Windows Dual Boot XO Laptop: Possible? Permissible? Desperate?

   
   
   
   
   

My opinion: No XP on the XO!
XP on the XO is not news, Microsoft announced it was trying to squeeze Windows onto the OLPC laptop in 2006, and talked about their progress late last year.

But the possibility of a dual boot is. And Nicholas Negroponte just told Dan Nystedt of IDG News Service that OLPC is working on a dual Windows/linux boot of the XO laptop:

"We are working with [Microsoft] very closely to make a dual-boot system so that, like on an Apple, you can boot either one up. The version that's up and running of Windows on the XO is very fast, it's very, very successful. We're working very hard to do both," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC.
But is it possible? In the comments of another post, Winter, a frequent OLPC News contributor has this to say:
There is no room in the current XO for two OS's. It is that simple. To deliver dual boot laptops, they would need up to 8GB storage. But that would be a complete waste of storage space. Furthermore, for a lot of the technology, there is no Microsoft counterpart.

Therefore, I guessed that MS would use the SD slot to plug in a bootable card. Moreover, they could use Linux virtualization to run their OS (XP crippled or CE) on top of Linux. Virtualization would give MS access to the Linux drivers for the alien hardware.

But this is really complete guesswork.

olpc windows
And more that the possibility, how is it possible that Negroponte can keep flirting with Microsoft for a Windows OS XO laptop? Isn't that degrading the efforts of his gifted Sugar developers? Doesn't that negate the Constructionist basis of OLPC's educational thrust? And wouldn't a proprietary system invalidate the core Open Source principals of OLPC?

Or maybe an XP XO is about more than education. Maybe its about selling XO laptops:

OLPC is also working with Microsoft and possibly the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on combining OLPC laptops with some of the educational programs run by Microsoft in developing countries.

"There is talk in that direction and it's directly with Bill and [Microsoft chief research and strategy officer] Craig Mundie, especially this morning, so this is really cooking at the moment," Negroponte said.

So is this where we're at Nicholas? Would you put XP on the XO just to get to your mythical millions of laptops? Are you that desperate?

Other SD Card links:

Update: Seems this announcement was a Negropontism - an announcement of technology achievement proven to be fantasy. Microsoft is not working on a dual boot XP for the XO - they want the whole boot (and a leg and an arm too).

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33 Comments

"So is this where we're at Nicholas? Would you put XP on the XO just to get to your mythical millions of laptops? Are you that desperate?"

Yes? But the OLPC is also committed to be an open platform. Everybody can load whatever they want onto the XO. If the customer wants XP, they can load it (if available). If they want OSX or DOS, they can load it.

But PJ of Groklaw had the following reasoning: http://tinyurl.com/2s4hc4

"And some governments are telling him that unless the laptops have Windows, they are not interested.Yes, it's stupid, but that is what they, some of them, are saying, that they want the kids to learn marketable skills, and because they are not aware that Linux
is going to win, they think it means Windows."

And that sums it up quite nicely. I do remember the same argument used to prevent schools from buying Macs in the eighties: "DOS is the future, our children must learn it". And it worked, the children learned DOS instead of MacOS.

Winter

Wayan,

With no meaningful sales in the horizon, what else can he do?

There are very good reasons to have Windows on an education laptop, and those reasons have nothing to do with "marketable skills" that will be obsolete by the time they enter the work place. There are plenty of suppliers of educational software for Windows, and a definite lack of educational software for Linux. Selling a government a computer that does not meet their curricular requirements is going to be a non-starter in most cases.

The talk about crippled versions of Windows is sheer nonsense. I have seen products that claim to reduce Windows XP to 350 MB (XPLite). It does this by removing components that the end user does not need. Removing an unused feature does not constitute crippling a product. Many enterprise features are not needed on the OLPC. Many multimedia features would not run properly on the OLPC. Some features are just there for the purposes of marketing. Other features can be replaced by light-weight alternatives. With a secure software distribution model, you can even disable many of the security mechanisms.

Do I think that Windows is a good idea on the OLPC? Heck no. But that is just an unabashed open source advocate of 12 years speaking. Do I think that the governments may be right in considering more practical alternatives? Alas, I have to say yes.

Since Apple was mentioned, how about OSX? It's already Unix based. A lot of people use it. It's intuitive. Just my 2 cents.

"The talk about crippled versions of Windows is sheer nonsense."

Sorry, but the $3 version of XP is REALLY crippled. By intention, not by necessity.

Winter

Sugar and it's Fedora core are less than 300 mb. And windows was always intending to run via SD card. So yes, the XO has room for to OS'.

One of the ways to update gives you two versions of the OS to switch back and forth between via a game pad button.

Jordan wrote:

"There are plenty of suppliers of educational software for Windows, and a definite lack of educational software for Linux. Selling a government a computer that does not meet their curricular requirements is going to be a non-starter in most cases."

Well said, Jordan. That's the crux of the problem.

""There are plenty of suppliers of educational software for Windows, and a definite lack of educational software for Linux. Selling a government a computer that does not meet their curricular requirements is going to be a non-starter in most cases."

Well said, Jordan. That's the crux of the problem."

With current prices, that would the $2000 laptop.

Winter

"Selling a government a computer that does not meet their curricular requirements is going to be a non-starter in most cases."

Selling a curriculum and computer for high school kids that cannot read because they lack elementary education might not be a easy task too. See the Nepalese case:
http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nepal/one_laptop_per_nepali_child.html

And being held responsible for any harm that affects the children because of pseudo-security neither.

Winter

The OLPC project is a unique chance to educate children (plus teachers and parents) about free software, using free software. The skills learned using free software are far more valuable than pseudo-skills learned when using Windows (to fight viruses, spywares and adwares). Many educational software for Windows can run on Gnu/Linux using Wine, so there's no need to install Windows. It's always possible to run a more conventional desktop environment than Sugar (like XFCE). The SD card could be used to complement the existing XO OS using a stackable file system. The different OLPC communities will hack their own solutions, building a rich collection of configurations for the XO. Windows on the XO is a non-issue.

I honestly think that the majority of the effort along the lines of alternative OS access should be simply making a standard VNC client for Sugar. That opens up the door to Windows or Mac OS X or anything else without a huge footprint on the XO itself. That allows the corporations to focus on selling a standard server that is probably already in their lineup rather than supporting tons of cheap laptops. Isn't this exactly the situation that a thin client approach would serve best?

"Nicholas Negroponte just told Dan Nystedt of IDG News Service that OLPC is working on a dual Windows/linux boot of the XO laptop"

Is that really what Negroponte just said, recently? The Computerworld article is actually from 2006. Look at the bottom of the page:

"Reprinted with permission from [IDG.NET]
Story copyright 2006 International Data Group. All rights reserved."

Seems like nothing to get worked up over, this is old news being presented as something new.

Sean, This is very much a story from today. Note that big, bold date at the top: "January 09, 2008"

Yes old news indeed. I remember hearing about this in '06. I also remember seeing a speech where NN talked to a question regarding this. A man stood up and told NN he remembered hearing about windows being made for the XO, and if done would it violate the ideals of OLPC due to it not being open source. NN responded by saying that while it is true that MS has been developing a version of Windows XP for the XO it would not violate anything OLPC stood for, in fact it went right along with their ideals. Any open platform must allow anyone who wants to, to develop for it. Also he said that OLPC will not be shipping it with XO at any time, however if MS wishes to distribute it, they can talk to the governments and sell or give it to them.

No No say it isn't sooo!

He should offer to supply trainers to big purchases before he sells out to the Microsoft Monster!

(Jordan hates himself for defending Windows, but ...)

The use of Windows does not exclude the use of open source software. Core components of the system will be closed source, such as the kernel and most of the libraries, but those components are not necessary to a constructionist model of education.

The important components are the educational applications themselves. At a trivial level, you may have programs like Fathom or Geometer's Sketchpad that allow for a wide range of constructivist activities. At a deeper level, you can still have activities that are developed in Python or Smalltalk. These activities would allow for a more constructionist philosophy since the source code to the programs themselves would still be available.

Indeed, since a lot of the core open source utilities are available in the Windows world, you can still use open source software on a Windows OLPC to reduce the complications of cost and licensing. At the same time, you can license commercial software when you feel that it is needed. (Indeed, the province of Ontario has quite generous province-wide site licenses for some software.)

The opposite direction, running commercial software on Linux, isn't much of an option. To begin, there isn't much. Platforms like Wine won't solve the problem either. Some software just won't work. In other cases, the software will appear to work fine but it hasn't been thoroughly tested. And if a problem does pop up, it would be promptly based upon Wine/Linux so you could not get support. Most teachers are busy people and they don't want to muddle around with potentially problematic software.

I also dislike these accusations that Windows would only allow kids to learn about anti-virus, anti-malware, and other administrative functions. First of all, there are some very simple precautions that can be taken to reduce the potential of this being a problem. The second reason is that Linux is not less vulnerable to many attack vectors (simply put: malware can still infect a user account, virii can still propagate via a user account).

As for Winter's comment about Windows being crippled: sorry, I think that I know what you're talking about and forgot about it. (The edition made for the developing world, that was deliberately crippled to run a maximum of three simultaneous processes or something.) It that's what the OLPC received, it would be mean-spirited of Microsoft. On the other hand, it may not be a big issue anyway. I don't think that I would want to work in a classroom environment where a student could be on Chat one second, then flip to the designated activity when I walk by. Kids are quite clever, and would figure out the "boss key" quite quickly. Then there is the factor of the OLPC only being able to run a limited number of activities anyway, due to memory constraints. While the software is lean by modern software, I would be hard-pressed to describe it as lean by OLPC standard.

@Marc
You're about half right. The goal should be to educate - period. If you're a kid in the 3rd world with a XO that last thing you will be wondering is whether the code is open-source. If Windows is the most effective tool for the job then use it. This project is about helping people, not institutional masturbation.

@Marc
You're about half right. The goal should be to educate - period. If you're a kid in the 3rd world with a XO that last thing you will be wondering is whether the code is open-source. If Windows is the most effective tool for the job then use it. This project is about helping people, not institutional masturbation.

OLPC is an educational initiative.
It isn't trying to proselytize followers of a certain OS.
It isn't trying to proselytize followers of a certain religion.
It isn't trying to proselytize followers of a certain political system.

Potental OLPC customers include dictatorial theocratic goverments who think real computers run windows. Those governments will demand Windows, internet filters and censored content. Why would OLPC deny children in countries ruled by such governments the educational benefits of the XO-1?

It's an educational initiative, not a missionary movement.
--Dave.

How interesting is THIS article: http://www.efluxmedia.com/news_Intel_and_OLPC_To_Make_Up_12631.html

It's entitled "Intel and OLPC to Make Up?" Gee, maybe this talk of Windows on the XO has made Intel re-think its strategy. After all, what if the XO with XP sells a ton of laptops... which all have non-Intel chips in them? Intel wouldn't want THAT, now, would they?

Maybe this is the way to play the two big monopolies against each other -- make them worry that OLPC will sell a bunch of machines bearing either a Windows OS and the competitor's chips, or a competing OS and Intel's chips.

After all, if there's a version of Windows that runs on the XO, Intel won't be able to promote the Classmate by saying, "Our laptop runs a 'real' OS and the XO runs a toy OS". If the XO has Intel chips, Microsoft won't be able to accuse the XO of being a wimpy device that couldn't handle Windows even if it wanted to.

Now, the trick will be that OLPC has to be calling the shots and insist that the end result, a device with Microsoft and/or Intel products on board, has to maintain the goal of being in a particular price range and meet specific low-power-usage requirements. "No, you can't make our device more expensive -- go back to the drawing board. No, you can't drive up the power consumption on our device -- redesign your product to make it fit OUR needs, not the other way around."

In an ideal world (yeah, I know -- you could drive a truck between an "ideal world" and the way this world actually is), that scenario would finish as a win/win proposition for OLPC and for its users.

I'm waiting for someone to put the mobile Mac OS on an SD card. That way I could tri-boot the XO. How sweet would that be?

Dual booting Linux and XP? Ok, but what is going to happen when Microsoft stops supporting XP? Are they going to try to dual boot Vista, and would that even be possible?

The OLPC project is about providing tools and educational content, but the way to achieve this goal is also part of the educational project. So far, the choices made by the OLPC team clearly indicate that Windows is not part of the plan. I believe this is for empowering reasons; enslaving poor children and developing countries to M$ and its market of non-free and pirated software would be counterproductive. Running Gnu/Linux (or some other free OS) would quickly appear as a better choice, and that might be the reason why it was favored in the first place.

It might be possible to run Windows on an XO... It's a PC! But technically speaking, Windows has yet to prove that it's a better solution for the XO. The Classmate with Windows is inferior to the XO with Gnu/Linux because it requires much more resources. I wonder why people promoting Windows on the XO, in a techno-agnostic way, are insisting so much on the educational mission of OLPC; it is to mask the fact that the ClassMate is a desesperate Wintel colonisation effort, because Windows can't (yet) run well enough on the frugal XO? Is it because they're afraid that children of the world might learn something they don't know? Something better?

Of course it will be possible to triple-boot the XO, and I hope people will hack it in any possible way, including installing and running Windows. Because like most of us, some XO users might be forced to use Windows once in a while. Developing Windows survival skills was important, in my situation, in Canada, but I would *never* promote Windows for any educational mission (other than to "beat the system"). There's enough free software available to exists without Windows, and that's as important as providing computers.

The problem with Linux on the OLPC has nothing to do with Linux. It is a great operating system that can handle a multitude of software. The problem is that computer in education extend beyond learning how to use an operating system, application software, or even programming. Computers can be used to teach mathematics, science, art, music, history, and so forth. None of that stuff depends upon the underlying operating system. What it does depend upon is the supporting software.

I would like to be able to say that open source developers will rise to the occasion and produce excellent applications that will serve any part of the curriculum. Alas, I cannot -- even though people have been touting Linux in education for years. There are a few nice activities for Squeak. There is a nice clone of Geometer's Sketchpad, and there are a few skill and drill programs out there. To my knowledge, none of the above (except Squeak) include curricular resources to help out the teacher.

I also lack some confidence that the Python code in the system will be accessible to kids. As one of my friends asked me, during my futile attempts to write Sugar based activities: "are you writing code in a way that a kid can understand?" He also commented that most of the developers that he saw at a game jam were more interested in getting stuff working, rather than making it clear. As it stands, the development environment is far from complete, so kids pretty much have to pull up vi or pico in a terminal. There is nothing wrong with that, except that the Sugar code is poorly documented and you have to trace through a lot of code just to figure out what's going on. A proper IDE would help that. (I'm sorry, but Pippy doesn't count here.) All of this kinda diminishes, but doesn't eliminate, the benefits of open source in constuctivist education.

I just wrote this comment in response to the next thread:

'OLPC never had any solid implementation plan. This is because the folks who are at the helm of the OLPC project neither lived in the developing/poor world nor understood how education is delivered there. The solution was merely a theoretical one'.

I sensed lack of foresight/vision among the OLPC leaders from the beginning. Don't get me wrong, I have always been a hard-nosed supporter of the OLPC project. But I questioned the way/or lack of any implementation plan on their part from the beginning. OLPC was too focused on selling A 100 BUCKS TOOL to government officials!!!! That's a non-starter, talk to teachers and parents and not governments, least of all to the government of 3rd world countries, many of whom are extremely corrupt. Who cares if it is 120 bucks or even 150bucks if you have a solid plan to make thing happen on the ground. It's better that 50,000 kids learn something rather than 500,000 kids learn nothing. The real invention would be to get these great tools do what they are intended to be in the first place, EDUCATIONAL, and that means a solid implementation plan.

I see one problem of having a Windows OS on XO. The kids using Windows would always be subservient to Microsoft for new programs while the kids using Linux, as half-complete and buggy it may be now, would have a million choice for free and from different sources.

@Marc
You like Open Source software, good for you! Unfortunately you seem to be seeing the kids as 50,000 potential Linux users rather then 50,000 people in need of a little help.

@Simon : I like Free Software, it's different. I don't care about Open Source. Unfortunately, promoters of Windows on the XO are seeing 50,000 children as potential Windows users, because they think that computer literacy is about Windows, so they would like all XO users to think and act like them. I see those children as users of software they're allowed to use, share and modify, something that the M$ fueled econo-piracy system will never offer. The little help you're talking about is called Sugar. The XO is not only a replacement for paper books, it's actually a real computer. BTW, the OLPC project is not for 50,000 children, but for at least 1000 times this number. At this scale, software copyright is important.

@Jordan : The Python code used to create activities is not meant to be understandable by all children using ativities. But some XO users will become programmers by learning how to program their own computer.

It seems I was right, no dual boot:

"Microsoft denies dual-boot Linux/Windows XO laptops are on its agenda"
http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1096

“While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop."

“In addition, there will be limited field trials in January 2008 of Windows XP for One Laptop per Child’s XO laptop."

So, indeed NO dual boot, only MS Windows is allowed. Actually, I still think they mean they will supply bootable XP SD cards. You cannot "wipe" an XO as it has a restore button that resets the system in it's initial state.

And I also think the 256MB/1GB of RAM/Flash in the XO prevents running much "educational" useful programs in a light version of the $3 XP crippled distribution. The point is not that MS cannot get an embedded version of XP running (they should be able to), but that ALL standard XP software is useless in such a small footprint.

Contrary what most people seem to think, it wasn't so much the sugar interface that was difficult, but reducing the footprint of all application programs to fit the Geode and RAM/Flash limitations.

Now Negroponte's play might be more intricate than I thought. One of the big peeves against MS in some anti-trust actions was their insistence on forbidding OEMs to construct dual boot machines. If they try this again against the OLPC, they might find themselves again in front of the EU commisioner. Obviously an experience they want to repeat ;-)

Winter

I say, let just wait for the $75 Laptop. It's bound to be much better at 1/3 the price:

http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2008/01/10/a-cheaper-olpc-yes-says-former-olpc-cto/

Irvin wrote:
"I say, let just wait for the $75 Laptop. It's bound to be much better at 1/3 the price:"

But that has been your message all the time. Wait, wait, never buy.

Everything to make sure the OLPC goes out of bussiness.

And I already knew you don't care about the education for the children. Just burn Negroponte at the stake and anyone who helps him, isn't it?

Winter

Winter wrote:

"But that has been your message all the time. Wait, wait, never buy. Everything to make sure the OLPC goes out of bussiness.
And I already knew you don't care about the education for the children"


You're in the minority here, Winter.

Rich and poor countries are doing the smart thing: waiting until there is clear evidence that buying a laptop is the best way to invest in elementary school kids' education. There might be better ways, like hiring or training more teachers; fixing, building or expanding schools; acquiring school supplies, etc. Perhaps a laptop (any laptop) is the best way. Nobody knows at this point, so the best strategy is to wait a bit until we have evidence that laptops in the hands of 6-12 year-old kids can make a significant impact in their education.

Relax. It's not like the world will come to an end if we don't put a computer in every kid's lap within the next year, you know...

Irvin wrote:
"There might be better ways, like hiring or training more teachers; fixing, building or expanding schools; acquiring school supplies, etc."

Actually, they are doing what they did before, nothing.

As I said, you are willing to write about everything, except about how to actually improving the education of these children. You don't care about what could be done (at least you never showed any) but you DO care about preventing others from helping.

The Germans have an excelent quote for you:
"Ein Geist der verneint"

(I honnestly have no clue how this can be translated in any other language in a way that keeps the message)

Winter

The eeePC has demonstrated that a laptop would sell fast if people can play freely with its OS.

Windows is the latecomer here and I guess it can't prevent Linux from being bundled on the machine, given the current OLPC organization, that is.

To bundle Windows only, you will need a different organization. OLPC America is now created. Expect the unexpected.

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