mm308: Do you live in the right city?

March 7, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

What I love about today’s electronified world is that you never know when and from where the next great thought is going to emerge, but you know darned well that it’s coming.

placeyoulive

“Why the Place You Choose to Live is the Most Important Decision of Your Life,” by Richard Florida is today’s great thought. Here’s the first page of his presentation:

Read the rest of this entry »


mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel

February 26, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Well, I’m sure that the august Mr. Branson was not present on the Virgin Atlantic test flight from London to Amsterdam the other day. Partially powered by biofuel processed from babassu nuts and coconut oil.

Doesn’t babassu nut sound like the latest dance craze? Well, it’s nut. Um, not.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm293: Star Wars, finally ready for prime time

February 22, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Shooting a missile at a satellite is rocket science. And, apparently, a year late, we’ve figured it out.

washingtonpost

Spy Satellite’s Downing Shows a New U.S. Weapon Capability

By Marc Kaufman and Josh White | Washington Post Staff Writers | Friday, February 22, 2008; Page A03

The unprecedented downing of an errant spy satellite by a Navy missile makes it clear that the Pentagon has a new weapon in its arsenal — an anti-satellite missile adapted from the nation’s missile defense program.

While the dramatic intercept took place well below the altitude where most satellites orbit, defense and space experts said Wednesday night’s first-shot success strongly suggests that the military has the technology and know-how to knock out satellites at much higher orbits.

When the plans were announced a week or so ago, we were bemused.

The physics required have got to be astounding. See, the satellite is in a deteriorating orbit, so it might not be acting totally predictably.

The missile was built, of course, by the lowest bidder.

And they launched it from a missile cruiser sailing in the Pacific, which any mariner will tell you is totally falsely named.

I’m thinking the challenge was tantamount to shooting an arrow at a duck in flight several miles away, from the back of a rodeo bull.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm272: What the devil time is it anyway?

February 1, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

[MUDGE is not especially a popular music fan in the conventional definition, but there are things that stick. Brass and woodwinds stick. And, after all, Chicago is home.]

In more and more parts of the world, time, specifically time zones, have become a political football.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm260: The other oil shock

January 20, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ve had several occasions in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan
mm015: Welcomed back to the guild

…to consider the growth of the use of traditional food crops to create alternative fuel stocks – ethanol from corn is the U.S. wrongheaded approach.

Such is the triumph of our interconnected world that bad ideas from the U.S. are reproduced just as predictably as are many of our other famous cultural artifacts: rock and roll, blue jeans, cellular telephones.

January 19th’s NYTimes brings to our attention the food crisis in Asia caused by conversion of food crops to petroleum substitutes.

nytimes

A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories

By KEITH BRADSHER | Published: January 19, 2008

KUANTAN, Malaysia — Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.

Cooking oil? A cheap commodity in the west. What’s the big deal?

Cooking oil may seem a trifling expense in the West. But in the developing world, cooking oil is an important source of calories and represents one of the biggest cash outlays for poor families, which grow much of their own food but have to buy oil in which to cook it.

The focus of this story is on palm oil, until recently rather disreputable nutritionally here, but back in favor as an option to trans fats, increasingly seen as unhealthy, and even legislated against in trendy places like New York City.

Now, everyone everywhere wants palm oil. But as petroleum prices rise, and vegetable based oils are viewed as attractive components of biodiesel, palm oil is suddenly in short supply, and skyrocketing in price.

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

An Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories – New York Times

The interconnectedness of the world never fails to astonish. In this instance, the result isn’t merely inconveniently high prices for traditionally low-cost commodities, it’s starvation in Asian slums.

Stranger yet the instructive example of the palm oil refinery in Malaysia, built alongside sizable palm forests, prepared to convert palm oil to biodiesel. Now frantically attempting to come up with a new plan, as its machinery was idled because the demand for palm oil as food has ratcheted up its price beyond economical use as a feedstock for mere fuel.

In the rush to pander to Midwest growers of corn and soybeans by subsidizing the use of ethanol for fuel; in the rush to protect U.S. citizens from the unhealthy effects of oil their potatoes are fried in; we initiate chains of events that results in a crisis of shortages and starvation on the other side of the globe.

Farmers, always the hardest working and often the least compensated link of the food chain, naturally seek to get the highest price possible for their output, and biofuel has supercharged demand, thus prices are higher.

Seems clear that in the rush to embrace biofuels the law of unintended consequences has landed square into the battered cooking pots of Mumbai.

Can’t cook the week’s scrap of mutton with unintended consequences.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show…

January 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

On more and more minds, and lips, lately is that dreaded R-Word, recession.

First some news that we won’t have to work too awfully hard to relate to the topic at hand.

1. A critical gear in the export engine gets stripped

The aerospace competition between Europe’s Airbus and the U.S.’s Boeing has been hard-fought (think: Saturday-night saloon, brass-knuckles style) commercial dueling of a classic nature.

Boeing, complacent after lucrative decades owning global airline sales was embarrassed when upstart Airbus, an amalgam of several European aerospace firms unable individually to compete with the Boeing colossus began to outsell the arrogant giant.

Thus it was with no small satisfaction that Boeing watched Airbus announce delay after delay delivering its latest product, the immense 600-passenger A380, finally released to its first customers late in 2007.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as Boeing yesterday was forced to admit that its latest product, the new-age, environmentally sensitive 787 Dreamliner, has encountered delivery glitches of its own, the impact of which will push deliveries back to 2009.

Here’s the word from Boeing’s home-town paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (sorry, Chicago Tribune, but Boeing’s head may have relocated, but its heart remains in Washington State).

seattlepi

Boeing explains new 787 delay

Company ‘underestimated’ time to finish partners’ work

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

It was 90 days ago Wednesday that Boeing troubleshooter Pat Shanahan took over the 787 program after then-Dreamliner boss Mike Bair was sacked.

A week earlier, The Boeing Co. had announced an embarrassing six-month delay, with the first Dreamliner deliveries to airlines slipping from May until the end of 2008.

Boeing believed at the time that it would be able to complete work on the first plane in its Everett factory and have it flying by the end of March. It is the first of six that will be needed for the flight test program before the 787 can be certified by regulators to carry passengers.

The story rings true enough; the 787 is a new aircraft, being assembled a new way.

The 787 represents a new way of building airplanes for Boeing, which turned over most of the manufacturing and assembly work to key partners in Italy, Japan and elsewhere in the United States.

But those partners were unable to complete a significant amount of work before the unfinished sections of the first of six test-flight planes arrived in Everett for final assembly. Boeing has struggled to catch up on all this “travel” work.

Typical complexity issues, perfectly understandable, if disappointing.

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

Boeing explains new 787 delay

It will take a more adept macroeconomist than yr (justifiably) humble svt (not a very high bar to scale either) to tell us the effect of this delivery delay on the economy. Exports are an important piece of the economic pie, and Boeing a critical element of that slice.

Boeing sneezes, and we all should start looking around for our Nyquil.

2. Okay, it’s a recession. Which candidate makes the most sense?

There’s a presidential election campaign going on, you may have noticed.

NYTimes’ Paul Krugman, one of our favorite economic analysts, takes a look at their positions. Voters are getting nervous; tell us you know how to make us feel better:

nytimes

Responding to Recession

By Paul Krugman | Published: January 14, 2008

Suddenly, the economic consensus seems to be that the implosion of the housing market will indeed push the U.S. economy into a recession, and that it’s quite possible that we’re already in one. As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about plans for economic stimulus.

Since this is an election year, the debate over how to stimulate the economy is inevitably tied up with politics. And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy?

In fact, recent statements by the candidates and their surrogates about the economy are quite revealing.

And he proceeds to get to the heart of each candidate’s economic sound bites.

  • McCain: ruefully admits he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about the economy
  • Giuliani: his cure, a huge tax cut, isn’t
  • Huckabee: just wrong
  • Romney: who just might know something, won’t say anything, fearing to offend
  • Edwards: driving the agenda with a clearly designed policy
  • Clinton: following suit
  • Obama: after an awkward false start, now has a plan, although less progressive than the other leading Dems

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

Responding to Recession – New York Times

Can’t help but wonder what Michael Bloomberg thinks… Mike, Mr. self-made billionaire, what get’s us out of our funk, fast?

3. Recession: Bitter but necessary medicine?

Another of MUDGE’s favorite economists, Daniel Gross of Slate, weighs in on our looming distress, and how it could provide a wake-up call to U.S. business:

slate

The Good News About the Recession

Maybe it will finally teach Americans how to compete globally.
By Daniel Gross | Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008, at 11:53 AM ET

House for saleA sign of the housing slump

A recession may be upon us, which would mean fewer jobs, declining tax revenues, and sinking consumer confidence.

But for some (congenital Bush-bashers, the Irvine Housing Blog, critics of rampant consumerism), the parade of bad news is an occasion for schadenfreude….

(By the way, schadenfreude is defined thusly. Admit it, you always wanted to know but never bothered to look it up. Sequitur Service© at your service!)

… They enjoy seeing inhabitants of the formerly high-flying sectors that got us into the mess—real estate and Wall Street—being laid low. Others hold out hope that a recession will iron out distortions in the housing market, thus allowing them to move into previously unaffordable neighborhoods. Some econo-fretters hold out hope that reduced imports and the weaker dollar—both likely byproducts of a recession—will help close the trade deficit. And a few killjoys believe recessions can be morally uplifting. “High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life,” as Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon put it in the disastrous aftermath of the 1929 crash and ensuing Depression. Not for him stimulus packages and enhanced unemployment benefits. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” (Thanks in part to such comments, voters liquidated Republicans for a generation.)

With the exception of a few gleaming stars, like our friends Boeing, U.S. companies have been woefully ineffective at selling to global markets.

The world is running away from us. The volume of global trade in merchandise has been increasing rapidly. And it’s not just the United States importing goods from China. It’s China importing natural resources from everywhere and building infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, sub-Saharan Africa buying oil from the Persian Gulf, Dubai investors purchasing Indian real estate, Indian builders buying German engineering products and services, and German engineers buying toys made in China. With each passing day, an increasing number of transactions in the global marketplace do not involve the United States. We’re still a powerful engine. But the world’s economy now has a set of auxiliary motors.

We know we’ve been floundering; the way out may well be to find business leaders with global skillsets.

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

The good news about the recession. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

It’s going to be an uphill fight. We’ve earned our way into this economic distress: outsourcing our jobs instead of figuring out how to become competitive; living high on borrowed money that is now coming due big time; wasting geopolitical and real capital, and thousands of young American lives, on a poorly designed, inadequately executed, military misadventure in Iraq.

The R-Word

We hope you enjoyed this week’s three-part episode, and hope to heaven that we don’t have to do run too many more of them!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm237: Has global warming stopped?

December 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

From the UK’s New Statesman, this eye-opening observation.

We’ve heard the hype, but what are the statistics of global warming? Could it be that despite all of the apocalyptic alarm, the planet has actually not warmed significantly over the past several years?

Yes.

newstatesman

Has global warming stopped?

David Whitehouse | Published 19 December 2007

‘The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 and every year since 2001’

Global warming stopped? Surely not. What heresy is this? Haven’t we been told that the science of global warming is settled beyond doubt and that all that’s left to the so-called sceptics is the odd errant glacier that refuses to melt?

Aren’t we told that if we don’t act now rising temperatures will render most of the surface of the Earth uninhabitable within our lifetimes? But as we digest these apocalyptic comments, read the recent IPCC’s Synthesis report that says climate change could become irreversible. Witness the drama at Bali as news emerges that something is not quite right in the global warming camp.

With only few days remaining in 2007, the indications are the global temperature for this year is the same as that for 2006 – there has been no warming over the 12 months.

But is this just a blip in the ever upward trend you may ask? No.

Sounds like a very inconvenient truth…

For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It’s not a viewpoint or a sceptic’s inaccuracy. It’s an observational fact. Clearly the world of the past 30 years is warmer than the previous decades and there is abundant evidence (in the northern hemisphere at least) that the world is responding to those elevated temperatures. But the evidence shows that global warming as such has ceased.

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

New Statesman – Has global warming stopped?

Turns out that the relationship between increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (not in doubt it has increased) and global warming is only a theory, and an unproven one at that, as carbon in the atmosphere has continued to increase while actual warming has plateaued.

The science is fascinating, the ramifications profound, but we are fools if we think we have a sufficient understanding of such a complicated system as the Earth’s atmosphere’s interaction with sunlight to decide. We know far less than many think we do or would like you to think we do. We must explain why global warming has stopped.

Never have been particularly fond of the carbon market. Seems much more like a particularly cynical form of derivative financial tool rather than a truly effective means of controlling carbon based pollution.

And, it provides a green cloak to polluters, provides a money making opportunity to the cap and trade market, and yet has not diminished the increase of carbon in the atmosphere; indeed, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased during the entire lifetime of that market.

And yet, the planet has not become warmer in that timeframe. Go figure…

I mean it, scientists and politicians: go figure out what’s really going on up there!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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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


mm204: Wind power — Ugly, noisy, destructive! Who knew?

November 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Twice within a couple of these holiday weekend days the NYTimes has featured stories on power generated by modern wind turbines.

Quite intriguing, really, the theory that power can be produced without burning fossil fuels, without creating 2billion years of hazardous nuclear waste, without the variability of the winter’s snowfall (influenced lately by drought).

Just throw up a few huge turbine blades and let Mother Nature take over.

Well, of course it’s hardly that simple. As the pair of stories make clear, no work of man is without controversy, and wind farms are apparently not as benign as proponents have long claimed.

First, from Sweden:

swedenwind

By MARK LANDLER

MALMO, Sweden — Steadying himself on the heaving foredeck of an inspection ship recently, his face flecked by spray, Arne Floderus pronounced it a good day for his new offshore wind farm.

A 30-mile-an-hour wind was twirling the fingerlike blades of a turbine 380 feet above his head. Around him, a field of turbines rotated in a synchronized ballet that, when fully connected to an electrical grid, would generate enough power to light 60,000 nearby houses.

“We’ve created a new landmark,” said Mr. Floderus, the project manager of the $280 million wind park, one of the world’s largest, which was built by the Swedish power company Vattenfall.

The park, in a shallow sound between Sweden and Denmark, testifies to the remarkable rise of wind energy — no longer a quirky alternative favored by environmentalists in Denmark and Germany, but a mainstream power source used in 26 nations, including the United States.

Yet Sweden’s gleaming wind park is entering service at a time when wind energy is coming under sharper scrutiny, not just from hostile neighbors, who complain that the towers are a blot on the landscape, but from energy experts who question its reliability as a source of power.

So the wind doesn’t blow 24/7/52… who knew? And it turns out that people no more want wind farms next door than they do coal powered generation plants or Three Mile Island. The concept is called NIMBY. Not in my back yard. The elemental conflict between private property rights and the greater good.

NIMBY often wins.

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

Sweden Turns to a Promising Power Source, With Flaws – New York Times

Our second Times tale comes from Greece:

greecewind4

By JOANNA KAKISSIS | Published: November 25, 2007

THE tiny Greek island of Serifos, a popular tourist destination, depends on its postcard views of sandy beaches, Cycladic homes and sunsets that blend sea and sky into a clean wash of color. So when a mining and energy company floated a plan earlier this year to build 87 industrial wind turbines on more than a third of the island, the Serifos mayor, Angeliki Synodinou, called it her “worst nightmare.”

Greece primarily depends on “brown coal,” a particularly dirty variety that emits much pollution. So wind power has seemed an attractive alternative.

But the huge turbines do catch the eye, and nearby they are considerably noisy.

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

Debating the Merits of Energy From Air – New York Times

MUDGE‘s first exposure to such objects in any quantity, i.e., a true wind farm as opposed to the occasional country turbine, eye-catching and modern and jarring in a rural landscape though it was, was in Southern California.

Along I-10 just west of Palm Springs is a pass through the mountains featuring what seemed like hundreds of turbines, atop ridges, in valleys, looking like nothing ever seen before. Looked it up today; the farm is called the San Gorgonio Pass, one of several such projects in California. Truly stunning.

But, then again, it’s out there in the desert, next to virtually nothing but the occasional trailer park and chameleon. According to the California Energy Commission, at the time the article was published (2003?), San Gorgonio consisted of more than 2,500 huge turbines.

Breezing along (as it were) the interstate at 79mph, one doesn’t hear them. But they do make a lasting visual impression.

Would I want such an installation in a lake near me? Ugly? Noisy? Destructive?

Given a choice between that, and the nukes that pepper the region that MUDGE calls home (eagerly received by a power-hungry public 50 years ago), can you doubt my response?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm203: One Laptop Per Child — News, and a discouraging word

November 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

One of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s favorite topics for the past few months, the One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicolas Negroponte and his non-proft spin-off from MIT, is back in the news today. Here are many of our previous posts:

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!

Today, the “Give One, Get One” “civilian” donation program has been extended.

By RODRIQUE NGOWI | The Associated Press

12:10 AM CST, November 23, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A promotion in which a customer buying a $188 computer in the U.S. and Canada automatically donates a second one to a child in a developing country was extended until year’s end, organizers said Thursday.
The “Give One, Get One” program will now run through Dec. 31, instead of ending on Nov. 26, according to the One Laptop Per Child Program, a nonprofit spinoff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Always felt that two weeks was artificially short — after all the end of year gift/donation period lasts all the way to the end of the year.

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

One Laptop Per Child extends promotion until year’s end — chicagotribune.com

Of course, Newton’s law makes mandatory an equal and opposite reaction to the mostly positive news generated by this program.

From a site not before encountered comes the following two recent curmudgeonly observations, and we always make room for a fellow contrarian:

techdirt

from the soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations dept

The One-Laptop-per-Child project, which the press is still referring to as the “$100 laptop” despite the fact that it now costs twice that, finally began rolling off the assembly line this week. What’s most striking about the effort is how dramatically Nicholas Negroponte has had to scale back his formerly lofty ambitions to get the project off the ground. He initially said that they’d need 3 million orders before they started production.

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

Techdirt: Dramatically Scaled-Back OLPC Begins Production

from the isn’t-technology-supposed-to-get-cheaper? dept

I’ll admit it. I’ve never quite understood the rationale behind the $100 laptop (or OLPC or whatever it’s being called these days). Yes, it’s a noble goal to get technology into the hands of people around the world with the hope that they can do something productive with it — but a big top down attempt to build something without much actual user feedback seems destined to fail.

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

Techdirt: Price Of The $100 Laptop Going In The Wrong Direction

Many a time, lofty goals founder on the shoals of the real world. Okay, $100 became $188, but one wonders what exactly has happened to the dollar itself in the several years since this project was born.

We know what happened to the dollar: it has lost much ground vs. the rest of the world, thanks to our kill-taxes-but-spend-stupendously administration of George III. One might imagine that had the project been denominated in Euros that its final cost might well have stayed closer to its initial target. So that feels like petty and carping argument.

MUDGE is still prepared to give OLPC the benefit of the doubt — the lofty goals thing deserves at least that.

And as we’ve been suggesting in this space,

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 this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season is well upon us, why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1″ to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE