[OLPC-SF] Microsoft Is Joining Low-Cost Laptop Project - New York Times

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Tue May 20 11:55:59 EDT 2008

jim wrote:
>    as to the bulk of your point, very nicely said. 
> On Sun, 2008-05-18 at 00:15 -0700, Mike Travers wrote:
>> But
>> the choice of operating system seems like a relatively minor element
>> of the medium/message/massage, compared to the fact of connectedness
>> and interactivity.
>    As to the above, i think the OS technology is 
> not a minor consideration. 

By no means is it minor. Its the very foundation of these machines and
many more to come. However, FOSS as the only qualifier for the OS is not
good enough in my opinion. It needs to work and it needs to work well.

I think Windows XP is a lousy choice because once the Windows only
trials happen (as Nicholas has indicated) and by Windows only, I am
interpreting Windows XP and no Sugar, there will be some fudged data
that we don't need Sugar. Fudging data is easy...even if you slept
through your stats class. There you go. Dependency removed. *That* is my
worst fear with this whole drama.

>    Consider the open-closed spectrum such that at 
> the open end absolutely all software (and hardware) 
> comes with source code and nice, clear docs and at 
> the closed end there is no info and no tools other 
> than directions "click the mouse here, darling." 
>    The current XO product (it is such despite its 
> genesis) is close to the open end; windows-based 
> boxes are close to the closed end. 
>    The open model allows kids to dig into the 
> innards, an innately kid thing to do. Kids will 
> sense the ownership of their work much more deeply, 
> and that sense will affect their connectedness and 
> interactivity, i think, a lot. The fact of lower 
> costs will promote the kids' community to do so 
> faster than the limited access of a more closed 
> model. 
>    As to the educational goals, the open source 
> model is immediately superior in teaching morality, 
> technology, math and reading/writing, and closely 
> adjunct fields such as electronics, system 
> administration, sensor-based physics-related 
> projects (light, heat, motion, robotics). The 
> open source model, with a little more time, will 
> also have an affect on more distantly related 
> fields that benefit from data manipulation 
> (agriculture, health, pollution...). The open 
> source, very low cost, model promotes ownership of 
> action and ideas, creativity, and independent 
> thinking. 
>    Does anyone think that a closed platform 
> would be better in the above educational regards? 

I don't think closed source does any of these better by virtue of its
code availability or lack of it. However, there are many educational
titles in the proprietary domain that work really well. Again, the line
of reasoning should be beyond the availability of code. What I can see
is that if the code is available, local communities can *build*
activities based on their *own* constructs as applied in local folklore
or tradition.

"Two ones are two" is acceptable in English-speaking countries, but may
not be acceptable in other places. Will the system allow us to change
that "Two ones are two" with "Do ekkum do" (colloquial Hindi from
Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India). If so, then the purpose is served to some
extent, because "Do ekkum do" makes sense to someone from Eastern Uttar
Pradesh in India. Does the OS have to be open for this? Debatable.

I prefer to think of the whole issue as one of culture instead of OS,
wiki, etc. An open culture leads to sharing. Having said that, its again
a stretch to assume that all cultures (including ours) will welcome such
openness with pleasure :-)


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

> If so, how? 
>    It seems to me that the underlying technologies 
> of the OS are an important consideration (again, 
> a la "the medium is the massage"). 

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