Windows XP Not Good for OLPC Peru

   
   
   
   
   

As reported by Gizmodo, Microsoft and OLPC just announced the first official pilot of XO laptops running Microsoft Windows.

I am Lionel Laské, President and co-founder of OLPC France and to be honest it's not really a surprise. We hear from months that the agreement between OLPC and Microsoft will be a good way to win new country deployment. Remind you the Negroponte talk about Egypt:

olpc windows xo
It runs Windows XP, unfortunately
"When I went to Egypt for the first time, I met separately with the minister of communications, minister of education, minister of science and technology, and the prime minister, and each one of them, within the first three sentences, said, 'Can you run Windows?'" Negroponte says.
Let's say also that my feeling is that lot of volunteers waited for a long time a new major announcement for XOs deployment. Each new deployment is a new reason to believe is this wonderful project and we miss of this.

The drawback is that, of course, each news on "Windows on the XO" is very sensitive in the OLPC community. Just remind you the resign of Walter Bender and the fact that most OLPC volunteers come from the open source communities and you know what I mean.

By the way OLPC means "One Laptop Per Child" so we should be happy that new children could have the opportunity to have a laptop, including on Windows XP. So the Peru announcement seems to be a good way both to have a new deployment, to give more XOs to children and to confirm the vision of Nicholas Negroponte.

Unfortunately the reality is different: Peru is not at all a new OLPC deployment. According to the OLPC Wiki Peru agreed for 10,000 XO in 2007 and for 81,000 XO in 2008. So Peru children currently using XO on Sugar. As a result: this announcement means that the number or XOs will not increase.

olpc subsidized sales
Pointing to the learning-focused OS

It means also that only a part of the 91,000 XO in Peru will be used with Sugar. It sounds like a way to say "Finally Sugar is not so good". The Gizmodo article talk about "Sugar to XP transition"...

This announcement also add confusion just before the G1G1 2008. If you're an OLPC News reader, you know that there is already lot of confused things about the G1G1: price, date, dual-boot or not, countries, … which force OLPC foundation to publish a specific press news.

My feeling is that each time there is a confusion there is a risk to lose a XO buyer. And each new XO is very important because each new XO give us the promise to decrease the XO price from some cents. When the "100$ laptop project" is a "188$ laptop project", others laptops hit the 100$ target today: see the Minimote announcement, a laptop for only 98$.

My feeling is also that each time there is a confusion there is a risk to lose an OLPC volunteer because each announcement on Windows hurt Sugar volunteers. And each volunteer is very important to give support and help to the coming new XO users.

It's why I'm afraid that this announcement is not really a good news.

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31 Comments

No, Sugar is not so good. It demos well but, in real life, it's darned near unusable.

Will XP be an improvement? Dunno, but seeing as OLPC has yet to ship the features they promised for Feb, if XP barely runs at all -- with sleep and wakeup -- it could hardly be worse!

If it is an education project, then we should treat it as such. Articles like this, which only discussed supposed rather than actual harm, contribute nothing to the goal and only serve to create divisions within the community.

Sb says "No, Sugar is not so good. It demos well but, in real life, it's darned near unusable."

Please elaborate! I've been exclusively using my XO with Sugar for days while traveling and found it to be a perfectly adequate solution, no worse or better than any other Linux or Windows solution that I've used to date. In fact I often find myself waking up in the middle of the night wishing that my Windows XP laptop would handle susped as well as my Sugar-based XO...

BTW, if your reply happens to be between 300 and 600 words then please send it to editors [AT] olpcnews.com and we'll review it for publication on the frontpage.

Jordan, with all due respect, if the guy who founded OLPC France and worked hundreds of hours in his spare time to make things happen in the context of OLPC raises his concern regarding certain developments then I see no possible way of how this could harm the community. The one thing that the OLPC community has suffered most from is promises which weren't kept and issues that were dealth with or communicated badly. In the past 18 months of being a part of this community I've never seen a well argumented point of view be an obstacle, quite the opposite in the fact.

Walter Bender says don't worry, it's only a pilot.

http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/community-news/2008-September/000020.html

Eduardo,

Didn't Intel once say that OLPC itself was only a pilot? And regardless of its size, does this sound like learning learning to you?

"Kids and their teachers in the country will use the laptops as part of efforts to introduce more technology into classrooms in Peru, including Microsoft's Student Innovation Suite of software, which includes Microsoft Office 2003 as well as Learning Essentials 1.0 for Microsoft Office. "

http://www.itworld.com/tech-amp-society/55072/peru-be-first-new-olpc-laptop-windows

It's just the same: our Ministry is completely committed to Negroponte's vision, including the hardware, and whatever software it may include. It is a pretty inconsistent decision, since the reason advanced to the general public was that the software will change education for good, allowing for teachers and students to become better. Now it's back to the old-style model of "productivity software". Our policy makers are completely aligned to Negroponte's perspective, and if he decides that the XOs should run Amiga software or a Cray simulator, we'll follow him.

I really wish everyone who has emotional ties with OLPC will get off this educational messiah complex.

I am not a fan of Windows at all. But you can't neglect the fact that just about everyone in the world uses it for their workforce.

If you are selling this program to gov't as an educational program, why would they invest into something that is seemingly not possible to translate to real life work skills?

Well.... I bought a XO for my son (8.5yrs). He's very proficient with computers, but the XO with Sugar is really not ready to use. Especially the Journal thing, with its long list of files it's extremely bad; to the point that he prefers to use the terminal to manage his files!! Many times I have been thinking about installing a normal lightweight linux version, but there are many nice applications that I wouldn't want to loose. It's a pity that all the effort that people do in making nice applications for the XO isd so terribly crippled by sugar (just try to send by e-mail a picture you did with Tux). I remember for example when he did the pippy tutorial part 1. Once he finished, we saw that there were two more parts available to download. But we were unable to install them! I'm now 36 and I've been using and programming computers since I was 11. Sugar is one of the worst operating systems I have ever seen. Why don't just installing a normal linux on the XOs? Loading Sugar in the XOs is what makes them a toy computer (unless someone thinks that the peruvian kids will keep using Sugar when they'll grow up...). Now, because of Sugar, people will move to Windows, and I can't blame them...

Sugar is acceptable if you don't want to use your laptop for any complex work and the programs shipped with it are good enough for you. New Sugar releases are getting stable and fast enough for reading simple PDF ebooks and write simple texts...etc.

If you want a highly configurable environment with more powerful apps, you have a problem. Sugar is generally limited as a desktop environment and it is not too easy to install and use apps under Sugar (every program needs a Sugar wrapper for example). If your app has a Sugar wrapper which actually works (like Opera), than you are lucky. If not, you can forget it, unless you are a programmer and have a lot of free time to write it. In a case like this a well configured XFCE environment will likely work for you since GTK apps can be easily installed into this environment.

I hear, the second G1G1 will ship with Sugar AND a configured & working XFCE desktop and the user will be able to switch between them easily. This will be a HUGE step forward in the usability of the default OS.

Jmaes C.: mine "real job" skills has grown from associative thinking, not by using confusing Windows. That is actually what OLPC wanted to avoid.

And in fact, it is too much ado about nothing. Yes, it is pilot, yes, Sugar is not perfect, yes, part of them will be Windows machines. But in long scale Sugar moves forward rapidly (please check out LiveCDs as evidence), and I wish all success to that project.

About apologists - I am sad about you. You don't have courage to *really* change the world. Simply as that. No offense.

@Peteris Krisjanis: I'm sad about people that feel sadness about others. They feel superior over the others. if people don't think like you, they don't have courage.

You know what? people that created XFCE or enlightenment, linux... changed the world, they tried and they got something, not what they wanted, but they tried, and they contributed to making the world a little better place.

What we have today is what has worked, it that possible to make it better? Yes, but is DIFFICULT(to say "no folders" they are not useful, is not a smart thing to do)

Some day someone tried to change the world again and do something perfect, 8 hours battery life, outdoors mode, new desktop environment, new apps, they tried to reinvent the wheel and they only partly succeeded (promised mass scale is not here, witch means price is not here). This is great,and I thank they all, but IMHO is a big error to make another GUI for your apps and I'm not the only one, is like programming in assembler, you need to remake all your program for the new platform.

I believe OLPC would do best stopping the development of Sugar's desktop environment completely and start porting all of their applications to plain GTK.

All of the collaborative applications should run on a simple XFCE install.

Naturally, the Control Panel should be ported as well. Ideally not as a monolith, but each settings group as a separate applet. It would be best if you could add them to the XFCE or Gnome taskbar.

This way, any Linux flavor could be used to build a powerful distro for the XO.

I've already commented on the MS announcement (walterbender.org/?p=50). I do want to finally set the record straight regarding the often referenced Negroponte quote regarding Egypt. There is another part of the story that doesn't get told. I too met with a minster from Egypt, specifically the finance minster. And he asked about Windows. But it only took 30 minutes of discussion to convince him that FOSS represented a great economic opportunity for his country. The world is beginning to wake up to the fact that there is more than one way.

The latest version of sugar is great.

If olpc has XP I could care less. I just hope they have more WINDOWS support people lined up to sport WINDOWS. Yes I own a one (the lean green Machine - with the latest power management works great).

Windows is not easy to use. Windows requires alot of drivers.... Not sure if it will work well with 256mb of memory. Windows is a resource HOG. It needs more memory, space to store programs and so on. And yes, I have used every version of Windows since 1.0. I also just rebuilt a desktop pc for a friend. And it tooks hours because I did not have the drivers. Virus no, Adware no, hijack hit and had to rebuild the master boot record. And then reinstall all software for WINDOWS to work.

I have XP on my desktop, but only use it ever so often for my old palm pilot to back up to. I use linux every day. AND have been doing it for the past 8 years and will not go back to WINDOWS.

If you take a look at some of the newer releases (I'm using Stable build 711) the stability is impressive. The suspend/resume feature is the fastest I've seen. One press of the power button or closing the XO will suspend it in under two seconds. It comes back to life equally fast.

Another impressive thing is that while the XO stays suspended, the mesh continues to work! In the past, there was a lot of noise about "promised" features, but now many of those and much more is becoming real.

Every primary school or kindergarten teacher I've talked to is very impressed with the thinking behind Sugar. They instantly realize the importance of having a different approach to child learning. In the long run, if Sugar has deficiencies, we can help change those. We can modify things based on what we see in the field. With solutions like Windows XP + MS Office, its what "they" think is best for you. Its more vocational, than educational.

Also, isn't Windows XP kinda old now?

As for me, I'll be happy to port StarChart to Microsoft Visual C++ / Foundation Class so it will run under XP. (Just as soon as I finish the darned thing as a Sugar activity in Python.) In real life, that's the environment I get paid to write code for.

But I'll continue to run Sugar / linux on my own XO, thank you. It does what I need with no fuss, viruses or DRM to worry about.

Is the point of giving every child a laptop to use the computer as a teaching aid for general instruction, or to teach them about computers? If the former, then XO/Sugar should be judged on its merits as an educational platform in its own right, not by its ability to perform ordinary business/productivity/networking tasks. If the latter, then consider this:

When I was in school, the de-facto standard in computing was DOS 5 with Wordperfect / Quattro Pro. By the time I hit the workforce, the standard was Windows XP and MS Office XP. What will the de-facto standard be when these kids hit the workforce in 5-15 years? Will it still be Microsoft? Even if it is, will Microsoft products still look and act like Windows XP and Office 2003 (easy answer: they don't even now)?

Alan wrote:
"When I was in school, the de-facto standard in computing was DOS 5 with Wordperfect / Quattro Pro."

I've got a few years on you then. When I was in school, the de-facto standard in computing was a slide rule. By the time I got my BSEE it was the HP-35 calculator. The first PC I owned came from a large bag of parts and my own circuit design.

I live in a country in Africa, whose government has made available heavily subsidized education for children from less affluent communities. Currently, the Education Ministry is working to make learning e-available; I believe there is not much more that a mature OLPC process needs, to create a local chapter. The long-standing confusion the OLPC project has discourages lobbying for inclusion in our government projects. OLPC has been rejected elsewhere, it is sad no remedial measures seem in sight.

I don't understand how installing Windows XP the OLPC laptops as opposed to Linux will make children better prepared for the future. It was only since I started using Linux that I got more acquainted with how a PC works go beyond "clicking buttons". Besides, you would have to buy every application that needed to be installed in the laptop as opposed to using the many available for free that are open source.

It is pretty sad to let politicians to decide about technological and educational matters. I really don't think that children using Linux will have any problem in using windows software in the future if windows is still the dominant OS (as it seems from newest web-office-applications it probably won't). I think exposing children to open source (so they can learn while playing with it - even modifying code who knows!) would empower them and perhaps strengthen the IT culture and IT industry in their own countries.

> Not sure if it will work well with 256mb of memory. Windows is a resource HOG.

Windows does work with 256MB of memory fine.

> It needs more memory, space to store programs and so on.

Compared to what? Do you know that Sugar's Calculator for example uses more than 10MB of memory. A simple calculator and 10MB of memory. And it was supposed to be written for a low-power computer! Something is wrong with Sugar's archtecture.

> I don't understand how installing Windows XP the OLPC laptops as opposed to Linux will make children better prepared for the future.

Vice versa.

> Besides, you would have to buy every application that needed to be installed in the laptop as opposed to using the many available for free that are open source.

This is totally false.

I do like to see a flexible, open environment where kids can dig into as deep as they like on XO, but none of the solutions we can use today provides that.

Sameer Verma's comment on getting to work porting apps is what gets me worried. Most OLPC time is volunteer time and it would be a tragedy wasting that trying to organise cross-platform software.

What happens when someone using a Linux XO develops something awesome, packages it up, puts it online and someone using a Windows XO wants to download it? What happens if someone develops a great app for the Windows based machines? After all the work that has gone into this project so far, i see compatibility issues as something we really need to avoid.

David Wallace's comments are instructive and anyone new to the project should take note: OLPC XO's aren't for "learning how to use Office" or any other productivity software. A few people above are worried that they're having trouble using Sugar for every day work -- that's exactly the point?! You're not a kid, and you already know how to use a computer.

"When I was in school, the de-facto standard in computing was DOS 5 with Wordperfect / Quattro Pro. By the time I hit the workforce, the standard was Windows XP and MS Office XP. What will the de-facto standard be when these kids hit the workforce in 5-15 years? Will it still be Microsoft? Even if it is, will Microsoft products still look and act like Windows XP and Office 2003 (easy answer: they don't even now)?"

I agree, and since we're moving towards a software environment where content is streamed via broadband, where kids can load applications into their browser, where the browser becomes more of a "shell" or a "container" for your computer's activities, we will have easy access to relevant commercial software (hopefully) irrespective of the local OS. So Windows or not, the emphasis has to be on stability, speed and compatibility.

If Microsoft can provide that, then fine! But the philosophy of FOSS appears to sit much better with the OLPC project, sits better with the people who have already put the effort in, and clearly supports OLPC's goals without adding another layer of cost and compatibility issues.

How quickly we forget; Gates himself derided OLPC. Didn't want to be included until he saw it started to be successful. Then started whining why MS wasn't included. Intel was in until it saw none of their cpu's were as capable as the amd running on the xo and wouldn't be able to build one either. The proof is in the action these monopolies take, not in the sorry-ass excuses they spew afterward.

Just one sugar volunteer has more time and resources committed to the project than ms or intel.

BTW, how much has the gates foundation contributed to the project as compared to how much investment in media companies and lobbying.

@Yoshiki:
"> Not sure if it will work well with 256mb of memory. Windows is a resource HOG.

Windows does work with 256MB of memory fine.

> It needs more memory, space to store programs and so on.

Compared to what? Do you know that Sugar's Calculator for example uses more than 10MB of memory. A simple calculator and 10MB of memory. And it was supposed to be written for a low-power computer! Something is wrong with Sugar's archtecture."

Let the market decide!

I can get an Acer Aspire one with Linux, 512MB 533MHz DDR2 RAM and 8GB SSD for 300 Euros. An Acer Aspire one with XP Home version includes 1GB of memory and a 120GB HD for 400 Euros.

So if XP is NOT a resource hog, why can I not get the cheaper machine with XP, but is XP only sold with twice the RAM and 15 times the "disk" space?

Winter

@Winter. Your logic is a bit flawed. You cannot draw any technical conclusions solely by what a company offers for sale. I have an EeePC 701 4G that has WinXP Pro installed. It is a full XP install, SP3, plus full install of Office 2003 Pro, Firefox, antivirus, and a few key organizer tools all in 1.6GB of diskspace. The default 512MB RAM is adequate for basic usage.

I have a highly tweaked version of XP, office, antivirus, and apps that takes up about 700MB of diskspace.

Having said that, I'm honestly disappointed in the approach that Microsoft decided to take. They bullied OLPC to make changes to the hardware simply because they could... NOT because of any real requirement for supporting XP. I still believe that an optimized XP on XO can be of benefit to a certain segment of the OLPC target audience.

However, I AM very excited by the news that I'm hearing about Update.2 of Sugar/activities.

> So if XP is NOT a resource hog, why can I not get the cheaper machine with XP, but is XP only sold with twice the RAM and 15 times the "disk" space?

You know the answer. Same reason as the average gas milage of cars sold is always declining.

I had played with the XP running on XO and took some benchmarks, BTW.

@sracer & Yoshiki:

Thanks, that is what I wanted to know. Because we hear a lot of rubish, but little real experience. So you think that it is Acer (MS?) who refuses to sell the small machines with XP?

Maybe it is superfluous to say that I have only had bad experiences with XP, but that is more caused by my eclectic use of computers.

Another question is how XP treats SSD memory? I see windows only used on SSD where the wear leveling is done in hardware. I am curious how it handles its own wear leveling.

Winter

"Another question is how XP treats SSD memory? I see windows only used on SSD where the wear leveling is done in hardware. I am curious how it handles its own wear leveling."

It doesn't. Windows only supports FAT, ISO9660 and NTFS natively, and all third-party attempts to add other filesystems support resulted in unstable shit that didn't get anywhere close to production quality, leave alone getting integrated to support boot device. Same applies to partition management and booloders. As I have mentioned before, Windows is a truly outstanding engineering failure. I have no idea how people who learned computer technology on it can see computers and software as anything other than disgusting filth -- this is my primary objection to letting it anywhere close to education.

@Teapot:
"It doesn't. Windows only supports FAT, ISO9660 and NTFS natively, and all third-party attempts to add other filesystems support resulted in unstable shit that didn't get anywhere close to production quality, leave alone getting integrated to support boot device."

But then XP cannot run off a straight SSD card, eg, the XO, without breaking it quite fast.

I do know that someone somewhere produced a SSD version of one of the filesystems. But I have no idea anymore who and where.

Winter

I feel like nothing has changed. The discussion here is still about specific technical issues instead of focusing on the bigger things at stake: the decision in Peru marks a break with the old model of OLPC as an educational tool to change the world, into a simple tool for teaching computer skills. In Peru, this change has not been really discussed since the initial discussion hadn't actually taken place, so a lot of people just feel that a computer, whichever it may be, it's a good thing. Then again, if Sugar works as expected or not, or if Linux should be there, or if Windows is a resource hog, is pretty irrelevant: OLPC as an organization has decided to sell computers at whatever cost to the outcomes originally intended. I'm not a dreamer or a cheerleader for Sugar or OLPC; but the change in emphasis and intentions is pretty big and should be at least presented and justified to the general public and to specialists; nothing like that has happened, something usual in the secretive, opaque way our Educational officials have run OLPC since the very beginning.

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  • What is a shelf XO? If you tell me what did you buy and from whom, perhaps I will have a suggest …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • Voici mon message en franais...

    Bonjour,
    Je viens d'acheter 2 tablettes XO. Les d …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • OLPC is not death; eg. this One Laptop per Child San Francisco (OLPC-SF) June 21, 2014 Meeting a …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

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