technologic secifications Linux kernels,
not to exclude arguments about the merits of it's politics is specious and spurious.
Oxymoronic as that may sound, it is not the devotion to "Open Source"
which makes the move from Sugar to Microsoft Software untenable to
the goals of the One Laptop Per Child program. It is the change from a
classically Liberal based education program, a cornerstone and application
of Western and world progress, to a regressive monopolistic platform which inhibits
by design those Western values most critical to transmit and the knowledge that
humanity has aquired so that it can be adapted to other native cultures and thereby
help assure the survival all of mankind as a free, informed and tolerant civilization.

What, may I ask, is it intended that we teach these children in the
third world with a billion laptops? That is the only relevant question.
Sugar is designed from the ground up to answer this question. Obviously
the Microsoft product have no such agenda.

Ruben Safir
President NYLXS

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