[support-gang] [sugar] Microsoft

Kurt H Maier karmaflux at gmail.com
Thu May 15 20:31:22 EDT 2008

On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 7:03 PM, Seth Woodworth <seth at isforinsects.com> wrote:
> So as a fair practice I think it's clear that no special actions can
> ethically be made to prevent Windows or any other OS from running on the
> machine.  So a Windows port for the XO isn't something that could have been
> preventative.

He's not declaring a policy of ethical inaction.  He made an
announcement called "Microsoft" wherein he describes an OLPC-supported
firmware modification that will allow Windows to boot on the XO-1.  He
p it to an OLPC mailing list.  He then claimed no OLPC resources would
be devoted to the project.  I'm left wondering how many of those
resources went into this firmware mod.

> Furthermore OLPC's sale of the XO hardware doesn't come with any
> restrictions for use.  To not allow countries to install windows once they
> take ownership would be a completely unethical move given OLPC's commitments
> to freedom.

If XO sales are so unrestricted, why can't I buy one at laptop.org?

> From scuttlebut about this deal and the way that I understand it, it's the
> equivalent of OLPC/Quanta selling the machines to Microsoft and they doing
> whatever they want with them.  I'm not as clear on this point, but is there
> an ethical problem with selling the machine to Microsoft?  Could OLPC
> ethically Not sell the machine to whoever wanted to buy them in large
> volumes?  We must remember that hardware companies have invested a good deal
> of money on the expectation that they can at best break even on the XO
> production.  They haven't reached nearly the levels of machines sold to
> satisfy these manufacturors.

Those people knew what they were getting into before they signed on.
If they didn't like the prospect of non-profit hardware projects, they
should have passed on the deal.  I understand they put a lot into this
deal -- and I appreciate their support of a project whose
(originally-stated) goals are dear to my heart.  But let's be honest
-- it was never in their contract for OLPC to start shipping a
monopolist's code to pull their asses out of the fire.

> Will this still give us the chance to put great hardware and content into
> the hands of children all over the world?  Yes.

Hardware is useless without control.  Remember when this was an
education project?  Where'd all *that* rhetoric go?  In this country,
we complain about vendor lock-in -- on everything from terrible ISO
standards (remember who was behind subverting THAT open process) to
our mobile phones.  But this isn't some abstract problem that prevents
us from using Google Maps on our Blackberries.  These kids don't
*have* anything else, and we should not hand control of their
education over to *any* for-profit company.  In fact, we should
*actively oppose* the idea.

> But Linux and FOSS can't triumph over Microsoft by excluding them and by
> obfusication.  We need to make a better product.

I don't care who triumphs over whom.  I did not donate to the OLPC
foundation to fund a market-assault vector for a convicted monopolist.

> With Walter Bender on his own and dedicated to bringing Sugar to every
> machine on a FOSS stack, and all OLPC produced software being safely GPL'ed,
> I feel confident that Sugar can beat out Windows.  Let's focus on getting
> sugar and linux and what we *can* do instead of being angry.  I plan on
> staying and producing content, translations and improvements for OLPC and
> for children.

Sugar can't beat out Windows if it's busy running on top of Windows.

On a final note:

"Additionally, the Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu software environments run
on the XO-1, adding support for tens of thousands of free software

I am terrified at the thought that the rest of this press release
might be anywhere near as disingenuous as this statement.  No part of
it is actually untrue, but all of it is misleading.  Hell, there has
yet to be a single build of the OLPC distro that is feature-complete
-- and I can tell you from personal experience that Debian, Fedora,
Slackware, and many other operating systems can *run* but aren't

How is this relevant?  When Microsoft sits down and throws its vast
resources at making Windows "just work" on the XO-1, it's going to
blow our current FOSS distributions out of the water.  *That's* what
worries me.  We don't have suspend and resume working without breaking
SD cards.  We're retooling Sugar's datastore.  OLPC3 is being born.  A
couple million dollars from Microsoft could turn out a Windows install
that *works*, and then no country on the planet would bother even
looking at a feature-incomplete FOSS alternative.

Please don't mistake me.  Among the OLPC developers -- past and
present -- are some of my personal heroes.  They are doing a
phenomenal job with this project, and I have complete faith in them.

However, the software we have is not ready to go against competition
from Microsoft, especially with untapped emerging markets on the line.
 You can't fight a corporation by turning the other cheek -- much less
by giving them a key to your house.

# Kurt H Maier

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