June 2, 2006 11:03 AM PDT

$100 laptop 'will boost desktop Linux'

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The One Laptop per Child project will make Linux as popular on the desktop as it is on the server today, according to Nicholas Negroponte, head of the project and co-founder of the MIT Media Laboratory.

Speaking on the final day of Red Hat's annual user summit here, Negroponte told an audience of Linux enthusiasts and technology professionals that the OLPC project will lead to mass adoption of the operating system, if the software that powers it is efficient and usable enough.

Nicholas Negroponte Nicholas Negroponte

"One of the side effects is that it will boost worldwide consumption of Linux on the desktop so incredibly that it will be on par with where it is with servers," he said. "We need your support not to make it overweight and hard to use like all the others are."

The One Laptop per Child project aims to develop a portable PC for use by children in the developing world for around $100. The price has risen since the plan was first announced to about $135 to $140, according to Negroponte.

"It is a floating price. We are a nonprofit organization. We have a target of $100 by 2008, but probably it will be $135, maybe $140. That is a start price, but what we have to do is with every release make it cheaper and cheaper--we are promising that the price will go down," Negroponte said.

Currently on leave from MIT to push the OLPC message full-time, Negroponte said that though his project has received widespread support from companies such as Red Hat--which is building the operating system--and Advanced Micro Devices, not everyone in the IT industry is on his side.

"AMD is our partner, which means Intel is pissing on me. (Microsoft Chairman) Bill Gates is not pleased either, but if I am annoying Microsoft and Intel then I figure I am doing something right," he said.

Negroponte added that the project required an extremely scaled-down operating system to enable the eventual machines to run at a decent speed, while using very little power. "About 25 percent of the cost of a (Windows) laptop is there just to support XP, which is like a person that has gotten so fat that they use most of their muscle to move their fat," he said.

Got views on Vista?

The philosophy behind the OLPC project is that the best way to improve the education of children in the developing world is to give them the means to educate themselves by providing them with a PC that they see as their own.

Negroponte claimed that there are about 1 billion children in the world, with half in remote rural locations where there are no real schools, and teachers themselves have little more than a basic education. "It is very primitive. In situations like that, more teachers and schools are not the solution--it can take decades that way. A much quicker solution is to engage the children themselves in their own education," he said.

Past attempts to give children in developing countries access to PCs have failed because the children did not see the computers as their own, and as a result did not engage with them as expected. "People say we just gave 100,000 PCs to schools, and they're still sitting in their boxes. The problem is that you gave them to the wrong people--the kids don't think they are theirs, and see them as government property, or they are locked up after school."

The key to making computing projects work in education is scale, according to the OLPC boss. He claimed that the sheer number of machines the group is planning to build means that it can not only buy cheaper components, but it also has the ability to change corporate strategies. Negroponte related an anecdote about meeting the head of a PC display company who claimed that he could not build the kind of display OLPC needed--until he found out that the order would be for 100 million units.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from Nashville, Tenn.

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108 comments

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Absolutely perfect
Negroponte is doing the smart thing by promoting linux and AMD. Amd is a far greater company that is just being underplayed by Intel. As for Microsoft I really would like to throw their f*****g licensing into the toilet bowl and flush it down. Their 'Proprietary' standards are ther only to help make them a monopoly. This laptop project is a way for more people to be freed of the MS dominance.
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Getting boring
AMD are a massive multinational corporation, with a very cosy
relationship with Microsoft. They are somehow managing to trade
very well off the perception that because they're not 'Wintel' they
are as cool as open source. At least go an support some interesting
alternative chip architecture rather than people whose main claim
to fame is doing Intel's CPUs better than Intel.
Posted by JulesLt (110 comments )
Link Flag
Absolutely perfect
Negroponte is doing the smart thing by promoting linux and AMD. Amd is a far greater company that is just being underplayed by Intel. As for Microsoft I really would like to throw their f*****g licensing into the toilet bowl and flush it down. Their 'Proprietary' standards are ther only to help make them a monopoly. This laptop project is a way for more people to be freed of the MS dominance.
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Getting boring
AMD are a massive multinational corporation, with a very cosy
relationship with Microsoft. They are somehow managing to trade
very well off the perception that because they're not 'Wintel' they
are as cool as open source. At least go an support some interesting
alternative chip architecture rather than people whose main claim
to fame is doing Intel's CPUs better than Intel.
Posted by JulesLt (110 comments )
Link Flag
Perfect
Negroponte is doing the smart thing by promoting linux and AMD. Amd is a far greater company that is just being underplayed by Intel. As for Microsoft I really would like to throw their f*****g licensing into the toilet bowl and flush it down. Their 'Proprietary' standards are ther only to help make them a monopoly. This laptop project is a way for more people to be freed of the MS dominance.
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Useless project
Instead of trying to sell laptops to the developing world, he should be expending his efforts towards making sure they have food and water instead.
Just another example of giving poor people something they don't need.
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
Perfect
Negroponte is doing the smart thing by promoting linux and AMD. Amd is a far greater company that is just being underplayed by Intel. As for Microsoft I really would like to throw their f*****g licensing into the toilet bowl and flush it down. Their 'Proprietary' standards are ther only to help make them a monopoly. This laptop project is a way for more people to be freed of the MS dominance.
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Useless project
Instead of trying to sell laptops to the developing world, he should be expending his efforts towards making sure they have food and water instead.
Just another example of giving poor people something they don't need.
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
scary
If this takes off, in a few years you are going to have millions of kids growing up that know how to use linux. How many kids in america can use linux? How many can even defrag a hard drive?
Posted by rawker (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Priorities
Well, isn't that important to the developing world!
Who cares about another computer interface?
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
Ironic comment
You do not need to defrag your hard drive with the file systems that linux uses.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
You won't have to worry about defragging
The only filesystems you have to defrag are vfat and ntfs (windows filesystems)

With Linux, the kids in America wouldn't have to learn how to defrag their hard drives. woo hoo!
Posted by hellsyes (44 comments )
Link Flag
scary
If this takes off, in a few years you are going to have millions of kids growing up that know how to use linux. How many kids in america can use linux? How many can even defrag a hard drive?
Posted by rawker (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Priorities
Well, isn't that important to the developing world!
Who cares about another computer interface?
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
Ironic comment
You do not need to defrag your hard drive with the file systems that linux uses.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
You won't have to worry about defragging
The only filesystems you have to defrag are vfat and ntfs (windows filesystems)

With Linux, the kids in America wouldn't have to learn how to defrag their hard drives. woo hoo!
Posted by hellsyes (44 comments )
Link Flag
Negraponte has never brought a product to market
This is a guy who sells ideas to big companies. The MIT Media Lab is a perfect example. All ideas and little out in the world. Six companies have put $12M into the pot. It's all "feel good".

This "low cost" machine "will be made available through large-scale government initiatives." When was the last time any large scale government initiative was low cost or quick to respond (applies to all governments)?

Meanwhile, Fry's had a $399.99 laptop special last week and a $499.99 Toshiba this week. Moore's law says that Fry's will sell a $149.99 laptop in November 2007.

I won't second guess his technical choices. Any Linux can be configured small but using a real-time kernel is the way to go (see Lynux). Kids expect/need a GUI and X isn't so small nor all that efficient.

They also need the Net. If they have the Net, they will probably have power. If they don't have the Net they will need many gigs to store "educational" software.

Then there are all of the cultural issues. As a bad example, a CNet article ($100 laptop gets working prototype) has a sub-head "The One Laptop Per Child crusade". Sell that in the middle East! Why not a One Laptop Per Child jihad?

Therefore what? Great idea but the private sector will get there before he stops talking (if ever).
Posted by oldestgeek (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excellent points...
I for one am wondering just how in the hell a hand crank is going to keep these laptops powered enough that the student or class of students won't be interuppted by the noise, or the need to continue cranking it to keep the thing on?

This is the last thing these people need. Right now they need stable government (not by America's doing, btw), stable medical treatments, stable education, and stable income. The country needs to be able to self-sustain itself before laptops for these kids are handed out.

I'm sure these kids would like to EAT rather than look at a computer screen all day.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
An evil attitude
You might as well have said "Let them eat cake." I don't understand why people like you hate the poor so much. They've done nothing to you.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Link Flag
Ignorant
Moore's "law" says nothing about the price of computers as a whole.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Negraponte has never brought a product to market
This is a guy who sells ideas to big companies. The MIT Media Lab is a perfect example. All ideas and little out in the world. Six companies have put $12M into the pot. It's all "feel good".

This "low cost" machine "will be made available through large-scale government initiatives." When was the last time any large scale government initiative was low cost or quick to respond (applies to all governments)?

Meanwhile, Fry's had a $399.99 laptop special last week and a $499.99 Toshiba this week. Moore's law says that Fry's will sell a $149.99 laptop in November 2007.

I won't second guess his technical choices. Any Linux can be configured small but using a real-time kernel is the way to go (see Lynux). Kids expect/need a GUI and X isn't so small nor all that efficient.

They also need the Net. If they have the Net, they will probably have power. If they don't have the Net they will need many gigs to store "educational" software.

Then there are all of the cultural issues. As a bad example, a CNet article ($100 laptop gets working prototype) has a sub-head "The One Laptop Per Child crusade". Sell that in the middle East! Why not a One Laptop Per Child jihad?

Therefore what? Great idea but the private sector will get there before he stops talking (if ever).
Posted by oldestgeek (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excellent points...
I for one am wondering just how in the hell a hand crank is going to keep these laptops powered enough that the student or class of students won't be interuppted by the noise, or the need to continue cranking it to keep the thing on?

This is the last thing these people need. Right now they need stable government (not by America's doing, btw), stable medical treatments, stable education, and stable income. The country needs to be able to self-sustain itself before laptops for these kids are handed out.

I'm sure these kids would like to EAT rather than look at a computer screen all day.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
An evil attitude
You might as well have said "Let them eat cake." I don't understand why people like you hate the poor so much. They've done nothing to you.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Link Flag
Ignorant
Moore's "law" says nothing about the price of computers as a whole.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Motivation and Practicality a concern
I've got two issues with this based on what I've read in this article.

1) What is the motivation behind this movement? It was said that this presentation was given to a group of Linux enthusiasts. That plus the rhetoric used makes me think that the motivation is more for pushing the Linux desktop in an effort to spite Microsoft and Intel with education as a side effect.

2) What do educators think about this? I didn't see any quotes or mention of those who actually teach these children. Do they think this will solve their child education problems? Do US school teachers think this would help solve education problems?

As far as laptops being the solution, this seems like a chicken and egg problem to me. What kind of education is required to use a computer in the first place (especially if it runs an operating system like Linux which is typically less user friendly)? Also, what about infrastructure? Will there be internet access in these countries? What about the availability of electricity to charge these laptops?

All of these questions need some serious consideration. I'd like to see something like this deployed in the midwest of the US before I'm convinced it will work in developing countries. But all in all, I think the focus here is too much on Linux and not enough on practicality.
Posted by cgillum (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well said
OK. Here's an idea.
Let's take all the benefits and profits from this "giveway" project and use it to better the developing world.
Instead of making the chasm between the developed world and developing world wider and making some millionaire richer at the expense of the "have-nots", lets change the status quo and really make a difference.
Let's change the focus.
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
Info on project available
There is information about the laptop progam available at the project's site and in the media. Quick answers to your questions:

" The pedagogic perspective is that more students will be teachable with less need for numerous teachers and school buildings. With information available via web site, teachers will be able to do more online instruction, older children can help younger children learn and children can self-educate.

"Internet access will largely be through meshing computers, though some may be link through desktop computers.

" Computers may run off a windup mechanism, solar batteries, or car batteries in areas in which electricty is not available or unreliable.

" The laptops are designed for children in poor countries, not the U.S. (Yes, nearly 30 percent of American children are poor, but these computers will not be advanced enough to meet their needs.)
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Link Flag
Who says Linux is less user-friendly?
Linux is only "less user friendly" if you grew up using Windows.

If we had used Linux growing up, we wouldn't think that way.
Posted by hellsyes (44 comments )
Link Flag
Motivation and Practicality a concern
I've got two issues with this based on what I've read in this article.

1) What is the motivation behind this movement? It was said that this presentation was given to a group of Linux enthusiasts. That plus the rhetoric used makes me think that the motivation is more for pushing the Linux desktop in an effort to spite Microsoft and Intel with education as a side effect.

2) What do educators think about this? I didn't see any quotes or mention of those who actually teach these children. Do they think this will solve their child education problems? Do US school teachers think this would help solve education problems?

As far as laptops being the solution, this seems like a chicken and egg problem to me. What kind of education is required to use a computer in the first place (especially if it runs an operating system like Linux which is typically less user friendly)? Also, what about infrastructure? Will there be internet access in these countries? What about the availability of electricity to charge these laptops?

All of these questions need some serious consideration. I'd like to see something like this deployed in the midwest of the US before I'm convinced it will work in developing countries. But all in all, I think the focus here is too much on Linux and not enough on practicality.
Posted by cgillum (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well said
OK. Here's an idea.
Let's take all the benefits and profits from this "giveway" project and use it to better the developing world.
Instead of making the chasm between the developed world and developing world wider and making some millionaire richer at the expense of the "have-nots", lets change the status quo and really make a difference.
Let's change the focus.
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
Info on project available
There is information about the laptop progam available at the project's site and in the media. Quick answers to your questions:

" The pedagogic perspective is that more students will be teachable with less need for numerous teachers and school buildings. With information available via web site, teachers will be able to do more online instruction, older children can help younger children learn and children can self-educate.

"Internet access will largely be through meshing computers, though some may be link through desktop computers.

" Computers may run off a windup mechanism, solar batteries, or car batteries in areas in which electricty is not available or unreliable.

" The laptops are designed for children in poor countries, not the U.S. (Yes, nearly 30 percent of American children are poor, but these computers will not be advanced enough to meet their needs.)
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Link Flag
Who says Linux is less user-friendly?
Linux is only "less user friendly" if you grew up using Windows.

If we had used Linux growing up, we wouldn't think that way.
Posted by hellsyes (44 comments )
Link Flag
Extend the Simputer!
Right now the Simputer is all open source as well as the hardware but it's just a PDA.

Still it lowers the cost to have open source hardware becaseu you can have Open Innovation (making the community feel like they own the computer as Negroponte puts it) and less cost of research and development because the community is involved. Also less government restictions and tewzx becaseeu open contracts are usually not tied tightly to governments.

So maybe we should extend the Simputer
into a larger scope qicker.

Simputer Open Source Hardware
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://amidasimputer.com/funzone/" target="_newWindow">http://amidasimputer.com/funzone/</a>
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extend the Simputer!
Right now the Simputer is all open source as well as the hardware but it's just a PDA.

Still it lowers the cost to have open source hardware becaseu you can have Open Innovation (making the community feel like they own the computer as Negroponte puts it) and less cost of research and development because the community is involved. Also less government restictions and tewzx becaseeu open contracts are usually not tied tightly to governments.

So maybe we should extend the Simputer
into a larger scope qicker.

Simputer Open Source Hardware
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://amidasimputer.com/funzone/" target="_newWindow">http://amidasimputer.com/funzone/</a>
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS should love this
They are concerned about piracy and this could very well reduce it by a lot.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS should love this
They are concerned about piracy and this could very well reduce it by a lot.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...
"The problem is that you gave them to the wrong people--the kids don't think they are theirs, and see them as government property, or they are locked up after school."

Well, duh. If they are given to the schools, they ARE government property. They AREN'T theirs. They are locked, restricted, locked down almost to the point of uselessness. Hello? Obvious?
Posted by jj45 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...
"The problem is that you gave them to the wrong people--the kids don't think they are theirs, and see them as government property, or they are locked up after school."

Well, duh. If they are given to the schools, they ARE government property. They AREN'T theirs. They are locked, restricted, locked down almost to the point of uselessness. Hello? Obvious?
Posted by jj45 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dignity
This $100 laptop needs to reposition itself... otherwise, you might as well add this to the startup screen: "Do not log on if you are poor!".

Poor people don't like to be labeled as poor... and they don't want to use laptops that are being promoted as being for the poor.

Positioning it as a learning machine for an online correspondence schools for both developed and 3rd world countries would be a way to go. Labeling it as laptops for the poor won't get it too far. Yes, people that are poor have feelings or emotions too.
Posted by shawnlin (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dignity
This $100 laptop needs to reposition itself... otherwise, you might as well add this to the startup screen: "Do not log on if you are poor!".

Poor people don't like to be labeled as poor... and they don't want to use laptops that are being promoted as being for the poor.

Positioning it as a learning machine for an online correspondence schools for both developed and 3rd world countries would be a way to go. Labeling it as laptops for the poor won't get it too far. Yes, people that are poor have feelings or emotions too.
Posted by shawnlin (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dignity
This $100 laptop needs to reposition itself... otherwise, you might as well add this to the startup screen: "Do not log on if you are poor!".

Poor people don't like to be labeled as poor... and they don't want to use laptops that are being promoted as being for the poor.

Positioning it as a learning machine for an online correspondence schools for both developed and 3rd world countries would be a way to go. Labeling it as laptops for the poor won't get it too far. Yes, people that are poor have feelings or emotions too.
Posted by shawnlin (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dignity
This $100 laptop needs to reposition itself... otherwise, you might as well add this to the startup screen: "Do not log on if you are poor!".

Poor people don't like to be labeled as poor... and they don't want to use laptops that are being promoted as being for the poor.

Positioning it as a learning machine for an online correspondence schools for both developed and 3rd world countries would be a way to go. Labeling it as laptops for the poor won't get it too far. Yes, people that are poor have feelings or emotions too.
Posted by shawnlin (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Make Intel an ally
Create a version of the $100/135/whatever that uses an Intel chip.

No sense in making enemies of Intel when they can very well make a compatible chip.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Make Intel an ally
Create a version of the $100/135/whatever that uses an Intel chip.

No sense in making enemies of Intel when they can very well make a compatible chip.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's a scam that won't help anybody
The $100 laptop is a scam. Governments are going to pay for a useless item that isn't going to help anyone's education. It's a joke to think $100 laptops are even needed when desktop computers are everywhere. It's a joke to think computers will make kids smarter when all the evidence shows that billions of dollars were completely wasted. It's just another perfect liberal idea: somebody gets something useless; somebody else gets to pay for it; the idiots in charge of it all act like they just saved the world.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's a scam that won't help anybody
The $100 laptop is a scam. Governments are going to pay for a useless item that isn't going to help anyone's education. It's a joke to think $100 laptops are even needed when desktop computers are everywhere. It's a joke to think computers will make kids smarter when all the evidence shows that billions of dollars were completely wasted. It's just another perfect liberal idea: somebody gets something useless; somebody else gets to pay for it; the idiots in charge of it all act like they just saved the world.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Things people need more than $100 Laptops...
First off, full disclosure: I consider myself a liberal, but a pragmatic one. The dreamy ones can go f*ck themselves...oh wait, they're already doing that.

Anyway, this whole thing, as many have said, is just a Linux rah-rah stunt. There are only about 200 things that these kids need more than a cheap/free laptop. Like:

1) Literacy (can't read, can't use a computer, much less build a just society, stay out of harms way, become a leader, etc.)
2) Clean water (in case this isn't a "well, no duh" point, trying going without it for about 36 hours are see if you change your mind)
3) Vaccinations / basic healthcare (including birth control). Say what you will about big bad Bill Gates, but he's putting real muscle behind this effort.
4) Sustainable agriculture (can't ruin the only land you've got with bad crops/techniques -- need desalinization tools and modern methodology to feed more people)
5) Infrastructure (including some vestige of the kind of telecom system you'd need to make lots o' shiny laptops anything more than doorstops)
6) Civil rights (even/especially for those w/o oil under their poor soil -- doesn't have to be a "democracy" by the way, just an increase in the level of just treatment)
7) Local economies above subsistence level (microfunding, community banking, knowledge transfer -- see literacy above).

Those are just a few, but I challenge anyone here to argue that $100 laptops deserve even to be mentioned in the same discussion as these issues without being roundly dismissed as a wholly feeble, if not even destructive diversion to the real issues at hand.

The person who said that any money that goes to cheap laptops comes directly out of the same pot that could go to addressing the issues above was right on the mark.
Posted by rlaw68 (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Inertia
You're right. There's so many other basic needs other than education. We should stop doing anything for people who already have basic needs met. Just tell 'em "Sorry, we've got to meet basic needs ofthe next village" and let them stay right where there are. Who do those poor nations think they are, trying to actually *improve* their future instead of making sure the basics are covered for every living sole on earth.

Damn greedy poor. Always trying to get a head via education. Tehy ough to be happy with subsistance farming.

/sarcasm
Posted by ScottMo (71 comments )
Link Flag
Absolutely Bang On!
You've said it better than I could have.
Finally...someone besides me gets the point.
Thanks.
Posted by gdmaclew (158 comments )
Link Flag
 

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