Walter Bender Resigned from One Laptop Per Child!!

olpc walter bender
Seeking his own XO clarity

When I posted that Walter Bender is the former President of Software and Content for One Laptop Per Child, I thought he had just moved to Deployment. Now I've heard an even more shocking development:

Walter Bender resigned from OLPC!

Apparently, rumor has it that Nicholas Negroponte is close to abandoning Sugar and Linux in favor of Microsoft XP, to spur sales of the XO laptop. Negroponte thinks that many more laptops need to be sold and a partnership with Microsoft is the way to achieve that goal.

Walter Bender disagreed with this near-total abandonment of the original mission - constructionism as children learning learning to create life-long exploration and collaboration through open information and communication technologies. And so he walked away from OLPC the organization for one laptop per child, the global movement.

Personally, I think I'm going into shock for a bit. As I've made clear, I feel that XP on the XO is the end of OLPC as an education project. If OLPC falls to the Dark Side, I may just join Walter Bender in resignation.

Updated: Walter resigned around April 14th, according to his own staffing edits on the wiki. And we now have a statement from Walter Bender on his resignation from OLPC

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Is there any additional confirmation of this (Walter B. resigning) beyond the rumor that Wayan says he has heard?

(I trust you, Wayan, but don't want to prematurely spread a rumor of a rumor!)


I base Walter Bender's resignation on multiple trusted sources within the OLPC organization who confirmed his departure but opinioned on the reason. They also said OLPC was keeping the news quiet until they could figure out how to release it.

I expect we'll hear official word in the new OLPC manner - via a press interview with Nicholas Negroponte in the coming days.

Not to pour gasoline on the fire (since today is a holiday in Massachusetts), but the main OLPC Wiki page and the Community News page have not been updated as they usually are by Monday morning.

Could someone get Mr. Negroponte to issue a clear and unambiguous statement about XP on the XO.

Many people will go grab funding for developing for this new platform if XP is going on the XO. Many people will take volunteer time to fix and improve the state of Sugar interface if XP is not going on the XO. The current status is to drive people away from the OLPC project generally.

The cost of ambiguity is getting high.


Negroponte has said many times that XP should be on the XO and that OLPC should operate more like Microsoft. So much so, that I wonder if the new OLPC CEO will be a Microsoft executive:

another development project successfully subverted by the industry to 'boost sales'.

With MS as software vendor will introduce dependance instead of independance from external companies.

I am convinced that the move to Windows would be beneficial. Sugar right now is just buggy and using it means compromising many basic functions (clock anybody?), at least without hacking. OLPC just doesn't have the people power to make Sugar ready for prime time. With a Microsoft supported Windows version they give the OS and GUI part to somebody that has the necessary knowledge and people power to get a stable version running on the given hardware. This would free resources at OLPC and give them the chance to develop free open-source software for educational purposes, possibly keeping some elements of the Sugar GUI in these applications.
OLPC is good in creating application software oriented towards kids. Take Measure as an example, that is really good. But the OS and other basic apps like Browse and Write are just way to limited and will hinder the sales of their product, because buyers think ahead when the kids get older.
I am all for Windows and if that means that Walter Bender leaves, so let it be.

Yes Sugar is buggy, but why abandon the whole philosophy and go with the MS? There are many stable linux version out there that would continue to support the mission of the XO. Boo NN BOOOOOOO

GUAU !!!!

I think I'll join Wayan in shock. Time to rethink this whole thing!

Bastien, I disagree. While I'm not completely committed to Sugar, I think that Linux as the OS is absolutely required if for no other reason than it's being open and therefore ultimately within the control of the users. Microsoft and Apple both leave little doubt as to their priorities - and user freedom is not on that list. Of course, the children will delight when the experts and professionals at Microsoft deliver their 'Clippy' enabled collaboration suite.

How at the mercy of the official OLPC project is the OLPC XO hardware? Could some other group build them, or is the documentation required to do so proprietary?

the schematics, and at least some of the embedded firmware (the system controller and the wireless controller are the ones i know of) are not open.

as for this: "...I think that Linux as the OS is absolutely required if for no other reason than it's being open and therefore ultimately within the control of the users", i couldn't agree more. and when you picture "users", don't picture the kids. sure, they own the laptops, and will benefit from the openness, but the power of an open source model will mostly be felt by the teachers and curriculum designers and deployment managers, who will be able to customize releases in the field, based on local needs.

Paul, if the embedded firmware is closed how about the motherboard and the case?

Just how "open" is the XO?

How much of it could someone/some outfit, reverse-engineer and produce without running afoul of intellectual property law?

We all knew that changes were needed at OLPC, but seeing the departures of big names like Krstic and Bender were not the things that I personally had in mind. :o(

FWIW, I'm OS-neutral but only because I want to see actual education happen with these devices. I think that XOs are the best-designed hardware to send into these developing areas that the OLPC project originally targeted, and I would like to see these devices being deployed with educational content on them to the people who need them most.

I'm fascinated by Sugar, and I think it's a groundbreaking idea. But if it's not entirely ready for prime time, then maybe XOs with other options should be made available, starting with an alternate Linux version. And I'm not XP-phobic, certainly not to the point where I'd repudiate the idea of seeing ideally-designed-hardware being combined with an OS that ministries of education might be more apt to purchase so that laptop-based EDUCATION can happen.

I'm looking at it from this perspective: Ministries of Education can purchase non-XO laptops with XP or another Linux on them, and if the other laptops have hardware failures because they're not designed for harsh conditions, they're paperweights and no education is happening with those devices. If the Ministries of Education DON'T purchase XOs because they're leery of a completely unfamiliar OS, no education will be happening with THOSE devices either because they won't be getting deployed. This is a lose/lose scenario.

Getting XOs in place in the environments they were designed for, on the other hand, would be a WIN. I say this less for the XO's sake than because I think the robust XO stands the best chance of continuing to function regardless of sand, rain, heat, being dropped, and working outdoors in direct sunlight. So the XO continues working under conditions that would brick most other machines, and the kids continue using the device to learn. WIN. Not because it's XOs being sold, but because the laptop-based education is actually happening. And I still think that the EDUCATION is and should be the ultimate goal here, not the laptop or the OS on it.

BTW... if I had my druthers, OLPC would make a point of selling their devices commercially, not just to schools. Price it to subsidize the devices going to developing countries, maybe not to the extent of G1G1 where buyers paid the price of two laptops, but enough to make the cost per unit plummet for Ministries of Education.

And if the commercially-available devices have to have a more-established version of Linux in order to make sure that they're "ready for prime time" from the moment the box opens, so be it. Get the units into people's hands and get the funds to subsidize the educational deployment of laptops. That's another win/win scenario.

I don't see dual boot as much of a threat, but if limited internal OLPC resources were to be directed away from Sugar to XP, that would be a very bad thing.

The code is GPL/LGPL, and potential rogue developers familiar with Git might want to visit to 'git' a copy just in case (couldn't see a big tarball link for easy download). That might be a bit paranoid, but worst case if OLPC goes all MS, Sugar development could split.

I think it's long term health would be better insured by doing it up as a multiplatform application suite, and that a split would pretty much have to take it in that direction or not bother. If, like Apple, you control the hardware, you can force things on people how you wish, but if the hardware people climb into bed with MS, it will be important to play nice with others.

The price of freedom _is_ choice. Often that other people can make their own. Get that into your heads!

Disagreeing if and how much the OLPC-foundation should or should not support any or specific other entities, for free or huge gobs of money --- that's one thing. That's about the actions of an entity (the foundation in that case).

If you, however, try to deny *any* entity to do what they want with their copies of the XO --- the XO *is* open and easy to play with, for many a reason! --- then you try to take away freedoms.
Worse, they are not even freedoms for *you* to grant and take away!

You want free-libre software and hardware, but only for those who agree with you, or don't use Windows --- or are Micsosoft? Fie! Imbeciles! What you ask for is un-free software, vendor-lock-in, closed hardware, all in the name of "freedom" and "openness" and "choice"!

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
-- George Orwell, 1984

Maybe the XO-2 can be built so that it cannot be disassembled at all, that it cannot be upgraded, that there's no such thing as a developer key, that you cannot install anything at all (and of course, no "show source" keys!) ... that might hold Microsoft off. You ready to pay that price?

No, I don't think Windows will run well on that little machine. The best that could happen to you is for Microsoft to *prove* how hungry Windows is and that it simply doesn't work well --- all at an increased price.


so much for vendor neutral educations..

I guess the goal of every corporation is profit uber alles after all..

too bad..

seriously.. ouch.


I hope this is not what it appears...the end of the OLPC. Dropping a stripped down but still bloated, useless, proprietary adult operating system onto this thing would be the end. Sugar was alpha granted when it shipped for G1G1...but try update.1 and the peru activity is getting so close. I have worked in development and education for 15 years in Afghanistan, Uganda, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This machine could make such a difference. Mr Negroponte: Hold firm, stick what you know is right...don't cave in to these bastards. They want to destroy tis project, cripple will be the end if you put any version of windows on this thing...the innovation that sugar represents is astonishing, child-centred, need to finish it. Please, for all of us who believe in this project, and more importantly for the children whose lives this could transform. Don't let the bastards win.

Thomas Overton

OLPC is a non-profit and as such their goal is pretty clear, and making money is not part of that goal.

I wonder though how it will be positioned as they move forward with a partnership of this magnitude.

Must we turn this into yet another "EVIL M$" mudslinging fest. Nobody but geeks care if it is open source.

Frankly Sugar is very buggy. Nobody has even mentioned how this sugar will work in a hetrogenious environment. What if the teacher has a Windows (or Mac) laptop? Do they have to install Samba on the kids laptop?

Seriously though, dragging slashdotesque open source politics into this is really lame. It takes an already lofty goal of putting a laptop in every kids hand and makes it even more impossible by requiring vendors to open source everything too.

Funny they are going to windows. Long Ago before the first units, Apple offered to provide Mac OSX for the OLPC for free and was turned down because they wanted an open OS.

I guess windows is an open OS now, LOL.

And that perpetual problem with open source politics. Open source just isn't a big deal outside of niche tech groups like slashdot. In the case of a such a large and contriversial project as this, all it just is pile on more obsticles to overcome.

If they bit on Apples offer, OLPC would have more street cred and their developers could focus on more important things then designing yet another operating system. You know, like educational software sitting on top of it. Last I checked, you could drop to a wonderful bash shell on OSX and even compile software with GCC. Maybe they just didn't like that OSX was based on a BSD operating system and the eight year old kids in Nepal only run GPL software.

Or were they pissed because the video card driver wasn't open source and heaven forbid RealNetgearTeck didn't open source their 802.11g even if it might go against the FCC? Or did they open source it, but pushed the spec it out as a "DOC" file that I guess is unreadable unless you run some kind of corporate-ware by some company in Redmond who eats babies?

Conclusion: hippies make bad business people. Which is a shame because I had high hopes in this project, but my heart sunk a little once people started to get on their open source high horse... So much energy wasted. So frustrating.

Ad hominem attacks make bad arguments. One of the underlying tenets to the OLPC strategy was community involvement. With a closed system you have customers instead of collaborators. How much so would be up to Microsoft, as a technical professional for the past 30 years I have had to deal with their 'business' choices. I for one, want to see the kids of this world enabled but for some control is more important. Do I advocate banning Microsoft from the XOs? No, if they want to create a platform that works, that meets rather than subverts the goals of the OLPC, then more power to them, but as a community we have to honor our foundations or suffer the consequences. Linux runs on everything from mainframes to phones, it runs on the XO now - Sugar is getting there - Activities are getting there - see the excellent Epaati. What we don't need right now is changing horses in mid-stream.

"but as a community we have to honor our foundations or suffer the consequences"

There is a difference between being stary eyed and realistic. Sometimes you have to give to get and if running a bastardized version of windows makes it easier to pitch these things to governments and school districts, so be it.

Technological purity is of no consequence to anybody but geeks. Quotes like the one I pulled and probably mis-phrased from your comment are why open source will never win. ATI isn't gonna open source video card drivers to appease Slashdot users, and Microsoft isn't gonna GPLv3 Vista to appease OLPC. The teachers will not care if the BIOS is open source. The parents of the kids will not care. The politicians will not care. The kids can learn to program even if they cannot hit the very bare metal of the computer. I couldn't reprogram my Commodore PET's operating system back in the day and now look :-)

Lastly, as a software developer, I question the wisdom of raising a generation of children with the idea that intellectual property like software is worthless and it should all be free. Children should be raised with the understanding that if something is valuable they are expected to pay for it. But that argument is a whole different beef I have with most open source advocates and goes outside the scope of this forum.

The rats are abandoning the ship. And it has nothing to do with Microsoft. The good news is that it is now evident that I have been the lonely voice of common sense here for a long time: the emeror is naked and this has never been about education. It has always been a hardware project. A crappy set of components wrapped around the shiny new screen. nothing else.

The real victims here are the poor people in Uruguay and Peru, soon to be stuck with a DOA product. Blame it on their stupid banana politicians, and add one to Negroponte's long number of spectacular failures.

crk on bellevue, your anti-open source bs is really distasteful, especially the assertion that no one cares about it but the slashdot crowd. I suspect that most participants on the forums are normals who have the technogeeks outnumbered, yet who have come to understand how open source software can empower people, whereas Microsoft's bread and butter (and perhaps yours, judging from your comments on 'intellectual property') is based on encouraging dependency.

You might wish to console yourself with the thought that open source is irrelevant, that nobody cares about it, but the technogeeks disagree, increasing numbers of regular folk disagree, and Microsoft itself most certainly disagrees. They understand the threat open source poses to their model better than anyone. Extending the life of XP for the XO isn't going to be a big profit maker for MS, but if they can keep a generation of kids in the developing world from being exposed to open source, it will be money well spent from their perspective.

Larue wrote:

"Extending the life of XP for the XO isn't going to be a big profit maker for MS, but if they can keep a generation of kids in the developing world from being exposed to open source, it will be money well spent from their perspective."

The real question is this:

Why is Prof. Negroponte WILLINGLY (get it?) in bed with Microsoft?

After all, nobody is forcing the Nutty Prof. to partner with Intel, Hitler or Microsoft. He is doing it because he feels that he will profit from the relationships.

Why is it that all the sycophants are willing to blame Microsoft, without ever questioning Negroponte's integrity? Typical groupie behavior. Retarded crusaders of a sad techno-chimera...

If NN goes with XP, my guess is that Sugar will win in the end, anyway.

For one, Sugar development will likely continue. That is because it is open source with a fair amount of interest around the world. In addition, big corporations like OLPC board members Google and Red Hat would be motivated to provide financial support for a gui that competes against Windows.

And in a couple of years XP support is going to end. The XO could never run Vista, so it is going to have to turn back to Sugar, which by then would be in much better shape.

Then there is a key underlying reason for adopting constructivism, which is that it makes it possible to at least partly sidestep the chronic developing world education problem of a gross deficiency of teachers. And don't forget that children LOVE Sugar.

Larue wrote:

I suspect that most participants on the forums are normals who have the technogeeks outnumbered, yet who have come to understand how open source software can empower people, whereas Microsoft's bread and butter (and perhaps yours, judging from your comments on 'intellectual property') is based on encouraging dependency.

I disagree with that. Most of the 'normals' gave up long ago. Most people don't care what the operating system is. They like open source only because of the cost - free. 95% will never want to see source code. Even with open source they want it to work 'like' Microsoft. 'Normals' are expecting this 'laptop' to work like every other 'laptop'.
Yeah, I know Birmingham is not the 'target audience' but America's where the lazy reporters are so brace yourself when they realize they can't go to half the websites they used to go to.

I hope you all realize Walter Bender took a leave of absence from MIT to work with OLPC. That in it self was a good indication that he was going to leave once OLPC got to a certain phase.

But on the other hand OLPC News and many of its readers would rather feed their minds on yellow journalism than facts.
I laugh when Wayan talks about software development, a field he knows little about. Hint - read the classic "Mythical Man Month". May help you understand why small teams are better.
Sugar will survive. The developers are doing a good job. The Sugar UI team is just one of a number of teams working on the project.
Microsoft XP on the XO will be a disaster. It is not a particularly good OS. This is coming from someone that has used many different operating systems over the years and on a daily basis uses multiple OSs.
Tell me where is the tickless Windows kernel? Linux has one and better stability.
The only people that want Windows on the XO are Microsoft and those that are interested in training in propierty packages. The XO is about education not training.

Selling the XO is not a problem, no need for a M$ XP stunt. Even 3 months after the end of G1G1 the eBay price (best indicator of fair value ever in the capitalist world) is well over $ 300 per unit used without warranty, even without the T-spot. The problem is delivery. Ask Ed Cherlin, he would probably be able to place any amount of XOs put in his hand at $220, within the week or in a couple months.

"If NN goes with XP, my guess is that Sugar will win in the end, anyway. "

For me, Sugar has won. Up to now, my home computers have been PCs running Microsoft OS. But now that I'm getting comfortable with using my XO, my next computer will probably be running Linux (it most certainly will not be running Vista).

Sugar is open source and is now part of Fedora. Even if the folks at OLPC decide to stop development of Sugar, there are plenty of people out there who can continue its development on their own.

"You can't stop the signal."

This has got to be a joke. Abandon a lightweight distro of Linux and run XP? I got an XO through the G1G1 program, and it's simply not powerful enough to run XP reasonably.

Why not choose another version of Linux? (perhaps what the Asus EEE and HP 2133 run)

"Apparently, rumor has it that Nicholas Negroponte is close to abandoning Sugar and Linux in favor of Microsoft XP"

What is your source for this? He will a) abandon Sugar, and b) replace it with XP? I can't find strong evidence confirming that this is "close" to happening. If this is confirmed then I will help to lead the protests against OLPC.

Windows, at an appropriate price point, would be a great thing for OLPC. The point is not to teach the children how to read source code- a computer is a tool, the point is to give them that tool so they can gain knowledge about the world. A windows computer can show ebooks the same as a sugar one, can show the internet. What the kids need is the infinite supply of books that comes from having a computer. Who cares if they have the source code or not?

I purchased 4 OLPC laptops - 2 for OLPC and 2 for a village in India that I do volunteer work for.

I am deeply saddened that Microsoft has been able to once again hijack innovation in learning and technology in order to sell more XP licences to DIRT POOR COUNTRIES!

Microsoft has become the innovation bully of the planet and it serves only to enrich itself and it's shareholders, not the world or it's people. Very noble cause for the icon of the failing American Republic!

The open source community had better wake the f*%# up and get their collective geeks asses moving if they ever hope to gain even a meaningful foothold on the mainstream planet!

Negroponte said he was mainly concerned with putting as many laptops as possible in children's hands.

He lamented that an overriding insistence on open-source had hampered the XOs, saying Sugar "grew amorphously" and "didn't have a software architect who did it in a crisp way." For instance, the laptops do not support Flash animation, widely used on the Web.

"There are several examples like that, that we have to address without worrying about the fundamentalism in some of the open-source community," he said. "One can be an open-source advocate without being an open-source fundamentalist."

"Sugar ..."didn't have a software architect who did it in a crisp way."

And Windows did?

Also article says that Bender intends to develop Sugar, so it looks like it won't die even if NN abandons it.

If microsoft can deliver an OS that is usable for children and comes bundled with software to help educate our children then why haven't they already done so. The user interface paradigm needs to align not to your adult. My 4 year old can work OLPC better than windows. So I think you can allow both OS's but we need to understand who the customer is i.e. the kids , teenagers etc.

To those of you thinking that MS Windows is somehow "good for the kids" I employ you to think deeper about the situation. It will take a fundemental reworking of XP to get it light enough to work _properly_ on the XO : which would cost money and would then mean that Microsoft is illegally dumping their product. If it is not reworked, then XP is going to take more resources of the machine. XP was not designed for kids to used. Furthermore, openness should be a fundamental requirement of this device: forget Linux vs. BSD vs. Mac, etc ... openness is the important factor. Why _shouldn't_ kids be able to view the code? Why shouldn't they be given yet another opportunity? Why should they be made reliant on a foreign company? I was very excited about the XO project... but at this phase of the project, I have lost almost all interest on it. If Sugar and Fedora is dropped, then I hope RedHat sues OLPC for the wasted resources.