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Negroponte vs. Open-Source Fundamentalists 414

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the fundies-have-more-fun dept.
fyoder writes "Within the world of One Laptop per Child, both the Negropontistas and the Benderites envision a future for Sugar where it runs on multiple platforms, but the latter don't want Windows (or closed source anything) as part of that future. OLPC's emphasis has always seemed to me to be on Sugar, with Linux simply being a smart technical choice for the underlying OS. Yet what is becoming more explicit with the resignation of Walter Bender is that for many involved in the project there was a strong element of Linux advocacy, such that Negroponte's flirtation with Microsoft is felt to be pure sacrilege."
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Negroponte vs. Open-Source Fundamentalists

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  • by twitter (104583) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:18PM (#23225754) Homepage Journal

    The article asks:

    But when did promoting Linux become one of the OLPC's goals?

    This is the wrong question to ask, so it's not surprising that people are a little confused about the answer. This is part of the problem of Open/Free/Linux linguistic ambiguity but it's constantly feed on by people like OLPCNews, an organization run by Intel employees who are working on another project. Eventually, the question is answered:

    These are the ones who believe that open source software in general is critical to the mission of education, and that closed source software, especially that of a convicted monopolist corporation like Microsoft, is not only undesirable, but detrimental to that mission. ... A less inflammatory term would be preferable, though -- say, "people uncompromisingly committed to the empowerment of educators and students through the freedom which open-source software provides."

    It's a little easier to say that secrets and education don't mix. Sharing is good and that children should not be taught the lessons of non free software in an educational setting - that ideas are things to be owned for personal advantage over people kept ignorant by intention.

    It's also easy to see that Microsoft and their friends at Intel want nothing more than to kill OLPC. They would like to see OLPC go the way of DRDOS, BeOS, OS/2, SCO Unix and so on and so forth. They have consistently derided the whole concept and stooped to dirty tricks to block sales and use. Evangelism is still war to them [boycottnovell.com]. Anything they can do to delay the project is good for them, so they will be ready to provide all sorts of help and direction about how to make XP run on the thing and promise to stop hurting the project but it will all be a lie. OLPC will be fine for them when it's One MicroSoft Laptop Per Child and Sugar is broken and forgotten.

    We can further be sure that everyone at OLPC knows all of the above and that the whole issue is just so much FUD and nonsense. OLPC is too busy getting their device to kids to fool with this kind of BS.

  • I predicted this [technocrat.net] a while ago when they were just talking about "dual boot".

    OLPC can go two ways: one of the two is enough of a threat to book publishers and Microsoft that there will be a lot of force waged against it. The other way is just good for world freedom and doesn't have nearly as much power on its side.

    The purpose of OLPC is not to give third world kids a laptop. It's to give them books. You see, those third world countries don't have an annual budget of $100/student to buy kids textbooks. So, OLPC is an efficient means to deliver e-texts to those kids.

    The Microsoft way to do this is to have pervasive DRM as part of the OLPC framework. Microsoft will partner with textbook publishers to make free or low-cost but time-locked and otherwise DRM-encumbered electronic versions of their textbooks available on OLPC. Thus, there will be less reason for the development of fully free e-Texts under licensing that permits redistribution and derivative works. This way, the markets of those textbook publishers in more developed countries won't be threatened by the presence of those free texts, and Microsoft won't be threatened by a large force of youth trained on Linux.

    The Open Source way is to direct the efforts of academic communities toward the creation of fully free e-texts under licensing that permits redistribution and derivative works. This is already well under way. OLPC would run Sugar on top of Linux, and would not in general be a DRM platform. Open texts would become a main stream in education, as would Open Source software. This is obviously a threat to textbook publishers and Microsoft.

    The good news is that OLPC is not the only possible platform, and we can keep working on this without them. The bad news is that OLPC has the mind-share, and that's going to be hard to fight, especially with Microsoft behind them.

    Microsoft has just essentially killed OpenDocument. They have made it redundant as a standard and showed that people who lobby for its use lose their jobs for their efforts. They did whatever was necesssary to win, with much dirty fighting and no shame about it. The folks at ISO and national organizations didn't show any shame about the perversion of their process, either. Expect to see similar in this case.


  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:23PM (#23225820)

    Yet what is becoming more explicit with the resignation of Walter Bender is that for many involved in the project there was a strong element of Linux advocacy, such that Negroponte's flirtation with Microsoft is felt to be pure sacrilege.

    Negroponte himself, until recently, viewed openness of every component as a key principle of the project, which is why offers from both Apple and Microsoft to provide a free-as-in-beer customized version of their respective flagship OS's as the primary OS for the project were rejected out of hand.

    It should be unsurprising that a project that, from the top, embraced openness as a central precept has attracted lots of people for whom such openness is an important ideal, and who are quite disappointed when the leader of the project suddenly embraces a proprietary technology and suggests shifting effort to supporting that technology.
  • by Ilan Volow (539597) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:24PM (#23225854) Homepage
    To hell with ideology. Two completely different user environments, one running on top of another and ultimately requiring someone at some level to be an expert in both, is bad design and asking for trouble.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:25PM (#23225864)
    No good can come from the OLPC that run Windows or any other proprietary system.

    There are many "pragmatists" who say that it doesn't matter what runs on the device. To those people I submit, you are mistaken.

    Linux, or FreeBSD, or NetBSD, I don't really care, is free. Windows is not. If you give them a laptop for education with free software, you have given them a "gift."

    If you give them an OLPC with Windows, you've waisted everybody's time and energy and simply acted as a Microsoft marketing shill. Trapping even more of the world in Microsoft's monopoly.

    It is reprehensible.
  • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:27PM (#23225892) Homepage Journal
    Many of the people who paid for the buy one, give one did so with the idea that they were spreading Open Source as well as getting computers into the hands of children that otherwise would not have them. Now that may or may not be a good thing, but that is why people thought they were doing. When you take people's money it is better to keep faith with them.
  • by m50d (797211) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:28PM (#23225904) Homepage Journal
    they wouldn't have rejected OSX. And I say this as a mac hater.
  • Last time I checked, I thought the goal of One Laptop Per Child was just that, One Laptop Per Child. It wasn't "come up with a way to push Linux everywhere"... they just used Linux because it happened to be free.

    But... if Microsoft ponies up a few buckazoids and delivers some value to OLPC such that it helps OLPC meets its goals, then, how is that bad for the kids getting the computers, all Windows cracks aside?

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:32PM (#23225980)
    Why should it matter to some poor kid, just needing a way to afford schoolbooks, what OS his laptop is running?
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:41PM (#23226130)
    Why should it matter to some poor kid, just needing a way to afford schoolbooks, what OS his laptop is running?

    It may not "matter," per se' but why is "freedom" worth fighting for? Why would people rather be free than in a gilded cage?

    An OLPC running Windows is nothing more than an attempt to trap even more people in Microsoft's monopoly and drain money from the poor.
  • by nguy (1207026) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:51PM (#23226306)
    I just don't see the point of running Sugar on top of Windows or Windows on the OLPC. The only reasons for running Windows over Linux are related to drivers or Windows software. Let's look at those. Out of the box, Linux supports far more devices than Windows, and driver installers simply won't work well for the OLPC user community. And what Windows software does Negroponte think people will want to run on the OLPC? Sugar on Windows would require a lot of porting, and it's unlikely that it would work particularly well. If you want an educational software environment on Windows, get Squeak and eToys.

    This is not even taking into account the fact that Microsoft would likely take advantage of any alliance with OLPC to destroy OLPC, like Intel tried, and like they have done with so many other business partners; Microsoft simply isn't a trustworthy business partner. Furthermore, it is reasonable and justifiable for volunteers to have the goal of exposing children to an alternative to the Microsoft Windows monopoly, rather than to further Microsoft's business interests; that's not "fundamentalism", it is long-term rational, economic self-interest. Few people would have volunteered if it had meant developing a free educational software platform for Windows.

    So, Windows on the OLPC just doesn't make any sense, and Sugar on Windows also makes little sense. And an alliance with Microsoft doesn't make sense either. I certainly am not going to develop free software for some kind of get-them-hooked-early Windows educational platform. There are plenty of other projects that help children that I can volunteer for. Negroponte either needs to make a more convincing argument (good luck), or he can expect a mass exodus of volunteers; nobody is obligated to work for him or his vision.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:52PM (#23226324) Homepage Journal

    Why should it matter to some poor kid, just needing a way to afford schoolbooks, what OS his laptop is running?

    800 years ago, Moses Maimonides enumerated the forms of charity, from best to least:

    1. 1. Giving a pauper independence so that he will not have to depend on charity. Maimonides enumerates four forms of this, from the greatest to the weakest:
      1. a. Giving a poor person work.
      2. b. Making a partnership with him or her (this is lower than work, as the recipient might feel he doesn't put enough into the partnership).
      3. c. Giving a loan.
      4. d. Giving a gift.
    2. 2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient.
    3. 3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
    4. 4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
    5. 5. Giving charity before being asked.
    6. 6. Giving adequately after being asked.
    7. 7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
    8. 8. Giving unwillingly.

    [Text from Wikipedia]

    OLPC with Linux and other Open Source is #1 on Maimonides list. It not only gives them textbooks, it gives them a structure that they can use to control their nation's own destiny - the free software on the system that they can use to communicate, plan, write, etc., and it gives them control over that structure so that they have independence.

    In contrast, giving them a Microsoft framework is giving them an addictive dependence. Not charity at all.


  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:55PM (#23226352)

    Why should it matter to some poor kid, just needing a way to afford schoolbooks, what OS his laptop is running?

    It won't matter in the short term. But in the long term, the kid will grow up, and he's likely to find that the only OS he learned how to use isn't being offered to adults for free. Then the price difference between the two paths may become rather large relative to his income.

  • by sracer (534850) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:56PM (#23226380)

    I find it amazing how people who were all "visualize world peace", "think of the children", "let's sing cumbaya", and "brotherhood of mankind" who became part of the OLPC community via the G1G1 program can turn on a dime and be so vitriolic, judgmental, intolerant, and cynical when people don't fall lock-step into their beliefs.

    As long as one toes the party line about Linux being the only platform viable for educating children, then all is well. But dare to consider the possibility that a slimmed down XP might also be a viable option... you better duck. You're immediately branded as shill for Microsoft.

    Sugar on the XO is slow and incomplete. There still is no viable power management. The stylus areas are still not functional. The "view source code" button is "under development. 10,000's of XO laptops have been deployed worldwide that are not completely functional. Without working hardware drivers for particular aspects of the XO, how can anyone be certain that those features will actually work when the drivers ARE available? Finding out about a hardware design defect at that point in time is a little too late.

    And the whole, "but if we don't use an open source operating system then little Johnny won't be able to view and tinker with the virtual memory manager!" justification just masks their own personal agenda.

  • by karmaflux (148909) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:00PM (#23226432)
    Hi Bruce,

    I'm a support volunteer for OLPC. I'm not officially affiliated with them, but I've been volunteering for them since last year.

    You're misrepresenting the project. I am not accusing you of making disingenuous posts, but I suspect you're either underinformed or you've got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Yes, the XO-1 laptop is a wonderful e-book platform. However, you don't need most of the stuff it comes with on an e-book reader. For instance, you don't need a webcam to read a book. The fact is, textbooks are one small part of the ideas that constitute Sugar, which is based on constructivist [wikipedia.org] education practices.

    I'm sure you've heard the "it's not a laptop project, it's an education project" quote a million times. Well, it's not an e-book project either. It's an education project, and reading isn't the only way kids learn. We're not talking about the sort of education we receive here in the States, where we listen to an orator and take notes. It's self-directed. The XO-1 is a learning and exploration platform.

    As to Microsoft, I have been assured by higher-ups at OLPC that they're not going to devote any resources to porting Sugar to Windows, or Windows to the XO-1. They just don't have the resources; they're too busy deploying [radian.org] laptops [radian.org]. Negroponte's point is that if someone wants to get it done, OLPC shouldn't stand in their way, which is entirely different from "let's drop linux." He's made other comments in the past about how Firefox wouldn't have gained the marketshare it has if it weren't for Windows. Likewise, a Sugar that is platform-ambivalent would rapidly gain mindshare in the educational world.

    Sugar is not OLPC. OLPC is not the XO-1. Microsoft doesn't control any of those three things, and I doubt they will. Hell, in current builds, Sugar doesn't even start without NetworkManager, which isn't exactly Windows-compatible software.

    You're a luminary in the FOSS world, and a geek hero. I'm sure you know that. I hope you're also aware when you start forecasting things based on insufficient information, a lot of people just take your word for it. I suggest you contact OLPC with your concerns, so they can be suitably allayed.
  • by Mad Leper (670146) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:03PM (#23226480)
    Then you admit that the only purpose of the OLPC project was to further the spread of your particular brand of open source evangelism, and the kids education be damned ?

    You're not helping children at all if your just using them as pawns to promote your own ideals. In fact, I see no difference between your position and Microsoft's.

    Attitudes like yours give the entire open source movement a bad name.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:04PM (#23226508)
    As B.P. pointed out, it should matter if one OS supports DRM and the other does not. Supporting DRM changes the book publisher's question: "What's in it for us?" If the goal is increase profits by selling books cheap, then by all means go DRM. If the goal is to educate, then don't. Is this about a quick buck or a long term investment? From the point of view of some poor kid, I rather think they'd prefer the investment.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:05PM (#23226520) Homepage
    Why should it matter to some poor kid if their textbooks are accurate, or if their laptop is a method to lock them in to a commercial relationship rather than a way to bootstrap local computer knowledge? Surely the kid won't know the difference or care?

    We don't base such decisions on what a child feels is important; if we did, we'd be giving them $100 of candy instead of laptops.
  • by Saint Gerbil (1155665) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:07PM (#23226548)
    a free lightweight version of Windows XP which has been designed to run on the XO will cost more. How? No more hardware needed no licence costs. Granted it is MS trying to get the next generation hooked on its OS but its already the most popular OS on the planet and I think its better to give kids skills they are likely to use in the work place than skills they are less likely. your definition of free seems to be more than slightly warped.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:21PM (#23226770)
    I believe some of the previous postings made very clear statements that already answered your question. Now that MS has infected OLPC, the kids will be limited to what corporate mindsets will allow. MS is a typical American corporation and as such, something like education is only important because it provides them with a workers to produce products and make them money. Education focused on enriching students individually and providing them with a solid base to make a better future for themselves and their families is NOT a goal. All the money Gates is doling out may have the mainstream media fooled but if you would take even a little time to research where the money is going, you would see his funding always favors big corporations over small grassroots organizations. A good example would be AIDS drugs for African nations -- cheaper and just-as-effective generics are bypassed for over-priced, high mark-up meds from the big pharmaceutical companies. It's quite clear that OLPC had started out as a unique educational project that has lately turned into just another laptop venture. The XO was a specialized learning tool, but now Mr. Negroponte has put it into direct competition with major computer companies, a very dog eat dog arena. Just another example of how American corporatism has degraded not just US public schools, but also education for kids across the world.
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:34PM (#23226904) Homepage

    Surely one wouldn't rather that some poor kid in Africa had no computer relative to a Windows machine?

    Surely you wouldn't rather than some poor kid in Africa had no medicine relative to a couple pounds of Heroin?

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:47PM (#23227124) Homepage Journal

    I don't see teachers in sufficient numbers being prepared to take advantage of open source.

    No, they aren't. The very best path to take is to give the children a path to learn those things without teachers. This is not only the case in the third world. Certainly when I was a young person in a wealthy suburb of New York, no teacher available to me was able to spend very much time on the advanced technology that I was interested in. I had to self-teach. That's why the laptop goes home with them. In observation of children and OLPC it's been clear that there is a lot of child-led activity, both collaborative and independent.

    I recently keynoted the Latinoware conference at the Itaipu Binational of Brazil and Paraguay. I stayed in Foz do Iguacu. The differentiation between rich and poor was very clear. It was heartening to see 2500 people from all over Latin America there taking classes on Free Software.

    the GPL license does not, and will not, empower people

    I've got to disagree with you on this. Most people view GPL only from the perspective of the party receiving the software. For the party producing the software, GPL keeps large companies from running away with it while BSD makes it essentially an unrestricted gift to those large companies. Dual-licensing provides an opportunity to charge those who don't want to play by the Open Source rules, and to support the Open Source development with that money. It is true that there are a lot of companies that dual-license and don't really run a convincing community development at all, they are abusing the process.


  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:59PM (#23227324) Homepage Journal

    Even if Microsoft produces a DRM-encumbered operating system for the XO-1, what makes you think a country will choose it over the freely-available Sugar-on-Fedora that the XO currently runs?

    The lure of zero-cost, but DRM-locked, proprietary textbooks.

    if an educational body does choose a closed MS platform over a FOSS platform, isn't that their right? If

    It's my duty - and that of others who care about freedom - to tell such educational bodies that they're harming their own people, and why.

    And when the DRM becomes unbearable, Sugar will still be there, still running on Fedora -- and an easy migration destination, if they've spent a year or so running Sugar on Windows.

    You think they're just going to be able to boot an installation system and run it? It takes just a little firmware tweak to make that system boot only signed binaries - and we won't have the signing key.


  • by advocate_one (662832) on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:11PM (#23227490)
    aid from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation comes with little strings attached that require the recipients to order the XP version of OLPC...
  • by sjames (1099) on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:17PM (#23227560) Homepage

    Considering that such a move would be absolutely in character and a natural move for a company with the motto "embrace, extend, and extinguish", why shouldn't we?

    It's a fundamental instinctive rule of thumb that usually serves us well. The guy who stole from you all last week probably intends to do it again today.

    Monopolists are not known for their spirit of freely giving. If you don't see the catch, that just means it is hidden. If it's hidden, it means they believe you'd find it unacceptable if you saw it up front.

    The alternative is an OS that is known to work well on small platforms and has been given freely since it's creation. In what way is that not a safer choice?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:29PM (#23227710)
    I care. I care because I'd like to know if the schmuck I'm having a discussion with is suddenly going to jump in with three other accounts and stack the heck out of me.

    No one should be allowed to post with more than one account, nevermind actually replying to yourself to make it seem like you have a loyal following. That's just lame.

  • by EMeta (860558) on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:45PM (#23227956)
    Apple should be equally frightened.

    I disagree. I think widespread usage of Linux is significantly to Apple's advantage. Any market-share taken from Microsoft means less applications will be Windows or IE only. That makes people who are bound to certain applications more likely to feel able to switch. Also, while many /.ers are often torn between OSX and Linux, it's really a quite different market. Apple's drivers and general hardware compatibility will always, I think, be superior to Linux's. That's what they've specialized on from the beginning. Using OSX and Apple computers is easy. If you have any problems, their support center is excellent--and even available in person. I don't see Shuttleworth (or anyone else) investing in that for Linux. The more MS's monopoly is lessened, the greater this difference will be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @02:56PM (#23228130)

    Last time I checked, I thought the goal of One Laptop Per Child was just that, One Laptop Per Child. It wasn't "come up with a way to push Linux everywhere"... they just used Linux because it happened to be free.
    While the goal wasn't "come up with a way to push Linux", you can bet that if Microsoft has its way the goal will become "come up with a way to push Windows". This is all they do and all they have ever done. It is what they are legally required to do for their stockholders.

    The key problem with the current OLPC software is that Sugar is sluggish, is tricky to develop for, and some aspects of the system (e.g. the journal/datastore) are still being hashed out. Other systems, like Ubuntu, already exist and run fine on the laptop but are less suited to the target audience than Sugar. Negroponte is using the frustration with Sugar's long development to drive the project to "Sugar on Windows". But how long will that porting effort last, when Windows itself is already sluggish and battery-hungry on the XO? The children will end up simply with Windows on the laptop, no Sugar, with only as much porting effort and maintenance as necessary to crush the Linux option.

    Which might not be so bad if Windows were in any way appropriate for the hardware, but it is not, and the effort required may mean that it will never be. For starters, MS has chosen Windows XP and Office to run on a machine with less than a gigabyte of storage and a small screen; Windows Mobile would almost certainly have been a better choice, but then they couldn't brag about the mountains of educational software already available for Windows -- never mind that most of those programs require either an optical drive or the rest of the XO's storage, even if the processor was up to the challenge.

    The XO's screen is small but its resolution is huge -- Windows XP's default DPI will be inadequate. But many third-party Windows programs perform poorly with the increased 120 DPI interface -- and those two sizes are the only options available.

    You can kiss the mesh networking goodbye -- it's new and likely too different from regular PCs to support in Windows. Instead, far-flung villages will need to simply install more wireless routers out to their outskirts... Or simply require the children to keep their laptops in the school as is likely done with Classmate PCs -- which rather defeats the purpose of having laptops or sunlight-readable displays.

    And it's just as well that the laptops will be staying at the schools, because they'll be needing regular doses of antivirus updates and Microsoft patches. Unlike the Linux systems that are designed to be used in areas of sporadic or non-existent internet connectivity, the Windows systems will need regular inoculation against the same Windows-, Internet Explorer-, and Flash-based threats that plague the rest of the world. And to fix the occasional malware or botnet infestation, each country will need to employ an army of Microsoft Certified Professionals. They will also be needed on hand to reset the students' forgotten network passwords (the Linux machines are secure without requiring children to remember passwords). The countries will also need to pay more for fuel to run the schools' diesel generators; while the specially tuned Linux kernel can effectively suspend and resume the system between user interactions, it is unlikely that Windows can be tuned to do the same.

    So, in various technical and logistic areas, the Windows solution is inferior and will cost more than the Linux solution, even ignoring the license cost. TCO indeed.
  • by g2devi (898503) on Monday April 28, 2008 @03:54PM (#23228796)
    Fundamentalism is only bad if you have the wrong fundamentals.

    If your fundamentals include "Randomly hunting people for sport is wrong", it's hard to argue....unless you don't mind if you or the people you love are hunted for sport.

    Similarly, if the whole point of the project is to:
    1) Free the third world and developing world from dependency on the first world
    2) Allow children to tinker with every part of the OS so that they can experiment and learn how OSes work so they can gain more than consumer skills.
    3) Be free from vendor lock-in traps that could force the project to raise the prices simply because the monopoly created by the project would put the project at the mercy of the single vendor.
    4) Allow the laptop to be as low cost as possible....not limited to the hardware requirements of a specific vendor.

    Then open source is the only answer that can solve all these issues. If you give up on even one of these issues, there's no difference between the OLPC project and the Classmates project and the project might as well close down since it provides no value other than a non-standard GUI which could be ported to any environment....including Classmates. If you want to be pragmatic, then OLPC must die since it's a pointless diversion of resources that is harming the developing and third world.

    If you want to be idealistic and stick to your fundamentals, you have a chance to change the world.
  • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Monday April 28, 2008 @04:03PM (#23228912) Homepage
    The thing to remember about the OLPC is that it's not a machine intended for conventional usage, like your PC or a company server. It's a discovery tool. Its purpose is to give kids a view onto a representational territory of concepts from math, science, music, reading, and other disciplines, and promote learning through exploration, discovery, construction, and sharing of information.

    I submit that such a discovery tool which encourages exploration and discovery of the tool itself is vastly more useful than one which does not. It's what Guy Steele called "going meta". Windows is not a very discoverable operating system.

    In order for OLPC to fulfil its original stated purpose -- a rather noble one -- it must be based on open source. Linux is a good choice but it could be FreeBSD or Darwin or Plan 9 underneath as long as the source is freely available.
  • by elucido (870205) on Monday April 28, 2008 @04:21PM (#23229158)

    Unfortunately, Bruce, that does not the match reality of how these laptops are being used.

    I don't see teachers in sufficient numbers being prepared to take advantage of open source. In Brazil (where I live), I see teachers that can barely teach their subject with a blackboard and white chalk.

    What I see is cool and nice that kids have it, but it is miles away form Seymour Papert's dream. Or Alan Kay's dream.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovG_k2b3AXU [youtube.com]

    When I was in 5th grade, I was taught Logo. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. These kids have Squeak. Squeak has the potential to blow your mind, because Squeak is multimedia-ready (and cool projects like Scratch have been developed on top of it).

    But it seems that it ammounts to having a cool little laptop that can network.

    There's nothing intrinsic to it that demands open source OS. Unfortunately, because ideally one would want to be able to go very, very deep. The project seems to fall short in that respect.

    What are these kids learning that will teach them that it is the human that makes the computer?

    That, to me, is the true "technological transfer."

    So, the way the project has been led has been self-defeating, IMHO.

    The last point I would like to make is that the GPL license does not, and will not, empower people in India, Brazil, or any other developing nation. This was a big mistake. Only a liberal license like the BSD license can empower people, permiting them to compete in a hostile commercial environment, contributing to a common source but not naively exposing one self to bigger corporations that would crush their businesses (unless they want to play the hypocritical "dual-licensing" - an euphemism to proprietary licensing).
    You don't make sense. If I had a laptop when I was growing up, I would have used it to learn whatever I wanted.

    You assume that kids who have these laptops can ONLY use them in the context of a western style classroom where a teacher gives them instructions on what to learn and how.

    Did you consider that there might be some students who for lack of a better word, are geniuses, who can teach the class themselves? And their friends?

    If you give an intelligent person access to unlimited information, and combine it with free time, and tools such as this laptop, learning will happen.

    Just like if you give a kid a TV, the kid can find ways to learn from that for good or bad, if you give a kid a laptop, the kid can learn how to write code, how computers work, how the internet works, and eventually they'll be able to get on the internet and learn how the world works through wikipedia or whatever else happens to be on the internet.

    I don't think this would be as powerful under windows because first of all, no one knows what the windows source code is. If I were a kid and I wanted to learn how windows works, I couldn't look at the code to find out.

    How can you claim something is built for educational purposes if it's closed source? That's the anti-thesis of what you are trying to do with the project.
  • by dedazo (737510) on Monday April 28, 2008 @04:40PM (#23229374) Journal
    twitter fancies himself an intellectual, having allegedly run through the gauntlet of some sort of higher education. He truly and honestly believes he is more intelligent than you, me and most everyone on Slashdot. A sort of "hick" intellectual with an extremely narrow field of knowledge, but an intellectual nonetheless.

    If you read his posts closely, you'll see that most of them are nothing but buzzword-compliant but meaningless semantic soup packaged up with some links that almost always fail to support the point he's making (though no one actually bothers to check them, apparently). This tends to look impressive, and so usually he gets modded up.

    He does make sense sometimes, normally in the context of a RIAA or Patriot Act article and things like that. But the rest of the time, when he's wearing his "free software advocate" T-shirt, he makes no sense whatsoever.

    It's weird, that someone actually has a skill that lets them write things that look interesting but convey no meaningful information whatsoever. The only other two types of human being I can think of that manage to pull that off are politicians and religious fundamentalists.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @05:40PM (#23230194)

    Did you look at the link I provided? If you had, you'd see that, through this simple graphical programming (that the kids don't even really realize they're doing), they can learn things like math [squeakland.org]:

    Clearly, something interesting has been captured here by these 10 year olds. Going a little and turning a little over and over seems to make circles. Adults may remember something complicated about x2 + y2 = r2 and wonder why this way is so simple. It's because when looked at from the view of an ant on the rim of a circle, a circle is just a track of constant curvature. All the ant has to do is keep its moving and turning going at the same rate to trace out a perfect circle.

    This way of looking at geometry is called "the differential geometry of vectors" and is the main mathematics used by science. It is used by scientists because it is simpler and more powerful than the general math taught in K-12. It is worth pondering this paradoxical irony.

  • if Microsoft being involved makes it more likely to succeed then do you think the kids really care?

    The kids don't know the issues at all. But someday those kids will grow up, and they will either be able to build a software infrastructure for their countries, that they control, using Open Source, so that they will not be dependent, or they will not know how and will have to go to a proprietary software company for what they can afford.

    What if, just what if, this is an actual attempt to do something right without actually being a business choice?
    Well, a guy "Big Mike" hung out in your neighborhood, and he'd had some brushes with the law and some convictions, and he had just done something pretty bad recently, would you treat each new situation he got himself involved in as "Let's just assume he's trying to do the right thing", or would you be wary?
  • I think that most businesses, and many governments, currently are on an addiction model of IT purchasing. They get part 1 for free, and then they have to get part 2, 3, etc., from the same company so that they can interoperate with part 1. We want to help cure their addiction.


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