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MIT Unveils Prototype for $100 Linux Laptop 668

Posted by Zonk
from the somone-thought-of-the-children dept.
Examancer2 writes "MIT is showing off a prototype of a $100 laptop. It uses a 500MHz AMD processor, stores everything on flash memory, and runs Linux. The AC adapter acts as the carrying strap, and there is a hand crank so if you can't find a source of electricity you can charge it kinetically. The prototype laptop is also much more flexible and durable than your average notebook. In addition the unit has a screen that has a special daylight-friendly black & white mode that makes a great ebook." From the article: "Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed specifications for a $100 windup-powered laptop targeted at children in developing nations. Negroponte, who laid out his original proposal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, said MIT and his nonprofit group, called One Laptop Per Child, is in discussions with five countries--Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa--to distribute up to 15 million test systems to children." More coverage of this story available from ITWorld, InformationWeek, BBC, ZDNet, and the Associated Press.
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MIT Unveils Prototype for $100 Linux Laptop

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  • by nokilli (759129) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:10AM (#13675101)
    My first concern is that once given away, a very poor family might look towards selling the laptop on the black market for food, clothing, etc. How much expense would be added if biometrics were incorporated into the design so that once a laptop is "mated" to a child, only that child can operate it, thus rendering its worth on the black market so much less?

    So you end up manufacturing fewer laptops, but maybe that means more of them end up being used as intended?

    (and the hand crank is too cool to leave to the kiddies. I am forced to wonder whether so many of us would still be strangers to the ladies if required to produce our own power. Two hours coding, three hours debugging, and four hours pedaling the stationary bicycle that powers our boxes to allow for the coding and debugging would reduce global warming, save on healthcare costs AND yield superior breeding material, all at the same time!)
    --
    You didn't know. [tinyurl.com]
    • How much expense would be added if biometrics were incorporated into the design so that once a laptop is "mated" to a child, only that child can operate it, thus rendering its worth on the black market so much less?

      Sadly, almost certainly more than the cost of the laptop.

    • >a laptop is "mated" to a child

      Ever read Snow Crash?

      >selling the laptop on the black market for food,

      Though I do suspect that if you need food that badly, then hanging onto a laptop in the face of starvation isn't the best demonstration of priority management.

      (And now for something completely different...)

      >...wonder whether so many of us would still be strangers to the ladies

      Slashdotters may be strangers to the ladies, but the ladies are stranger!

      • by nokilli (759129) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:27AM (#13675258)
        Though I do suspect that if you need food that badly, then hanging onto a laptop in the face of starvation isn't the best demonstration of priority management.

        I guess it's a question of whether they would really starve, or whether the sale simply achieves convenience for the parents at the expense of a brighter future for the kid.

        Moreover, my compassion for my fellow human beings extends across all dimensions, not just space. Carving out a chance for a really poor kid to grow up to become successful could mean feeding so many more people for that $100 twenty years from now than feeding a single family today.

        We can't just be feeding people so they go on to reproduce and we end up with more hungry people. At some point you have to look at how to break the cycle.
        • Starve (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mark_MF-WN (678030) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:47AM (#13675426)
          I somehow doubt that nations with serious starvation problems will be giving out many of these laptops -- especially to people who are starving. Programs like this are more oriented towards areas where food is already being taken care of (like China), but the local government wants to accomplish more than simply keeping people alive. Your point is well made, but there's probably no actual conflict here between food and technology.
    • by Luke Psywalker (869266) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:18AM (#13675151)
      Extremely cool, but is it really wise to encourage young people to hand crank their lap-top.
    • One of the articles I read said that Negroponte wanted a design that was so distinctive it would be easily recognized and that it would be a stigma to carry one if you weren't a teacher or a student...like "filching a mail truch or taking something from a church."
      • One of the articles I read said that Negroponte wanted a design that was so distinctive it would be easily recognized and that it would be a stigma to carry one if you weren't a teacher or a student...like "filching a mail truch or taking something from a church."

        Many years ago, recognizing that many white collar workers brought lunches from home but would not bear face the stigma of carrying a blue-collar lunchbox, a company introduced an "executive lunchbox", which did not look like the pro

      • it would be a stigma to carry one if you weren't a teacher or a student
        ...but it will no longer be a stigma to say that you were 'cranking it' while surfing the net.
    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:21AM (#13675186) Journal
      My first concern is that once given away, a very poor family might look towards selling the laptop on the black market for food, clothing, etc. How much expense would be added if biometrics were incorporated into the design so that once a laptop is "mated" to a child, only that child can operate it, thus rendering its worth on the black market so much less?

      If a family is so poor that they can't even afford food or clothing, shouldn't we be spending money to provide them with this, rather than spending money on biometrics to prevent them from acquiring these basic needs?

      If everyone sells off these laptops in order to buy food, the conclusion to draw is that they need food more than they need laptops.

      As for the hand crank, I wouldn't mind on of those for my phone...
      • by killtherat (177924) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:22AM (#13675734)
        If a family is so poor that they can't even afford food or clothing, shouldn't we be spending money to provide them with this, rather than spending money on biometrics to prevent them from acquiring these basic needs?

        There are different levels of poverty. At the very lowest levels there are the people that can't even get food. Obviously this type of program isn't targeted for them, that what UN food aid, and unicef are for.
        But if you go to some '2nd world' countries (Brazil comes to mind), it's very common to see TV antennas sticking out of wood shacks. At this level people have enough money to survive, but not move themselves up in society. So if you are born poor, you stay poor. And you end up with a country with no middle class, and 95% of the country being owned by 5% of the population.
        A low cost way to access the internet would do wonders for educating the populace. This could be a real catalyst for social change in those sorts of countries.
    • by ThosLives (686517) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:23AM (#13675205) Journal
      Why not figure out how to make $100 water purifiers or A/C units that run of wind or solar? Or things that help make land arable?

      The reason that "disadvantaged children" are "disadvantaged" is not because they don't have computers, but because it's hard to get food, hard to get clean water (for drinking and for cleaning - a huge factor for being healthy is hygeine), and hard to be protected from the environment.

      Computers are great, but they aren't very useful for growing food or anything. You need different technologies for that, and different skill sets that aren't "intellectual".

      Until I see how something like this can actually reduce the cost of living for these folks, I don't see that it's worth putting my support behind. I'm also not sure it's the best use of resources to help educational efforts either, but that's about the only area in which I'm not quite sure of the cost/benefit analysis. After all, the costly part of textbooks and the like isn't the printing, but paying for the content, so unless there are lots of "free" e-textbooks out there, this won't save much in that front. There's also the hidden aspect of supporting technology out there.

      • Then get off your ass and work on it. Don't criticize someone for doing their part to help disadvantaged countries if you aren't doing yours.
        • by figa (25712) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @10:52AM (#13676705) Journal

          I'm doing my part, so I think I've earned the right to spout. I donate more than a couple craptops worth of cash to Heifer [heifer.org] each year. I like Heifer's approach, which emphasizes agricultural sustainability.

          I'm not the only one that thinks laptops are a poor way to address poverty. In 2000, Bill Gates put a damper on the Digital Divide conference in Seattle with a similar message. [wired.com] When, as the article states, 80% of the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day, desiging them a $100 laptop is frivolous. If someone gave me a laptop worth three months of my salary, I'd put it on eBay in an instant and buy something I really needed.

          Look at it this way. With $20, you could give a family a flock of chicks that could lay hundreds of eggs a year, providing them with additional protein and a source of trade income. For another $30, you can get two packs of Micropur tablets, which will treat 30 liters of water each. The tablets last for 3 years, so they can be saved for when it isn't possible to boil water. Another $30 could go to seed, rice, or lentils to give the family a little reserve. Then, spend the final $20 on whatever texts the kids need for their elementary school. $100 goes a lot farther when you're not spending it on computers.

          The technological community has come up with much more creative ways to address poverty. I liked the clay pot refridgeration system for storing food that was mentioned on /. a while back. I read in Spectrum about a guy wiring villages in South America with solar-powered LED lighting so families wouldn't have to use kerosene lamps. The lamps are dangerous, the fuel is expensive, and the smoke causes searious health problems. I'd like to see more attention given to people with geniunely helpful ideas and less to Negroponte's schemes.

          • by Da_Biz (267075)
            ...but I'm a little concerned about their rankings in CharityNavigator:

            http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/sear ch.summary/orgid/9654.htm [charitynavigator.org]

            I'm especially concerned about the fact that their CEO is making about 6% of the organization's total income.

            I don't doubt the possibility that they are doing something very different or revolutionary (which I could see as justification), but honestly, why the high program expenses to teach sustainable, low-input farming? I'm a big fan of this method, but it app
      • to go online and find plans to make water purifiers http://www.makezine.com/02/makeshift/ [makezine.com] and solar ice makers http://www.thesustainablevillage.com/servlet/displ ay/microenterprise/display/14 [thesustain...illage.com]. Also, they can use wikipedia to gain extra education over what they currently have, and howstuffworks to gain basic mechanical knowledge. They will have the knowledge resources to overcome their(sic?) situation.
        • You have hit my point here - having plans to build these isn't worth anything if you don't have the physical resources to build them (I don't know about you, but it's hard to find usable steel lying around, and the tools to use any scrap that might be around effectively). Generally you can't get physical resources to build these things if you don't have either other resources to trade for them or the ability to provide some service for which people are willing to trade the resources. Generally the really po
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:35AM (#13675340) Homepage Journal
        Well yes if they are starving and do not need clean water then they should get that first. However there is a large amount of poor people that do have food, water, and cloths but no real chance to get out of poverty.
        Frankly a cheap, rugged, Linux notebook is something I would love to have for myself. Add a USB port so I can install wifi or Ethernet and I would pay $200 for it today. It could be the ideal kitchen computer.
        You comment on computers are great for many things but not for growing food or anything. Well it is true that you can not plow a field with one you can.
        1. Learn about new ways to plant and compost.
        2. Get weather reports.
        3. Get commodity prices.
        Once someone has enough food the next step is to get enough money so that you can have health care, cloths, books, and maybe send some of your children to get more than a basic education. Computers can help make the jump from alive but poor to having a future.
        • 1. Learn about new ways to plant and compost. 2. Get weather reports. 3. Get commodity prices.

          All three functions can be performed much better with cheaper, established technology.

          1. and 2. are most easily achieved by radio. Transistor radios are almost laughably cheap now, and it is possible to get shortwave sets to broadcast to very remote areas. Radio has two additional benefits: localization is very easy (simply ensure that the person speaking into the microphone speaks the language you want) an

      • Link to article [fao.org] on how broadcasting grain prices helps standardize the market and prevent the small-time farmer from getting screwed.

        Thats a direct example of not just technology, but technologically aided flow of information directly "empowers" (read: gives them more money) a person.

        Who knows how laptops could be used!
      • by 10Ghz (453478) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:57AM (#13675525)
        The reason that "disadvantaged children" are "disadvantaged" is not because they don't have computers, but because it's hard to get food, hard to get clean water (for drinking and for cleaning - a huge factor for being healthy is hygeine), and hard to be protected from the environment.


        I call bullshit. Take Finland for example (the place where I happen to live in). the climate is not exactly the nicest in the world. Without adequate protection, the environment will kill you pretty quickly (you would survive in the summer, but in winter....). Yet we were able to build a prosperous and wealthy nation. What exactly is preventing the people in Africa (for example) of doing the same? Climate is harsh in both places (our climate is cold, theirs is hot). Yes, it's hard to get food in Africa, but Finland isn't really the breadbasket of the world either. Africa DOES have humungous amount of natural resources, something Finland lacks.

        I seriously see nothing that prevents Africa and other poor places from improving their situation. Well, constant civil-wars, corrupt leaders and the like withstanding. But those are IMO their problem, and not ours.
        • Oh, you horrible, horrible person. Speaking the truth like that will destroy the whole "donate to the hungry tearful children and save the world" enterprise.
        • Without adequate protection, the environment will kill you pretty quickly (you would survive in the summer, but in winter....). Yet we were able to build a prosperous and wealthy nation.

          Because the Soviets let you. If they had decided to invade you and take over your country for good (instead of just annexing a big chunk of it), you might be in the same state as Belarus or Moldova by now.

          Well, constant civil-wars, corrupt leaders and the like withstanding. But those are IMO their problem, and not ours.

          It wi
      • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:07AM (#13675608) Journal
        Why not figure out how to make $100 water purifiers or A/C units that run of wind or solar? Or things that help make land arable?

        Has it occurred to you that a significant amount of the third world has clean water and doesn't need A/C units?!

        Not everyone who is poor lives like a child off a Sally Struthers commericial.

        It's funny that the suggesting cheap educational computers be scrapped for A/C Units was modded insightful. Remarkable!

        I grew up in a "third world" country very close to the equator. Even the very poor in the country had clean drinking water by way of public "water stands" and had shoes by way of very cheap mass produced shoes from China. Very, very few people gave a damn about A/C. We've lived in this climate for thousands of years, people simply build houses and dress to suit the climate.

      • Why not figure out how to make $100 water purifiers

        Dude, are you sure you know what a "water purifier" is? If you can buy one for $20 [submarino.com.br] why would someone figure out how to make one for $100?

        Computers are great, but they aren't very useful for growing food or anything. You need different technologies for that, and different skill sets that aren't "intellectual".

        Perhaps you should try someday to actually travel to a poor country and watch for yourself how those people live. I know before I was born in Brazil

      • I'm a reporter on a Third World country, so I've actually seen a lot of poor people first hand. And I think this is a great idea, because what they lack the most is education.

        Mind you, I'm not talking about Math or History. I'm talking about the kind of education that drives you to improve your life. Many, many poor people are trapped in a sick paradigm --work a crappy, crappy job, get enough money for basic food and alcohol, repeat as needed. By showing the children that there is more to life, and giving t
    • My first concern is that once given away, a very poor family might look towards selling the laptop on the black market for food, clothing, etc. How much expense would be added if biometrics were incorporated into the design so that once a laptop is "mated" to a child, only that child can operate it, thus rendering its worth on the black market so much less?
      I say, if they need food that bad, let them sell it. I don't know why you would want to deprive them of that.
    • a very poor family might look towards selling the laptop on the black market for food, clothing, etc.

      How dare they!? Damn poor people...practicing their right of first sale...

      Seriously, just because they're not well off doesn't mean you need to treat them like they're children.
    • Human labor producing the power to run computers instead of fossil fuel? That has been suggestd before. Read More. [uncoveror.com]
    • While a situation like that may no benefit the particular child, it will benefit the entire economy/society by flooding the nation or region with cheap laptops.

      Eventually they would become cheap commodities, like cheap shoes or some other common item. Then more people would have access to them and help 'bootstrap' the techology of the region.

      My main issue is what to do with the broken ones. THe 3rd world already has too many gabage disposal problems as it is.
    • The question is, if you give them a laptop, and they trade it for food, maybe you should have just given them food in the first place. There's a lot of people trying to deliver computers to the third world. While I understand their good intentions, I think they are going about it all wrong. Give people the schooling and food they need, and jobs to work at, and they will be much better off. in 1975, nobody had a computer at home, and yet, we all did fairly well, in developed nations. What makes these peo
  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:11AM (#13675107)
    Well, by "they" I mean our presidential candidate... wait, I mean governor... aparently wants to buy them for all the students in MA schools.

    Of course, he's really just campaigning right now, not really trying to do anything in MA so it'll never happen, but they did mention it on the news this morning.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:12AM (#13675112)

    More information on the $100 laptop can be found here [mit.edu].

    A bit of bad news from this page:
    Please note: these laptops are not in production. They are not--and will not--be available for purchase by individuals.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Oh but they will be, for everything short of nucular weapons can be bought on Ebay. It's not like people aren't going to try and resell these things when the demand is there.
    • Although I can understand them not wanting to market this to average consumers, why not offer it to geeks for a higher price ?
      I for one would happily pay more than $100 for a $100 laptop just for the geek factor.
      Not to mention the free qa service they would get !?
    • They are not--and will not--be available for purchase by individuals.

      Page is /.ed for me. Does it say *why* that the case?
    • The linked article also states:

      While the initial goal of the project is to work with governments, Negroponte said MIT is considering licensing the design or giving it to a third-party company to build commercial versions of the PC. "Those might be available for $200, and $20 or $30 will come back to us to make the kids' laptops. We're still working on that," he said.

      So a little optimism isn't entirely unjustified :-)

    • by btarval (874919) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:47AM (#13675983)
      While it would be nice if it were available for general purchase, that's a bit irrelevant. This could FINALLY serve as a reference design for an Open Source laptop. MIT simply needs to make the schematics available, preferrably under the GPL, so that anyone can ship the design to an online shop and have it built.

      Granted, you couldn't do that for $100 - not at first. But what would happen is that businesses would sprout up selling this in volume. Which would bring down the cost for the average geek, as well as MIT. The spinoffs from this would mean that we could FINALLY get commodity parts for a laptop.

      Or, in short, MIT has the opportunity to do to the laptop what IBM did to the PC.

      I, for one, would be willing to help with whatever work is involved, if they GPL the schematics. I am sick and tired of dealing with the rediculous prices for proprietary laptops.

      Where do I sign up?
  • Features! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GenKreton (884088) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:12AM (#13675115) Journal
    They are really pursuing a great cause but I would like to see some of these features, like the hand crank and black and white screen mode, in other laptops as well. Not paying out of your ass for higher levels of durability would be cool too...
  • Not for sale here (Score:4, Informative)

    by XoXus (12014) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:12AM (#13675117)
    Of course, as other articles in different papers have said, you won't be able to walk down to your local computer chain and buy one of these. They're strictly for developing countries.
  • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:14AM (#13675129) Homepage
    ...in contrast to many others.

    I wonder what exactly are the processors inside...the big question is whether those are Geode (x86) or Alchemy...I wonder if choosing NON-x86 architecture would be a good way to prevent gray-market a bit and convincing parts manufacturers to supply them considerably cheaper (since the laptops wouldn't be a competition for their primary wintel market). And since it's Linux it's not a big deal when it comes to architecture...

    128MB of RAM? probably similarly low...HOVEWER there's one very important difference to our typical laptops/desktops - swap is to be avoided at all costs (flash based - limited number of read/writes and...slow). Personally, I would modify the kernel/desktop enviroment (or something) that it will not allow launching of new apps when physical memory limit is closing in (eventually - allow, but display something like "to assure longevity of your laptop, please close applications you're not using)

    Also, worth noting IMHO will be software choice once it's announced - simply because those software titles will become one of most widely used IN THE WORLD, no only when cosidering Linux desktop.
    What are your guesses? ;)
    Since I think this laptop will be a bit RAM limited, I think they'll choose something light as possible, but easy to use also...XFce perhaps? Epiphany/Kazehakase? Opera? (I wouldn't be surprised if Opera agreed to port their browser...it's free anyway, and they would get HUGE usage boost; of course there's the question what licensing principles this project has...)? Abiword? (KOffice would be nice also...but KDE wouldn't :/ )

    BTW...too bad probably it won't be available for me probably :/ I'm too rich apparently :|

  • I'd buy it just because of the hand-crank :-)

    Seriously, I run Ubuntu on a thinkpad A22m (550Mhz), and the only thing is that X11+[Gnome|KDE] isn't very snappy (isn't X11 due for some kind of ground-up rework, or just a better replacement), and actually getting to the desktop interface takes longer than it does in windows. But, its as reliable as as usable as one could want.
    I sat my roomie down in from of it (she's garden-variaty end user - "what's an operating system?"), and she had no problem going t
  • I don't know a lot about electrical stuff, but wouldn't it take a real long time to get a decent charge out of a hand crank?
    • not really. I ran my zaurus 5500 from a motorola freeplay cellphone hand crank recharger for a week 2 years ago when I wa in the mountians.

      you would be suprised how fast you can charge something that way. 1 hour of cranking and i had a full charge as well as 4 nimh 2500mah AA batteries charged. and yes your arm does get tired for a solid hour of cranking if you are not used to it. After the week I was not noticing it as much.
    • Not necceserilly. You can hand over this task to some kind of spring, which also one HUGE cost benefit that you practically don't need batteries then - energy is accumulated in the spring and converted to electricy all the time.
  • It strikes me funny that someone somewhere will pay $50 per month to online with a $100 device. This person obviously isn't in the initial target audience.

  • ...but I tend to ignore anything that sums up as an announcement. Which is all this really is, or worse, because they mention they will not be available. Ever.

    But wait! I am formally announcing a $100 laptop, right here on slashdot! It'll have a 3gb 64bit processor! 1gb of ram! 100gig flashbased storage! Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g all built in! It'll even come with a special edition copy of World of Warcraft!

    See how easy that is? I just announced something. I have no intention on carrying through with
    • Not be available to individuals. This is a response to a request for a computer for third world countries and will likely be heavily subsidized and bought in large quantities by government/quasi-government (i.e., UN) contract.

      This "won't be available" in the same way that a new air to air missile or MASH portable surgery unit won't be available -- you have to be the right type of group and lay out a good chunk of change to buy many of them at once. "Won't be available" does not, in this case, mean "won't

  • A simple lightbulb on a retractable shaft would likely solve a lot of issues with this. In places with undependable power like Iraq and as we've seen in New Orleans having a light source is important. Mounted on a swivel as a flashlight or room light. Durable like an LCD.

    Remember that their needs are not our needs. I remember one boondoogle from the early '60s (I think) were they shipped are great expense fresh milk in a jet to starving people who promply dumped the milk and used the containers for water. I
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:23AM (#13675213) Homepage
    The problem is that you can not use the latest/greatest software on it. I have deployed several toshiba P-II 350 laptops with only 64 meg of ram and the hard drive replaced with a CF card in a drive adapter. linux with xfce and smaller tightly written apps on it work absolutely great. I built several of these over a year ago for poor kids with fatal diseases. put a few games on there, a nice wordprocessor (ABIword kicks everything butt) web browser,gaim and a nice small email client. it all fit on a 512 meg CF card very easily. the company gave away dial up accounts (preconfigured for the kids) at a local ISP for them so they could get online in a manner. they work great and fast.

    this is not hard to do, the hard part is manufacturing sometihng new to meet this price mark. and I would love to get my hands on a couple for evaluation.
  • by insignificant1 (872511) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:25AM (#13675230)
    "The following year, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney plans to start buying them for all 500,000 middle and high school pupils in the state."

    Can someone please tell these people that computers are, barring a massive paradigm shift in how they are used for education, merely 90% distraction from the real learning that must go on in schools at these ages? (That is, unless you want to make a society of mindless forum posters.)

  • in all seriousness...

    Where can I get one? For $100 in total, hell...I'd pay almost that much for the crank. Maybe. Something about a generator/battery combo with a 110v outlet...that's just sexy. Are they more readily available than I think? (damn format changes...)
  • Fully Featured (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:25AM (#13675232)
    All of those configuration modes are really neat. If it was both light enough and powerful enough, it would make an interesting competitor to the OQO. Another interesting possibility is if they GPL their source code, the community is going to get source for an e-reader and a tablet.
  • by elgee (308600) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:25AM (#13675237)
    At $200-$300 or maybe more. If they only cost about $100, the $200 fee would help to subsidize giving them away to the poor.
  • by lovebyte (81275) * <lovebyte2000NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:29AM (#13675283) Homepage
    Now let's wait for the Gates foundation to buy these linux laptops for 3rd world kids.
  • This'd be a rocking machine, more than enough for my day to day usage, where do we get them?

     
  • Cool concept (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacGod (320762) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @08:49AM (#13675444)
    Very cool concept. I'd love to see some of this technology trickle down to the consumer level (hand crank, cheap ruggedized case etc). In fact, I'd love to see these available to the consumer at $200. For every unit you buy at $200, you are buying one for a developing country. It'd be like buying a cheap laptop and donating to charity all at once.

    My biggest concern with this, and all other laptops-for-schoolkids programs is that they actually do proper class programming with them (programming as in lecture design etc, not Objective-C/Java/etc). It's not simply enough to hand kids a laptopo and expect them to suddenly learn more. You have to shape the classes and the materials in such a way as to be well-suited to a classroom full on network-connected, laptop-toting schoolkids. This can be done, but it does take thought; hopefully the school boards engaging in such programs have done this planning.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:06AM (#13675602)
    Freeplay [freeplayenergy.com], an innovative start-up piloted by a couple of hippies with a dream, decided that third world citizens ought to have access to radio communications technology. The idea was to create a wind-up radio for lands where battery and wall power were not feasible.

    The finished product rocked. I lived with a room mate who owned a couple of them, and they worked wonderfully. The weird thing, though, was the price-tag.

    In the third world, a wind-up radio cost about ten bucks. But here in the West, where money grows on trees and the streets are paved with gold, the average Yuppie had to shell out up to $200 for the gizmo.

    I don't know if I agree or disagree with this kind of marketing, but it'd be interesting to see how the story goes with MIT's do-hicky. Not that it'll probably make much difference; from their web-site; "these laptops are not in production. They are not--and will not--be available for purchase by individuals."

    For my part, I am partial to the HP Jornada 820 [hp.com] when it comes to small and ultra-portable computers. Word-processing with no moving parts other than the flip-screen and lap-top keyboard means an 8 hour battery life. --It runs on flash cards, and so long as all you want to do is write and store data, you can't do much better. (Forget gaming, though, but I couldn't care less about that.)

    I think there should be more devices like this generally available; they're just so useful. Dedicated word-processors with good key-boards and screens are hard to come by and too damned expensive for what you get generally. The Jornada is the exception, which is probably why the plug got pulled on it. --HP stopped making the Jornada 820 back in the late nineties; I got mine off Ebay for about $250, and I use it all the time. I wish it could run on wind-up power. I wonder if there's a charger out there which has a hand-crank. . .

    I think there's a subconscious conspiracy to make sure people don't have access to useful tools for writing and creating which don't come armed with severe operating limitations, (the standard lap-top with lame battery life), and a million and one mind-numbing distractions, (DVD players and game and music options. Bah. Writers write, they don't waste time messing around with toys.)


    -FL

  • by AvitarX (172628) <me.brandywinehundred@org> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:20AM (#13675720) Journal
    Why can't I buy one?

    I would pay plenty for a rugged Linux laptop with 500 MHz AMD in it. I say I cannot buy one because in an article I read they said it should be a stigma to use it as an adult. The Simputer people were the same way (I twice contacted their sales asking for info, it said on the sight it was as good for people in NY as India, no response). If these companies are making products that are a good value, but still prophitable lets defray the cost some. If it is truly durable I would pay $500 for it over a low end Dell/Gateway. Then they can donate 4 to a school and everyone wins (I would be far more likly to buy one sub $250 though).
  • Snake oil... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alomex (148003) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:26AM (#13675772) Homepage

    For a moment I thought "oh my god, the MIT Media lab for once actually did something useful", but then I read the article and realized that the computer exists only on paper. The article is just press-seeking vaporware release, all hype and little substance in true Media Lab style.

    MIT Media Lab motto: purveyors of snake oil since 1985.

  • by CodeHog (666724) <joe DOT slacker AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:30AM (#13675797) Homepage
    It's a cool computer and great idea to supply the developing countries children with them.
    That aside, as earlier posters noted why not just help feed them? The current food supplies are enough to feed the entire world and people are still starving (food supplies are increasingly becoming a problem though). So how will making these low-cost computers available to developing countries be any easier than making food available? How will they "fix" the supply chain problem?
    Also, did they take in to account the cost to assemble these things? Is it 100$ for parts or parts and labor? If it's made in a developed nation the cost will probably double. Why don't they have them assembled in the developing nations? That way they can provide jobs and computers to families.
    Again, great idea, but I'm suspicious of the reality to delivery upon this idea.
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @09:51AM (#13676029)
    I don't think just giving away laptops will teach people to use computers. I mean, the software you're talking about them using is fairly sophisticated, and not always intuitively designed. It's silly to give away computers and then expect people to learn to use them through osmosis. A lot of people they're talking about simply do not have the time or the inclination to learn to use software when they should be out figuring out how to feed themselves.

    Foreign aid to developing countries is completely upside-down. We think that we can give them education and political stability, in the mean time providing direct aid and the resources for prosperity will naturally develop. It doesn't work this way, education is a luxury that only wealthy people can afford. If we really want to help these countries, we need to eliminate trade barriers and allow them to sell us low-cost goods. This will allow them to develop infrastructure, resources, and as a result political stability. Then they will have the ability to educate their population and develop into prosperous nations. Just giving people laptops is meaningless, wasteful, and stupid.
    • Many ad-hoc studies have shown that people, especially inquisitive kids, are quite adept at figuring out how computers work. And I'm talking about kids who have 0 experience with computers. They figure out that the icons launch applications, etc etc. It's really quite amazing and if you're interested I'm sure it'll be easy for you to search on it rather than making a blanket statement based simply on your opinion and anecdotal experiences.

      Secondly, we already have organizations like the World Bank and ot
  • by ramblin billy (856838) <defaultaddy@yahoo.com> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @10:47AM (#13676648)

    I'm a little surprised at the lack of imagination I'm seeing in this article's comments. Imagination is not something usually lacking at /. In reality I suggest that no one here, or anywhere else, can possibly anticipate the uses that children will find for these machines. Remember, Negroponte is not talking about a million laptops spread out across the world. He intends to produce 200 MILLION laptops - "One Laptop per Child." These will be capable of p2p mesh networks over wifi and internet connection sharing. They will be Open Source. EVERY kid will have one. The shit those kids are gonna do with these machines is going to change the nature of the world. Just a few thoughts...

    Personal interactions will flourish. Imagine that each person has a personal presence on the net in the form of a journal, blog, etc. Innermost thoughts, musings, ideas would be posted. Access may be restricted to groups of friends, open to all, available only in a reciprocal trade - who knows? Social interactions may form that are based on more formal public personae while the unspoken web content acts as an underlying frame. Like minds will find each other. Ideas will feed on ideas. It will be an exponential extension of today's net.

    Specialties would develop. Mod kits would certainly turn up. This kid might make movies, or songs, or create one page descriptive biographies of everyone he meets. That kid might develop applications, this one tweaks assembler, another is a com whiz, and that one over there...she's special, she can go ANYWHERE in cyberspace, and if it's on the net, she can find it. She's the one they ask when they REALLY need to know the truth. It could be that some strange stuff starts to happen. Stuff about how the world is perceived and how humans relate to it and each other. Stuff we can't imagine or maybe even understand. Really, really cool Stuff.

    We old folks can participate. Everyone seems to crave one of these laptops. What if they didn't sell even one outside their programs? What if to get one of these babies you had to earn it? You could help develop software. Write apps, ports, translate, tutor, teach, write textbooks, moderate groups, protect the children and their net. You could EARN the laptop. How cool would that be?

    Who will pay? There will be new markets, development deals, service contracts, infrastructure to build. The companies that want to play will be the ones who pay. Governments could link contracts with obligations. You want to build out our backbone? It must include wifi for the kidtops at your expense. You want to build some buildings? We need housing for a server farm here and some schools here, here, and here. You want the support contract for the government IT infrastructure. You also must support Kidnet. At least till the kids take over,which won't be long. Access? Well how much is access to a 10 million node kidtop beowolf cluster worth? Wanna trade?

    C'mon guys! This is the fucking DREAM! No more secrets. No more lies. No more disinformation and manipulation from 'those who would be kings'. Maybe even 200 million proud parents of the Earth's first planetary consciousness. Hey, who knows? Not us. We can't even BEGIN to imagine.

    billy - I for one will sit back and watch 'em go
  • by FrankDrebin (238464) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:25AM (#13677035) Homepage

    One Laptop Per Child, is in discussions with ... China

    Sounds like a platform for A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer [wikipedia.org].

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