OLPC Gets it Right, Finally

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) was a fine concept but plagued with errors and distractions. The major distraction was having Wintel involved in any way. The prime motivation of Wintel is to make money for Wintel partners not to educate the world. Now OLPC are doing it right:

  • no more x86; switching to 1gHz ARM, an economical and efficient solution for material cost, capital cost and energy consumption, and
  • GNU/Linux, the right way to do IT or Android/Linux. GNU/Linux is more efficient than Android/Linux because it’s mostly native code.

On top of the technology which should be appropriate any place on Earth, OLPC is still innovating about how IT can be used in education. That’s huge. Much of the world lacks education and IT. OLPC can foster both.

see OLPC’s XO-3 tablet to debut at CES

see also Marvell and One Laptop per Child Unveil the XO 3.0 Tablet

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in Linux in Education, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to OLPC Gets it Right, Finally

  1. Dr Loser says:

    UseChroot(TM)!

    Really, oiaohm. Sometimes you’re just a parody of your own Markov Chain.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Dr Loser
    “But on to the Holy War: GNU/Debian versus Android/Linux.”
    What Holy War. I can already chroot debian in Android.

    QT and GTK are to the point they will be able to run inside android nacl space.

    Android and Mainline Linux kernel are merging.

    So in a few years time it will be merged. Android applications on oldschool Linux distributions and reverse as well.

    So what Holy War.

    Android is first wave. Merged Android and GNU Linux is the next.

  3. Dr Loser wrote, “the indignities of a Linux desktop”.

    In several communities I demonstrated to students and staff that other OS and GNU/Linux running on the same hardware. The superior performance of GNU/Linux was obvious to all. GNU/Linux allowed them the dignity of getting great performance out of what was in-house. We even tested XP on a new machine versus GNU/Linux on 8-year-old stuff and GNU/Linux held its own and was superior when used on thin clients.

    It’s the needs of users that matter. They need more seats at a PC and GNU/Linux gave them that with a decrease in maintenance effort and an increase in performance. GNU/Linux works in education. I do not understand why businesses that are intent on making money have any preference for such inefficient OS as M$ cranks out and why they want to pay more for less.

  4. Dr Loser says:

    @Robert:

    “The government of Canada created remote northern reserves for the sole purpose of destroying the aboriginal cultures starting in the 1880s when they actually slaughtered aborigines with artillery and machine-guns. They then “offered” various nomadic tribes “treaties” on condition they live in unsustainable communities.”

    Well, I hate to be un-insightful, but we’re no longer in the 1880s.

    I was simply asking for a comparison between the metropolitan areas of Canada and the “remote northern reserves:” that is all.

    And if the remote northern reserves have to suffer the indignities of a Linux desktop, whilst their more affluent neighbours are educated with something that 95% of the business world takes as granted, then, well, I personally regard this as an obscenity.

    That Other Operating System for Indigenous Peoples, that’s what I say!

    We owe it to them. Each and every person should be given a PC from Dell.

    Does it really matter that it comes with a M$ operating system? I think not.

    You know these people better than I do, Robert. They are fierce, and they are independent, and they will plough their own furrow.

    Let them buy the hardware. Let them suffer. It is their own choice.

    And only after that should you sell them on GNU/Debian.

    They will thank you for the pain.

  5. Of course, aboriginal people are decent human beings so providing access to education will allow them to forge their own future. I see education as key and IT as one of the most efficient tools for doing that. I made sure to provide an abundance of resources on the LAN wherever I taught. How much it was used is another matter.

  6. Clarence Moon says:

    I would second the thought that it is a nobel effort to do what Mr. Pogson attempts to do, but in some ways it is counter-productive for solving the real problem. As he states it, the problem is that the tribes do not get the funding for the sustinence that they need to prosper within the conditions imposed by the Canadian government and a lot of people are forcing the system to bend to accomodate the need without actually fixing the problem. So the problem continues but never becomes acute enough to draw the attention needed to fix it correctly.

    Maybe Linux is a better way to run computers in schools, but then it should have an advantage in terms of access by students. They should not be stinted in terms of funding and made to live with less because of attaining a minimal sufficiency through someone’s heroic efforts.

  7. oldman says:

    This is one of the few areas where regardless of my feelings about FOSS, I have to applaud what Robert Pogson did in the north. AS I have said many time in a situation where one is dealing with a chronically and willfully underfunded IT like this, one has to make do with what one has. That is what Pog did. ANd in the absence of proper budgets, it is the best thing for them.

  8. Dr Loser wrote, “This is Canada we’re talking about here, isn’t it? Are you actually telling us that the Federal Government starves schools in remote communities of the money required to set up a simple IT lab with off-the-shelf generic components (say, Dell running Windows)? Because, if so, this would be a national disgrace.”

    This is one of Dr Loser’s most insightful comments here, ever.

    The government of Canada created remote northern reserves for the sole purpose of destroying the aboriginal cultures starting in the 1880s when they actually slaughtered aborigines with artillery and machine-guns. They then “offered” various nomadic tribes “treaties” on condition they live in unsustainable communities. Traditionally, aborigines migrated seasonally to hunt and fish. Staying in one place was a recipe for disaster: too many people for the available resources. It was a take-it-or-leave-it offer. Sign the agreement or we might have to come after you again with the soldiers…

    Come forward a hundred years with the birth of human rights and welfare. The government of Canada made the system evolve but it still is unworkable. They fund the schools on a per-capita, per-annum basis with ridiculously low numbers. A computer, for instance can be bought for $400 or $500 in the South and shipped north for $100 or so. What’s in the budget? $0. Every 25 years or so, the government springs to build a new school with little or no equipment, just a building and not enough budget to run it. At Easterville they spent $28million on a new school and there was not enough cash to buy paper and pencils because the Chief used school funds for housing. The federal government did nothing about that. There was a budget of $100K to build the computer system and because of the magic of GNU/Linux we had a very nice system compared even with city schools. There is no budget to add to it or to maintain it.

    It is a national disgrace. INAC does nothing to live up to its treaty obligations and manages to prevent aboriginal people from running their own show. Recently Attawapiskat was on the news. Inadequate housing, no running water and no school in the 21st century. Certainly the local leadership are incompetent but on top of inadequate funding it just gets worse. The government spends $billions on the North but most is sucked up by bureacrats and consultants from the south. There is no proper budgeting where a need is matched with a line-item. It’s all dictated from Ottawa by formulae that don’t work.

  9. Ray says:

    And will it ship, like the XO-2?

  10. Ray says:

    Still stuck at $200… Wish it was cheaper.

  11. Dr Loser says:

    I am now going to ask an honest and non-biased question out of pure academic interest, Robert, because I know you have been there and done that. Stop bleating about Debian for a moment. I find this comment rather alarming:

    “I have taught in remote impoverished communities and the number one factor in using IT in education is seats.”

    This is Canada we’re talking about here, isn’t it? Are you actually telling us that the Federal Government starves schools in remote communities of the money required to set up a simple IT lab with off-the-shelf generic components (say, Dell running Windows)? Because, if so, this would be a national disgrace.

    Or are you saying that the school systems in Ottawa and Toronto and Quebec and Montreal and hell even Halifax are being prioritised for provision of a simple IT lab with off-the-shelf generic components (say, Dell running Windows)?

    Because, if so, that would be an even greater national disgrace.

    Or perhaps students in Ottawa and Toronto and Quebec and Montreal and Halifax are using a fairly standard IT lab set-up that is rolled out across the entire country, and for some reason they have not chosen to see the light and convert to Linux. In that case, proselytize, my good man. Seek ye the sinners. Venture into the deepest and most sordid parts of Canadian metropolitan suburbia, and do Good Works.

    After all, if you can’t even get Canada right, you can’t expect to influence the rest of the world much.

  12. Dr Loser says:

    But on to the Holy War: GNU/Debian versus Android/Linux.

    I can sense this is going to be big over the next few years, and I am determined to enjoy it.

    “GNU/Linux is more efficient than Android/Linux because it’s mostly native code.”

    (1) Yup, nobody wants easily usable applications, or for that matter libraries, do they? GNU every time.

    (2) Every Educator a Sysadminny Educator!

    (3) (Runtime) Efficiency is All! (Educational) Efficiency is Nothing!

    (3a) Have you heard of JIT compilation techniques, Robert? I understand they are all the rage amongst young’uns.

    (4) Ask not what your computer can do for you! Ask what you can do for your computer!

    Really, Robert, what a lot of unsubstantiated drivel.

  13. Dr Loser says:

    How about “one malaria net per child, with added saline tablets to combat diarrhoeia?”

    No, you’re right, Robert. That idea has been polluted by the evil BillG too. Are there no depths to which the man will not stoop when trying to monopolise the world’s poor?

  14. JairJy wrote, “Windows, and the hardware inself where irrelevant for the failure of OLPC. Using ARM don’t will change the fact that the project still is bad implemented.”

    It is challenging to achieve the objectives of OLPC in the remote regions. The machines are not dumped in and people left on their own. Facilitators usually go in and do teach the teachers. Wintel was a huge drag because it raised the cost of the machines dramatically, probably doubling the price of the machines. If they had used GNU/Linux on ARM from the beginning they would have been far ahead. OLPC has not failed. There are millions of machines getting proper use. With ARM and GNU/Linux many millions more will have more educational resources. I have taught in remote impoverished communities and the number one factor in using IT in education is seats, that is access to computers and networks. Lowest cost of nodes is the prime factor so that you can have more of them. Where I last worked by using GNU/Linux on old equipment we went from about 20 machines working in the classrooms to about 80. It made a huge difference from the elementary grades all the way to the high school. Teachers who were fluent with computers had a huge resource. Others stepped out of the way and let their students find stuff. It worked.

  15. JairJy says:

    The OLPC was an interesting idea, but a bad implemented one. IMHO, there where too much factors that ruined the project, and Windows was the last of them.

    First, most teachers didn’t knew how to use a computer in the first place, and the OLPC project didn’t have planed how to teach them.

    Second, the lack of education improvement. It was hard for a teacher to show something in a tiny screen of a student’s OLPC because there wheren’t projectors on the classroms. Honestly, there where more important thing to do first to improve the education on poor town than giving cheap laptops to the children.

    But the worse for me is Sugar, a bad designed, useless interface for children and adults. No tutorials, no guides, lack of some essential things like a parental control or remote access interface (there where documented cases when teachers noticed the children where viewing porn on a OLPC).

    Ok, Windows is expensive and for a charity movement just don’t fit, but if the whole point of the plan was children learn how to use a computer, at least the OLPC should be use Linspire, Vimux or something similar. Even Fedora with KDE 3 would be better.

    Windows, and the hardware inself where irrelevant for the failure of OLPC. Using ARM don’t will change the fact that the project still is bad implemented.

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