Orcmid's Lair status 


One Laptop Per Child: Labor Pains

see also:
One Laptop per Child: I'll Take Two, Orcmid's Live Hangout (weblog), 2007-11-12.
     CP4E: Novice Computer Programming and the OLPC XO, Professor von Clueless in the Blunder Dome (web log), 2007-11-16
     WHS Fascination and the Social Grid: Distributed Participation My Way?  Orcmid's Lair (weblog), 2007-11-12

I've been waiting for word on the shipping of One Laptop Per Child XO computers to the November donors.  I'm not in a big hurry for my personal two machines.  I know there's a November update to the software and I wouldn't mind waiting in order to receive an updated system.  At the same time, I'd like my hands on a system so I could see how difficult it is for an adult to use because of the form factor and keyboard size.  There are also projects I would like to promote.

As a developer, I am fascinated by the ways that the project is managed and that open-source contributors (and process transparency) are supported.  I have some vague ideas about using the machines in social-networking applications and certainly as much-needed readers for hands-on educational materials.

It wasn't until I saw a complaint on Sam Hiser's PlexNex blog that I realized there is more going on around the One Laptop Per Child Program.  After seeing other reports of the Wall Street Journal article on the topic, I checked it out.

As a booster of XOen and the OLPC, it is a little disheartening to see the kinds of difficulties that are being experienced in the effort to give birth to the computers, place them in the hands of students, and deal with the confusion created by alternative products promoted by commercial interests.  Along with this we find the difficulties of organization and support in the developing world and the neediness of non-profits and of the societies they want to serve.

I am reminded of Machievelli's warning from The Prince: "It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them."

What remains is to maintain steadfastness of purpose and persistence.

One Laptop Per Child: Give 1 Get 1I have no way to predict the future success and endurance of the OLPC program.  Personally, I have nothing to lose in supporting it.   I consider the time invested in exploring the machines and learning how they can be programmed and employed as social-network and learning appliances as effort well-spent.  As an adherent to interoperability principles, I can ensure that any software development work I invest is transportable to other platforms, especially those built with the open-source and/or free tools used for the XO. 

So I am resolved to wait patiently for my first machines.  I do think that the arrival of machines and the development of a community around their application and support will be an important step toward providing a grounded reality around the OLPC program.

What Others Are Saying

  • Steve Stecklow and James Bandler: A Little Laptop with Big Ambitions: How a Computer for the Poor Got Stomped by Tech Giants.  The Wall Street Journal Online, 2007-11-24.  This article lays out some of the difficulties in birthing the OLPC, including the defensive responses from some deep-pocketed sources and OLPC wannabees elsewhere.  Other articles seem to be reactions to this one.  Concerning G1G1, "Mr. Negroponte says there were about 45,000 two-laptop orders in the first nine days, with nearly half coming on the first day."  Discounting the pent-up initial demand and now the number of people waiting to see their first machines, it is not clear what the sustained rate will turn out to be.  Selling out the initial production of 300,000 machines sounds like a win to me.
  • Larry Dignan: OLPC: How Do We Gauge Success?  Will 490,000 Units Do?  Between the Lines (weblog), ZDNet.com, 2007-11-26.  I don't understand the mathematics in this article, which extrapolates based on a sustained average of $2 million in donations per day, extended to December 31, the new expiration of the original 14-day program.  The extension to 50 days of the first 9-day experience gets to 250,000 two-laptop orders if we don't discount by the first-day surge and know what the change in the order rate looks like since.  Of course, people putting together large group orders will make a tremendous impact.  There are other, off-setting variables in the holiday calendar that work against a sustained rate through to the end of December.
  • Christopher Dawson: OLPC on Sale through 31 December.  Education IT (web log), ZDNet.com, 2007-11-25.  Christopher has $2 million per day purchase 5000 machines, but it is actually 10,000 machines at $200 each, the price during the G1G1 program (you pay $499 for two machines).  He makes some good points about having the machines directly available in the US and Canada in a more direct way.  It would provide an important test for the ability of a community to support these systems, since there is none of the support that consumer products receive (and that is baked into the pricing).

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