Tag Archives | OLPC

$25 Computer Aims To Teach Computing

A British game developer has turned his efforts away from video games for a moment, and is focusing on bringing computer science education into schools. Frontier Developments founder David Braben has introduced the Raspberry Pi, a $25 Linux-based computer.

The computer is not much larger than a USB keychain dongle, and includes an HDMI port to connect a display, and a USB 2.0 port to connect peripherals. The device runs on Linux, thus keeping any software licensing costs low (if not non-existent).

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Sub $100 Tablet on Tap from OLPC by 2012

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) officials on Tuesday outlined an ambitious program to bring a tablet PC to market within two years at a price of less than $100. This would be combined with efforts to upgrade and bring down the cost of the current XO laptop which has become the effort’s signature product.

An upgrade to the current model is due at a $200 price point next month. This will be followed by a touchscreen version of the XO laptop in 2011 at a price point of around $150, and finally the tablet which would make its way to market the following year.The tablet would be made of flexible plastic and would be a drastic departure from the current design of the laptop, officials say.

OLPC has struggled recently as the company was forced to lay off 50 percent of its workforce earlier this year. This likely had a lot to do with the worsening economy, which hit the tech sector fairly hard. But the initiative is trudging on, determined to complete its mission of providing technology to children in the developing world. Admirable, but of course a bit costly.

I for one am super curious as to how these folks are going to pull this off. I know you can’t tell much from pictures, but that looks like an awfully advanced device. How are you going to be able to build something like that for $100? I understand that advancements in technology these days are moving faster and faster, but we don’t even have products like this available to the general public right now, much less underprivileged kids around the world.

Hopefully this isn’t going to end up as vaporware, but right now it sure looks like it.


OLPC Slashes Staff, Refocuses Mission

olpcJust weeks after administering its “Give One, Get One” holiday season drive, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation has cut its staff by 50 percent to downsize its operational costs. But the news is not entirely grim: OLPC has announced several new technology initiatives.

In a blog posting, founder Nicholas Negroponte explained that as a non profit, OLPC is bearing the brunt of the worldwide economic downturn. It has reduced its team down to 32 people, and the remaining personnel have reduced compensation. With luck the person that produced the foundation’s creepy John Lennon ad wasn’t spared the pink slip.

Negroponte reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to its mission of providing children in developing countries with laptops. To that end it will embark on several new technology initiatives. Those include:

1. Development of Generation 2.0 of the XO laptop
2. A no-cost connectivity program
3. A million digital books
4. Passing on the development of the Sugar Operating System to the community.
5. Creating a $0 laptop to be distributed in the least developed countries.

The foundation will also change its deployment strategy, targeting Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. Further, it is restructuring its Latin America operations into a separate support unit.

500,000 children have already received laptops, according to OLPC. Computer literacy plays a role in economic development, and the foundation’s work should continue. Let’s all hope it rides out the downturn.

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OLPC’s Creepy and Inappropriate John Lennon Ad

xolennon1The One Laptop Per Child Foundation has a new spokesman for its XO “$100 laptop.” He’s admired the world ’round, and isn’t someone you associate with product endorsements–in part because he’s been dead for close to three decades. He’s John Lennon, and he promotes the XO through a voice over done by a (not very impressive) impersonator and old footage synched with the new dialog through (not very impressive) digital trickery.

As everyone who’s writing about this is pointing out, deceased celebs (such as Fred Astaire) have been doing ads for a long time, and Apple’s “Think Different” campaign commandeered not only John Lennon’s image (along with Yoko Ono, who presumably granted permission) but that of the Mahatma himself. And there’s nothing sacrosanct about the Beatles in an age in which their music is featured in diaper ads.

But the Lennon-XO ad is unusual in putting words into the late endorser’s mouth–words that don’t make much sense, since “Lennon” seems to say that the purpose of his music was to give children access to “a universe of knowledge.” The obvious, crude fakery of the ad lends a cheesy air to the proceedings, too. The more you like John Lennon, the less you may like it.

Look, OLPC is an exceptionally noble nonprofit undertaking (I’ve paid for laptop donations in 2007 and 2008 and plan to do so again) and it’s entirely possible that Lennon would have been an enthusiastic supporter if he were still with us. If Yoko Ono thinks he’d have appeared in spots for it, I believe her. But that kind of doesn’t matter, since the ad that OLPC made is creepy, not inspiring. (One in which Ono said Lennon would have loved OLPC would have been entirely different. Geez, Ringo extolling the virtues of XO would be a vast improvement.)

The ad gives me the willies, so I would almost rather not embed on this site…but here you go:

And what the heck, let’s do a T-Poll on it:


OLPC’s Give One, Get One Deal: This Time For Sure!

g1g1The One Laptop Per Child Foundation–creator of the XO “$100 laptop” designed to help educate kids in developing nations–is back with its “Give One, Get One” for the second holiday season. In a nutshell, you make a $399 donation to the foundation. In return, one XO goes to a deserving child, and one comes to you. (In theory, you might give the one you get to a young person as well; I suspect that an awful lot of them are used by the big kids who forked over the $399, though.)

It’s a fabulous idea, and the best news about this year’s program is that Amazon.com is handling the fulfillment of the “Get One” laptops (at cost). Last year, the fulfillment firm chosen by OLPC proved incapable of getting laptops out to donors in an organized and timely fashion: When I made a donation I didn’t mind the fact that I had to wait for weeks after the estimated arrival date had come and gone so much as that the fulfillment house lost my mailing address. Repeatedly.

I always feel guilty even bringing all this up, since the “Give One” laptop is the one that really matters–if XO had told me that it simply didn’t have a laptop for me, period, I would have been okay with it. But if anyone knows how to ship out vast numbers of products reliably and promptly it’s Amazon, and it seems a safe bet that this year’s program will go infinitely smoother than last year’s bumpy start. In fact, Amazon says that they’ve got ’em in stock for immediate shipment–and when Amazon says that, I believe it.

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IFA: One Laptop, No Child

Unlike most tradeshows in the U.S.–which are open only to grown-ups who are involved in the trade in question–the IFA show in Berlin is open to the general public, and some attendees bring their offspring. In fact, there’s an area called the Kids’ Playground, which is basically a couple of rooms equipped with electronic toys and kid-oriented gadgets.

When some of us American journalists dropped by, we saw four kids deeply engaged in using Asus’s eee PCs–and ignoring a One Laptop Per Child XO laptop that was sitting off to one side. That may or may not be a commentary on the relative appeal of the two low-cost notebooks, but it makes for an interesting photo:

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