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December 15, 2007


Heard about this from C-Span (Q & A 11/27) interview with Negroponte (yes brother of that one - the devil of El Salvador - while being the conduit for the contras and death squads adopted two El S orphans - irony upon irony). This Neg sounds like true do gooder but who knows what lurks.


it is a good idea, and as such has seeded a lot of other projects including other very low cost computers. For example India has toyed with the idea of a $10 and then a $15 computer (yes that is what they are talking) and China has one, though I am not sure of the cost. Not to mention Intel's Classmate, which is now being offered for trials and even Microsoft is getting interested because of the potential customer base. ((If Google got into it, that would be wonderful.))

Apple offered to give for a version of it's OS for free, and MS feeling the pressure, offered a reduced XP for $40 but thus far OLPC has stuck to Open Source thinking of keeping the costs low in the future, but now further options have been opened and are being explored.
After at first being antagonistic, Intel, having been embarassed by seeming to act as a roadblock, and also having been lured by the possible vast customer, is also joining OLPC on hardware which is welcome.

The screen for the machine is actually very versatile, and is due to be improved.

Anyway, a vast new area of simple, cheap computers is opening up.

On Privacy concerns, I think that is someone in a different world worrying about situations they can't possibly understand.

Perhaps the idea of "a telephone party line" is repugnant to you emptypockets, but at one time they were well accepted, and appreciated. Perhaps too, the old operator switchboard with a busybody at the controls is anathema to you, but all these things can be dealt with and handled as easily as a young sister listening in on her brothers conversations with their girl friends from the phone in the kitchen.

Don't "swallow the camel, and then choke on a gnat!"

And on a personal level, I am responsible for 10 machines going to little kids in far away places. That is one form of Christmas Giving, that is open to everyone.

Well written post... I enjoyed and appreciated your non judgmental analysis of the pros and cons. Thanks empty pockets!!

I bought an XO laptop and joined the OLPC. I think the very attractive thing about it (besides the design geared for kids) is that it is Linux based and therefore open. The program founder points out this is not a hardware enterprise (though often mistaken for one) in the final analysis, but an educational one. The interface is not a Mac or Windows desktop and is not designed to make little office-workers out of the users. I am looking forward to see what it has to offer and anxiously await its arrival for Christmas.

If I could make one small point: people in the 3rd world generally have to work when it's light out, and indoor lighting in the morning and evening comes from a wood (or dung) fire. This means that the simple act of reading is beyond reach without consuming fuel that is more useful for other things, in addition to the respiratory problems created by a smoky fire inside a dwelling. The seemingly trivial ability to display written text in a form that can be read in the dark, whether the text is neighborly communication, literature, or technical information, may be the most important product of this wonderful program. I don't want to discount the value of cheap and ready computation, but knowledge comes first and foremost through the written word. I am hopeful that these mesh networks will prove to be shameless and persistent violators of copyright and that books, both important and entertaining, litter the landscape of the 3rd world.

Kudos to Jodi for a good comment and for her generosity. Privacy really is the least worrisome aspect of the lives of people who are being targeted by the OLPC. When they need it, they'll be able to figure out how to get it. And kudos to the OLPC techs for getting wireless to work with linux (that's a joke...really...I know it's not that bad...unless you insist on using a Broadcom 1438 card) ;-)

Good point about the light in the dwelling, and after dark Ken!

What impressed me most wasn't just that the kids caught on so quickly, but how they helped each other. For them it was not just personal learning, but social learning. Communicating with each other in the class!

... and next the world!

meraki (sf.meraki.com) is setting up a demo mesh network in the heart of residential San Francisco with some VC backing from Google. They were stalled and quiescent for a long time, but it looks like they've picked up a lot in the last couple months. I might be able to switch to their signal pretty soon.

I can imagine a whole constellation of interests who must not want to see this technology move forward, so it's not surprising that it's slow. In fact, it's surprising that it's happening at all. Under the right conditions, I can imagine the entire city dropping their Comcast subscriptions in a year, which would be a very very very big deal and thus will never go down without a fight.

After following the link to the critique of the OLPC ad, and without an opinion one way or another about OLPC or the ad, I have to say: That critique was a load of racist clap-trap the likes of which I have not seen for a long time. I thought the old "Noble Savage" meme died out two generations ago, but I guess pockets of it are hanging on in the strangest places.

I suppose that the fact that it was posted as a web page, only accessible to computer users isn't some ironic joke but is just a sad reminder of the fact that making such decisions is and always will be part of "The White Man's Burden". At least after telling her she should stay bare foot he stopped short of going into conniptions about her reproductive status.


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