A Good Thing About Windows XP on XO: Contrast

olpc windows

First, it would show that Windows is, well, an operating system.*

For some people, it's even the one they prefer. But it's positively a good thing for people to realize that (on x86 machines, certainly) it's the indefinite article that applies.

I'm glad for the same reason to see Macs running Windows (via Bootcamp), or Rockbox replacing the stock firmware on Archos machines -- it helps disabuse people of the notion that for a given Machine X, only Operating System Q can be used. Better to let people compare different hardware on the same device, so they can see just what combination of features pleases them most.

In the world of educational software, one of those features is certainly going to be shareability and other aspects of software Freedom, and here, Linux+Sugar beats Windows XP all to pieces.

Sugar on every UMPC contender

But there's another contrast, too: Unless Microsoft does a better job of it than I expect, Sugar would be the obvious interface of choice for XO users. The collaborative, interlinked applications, the OS-level energy saving features, and the child-friendly aesthetic all count in its favor.

Unless MS does some quick simplifying and integrating equivalent programs, I don't think they're going to make Windows XP anything like as attractive for the OLPC's target user.

Programs that run on XP had better be lightweight, too, or no one will wait around for the progress bars to finish marching -- and Microsoft won't get to rewrite most of the apps that run on Windows to respect the XO's pointedly finite capabilities, because they're closed source and belong to someone else. And if they do manage to slim down even a handful of the included apps, well, Hey! So much the better. Lots of people use Windows, and they might eventually get some benefit from this effort.

One day, Microsoft could well be the world's largest producer of free, open source software. (I'm allowed to dream.) They employ a huge chunk of the world's smartest people, along with the occasional placebo, and a few dunderheads. But no one hired at MS now will have escaped the benefits of open source / Free software, and a lot of them have (say) Linux machines at home if not at work.

Any time a day job at Microsoft means contributing too (even backhandedly) a project with a major connection to open source and Free software, it provides at the very least another spur for the open source contributors to excel. OLPC should welcome the interest of MS as a company, and the 40-full time engineers working to squeeze Windows onto it.

They've certainly one-upped Microsoft in creating such a functional, integrated machine with a small team and short schedule.

* Pedants with CS degrees who would like to argue about just what makes an operating system are free to do so, while I don my custom silicone earplugs :)

Other opinions on the matter


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Tim said "Better to let people compare different *hardware* on the same device, so they can see just what combination of features pleases them most."
- I think you meant to write software there (as in "...different software on the same device..."), right?

"Programs that run on XP had better be lightweight, too, or no one will wait around for the progress bars to finish marching."
- Ironically the performance of the current Sugar build when it comes to loading activities is actually quite disappointing. I have Windows XP running on a Geode LX800 with 256MB RAM (so very close to the XO's hardware) and starting Word 2007 out of idle mode doesn't that much longer than starting that oh-so-slim "write"-activity on the XO. Once the activities are loaded using and switching between them is works quite smoothly but the initial load times ate definitely nothing to be proud of...

Christoph (OLPC Austria)

I have mixed feelings on the idea of Windows on the OLPC.

If it is an education machine, then it is hard to deny that Windows (and the Macintosh) has more educational software and higher quality educational software at present. From prior experience, Dr. Geo is a shado of Geometer's Sketchpad and I haven't seen anything on par with Fathom. And these are both programs that can fit well into the constructionist philosophy. Vernier has nice products too, though few domestic schools can afford the accompanying hardware without special grants, nevermind a school in a developing nation. HyperStudio also carries on in the spirit of HyperCard. And the list can go on.

On the other hand, the vast majority of existing education software does not fit into the constructionist philosophy. Indeed, much of it is downright skill and drill (or drill and kill, if you prefer). Porting Windows over to the OLPC will give teachers the opportunity to fall back on old habits, thus ruining what I see as a grand experiment.

In this case, the bottleneck probably occurs when you try to read off of flash memory. Have you tried booting windows off of say, a USB flash drive with word installed on it?

Oh, and is your Geode LX800 underclocked like on the XO? What you're saying is kind of surprising considering my experiences with Word 2007.

Toni, my comment is purely based on personal expression, I haven't done any real testing (with stop-clock and such) to come up with conclusive results.

Maybe I'll have some time on the weekend to run such tests...

Pretty retarded post, Tim Lord.

The only thing to come out of any version of windows on the XO is complete exposure of the severe hardware limitations.

People will NOT think that it is a Windows problem. People will dismiss the XO as a toy computer that can't run real-world applications. Microsoft will be more than happy to confirm this theory, the XO will be forgotten and life will continue as always.

Speaking of alternative operating systems, I read somewhere (and now I can't find it) that a company ported their OS/environment to the OLPC and were offering it for free. I think it was a PDA or mobile device company and it was a Java environment. Does anyone remember this and have a link I could follow?

I think it's very popular to consider Microsoft as this sinister computing company who is out to destroy all things good in the world. When you take that kind of perspective about a company and its employees then everything they do will seem nefarious. I'm glad that OLPC News decided to publish this article.

We as the OLPC community must get beyond this anti-MS prejudice and put things in perspective. The OLPC project is NOT about Linux; it's about global education opportunities.

From this perspective, we ought to view ANY company's involvement in this project as positive news. The more companies that invest time and money into the project, the better it will be. More importantly, once a company (and I lump MS in here) starts to invest its own capital in a project, they become personally interested it's success.

So, what if MS comes out with a version of Windows that is significantly better than Sugar? The community will likely work hard to make Sugar better, thus displaying the strengths of Linux and open source; or Windows will become the predominant platform on the XO. Either way the children win, since they get a superior OS to work with. What's so bad about that?

The title of this page is "OLPC News," not "Windows vs. Linux Debate." I wish everyone involved in this would take the issue elsewhere, and help keep the page on topic.

I know there isn't real OLPC news everyday; we are all kind of in wait mode until more units get deployed. But I'd rather see nothing new that waste space on this tired old debate.

I don't think the mixed feeling about MS' involvement into the whole OLPC scene is about the functionality of what their products contribute to the program (although... there are some legitimate issues regarding this side of the issue as well).

I believe the main hesitation to embrace the partnership with MS is because of what MS symbolize as they have grown into a corporate entity that represents monopolizing the market.

Also, one of the reason OLPC's dev program moved very quickly is because they had a small dedicated team and the decision process wasn't hindered by some sort of giant corporate management.

Frankly, I rather see Apple getting in bed with OLPC than MS or Intel.

Can I just say that people who say they prefer Windows XP are just like the people that say America is the best country in the world.

Whether they're accurate or not is not important, the fact is, they probably haven't tried anything but an XP machine so they just assume. The fact of the matter is that M$ IS an evil empire--they've crushed their competition or bought them out--only the most powerful have survive and look how much of the market Linux and OSX have.

M$=the US military

Linux(and it's offspring) & OSX=the rest of the world's military.

The point I'm getting to is that if XP is allowed to get on the XO it will easily undo everything OLPC is trying to do. Windows has always been a resource hog and plenty of people admit it. The XO is exactly the opposite kind of machine to run it on.

The XO is about innovation--anything from M$ is anything BUT innovation. Windows features are all rehashed from other OSes or 3rd party apps they've bought up--OSX is somewhat the same. Linux is the only answer here. How are you going to change the world for the better with the XO if it's running XP?? You're just leaving the world exactly as you found it!

And since XO runs a version of Linux, Chris J, this site has every right to debate Windows Vs. Linux. Sorry, but the logic is right there.

So, I think there's nothing anyone can do to stop M$ from developing an XO port of XP, but I think it would be an extreme mistake to let it be bundled with the XO. What I don't get is why M$ even cares about the XO--they're on 90+% of every machine out there and a tall stack of mobiles, too. Why do they need to get onto the XO, as well? It's obvious--for the same moral-free reason that cigarette companies put their displays at kid-eye level in convenience stores.

Start those 3rd Worlders young!

Brainwashing is MUCH easier when you start with a kid.

America is the best country in the world.

And I prefer Mac/OSX

"America is the best country in the world."

So you tried them all? Great!

"And I prefer Mac/OSX"

You must be a lucky person!


Ur... I have no intention to turn this thread or OLPC news site into debate about this issue...

Obviously, I was being a bit sarcastic to Pete's comment...

But you don't have to try all cars to know Ferrari makes one of the best car in the world.

I am thankful to be an American citizen. By no means I am saying America is perfect. But there never was a dominant super power like America ever in the history. And I believe in the idea of freedom America is founded on.

So, there. I am not an American by birth. But, I love America.

"Ur... I have no intention to turn this thread or OLPC news site into debate about this issue...

Obviously, I was being a bit sarcastic to Pete's comment..."

I did understand that, and I too once was a happy Mac user (switched to Linux for the Freedom part).

I have this obsessive habit that I can only control with difficulty. When someone claims that " is/are the best in the world" I always feel I must ask whether they tried them all. Especially, when is women ;-)


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