Linked by Amjith Ramanujam on Sun 10th Aug 2008 16:38 UTC, submitted by Rahul
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y "Microsoft, makers of most of the computer software in the world, tried to kill it with words, and Intel, maker of most computer chips, tried to kill it with dirty tricks. Of course, they don't admit to being attempted murderers. And when I introduce you to Intel's lovely spokesperson, Agnes Kwan, you'll realise how far their denials go. But the truth is the two mightiest high-tech companies in the world looked on Negroponte's philanthropic scheme and decided it had to die."
Order by: Score:
and...
by helf on Sun 10th Aug 2008 16:52 UTC
helf
Member since:
2005-07-06

...the project was also mismanaged and run by morons.

Reply Score: 9

dress it up any way you like
by raver31 on Sun 10th Aug 2008 17:15 UTC
raver31
Member since:
2005-07-06

The project was a good idea, and there might have been a bit of mis-management in there somewhere.

BUT

Microsoft fanbois can apologise for this company as much as they like, it still does not change the fact that this company is a f$&king immoral plethora of scumbags who would stab their grandmothers for a few quid.

The project was to educate the worlds poorest, and these Microsoft retards destroyed the project in case it made a few Linux users and took the food from Microsofts mouth.

Reply Score: 21

Whats That There Member since:
2005-09-21

I think you are one of these fanbois the other person was talking about

Reply Score: 3

PlatformAgnostic Member since:
2006-01-02

I work at Microsoft... none of the people I work with are scumbags or money-grubbers. Also, as a corporation Microsoft is one of the most generous American companies in giving money and time. Most employees do the same, giving on average a few percent of their salaries to charities with company-matched donations. It's hard to defend raver31's accusations, given the philanthropy of the company and the people in it.

Microsoft seemingly did not have something specific to give in the OLPC case and Bill Gates thought it was not a great showing. People formerly within the project also seem to have publically stated that the project was in some cases driven more by ideology than practicality. The author of the article makes it seem like Microsoft and Intel used mind tricks to shoot down an excellent product. Maybe Microsoft and Intel were not fully supportive of the project, but the project itself had delivery and quality problems that reduced its appeal.

I personally think that computing has a limited role in primary education. It's enough that kids learn the basics of how to type somewhat competently and how to do basic tasks like producing and printing text, but elementary education should be far more focussed on more basic development of the student's reasoning abilities. This generally does not require a computer at all.

Reply Score: 7

Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

I personally think that computing has a limited role in primary education. It's enough that kids learn the basics of how to type somewhat competently and how to do basic tasks like producing and printing text, but elementary education should be far more focussed on more basic development of the student's reasoning abilities. This generally does not require a computer at all.


If I understand correctly, the XO was never intended to be a computer for a computer sake: it is intended to help children access information. The sort of access many of us take for granted.

Which is really what makes the lack of support from Intel & Microsoft so sad. They saw the XO as a computer which didn't use their own technology and products, rather than a simple information access device. Microsoft were only concerned with the lack of Windows on the XO, when it really shouldn't matter one bit what OS it's running. The XO as a concept is so simple you shouldn't even be able to notice.

Reply Score: 10

google_ninja Member since:
2006-02-05

I used to be one of the microsoft haters, and it was only after I started developing for the platform and going to conferences and whatnot that I came around. The worst thing I have to say about the company and the dev culture around it is this whole "All good things come from redmond" thing they have going on. While that can be irritating, it is far from evil.

I seriously doubt any of these people who do the "OMG BLACK HELICOPTERS!!" thing about microsoft have any real contact with the movers and shakers in the company.

Reply Score: 4

gustl Member since:
2006-01-19

I doubt those likeable guys inside Microsoft have any contact with the guys who do the politician-buying, standards-body stacking and company-killing.

But those guys are the ones who make the big decisions, the ones that make Microsoft so evil towards outsiders.

For them it's Microsoft-way or NO way. As if they had the RIGHT to get money for every computer sold.

I, for one am a victim of Microsoft's lock-in tactic. I would like to use something other than MS Office, but the company I work for cannot change because the whole industry is using MS Office file formats.
For me, Microsoft is a company which does about 100 times more evil, than it does good.

Reply Score: 3

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

For me, Microsoft is a company which does about 100 times more evil, than it does good.


Evil? Dude, if you think that a SOFTWARE company rises to the level of EVIL -- murder, rape, torture, etc -- you have your head up your own ass. Or someone else's.

Reply Score: 2

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

Yay! You've finally come out! If only you would admit to yourself that you are not actually "PlatformAgnostic" at all then you wouldn't be liable to accusations of astroturfing whenever you forget to put a disclaimer on.

I work at Microsoft... none of the people I work with are scumbags or money-grubbers. Also, as a corporation Microsoft is one of the most generous American companies in giving money and time. Most employees do the same, giving on average a few percent of their salaries to charities with company-matched donations. It's hard to defend raver31's accusations, given the philanthropy of the company and the people in it.


Sigh. You are missing the forest for the trees, mate. Even the most rabid Linux or Mac fanboi would be a fool if they denied that the individuals within MS are among the smartest and most upstanding folk you could encounter. However, the corporate culture of the aggregate is shocking - not only ruthless (as would be expected for hard competition), but underhanded, and slightly evil (prepared to unfairly harm others for its own ends. People are ruined by Microsoft's unfair (and found to be illegal) practices).

Here's a political analogy (and politics is always dangerous so please be a little tolerant). The current Russian invasion of Georgia (since Ossetia is currently recognised by the international community as within Georgia) is comprised of individuals that are probably very good people that are looking after their comrades and fellow Russians within Ossetia. They see it as defence of Rodina, the Motherland. Yet, as an aggregate army they are definitely committing evil. Invading a sovereign state and killing civilians - all to keep the Russian populace under control in nationalistic fervour. The population lap it up - which is what you are doing by not critically analysing the actions of your own company (despite many good people working there). Before everyone starts Russian bashing, no country or organisation is immune to this (so let's not start on Iraq ok?). The point is, good people can work for bad organisations, even if the bad organisations sometime do good things (dare I invoke a certain Nationalist Socialist providing full employment and reviving of his countries depressed economy as another example).

Wake up!

Reply Score: 14

Moredhas Member since:
2008-04-10

Godwin's law working positively? This is madness! The internet will fall apart! :O

Reply Score: 1

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

Godwin's law working positively? This is madness! The internet will fall apart! :O


Sshhh! I'm sure breaking Godwin's law is an offence under the DMCA. Just don't let the Slashdotters know we now have a weapon more powerful than they could possibly imagine ;-)

Reply Score: 2

HappyGod Member since:
2005-10-19

Yep, totally agree. However readers should not be fooled into thinking this is a MS-specific phenomenon.

The truth is, that practically all (for profit) corporations have only one goal - To be a monopoly.

Corporations, are like human beings. Numerous studies have shown that human beings will cheat and steal, if they are reasonably sure they can get away with it.

This inbuilt tendency is exacerbated by corporations because they are subject only to their shareholders, who have only one aim - profit.

For an excellent analysis of this corporate mindset, see http://www.thecorporation.com/ , which ultimately concludes that were corporations human beings, they would be certifiably insane.

Microsoft only seems worse than other corporations for the same reason that humans seem more destructive for our planet. They have the power to do as they please.

Reply Score: 3

MaxKlokan Member since:
2007-12-04

Wow! Godwin's law in action! ...and the thread was not even that long.

Seriously, I think you analogy is misplaced. People are being killed over there. Your point was clear enough without the "political" analogy.

Reply Score: 1

alban Member since:
2005-11-15

People who work for Microsoft are in the same position as people working for any other multinational corporation: They have to find some personal ethical basis for working for an organization that is concerned only with profit. All the 'ethical' things corporations do are effectively part of their marketing budget.

As soon as OLPC became about technology and about software philosophy then it lost focus on education. How many adults have learnt new skills using computer based and online training; why should children have to sit in rows in a dusty classroom and be lectured by a teacher in front of a blackboard; Why not provide a low cost educational electronic book to all of them.

As for the latest war - you would think that in the 21st century we could handle border adjustments with less murder, mayhem, destruction and suffering - why shouldn't people have their own country that reflects their culture and language instead of being split apart by some line that some dictator drew on a map a long time ago.
We need to understand there is a lot more to these countries that just the oil and gas pipelines that run through them.

Reply Score: 1

StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

That post deserves one response:

Face. Palm.

Reply Score: 2

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

Why?

Reply Score: 2

JLF65 Member since:
2005-07-06

Also, as a corporation Microsoft is one of the most generous American companies in giving money and time.


It's amazing the number of people who fail to grasp the simple concept that trying to buy a clean rep with blood money makes you MORE evil, not less.

Reply Score: 11

Generosity is recent
by cjcoats on Mon 11th Aug 2008 12:24 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: dress it up any way you like"
cjcoats Member since:
2006-04-16

If you look at the numbers for the early Nineties, you will find that at that time Bill Gates (like Al Gore) had far less charitable giving than I did, in spite of haveing orders of magnitude more income. Both men only started giving when the stories of their stinginess hit the press.

fwiw.

Reply Score: 1

segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

People formerly within the project also seem to have publically stated that the project was in some cases driven more by ideology than practicality.

I can agree with that. The project was badly run, didn't have enough clear aims and didn't deal with the BS and mudslinging well.

Nevertheless, a very, very cheap computer that can be distributed on a very large scale without Windows pre-installed was, and still is, an exceptionally large threat to Microsoft's Windows installed base and their basic business model. It was also a threat to Intel if their chips weren't at the centre of it.

It still is a problem, particularly for Microsoft, as many more of these devices will be initiated and produced over the next few years. Even worse, many of the manufacturers will not be traditional OEMs and won't have the slightest clue as to why they should run Windows on their devices or what benefits it brings.

Reply Score: 3

Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

I find it very interesting that the OLPC project started hemorrhaging developers and engineers soon after the decision was made to go with Windows on the machines. Their reasons were generally the same: Negroponte's goals with the OLPC went from being about education to being about putting as many laptops out in the world as possible. At that point, it might as well have been any old netbook.

I honestly don't think Microsoft and Intel wanted to kill the project; I do think they were both affronted that there would be children out there not learning their company names from the cradle to adulthood. The fact that the project was designed from the ground up to be as open and free as possible should have been a clue to Microsoft to find less intrusive ways to get involved. But no, they had to take over as they always do (embrace, extend, extinguish) and try to shoehorn their mainstream OS onto a niche device. Sadly, Intel just cried and went home when Negroponte (rudely, in my opinion) demanded that they not try to market the Cloudbook in the same areas.

I think the whole project was mismanaged from the beginning. An ultra-low-cost, open source (hardware and software) rugged device is a great idea. I personally don't think Windows should be in the picture at all; it would have been far more philanthropic for Microsoft to have developed open-source educational software for the device but they just don't really have experience with that sort of thing. All they know is how to take over and even if their intentions were good, the result was sour.

As an aside, you said you work for Microsoft but your username here is "PlatformAgnostic". Very intriguing. ;)

Reply Score: 4

dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

So if you are not rabidly anti MS, you are automatically a fanboy and any opinion you have is null and void? If your strongest rhetorical tool is claiming "all who disagree with me must be crazy and can thus be ignored" then you should probably look over your arguments.

Reply Score: 3

raver31 Member since:
2005-07-06

So if you are not rabidly anti MS, you are automatically a fanboy and any opinion you have is null and void? If your strongest rhetorical tool is claiming "all who disagree with me must be crazy and can thus be ignored" then you should probably look over your arguments.



Not what I said.. I said the fanbois will immediately jump to Microsofts defence. It never matters what the topic is about, these same people jump in there and shill about Microsoft. Same people, same story.

Change of subject... People from the US, if you think Microsoft is inherently the most evil company, come over here to the UK for a few weeks and have a look at BT.

BT are without doubt the most evil company in the world, they try and screw every penny out of their customers, and steal customers without consent. They know OFCOM fines are very small, so they take the risk and are always found to be guilt, but so what ? Miniscule fines, but some more customers.

Reply Score: 3

dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

Not what I said.. I said the fanbois will immediately jump to Microsofts defence.

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that everybody who jumps to Microsoft's defense is a fanboy. Would you automatically call anybody who criticizes MS a fanboy?

By even bringing up the word "fanboy" you're preemptively trying to shoot down any argument by calling into question your opponents integrity and motivation. And it really is a cheap trick that lessens your own argument.

Reply Score: 2

raver31 Member since:
2005-07-06

I meant a specific few people...

Tomcat
MollyC
PlatformAgnostic
CPUGuy
JasonKnight

The usual suspects

Reply Score: 2

dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

I actually went and checked out a random sampling of their peoples comments and most of them where intelligent and well thought out. Sure there was the occasional silly one liner and obviously inflammatory comment, but most of us are guilty of that from time to time.

Yes they some time criticized linux and yes they sometimes supported MS, but so what? Most of time they did so with valid points. Linux has many flaws, Microsoft have done some good things and released some good products that people are happy to use. Why is pointing this out so bad? Why this need to label everybody who disagrees with you? If everybody here thought the same way and agreed with each other this place would be very dull indeed.

Reply Score: 2

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

Eh? What was Microsoft supposed to do?


They don't have an Allah-given right to kill any and all competition - especially one helping the Third world - although you obviously think so. PlatformAgnostic my azz, in many discussions you've proven to be a shill through-and-through, you should at least write a disclaimer to state that you're on the MS payroll - then I'd have no problem with you stating your opinion (since their wouldn't be the astroturf facade any more).


I think I read that they offered a very cheap or no-cost version of Windows for these laptops, but the OLPC people didn't want it. Apple also made a similar offer with OS X that was similarly rebuffed.

What else would you expect?

Few have a problem that MS made an offer, I certainly don't. The difference is, Apple didn't try and kill the XO when their offer was declined.

Reply Score: 5

PlatformAgnostic Member since:
2006-01-02

I've been a reader and commentor on OSNews for 4 times as long as I have been working at Microsoft. my username predates the association, which is clearly spelled out in my user profile.

Reply Score: 2

FreeGamer Member since:
2007-04-13

It's not the employees or working environment that is generally disliked. Nor is it a lot of the software - some of it is very good.

It's the business practices. And if you don't think that then you are lying to yourself. Microsoft has illegally shut down more competition than any other tech company in history and paid fines that can only look small when put next to the profits gained by such business practices.

Edited 2008-08-10 22:44 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RandomGuy Member since:
2006-07-30

Nice ad hominem.
While you're at it, could you tell us how exactly MS killed the XO?
Ok, so it hurts when somebody like Bill Gates says the XO sucks.
Sure, that carries a lot of weight, coming from him.

But if MS is _really_ trying to kill something, they start the FUD machine:
-get the facts
-cancer
-communism

I didn't hear an apology for any of this from MS, did you?
No, compared to its usual bully tactics MS was on its best behavior.
Considering that getting all the children in the developing countries to use Linux would threaten their current business model, I have two possible explanations:

a) MS thinks that the XO sucks so badly that it will never amount to anything.
b) A lot of people in MS management have a soft spot for charities.

If all MS did about Linux was one company executive saying "Meh, it sucks." their sudden kindness would sure creep me out. Seriously, Bill saying "It sucks" and Linux eating MS marketshare would be ok with me.

Reply Score: 2

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

I didn't mean it as an ad-hominem. I see two issues here:
* Intel & Microsoft behaviour towards XO, and
* Making (relatively) anonymous comments on a public forum without correctly identifying yourself as an employee of a company you are commenting on.

If it seemed like I was making an ad-hominem on the XO issue then I apologise to PlatformAgnostic. I thought I was talking about two different issues. You'll also note that I acknowledged his point that the staff of MS are probably good guys, I just tried to point out that it doesn't follow that the entity itself will always act in a good manner as a result.

It is standard procedure to issue a disclaimer if you are talking about your company (the disclaimer usually also includes something saying that it's your personal opinion, not the company's). While doing this is tiresome, it is also the proper thing to do on public fora (if you don't want your company to be accused of astroturfing).

As far as what the companies did, please read the article.

Reply Score: 2

RandomGuy Member since:
2006-07-30

You'll also note that I acknowledged his point that the staff of MS are probably good guys, I just tried to point out that it doesn't follow that the entity itself will always act in a good manner as a result.

And I agree with that 100%!

It is standard procedure to issue a disclaimer if you are talking about your company (the disclaimer usually also includes something saying that it's your personal opinion, not the company's). While doing this is tiresome, it is also the proper thing to do on public fora (if you don't want your company to be accused of astroturfing).


Well, I have to disagree here. If people cannot be bothered to check his bio it's their own damn fault. I'd rather have posts that are short and to the point than ones that mainly consist of disclaimers. Might be a matter of taste. You know, like some people seem to expect you to put an "I believe" or "I think" at the beginning of every single sentence. I mean, come on! I'm always stating my opinion. If I was stating facts I'd provide sources. Jeesh.

As far as what the companies did, please read the article.

I did read the article. What exactly do you find so despicable about what _MS_ did? Remember, I'm talking about MS here, not Intel. I can see why people blame Intel but it seriously eludes me what MS did wrong except the Bill Gates quote.

Which is kind of the whole point. I don't get it why PlatformAgnostic gets modded down when all he did was ask something like "Care to be more specific?". And so far nobody has cared. Is it one of those "If you can't figure out what's wrong I'm not gonna tell you"-things that girls like to do? Seriously, I don't get it.

So I can re-re-read the article till the cows come home or somebody could just try to be a little more specific. That would help a lot.

Reply Score: 2

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

You make valid points.

The disclaimer is a courtesy for other readers. Little things like that matter if you want to get people on-side. Sure, some people are polarised enough they won't listen to reason, but the rest of us will respond positively if MS (and its employees) is visibly making an effort to be 'squeaky clean' (despite the effort it involves).

Besides Bill's comments, which are simply petty insecurity, there is the issue of selling $3 software. While some would see this as charity, others could construe this as 'dumping' - which is against WTO rules. This becomes clear if you remove our conditioned emotions (about operating systems) by replacing the word 'software' with 'shoes'. If $3 is a fair price for Windows XP, then why do we pay several hundred elsewhere in the world? Is there any competition in the market or is the price arbitrary? (Poor old MS can't win with cranky customers, eh?).

I don't expect all software to be free (as in gratis) and no-one should work for free (unless they choose to, like the hobbyists). I do expect it to be free (as in libre, with copyright constraints), and users to to able to mix-and-match using true standards-based interoperability. The funny thing is, this would actually work for Microsoft if they dropped the paranoid insecurity and empowered the users with the choice to mix-and-match, while taking the thing they really want (the money). They would sway a lot more people this way (even Richard Stallman couldn't complain about that, he used to charge for Emacs in days gone by).

Edited: for typos.

Edited 2008-08-11 00:22 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RandomGuy Member since:
2006-07-30

Besides Bill's comments, which are simply petty insecurity, there is the issue of selling $3 software. While some would see this as charity, others could construe this as 'dumping' - which is against WTO rules.

It's definitely not charity. They just don't want Linux to eat their lunch.
They may or may not have broken WTO rules, I don't know. But this was just an offer. What's so damn hard about saying "Thanks, but no thanks"?

This becomes clear if you remove our conditioned emotions (about operating systems) by replacing the word 'software' with 'shoes'.

If anything, I'm pro free software, pro Linux. I don't even use Windows.
For the intended use, Linux and free software are the obvious choice, even if MS _gave_ them money to install Windows!

Still, blaming MS for problems with the XO is silly.
Turning down an offer they must've been expecting can't be that hard.

Reply Score: 2

FreeGamer Member since:
2007-04-13

I think that creating loss-making competition and lobbying (the polite word for bribing) officials in poorer countries to go with it instead of the OX is what upset people. Countries that were ready to put in orders of 10s or 100s of 1000s of the XO just happened to change their mind after a visit by the local Intel/MS lobbyists.

The OLPC project only had such fatal internal problems because it was in a battle it could never win. In a more idealistic world, millions of children would be enjoying an education with a computer* right now instead of playing with sticks in dirt.

* designed to work in the places a normal computer can't operate, unlike the MS/Intel offering

Reply Score: 1

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

They don't have an Allah-given right to kill any and all competition - especially one helping the Third world - although you obviously think so.


Even Microsoft couldn't kill the XO + Linux, if it had simply been a better product. But it wasn't. It may make you feel better to blame Microsoft for other peoples' failures in developing XO, but that doesn't make you any less wrong.

Reply Score: 2

segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

Eh? What was Microsoft supposed to do? I think I read that they offered a very cheap or no-cost version of Windows for these laptops, but the OLPC people didn't want it. Apple also made a similar offer with OS X that was similarly rebuffed.

Yer, and? Are we supposed to be astonished that they turned down Windows and OS X that shipped with absolutely no software of any educational value whatsoever?

Reply Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

If I remember back that far, one issue with Windows was that MS said "sure, let us give you WindowsCE". Another problem being "heck no you can't have the source code available with the click of a button for any child to see."

It was a long while back now though so I could be remembering it wrong. I just remember that MS was aproached and was unwilling to provide what was needed.

Reply Score: 2

RE: dress it up any way you like
by sj87 on Sun 10th Aug 2008 19:47 UTC in reply to "dress it up any way you like"
sj87 Member since:
2007-12-16

Microsoft fanbois can apologise for this company as much as they like, it still does not change the fact that this company is a f$&king immoral plethora of scumbags who would stab their grandmothers for a few quid.


Or something even worse; sell a copy of Windows to their grandmothers.

Reply Score: 3

RE: dress it up any way you like
by tomcat on Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:15 UTC in reply to "dress it up any way you like"
tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

... might have been a bit of mis-management in there somewhere...


I love how you throw this in, as if it were an after-thought, a coincidental thing that had nothing to do with XO's failure. But, the fact of the matter is that Negronte and his team were a bunch of academics naively trying to deliver a commercial project without the slightest clue about what makes a project successful. For example, they had NO PLAN and NO MEANS to provide the necessary support infrastructure for a successful deployment of XO. In most cases, there was only a single person assigned to countries that signed-up. Was that Microsoft or Intel's fault? No, of course it wasn't. Negroponte and team failed to develop the relationships that would have been necessary, and it was only after they realized that their project was going down the tubes that they started to partner with organizations that would help them deliver. Quite frankly, blaming Microsoft and Intel for XO's failure is a complete and utter distortion of the events in question.

BUT Microsoft fanbois can apologise for this company as much as they like, it still does not change the fact that this company is a f$&king immoral plethora of scumbags who would stab their grandmothers for a few quid.


No one should feel like they need to apologize for Microsoft. It's a for-profit business. It's not a charity. I mean, for Chrissakes, they're selling SOFTWARE. They're not selling drugs or promoting violence. The fact that you're getting so emotional over SOFTWARE only indicates how little perspective you have on life ... and the world. Wanna be pissed over something that MATTERS? Try being pissed at the price of oil, political oppression, drug cartels, overfishing, deforestation, child pornography, prostitution, global warming, etc, etc. Use of software is OPTIONAL, and believing that it is the center of human existence is the ultimate in ego-centrism.

The project was to educate the worlds poorest, and these Microsoft retards destroyed the project in case it made a few Linux users and took the food from Microsofts mouth.


If XO was unable to meet the need for which it was designed, it's due solely to the XO team's failures. Blaming Microsoft and Intel is just wrong and lame. Negroponte's team tried to cut too many corners, and they got slapped HARD in the face by the reality that it simply costs a lot of money to get a product to market. What they should have done -- if they really cared about getting laptops into the hands of poor children -- was partner early on with Microsoft and Intel. But, no, they decided that drawing artificial restrictions around the sole use of FOSS software was more important. There are no shortcuts. It's time that the academics started accepting responsibility for their failures, rather than blaming companies.

Reply Score: 12

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

If XO was unable to meet the need for which it was designed, it's due solely to the XO team's failures. Blaming Microsoft and Intel is just wrong and lame. Negroponte's team tried to cut too many corners, and they got slapped HARD in the face by the reality that it simply costs a lot of money to get a product to market. What they should have done -- if they really cared about getting laptops into the hands of poor children -- was partner early on with Microsoft and Intel. But, no, they decided that drawing artificial restrictions around the sole use of FOSS software was more important. There are no shortcuts. It's time that the academics started accepting responsibility for their failures, rather than blaming companies.


Finally someone who gets it. Bravo.

Reply Score: 5

StaubSaugerNZ Member since:
2007-07-13

Can we get out of the way the reality that the XO project was mismanged, and that is probably the principle cause of project failure (whether or not a cabal was involved).

However, are you saying Thom that there can be no market success without the blessing of Intel and Microsoft? Would you be surprised that competition-regulators might see this a problem and that the market is not operating correctly?

Incidentally, just because Windows is on the lion's share (~90%) of PC desktops doesn't mean it is automatically suitable for lightweight devices such as the XO. Linux has 85% of the top 500 supercomputer installations, around 50% of servers, and a large proportion of embedded devices (especially network routers) and that doesn't automatically make it suitable for XO (although it turns out to be a reasonable choice for that hardware and the target price-point).

Reply Score: 3

Melicerte Member since:
2006-08-29

quote:
--
What they should have done -- if they really cared about getting laptops into the hands of poor children -- was partner early on with Microsoft and Intel. But, no, they decided that drawing artificial restrictions around the sole use of FOSS software was more important.
--

you obviously did not read the article. Otherwise, you would at least know that Intel was contacted in the first place.

Edited 2008-08-11 21:16 UTC

Reply Score: 1

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

Otherwise, you would at least know that Intel was contacted in the first place.


Read for comprehension. I said "partner with". Not "contacted".

Reply Score: 2

Melicerte Member since:
2006-08-29

Read for comprehension. I said "partner with". Not "contacted".


partner: someone who is associated with another in a common activity or interest.
Intel has shown sufficiently how much the interests of both parties are differents.
Furhtermore, tell me why you would try to partner with someone who snob you when you first contact him? Does it not make sense?

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: dress it up any way you like
by troc on Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:51 UTC in reply to "RE: dress it up any way you like"
troc Member since:
2006-05-01

'artificial restrictions around the sole use of FOSS software was more important'

there is nothing artificial about them. They were carefully crafted and then chosen so that software as knowledge and skill does not have to be licensed or bought. FOSS was precisely chosen so that the software could be modified and re-distributed with-out the permissions or restrictions of businesses who do not have their best interests at heart.

Reply Score: 4

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

there is nothing artificial about them. They were carefully crafted and then chosen so that software as knowledge and skill does not have to be licensed or bought.


That's total BS. Not having the source code to the OS doesn't prevent a student from learning about operating systems, reading source code, or developing skills.

FOSS was precisely chosen so that the software could be modified and re-distributed with-out the permissions or restrictions of businesses who do not have their best interests at heart.


And that's precisely why it failed. Nice move, geniuses.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: dress it up any way you like
by JLF65 on Sun 10th Aug 2008 21:40 UTC in reply to "RE: dress it up any way you like"
JLF65 Member since:
2005-07-06

If XO was unable to meet the need for which it was designed, it's due solely to the XO team's failures. Blaming Microsoft and Intel is just wrong and lame.


Why is it wrong to blame companies who clearly set out to destroy a humanitarian effort? Because you like those companies? That doesn't mitigate their culpability in this.

Negroponte's team tried to cut too many corners, and they got slapped HARD in the face by the reality that it simply costs a lot of money to get a product to market. What they should have done -- if they really cared about getting laptops into the hands of poor children -- was partner early on with Microsoft and Intel. But, no, they decided that drawing artificial restrictions around the sole use of FOSS software was more important. There are no shortcuts. It's time that the academics started accepting responsibility for their failures, rather than blaming companies.


So it's OLPC's fault for not buying into the system and trying to do things RIGHT instead of taking the easy out. Maybe they should have also hired people to break legs to get orders as well. That seems to be your idea of "successful" business operation. Anything goes as long as you make a profit. Excuse the rest of us for having principles and trying to stick by them.

Reply Score: 6

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Anything goes as long as you make a profit. Excuse the rest of us for having principles and trying to stick by them.


So, your principles are more important than getting laptops in the hands of these kids so they can use them to educate themselves and improve their standard of life?

Dude, fcuk your principles. And mine. They are utterly, totally, and completely irrelevant when it comes to these matters. The reason the OLPC project failed so miserably is exactly BECAUSE its leaders placed more value in their OWN morality and principles than in helping these kids.

Reply Score: 5

JLF65 Member since:
2005-07-06

"Anything goes as long as you make a profit. Excuse the rest of us for having principles and trying to stick by them.


So, your principles are more important than getting laptops in the hands of these kids so they can use them to educate themselves and improve their standard of life?

Dude, fcuk your principles. And mine. They are utterly, totally, and completely irrelevant when it comes to these matters. The reason the OLPC project failed so miserably is exactly BECAUSE its leaders placed more value in their OWN morality and principles than in helping these kids.
"


And THAT is exactly what is wrong with most major corporations today. Principles and people are irrelevant as long as you meet your goals. So from your point of view, it would be okay to steal from banks as long as some of the loot was given to the poor? Principles have to figure into it somewhere or you'll hurt more people than you help.

Reply Score: 5

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Forget. You refuse to properly read what I'm trying to say.

The goal of the OLPC should not have been "satisfy my own personal sense of right and wrong and morality". It should have been: "get laptops in the hands of the children". The latter would have been achieved in a better fashion, in a more organised way, and cheaper, if companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Intel had been involved from day one.

Who cares if a side effect of this would have been that those three made some cash out of it? Why do you care? The children certainly wouldn't have!

But they would have had their laptops. And now they don't.

Reply Score: 2

1c3d0g Member since:
2005-07-06

... So from your point of view, it would be okay to steal from banks as long as some of the loot was given to the poor? ...


Hell yes! Banks are f*cking capitalistic pigs anyway, they won't feel a nickel that they lost. Don't get me wrong, I KNOW stealing is wrong, but if it's from a bank, ESPECIALLY from a bank, then you'll be surprised to know most people won't feel sorry for them. Robin Hood, my friend.

Reply Score: 2

Johann Chua Member since:
2005-07-22

Yes, because money in the bank doesn't belong to ordinary people.

Reply Score: 2

1c3d0g Member since:
2005-07-06

Banks are insured against these kinds of things, and so is the money they have. If anything, the bank will claim double the insurance of what was stolen. So you have nothing to worry about. "The people" won't even know what happened.

Reply Score: 2

wannabe geek Member since:
2006-09-27



So, your principles are more important than getting laptops in the hands of these kids so they can use them to educate themselves and improve their standard of life?

Dude, fcuk your principles. And mine. They are utterly, totally, and completely irrelevant when it comes to these matters. The reason the OLPC project failed so miserably is exactly BECAUSE its leaders placed more value in their OWN morality and principles than in helping these kids.


Well, I thought helping the children was a matter of moral principles to begin with. If moral principles are rubbish, then why bother anyway? And if you are going to follow some moral principles, then the sane thing to do is to follow your OWN principles, rather than those of someone else, isn't it.

Reply Score: 4

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

Well, I thought helping the children was a matter of moral principles to begin with. If moral principles are rubbish, then why bother anyway? And if you are going to follow some moral principles, then the sane thing to do is to follow your OWN principles, rather than those of someone else, isn't it.


Sophistry. The guiding principle should have been the one that supposedly motivated the OLPC in the first place: GETTING LAPTOPS INTO THE HANDS OF POOR CHILDREN. Thom has pointed out that other considerations -- such as ideology and philosophy about exclusively using FOSS software and not partnering with commercial companies -- were not as important and should have been abandoned when they threatened the project.

Reply Score: 2

wannabe geek Member since:
2006-09-27



Sophistry. The guiding principle should have been the one that supposedly motivated the OLPC in the first place: GETTING LAPTOPS INTO THE HANDS OF POOR CHILDREN.


The guiding principle that supposedly motivated the OLPC was not "GETTING LAPTOPS INTO THE HANDS OF POOR CHILDREN" just for the sake of it. It was an educational project, where children could learn by doing, exploring, experimenting by themselves. While this is possible to some degree with some kinds of proprietary software, there are obvious reasons why FOSS is a more suitable vehicle for this project:

_ First, there are no artificial limitations on how much of the underlying system they can learn.


While we do not expect every child to become a programmer, we do not want any ceiling imposed on those children who choose to modify their machines


_ Second, there's no risk of vendor lock-in; and vendor lock-in is especially immoral in this case.


We are using open-document formats for much the same reason: transparency is empowering. The children—and their teachers—will have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, hardware, and content.


So, there are legitimate reasons for insisting that the project be based on free and open source software, reasons that go down to the core of the vision, and not some kind of parallel agenda.

Reply Score: 2

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

The guiding principle that supposedly motivated the OLPC was not "GETTING LAPTOPS INTO THE HANDS OF POOR CHILDREN" just for the sake of it. It was an educational project, where children could learn by doing, exploring, experimenting by themselves.


Children can't engage in educational activities on Macs and Windows boxes? They can't learn by doing, exploring, experimenting by themselves? News to me.

While this is possible to some degree with some kinds of proprietary software, there are obvious reasons why FOSS is a more suitable vehicle for this project...


FOSS is also a liability, as well. It's not as pervasive as Windows and OS X and, while skills transfer, there's no substitute for having hands-on experience with the tools that most schools, governments, and businesses use.

First, there are no artificial limitations on how much of the underlying system they can learn.


BS. Linux runs on top of Windows. And all of the GNU tools run on Windows.

http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Run_Linux_Applications_in_Windows

Second, there's no risk of vendor lock-in; and vendor lock-in is especially immoral in this case.


What's immoral is giving these kids second-rate FOSS technology, and pretending that it isn't crap.

"OLPC's founder Nicholas Negroponte also told the Associated Press on Tuesday that an insistence upon using only free, open source software had hampered the XO's usability and scared away potential adopters."

So, there are legitimate reasons for insisting that the project be based on free and open source software, reasons that go down to the core of the vision, and not some kind of parallel agenda.


Oh, puh-lease. Try your hippy Jedi mindfsck crap on someone else who's actually drunk the same FOSS Kool-Aid.

Reply Score: 2

wrocic Member since:
2008-07-10

It is not just the principles, the project was to supply a laptop for the kids using the least amount of money.
Windows could not supply this because the hardware demands for Windows were higher than that for Linux.
The Linux solution was a complete package, the Windows one included Notepad and Calculator. What use is that?

As a side note, you are supposed to be an editor here, as such you should not include misspelled profanities such as "FCUK", if you must do so, please step down from your post on the site.

Reply Score: 2

MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

It is not just the principles, the project was to supply a laptop for the kids using the least amount of money. Windows could not supply this because the hardware demands for Windows were higher than that for Linux. The Linux solution was a complete package, the Windows one included Notepad and Calculator. What use is that?


Oh please. There is plenty of free education software available for Windows that Negroponte could bundle. Why does such software need to be included with Windows itself? It's interesting that Microsoft bashers bash Microsoft for bundling too much software, calling such activity "anti-competitive", while at the same time they complain that Microsoft doesn't bundle enough software with Windows to make it useful. Which is it?

Reply Score: 2

DrillSgt Member since:
2005-12-02

"It's interesting that Microsoft bashers bash Microsoft for bundling too much software, calling such activity "anti-competitive", while at the same time they complain that Microsoft doesn't bundle enough software with Windows to make it useful. Which is it? "

Whichever one happens to suit them best at the time??? ;)

Reply Score: 2

segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

The reason the OLPC project failed so miserably is exactly BECAUSE its leaders placed more value in their OWN morality and principles than in helping these kids.

Wrong actually. The reason why they failed is because they wavered and didn't stick to those principles and proceeded to listen to the demands of Intel and Microsoft to get involved with them. The end result was that no one could be quite sure what the OLPC was supposed to then achieve. Oh, and they didn't look at the software they were using and ask if it was good enough.

Reply Score: 3

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

Why is it wrong to blame companies who clearly set out to destroy a humanitarian effort? Because you like those companies? That doesn't mitigate their culpability in this.


Because these companies have no "culpability". They're ... gasp ... COMPETING ... which is precisely what they should be doing and, quite frankly, if Negroponte and company can't offer a better solution, they shouldn't even be in the market.

So it's OLPC's fault for not buying into the system and trying to do things RIGHT instead of taking the easy out.


WTF says they're RIGHT? Negroponte?!? You?!?

Maybe they should have also hired people to break legs to get orders as well. That seems to be your idea of "successful" business operation.


Hilarious. You actually BELIEVE that Microsoft and Intel "break legs" in order to get orders? Unbelievable.

Anything goes as long as you make a profit. Excuse the rest of us for having principles and trying to stick by them.


HAVING NO PLAN isn't "having principles". It's just stupidity.

Reply Score: 3

evangs Member since:
2005-07-07

So it's OLPC's fault for not buying into the system and trying to do things RIGHT instead of taking the easy out.


Whatever it is you are smoking, I want some of it.

What did they try to do right?
1) Assign 1 person to over see the deployment of hundreds of thousands of units to one country.\
2) Had no established support and distribution policy.
3) Poor management and a major attitude problem exuded by Negroponte.

But wait, I'm sure Microsoft and Intel are to blame somehow...

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Sun 10th Aug 2008 17:56 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

Some guy in India (or somewhere) is going to be fed up with the bickering and politics of American software engineers and write his own Operating System, in his own language and culture, and it might just take off.

By the time Microsoft and Intel have stopped sabotaging themselves through constant fighting, the failing economy will have pulled them both down and these "third world countries" will have overtaken because they just got on and did the damn job without all this bullcrap.

It's how Linux started right? (All the in-fighting and politics of the Unices at the time). Don't be naieve to think it can't happen again, this time elsewhere.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Comment by Kroc
by hobgoblin on Sun 10th Aug 2008 18:20 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
hobgoblin Member since:
2005-07-06

hey crok, recall the simputer?

http://www.simputer.org/

funny thing is that asus pulled mostly the same trick with eeepc as olpc tried with xo. and it has been steamrolled by microsoft and company in the same way by the looks of it.

the two things that made the original eeepc so special was the price and its choice of linux with a easy to use ui on top.

both of these seems to be following the dodo now that microsoft have gone into firefighting mode with its ulcpc xp licence.

i really do wonder what kind of losses microsoft calculates on those...

heh, now that i think about it, beagleboard, linux, battery display, keyboard. thats a combo that would scare microsoft and intel like nothing else.

Edited 2008-08-10 18:24 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by Kroc
by bolomkxxviii on Sun 10th Aug 2008 23:22 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
bolomkxxviii Member since:
2006-05-19

Some guy in India (or somewhere) is going to be fed up with the bickering and politics of American software engineers and write his own Operating System, in his own language and culture, and it might just take off.

Except it will be sued to death by Microsoft for patent infringement. Doesn't matter if it is true or not. They will be able to run the company into the ground financially.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by wrocic on Mon 11th Aug 2008 07:08 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
wrocic Member since:
2008-07-10

OK, show me one case where Microsoft has sued an OS developer for patent infringement. Especially one from outside the US

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by Kroc - MS and patents
by jabbotts on Mon 11th Aug 2008 19:54 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Kroc"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

They have a lot to say about patent infringement but it's an area they don't seem to want to really fight in. It's all well and good to bring another's product into question but defending there panents in open court would probably invalidate many of them. They've a lot to loose in that fight.

It's actually one of the things I respect about MS. They are one of the most vocal company for US patent law change. Even if it is purely out of survival.

I know I can't think of a patent case initiated by MS, only the marketing talking points.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Kroc - here's hoping
by jabbotts on Mon 11th Aug 2008 19:48 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

BeOS? Here's hoping.

Reply Score: 2

OLPC
by Evan on Sun 10th Aug 2008 18:42 UTC
Evan
Member since:
2006-01-18

Speaking as someone who has spent a year deploying, running, and training a computer lab for a 650~ student school in Ghana, West Africa, I have come to some conclusions on OLPC which make it unfit for purpose in this country.

Ghana is so developed that in the southern half of the country computers and the internet are accessible to pretty much every literate person (more than half the country can afford 1hr a week in a net cafe, probably*), and, in fact, small industry has cropped up for the cultural demands that are aided by computer; printing specifically.

Even pushing Linux and free software here is difficult since 99%* of the software is pirated to begin with. Parents want their kids learning how to e-mail, use "Word," "Excel," and "Windows."

Sugar, as cool as it may be, is so different to what people expect a "computer" to be or "computer training" that very few here would think that using the OLPC is akin to using a computer. That being said, OLPC's interface is NOT bad for people who have never used a computer before (*my opinion).

By learning how to use MS Office, you are able to be gainfully employed very easily, as people need posters printed for funerals, flyers for advertising, memos for schools to issue information to parents, etc.

In fact thanks to the great British Bureaucracy influence on Ghana, paperwork and it's associated printing is quite prevalent here.

OLPC is great for what I would call 0 infrastructure deployments, where nothing is reliable and spare parts or technicians are unlikely to be available. The smart Mesh Networking makes a networked environment and it's benefits a snap. The hand crank is extremely helpful for power outages or areas with no electrical coverage (I've suffered the former 3-6 times a week for up to 20 hours at a time, usually les than 6), or worse places where the electricity damages equipment (one of my current problems with my lab, costing us thousands of dollars a year).

But to not have your own funded, trained, deployment & training teams, guarantees failure. The absolutely ridiculous Linux-Only clause that later in an act of desperation was changed to "MS too, because we screwed up," especially considering Apple offered to do a real OS for free.
And finally, to make something about helping people and bringing information and education to the people into a personal OSS political battle just screams of gross incompetence at the highest level.

But to be honest it is not much different from every other Western-idealized computer education programme I have seen or heard of in West Africa. I myself had to drastically change my original plan to have a successful project out here, as it too was a poorly thought out western idea.

Intel didn't need to kill OLPC, they just needed to make sure that the most recognized computer brand in the world looked as if it was also trying to solve the same problems as OLPC.

*These are my opinions, not backed up in any way by facts other than my own first-hand experiences.

Reply Score: 17

RE: OLPC
by ari-free on Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:20 UTC in reply to "OLPC"
ari-free Member since:
2007-01-22

if you know the basics of Windows you will also know KDE and Gnome and just about every other open source UI...and vice versa.

The same cannot be said for Sugar. It will just make transitioning to a 'real' UI much harder.

Kids aren't that dumb. They can handle Windows and multitasking. They can even learn basic algebra
when they are 5 years old if they are taught properly, as Zig Engelmann has demonstrated.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: OLPC
by Evan on Sun 10th Aug 2008 21:48 UTC in reply to "RE: OLPC"
Evan Member since:
2006-01-18

I agree totally, a file menu, file system, and file extensions with the standard toolbars is pretty much the same everywhere. And understanding the fundamentals of file systems actually is even more important that knowing "My Documents" is where you store your documents.

But I even had problems pushing OpenOffice over MS Office, even though Office 2000-2003 look the same as OpenOffice, because parents want their children learning "Microsoft."

I wasn't about to force the person I was training to argue OO vs MS because of non-existent licensing arguments and "Freedom" in Ghana. You have to work with the skills and knowledge of the locals. Which to me is what OLPC did not do. There was no OLPC team that would go and deploy the systems and train up technical people to use them and teach with them.

At least not to my knowledge. I even looked into it as I am from Boston and have quite a few connections at MIT (Family, friends, etc). I even inquired about becoming their deployment specialist in Ghana to which I got no response.

I'm back in Ghana now looking to implement the project I intended to do originally. We'll be going Solar and implementing Intel Atom-based Edubuntu Thin Clients, which basically solves all of our electrical and maintenance problems.

OLPC was interesting because it solved the maintenance problems, wasn't effected by electrical infrastructure problems, and was based on new equipment as opposed to the 8-15 year old machines we are currently using out here. Couple that with a magic price point, and politicians love it. It was oversold and under-delivered.

Hubris wrecked this project from the beginning, and poor management the middle. I hope they can restructure and get their act together, the XO is really great to work with, but they need to be more active in deployment and support training.

I wish I could hit 200 USD per computer in the labs I am building (I hit about 300, with 15" LCDs), but hell bringing any laptop into this country will pretty much cost me 10-50 USD per laptop in "clearing costs" at the port but you didn't hear me say that.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: OLPC
by Melicerte on Mon 11th Aug 2008 21:09 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: OLPC"
Melicerte Member since:
2006-08-29

I agree totally, a file menu, file system, and file extensions with the standard toolbars is pretty much the same everywhere. And understanding the fundamentals of file systems actually is even more important that knowing "My Documents" is where you store your documents.

It's been twice now that you are misleaded about the purpose of the OLPC which, if I undertand correctly, is to help children learning by doing things. Nobody said the purpose of the project is to learn computer science.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: OLPC
by Evan on Mon 11th Aug 2008 21:31 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: OLPC"
Evan Member since:
2006-01-18

Learning file system structure applies to cell phones, internet cafes, and MP3 players. Which are all quite common in developing countries, and strangely enough interesting to children.

OLPC is to put cost effective learning materials and access to information in the hands of children in developing countries. Internet access was a major point of the project (hence the wireless mesh networking, and certain internet accessories that were to be bundled).

And as it has been pointed out before, OLPC was to be "Open" to allow the users of it to modify and improve the system... Something where knowing abstract computing concepts would be necessary.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: OLPC
by Adurbe on Sun 10th Aug 2008 22:00 UTC in reply to "RE: OLPC"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

the kids are smart and learn quickly

the same cnnot always be said for the teachers!

Reply Score: 2

RE: OLPC
by Soulbender on Mon 11th Aug 2008 07:30 UTC in reply to "OLPC"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

*These are my opinions, not backed up in any way by facts other than my own first-hand experiences.


Dude, at least you have the right experience. That gives you more credits than 99% 0f the people commenting on this using cheap broadband in the comfort of their suburban, western home (or parents home, more likely).

Reply Score: 2

RE: OLPC
by thabrain on Mon 11th Aug 2008 15:24 UTC in reply to "OLPC"
thabrain Member since:
2005-06-29

I think out of all the rants, tirades, and other useless comments made on this subject, none of them have experience implementing PC's in undeveloped or under developed nations. (Neither do I; if you do, then say so)

You do. You're living it. And as a result, you've got the best take on the subject.

You've been there (and I'm guessing you still are). None of these people (that means you too Thom) have seen what the infrastructure requires.

I don't think Negroponte took this into account either. Yes, villages that have no power, or no means for communication would work out, but for those that are semi-industrialized, Microsoft is still predominant.

Edited 2008-08-11 15:27 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: OLPC
by Evan on Mon 11th Aug 2008 21:18 UTC in reply to "RE: OLPC"
Evan Member since:
2006-01-18

I honestly think part of the problem was the $100 price point. That means you cannot afford to develop your own deployment teams. It would cost at minimum $2000 a month to support a deployment specialist, not including pay.

The OLPC project was so famous that when I discuss my project with friends/acquaintances they ask me why I don't use "that laptop from MIT," which they have heard so much about. That conversation itself, I think, hurts our ability to do fund raising. If some famous guy from MIT has a solution that doesn't work, why would mine work. Thankfully we have a cost-savings track record now, which overcomes that doubt.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by moleskine
by moleskine on Sun 10th Aug 2008 18:47 UTC
moleskine
Member since:
2005-11-05

This strikes me as an excellent article. Bryan Appleyard is one of that newspaper's most thoughtful and sensitive commentators (as his books also show). He chooses his words very carefully and if he says that Intel and Microsoft decided to take out the OLPC project, it's because he means it.

Bear in mind that while this story might be well known in tech circles, it isn't nearly so known to the general public. Given the audience he is writing for, I think Appleyard makes a good fist of explaining the story in layman's language and getting to the essentials. The essentials are that corporations don't do morality, period, so if their franchise is threatened then any method will do to protect it no matter how low and dishonest.

For me, two interesting ideas emerge from this article. The first lies in the educational philosophy which Applyard thinks lies behind the OLPC project, namely constructionism - the idea that learning is best done by doing things. Right or wrong? Because if wrong, then the OLPC project and any IT project like it would be a waste of time as purely an exercise in education.

And second, the way in which many people today can hold and act on two very different positions. The first is that it's OK to be a complete and total shyster if you are doing the corporation's work. The second is that it's desirable to be a philanthropist working to do good in the world which also, one presumes, involves sticking to methods that repudiate the first position. The two come together in the person of Gates, of course but perhaps he represents what's in all of us. Is this rank hypocrisy or quite normal? Is it a contrast that's always been there or an aberration peculiar to our era that folks will look back on and think "those were weird and crazy guys"?

So yes, a good article because it gets one thinking. That's what good articles do.

Reply Score: 10

RE: Comment by moleskine
by ari-free on Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:39 UTC in reply to "Comment by moleskine"
ari-free Member since:
2007-01-22

"The first lies in the educational philosophy which Applyard thinks lies behind the OLPC project, namely constructionism - the idea that learning is best done by doing things."

Actually it is called constructivism. Unfortunately, we've seen many educational disasters as a result, including MathLand and Everyday Math.
For example, see http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/fall99/wu.pdf

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by moleskine
by stestagg on Sun 10th Aug 2008 22:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by moleskine"
stestagg Member since:
2006-06-03

Well, that article [sic.] was basically just an opinion piece, and its conclusions were wrong. My confidence in asserting this is backed up by the fact that I had deduced that the guy was a Mathematician long before I noticed what job he had.

The problem with western education is the sausage factory effect. Best approaches to problem solving differ from person to person, but there are several broad categories that people fall in to. To use the example from the article:

Some people just need to be taught that 1/4 divided by 1/2 is equal to 1/4 x 2/1. They will find the context and reasoning unneccesarily complicating, and to get best effect, they should just be taught facts.

The potential scientists, tend to find visualising a concept easier than learning an abstract fact, so they actually perform better when they can understand a simple model, then learn that it can be extended to more complex problems, this means that the teaching method this author is rejecting, actually works best for these people.

Mathematicians, of course, would hate this approach because its imprecision. Guesswork has very little place in 'real' maths. And for these types of people, proving divisions as a logical extension of whole number division will lead to the best understanding. The problem with this method, is that the number of mathematicians in society is really rather small.

The problem is that with increasing demand on teachers, and demand on verifiable learning metrics throughout the education system, only one teaching method can, in reality, be applied. And the one that seems to provide the best overall coverage is the first method, so people stick to that.

The relevance to this news item is that the OLPC project was designed to give disadvantaged children the chance to improve their lives and their commuinities. The people historically best suited to rapidly driving change and improvement have been the scientists [and mathematicians], so any learning approach that directly addresses these classes of people will, most likely, outperform traditional western education methods in these scenarios. Information is very easy to spread once one member of a community holds it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by moleskine
by dagw on Sun 10th Aug 2008 22:49 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by moleskine"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

he potential scientists, tend to find visualising a concept easier than learning an abstract fact, so they actually perform better when they can understand a simple model, then learn that it can be extended to more complex problems, this means that the teaching method this author is rejecting, actually works best for these people.

Mathematicians, of course, would hate this approach because its imprecision. Guesswork has very little place in 'real' maths.

As a mathematician I very much disagree with this. I won't speak for all mathematicians, but I personally almost always start with a simple easy to understand and visualize model and some educated guesswork and then slowly try to build towards that problem I'm actually solving.

If my problem involves some arbitrary Banach space with arbitrary, but finite, dimensions I might start by imagining a 2-dimensional Real plane and try to visualize how some analog of the problem would look there. Hell often I'll go so far as to reduce the problem onto a finite discrete set. While this model is obviously incorrect and behaves differently in many ways, it's often enough to give me an intuitive feel (or what you could reasonably call a guess) for the problem I'm facing. Once I have this intuition, I can often use some educated guesswork to bring me to where I think I want to be and then from there I can go back and check if any of this actually holds up.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by moleskine
by stestagg on Sun 10th Aug 2008 22:52 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by moleskine"
stestagg Member since:
2006-06-03

Fair enough, I agree that I was generalising a lot, but I think you still firmly fall into one of the second 2 categories.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by moleskine
by ari-free on Sun 10th Aug 2008 23:41 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by moleskine"
ari-free Member since:
2007-01-22

but guesswork, that is, educated guesswork, is only possible after the accumulation of a great many facts. Only then can the proper associations be made.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by moleskine
by eantoranz on Tue 12th Aug 2008 21:46 UTC in reply to "Comment by moleskine"
eantoranz Member since:
2005-12-18

The first is that it's OK to be a complete and total shyster if you are doing the corporation's work. The second is that it's desirable to be a philanthropist working to do good in the world which also, one presumes, involves sticking to methods that repudiate the first position. The two come together in the person of Gates
.

It drives me nuts when people put BG in a bright light. I just can't stand him. A person that led a company that is known to have misbehaved in just about every possible way in the competition field, made trucks of money (because of the former) and now he's giving it away... that means he's made of the material catholic saints are made of. So it's OK to be a weasel, cause in the end people will talk about you like you're the second come.

BSD code? Hey! Microsoft used a lot of it (I guess they still use it). GPL? It's crap! Why? He trashes the GPL just because that keeps Microsoft from touching it even with a 10-foot flagpole.

http://arstechnica.com/journals/microsoft.ars/2008/04/23/bill-gates...

Pretty "humanitarian", I guess.

Reply Score: 2

v Elvis.
by Thom_Holwerda on Sun 10th Aug 2008 20:31 UTC
RE: Elvis.
by wrocic on Mon 11th Aug 2008 07:12 UTC in reply to "Elvis."
wrocic Member since:
2008-07-10

See my previous post about you standing down.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Elvis.
by segedunum on Mon 11th Aug 2008 12:02 UTC in reply to "Elvis."
segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

Yes I know. The Classmate project wasn't started after OLPC at all, and was merely some way to let us know that Elvis is still alive, and the Microsoft delegation that flew into Nigeria to offer whatever deal it took to get Windows accepted and installed were actually flown down there in black helicopters to discuss their JFK handiwork over forty-five years on.

I know trying to portray actual events as conspiracy theories to try and discredit them is the fashion, but it does you no credit.

Whilst the OLPC project was badly managed and directed, and no one can say that it wasn't, to tell us that the OLPC wasn't a threat to Microsoft or Intel, and that they weren't prepared to do whatever it took to make sure the OLPC wasn't a success is naive - at best.

Reply Score: 3

how could we blame MS and Intel???
by TechGeek on Sun 10th Aug 2008 21:17 UTC
TechGeek
Member since:
2006-01-14

How could we possibly blame Intel or Microsoft? Intel refused to participate until they realized that all thos machines will have AMD in them. Then they go out, build their own, and try to compete with a non profit humanitarian effort. Real classy there. Then MS comes along and through its local distributor, tries to circumvent an XO order in Nigeria by putting Windows and Office on the XO's. Even when Linux was SPECIFICALLY requested. I am sure there are a lot of fine people at Microsoft. I have worked with some of them. But the actions of the company paint it to be a real bastard of a company. Dont like that, then let your bosses know. Otherwise you sound like a shill. There is a saying: If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with flees.

Reply Score: 6

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

How could we possibly blame Intel or Microsoft? Intel refused to participate until they realized that all thos machines will have AMD in them. Then they go out, build their own, and try to compete with a non profit humanitarian effort. Real classy there.


Whoooooooo ... (shivers) ... not ... (GASP) ... competition! Dude, face it, if the people running this "humanitarian effort" had had any brains, they would figured out that they could leverage Intel against AMD to make the project a success. But, no, they clung to FAILURE until the solution became obvious. Nice life raft. I'm sorry, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for stupidity and misplaced idealism. Call me crazy, but I'd rather admire people who get things done than those who whine about what they couldn't do.

Then MS comes along and through its local distributor, tries to circumvent an XO order in Nigeria by putting Windows and Office on the XO's. Even when Linux was SPECIFICALLY requested.


Says who? Yet another "unnamed government official"? That's a laugh. First, we don't know if they actually want Linux unless we can get a named source. Second, it's more likely a veiled solicitation for a bribe and they'll end up using Windows, regardless.

I am sure there are a lot of fine people at Microsoft. I have worked with some of them. But the actions of the company paint it to be a real bastard of a company.


Given the amount of uncorroborated hearsay and innuendo in your post, it seems that there are quite a few bastards running around...

Edited 2008-08-12 00:27 UTC

Reply Score: 3

"...the two mightiest"
by fithisux on Sun 10th Aug 2008 21:28 UTC
fithisux
Member since:
2006-01-22

Have you heard about Novell, Apple, AMD, Via or SUN? XO laptop started a lethal countdown for these "...the two mightiest". At least for one of them.

Reply Score: 3

Sugar UI nice concept but too radical.
by Darkmage on Sun 10th Aug 2008 22:38 UTC
Darkmage
Member since:
2006-10-20

OLPC + MIT Coders + Gnustep = user friendly like Mac Osx and cheaper then either Apple or Microsoft. Pity they had to redesign the gui as it gave Microsoft ammunition. for being non windowsy. They could have improved gnustep to the point of being usable instead and killed Microsoft arguments. Only thing gnustep lacks now is apps. get a dedicated dev team to port some stuff like Fire to gnustep and finish off the webkit based browser and it could be a serious desktop contender. Gnome/Kde will never have the same level of usability. Too inconsistent.

Reply Score: 1

fithisux Member since:
2006-01-22

I agree. GNUstep or even Etoile should be a better alternative and help to these projects would have fueled their advancement.

Reply Score: 2

The Basic Assumption
by El_Exigente on Mon 11th Aug 2008 08:05 UTC
El_Exigente
Member since:
2007-01-08

The basic assumption here is that OLPC/XO is a "good thing". To me, after reading stuff like http://radian.org/notebook/sic-transit-gloria-laptopi (which was linked on this very site, if I correctly recall) and similar, I have been forced to conclude that the OLPC/XO program is basically a fraud from top to bottom. And since I have included the aforementioned link, there is no need for me to go into detail, allowing this post to be short and to the point!

If someone wants to find Microsoft and Intel culpable for the death of OLPC/XO, then they are going to have to deal with that article on a point-by-point basis.

Reply Score: 1

RE: The Basic Assumption
by Soulbender on Mon 11th Aug 2008 09:39 UTC in reply to "The Basic Assumption"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

While I do agree with a lot of what is said in that post (like not planning for deployement being a disaster) I must point out this argument:

A Windows-compatible Sugar would bring its rich learning vision to potentially tens or hundreds of millions of children all over the world whose parents already own a Windows computer, be it laptop or desktop.


Uhmmm...say what? With parents that already own a Windows computer? I was under the impression that the OLPC wasn't exactly going to be shipped to people rich enough to already own a PC...
I'm not against Windows on a device like this but the above argument is just odd.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: The Basic Assumption
by PlatformAgnostic on Tue 12th Aug 2008 06:33 UTC in reply to "RE: The Basic Assumption"
PlatformAgnostic Member since:
2006-01-02

Presumably if the OLPC software is an excellent learning environment, then it should work for more fortunate kids just as well as for the less fortunate? It certainly would help.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: The Basic Assumption
by DrillSgt on Wed 13th Aug 2008 18:01 UTC in reply to "RE: The Basic Assumption"
DrillSgt Member since:
2005-12-02

"I was under the impression that the OLPC wasn't exactly going to be shipped to people rich enough to already own a PC... "

Actually it was going to be shipped to anyone who could afford the $100 for one of them. In the case of some countries, the government of that country was going to foot the bill to buy these for the schools. It was always still a for sale type of thing...nothing was going to be shipped for free.

Reply Score: 2

OLPC is a success
by wanker90210 on Mon 11th Aug 2008 15:50 UTC
wanker90210
Member since:
2007-10-26

I don't quite get this idea that Negroponte's idea has failed that some seems to air. If you Look at the world before and after OLPC, you'll notice that there now exists eeepc (and other cheaper models). So, if we ignore the fact that it's not the actual XO that is being spread, the OLPC program is imho a great success.

And come one, the UN is not known for its lean & efficient operation. Having the OLPC market taken by the fittest was inevitable.

Reply Score: 1

XO Laptop
by rouellette on Mon 11th Aug 2008 19:42 UTC
rouellette
Member since:
2008-08-11

One of the best OS News articles I have ever read. Who would have thought MS would sell XP for $3.00? That is a coup there.
How much would it take to make the XO Laptop into a cherrypal (OS News 7-25-08) type machine and just connect to the internet right through the laptop?

Reply Score: 1