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Ivan Krstić Says Negroponte's Wrong About Sugar and OLPC 137

Posted by timothy
from the who-is-this-krstić-guy-anyhow dept.
Not many days ago, we mentioned ZDNet's interview with Nicholas Negroponte, in which Negroponte had some harsh things to say about Sugar and its connection to the slower-than-hoped uptake of the XO. Ivan Krstic (formerly head of the OLPC's security innovative subsystem) responded to Negroponte's claims, which he says are "nonsense." Among other things, he mentions that Sugar "was the name for the new learning-oriented graphical interface that OLPC was building, but it was also the name for the entire XO operating system, one tiny part of which was Sugar the GUI, and the rest of which was mostly Fedora Linux."
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Ivan Krstić Says Negroponte's Wrong About Sugar and OLPC

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:04PM (#28831495) Homepage Journal

    In particular, trying to cram yet more hardware into it to meet the demands of the Microsoft lobby.

    If they'd just made the widget, put it into production, and focused on the sales, they would have made a difference.

    • by Locutus (9039) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:25PM (#28831607)
      IIRC, they didn't do _that_ much for Microsoft and pretty much just added the SD card. But, they did let Microsoft take up their time and even some of their office space. It really wasn't an easy hardware kit to build considering it was supposed to work outside, by kids, and be very energy thrifty. Nobody has even come close to what the XO does and only the Kindle can be read outside in full sunlight.

      The Microsoft stuff misdirected the marketing of the project once it was determined that Microsoft and Intel successfully blocked many of the sales they had MOU's for.

      LoB
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        IIRC, they didn't do _that_ much for Microsoft and pretty much just added the SD card

        That, and used an AMD chip that was more expensive, slower, and used more power than the ARM chip they were considering.

        • by Locutus (9039)
          If you have any proof they didn't pick ARM because of x86 compatibility with Windows then please post it. I got the impression the AMD chip was picked because of the peripheral driver issues they had with those hardware vendors only supplying binary drivers. So ARM was not allowed on the platform because of close source hardware vendor partnerships.

          LoB
    • Just before the netbook explosion too... which started out Linux... until MS squashed that threat... in America at least.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      please provide a link proving this, all i see is that they went into this with stars in their eye's and got burnt.
    • by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:13PM (#28831897)

      If they'd just made the widget, put it into production, and focused on the sales, they would have made a difference.

      They built the widget. They put it up for sale. Nothing much happened.

      Confirmed sales to date about 1.4 million:

      Uruguay 300,000
      Peru 290,000
      Columbia 165,000
      Rwanda 100,000

      Sales outside the Americas have been pathetic.

      G1G1 167,000 [Distributed in seemingly random 3 to 20K clumps. I can't bring myself to take this part of the program seriously.]

      Summary of laptop orders [wikipedia.org]

      The demand for Windows came from the third world education minister - the guy who is expected to sign the purchase order for 300,000 units.

      • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:24PM (#28831957) Homepage Journal

        time to market.. heard of it? They hyped up their product then dragged their feet, by the time it was ready, alternatives had been found. This is the reason why the stealth startup was invented.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake (615356)

          This is the reason why the stealth startup was invented.

          The stealth start-up demands stealth funding - usually from someone on the inside.

          OLPC needed at minimum a public commitment from an Asian OEM to design and build the display.

          No way that was going to happen without hyping sales prospects into the millions and tens of millions of units.

          No way that tech wasn't going to surface later in less charitable-minded projects.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by QuantumG (50515) *

            Ya, so: rock OLPC hard place.

            Hopefully everyone else learnt the lesson. If you want to compete with Microsoft/Intel/etc you have to strike quickly.

            • by westlake (615356)

              Hopefully everyone else learnt the lesson. If you want to compete with Microsoft/Intel/etc you have to strike quickly.

              I've never been quite sure whether Negroponte saw his primary mission as facilitating basic education in the grade school classroom or leading the third world masses into the Promised Land of Linux and FOSS.

              • by QuantumG (50515) *

                Why? Negroponte made it clear that he doesn't care about Linux or open source.. he went to Apple first to get the OS remember? He probably went to Microsoft too. I expect when he saw that Microsoft was interested he saw it as an opportunity to dump Linux. All that said, there were other people who definitely were in it for the "million of converts", whether it be to open source in general or to python in particular.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I wonder how many of the 1.3 million OLPC's sold actually ended up in the hands of kids, and not sold by the kid's family or some corrupt official before they even got that far.
      • by sjames (1099)

        1.4 million sales with MS and Intel teaming up to sandbag it isn't half bad. It's no blockbuster, but it's hardly a failure for a non-commercial operation.

        They might well have done better if they had told MS to get lost and stuck to the original plan.

      • The problem was they didn't capitalise on the 1st world markets, back when it was 1st release G1G1 meant you could get a laptop designed for a kid to learn with, cheaper than a standard laptop. Even when netbooks started to make a laptops cheaper than G1G1, simply mass producing them (possibly with a portion of profits going to make 3rd world purchases cheaper) would help cut production costs.

    • by MacTO (1161105) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:56PM (#28832169)

      Feature creep killed the XO, but it had nothing to do with the Microsoft lobby. A few things to consider:

      The XO was originally intended to be a replacement for textbooks. It was not intended to serve as a general purpose computer. This feature creep meant that the XO needed additional hardware, higher performance hardware, and experimental hardware. None of this feature creep had anything to do with Microsoft. If you ever used Sugar on the XO, you would be more than aware of this because the performance is substandard. Not only is the system slow due to running interpreted software on a slower CPU, but the software is prone to failure due to there being insufficient memory. (There is no swap space, and two Activities will easily consume all of the RAM.) In other words, and internal desire for more features meant that the hundred dollar laptop would never cost a hundred dollars to build and that the software would never be reliable.

      Just to re-iterate, the failure of the XO has positively nothing to do with Microsoft. It did not significantly alter the design of the XO. Nor did it significantly alter the software development process on the XO. About all that it did do was cause some in-fighting between bystanders who would never contribute to the project in the first place.

      • by alienw (585907)

        It was never intended as just a replacement for textbooks. There is no point in replacing textbooks. Unless you insist on 4-color printing on thick, glossy paper, textbooks cost pennies to print. Textbooks are expensive because publishers charge a lot of money for the content, and an electronic device does nothing to fix that. For the price of one OLPC computer, you could probably buy 100 textbooks if you didn't have to pay royalties.

    • by mrcparker (469158) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @10:46PM (#28832459)

      I think that I must be the only person who actually purchased an XO, because all of the reasons given for the poor sales are not pointing out the one problem that the OLPC XO had on launch: it was (and still is) sluggish. It is a pain in the ass to use, since doing things like reading PDFs is slow as hell.

      My OLPC is sitting in my office unused because, as much as I wanted to use it to read PDFs and browse the web, Sugar is slow and doing things like moving from page-to-page in the reader take a looong time.

      On the development side, did the Sugar APIs ever get mature enough that the documentation was stable? Is it really ready for third parties to write software in Sugar without having to worry that large sections of their code will have to change on the nest upgrade? Looking right now at the docs, there are still parts of the code that do not have stable APIs.

      How can you take a sluggish device with moving APIs and expect to sell it to countries on a large scale? Will governments really be willing to spend millions of dollars on something that is clearly unfinished design-wise and second-rate?

      Microsoft and Intel did not kill the OLPC. The OLPC was enough to kill itself.

      • It's because the dumb fucks wrote everything in python.

        Python is great for many things, but writing GUI toolkits isn't one of them.

      • My OLPC is sitting in my office unused because,

        Stop right there; your OLPC is unused because anyone sitting in an office isn't the target audience for the device.

        If you had bought a SCUBA suit you wouldn't be using it in your office, either. Would you be complaining about how uncomfortable it is to type in a SCUBA suit? It sounds like you're bitching because the XO isn't a super-netbook built for cube dwellers in rich industrialized countries.

        The technological challenges the XO took on were not "how fast

  • Who is Ivan Krsti&#263;? Is he related to Little Bobby Tables [slashdot.org]?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not sure why parent got modded troll, but there are serious problems with /. and UTF-8. Take a look at the title of this page for example.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I don't know why either. It shows up fine in the site itself, but that's how it reads in the RSS.

      • If you look at the code for slashdot, there is a function that strips out anything that isn't pure virgin ASCII. In other words, if it ain't A-Z, a-z 0-9 and a handful of other symbols blessed by the Queen, it ain't gonna get displayed.

        Why do they do this? Probably as a way to partially sanitize user input. Probably 'cause slash was written before the dozens of CPAN modules came along who did a way better job of filtering nonsense out of untrusted user input. Who knows. But it is rather tiring, I agree.

    • For the clueless /. mods, this is an Xkcd reference http://xkcd.com/327/ [xkcd.com]
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:17PM (#28831571) Journal

    Correct. The XO's problem isn't sugar or as far as I can see really anything to do with its specifications but rather how it was sold and marketed.

    • by StreetStealth (980200) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:32PM (#28831653) Journal

      Getting OLPC off the ground was a huge undertaking whose backers did not all share the same vision.

      The whole point of Sugar was to make the XO a universal, personal educational computing device, free of the cultural barriers and prejudices that are inherent in something like Windows. The people who pursued this vision of OLPC were the idealists.

      Then there were, to use a generous term, the pragmatists. They didn't see the use in building a new, universal education platform. To them, the developing world may well have just been millions of children waiting to grow up to work at offshore call centers, and getting them familiar with The Way The World Works was the first priority.

      Obviously, the latter won, and to be honest, I don't think their tamer, "more realistic" vision of OLPC will ever make the same mark on the world that a Sugar-powered XO would have.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Are you kidding? There are ~900,000 Sugar-powered XO's in the hands of kids around the world. There are a few hundred Windows powered ones.
        • There are a few hundred Windows powered ones.

          I'd really like to see sources for your numbers here. Because three million Windows XO laptops are being distributed in India:

          A movement to get rural poor children learning on the screen using a state of the art laptops has begun in the country.

          Every fourth child in the world who needs screen based learning environment is in India.

          A US-based non profit organization called One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is planning to distribute three million XO laptops, each costin

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:42PM (#28832055)
        The problem was the unwillingness to tap the first world. Back in 2007 you can bet that the would would have somewhat embraced a laptop that cost only $230, even if the specs were somewhat pathetic. Add that into the fact the machine is nearly indestructible and can be read in sunlight and you would have had a fast selling machine and made $30 on top of it. But of course the OLPC said no to that and instead came up with "give one get one" where for $400 you could effectively get the same laptop and make a $200 contribution to the OLPC fund. Hm, would I rather buy a $400 durable laptop that has about the same specs as my ancient PIII locked in my basement that I never use, or buy a laptop with a decent CPU and a usable amount of RAM.

        Just look at how well the iPod touch sold and it cost $300 in the same time period and at launch had 0 apps. An iPod touch with a keyboard would have sold very well when priced even lower. The unwillingness to sell the OLPC computers to the first world was a huge mistake.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I heard Negroponte speak at a conference a couple years ago. One thing was evident: the OLPC was a lot more about Negroponte's ego than anything else. Nearly the entire speech was a list of all the powerful and famous people he hangs with.

        The entire thing just seemed too complex to really work. All of the special built custom parts and new GUI around Linux seemed to add little to the over all value.

        Just my 2 cents worth.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Phoe6 (705194)

          You probably are right. I have heard Negroponte a couple of times and have had the impression. I also have a couple of facts to illustrate that his vision is not shared by prominent people.

          1. India did not participate in the OLPC project itself. If it had caught in India, it could have been a different story altogether. There are thousands of kids in India, who in couple of years come to grasp with technologies. Government of India, did not feel that OLPC was a viable thing to do for India schools. Instead of
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          I heard Alan Kay talk about it at around the same time, and it sounded great. A shame there was more Negroponte and less Kay in the leadership. Sugar looked good at the start, back when it was meant to be based on top of Squeak, but then they decided that Python was a better choice than Smalltalk, in spite of being harder to learn and having a slower VM (the latter very important on a comparatively slow device).

          They started measuring success in terms of the number shipped, which lead me to believe Negr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jpmorgan (517966)
        The problem with the idealists was they saw the OLPC and Sugar as a new eduational model. New educational models have been successfully introduced into different countries around the world on numerous occasions, but OLPC tried to do it in a retarded way. Instead of conducting studies, refining the system and demonstrating academically its use in small scale studies, they blew their load all at once. They dumped it on the market assuming everybody would share their idealism. And when people came back and as
  • Alternative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:23PM (#28831595)
    I think they should have looked more toward the Nintendo DS as inspiration, honestly. That thing can survive in 3rd world countries no problem; it survives 8 year olds. It's powerful enough to browse, the touch screen allows for a ubiquitous interface; just add a stripped-down linux and allow it to read/run from external memory SD and USB drives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      It's powerful enough to browse

      The DS is indeed awesome, I had my first encounter this year with it by buying a DSi for myself with several games for an extended work trip with many hours (with a colleage) in a car. I recall the days of the original game boy and how it didn't change for an entire decade, and this is light years from that... However, do you use something else to browse besides the opera DS browser? That is one software I found severely lacking on the DS. On a fast wifi connection, it's ju

    • by Dan East (318230)

      As a parent with 3 kids (6, 9 and 12 year olds) and 4 DSs (1 classic, 3 lites), I can say they aren't that durable at all. All 4 have broken at least once. And at the moment, only one is actually working, and it is one that I did a top LCD panel replacement myself. We've used the Nerf Armor, and even then the top screen of one of the units cracked after a typical drop onto the floor.

      The lack of a physics keyboard would make the DS a non-starter for OLPC.

  • Wingnut (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:25PM (#28831605) Homepage Journal

    A far bigger problem than Sugar, if sugar is even a problem, is having a wingnut leading the company. Negroponte's most visible activity wrt the OLPC is to torpedo it. Ditching him would be a much better start than ditching sugar.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The whole thing was an ego-trip in the first place. OLPC wouldn't even exist if Negroponte wasn't sitting around jerking it while fantasizing about winning the nobel peace prize.

    • by EWAdams (953502) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:45PM (#28831737) Homepage

      I'm not a big fan of Negroponte, but both Intel and Microsoft went out of their way to kill this project -- telling outrageous lies to potential developing-world customers in order to put them off it. When did either of them make a product with a fraction of the innovation and convenience that the XO exhibits? Negroponte did a deal with the Devil in order to keep the thing afloat, and it went wrong on him, as deals with the Devil usually do. But the fact that two gigantic for-profit corporations were so greedy that they were prepared to kill a charitable little startup just on the off-chance that it might deny them a few low-margin sales, is simply disgraceful. If they'd had any heart at all, they'd have said, "Great! How can we help?" and turned it into a big PR bonus for themselves.

      Mind you, it doesn't surprise me coming from Microsoft; I've had dealings with them in the past. But I thought better of Intel.

      • Please, whatever (Score:5, Informative)

        by coryking (104614) * on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:32PM (#28832003) Homepage Journal

        I'm not a big fan of Negroponte, but both Intel and Microsoft went out of their way to kill this project

        This is only according to those stricken with Linus's so-called Microsoft-Hater Disease. It is my understanding that both of those companies *and* apple offered to hook them up with stuff and were declined. Why? Politics. It would be seen as selling out to the other backers--the free software crowd. That would make their Slashdot Karma go down. So rather than except the offer, he declined and when all the other players wisely decided to make their own products, rather than realizing his mistake he choose to shift blame and pin it on those "big evil corporations trying to screw the little guy".

        If they'd had any heart at all, they'd have said, "Great! How can we help?" and turned it into a big PR bonus for themselves.

        By my recolection, they did say "how can we help" and were declined. The OLPC guys tryed to turn it into their own PR bonus.

        In other words, OLPC was its own worst enemy. It had no clearly defined goal. Was its goal playing politics for Free Software? Was it playing high-stakes international politics with so-called developing nations? Was it a laptop company? Was it an education company? Who knows. They sure didn't.

        If I was on that board, I would have tried my hardest to force them to pick one and go with that. Obviously they aren't a political football for Free Software, so they should go with whatever OS their customers want installed. Now the question is should they be a hardware manufacturer or an education provider? If they are hardware? Build their own rig from scratch and install Linux, OSX or Windows and let others do the software. If they are education? Outsource the engineering and work on sugar and good software. Doing all at once while wasting time worrying about their slashdot karma was what did them in.

        Saying Microsoft and Intel is solely to blame is letting your disease take control. Not good.

        • by jpmorgan (517966)
          Good analysis!
        • by amiga3D (567632)
          The fact is their is plenty of distrust and hatred for Micro$oft in the Linux/FOSS world. God knows they earned every little bit of it. The fact is that Negroponte knew the FOSS guys in camp weren't going to be happy when MS was brought on board. If he wanted an MS system he should have built one...or pulled one off the shelf.
        • Re:Please, whatever (Score:4, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:50AM (#28835283) Journal

          Politics. It would be seen as selling out to the other backers--the free software crowd

          If you believe this, then you're missing the point of the OLPC project. Building the product was only originally intended to be a demonstration. The idea of having open designs was to encourage other groups to produce their own versions. If the Indian government, for example, had decided they wanted to build them using native production capacity then they could take the designs, take the software, modify either in any way they wanted, and start producing them. While having OS X on them might have been nice in the short term, it would have made this impossible.

          Having Intel produce competing devices wasn't a problem, it was an original project aim (at least, according to the talk I saw from one of the project instigators a few years back). They wanted Intel to undercut them. They wanted Chinese companies to produce clones. And they wanted these clones to be as good as possible, copying as much of their code as possible, because the aim of the project was to get laptops to children, not to make a profit or ship a certain number of units.

        • Suppose I acknowledge that the OLPC foundation was screwed up internally. That still doesn't justify Microsoft and Intel sabotaging the project.

          Microsoft and Intel's offer of "help" came with a lot of conditions. Negroponte accepted it. He got reamed. So much for their charitable motivations.

          And accusing me of having a "disease" is just stupid ad hominem flamebaiting. If I were to sink to your level, I'd call you a Microsoft apologist fanboy.

        • This is only according to those stricken with Linus's so-called Microsoft-Hater Disease. It is my understanding that both of those companies *and* apple offered to hook them up with stuff and were declined.

          It depends on how they offered to "hook them up". Was Apple willing to license the interesting parts of their OS under GPL so that they could make it work on their hardware without depending on a third party? Was Microsoft willing to pay the salaries of several full time developers the way Red Hat [redhat.com] did? [redhat.com]

          Why? Politics. It would be seen as selling out to the other backers--the free software crowd. That would make their Slashdot Karma go down.

          Your argument doesn't stand up regarding Intel. They already have good standing in the community, they employ some of the best free software developers in their linux lab, and they already have their own n

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        It wasn't "a few low-margin sales" they were after. Here's what Suger and XO really presented: computing to a large portion of the world in a way that wasn't at all dependent on them. Look at it this way - if kids grew up in Africa, South Asia, and South America with XOs, they'd grow up with a clear alternative to buying MS and Intel products when they wanted computing power. Should those kids ever become successful enough to make computers part of their daily living, they'd start using and advocating such

        • Yeah, whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

          by coryking (104614) * on Sunday July 26, 2009 @10:52PM (#28832495) Homepage Journal

          . Look at it this way - if kids grew up in Africa, South Asia, and South America with XOs, they'd grow up with a clear alternative to buying MS and Intel products when they wanted computing power

          OLPC failed, in part, because they went out of the way to please people like you rather then their potential customers. You aren't their customer, you are an arm-chair quarterback. All you have done is added a thick layer of zealotry and politics that have zero place in the business OLPC was in.

          I know this isn't going to make me popular in these parts, but at first I was excited when I heard about OLPC until I read their mission statement. The second I read "Free Software" and "GPL", I knew they were horribly unfocused and would eventually fail. The politics of Free Software(tm) have no place in a non-profit that was supposed to put computers in the hands of children. Pushing those goals in parallel with trying to build a computer from scratch, put together an operating system from scratch, putting together a whole new method of education, and *finally* convincing governments to buy said devices from said organization was asking for way to much. Adding "GPL" and all the baggage that goes with it did nothing but bring out the trolls and zealots and stole only shred of focus the company might have had.

          Sadly, my prediction was 100% correct. Had they been merely a non-profit trying to put laptops into the hands of kids in developing nations, while they wouldn't have been on slashdot or any other linux rag much, they probably would have had a much better chance to fulfill their mission. A shame, really.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Improv (2467)

            I don't care about "these parts" and I suggest you shouldn't care either.

            They wern't trying to just put computers into kids hands - you don't need a nonprofit for that - if you wanted to do that, you could open your checkbook and talk to Dell. The interesting task they were aiming for took most pieces of the puzzle they put together - the degree to which they made their own hardware may have been a mistake, but having a separate branding and having a different software platform for ultra-lowcost computing m

            • by coryking (104614) *

              The GPL wasn't a problem from a low-level stand point--it might in fact be a very pragmatic license to use. It was a problem because the GPL is perceived to be a very political license and thus drags in all kinds of nonsense that the OLPC guys really didn't need.

            • by Sycraft-fu (314770)

              Is that deciding that it MUST be free software is the problem. There's a big difference between wanting things cheaply, which free software might be able to do for you, and insisting that it be all GPL'd. For a project like this, OSS zealotry had no place. The emphasis should have been on low cost. Whatever gets you what you need at the lowest price point is what you go with. That may well be OSS in a lot of cases but you use it because it does the job well for a good price, not because you are an ideologue

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by TheRaven64 (641858)

                For a project like this, OSS zealotry had no place

                I keep seeing this, and you obviously have no clue about the project aims. OSS was the only possible option within the project aims. They wanted countries like India and China, with a large industrial base but relatively poor education, to be able to take the designs, take the software stack, and build their own (improved or direct) copies. This would not have been possible without a software stack that came with redistribution rights. It would not have been possible without completely open designs.

              • by Improv (2467)

                Having it be free software is right for the project because you're not giving software to kids with serious strings attached. Going with the lowest offer would betray the goals of the project. Politics is part of the cost of having a project that means something, and political discussions embody efforts to determine the details of that meaning.

                • by coryking (104614) *

                  Having it be free software is right for the project because you're not giving software to kids with serious strings attached

                  Fair enough. But that is a feature just as much as "hand crank charger", "magic LCD that works in direct sunlight", "mesh wireless network", "new OS", etc. You can only add so many features for version 1.0. It seems they wanted to do *everything* for v1 and as a result pushed out a subpar product that was too expensive and too late to market.

                  Had they stripped out some of the featur

                  • by Improv (2467)

                    I agree with you regarding them not getting the 1.0 right. I think a reasonably uniform license policy didn't likely hurt them, but cutting other planned half-baked features probably would've been good.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In all fairness to Negroponte, you can't expect him to admit that the project failed because he's an incompetent boob, and blaming Windows would be the equivalent to that since he pushed for it. He HAD to blame something else. Sugar was the only reasonable thing to blame, and enough people will believe him.

  • True (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork (926717)
    Part of OLPC had always been that the entire software stack could be modified, and that users could learn about it and share ideas to make their own platform better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      I think the part you are thinking of is the part where, any criticism of the system by pointing out that it doesn't do a job well is countered by "that isn't what the system was designed for". I can't count the number of times that the failings of the OLPC as a 'learn to program' platform was countered with claims that it was never intended to be a tool to teach programming. In fact, the OLPC website never really said what they were really trying to accomplish. Just a bunch of marketing buzzwords.
    • Re:True (Score:5, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:42PM (#28832057)

      Part of OLPC had always been that the entire software stack could be modified, and that users could learn about it and share ideas to make their own platform better.

      The Afghan girl risks her life learning how to read and write.

      It is the basics of a grade school education which transform and modernize a society.

      In these simple things are the roots of independence, power and survival.

      That is where your focus needs to be.

      The geek builds a machine that reflects his own needs and values and thinks that he has created something universal.

  • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:35PM (#28831673)

    I don't think sugar was the main problem.

    Negroponte couldn't seem to make up his mind on the device. First it was supposed to be small, cheap, and completely open-source/user-modifiable. Part of the point was to make the entire platform a learning experience.

    Then the hardware specs started changing to make room for Windows... Why exactly? Who knows... Microsoft wanted a piece of the pie, and Negroponte accommodated them.

    But then the device wasn't nearly so cheap, and the entire platform wasn't an open learning experience. The cost lost them a few customers... And the lack of openness lost them a few more...

    And the marketing? Horrible.

    There are plenty of netbooks out there now... Stuff from MSI and Dell and HP... Some ship with Windows, some ship with Linux... They're selling just fine. There's no reason the XO couldn't have been a successful product.

    • You truly give an awesome, spot on and kickass analysis, and am in full agreement, Good Citizen.
    • by alienw (585907)

      They would have become more successful if they didn't try to do their own software stack. The countries they were selling them to never wanted third-world solutions; they wanted normal computers that could run normal software. A lot of these efforts fail because people think that third-world countries want to be beta testers. In reality, nobody wants to spend millions of dollars on an unproven, half-baked product with no track record, and that's exactly what the OLPC was. They had a lot of ideas, but no

      • They would have become more successful if they didn't try to do their own software stack. The countries they were selling them to never wanted third-world solutions; they wanted normal computers that could run normal software. A lot of these efforts fail because people think that third-world countries want to be beta testers.

        They didn't really create their own software stack though...

        The underlying OS was basically Red Hat. A couple tweaks here and there, but nothing substantial. There was a new GUI on top, to accommodate the hardware better... But again it wasn't anything bizarre.

        Take a look at the netbooks running Linux out there - things like the MSI Wind. They're basically running a vaguely-custom Linux install with a GUI on top that's optimized for the screen size and input available on the netbook. The XO wasn't doin

  • Sugar was the name for the new learning-oriented graphical interface that OLPC was building, but it was also the name for the entire XO operating system, one tiny part of which was Sugar the GUI

    It was one hell of an important part.

    OLPC was presented to the third world education minister as a take it or leave it proposition:

    The kid friendly hardware, the constructivist philosophy of education and the Sugar UI which was supposed to bring it all together.

    To question the UI exposes the fragility of the entire

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:52PM (#28831787)

    A lot of things came together to kill XO.

    1. Sugar. It still isn't ready for primetime. Building a whole new UI proved a lot harder than designing a laptop for the 3rd world. But worse, Sugar LOOKED like a toy instead of a computer. Basically it was a PR failure even had it been ready to deploy in time.

    2. x86. Unless the whole goal was teasing Microsoft into cheap licenses by waving the Penguin flag there was no reason to put an x86 into it. The power problem would have been so much simpler with ARM and the Sugar stack would have ran equally well on it.

    3. Failure to understand the customers. The customers were never going to be the children. Neither was it going to be the educators who would have to relearn pretty much everthing to adopt them. The customers were third world kleptocrats.

    4. Failure to clearly convey the whole new educational method XO implied and to get any buyin on it. Yes we on /. got it but most MSM reporting on it failed to get it even in the US.

    • by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:25PM (#28831965) Journal

      5. They wanted to create an experimental "mesh" networking system to get all the OLPCs online. This is at least as difficult as making an entirely new UI, perhaps more so.

      6. They refused to leverage existing application software, preferring instead to reinvent every wheel for their Sugar system. This was an incredibly bad idea. Compatibility with existing Linux apps should have been a priority to make up for the things that the Sugar apps couldn't initially do.

      7. Generally: the project ran on wishful thinking. They set crazily ambitious goals and totally underestimated the time, money and human effort required to achieve them. Intel and Microsoft didn't need to move to kill the project, it would have withered away anyway because of the vast discrepancy between Negroponte's dreams and his abilities. The fact that they tried anyway shows how well the PR machine worked. It was the only aspect of OLPC that was in any way successful. Unless OLPC can claim credit for the netbook revolution, which is doubtful to say the least.

      Finally - I expect, if it had been ARM-based, then Microsoft would have been pushing WinCE. However, it is a myth that ARM CPUs are lower power than x86. The instruction set architecture has little or no relevance to power consumption. It's all about the materials used to build the CPU core.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Charbax (678404)
        You guys a so wrong. OLPC is alive and strong. A million children are using it every day, and that number is increasing steadilly. Quit talking about it in the past tense.

        Mesh networking is crucial to OLPC:

        - Children in poor areas with NO internet connection can still collaborate on projects, share data.

        - Children in poor areas with LITTLE internet connection, can all share the same hotspot thus providing much cheaper Internet access, down towards $0.20 per child per month. This works.

        ARM Proces
        • by alienw (585907)

          ARM Processors consume ALOT less power than X86. With ARM you are talking milliwatts of power used to run the laptop, not watts.

          Haha, no way. There are some low-power ARM chips, but they are rather low-performance compared to a modern Intel chip like the Atom (although the OLPC uses a very old and very shitty AMD processor). And the difference in power is like 10%, not two orders of magnitude. If you want reasonable performance, you really can't beat Intel. Their processes are about a year ahead of ever

          • by Charbax (678404)
            ARM Cortex A8 at 600Mhz performs better than Intel Atom at 800Mhz for loading Javascripts on HTML websites. Intel Atom 800mhz consumes more than 1W ARM Cortex A8 600mhz consumes less than 350mW
      • by Dan East (318230)

        8. Governments and aid organizations have a hard enough time getting food into the hands of people that need it in 3rd world countries, even with their massive distribution systems. Food is stolen, resold, or grabbed up by local thugs who leverage it to meet their own goals. How likely is it that the One Laptop Per Child's XOs would actually end up in the hands of children?

    • or worse says "sheeple", god kills a kitten.

      Yes we on /. got it but most MSM reporting on it failed to get it even in the US.

      Perhaps the OLPC folk clearly conveyed their new education method. Perhaps the "they" who don't read slashdot understood what that method was and how it might work.

      Perhaps the fault doesn't lie with OLPC not clearly stating their new method, nor does it lie with the "MSM" either. Perhaps the real fault is that the idea just sucks.

      Kinda like Ron Paul supporters. Always blamed the "M

  • OLPC is a success (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charbax (678404) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:59PM (#28831843) Homepage
    Quit posting about OLPC being a failure. It is absolutely not.

    Thanks to OLPC, we have soon 50 million netbooks in rich countries.

    Thanks to OLPC, children have soon millions of cheap lower power laptops in poor countries.

    Thanks to OLPC, the PC/Laptop industry's interpretation of Moore's law has totally been reshaped, every 18month now PC/laptops will be half the price instead of 2x more powerful and with 2x more bloatware.

    Sure, I would have been happier, and so would most other Linux geeks if OLPC had shipped 100 million laptops to poor children by now, and not just 1 million units. Reason for that not happening yet in multi-hundred million scales though are several:

    1. Intel will do anything it can not to be killed off by a non-profit laptop technology revolution. Including abusing of monopolistic situations and corrupting politicians.

    2. AMD is not much interested in helping OLPC succeed in lowering the cost of laptops and PCs. Lower cost also means less profits and margins for AMD, and AMD has enough problems with profits and margins as it is.

    Looking forward, to reach those 100 million poor children sooner rather than later:

    1. OLPC needs to find an alternative to AMD as soon as possible. VIA is planned for XO-1.5 which could hopefully ship a few millions of units in a few months time, if VIA supports this move of OLPC creating a cheaper and lower power market using their processor. XO-1.5 could reach the $150 pricepoint soon and enable dozens of commercial netbooks using the VIA processor and also copying on the way OLPC is using the VIA processor.

    2. OLPC needs to implement the worlds best ARM processor based laptops for XO-2 working with Google to implement the so called Chrome OS on those. Cloud computing can work also for places without stable internet access, HTML5 supports offline web apps and offline databases. OLPC needs to push Google to make it work on WiFi Mesh networks as well. XO-2 can start at $100 when released and reach the $50 price point, when manufactured using any of half a dozen ARM processor companies chips. All of TI, Qualcomm, Marvell, Freescale, Nvidia and Samsung, all those ARM processors should fit in the XO-2 design. Competition will bring the prices down faster.
    • The OLPC project was a failure for a few reasons. For one it never got to the promised $100 price point. And not even close to there, its current price is ~$200. Another reasons it was a failure was because it was meant to bring the benefits of F/OSS software to places where both free as in beer and free as in speech software was crucial. However, they compromised on that point too. Then was the fact of feature creep, they wanted it to do more, more and more. While perfection is always good, it can harm the
      • Re:OLPC is a success (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Charbax (678404) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:35PM (#28832021) Homepage
        OLPC always said they'd reach the $100 price point by selling many millions of laptops. Initial goal was at least sell 6 million units to reach that price goal. Now, with "only" 1 million units sold, and an unsupported AMD Geode based hardware that uses non-optimized anymore components, you can't expect them to be able to lower the price.

        Though OLPC is launching XO-1.5 based on the VIA processor in the next few weeks or months as you can see in the videos on my http://olpc.tv/ [olpc.tv] Using this new lower power VIA processor, OLPC can speed it up 4x as well and still lower the cost and lower the power consumption.

        You complainers about Windows support need to learn that it's BECAUSE OLPC is an open platform that Microsoft is able to port Windows XP for it. You are completely ridiculous not understanding that for OLPC to not support Windows XP, they would have had to build a closed proprietary system. Since specs of XO are opened, and it's X86 based, Microsoft is obviously able to read the specs on the Wiki and build a port of Windows XP for it. It's just plain stupid to keep asking for OLPC to somehow block Microsoft.

        Give 1 Get 1 program was not a failure at all. Tens of thousands of laptops were given for free in dozens of countries. To create those dozens of hundred or thousand-laptop OLPC pilot projects. Those projects would not have been financed if it wasn't for the G1G1 program.

        Now sure, you can critisize OLPC for not having found more money if you want. I find it that considering they are just a 30-employee non-profit, finding $200 million to fund those 1 million first XO laptops is pretty decent achievement no matter what. Sure, I'd prefer if they had access to billions of dollars to help millions more children get laptops. People in rich countries are greedy, they only care to pay for stuff that they can get for themselves.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Trepidity (597)

          You complainers about Windows support need to learn that it's BECAUSE OLPC is an open platform that Microsoft is able to port Windows XP for it. You are completely ridiculous not understanding that for OLPC to not support Windows XP, they would have had to build a closed proprietary system. Since specs of XO are opened, and it's X86 based, Microsoft is obviously able to read the specs on the Wiki and build a port of Windows XP for it. It's just plain stupid to keep asking for OLPC to somehow block Microsoft

          • by Charbax (678404)
            Nah, XO1 is sluggish with Linux as well. OLPC did not change any hardware to accomodate Microsoft. The main problem with the XO is that AMD did not help much improving the Geode processor to fit with more cost effective RAM and Flash memory components.

            But in 2007, OLPC did not really have a choice. Intel was crapping on the whole project with all its monopolistic corporate clout, and ARM processors did perhaps not seem ready enough for it.

            I could perhaps argue, and I think I did ask the question often
        • You complainers about Windows support need to learn that it's BECAUSE OLPC is an open platform that Microsoft is able to port Windows XP for it. You are completely ridiculous not understanding that for OLPC to not support Windows XP, they would have had to build a closed proprietary system. Since specs of XO are opened, and it's X86 based, Microsoft is obviously able to read the specs on the Wiki and build a port of Windows XP for it. It's just plain stupid to keep asking for OLPC to somehow block Microsoft.

          The problem isn't that MS can port Windows to it, it is the fact that the OLPC is effectively marketing Windows and bending the specs to fit Windows. Very similar to how Dell bundles Windows with its computers. There is nothing wrong with MS deciding one day "Hey I feel like porting Windows to this" but they didn't, they changed the direction of it.

          Give 1 Get 1 program was not a failure at all. Tens of thousands of laptops were given for free in dozens of countries. To create those dozens of hundred or thousand-laptop OLPC pilot projects. Those projects would not have been financed if it wasn't for the G1G1 program.

          But if they were to simply sell the laptop they could have made more money in the long run. We are talking about 2007, back then even an iPod touch cost $300

          • by Charbax (678404)
            "bending the specs to fit Windows"

            That is BS. The specs were updated from 128MB RAM to 256MB RAM, not for Windows only, but for Linux as well. Same thing for the 1GB storage instead of 512MB.

            With XO-1.5 they are improving the processor significantly upwards 1Ghz, with 4GB storage and much better DDR2 RAM memory. All this without increasing the cost, because VIA simply supports their new processor better and AMD has stopped developping for Geode years ago and don't support those latest cheaper and bett
            • Last, your complaint about commercialization of OLPC to rich people like you. OLPC cannot do that cause they are a non profit.

              Doesn't seem to stop Oxfam. Or the many FOSS projects that sell mugs, shirts and similar brol.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Charbax (678404)
      Also, to reach those 100 million children, OLPC needs to have more than just a couple dozen engineers working on the whole optimizations of hardware and software for the project.

      What OLPC managed to build in XO1 and XO-1.5 with 30 employees and the little budget that they could get is absolutely amazing.

      But what OLPC probably needs for XO-2 to absolutely work and sell laptops soon at $50 to revolutionize education worldwide, is thousands of engineers and the support from Barack Obama and the European
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      Thanks to OLPC, the PC/Laptop industry's interpretation of Moore's law has totally been reshaped, every 18month now PC/laptops will be half the price instead of 2x more powerful and with 2x more bloatware.

      Halving the price of computers every 18 months is simply a fantasy, it's just not a sustainable rate. Costs do go down, but I don't think it can go down anywhere nearly that quickly for long periods of time.

      Moore's "law" was really an observation not on power or software, but just silicon complexity, you can't just take the time period and just randomly apply it to some other technology and assume it will work at the same rate.

      I wonder if the netbook idea is approaching the problem from the wrong direction

      • by alienw (585907)

        Hell, the only reason costs go down is because we keep moving more and more production to third-world countries. Silicon used to be made in the US, now it's mostly made in Taiwan. Hardware that used to be manufactured in Taiwan, Singapore, and Eastern Europe is now manufactured in PRC, including things like hard drives. DRAM is extremely cheap because the Korean government invested trillions in the DRAM industry and it has extreme overcapacity. The hardware isn't becoming any easier to make, we are just

    • by hitmark (640295)

      given how netbooks have grown in price compared to when asus got their eeepc out the door, i would not say that moores law have been made to lower prices. Lower TDP maybe, but not price...

      • by Charbax (678404)
        The fact that Intel does not WANT to lower prices does not mean that they COULD NOT do it. If it weren't for Intel and Microsoft's monopoly on the PC/Laptop market, we would have had $50 Laptops that run 20 hours on a battery by now, with instant on and free wireless broadband worldwide.
  • Basically you read Ivan Kristic's post, he starts off saying he's always been against the Sugar UI.

    Where in Nicholas Negroponte's interview does it say he thinks that the core Linux hardware/software development was the mistake?

    Where in Nicholas Negroponte's interviews does he say he thinks Windows support on the XO is better than optimized Linux?

    Talking about working for the evil empire, I'd say Ivan Kristic working for Apple should not have too much to brag about.

    He's a genius for sure, and th
    • No one says there is anything wrong with porting Windows to the X-O laptop, the problem results from when you bend over backwards to add in things simply to please MS so they can use XP and when you start making it with XP.
      • by Charbax (678404)
        OLPC has NEVER added things to please Microsoft.

        Nicholas Negroponte has always argued that OLPC would only work towards Open Firmware supporting Windows on the laptops. Because he ALWAYS talked about Dual-boot support if ANY Windows Support at all!!!

        Windows-only machines would never had been supported by OLPC funds.

        Some Governments demand Windows support on the machines before they invest millions of dollars into such a project. That is why OLPC has worked on the open source Open Firmware ONLY, NOT
    • An extremely shallow reading of the first few paragraphs might give you that impression.

      His problem with Sugar (rightly) was that it was far too ambitious for the timeline and budget the OLPC had. However, he acknowledges that the end result is increasingly worthwhile.

      From his description of the debacle, it has nothing to do with the OS. The hardware is crap, and neither Windows nor Linux can change that.

      And it sounds like only in a fairy land is this an open x86 project. Binary blobs and nothing resembling

      • by Charbax (678404)
        The hardware may have problems, but you can't expect it to work better, given AMD did not support the project well enough to keep Geode up to date with the latest cost efficient components. And given OLPC only could afford the amount of engineers working full time that they could afford.

        I absolutely don't see where Nicholas Negroponte should have been complaining about the Linux core developed by Ivan Kristic and the other engineers.

        Although I am NOT an engineer and I do not know the details of what t
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          given AMD did not support the project well enough to keep Geode up to date

          No. This is correctly pronounced "AMD had no financial incentive to refresh Geode because nobody, including the OLPC project, was buying enough to make it worthwhile for a company that is absolutely hemorrhaging money."

  • needs some vowels.
  • Policy Blunder (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fmorton (1606145)
    +1 on other remarks that it was not a technical issue

    I'd say it was more than marketing, though. It was more along the lines of policy. I think they had an (barely) underlying agenda that this was not about the United States but about trying to bring the world on the same level technically.

    I tried to talk with them about buying batches of computers for disadvantaged kids I work with in the US. These kids have no possibility of having their own computer, either. Some of them would also use it as a lighti
  • The OLPC is a perfect example of what happens when business challenged intellectuals try to do something. The OLPC was and still is so ahead of it's time and it could have been such a huge success had it's release to the world not been so mismanaged. Every techno-geek I know, including myself, would salivate everytime an article appeared regarding the OLPC. And my mouth still salivates when I read about the OLPC II with dual opposing touchscreens. Had they not made it so difficult to get one, with the limit
    • When the OLPC first came out, I probably would have bought one.

      But these days, I can get a netbook, now, that better serves my needs without breaking the bank. It makes no sense for me to buy one.

      And, from what I've heard, the only place Negroponte's heart was actually in was "how do I get a Nobel" territory.

  • Not going to get promoted at Apple talking smack like that I'm afraid...
  • Nicholas Negroponte has proved a visionary and a thoughtleader in his field "Being Digital", he has to be credited for that. The OLPC was a nice idea. However clearly he doesn't have any talent for leadership and management. For leaders it would be better not to wine about what went wrong, or how people messed up. He should be clever enough to have learned his lessons, do what he's good at and looking to the future instead of the past. That past has become increasingly boring. It is hard to believe anyone i

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