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Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the still-waiting-on-one-steam-machine-per-child dept.

Portables 111

An anonymous reader sends this quote from OLPC News about whether the One Laptop Per Child project can expect to continue much longer: "Here is a question for you: 8 years on, would you recommend anyone start a new deployment with XO-1 laptops? With the hardware now long past its life expectancy, spare parts hard to find, and zero support from the One Laptop Per Child organization, its time to face reality. The XO-1 laptop is history. Sadly, so is Sugar. Once the flagship of OLPC's creativity in redrawing the human-computer interaction, few are coding for it and new XO variants are mostly Android/Gnome+Fedora dual boots. Finally, OLPC Boston is completely gone. No staff, no consultants, not even a physical office. Nicholas Negroponte long ago moved onto the global literacy X-Prize project." A response from OLPC says their mission is "far from over." They add, "OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values – education."

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Winding down? (5, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#46468327)

I hate to be snarky, but did it ever wind up?

Re:Winding down? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468409)

I remember when even the slightest bit of criticism of this "amazing and visionary" program would get you modded down into infinity on /. Everyone here seemed to think it was the greatest goddamned thing since sliced bread and Linux.

Re:Winding down? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#46468445)

Not just that, everybody thought that that would be the vehicle for Linux to take over the world

Re:Winding down? (5, Informative)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#46468597)

Initially, yes. Go with the least expensive hardware possible and a tiny Linux installation and get them out to people who can learn from them.

Getting that hardware price-point was difficult. But they got close.

Then they decided that it needed to run some form of Windows.

The End.

Re:Winding down? (4, Interesting)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#46468753)

I think it's vision is being fulfilled by the Raspberry Pi. Cheap and low power it offers a lot of possibilities for education and seems to fire the imagination and creativity in children.

Re:Winding down? (3, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | about a year ago | (#46469467)

What makes you think Pi is popular with the kids [youtube.com] ? It seems to be a nerd-only thing that's popular mostly as a cheap XBMC box.

Low power? Is this really an issue for children, like their parents only let them draw two amps at a time for their main computing device?

And by the time you include a monitor, case, keyboard, etc, a netbook with monitor is going to be cheaper and draw less power and let them use the most popular and supported business/educational/entertainment software.

Re:Winding down? (0)

stoborrobots (577882) | about a year ago | (#46469557)

Low power? Is this really an issue for children...

Given the OLPC's target market, developing countries, yes, this is an issue. There isn't a stable grid, so you can only get electricity a few hours a day, at most, and there is not much of it...

Re:Winding down? (3, Insightful)

uncqual (836337) | about a year ago | (#46469579)

Low power? Is this really an issue for children, like their parents only let them draw two amps at a time for their main computing device?

In the third world, yes. If you live in a one room "house" with one solar panel, every watt-hour counts - if the laptop has to draw off the "house battery" because the laptop runs out of charge before daylight or another charging opportunity, that's going to mean you can't keep lights on to read by (although, with the advent of much cheaper LED lights, this may not be as much of a problem anymore).

Re:Winding down? (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about a year ago | (#46469655)

Well then hopefully they are able to use the computer without a monitor. Because a Pi with monitor is going to draw more power than a netbook, and FAR more power than a $50 Android cell phone.

Re:Winding down? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#46472579)

(although, with the advent of much cheaper LED lights, this may not be as much of a problem anymore).

Cheaper yes, cheap no. Cheap enough for third world families to buy them? I really doubt it. I just bought my first household LED's a month ago. They were almost $30 each.

Raspberry? (1)

gwolf (26339) | about a year ago | (#46469723)

Cheap it is, granted. And yes, its inceptors do (try to) target it at the educational market. I have in fact spotted several RPi machines at my university. However, getting a RPi usable to be part of a general science project is quite far from trivial. Yes, given its easily accessible GPIO, it's close to ideal. But basic and high school teachers rarely know enough to get a RPi to boot, don't even mention to control or monitor outside events.

Re:Raspberry? (2)

gwolf (26339) | about a year ago | (#46469763)

Expanding a bit from my previous post: Of course, interested kids will get their RPi going, and might end up making magic, just as many of us did with our 8-bit machines 25 years ago. However, the bar the OLPC set to itself was quite different — And might I say, much higher: To come up with a {product, system} that's made for kids. For all kids. To help them to learn about everything, not just about how to do I/O with a computer. An operating environment that's tailored to a constructuvist view of education, allowing them to (easily) understand what's going on in the programs — But even if they don't want to, give them a wide array of programs to hand-hold them through the whole educational process.

Not by far the same task. Both RPi and OLPC set on for extraordinary tasks. But their targets are very far from each other.

Re:Winding down? (3, Insightful)

Ingo Ruhnke (3575189) | about a year ago | (#46470757)

Yep, the important difference is that the Pi is actually available to people who want, OLPC never sold to the public, only through time limited G1G1. Never understood why they would make it so hard to buy one.

Re:Winding down? (4, Informative)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | about a year ago | (#46469237)

Then they decided that it needed to run some form of Windows.

The End.

OLPC didn't decide it needed to run some form of Windows... Microsoft decided it needed some form of Windows. To not be left out, Microsoft ported WindowsXP. All OLPC did to support that was made sure OpenFirmWare would boot Windows (and subsequently standard Linux distros) to prevent Microsoft from completely overwriting the firmware with standard BIOS code preventing Sugar from booting ever again. http://lists.laptop.org/piperm... [laptop.org] OLPC still pushed for Linux / Sugar. All the stories I read were about the Sugar installs. Microsoft also pushed the Classmate to be a Windows platform.

Although OLPC had great intentions I feel there were several problems:
-Sugar was ridiculously slow. I know it's running on a crappy AMD Geode, but it was real slow.

-Assumption that everyone wants to be a programmer. One of the reasons Sugar is so slow is it's written in Python. Easy to modify, but being an interpreted language, it's slow. How high a priority is being able to modify the OS's GUI?

-Poor selection of apps. Poor selection of actual learning materials. Instead there's a million "learn to program" type apps, and some crappy games. Yes I think accessibility of learning to program is good, and lots of people on /. will talk about how hacking away on Basic on an Apple //, or POKE on C64 at their school got them into CompSci, you really are the minority. With the amount of money being spent on the things, they better really help with the basics of education (3 R's) first.

-Poor support of the deployments. In many cases it seemed they were dropped off, and it was up to the teachers to figure out. These are teachers not very familiar with computers, so what are they supposed to do with them?

-The platform doesn't age well with the students. Sugar is really targeted for young elementary students. I think if it was designed to have access to a standard Linux desktop (Xfce maybe? I think that's the one that hasn't gone to crap like KDE, Gnome, Unity and will run well on old junk) it would be good for older students, as well as opening up the platform to a lot more applications and resources. XO-1.5 at least was designed to dual boot Sugar and Fedora 11.

-Trying to be too much: Ground up building a new GUI, ground up building a new boot mechanism (OFW), wandering goal (XO-1, XO-1.5, XO-1.75, XO-2, XO-3, XO-4), means they're not dedicated to supporting a certain platform for a longer period of time. With the amount of money these poor countries are spending on it, it should be a solid supported platform for a while.

Really I find a lot of these problems are shared with conventional technology platforms in education. At some point TV was going to be the be all and end all to education. Nope. Growing up my school had Apple //, Mac Classic, iMac, and eventually Windows PCs. Still questionable how much they added to the educational experience. I remember playing games and typing tutor on the Apple //, but there were three of them in the back of a class of 20 students. Although I could use a word processor / Spreadsheet programs (as a commonly toted example of why computers in school are important), it wasn't till University, or later "Real world" / workplace that I learned proper way of doing things (such as styles). At the very least in developing countries any push for computers (OLPC, Tablets, etc) should be a good ebook reader first, with tons of "open textbooks" / lesson plans, but I didn't see that materialize in OLPC.

In the developed world I see it continue. Look at the amount of schools spending ridiculous amounts of money on either laptops for each child, or tablets for each child. Do they actually do anything? In my Junior/Senior year in University there were students that did their Freshman/Sophmore year at a collage that really promoted laptop use. They got assigned a laptop and used it in every class. Maple for math, etc. I don't see them being any better off than me, and I still think pencil and paper only is good for learning the basics (eg: 1st year calculus). Once you have the fundamentals, and are trying to crunch large data sets, obviously using software makes sense, and if you understand the basics, using the software is a breeze.

There is some thought, or hope, that the OLPC inspired netbooks (like the EeePC), and subsequently tablets, which are dropping in price. Hopefully some of these technologies might eventually advance education.

Re:Winding down? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469611)

There is some thought, or hope, that the OLPC inspired netbooks (like the EeePC), and subsequently tablets, which are dropping in price. Hopefully some of these technologies might eventually advance education.

I kinda view OLPC and EEEPC as the initial starting point of the "ultra cheap computing" movement.

We look now and laugh, but the idea of a _$200_ computer was insanely luring just a few years ago.

Re:Winding down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46470239)

Re: "a million "learn to program" type apps." That is an unfortunate misconception. There are so many other Activities available for having students use higher level learning skills. The ability to coordinate most of the programs with each other, to collaborate on assignments and projects that all lead to project based learning (PBL) and cooperative/collaborative learning state of the art learning for the future today's students will live and work in. I know of no other software suite for children that offers a richer experience than Sugar. BTW the Tam Tam Suite of music Activities is wonderful if the teachers know how to use it creatively with their students (excellent demos of this are on the Uruguay site). Also, the simple little Memorize Activity takes an old favorite children's matching game and lets them (or their teachers) create new games using imported sounds, photos, drawings, and text. All of them coordinate together to make this happen in Sugar. The only real fault I can see with Sugar is that it requires a rather long learning curve to get to the point where a teacher can use it effectively with their students. Most teachers don't have the time to do their homework on this. Too many other things they must do family obligations, paperwork, parent contacts, sweep their classrooms, etc. And, don't forget that second job they need to have to make ends meet.

The gods must be crazy. (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#46470069)

Then they decided that it needed to run some form of Windows.
The End.


The XO laptop was a product of the western media lab and a take-it-or-leave-it constructivist philosophy of education that proclaimed that teachers were of no consequence and that kids and their families could teach themselves.

There have been a bare 1.8 million OLPC laptops distributed

Most to Uruguay and Peru and almost none outside the Western Hemisphere. The notion that anyone could have believed OLPC was a culturally neutral ---- truly global solution ---for primary education seems laughable in retrospect.

From the beginning, OLPC was competing against simplified versions of the generic Windows PC with MS Office.

From the point of view of the third-world education minister, these were marketable skills that prepared a student well for the higher grades and vocational education, SUGAR was always going to be a question mark.

More importantly. these stripped down Windows systems systems did not attempt to dictate teaching methods or courseware generally.

Re:Winding down? (1)

supremebob (574732) | about a year ago | (#46470499)

I don't really think that they got that close. The OLPC was supposed to be $100, and it never got down to less than $200 after several years after the initial promise.

That said, it help to launch the $300 netbook trend, soon followed by $100 7" Android tablets and cheap Windows based laptops. All of those caught on far better than OLPC did, and probably helped to get technology into low income households far better than the original project.

Re:Winding down? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#46471701)

Then they decided that it needed to run some form of Windows.

"They" being Nicholas Negroponte.

Re:Winding down? (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about a year ago | (#46468763)

Not really. Most of us knew it was going to be a failure from the start. Now we can finally put this boondoggle behind us.

Re:Winding down? (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about a year ago | (#46471227)

well, there clearly was the potential, but they screwed it up in many ways (eg. that I couldn't buy one in my 1st world country, even though I could have used it quite well because at times I travel to remote places ... how do you suspect to get users like that? :P)

Re:Winding down? (1)

penguinstorm (575341) | about a year ago | (#46468425)

They certainly had a presence. I used to see booths and hardware at tech related events and conventions, though they were usually smaller ones.

I always figured this for a temporary project: it was a concept laptop that made many many compromises to achieve a price goal. Pretty cool in that respect. That price goal is now being met (or nearly met) by other products ranging from crappy tablets to crappy chromebooks.

Shame to see it go because it also had the philanthropic mission angle that I suspect is not done.

Re:Winding down? (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#46468913)

They still do booths. They had one at SCALE at the end of February.

Re:Winding down? (3, Insightful)

penguinstorm (575341) | about a year ago | (#46468439)

also: no one on slashdot ever "hate[s] to be snarky." Ever.

Re: Winding down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468481)

These thread layouts suck @55. are you kidding me? waste of space. width issues, embedded width issues, fonts, line height. its all bull5hit!@

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468521)

It was displaced by the "one cellphone per child" consumer-initiated movement.

Re:No. (1)

Collective 0-0009 (1294662) | about a year ago | (#46468625)

It was displaced by the "one cellphone per child" consumer-initiated movement.

Bingo! If it weren't for Apple trying to get $40 per Android phone, we could be seeing $100 cell phones more powerful than the original OLPC.

They just need to teach basic electronics, give away the assembly that charged the battery with a crank, and let poor people adapt it to fit whatever cell phone battery they have.

Re:Winding down? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#46468675)

Speaking of which, in the 1990s, prior to Al Gore finding his niche as Eco Savior/ManBearPig, he was leading a previous crusade that might have been called One Desktop With Internet Per Poor Family, to the applause of CEOs of companies like HP. This was before Obamafones.


Re:Winding down? (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about a year ago | (#46468895)

That "Obamafone" program that you are referring to was actually started during the Reagan Administration. Kinda hard for something that happened in the nineties to predate that...

Re:Winding down? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#46469889)

How dare you bring facts into this... HOLY Regan never did such a thing... the great SATAN Obama and his Stalin SOCALISIM created that!

to repent you must repeat out loud the "tear down this wall" speech 3 times with an american flag draped over your head.

Re:Winding down? (2)

jez9999 (618189) | about a year ago | (#46469395)

I hate to be snarky, but did it ever wind up?

That was how you charged the battery, wasn't it?

Re:Winding down? (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#46469433)


Re:Winding down? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#46469871)

No. The hardware never met expectations and it never really got to the kids. Most were confiscated by the local dictators and sold off. Honestly, it should have been epaper displays, but they did not want to pay for those, (epaper is still horribly overpriced) and honestly you could outfit a village with very old used toughbooks for the same price as all the XO's and the toughbooks were easier to get as well as having better specifications and rubber waterproof keyboards.

Re:Winding down? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#46470841)

No. The hardware never met expectations and it never really got to the kids. Most were confiscated by the local dictators and sold off.

Not just that. I thought the buy-1-give-1 program was awesome and my daughter was four at the time, so I thought it would be perfect. Christmas came and went and I never got a box in the mail. The office was clearly a mess.

I month or two later, I gave up after getting nowhere with those people, bought her a pink eeePC and all was well with the world. Especially ASUS's profit, since they dared to earn it.

OLPC is the granddaddy of the Netbook (1)

rsborg (111459) | about a year ago | (#46471139)

In fact, I would go so far as to say it quite literally changed computing by showing that a low power non-windows laptop could work (crank charger? hell yes). The form factor was closer to what made the Asus eeePC 701 famous - and get this, the even the name seems to derive from the OLPC mission [1]

According to Asus, the name Eee derives from "the three Es", an abbreviation of its advertising slogan for the device: "Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play".

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

Do not be sad that is is over (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about a year ago | (#46468345)

Be happy that it happened in the first place.

Re:Do not be sad that is is over (2)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a year ago | (#46468431)

Think of all the poor kids who would be without worthless computers today had it not been for this program.

Re:Do not be sad that is is over (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#46468453)

Their current device is basically a ruggedized Android tablet; there are plenty of those available in toystores for less.
With regards to hardware and OS, they've gone as far as they can and the market has taken over.
They should focus on distribution to poor countries and the application side of things (which seems to be exactly what they're doing).

"one mind control device" (-1, Flamebait)

strstr (539330) | about a year ago | (#46468355)

"per child"

haha. indoctrinating children, getting them to waste all their brain cells and life on computer technology. pouring all this information about them selves into a computer, shaping their whole world (including brain) around it, giving up all their liberty and freedom.

we want kids to spend their whole lives living off pixels being beamed direct into their brains, having images and information duplicated, each soul that gets sucked in being exactly the same and as easy to control as the next. also aids the government in spreading misinformation and developing people into mindless morons.

http://www.oregonstatehospital... [oregonstatehospital.net]

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#46468381)

Indoctrination happens either way. Just look at how many people end up with the religion of the dominant culture of their region.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

strstr (539330) | about a year ago | (#46468417)

Only because we don't flat out ban it.

Each childs mind should be there's to invent and create on their own. Not their parents, not the governments, not religious nuts, not the corporations, and not advertisers.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468867)

So ban all education? It's all mind control...

Re:"one mind control device" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468881)

Yes, it's definitely our White Man's Burden to save children from native cultures. Manifest Destiny forever.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#46469849)

You understand what "white man's burden" means, right? It's not a synonym of "charity". It's "deeming other cultures unable to properly rule themselves as an excuse".

Re:"one mind control device" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468441)

There is no better source of information than the internet and it's kind of hard to connect to the internet without a computer.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

strstr (539330) | about a year ago | (#46468627)

mind control indoctrination at it's finest.

image a world where you didn't need the internet. you didn't need to be connected to one another, and you lived your life dealing with what you had locally. you would turn out to be smarter, faster, and more proficient, perhaps, spending less days associating with a screen that merely duplicated what everyone else was viewing. literally, all your experience would come from working with the real world, and not being driven into the pleasure of having information from a source that you normally don't gain any experience from using.

couldn't it be that you're addicted to starring at a screen all day, and you're ignoring other sources for information? other sources and methods of living your life?

also when I get on the bus each day, I see each and every one of them starring into their smartphones, no longer interacting with one another, mindless wasting their lives in games and Facebook shit. I imagine that because of this, most of them are just mindlessly addicted, and have forgotten what it's like to live in the real world.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

toopok4k3 (809683) | about a year ago | (#46468795)

This world sounds boring.

Re:"one mind control device" (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#46468855)

also when I get on the bus each day, I see each and every one of them starring into their smartphones, no longer interacting with one another, mindless wasting their lives in games and Facebook shit.

Before smartphones, commuters were staring into books (which contained less information than an Internet-connected device can provide), doing crosswords or simply looking out the window. In my considerable experience of commuter transportation around the world, I have never seen people on their way to the daily grind "interacting with one another" to any significant degree.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#46469897)

Not only commuters, but drivers. I used to see people driving and reading a book all the time, now they just have a tablet.

My favorite was a guy passing traffic at 90 while playing a trumpet.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about a year ago | (#46469383)

you realize that the.. exact opposite has been the norm throughout human existance right? isolated groups of people do not develop things like "science" and "technology". if you want that lifestyle, go to somewhere like papau new guinea and see it first hand.

the mindless obsession with cell phones and facebook IS stupid. but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Re:"one mind control device" (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about a year ago | (#46470513)

I actually did live in the time you describe, and guess what: people like you complained in precisely the same terms about what the amount of TV we watched was doing to our minds. And what do you miss, exactly, when you are "no longer interacting with" that fascinating intellectual ferment of souls you meet on the city bus?

"Flagship" (4, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#46468401)

Sugar is the horrible POS that made the XO-1 such a sluggish pain to use. If they had developed a lean UI rather than deploying some overarchitected academic project that was clearly never tested on the target hardware it would have been much more appealing.

Re:"Flagship" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468723)

With a hard heart, I second this. I had the joy of having an XO-1.5 laptop for a good six months. Sugar is the biggest pain in the arse, It is great when i realised I was able to use gnome 2 on the laptop. Then it became usable.

Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468847)

Someone gave me one of these to play with, and it was terrible. I think the underlying idea may actually have been to make poor children not care that they don't have laptops, rather than actually giving them one that they can use.

Re:"Flagship" (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#46470831)

I've heard Sugar is the reason many of the kids learned to hack their first machine. That's a feature, not a bug.

Other Netbooks (1)

randomErr (172078) | about a year ago | (#46468419)

I can go on eBay and get and Android netbook for the same price as a XO-1. It has more memory and ton of software that just works. Most pay as you go cell phones have similar power, a good battery life needed for these areas and has the dual purpose of, well being a phone. I can't see OLPC going any further unless it becomes a broker for similar devices.

Not surprised (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about a year ago | (#46468571)

Silly project dies a silly death. News at eleven!

Re:Not surprised (2)

jcomeau_ictx (696704) | about a year ago | (#46468621)

perhaps. I believe the current ubiquity of under-$100 computers is due in part to OLPC. I just wish everybody would make devices waterproof and drop-resistant by default, as the OLPC project pushed.

Re:Not surprised (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468791)

It wasn't silly when it began. When it started, ethere was nothing of the sort even remotely available on the market. More like, market has caught up and can produce hardware cheaper now.

Negroponte moved on? Shocking. (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year ago | (#46468605)

The founder of the MIT Media Lab, which churns out nothing but useless ivory-tower crap, moved on to something more shiny?


OLPC was nothing more than a way to pay for travel to academic conferences and get his name into stuff.

Re:Negroponte moved on? Shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46472379)

Excuse me, I work in an ivory tower, I know the crap ivory towers produce, and what the Media Lab does is nothing like that.

For one, MIT Media lab shit contains thousands of times more hype and for another thousands of times less actual scientific content.

Go an pin that shit on someone else. May I suggest snake oil salesmen?

Re:Negroponte moved on? Shocking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46474111)

And OLPC was a great way for Negroponte to armtwist millions from multinationals.

Hobnobbing with billionaires at the World Economic Forum, Negropompus managed to pocket a lot of money ... all in the name of educating poor kids in underdeveloped nations.

A guy who's never spent a day in Detroit's inner city, claims to know exactly what poor students need.

Going concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468611)

I guess I never realized it was supposed to be a going concern. I always thought it was some fanciful charitable concern.

How about "Clean Water Per Child" or something more worthwhile to care about. Computer hardware isn't the same vein of need as just about anything else you might legitimately ascribe the term "need" to. If they are in a society where it is a "need", it is in just about every facet of their lives in a much more productive manner than giving them a laptop to go destroy.

The OLPC Community does not depend on OLPC Corpora (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468665)

I and a few other volunteers set up a few new deployments just this past January (2014) in Haiti. 8 years on, the XO-1's are still great learning tools. There is still a supply, as a lot of people redonated their "get one," and the laptops themselves seem to last almost forever. Spare parts aren't all that hard to find, and there are dozens if not hundreds of developers and sysadmins still supporting existing deployments, with the more adventurous of us working on new ones.
For anyone interested in starting a new deployment with XO-1's, you can get in touch with us at http://unleashkids.org [unleashkids.org] and we can talk about the details.

OLPC served its purpose (4, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year ago | (#46468799)

OLPC was a project to get computers into the hands of children in developing nations. This was at a time when a laptop for a hundred bucks was thought to be impossible...... and then along came smart phones and tablets.

The OLPC was made obsolete by these devices. You can now get Android tablets for under 50 bucks and have access to hundreds of thousands of apps on the Android OS. No longer are you stuck in a sandbox like system with limited hardware and software. Sure they arent as rugged but the low cost makes them more appealing and they are essentially throw away (though that is not necessarily a good thing)
See this:
http://globalnews.ca/news/1203449/canadian-makers-of-worlds-lowest-cost-tablet-aim-for-a-20-device/ [globalnews.ca]

Re:OLPC served its purpose (3, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | about a year ago | (#46469187)

I agree.

If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

You can buy "white box" Android tablets at amazingly cheap prices because they are mass-produced in China. While these tablets fall short of the ideal devices imagined by OLPC, there is absolutely no way for OLPC to get their costs down to match.

You can buy at least three Android tablets for the cost of one OLPC device. You could bundle tablets with a keyboard, a carrying case, and maybe a solar panel, and still massively undercut the OLPC's custom hardware.

Cheap Android tablet's don't have great battery life. But I bought one of the original XO-1 laptops and it only had a few hours of battery life, so clearly OLPC must consider even the limited battery life of a cheap tablet to be sufficient.

One of the nifty things about the OLPC custom design is that it's easy to repair. But with the massive cost advantage of a generic Android tablet, whole spare tablets could be shipped.

The promise of Sugar never was realized. For example, one of the reasons I bought an XO-1 laptop was that I was excited by the thought of the "show source" key, where you were supposed to be able to go anywhere in the system, hit the "show source" key, and find some kind of editable Python source code you could tweak. I never did find any source to tweak before I gave away my laptop. (It's in India now!)

Another part of the OLPC custom hardware was the "mesh" networking, which aimed to make it possible for multiple students to cooperatively share limited networking resources. Did that ever actually get used? All the photos I have seen show students in classrooms, and if the classroom has WiFi then an Android tablet would work fine. If the "mesh" networking is valuable, then maybe OLPC should invest in a one-off gadget that just does that, and plugs into the USB port on an Android tablet.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#46469917)

"If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop educational software that runs on standard Android tablets."

If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop FREE educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

This is what is needed, along with FREE educational texts in native languages. one of the largest problems is that there are not a lot of books printed in the languages of 3rd world countries. and absolutely no advanced education texts.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (1)

steveha (103154) | about a year ago | (#46470691)

If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop FREE educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

Sure. They give away all the software they write already, and I assumed that they would give away any Android software they write. It seemed so obvious that I didn't feel the need to put in the word "free" but I guess I should have. Thanks for the comment.

one of the largest problems is that there are not a lot of books printed in the languages of 3rd world countries. and absolutely no advanced education texts.

I agree. IMHO that is the "killer app" for the OLPC devices, or for Android tablets. It's great that they can run software, but it's essential that they serve as textbook reading devices.

I think the ultimate educational tool for developing countries would be a ruggedized Android tablet with an e-ink screen. Color is a nice-to-have rather than essential, and the dramatic increase in battery life would be the win.

This suggests another idea for OLPC's future: they could make a deal with Amazon and ship a customized Kindle e-ink reader. Or maybe make a deal to ship a customized Nook. But either way, ride the coattails of a company that already spent the R&D and focus just on adding educational software.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (2)

zwazo (3574817) | about a year ago | (#46470367)

Speaking from my experiences training teachers in Haiti in Sugar...

As far as source code goes, press Shift+Alt+V. It's also available on the dropdown menu for the Activity. Maybe that feature was added after you gave your XO to India (thanks for redonating it so volunteers like me can get it into the hands of kids who need it); maybe it just wasn't included in the minimal guide. Yep, sometimes it's not a hardware or software issue; it's a lack of documentation.

Mesh networking is great! Students can use it to chat, send each other photos, and edit documents together - like collaborating on a Google Doc, but offline. Most classrooms in the 3rd world don't have WiFi obviously, and there's no signal if you're sitting outside under the trees. The fact that children can connect their computers with the touch of a button and no extra infrastructure is one of the best things about the XOs.

Sugar's got its quirks and disadvantages, but I'm still astounded every once in a while when I come across a new activity...the people who worked to develop these tools had a great vision in mind and it shows in their work.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46473659)

Speaking from my experiences training teachers in Haiti in Sugar...

As far as source code goes, press Shift+Alt+V. It's also available on the dropdown menu for the Activity. .

Actually fn key + space bar will bring up the source code whether there is a menu item or not.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46473637)

The show source key works fine for me. Just used it a few seconds ago on a random Sugar activity and the source code viewer launched.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (1)

Thanosius (3519547) | about a year ago | (#46469495)

I disagree. OLPC's purpose was to get their particular brand of cheap computers into the hands of children in developing nations. This was achieved on a limited scale, but seems to have faltered when cheap phones and tablets came around.

Now, if you want to move the goalposts and suggest that the overall purpose was simply to get computers, any computers, into the hands of children in developing nations, then it succeeded but not because of anything the OLPC project did. Android did that, coupled with the process of technology becoming cheaper and cheaper. OLPC can't get any real credit for that since they never competed with regular laptop markets to force the price of tech lower (you couldn't easily buy an OLPC as opposed to a laptop in the domestic market, hence there's no competition to reduce prices of other devices apart from natural reduction of tech costs).

OLPC failed on its own. If kids in developing nations are able to have cheap computing power in their hands now, it's probably happened despite the OLPC project, not because of them.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about a year ago | (#46469743)

To add to what LoRdTAW said:

The landscape of computer education has also changed tremendously, and for the better. Whether this was stimulated by the OLPC project or not is an open question, but there has been a change.

Computers in education pretty much meant a computer running a web processor, a word processor, and a smattering of poorly designed educational products when the XO-1 was introduced. Since then the "constructionist" philosophy of Papert, which was the framework of computer education in the 1980's, has reemerged. Many projects have been started to develop more comprehensive computer curricula and educational resources (e.g. lesson plans and software). The available software is more flexible in both lesson design and their philosophy of education. Self-directed resources have also improved. When the XO-1 came out, they were mostly geared towards reading and viewing. Now we have a large element of collaboration.

While it is sad to see the demise of the OLPC project, the demise reflects many positive changes in the landscape of education.

Re:OLPC served its purpose (1)

Alomex (148003) | about a year ago | (#46472467)

This was at a time when a laptop for a hundred bucks was thought to be impossible.....

... and it was impossible. The project has never shipped anything below $200.

and then along came smart phones and tablets.

...which are not laptops and most of which still cost more than $100 (at least the ones you would actually like to own).

The OLPC was made obsolete by these devices.

Right, blame those mean commercial manufacturers for making your flawed-premise hype-driven project a failure.

OLPC was the shot across the bow (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468917)

The OLPC XO-1 enpirically demonstrated that one could manufacture a self-contained device that could credibly be called a "computer" for $100. While that's no big deal today, it was unheard of a decade ago, and the XO-1 stood as the empirical proof it was possible.

Re:OLPC was the shot across the bow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46470013)

Ding, ding, ding, winner, winner, chicken diner!

Phones perhaps? (2)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#46468921)

I'm affraid my current smartphone probably has more memory, more storage and is faster than my 8 years old single core laptop running W-XP.
So how about one smartphone per child?

Re:Phones perhaps? (1)

thsths (31372) | about a year ago | (#46468987)

This. The world has changed, OLPC no longer has a credible goal in hardware. Netbooks have come and gone, and that is the end of that.

Now educational software, that is a demand that still has to be met in any serious way.

Re:Phones perhaps? (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | about a year ago | (#46469235)

Anticipate the convergence of the evolution in useful netlinked hardware with the growth of your target audience.

Shoot for One Google-Walker Per Senior.

Re:Phones perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46473055)

Your smartphone probably costs $400 though at retail.

The OLPC Underground (5, Interesting)

zwazo (3574817) | about a year ago | (#46468985)

When I emailed OLPC last year, I didn't expect a response and I didn't get one. Instead, Project Rive's XO laptops came from the Contributors' Program, which is run by volunteers for volunteers. 10 computers go down in someone's suitcase, instead of 10,000 being sent to a government. This "unofficial" effort has long been doing a much better job than the official guys, because we give schools the support they need - from solar setups to curriculum. Unleash Kids launched several programs in Haiti this year. We're using the original XO-1 computers, with new tools like a customized version of Sugar, the XSCE school server, and Internet-in-a-Box. Yep, the computers themselves are still being used years later, and there's a community working to find new uses and users. There's 2.5 million XOs out there, built to last longer than the latest tablet. No matter what happens to the big guys, Unleash Kids and others inspired by the OLPC vision will continue

Re:The OLPC Underground (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469689)

YES! The real story (if anyone wants to research it, many PhDs will be written) is that the bulk OLPC's institutional capacity wound down in the Prior Decade (innovation thrived in 2007-2009 especially) largely replaced by a far larger global community of DIY implementers. In particular olpcMAP.net is an unauthorized *treasure*, entirely crowdsourced and volunteer-run, far more comprehensive than OLPC's own "official" map. The reason is that country after country realized our children Won't Wait for bureaucrats to implement open educational technology. Hundreds of amazing OLPC offshoots arose alongside aside slow-moving institutional forces, escaping the trap of oft-dictatorial developing world politics. Not the droids you are looking for: planet.laptop.org aggregates many of these blogs from community DIY implementers worldwide (Lesotho, Nepal, Kenya, Haiti, India, Peru, Oceania, CeibalJAM, Columbus School for Girls!) who just got tired of the establishment's slow-moving institutional forces. And instead stepped on a plane/bus/motorcycle to start the Real Work of patiently rising up alongside thoughtful communities everywhere. Appropriating and animating learning technology instead of talking about it.

When the director refused to change his name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46468995)

from something offensive, we knew it was doomed. A couple of people here pointed that out about eight years or so ago. Offending the people you're trying to help just shows he was never serious about actually trying to help people.

Re:When the director refused to change his name... (1)

AlterEager (1803124) | about a year ago | (#46472137)

from something offensive, we knew it was doomed.

Yeah, 'cos people who live in countries called Niger and Nigeria get real offended by some guy called Negroponte.


TLPC (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469011)

Time to double down

OLPC is being replaced by olpc 2.0 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469167)

A few weeks ago OLPC 2.0 had a presence at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE 12X). Far from being "dead," it was as big a hit as ever. Of course, these were folks who are interested in open course software in education (OSSIE). There were deployers from several different countries sharing their stories and hardware/software developers demonstrating their work. Many people there showed interest in joining in this global movement to improve the education and lives of children everywhere.

People have criticized the XOs for their small memories and lack of lightning-fast performance. What they forget is that they are designed to run on very little power. There are viable deployments, in areas with no infrastructure, that run exclusively on solar power because that's all there is. They also use an "Internet-in-a-box" device that provides textbooks, lessons, and research materials similar to what they could find on the internet.

As an educator with over 30 years teaching experience, I can assure you that Sugar software is better than most commercial "educational" software. Sugar Labs has had over 10,000,000 Activity downloads so far. There must be something good there.

The problem is that most of the teachers using XOs and Sugar are overloaded with other obligations and seldom have a chance to really learn to use it creatively with their students. This problem is not unique to OLPC and Sugar.

One very large school district in the United States, was recently in the news because they were providing an iPad for every student, loaded with lots of commercial "educational" software that the "powers that be" decided they needed. Immediately there were all sorts of problems with security and smart high school students hacking the systems. The roll out is currently on hold. Meanwhile, a free workshop about using the tablets, held by the local Computer Using Educators (CUE) group on a weekend was attended by fewer than 50 people in a district with over 30,000 teachers.

Teachers everywhere, are just too busy doing other things required by their jobs not the least of which is preparing their students for mandated achievement tests and worrying about whether they will have a job the next school year. Some also feel their jobs are threatened by technology. And, of course, there is always the resistance to change.

But, where the proper groundwork has been done, some amazing things are coming out of classrooms using Sugar and the XOs. With olpc 2.0, it looks like it will continue to do so for many years to come. You are invited to be a part of this.

If you are a software or hardware developer or would like to get involved with assisting a deployment, there are many opportunities. There is also a need for people who would like to help with a project to bring the best of Sugar to the Android platform so it can be used on the millions of devices that are already in existence.

If you will be in Paris April 12-13, you might want to check out "Sugar Camp Paris." (http://fr.amiando.com/sugarcamp3.html). Other similar gatherings are held internationally throughout the year.

No, the XO and Sugar are still very much alive.

Re:OLPC is being replaced by olpc 2.0 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469199)

I'm not really an "Anonymous Coward!" My name is Caryl Bigenho and I have been a volunteer with OLPC and Sugar Labs for over 6 years.

OS agnosticism is a mistake (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about a year ago | (#46469353)

Getting children used to a free, non-proprietary operating system -- weaning them off Microsoft's teats, so to say -- is a social good in itself. To abandon this goal was a huge mistake.

Re:OS agnosticism is a mistake (1)

AlabamaCajun (2710177) | about a year ago | (#46472335)

" the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic" so they don't believe in hardware and OSs anymore?
Last time I heard the word Agnostic used, it was Microsoft did not believe in software.

As usual... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46469481)

... technology and the marketplace responded far more quickly, more cheaply, and vastly more efficiently than an NGO like OLPC could or would.

I wonder how much money was wasted funding this organization?

OLPC vs EEPC (4, Informative)

careysub (976506) | about a year ago | (#46469645)

I bought one of the OLPCs (actually two, as part of the "give one get one" charity program) for my daughter who was in the target age group at the time - and shortly thereafter I also bought an EEPC running Linux. The result - user acceptance of the EEPC blew the OLPC into the weeds. The OLPC was on minor novelty value, and that was all. The Atom processor on the EEPC smoked the Geode of course, and the native apps has far better performance of course than the Python programs on the OLPC, but the real kicker was this: the EEPC let my daughter do thins she actually wanted to do! What a concept!

It is sad to such a significant amount of money and creativity being poured into a such a "broken by design" project. You pick the slowest processor out there (since low power consumption was apparently a pre-eminent goal of the project). But then you put very inefficient software on it. And it is not even a good app suite!

Re:OLPC vs EEPC (1)

griffjon (14945) | about a year ago | (#46472671)

As I said many, many times during OLPC's early years, they should have brought it to market globally as a secondary source of revenue and driver of innovation. Props to focusing on education products for the least-served, but the OLPC created the industry niche for netbooks (and arguably, then, tablets), and then after hyping it up, refused to enter the market. They quickly got lapped by hardware that wasn't as open or as rugged, but was available to anyone for a low price. Once the netbook market got churning with the usual for-profit entities, they rapidly blew the OLPC out of the water in almost every user-experienced feature.

I'm still sad about how that worked out.

Ok (1)

The Cat (19816) | about a year ago | (#46469681)

Good idea tries to get low-cost hardware and a good educational platform OS into the hands of poor people.

Big American corporation comes along and drowns idea in a bathtub.

Big American corporation offers touch-screen television remote controls (which they call "smart" phones) as a replacement.

Everyone cheers.

The end.

Quoting fake OLPC advocacy site .. (2)

DTentilhao (3484023) | about a year ago | (#46469989)

The OLPC News website in the past months has build up a reputation for sharply criticizing the $100 laptop project headed up by Nicholas Negroponte .. You can shrug your shoulders and simply ignore the blog, but Christopher Blizzard, one of the OLPC's contributors and an employee for Red Hat, looked a little bit further. It turns out that one of the site's authors works on an Intel project that is competing with the OLPC. Oops." link [vr-zone.com]

aftleittle2580 (-1, Flamebait)

brenda4302 (3573929) | about a year ago | (#46470219)

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Cheap Android devices has replaced it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46471071)

And for most normal use that is enough. It won't foster new geeks. But for all other purposes it fits the bill.

Winding down or not deployments are getting moresu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46471207)

We started a deployment of 150 XO 1.5s in Pakistan in 2011. It is only now that we feel we have started fully benefiting from the laptops in every class with every child. It has taken three years to integrate theseinto our curriculum. The project has enabled us to bring these children from very severely deprived backgrounds to the 21st century in a very poor area of Karachi. The sugar activities were astarter,butnow our children know how to research on the internet when it is available, go on facebook, make pen pals around the world, do projects that connect them with other kids around the world like celebrating Earth day last April. With the help of community supporter like Braddock they have access to internet in a box now. With Tony Anderson's help we have finally learnt how to use a school server properly for the first time. Nancy Severs gave us the courage to open up bricked laptops to give them a new lease of life to XO 1.0 we have. Sadia Balouch has been collecting and refurbishing XO 1.0 from the US and sending them across with friends and relatives. We have recieved about 40 XO's from her and I hear more are on the way. James Cameron from so far away has been hand holding us to fix our XO1.5's and has even introduced us to Samuel North in the UK who has fixed XO's which we could not fix ourselves.
So please tell me what makes up OLPC? is it the hardware, the software, the network, the ideas generated by people in the field, the help and courage passed on by volunteers, the love of learning that our kids have been given only because we embraced the One Laptop per Child belief that if we put a loptop in a child's hand we will open a whole new world for them?
To a lay person in the field the fact that there is a change in the OLPC organization has made little impact as long as there is a community out there that is willing to support us and even willing to send us spare parts. i have recieved free screens, serial adapters, batteries, chargers and even laptops from people I have never met.Just one email of help to the support gang oes it all. I came back from my first OLPC basecamp meeting in Melaka feeling more inspired then ever!
Kishwer Aziz, Pakistan

Chromebook makes more sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46471523)

I know plenty of schools using Chromebooks now. You can buy Chromebook's in bulk quantities for around $150. But the real problem is the wireless infrastructure required for large groups of WIFI devices in a setting like a school. Or in poor areas where even wired internet might not be available. Their is so much more required then just getting hardware to these poor areas. We read of projects like balloons and drones being developed to provide a wireless solution. But none of them seem very viable given weather extremes and the fact you still need a base station providing the trunk line for those flying devices.
I think e also forget how many places in the World still lack basics like running water, sanitation and stable electricity. Let alone WiFi internet.

Ewww! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46471797)

Children smell like doo-doo and crayons.

Doomed to repeat (1)

griffjon (14945) | about a year ago | (#46472637)

"Papert and Negroponte distributed [computers] to school children in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal. The experience confirms one of Papert's central assumptions: children in remote, rural, and poor regions of the world take to computers as easily and naturally as children anywhere. These results will be validated in subsequent deployments in several countries, including Pakistan, Thailand, and Colombia. [...] Naturally, it failed. Nothing is that independent, especially an organization backed by a socialist government and staffed by highly individualistic industry visionaries from around the world. Besides, altruism has a credibility problem in an industry that thrives on intense commercial competition."

Oh, wait, wrong decade. That quote was from the 1992 attempt to do this with Apple II and Logo instead of OLPCs, Sugar, and Scratch.

My bad.

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