Walter leaving and shift to XP.

Edward Cherlin echerlin at
Wed Apr 23 04:09:19 EDT 2008

On Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 11:41 PM, Sameer Verma <sverma at> wrote:
> Walter Bender wrote:
>  > First of all, just to clear, Flash does run on the laptop: there is a
>  > choice of both the Adobe Flash player and the FOSS Flash player,
>  > Gnash. We opted to install the Gnash player by default. Many of the
>  > problems people have with Flash are actually related to codecs rather
>  > than the player itself. We don't load proprietary codecs onto the
>  > machine by default, but they are available for download and some of
>  > our deployments in fact do opt to load some proprietary codecs--after
>  > of course obtaining the proper licenses. I see this approach as a
>  > reasonable compromise given the goals of the project. Apparently
>  > others see this as fundamentalism?
>  >
>  > Second, regarding Microsoft, I agree that if it is to be an open
>  > platform, it should be open to everyone, including Microsoft. That
>  > said, it is somewhat revisionist to suggest that the SD card was added
>  > on behalf of Microsoft: it was added at the same time as the camera
>  > because we had the opportunity while adding an ASIC necessary to
>  > improve NAND Flash performance. The fact that it facilitates the
>  > running of Windows was not the consideration at the time. I am not
>  > aware of any current effort to port Sugar to Windows; I don't know
>  > enough about Windows to know how much effort that would entail or even
>  > if it is possible. gives two versions. I don't
care. I run coLinux when forced to use Windows for my employment. So
the next time that happens, I will merrily install the Sugar packages
in Ubuntu Hardy Heron inside coLinux.

There is little chance of running Sugar directly on Windows. Your best
bet is emulation.

For the time being, this is NOT going to be a one-click install
process. At the very least you will need to install Python and PyGTK
separately. Windows support for GTK is a bit confusing with multiple
versions, some with missing libraries which have to be sourced from
other sites. And then there is GECKO. And finally, the Sugar
environment that is built on all of it.

>  > Third, in regard to the performance, feature sets, etc., the OLPC
>  > software stack is immature--quite naturally, as it is a relatively new
>  > product and project. The software development roadmap for the project
>  > had included a phased approach where we first get a core feature set
>  > built; do some initial triage of bugs and bring some stability to the
>  > deployments; and then work to fine-tune performance. While have heard
>  > a lot of noise about performance in the media and from some members of
>  > the development community, it has not, in my experience been a major
>  > road-block in the school trials and deployments. There are lots of
>  > bugs and lots of things that could be improved upon, and these should
>  > certainly be addressed, but the characterizations being made in this
>  > thread do not reflect the realities of the OLPC deployments--the
>  > children and teachers are using the laptops and are learning.

Nicholas's call for greater efficiency in development and a crisper
architecture is rather silly. You can't architect a system whose
proper functioning is largely unknown when you start out. You have to
use incremental development with aggressive refactoring.

>  > Fourth and final point for the moment: it is important to make a
>  > distinction between the system software--drivers, power management,
>  > memory management, etc. and the Sugar user experience. It is not yet
>  > easy to always draw a clear line between them, but many of the
>  > performance problems* are not related to the choices we made regarding
>  > the UI, although, since the UI is how one experiences the laptop, they
>  > are felt there. I am not suggesting that there isn't room for
>  > improvement, but the call for dropping Sugar is not going to make as
>  > dramatic a difference in performance as is being suggested. And at
>  > what cost? Is the goal is simply to get laptops into the hands of as
>  > many children as possible? If that is the case, why have we been
>  > bothering to develop any software at all? And if others are making low
>  > cost laptops that run Windows, why don't those efforts fulfill that
>  > goal?

I could respond at length, but this is the choir here.

>  If we look at the problem as one of supply and demand, then the
>  perceived demand is for a certain mode of education (constructionism,
>  learning learning, etc.) and the (XO laptop + Mesh Network + Sugar +
>  Linux) is a vehicle to support that demand, the ultimate supply side
>  being the utility of this entire system as a whole. One of the major
>  components of the supply side is the horde of contributors on this
>  project. These aren't only the coders and patchers, but also the
>  documenters, advocates, and enthusiasts. Majority of the contribution
>  (in my understanding) is voluntary. It is this contributory goodwill
>  that I'm afraid will shrivel away.

Hence the fork proposal.

AP says:
>Bender already has new plans: to launch an independent effort to further
>the development of the XOs' homegrown software, known as Sugar, and
>get it to run on Linux computers other than XOs. "Sugar is in a narrow
>place and it is ripe to be unleashed," he wrote in an e-mail exchange.

Pixel Qi's $75 laptop would be an obvious target. The Web site says
maybe in 2010, but we could get involved at the design stage, after
the company's funding goes through. I'm all for porting Sugar to the
Wii and doing some new user interface work there.
The Wii Proof of Concept Linux mini-distro is a small Linux OS for the
Wii, based on GC Linux.

WiiPoC uses the Twilight Hack loader.

>  If one of the significant components of this project strays away from
>  the FOSS principles
>  ( there will
>  most probably be a significant shift in mindshare. Perhaps there are
>  those who will contribute to the project despite of its newfound
>  proprietary underpinnings, but that group and its thinking will be quite
>  different. I was a part of such a group many years ago (I have felt the
>  pain of developing on a blackbox) and would prefer not to revisit such
>  practices.

I can go on at some length about the need for Open Source software so
that the children can learn from it, and adapt it to their own needs
without having to ask permission. Including local language support. Or
about the burden on development for paying even heavily discounted
prices for proprietary crippleware, or several other such points.

>  There are those on this list who would rather service the goal of
>  education, even if it comes at a cost of going proprietary. Can there be
>  a goal higher than FOSS? Do such people exist?  Yes, of course. I see
>  them in my classes every semester :-) On the other hand, I am sure there
>  are those who wouldn't touch it if it ran any form of Windows. I am also
>  sure that there are those who are indifferent about the educational
>  goal, but like the idea of being able to contribute to a public commons
>  project, where the collective intellectual property will not be held
>  captive by some constantly shifting EULA. It is the proportion of such
>  groups that will either sustain this project or will drive it into the
>  ground.

It is the ever-growing network effect of that commons that will
sustain the movement, and not just this project. For some people,
proprietary software has no appeal at all. They were many of the first
to contribute Free Software. As the pool of available Free Software
grows, that group is augmented by others who find that they can do all
of their work in formats that they can share with the earlier
adopters, with a final format conversion to send documents to the rest
of the world. So the pool of software grows, and the community grows,
in a virtuous circle. At what point does the Free Software network
effect become stronger than the proprietary lock-in network effect? At
a different point for each person, partly because of different values
placed on software freedom. But our network is more strongly bound
than the opposing network, and our network effect is already stronger
for many companies and a fair number of individuals. The network
effect of hundreds of millions of XOs would be overpowering. To
Microsoft, that seems to be The Sum of All Fears.

In certain markets, no-cost software, either Free and legal or pirated
proprietary works, has the advantage. We are seeing Linux distributed
as pirated warez (what with trademark violations and the like) in some
of these markets, where the buyer doesn't make a distinction based on
retail prices. But at the level of countries, we are seeing
significant, though not consistent, increases in the number that value
security, freedom, and low cost over brand name.

>  Perhaps OLPC

You mean Nicholas?

>  does not appreciate the value proposition of FOSS in the
>  long term. Based on early reports, OLPC had asked Microsoft and Apple
>  for support, before turning to the masses for unencumbered software and
>  content. If this is the case, then it was largely futile to have worked
>  on this project *for* OLPC. However, the effort isn't wasted because
>  Sugar can still possibly thrive, albeit outside of the scope of OLPC
>  (via a fork as suggested elsewhere).

As you say, not futile because not wasted.

>  The news in the last couple of days feels like Star Wars Episode II :-)
>  (

Well, I personally am in a John Brunner novel. I recommend The
Shockwave Rider, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Stone That Never Come Down
as analogues to our situation. It's partly because of Nicholas's
brother, known in some circles as John "Death Squad" Negroponte. I
have met people who will have nothing to do with OLPC because of John.

>  Anyway, I'd like to thank you, Walter, for your excellent leadership and
>  service to the project and in attempting to further its goal. I hope we
>  can sustain it beyond this "glitch".

I'm certain of it.

>  cheers,
>  Sameer
>  --
>  Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
>  Associate Professor of Information Systems
>  San Francisco State University
>  San Francisco CA 94132 USA
> > -walter
>  >
>  > * Ironically, the majority of the system-level problems we had
>  > experienced are directly tied to the two proprietary code bases on the
>  > laptop: the wireless firmware and the embedded controller firmware.

Hardly surprising.

>  > While there are efforts to replace these, OLPC itself has been
>  > diligently working with both Marvell and Quanta to make the best of
>  > the situation.To suggest that fundamentalism has impeded progress on
>  > those two subsystems is not correct.

Consider a true Free Software fundamentalist, Theo de Raadt, founder
of OpenBSD. According to him, we should never have done the mesh
networking in the absence of completely Open Source firmware for
appropriate wireless chips. In this particular case, Richard Stallman
is the reasonable one. He says that he doesn't care about the code in
ROM, and he is thinking of switching from his old Thinkpad to an XO,
although he won't use our wireless until we get the microkernel on the
Marvell chip replaced. So I and others are working on that, as
described on the Wiki page Marvell microkernel.
Edward Cherlin
End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

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