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Thursday, April 24, 2008

OLPC: The Brouhaha over XP on the XO

The One Laptop Per Child foundation has done some amazing work towards the goal of providing a ubiquitous $100 laptop targeted towards education for (3rd world) children.

Lately, however there has been some upheaval within the organization, following many leaked reports that the XO OS Sugar may be transplanted by some scaled down version of Windows (presumably XP).

Frankly, I don't understand why the OLPC volunteers are getting their panties in such a wad - as I comment here:

I'm curious as to why Windows on the XO is somehow considered as inhibiting the learning value of the XO.

I fully understand that XP is not open source, but why is it so fundamentally important that the OS be open source? It's not as if the hardware is open source, right? As long as there are no restrictions as to what can be put ON the OS, that's what ought to matter. Arguing about one OS vs another seems silly, and it strikes me that certain members of the OLPC community are letting their anti-MS bias get the better of them.

Part of the answer I got from Wayan, is telling (emphasis mine):

Many of us invested our hearts and minds into OLPC because it was Open Source and not MS. To switch a fundamental aspect of the program this late in the game is alienating all of us who are here because Sugar + XO = Education + Open Source.

XP on the XO can be educational, its just not the OLPC we signed up for.

Basically he argues my point: the anti-MS bias is overshadowing the larger goal.

As I've stated before, I am not a 3rd world child, and my primary purpose for buying the XO was to have another cool little wireless gadget on which I could surf the Internet.  That little experiment failed, largely due to the clumsy Sugar OS.

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4 Comments:

  • And you miss my overall point. MS or no MS is not that big of an issue. Claiming to be an Open Source project, to the point of even turning down Mac OS at the beginning because it was proprietary, and then reversing that decision late in the game is the point.

    Picking MS just makes the move that much more egregious.

    By Blogger Wayan @ OLPC News, at Thursday, April 24, 2008 10:43:00 PM  

  • One important aspect that you seemed to have missed is that of security. You can be *absolutely* sure that the target market does not have the bandwidth to download the Microsoft patches that are required to keep the machines safe. They also do not have the savvy to be secure in the way they operate. The whole idea of putting XP on the machines is ludicrous from a security perspective.

    Even if you discard Sugar, why would you want to put XP on the machines, when it only serves to further the market of a monopoly. There are many very good alternatives, such as XUbuntu linux, that will run on lower hardware spec with more built-in features than XP. (Don't choose it because its open source - choose it because its a better OOB experience).

    Finally, consider administration. The sugar OS is designed to be friendly to non-tech-savvy children. Windows XP is not. Do you really want to burden children and uneducated adults with administration and security decisions, which can only get in the way of whatever learning benefits the device gives?

    By Blogger Steve Campbell, at Friday, April 25, 2008 9:23:00 AM  

  • Wayan - you sound like you feel betrayed. Ok, perhaps you were, but I'd argue that open source is fine, but only as a means towards an end, not as an end by itself.

    Steve - yours is a much better point - I agree that XP is certainly not the best OS to start with, at least not as far as security. And had my XO come with Ubuntu rather than Sugar I would perhaps have kept it.

    By Blogger Oskar, at Friday, April 25, 2008 2:20:00 PM  

  • Attack of perspective - do the obvious firefox/sugar, browser/os, web pages/applications substitutions: http://xkcd.com/198/

    By Blogger Oskar, at Tuesday, May 27, 2008 11:07:00 AM  

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