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Intense (and really thoughtful) ranting from the OLPC front

Ivan Krstić has made his way into this blog before. As OLPC's former director of security architecture and one closely involved with their Peru rollout, his posts offered great insights into just how the XO worked (or was supposed to work) on the backend.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

Ivan Krstić has made his way into this blog before. As OLPC's former director of security architecture and one closely involved with their Peru rollout, his posts offered great insights into just how the XO worked (or was supposed to work) on the backend.

Now he, like Walter Bender, has left OLPC and posted one heck of a rant on Tuesday. Note that the language is a bit rough (Krstić pulls no punches and is obviously angry, so this probably isn't a site to share with your middle school computer classes; for the rest of us, it's quite a read).

Krstić, despite being able to run circles around most of us in all things computing, including Linux kernel programming, is no open source fundamentalist (as Nicholas Negroponte has called those who object to porting the Sugar user interface to Windows). However, here is his take on recent attention to Negroponte's moves towards a Windows deployment:

OLPC should be philosophically pure about its own machines. Being a non-profit that leverages goodwill from a tremendous number of community volunteers for its success and whose core mission is one of social betterment, it has a great deal of social responsibility. It should not become a vehicle for creating economic incentives for a particular vendor. It should not believe the nonsense about Windows being a requirement for business after the children grow up. Windows is a requirement because enough people grew up with it, not the other way around. If OLPC made a billion people grow up with Linux, Linux would be just dandy for business. And OLPC shouldn’t make its sole OS one that cripples the very hardware that supposedly set the project’s laptops apart: released versions of Windows can neither make good use of the XO power management, nor its full mesh or advanced display capabilities.

The entire post gives us an inside look at an unfolding disaster.

Nicholas knows quite well that Sugar won't magically become better simply by virtue of running on Windows rather than Linux. In reality, Nicholas wants to ship plain XP desktops. He's told me so. That he might possibly fund a Sugar effort to the side and pay lip service to the notion of its "availability" as an option to purchasing countries is at best a tepid effort to avert a PR disaster.

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...

He, like many in the industry argue that OLPC should be focusing on its strengths, namely developing solid educational software and learning models for this new breed of netbooks hitting classrooms in the States and abroad.

Nicholas' new OLPC is dropping those pesky education goals from the mission and turning itself into a 50-person nonprofit laptop manufacturer, competing with Lenovo, Dell, Apple, Asus, HP and Intel on their home turf, and by using the one strategy we know doesn't work. But hey, I guess they'll sell more laptops that way.

Krstić concludes as forcefully as he began:

So here’s to open learning, to free software, to strength of personal conviction, and to having enough damn humility to remember that the goal is bringing learning to a billion children across the globe. The billion waiting for us to put our idiotic trifles aside, end our endless yapping, and get to it already.

Fortunately for those kids, OLPC touched off an industry-wide movement. This is bigger than Negroponte and the market for low-cost 1:1 computing solutions will mature with or without OLPC. Cheers, Ivan, and best of luck!

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