mm368: Knowledge: Blast furnace of the 21st century

May 3, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Do you feel buffeted by the forces of the post-industrial revolution? How can you not?

The history of technology is a frequent visitor to this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, mostly because it has long been of interest to yr (justifiably) humble svt. Also, because the macro changes occurring all around us are, of course, culminations, or at least stops along the way, of trends that began when humans created civilization, perhaps 10,000 years ago.

L-HC‘s History of Technology

mm361: Gin, television, Web 2.0
mm359: The Navy’s ferry tale — unhappy ever after
mm278a: Don’t look back: Something gaining on you
mm272: What the devil time is it anyway?
mm228: Toothpicks — Good to great to gone
mm224: Dec. 17, 1903: A seminal date in history
mm195: Edison and Tesla
mm159: Sputnik | Spacemen are from Mars
mm119: Creating the sequitur
mm104: There She Blew

The ages of human development have long been characterized, and popularized, by the most important attribute of the era. Thus we can cite some of the various ages, stone (which actually predates modern homo sapiens), agriculture, discovery, mercantile, industrial.

Have we moved beyond the industrial age? David Brooks tackled this topic in yesterday’s NYTimes.

nytimes

The Cognitive Age

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: May 2, 2008

If you go into a good library, you will find thousands of books on globalization. Some will laud it. Some will warn about its dangers. But they’ll agree that globalization is the chief process driving our age. Our lives are being transformed by the increasing movement of goods, people and capital across borders….

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mm365: Wright: "Dangerous nonsense"

April 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Is anyone listening, really listening hard, to what the eccentric Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been saying?

I admit to superficially following the headlines on this one. He’s made some outrageous claims from the pulpit, regarding the origins of AIDS and 9/11, and his one-time parishioner, Barack Obama, has been attempting to distance himself from the outrage for the past several months.

But Wright outdid himself Sunday speaking to the NAACP in Detroit, referencing an entire generation of soft-headed academic studies that purport to explain away African Americans’ failures to succeed educationally.

cityjournal-new

Poisonous “Authenticity”

Jeremiah Wright draws on a long line of Afrocentric charlatans.

Heather Mac Donald | 29 April 2008

The list of Afrocentric “educators” whom Reverend Jeremiah Wright has invoked in his media escapades since this Sunday is a disturbing reminder that academia’s follies can enter the public world in harmful ways. Now the pressing question is whether they have entered presidential candidate Barack Obama’s worldview as well.

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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 »


mm353: Blast from the Past! No. 12

April 20, 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 early days, originally posted July 28 2007, our first in our series called, over-ambitiously, Web Conferencing Week. The entire group can be found on its own page elsewhere on this site.

WcW003: Web Conferencing Week – Sometimes it’s all about teaching

wcw1_thumb1_thumb2

Web Conferencing Week

As filled with unusualities as was last week, this past week… was not.

The main theme was teaching. We wrote about this facet of my career quite extensively in mm018 and I don’t feel compelled to rehash here. It’s a significant portion of my responsibilities here at HCA (Heart of Corporate America remember, not its real name).

And, like all things everywhere, it either dies or changes. I vote for change.

For more than a year, we’ve been attempting to turn over some of the basic courses to an expert in our division’s training department. To that end I’ve provided annotated course material, one on one instruction, the opportunity to practice. I am this good teacher, right?

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mm327: Of encyclopedias, child-men and more non-men

March 24, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Yes, faithful reader has undoubtedly guessed that it’s time for another installment of…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

… wherein we are even more eclectic than is our habit (a frequent self-criticism: what’s this blog about, anyway? Ouch! It’s about what interests yr (justifiably) humble svt: a little bit of this, a smidgen of that.)

Of encyclopedias…

I was thinking of encyclopedias the other day, and so was the NYTimes.

nytimes

Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias

By NOAM COHEN | Published: March 16, 2008

It has never been easier to read up on a favorite topic, whether it’s an obscure philosophy, a tiny insect or an overexposed pop star. Just don’t count on being able to thumb through the printed pages of an encyclopedia to do it.

A series of announcements from publishers across the globe in the last few weeks suggests that the long migration to the Internet has picked up pace, and that ahead of other books, magazines and even newspapers, the classic multivolume encyclopedia is well on its way to becoming the first casualty in the end of print.

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mm299: More than the economy, we’re in intellectual trouble

February 27, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Susan Jacoby has just released a book, “The Age of American Unreason“, and contributed to the Opinion page of the Washington Post a couple of Sundays ago.

washingtonpost

The Dumbing Of America

Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces

By Susan Jacoby | Sunday, February 17, 2008; B01

“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today’s very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

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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

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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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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