XP on OLPC - a contrarian view

Albert Cahalan acahalan at gmail.com
Sat May 17 00:08:27 EDT 2008

Robert Myers writes:

> The folks that are buying them, Ministries of Education, governments,
> charities all have their own agendas. They do not necessarily line up
> with the agendas of our real customers - children and educators, or our
> own. If we have to give them some of what they want, so that we can get
> some of what we want to to the children, it's a fact of life.
> Selling constructionism is hard. The theory is attractive, but the data
> is _not_ compelling. The buyers are probably not convinced going in that
> it's something they want or need. OLPC would probably have an easier
> time selling $100 Apple ][ clones with drill and practice software than
> the XO as it stands. If the buyers demand a machine that can run
> Windows, tell them that the XO can run Windows.

You don't need computers for constructionism. If pushing educational
theories of questionable value is your thing, spending $0 on a laptop
is the obvious solution for you.

Seriously, forget the laptop. You don't need it.

I'd rather give the gift of software freedom. Unlike your theories,
software isn't much good without hardware. XP is of no help at all.
Because of network effects (economic theory, not computer networks),
shipping XP (rather than nothing) is a net loss.

> The buyer gets to tick Windows off his must have list. OLPC sells a
> machine with XP on a card, a crippled and storage limited XP that still
> doesn't run current first world productivity applications well. XOs get
> out, still loaded with Sugar. Children get them. OLPC gets revenue that
> can help its educational mission. What have we lost but some innocence?

Watch the video. XP boots fast, handles video very nicely,
runs Microsoft Office just fine (spreadsheet!), and in general
looks to be highly usable.

(works OK in mplayer)

Don't bet for a moment that Linux will get to stay. That is
simply not how Microsoft operates.

Notice that most of the big successes have had alternates.
There were several batteries, several cameras, and several
memory chips. Competition is good. The problems, our ever
lovable Marvell 802.11 jammer and ALPS frame invoker, did not
have any competition. Sugar did not have competition; from the
start it was fully blessed and immune to all reconsideration.
The choice is wrongly between XP and Linux+Sugar; there
is no logical reason why Linux must be so greatly burdened.
There is another laptop, the One2OneMate, which ships with a
much more reasonable Linux install for kids. Unfortunately that
laptop is not really meant for child ownership and control.

Discussion of the software situation reminds me of this:
(many people ignore the most obvious problems)

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