Redeveloping Sugar for Windows XP Home...yeah, great idea, Nick

Redeveloping Sugar for Windows XP Home...yeah, great idea, Nick

Summary: PC World, among other outlets, is reporting on Nicholas Negroponte's call to make the Sugar interface used on the OLPC XO laptops "platform agnostic." In other words, redevelop it to run on top of Windows XP.

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PC World, among other outlets, is reporting on Nicholas Negroponte's call to make the Sugar interface used on the OLPC XO laptops "platform agnostic." In other words, redevelop it to run on top of Windows XP. Of course, since Microsoft will only allow Windows XP Home to be installed on new laptops shortly, this means that the interface that many have dubbed revolutionary will need to be reworked for this aging platform.

One developer wrote on the OLPC community site,

"I approve of keeping OLPC's options open, in case your current development team (myself included) cannot deliver on Sugar's potential, but setting vague (and demoralizing) goals for future development -- without actually devoting the resources to achieve those goals -- is madness. You have only succeeded in alienating the developers you need to make Sugar-on-Linux work, without actually achieving any progress on Sugar-on-Windows."

Another developer asked of Negroponte's vision of separating the interface from the underlying OS,

"My understanding is that the Sugar UI is composed of inseparable components because we wanted to give an integrated and coherent experience. In which way are you suggesting to split Sugar?"

So what will this leave the XO's target audience running? Windows XP Home, with the requisite anti-malware software and the Sugar interface both running on top. That should be extra snappy (insert sarcasm here).

Given the number of available distributions, many of which can be made quite lean (Xubuntu and Puppy Linux being two obvious examples among many), why shoehorn Windows onto the XO? And why saddle local developers with closed source software when so many people-years of effort have gone into developing an accessible open source solution? How many times did Intel (as in the intel in Wintel) did Intel mention Windows at IDF? Not many times. Even if Windows continues to dominate many markets (enterprise, enthusiast, gaming, whatever), it doesn't need to dominate a market in which openness, collaboration, and collegiality should, in fact, be the dominant forces.

I understand that Negroponte is trying to increase sales by incorporating what he sees as a necessary force in computing; however, if this amounts to selling out and diluting the value of this effort, then I'll be looking forward to successful spinoffs and competitors from the defecting OLPC developers. This isn't about open-source fundamentalism, as Negroponte calls it; this is about satisfying the needs of users. Will Windows satisfy the needs of kids better than a mature, extensible, open source platform?

Topics: Software Development, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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21 comments
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  • Come over to The Dark Side

    OLPC is to help break the chain of poverty, and pathetic decisions that so many billions of people have been making over the last CENTURY.

    Microsoft is all about selling Operating Systems (which never work well ... )which is why one needs to "upgrade" regularly.

    How exactly did Negroponte think that the combination of Mister Soft-Tee (Wall Street's name for Microsoft's ticker) is going to play nice with all of those OLPC laptop?

    A decade ago people were poo-pooing the concept of Open Source, Linux and MySQL. Now, the concepts & related technologies have been adopted and are generating multi-billion industries.

    With that the way it is - while SUGAR may have ups, downs, and/or issues (I've no idea) - certainly going from open source over to closed source & annual fees, not to mention the concept of getting 1000 Critical Updates across a MESH network is fairly terrifying.

    Just my US dollar devalued two cents ... well, my $0.013 .

    PAF
    ParkerFairfield
  • I think this is good - will democratize Sugar

    If sugar can run on PCs (and MacIntosh and whatnot) and programs written for Sugar have no dependencies to Linux, this automatically multiplies the quantity of machines that can be used for teaching. Sugar would be a platform, like Java or .NET, but on a higher level (UI).
    Roque Mocan
    • Sugar is NOT a platform

      Apparently you have no clue of what you are talking about. Sugar is a application built on top of Linux. It is just that an application and it has never designed to be a "platform" (or even claimed).

      There is a HUGE difference between an application and a cross-platform (OS) development environment like Java or the platform-limited .NET.
      wackoae
      • It doesn't need to be a platform

        Firefox is an application on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. It also has plugins, extensions, etc. to expand its capabilities. Sugar can achieve to be something like this, only without the HTML rendering engine being the central anchor.

        KDE 4 is also aiming to be cross platform. You can think of KDE 4 as either a platform or a collection of applications, but either way developers have the ability to expand on it. Sugar likewise was designed to be expanded upon. So call it an application or platform, but whatever label you give it just know that Sugar as it is delivered does not have to be static.
        Michael Kelly
  • Here's a better idea...

    Cut a massive purchase order on some ASUS eee's and ship them the damn things already.

    Somehow they seem to have made Linux work, cheaply and famously...but then, they didn't have the full brain trust of the "MIT Media Lab" working for them...
    jabailo1
  • Aaaagh, I love the smell of zealotry in the morning.

    The Open source minions trot out to declare their outrage over OLPC possibly making use of XP having missed the true point of the program. It isn't about your "Open Source Religion". It is about getting affordable computers in the hands of the 3rd world's kids. An educator should grasp that!
    ShadeTree
    • Affordable?

      Windows XP Home costs roughly $89 at your local software retailer. That's 89% of the total device price OLPC was aiming for. That's not affordable to the market they are aiming at.

      Of course, they could bring that price down through bulk purchases and other agreements. Microsoft will want something in return, though. Maybe exclusivity as the OLPC operating system? They've done that before and it would explain the sudden turn from an OS that was working for them to one that very well may not.
      shawn_dude
      • Windows XP Home costs $ 89 ....

        ... in the US. Windows XP Starter Edition which is what would be used here costs only a couple bucks in many third world countries. So what exactly was your point again?
        ShadeTree
        • Message has been deleted.

          zkiwi
          • Once you take Explorer out of the equation

            those requirements go down by a lot. If Sugar is designed as an Explorer replacement, I think it is quite doable.

            And yes, MS will have to be quite open minded on this one for it to work.
            Michael Kelly
          • It would seem that ....

            ... Negrapointe does not share your opinion. The only thing OLPC has to run is Sugar. That is all it does today. Furthermore with Microsoft's resources they are more then capable of making this work.
            ShadeTree
    • It's not about affordable computers

      It's about usable affordable computers. He's not questioning the affordability, he's questioning the usability. It's not a bad question to bring up, though I won't presume to know whether or not XP is too bloated for this machine without further research.

      For instance, if they are talking about having a Sugar UI, that means Explorer won't be needed on the machine (or at least it won't need to be up and running). Would that free up enough resources to make the machine more usable? What about other processes that Explorer needs but Sugar may not? These are the questions that need answers.
      Michael Kelly
      • Microsoft has more then enough resources ....

        ... to make it work if they are interested. You and the previous poster need to open your mind to all the possibilities. Who says it even has to be XP. Microsoft has OS's that run on cell phones with less capabilities then the OLPC.
        ShadeTree
        • I actually agree with that

          I was sticking with XP as the solution because that's what's come up in discussion. But yes, if, for instance, the Win7 kernel is the improvement that some have speculated (more modular, less legacy) then by all means that would be better than XP.

          In fact what I would be a perfect solution (if we're dead set on going the MS route) would be a Windows kernel running with a Sugar window manager, but in addition to the Sugar apps allow Sugar be a front end to run native .Net apps. We could even replace Sugar with a MS created substitute if that makes the MS fan in you happy. But I say get rid of the legacy to lower the resources, meaning no Win32 or DOS app support. It's high time Windows started going in that direction anyway, or at least making legacy support modular so you could have it for those that need it but not make it a system requirement.
          Michael Kelly
  • I'm glad you brought up affordable.

    Proprietary software will simply add costs to the laptop that most of the targeted user can't afford.

    Negroponte thought he would carve his niche in this world with this project. He doesn't really care about getting a PC to those without the resources to buy expensive proprietary products. He only care about Negroponte.
    bjbrock
    • Really?

      I believe the project would not exist if it weren't for him. I don't think I would be so quick to question his motives.
      ShadeTree
  • Ivan Krstic living OLPC was a sign of things to come

    That's what Ivan Krstic wrote on his blog a few weeks ago :

    "Not long ago, OLPC undertook a drastic internal restructuring coupled with what, despite official claims to the contrary, is a radical change in its goals and vision from those that were shared with me when I was invited to join the project. Adding insult to injury, I was asked to stop working with Walter Bender, without a doubt one of the most stunningly thoughtful and competent people I???ve ever worked with. Following Walter???s demotion from OLPC presidency, I was to report instead to a manager with no technical or engineering background who was put in charge of all OLPC technology. (Left: ???cry why??? graffiti, Lima coastline, Peru.)

    I cannot subscribe to the organization???s new aims or structure in good faith, nor can I reconcile them with my personal ethic. Having exhausted other options, three weeks ago I resigned my post at OLPC."
    miso3
  • I really wonder what is going on here.

    Why would he want to do this? Does he think this can make the thing cheaper? Doubtful. Would it work faster/better? Doubtful. Would it mean he can sell more units and leverage that volume into cheaper price points? Possibly, but doubtful. Would it mean more access to more/"better"/more widely compatible software? I certainly don't think so.
    Maybe he would be better off asking MS to make Win 3.5 available, that should run just fine on the hardware, and has tons of apps, right? And yes, that is a joke...
    ajole
  • Keep the blindfold on

    Puppy Linux ?
    DamnSmallLinux ?
    Austrumi ?

    They don't exist as far as the OLPC is concerned.
    raffym
    • Sure they do

      They just don't exist as far as their customers are concerned. And that's the problem OLPC is facing. And unfortunately, that organization is not nearly powerful enough to sway public minds, especially considering it does have profit-minded competition who is willing to give the public what it asks for, no questions asked.
      Michael Kelly