XP on XO: Negroponte has lost his bearings

XP on XO: Negroponte has lost his bearings

Summary: At ZD's Hardware 2.0 blog, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes cites this quote from former OLPC developer Ivan Krstic about Nicholas Negroponte's rapidly shifting mission statement:In fact, I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission.


At ZD's Hardware 2.0 blog, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes cites this quote from former OLPC developer Ivan Krstic about Nicholas Negroponte's rapidly shifting mission statement:

In fact, I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission. The mission was, in his mind, always getting as many laptops as possible out there; to say anything about learning would be presumptuous, and so he doesn’t want OLPC to have a software team, a hardware team, or a deployment team going forward.

Nicholas Negroponte has been reinventing OLPC like crazy trying to justify running Windows XP on the green machine. Wayan Ota at OLPC News points to this recent version Nick posted to a mailing list:

To eliminate poverty and create world peace by providing education to the poorest and most remote children on the planet by making them more active in their own learning, through collaborative and creative activities, connected to the Internet, with their own laptop, as a human right and cost free to them.

Well, even that does make it seem like it's about education – "making them more active in their own learning." That squares with the idea of Sugar – an operating system that makes it possible for children like that to create their own programs. How does using XP accomplish that or collaboration or creativity?

In any case, it's not the original mission statement or even the latest version. Here's the original:

OLPC is not at heart a technology program and the XO is not a product in any conventional sense of the word. We are non-profit: constructionism is our goal; XO is our means of getting there. It is a very cool, even revolutionary machine, and we are very proud of it. But we would also be delighted if someone built something better, and at a lower price.

So, constructionism is out and human rights are in. What matters to Negroponte now is getting laptops out there – somehow, magically, world peace, education and creativity will spring up by sheer dint of distributing laptops. Only Negroponte can't do this without governments ponying up to buy millions of the things. And they won't do that if it runs some weird-ass Sugar OS. They will buy machines that run Windows.

So the question sits there: What is the point of the whole effort? To make an improvement in the developing world – to increase tech education, or substantive education, or enable software businesses, or connect people to the outside world, or drive Internet access?

Or just to sell computers? Right now Nicholas Negroponte looks like the computer salesman in the old joke: What's the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman? The car salesman knows when he's lying to you.

Topics: CXO, Laptops, Microsoft, Windows

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  • We need to see the XP offering.

    MS is involved now, and let's hope that the XP version is locked down (ROM only?), comes with a suite of software for the kids, and is usable. I'd like to see this suceed with it's original purpose despite Negroponte. i.e. getting a learning tool into the hands of developing nations kids.

    If it also becomes a low end business desktop competing directly with Dell, Asus, Lenovo, so be it, but let's not forget the original mission, again, in spite of Negroponte.

  • XO is just another cheap laptop

    OLPC has nothing interesting anymore. No more view source functionality, intuitive interface and open source. What left is BSOD and M$ domination
  • It's the same vision lost on the Linux developers

    This has gone from getting as many laptops as possible into the hands of kids, to getting [i][b]Linux[/b][/i] in the hands of as many people as possible.

    If education is actually the key goal, then what does it matter what it runs on, as long as the kids have them to use?
    • Wrong question

      If education is actually the key goal, then what does it matter what it runs on, as long as the kids have them to use?
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Try again

        [i]If education is actually the key goal, then what does it matter what it runs on, as long as the kids have them to use? [/i]

        It's not what it runs [u]on[/u], it's what it [u]runs[/u].

        Sugar is (was?) revolutionary, [b]child[/b] oriented learning tool. Turning the XO into a cheap imitation of a Dell loses all that.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
      • because xp

        is a business tool not an education tool and windows is not a platform that kids can self-teach themselves on, like linux.
        • Sorry 'bout that

          That was going to be my point before my fingers hit "enter" instead of "tab."

          Bad fingers! <smack> Bad,bad fingers!
          Yagotta B. Kidding
        • Self teach themselves what?

          Programming on Linux? What about those that want to learn about the world around them, among other things?

          You kinda sound like the guys that Guiding Light is talking about: Give them [i]only[/i] Linux so that they won't grow up to use or program on Windows.
          • Can't do that with Windows...

            As Microsoft doesn't provide source code nor inexpensive or free programmming tools by default then the alternative remains Linux. Or FreeBSD for that matter.

            Anyway, using and programming for one OS or another is similar enough that once you get it on one you can do another.

            As for the world around them Sugar already offers lots of that and more.

            As yet we haven't seen the desktop that Windows will provide but I'm gonna bet that it's the standard business oriented desktop that won't do a thing to engage a child to actually learn about the world around them.

            Wanna take me up on that?


        • Boy, talk about losing sight of the goal

          I can't believe the short sighted comments from the Linux fanboys here. For many of the kids who would be potential receivers of these laptops, they would be happy with Windows 95 on a P1. They won't care that it doesn't come with a weird and wonderful learning os, they just want to learn to use a computer and be able to operate in the real world. It's like my neighbour who tried to dump a linux computer on his daughter because he was sure it was better. It hasn't been turned on more than a dozen times, and when he asked her why she wasn't using the computer and going over to a friend's place to use their computer. Her response was "I need to know how to use a computer that I am going to find in the real world, not isolate myself with some weird os that will be useless to me later". I know some people (linux fanboys) will say that's short sighted, but I say the kid was just being practical and using common sense.
          • It's not about Windows vs Linux

            <sarcasm>Thanks goodness for some common sense. And while we're at it, why are we teaching children how to do long division when we could be giving them calculators? What's the point in teaching children how to use shop tools, art brushes, and musical instruments? Why, they can simply buy the car and learn how to drive, buy the picture and appreciate the art made by others, buy the cd and listen to the music (we'll teach them how to use the volume control -- that's all they need to know about music</sarcasm>

            Knowing how to operate Excel, Word, and Windows XP is really setting the bar low. That's bare minimum computer literacy. It doesn't teach the critical thinking that the XO laptop should be teaching.

            The point is the XO laptop should be that it's [b]open[/b], allowing children to explore beyond the simple mechanics of an OS, be it XP or Linux.

            By the time the children become adults, both XP and Linux will probably no longer exist. The point of the XO laptop is not to convert them to Linux enthusiasts. The point of the XO laptop is that the openness of the XO laptop allows children to understand how software and hardware work -- leveraging critical thinking and theoretical skills over pragmatic applied skills that will be obsolete 15 years from now anyway.

            Currently, GNU/Linux allows children to do this. So does other free (as in libre) software. XP (and other proprietary OSes such as Mac) does not.

            I'd argue that the people arguing about the OS (both the Linux and the Windows fanboys) are being short sighted: by the time the children using XO laptops become adults, both Windows and Linux will be replaced by something completely different.

            FLOSS exposes the theory behind the software, and what they learn from the computer science inside it will be applicable 10, 15, and 20 years from now.

            This is a battle between the Free Software and closed-source software. closed-source software is fine for teaching the next generation practical skills, similar to teaching typing and how to operate a cash register or calculator.

            Free and Open Source software, however, can not only teach these practical skills, but also teach children the theory and critical and open thinking that puts them a step ahead.
          • and what OS did you learn to program on?

            Oh gee wiz...
            Was it propriety? ("closed-source")
            Does that mean you are unable to develop software?
            You can write as much software on MS as LX, you just have more tools to do it with.

            You do realize that not all that long ago, pretty much only IBM OS's ran on IBM's. Same thing with most computer manufactures and their OS's.

            All this is about bringing technology to the 3rd world.
            How many of them posses a genius that will make our lives better in our future?

            "a battle between the Free Software and closed-source"
            They are OS's not religions.

    • I want them in the hands of the kids.

      That's why I wrote that despite Negroponte, let's not abandon the original vision. So long as XP is hardened, it comes with mutliple apps for the kids, and arrives in the kids hands (at least for some, this appears to be reworking into a low cost low end developing nation business laptop), then that's a good thing.

      Maybe Negroponte can be squeezed out and the original vision laptops (both Sugar and XP, given the above) get into the hands of those for which it was intended.

    • Not all Linux developers have lost sight of the license ramifications

      I agree with you. However, the license of the software does matter. Free and open source is aligned with learning because it doesn't confine children to learn about only the parts the the software manufacturer chooses.

      It isn't about getting [i][b]Linux[/b][/i] in the hands of as many children as possible. It's about getting [i][b]free and open[/b][/i] software into children's hands, which gives both the students and teachers an open textbook of software to learn from and use.
  • Negroponte should resign

    and give the funds to the Linux community, the only one that can advanced the OLPC project and educate most people all over the world using FOSS.
    Windoze has a proven record of dumbing people down.
    Linux Geek
    • So Should RMS

      His lackeys are the other part of the equation that doomed
      the OLPC project.
      Marcos El Malo
      • Huh?

        Just what, in the name of heaven, has Stallman got to do with OLPC?

        Let's try to get this through your head. RMS is not the guru or messiah of the FOSS movement nor does he actively participate in projects such as Linux in spite of his insistence in calling it GNU/Linux which is it not.

        What Stallman did was make much of the FOSS movement possible though one can convincingly argue that it wasn't Stallman and the FSF that popularized it but Torvalds and Linux.

        FOSS needs Stallman (the puritan) in the same way as the shrink wrap license proprietary world needs Gates (similarly the puritan) as much as FOSS needs Torvalds (the practical visionary) and the proprietary world needs Jobs (the same).

        Anyway, Stallman can't resign from something he wasn't a part of and showed little or no interest in till this little tiff broke out.


  • Don't Tar All Developers with the Same Brush

    Don't tar all Open Source developers with the same FSF
    zealot brush. As Kristc's post shows, there were developers
    giving wholeheartedly of themselves to advance the stated
    goals of this project. Unfortunately, they were caught
    between the followers of RMS, who sabotaged the project
    by pushing the FSF (Free Software Foundation) agenda at
    the expense of the project's goals, and between the grand
    incompetence of Negroponte.

    That was the most stunning part of Kristc's post: that OLPC
    had NO deployment plan. I guess this could be called
    "Constructivist Deployment". With all the shoulder rubbing
    and glad handing that Negroponte did with leaders of
    development and and aid organizations, you'd think he
    might have asked them about logistic and deployment

    At the end of the day, I think what doomed this project
    was too many people only really interested in creating a
    cool gadget (albeit for a worthy cause), with not enough
    people wanting to do the HARD WORK of deployment and
    Marcos El Malo
  • RE: XP on XO: Negroponte has lost his bearings

    Here's what I sense the problem is. Efforts to address
    developing communities regarding poverty, education, potable
    water, and hunger issues are going to be stopped at a
    toolbooth by the region's rulers and commercial interests.
    Windows may be the cost for proceeding and OLPC figures half
    a loaf is better than nothing. Isn't that the age old dilemma? I
    saw a quote where the cost of the machine is raised 3 dollars
    for Windows and 7 dollars for Windows compatible hardware
    and while $10 isn't a lot to US eyes, I think it is significant
    increase where per capita income is sub $100-500.

    I think I can see the silhouette of the accommodation. The
    Gates Foundation gives money to a government which now may
    buy the XO and then buys Windows licenses from a government
    connected vendor and distributes to government-supporting
    communities, with maybe a few falling off the truck along the
    way to streamline conveyance. Meanwhile, no embarrassing
    counter-examples to the assertion that personal computing ==

    My guess, in 9 years there will be 10th anniversary stories
    about OLPC with the coda that they weren't as effective as
    hoped in raising education levels. Local corruption will be
    fingered as a contributing factor. Microsoft and Intel will not be
    blamed, and yet, it seems to me it was more important to them
    to preserve a market than to facilitate education.
    • First world sales are slowing

      The huge economic engine of the 21st century will be technologizing the emerging world. MSFT was determined that world not be dominated by non-MSFT OS.

      I dont really think that Gates Foundation put strings on govt spending -- at least not so directly. But third-world government is not known for risk-taking for the most part. This is a case of "nobody ever got fired for ..."

      The vision was a fundamentally different computer, not just a cheap wintel computer. Intel is selling one of those. OLPC can't compete on price. But Neg never wanted to make support make of the organization. You cant ask ministers to take a leap of faith on non-MSFT and then not offer support. His vision was, the kids will learn to fix it themselves. While I agree the kids will learn how these computers work, that idea is absurd.

      Neg's idea was always govts will buy millions of these. XP is a chance for him sell millions to govt, since they wouldnt buy millions of Sugar-based XOs. He should have offered them up to the world to fund the machines for the kids. Instead, they will get a green wintel machine.

      How revolutionary.