mm449: Blast from the Past! No. 37

July 26, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Summer Saturday. Errands, and more errands. Chores. When’s the week start, so I can relax?

A DVD matinée. Very little time to blog. Ouch.

So, back into the archives yet again.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb2[4]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 11, 2007, and originally titled “mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea.”

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column -- talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm413: Computers: Not helpful for poor kids?

June 17, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© has been an enthusiastic observer of Nicholas Negroponte’s idealistic One Laptop Per Child initiative since it started getting close to launch late last year.

By one count, in fact, this would be the 18th such post, a sizable fraction.

But, it seems such a good idea: provide millions of dramatically attractive PCs to governments at a rock bottom price (original target, $100) to be distributed to school children. The hope: in the same way that cell phones have bootstrapped the developing world into the maw of 21st century communications without requiring the arduous and costly laying of trillions of miles of copper wire to every last remote corner of the planet, connect kids in deprived lands to the 21st century via the Internet.

Well, the launch price last November was closer to $200 than $100, but the dollar (not to speak of the price of oil — not just fuel for transportation, but even more valuable, if underappreciated, as the feedstock for the manufacture of plastic, a key component of absolutely every computer of any cost) is not what it was in 2005 when the program was formulated. To bring faithful reader up to speed on this topic, we’ve provided a handy list of those 17 previous entries.

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review
mm267: XO – A Missionary Position
mm382: One Laptop Per Child…Windows

Some intriguing, if disturbing, research hit the news this past week.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm382: One Laptop Per Child gets Windows

May 17, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We return to a popular (at least to yr (justifiably) humble svt) topic here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. Previously:

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review
mm267: XO – A Missionary Position

In an apparent blow to the true-believing open source community, OLPC and Microsoft have reached an agreement to make Windows available on the XO laptop.

It is only fitting that the NYTimes’ story has as its header a photograph of students in India praying before class time, since there is no doubt that in the world of personal computing technology, operating systems are a religious choice. Windows vs. Apple vs. Open Source (mainly, Linux).

nytimes

laptopsOLPC8517

Pal Pillai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Students pray before working on their computers in Vasti Vidhalaya, India. The XO laptop comes with a video camera.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm354: Blast from the Past! No. 13

April 21, 2008

The MUDGE family is on vacation this week. We don’t know that we’ll be able to restrain ourselves from blogging during the entire span, after all the grandMUDGElets go to bed pretty early, but without access to our files, and WindowsLiveWriter, for this week only, when we feel that irresistible urge to blog, we’ll treat blogging like we do (sigh) exercise: we’ll just lie down until the feeling goes away.

But, the Prime Directive of Blogging reads: Thou Shalt Blog Daily! So shalt we.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our earliest days, originally posted July 28, 2007, the first of what became a lengthy series of posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

MUDGE’S Musings

Things I found on the way to finding other things…

We’ve been reading about the One Laptop Per Child initiative for some time now, and it’s utterly fascinating to see it closer to fruition, courtesy of eWeek. The story is lengthy and comprehensive and worthy of your time. Click any of the links to pursue this.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm267: XO: A missionary position

January 27, 2008

l-hc

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

Interest continues in the One Laptop Per Child initiative. As faithful reader recalls, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in the subject continues, also. Here’s where we’ve been:

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review

Read the rest of this entry »


mm249: OLPC – News, more news, and a review

January 10, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

One Laptop Per Child is real, and is all over the trade press. As is our wont at this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, here’s a review of previous posts on the topic:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in

News of Intel’s sudden departure from the OLPC board of directors came to our attention last week. This story, from eSchool News was forwarded by MUDGElet No. 2, the education professional in the family.

eschoolnews

Intel quits One Laptop Per Child program

Chip maker, OLPC founder trade accusations about who is to blame

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte claims Intel undermined the group’s sales efforts even after joining its board.

It was like one of those ill-fated relationships you suspect won’t last, and on Jan. 3, it finally ended: Citing disagreements with the organization, Intel Corp. said it has abandoned the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, dealing a blow to the ambitious project that seeks to bring millions of low-cost laptops to children in developing countries.
The fallout ends a long-simmering spat that began even before the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker joined OLPC’s board in July, agreeing to contribute money and technical expertise. It also came only a few days before the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where a prototype of an OLPC-designed laptop using an Intel chip was slated to debut.

Seems like OLPC had some legitimate beefs with Intel.

A day after learning that Intel was abandoning his project over “philosophical” differences, Negroponte hit back, claiming on Jan. 4 that Intel had undermined his group’s effort to sell low-cost computers for schoolchildren in the developing world even after the chip company got a seat on the nonprofit’s board. He said Intel’s sales representatives had been disparaging OLPC and its XO machine as they pushed Intel’s sub-$300 Classmate PCs.

Negroponte said Intel even tried to undo a deal that OLPC already had sealed in Peru by citing flaws in the XO and telling government ministers “we ought to know, because we are on the board.” Such hostile comments were prohibited, Negroponte claimed, under the July peace treaty that brought Intel into the OLPC camp.

“I want to say we tried, but it was never a partnership,” Negroponte said. “There’s not one single thing in their contract or agreement that they lived up to.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

Top News – Intel quits One Laptop Per Child program

News now comes from ZDNet blogger Dan Farber at the Consumer Electronics Show, where Nicholas Negroponte was a principal speaker.

zdnetfarberdignan

OLPC’s Negroponte seeks truce with Intel and deal with Microsoft

Posted by Dan Farber @ 3:43 pm

During a presentation at the Consumer Electronic Show this afternoon, One Laptop Per Child’s Nicholas Negroponte didn’t address the recent rift between Intel and his organization.

negroponte.jpg
Nicholas Negroponte and his baby, the OLPC

Intel recently unhooked itself from the OLPC board of directors, and Negroponte was not shy about blasting the chipmaker last week:

Despite OLPC’s best efforts to work things out with Intel and several warnings that their behavior was untenable, it is clear that Intel’s heart has never been in working collaboratively as a part of OLPC. This is well illustrated by the way in which our separation was announced single-handedly by Intel; Intel issued a statement to the press behind our backs while simultaneously asking us to work on a joint statement with them. Actions do speak louder than words in this case. As we said in the past, we view the children as a mission; Intel views them as a market.

News.com’s Michael Kanellos has some good fodder he picked up during Negroponte’s CES presentation:

What keeps this story line from being merely a pissing match among grown-ups who should know better are the stakes involved.

There’s a reason One Laptop Per Child has been so newsworthy: it’s a beacon of innovation for an industry that, Apple aside, seems to have commoditized itself into boredom.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

» OLPC’s Negroponte seeks truce with Intel and deal with Microsoft | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Finally, from the same source, ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, Dan Farber’s blogging partner there, comes a recent review of the XO-1 itself. We’ve posted a couple of these recently, and they are intriguing looks at a fascinating and world-changing tool.

Lessons learned: Two weeks with the XO laptop

Posted by Larry Dignan @ 2:03 am

Repeat after me. The XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project is designed for kids. Why bore yourself with that mantra? If you don’t you may find yourself griping about something that wasn’t designed for you in the first place.

That’s one of the big takeaways from my two weeks with the XO (see unboxing gallery). Let’s face it–I bought the XO for me (err my daughter). Sure, she’d play with it, but dear old dad’s gadget lust–along with doing a good deed–drove the purchase.

So what did I learn?

1. It’s my daughter’s laptop. I’ve barely seen the thing since she’s been doing non-productive things like looking at herself in the Webcam and showing her one-year old sister the toy. Checking email? Silly grown up things. The XO is about the built in drawing program, the Web cam and icons my 5 year old guinea pig grasped instantly.

2. The XO is rugged. It has been dropped, tossed into a toy box and has had its shares of fluids on it–syrup, snot etcetera. I cringe, but the kids don’t.

3. It’s intuitive. Sure the XO is a laptop, but it’s really all about the software. Is it easy to navigate? How’s the interface? Can anyone pick it up? The Fedora based operating system rarely raised any questions for my daughter. She found the write program with little effort. And aside from the music program, which frankly was over her head, she found her way around easily.

So his five-year-old daughter grabbed it and hasn’t let go. That’s the entire story in a nutshell – a teaching tool that children play with. Education, in such short supply in much of the world, can become absorbed like all too scarce vitamins. Dignan identifies some issues with XO-1, but they don’t seem to be deal breakers.

Other odds and ends:

  • Some folks have asked me to try out the Asus EeePC, which could be a superior device–I don’t know. Meanwhile, Christopher Dawson has a series on Intel’s Classmate, a strong rival. However, these comparisons miss the point. The (emerging) market is big enough for multiple players and it’s not clear that students need an alpha male device (my chip is faster than yours and can do office productivity!). The kids just need something that works so let’s not impose that cliche device wars storyline to the OLPC.

We’ve talked a bit about the ASUS Eee PC recently. More of a conventional product, as is the Intel Classmate, but compellingly low-priced and thus a potential competitor to the XO-1.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

» Lessons learned: Two weeks with the XO laptop | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

OLPC XO-1, ASUS Eee PC, Intel Classmate: it’s all good. If Nicholas Negroponte has revitalized the laptop computer business, how beautiful is that?

Let’s get them all out to those educationally bereft parts of the world that need them so desperately, soonest!

As a veteran teacher once exclaimed (unfortunately, after 30 years or so the context is a mystery to me), “May the best educational experience win!”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm247: One Laptop Per Child — reviews are coming in

January 9, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

olpcperu7c25

My son, an education professional, pointed me toward an interesting review of the XO, the inexpensive laptop designed for use by children in the developing world.

As faithful reader will recall without prompting, One Laptop Per Child has been a frequent topic in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© over the past eight months.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Little green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in

Before we get to the inside-out analysis, let’s start with a review from Peter Glaskowsky’s technology review blog at CNET.com, a mainstream PC oriented site:

speedsandfeeds

Unboxing OLPC’s XO-1 laptop

Posted by Peter Glaskowsky| December 29, 2007 2:05 PM PST

… If you get an XO-1, don’t throw away the box! You’ll need it for the free year of Internet access through T-Mobile WiFi hot spots. The box has the reference number for account activation.

In keeping with the low-cost nature of the XO-1, its packaging is minimal but adequate.

XO-1 documentation

The OLPC XO-1 comes with only a few sheets of basic “Getting Started” documentation. Credit: Peter N. Glaskowsky)

The XO-1 comes with no manual, just two sheets of paper: one showing the hardware and software features of the unit plus some warning icons, and one with a thank-you note from OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte….

XO-1 open

Open, the XO-1 shows its most distinctive feature: the antenna “ears”. (Credit: Peter N. Glaskowsky)

The XO-1’s ears contain 2.4 GHz antennas shared between the WiFi and proprietary mesh networks. They’re also the locks that hold the machine closed. They engage with spring-loaded pins so the top will snap closed even if the ears are stowed first.

Glaskowsky is critical of the keyboard (lighten up, it was designed for children, after all) and battery life, but is generally impressed.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

Unboxing OLPC’s XO-1 laptop | Speeds and feeds – Technology analysis by Peter N. Glaskowsky – CNET Blogs

The next reviewer, bunnie at bunnie’s blog, literally took the XO apart, and has some fascinating insights into its innovative technology.

bunniesblog

bunnie’s blog: OLPC XO-1

… We like hardware, and the OLPC XO-1 is an interesting piece of hardware. There are plenty of teardowns for the OLPC XO-1 (including one on the OLPC wiki itself), so I won’t repeat the tedium of what screw comes out of where and just cut to what I thought were interesting highlights.

If I were to make one general comment about the OLPC XO-1, it’s that its mechanical design is brilliant. It’s a fairly clean-sheet redesign of traditional notebook PC mechanics around the goal of survivability, serviceability, and robustness (then again, I’ve never taken apart any of the ruggedized notebooks out there). When closed up for “travel”, all the ports are covered, and the cooling system is extremely simple so it should survive in dusty and dirty environments. Significantly, the port coverings aren’t done with rubberized end caps that you can lose or forget to put on–they are done using the wifi antennae, and the basic design causes the user to swivel them back to cover the ports when they are packing up the laptop to go. That’s thoughtful design.

The full review is rather esoteric (and yr (justifiably) humble svt can be as much a geek as anyone, but these Linux guys are a breed apart!), but there are some interesting photographs of the components…

Here’s a photo of the motherboard with the heat spreader on:

And here’s a hi-res photo of it with the heat spreader off (click on the image to access the hi-res version):

Notice how both of the large BGA chips are underfilled to provide better shock and vibration robustness. I actually have never seen an underfill like this before–it seems to be oozing out of the edges–and it also doesn’t seem to be very uniform (some spots seem to have a little underfill missing). Most underfills I’m familiar with to attempt to cover every gap and void underneath a chip (which is actually a very hard process problem); maybe this is some new kind of underfilling technique that expands a little bit upon cure to help cover voids and its robust to a few missing spots. If a reader is familiar with this type of underfill technique, I’d appreciate a link to it.

… and useful observations regarding the suitability of the design for its intended application: education of developing world children aged 6-12.

And the extensive comments to the blog at the end add a great deal more information.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

bunnie’s blog » Blog Archive » OLPC XO-1

There is no doubt that OLPC XO-1 is a technological tour de force. Nicholas Negroponte’s designers and manufacturers made thoughtful and innovative choices that enhanced both the hardiness and the daily practicality of the hardware for its intended use in the developing world.

One example: the brightness of the backlight as seen in bunnie’s photo, in the context of the comparatively lengthy life of the XO’s battery charge that is not yet fully to its design target, is remarkable.

The early report from Peru we published recently certainly was a positive endorsement of this innovative program in the field.

Now, we can hope that the early successes will have two outcomes.

  1. Persuade wait-and-see developing nations to revolutionize their children’s education by acquiring these world-changing devices.
  2. The novel designs and technologies developed for XO is adopted by the industry at large so that all PC users can benefit.

Okay, mainstream business laptop manufacturers, how soon can you make us a useful business PC that will run coast to coast plus terminal waiting time on a single charge? The pieces of that puzzle seem to be in place.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm242: Campaigns and Lightweight Laptops

January 3, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Hi, Neighbors! Time for a new installment in our ongoing series…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Found several stories of interest today; while folks are Deciding in Iowa they’ve apparently sucked all the decision-making positrons out of the atmosphere, so we’ll sample all three…

First, Gail Collins writing in today’s NYTimes seconds the emotions expressed in Slate (and highlighted here) the other day by Christopher Hitchens.

nytimes

The Slice of the Sliver Speaks

By GAIL COLLINS | Published: January 3, 2008

As the presidential candidates tell them every single day, Iowans deserve to be the nation’s kingmakers because they are exceptional citizens who take their responsibilities very, very seriously. So tonight, even though it’s very cold — even though it’s Hokies vs. Jayhawks in the Orange Bowl — the sturdy Iowa voters will pull on their parkas and go out to fulfill their historic destiny. Perhaps as many as 15 percent of them!

“Money will become irrelevant once somebody wins the Iowa caucus,” said John (I Currently Have No Money) Edwards. “The winner of the Iowa caucus is going to have huge amounts of money pouring in.” Edwards, the Democratic third-runner, has spent more time in Iowa than many Iowans, who have a tendency to flee to Florida in the winter.

She says, People, ignore whatever happens here.”

Tonight, the Iowa Deciders will divide into 1,781 local caucuses. Past history suggests that a few of these gatherings may not draw any attendees whatsoever and that several others will consist entirely of a guy named Carl. Attendance has no effect on the number of delegates involved, and we hardly need mention that the whole thing is weighted to give rural residents an advantage. Iowans in politically active neighborhoods where 100 people show up may find their vote is worth only 1 percent as much as, say, Carl’s. This gives them the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a New Yorker or Californian all year round.

Have to admit I never paid much attention to Iowa’s banana republic” (Hitchens-ism) caucus process but in 2008, attention must be paid. And then, as Gail Collins advises, ignored.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

The Slice of the Sliver Speaks – New York Times

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Always readable Steve Chapman shows up today in MUDGE’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, with this interesting perspective.

chapman

Think positive about negative campaigning

Steve Chapman | January 3, 2008

Negative campaigning has a bad reputation, routinely being disparaged as juvenile taunting that serves only to degrade public discourse. A New York Times headline the other day noted “bickering and negative ads in countdown to caucuses,” as though these were the moral equivalent of an old married couple grousing about that mess in the kitchen.

Even devoted practitioners feel the duty to deplore negative campaigning. After commissioning an ad accusing Mitt Romney of grievous departures from conservative wisdom, Mike Huckabee was so remorseful that he refused to run it — though he managed to disseminate his charges in a news conference where he sorrowfully screened the spot for the news media. Explaining his newfound magnanimity, Huckabee asserted, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

But what was so terrible about the ad? It merely said that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney raised taxes, left a budget deficit, provided abortion coverage in his universal health-care program, and failed to carry out a single execution — all of which appear to be grounded in fact, and any of which a few voters would find interesting.

The spot thus passes the only two tests voters should apply to any campaign attack: Is it true, and is it important? Accusing Romney of having devil’s horns would be unacceptable because, though significant, it’s not true. Accusing him of owning too many sweaters, though true, would be over the line because it doesn’t matter.

Chapman believes that all information is good information, either informing voters of facts they hadn’t been aware of, or, often, informing voters about the poor judgement of the nasty guys hired by the candidate spreading that news.

It’s all good.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

Think positive about negative campaigning — chicagotribune.com

shortattention_thumb2 ©

And now for something completely technological…

We’ve spent much time writing about small laptop PCs over the past several months; our emphasis has been on the wonderful One Laptop Per Child program [click here for the most recent entry in the series, which includes links to previous posts].

But there are other small, quite inexpensive laptops in the space, meant for business (or at least non-developing-world education) use. The ASUS Eee is one of the newest, and Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post took it out for a spin.

ASUSEEE

Two Pounds of Efficiency

By Rob Pegoraro | Thursday, January 3, 2008; Page D01

The first time I took Asus‘s Eee PC laptop on a flight, the security screener assumed it was a portable DVD player.

That’s an easy mistake to make. This tiny, two-pound machine is barely bigger or heavier and not much more expensive, at $399 for one I tested and $299 for the cheapest model.

For some time, it has been possible to buy laptops for less than $500. But the ones you see in most stores, such as a $450 Compaq, either weigh too much or can barely run Windows.

The Eee (the Asus site says the name stands for “Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play”) is different. It’s lighter than any super-cheap laptop and cheaper than any ultralight laptop, and it can do Web work about as well as other computers.

The ASUS Eee gets its tiny size and commensurate price by paring typical PC components down to nearly nil: Linux operating system; flash memory (no hard drive); reduced size screen and keyboard.

But after spending a few weeks using the $399(!) Eee (a step up in memory from the base $299 model!), Pegoraro says, it does get the job done, with some caveats.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

Rob Pegoraro – Two Pounds of Efficiency – washingtonpost.com

With MUDGE’s delicate eyesight and indelicate fingers the ASUS Eee would be a challenge. But, 2-lbs.; 3+ hours battery time; tiny form factor… were MUDGE a road warrior, the Eee would certainly be worth a hard examination.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm232: Little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village

December 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Faithful reader will recall that One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has been a consistent theme here at Left-Handed Complement. Here’s a handy reminder:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks

Courtesy of reddit.com (still preferred in this space to its competition, here’s a feature out of the International Herald Tribune showing OLPC in use in Peru, one of the first nations to commit to the program.

olpcperu7c25

MIT spinoff’s little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village

The Associated Press | Published: December 24, 2007

ARAHUAY, Peru: Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the US$188 (€130) laptops — people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books — can’t get enough of their “XO” laptops.

At breakfast, they’re already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits. At night, they’re dozing off in front of them — if they’ve managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

“It’s really the kind of conditions that we designed for,” Walter Bender, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff program One Laptop Per Child, said of this agrarian backwater up a precarious dirt road.

Founded in 2005 by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop has retreated from early boasts that developing-world governments would snap up millions of the pint-sized laptops at US$100 (€70) each.

Idealism, as is usual, has been clobbered by reality, and Negroponte’s hoped for millions of orders have not materialized. As in any manufactured product, it’s the classic chicken and egg issue: low price = high volume (assuming an attractive and viable product); high volume = low price (economies of scale).

And as we’ve theorized (but read nowhere else) the falling value of the dollar, plummeting since the program was first announced several years ago, has made unrealistic the ambitious $100 target, further impairing success on the imagined scale.

And, competition has rushed in now that OLPC has proved the concept, further impairing the ability to meet the original stretch goal.

But, the Give One, Get One program has meant that 150,000 machines will be delivered in early 2008:

Peru made the single biggest order to date — more than 272,000 machines — in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyer of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will get shipped to countries including Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan in early 2008 through “Give One, Get One,” a U.S.-based promotion ending Dec. 31 in which you buy a pair of laptops for US$399 (€277.50) and donate one or both.

Peru is where the rubber hits the road for OLPC, and the IHT story highlights many of the challenges: teacher training, support, internet access in a nation whose remote regions seem to operate much as they must have when first encountered by Spanish exploiters five hundred years ago.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

MIT spinoff’s little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village – International Herald Tribune

But for all of the challenges, it’s a hopeful story.

There’s still time before 31-December (program, and tax year deadlines) to participate in Give One, Get One. And, if you follow advice first expressed in this space some time ago, and even noted in the IHT story, you might want to make it Give One, Give One. In fact, as we said three months ago

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If Peru’s example is typical, then OLPC’s little green machine certainly appears to be the transformative tool that Nicholas Negroponte envisioned.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm219: One Laptop per Child — Harvard speaks

December 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Previous entries on this topic:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…

olpc7926

It’s a topic that just won’t quit: One Laptop Per Child. MUDGE‘s older son (the term “MUDGElet No. 2″ isn’t sufficiently dignified for the rarefied confines of Harvard, donchaknow) is a 2005 masters graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and obviously stays in touch.

He forwarded us a link to this story from Harvard Business School (HBS), aware as he is (hmmm, must be faithful reader! Loyalty hasn’t disappeared! Or at least, polite indulgence for the old man…) of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in Nicholas Negroponte’s intriguing initiative.

So, though we came late to the story, this past summer, as the PR machinery geared up in preparation for first deliveries, it’s been brewing, as any ambitious project would be, for several years. Thus there are already lessons to be learned, especially marketing lessons, and HBS would like to teach them to us.

harvardbusinessschool

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child

Q&A with: John A. Quelch  |  Published: December 10, 2007

Author: Martha Lagace

Drop it on the ground. Sprinkle water on its surface. Let it sit in the sun and expose it to swarms of dust—the XO laptop is designed to handle most any abuse from a child. But the journey of the XO laptop from concept to the educational tool for the world’s poorest children is turning out to be a bit more complicated than originally anticipated.

A new Harvard Business School case study called “Marketing the ‘$100 PC'” spells out these opportunities, problems, and challenges from a marketing point of view. As the case asks, can the laptop move out of the realm of “great idea, great gadget” and improve the educational possibilities for children in impoverished environments?

The concept explored is “action pricing,” where a product is developed, as an immense stretch, to meet a very low price, definitely the strategy pursued by OLPC.

The technological challenge was complex: create a tool that would be useful yet attractive to school children, with the strength to stand up to careless and primitive environments, with a screen visible in bright light, a battery capable of receiving power through multiple inexpensive means (a pull cord, a detachable solar panel), and with networking capabilities to teach cooperation and collaboration, all for $100.

So, $188 is not $100, but let’s face it, $100 isn’t $100 any more (try $109.21, and that doesn’t factor in the price of gasoline), so that’s hardly a knock.

The marketing challenge remains difficult:

“While on the surface it is a laudable vision to get one laptop to each child, and the motives are pristine, there are stumbling blocks in implementation,” observes Quelch.

The conservative nature of governments, complex bureaucracy, and decision-making hurdles can all interfere with early public sector adoption of even the most worthy innovation, he says. This slower-than-expected adoption and diffusion may have surprised the leaders of OLPC.

And finally, OLPC faces what has to be gut-wrenching competition from the fiercely competitive computer industry, who, never letting “not invented here” bother them ever, have leapt into the fray. Guess what, you don’t have to be a non-profit to sell computers for $200 — imagine what they really must cost to manufacture!

So, while I’ve cherry-picked the article, it’s still worth a visit. You even get the opportunity to purchase the case itself, if you’re interested in adding the subject to your own marketing/business curriculum.

[Please click the link below for the complete article -- but then please come on back!]

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child — HBS Working Knowledge

Give One Get One is still running, and remains a worthy cause, especially if you follow Left-Handed Complement’s  suggestion to “Give One, Give One”, with the second one directed toward a third world nation closer to home, Mississippi, for example.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


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