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Power Scheme for OLPC Project Falling Into Place 126

Posted by timothy
from the pulling-for-pleasure-says-george-carlin dept.
robotrachel writes "According to Technology Review, the $100 laptop intended for children in the developing world will be powered in much the same way that you might start an outboard motor on a boat. The new power system will 'make the laptop much easier to power than it would be with a hand crank, in part, because the users will be able to operate the generator in a variety of ways, including holding the device (the size of two hockey pucks) in one hand and pulling the string with the other, or clamping the generator to a desk, attaching the string to one foot, and using leg power.'" There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.
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Power Scheme for OLPC Project Falling Into Place

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  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by tweek (18111) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:23PM (#15770820) Homepage Journal

    There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.


    The next generation of geek will have massive calfs and thighs instead of a single massive forearm ;)
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by tktk (540564) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:25PM (#15770840)
      You underestimate the power of porn.

      Geeks will always have one massive forearm.

    • I'm pretty sure that they'll still jerk off as their main source of sexual interaction. - Make that huge calfs, thighs AND a single massive forearm.
      • > I'm pretty sure that they'll still jerk off as their main source of sexual interaction. - Make that huge calfs, thighs AND a single massive forearm.

        Huge calfs? Explains a lot about my cow-orkers.

        Meanwhile, this Homsy guy sounds like a real perv. From TFA:

        With a hand-crank system, if you're gung-ho about it, you can get about five watts out of it. But you get tired after about a minute or so," says Geo Homsy, a partner and designer at Squid Labs. With the new system, generating 20 watts is comf

    • Now just imagine a beowulf cluster of porn addicts powering everyone else's laptops!
    • Re:Great (Score:2, Funny)

      by rHBa (976986)
      RSI 2.0 for the WEB 2.0
    • Plus, a massive PR boon to the US offshore garment industry.

      "Oh, those -- those aren't sewing machines; they're OLPC trainers."
    • ... for any computer, laptop, desktop, whatever,... is a hand-crank not to generate power but to marginally increase the voltage given to the CPU (or whatever exact component) to give the same effect as overclocking it. This would be SO satisfying (at those times I'm waiting and waiting and wishing LotusNotes would Hurry. The. F*ck. Up. and Launch! Awready!) to be able to put some muscle into a crank and actually make the machine run faster.
  • I want one! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin.wick@gmai l . com> on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:26PM (#15770843)
    These machines are actually starting to sound like something some people in the US might even like. I can imagine sitting outside in some remote area, working as much as I like without even worrying about running out of batteries (and getting exercise at the same time).

    What'd I'd really like to see is an inexpensive laptop which has a screen that's highly visible, even outdoors. I could get a lot of work done that way, and work on my tan at the same time. Does anyone know of any? I'd assume it'd work best with grayscale.
    • Re:I want one! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Fusione (980444) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:33PM (#15770903)
      What you're asking about is transflective lcd displays. Basically, a semi transparent mirror is placed right behind the lcd panel, with the backlight and backlight substrate behind it. So the traditional ccfl backlight shines through (at reduced efficiency) AND ambient light is reflected back out through the screen by the mirror. Look at any decent pocket pc, and you'll see this technology at work. So screens that can be read without any backlight do exist, and there are some notebooks that incorperate the tech.. but you won't find them at the local electronics depot. I haven't looked into them in a long while, but check out the panasonic toughbooks. I remember they used to have transflective options for this series of notebooks!
      • Transflective displays suck. Dell puts them in the Axims, and I can tell you they don't work. The OLPC uses a dual-mode display that shows up as a greyscale LCD in the sunlight -- like a wristwatch, or an older cellphone.
        • I have a non transflective display in my carputer, and a transflective display in both my ipod and Axim x30, the car tft is not usable at all in daylight while both the axim and ipod are perfectly usable. Yes, the colors are not 100% accurate to backlit colors.. but the screen is perfectly readable and useable. The only way to get a display that is true to original colors to work outside is to pump 1200+ nits through the screen, and have an exceptional ARAG coating such as the 3m vikuiti coatings. having a
    • Re:I want one! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Duwke (586308)
      I've seen the "view-anywhere" screens on the motion computing tablets, and it's quite impressive. If you ever have a chance to play with one, definitely check it out. http://www.motioncomputing.com/products/promotions _view_anywhere.asp#vad [motioncomputing.com]
    • The OLPC laptops have exactly that kind of screen.
    • Re:I want one! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)
      Well, I'm not sure if it's been dropped from the OLPC at this point, but early prototypes were supposed to have a screen that either worked in color (with a backlight, I think) in dim/indoor light, or as passive high-contrast monochrome displays (with higher resolution and longer battery life) when in direct/bright light. I'm not sure where I read this; I think it was in a Wired Magazine article.

      Sounded pretty neat to me. Until a while back, I had a monochrome-display Apple laptop that I still used for basi
  • Solar Cells? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:28PM (#15770856)
    I am not sure if something like this [21st-century-goods.com] is powerful enough or even cost-effective, but what about solar cell technology to power these laptops?
    Was this even considered?
    • Does a great lot of good indoors or on a rainy day.

      -:sigma.SB

    • I'm going to guess that it was considered, but since you are looking at 1/4 of the total laptop cost for a power source that is unusable after dark, it simply isn't in line with what they are trying to accomplish here.
    • Re:Solar Cells? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)
      Ok, $30 for something that can temporely power a cell phone. Assume 4X for the power requirements of the $100PC, giving a $120 to power the PC.

      Ok, after spening $120 for the solar cells, how much is left over for the $100 PC?

      Or, if you decide to only use 3 of these cells (for $90), you have $10 for the rest of the PC. I'm sure that can make a useful PC for less than the cost of a cheap calculator.

      Heck, 1 of these is almost 1/3 the price of the entire $100 PC. And then it will only work during clear daylight
    • Re:Solar Cells? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Surt (22457) on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:09PM (#15771158) Homepage Journal
      Probably not ...

      1) Doesn't work in the dark.
      2) Expensive (that little one, only powerful enough to charge a cell phone battery, $30 ... this is the $100 laptop).

    • but what about solar cell technology to power these laptops?

      Aside from the reality that have of the time is night, enough solar cells to power this properly might well remove the concept of rugged, portable, laptop from the existing idea.

    • Was this even considered?

      I'm sure it was. But tacking on another $30 to a project with a $100 limit starts limiting your options, whereas a $5 generator has far less impact. And the generator will probably last longer.
    • what about solar cell technology to power these laptops? Was this even considered?


      Doubtful. Solar is not cheap. Last I recall PV is still around 3.5-4 USD per watt. At a 20 watt target that'd cost you about 70-80 bucks. Not a good cost for a 100 USD laptop. This device is supposed to cost ~10 USD. From solar you'd only be getting 2-3 watts or so for that price.
  • That sounds awesome. Literally, since they say it's much quieter than your usual hand-cranked generators. And 'generating 20 watts is comfortable, and it's possible to generate 10 watts for "as long as you want," the developers say."

    Free energy and a little exercise in the process. I like it. Watch it cost $250 for just the generator in the US.
    • Steal a Mabuchi 360/540 from a busted R/C car. Wrap a string around the shaft. Pull.

      OK, so you'll want to add some pulleys to get up to an optimum rev range, but that's the basic idea.

      Hook it up to a bicycle crank and the average, untrained person can put out 40 watts for hours at a time, equivilent to only 8 mph road speed, not much exercise actually if you're in any sort of shape at all (i.e. you'll actually loose fitness if you restrict yourself to that level).

      An experienced cyclist can average about twi
    • Target price (IIRC) is 300 bucks for private buyers - you get a free laptop with every PSU. That's cost plus 200% which buys two laptops for kids that can't afford them.

      Nicholas Negroponte has also said that he does't think many adults will want one after they've seen one. A combination of the colour scheme, the size of the keyboard, and the fact that they've been designed to be appealing to kids, but not to adults. I think what it comes down to is that they don't want adults to want them.

      Me, I still t

    • Free energy and a little exercise in the process.

      I wouldn't say that a human powered generator is exactly free. Humans need substances called food and water. These substances are often scarce in the areas which this laptop will be used.

      IMHO, this laptop project is a great idea. Food will keep you alive but education gives power. Both are needed in developing nations. Perhaps this project will help a student design an irrigation system which will increase the potential of a crop.
      • Re:Free Energy? (Score:3, Informative)

        by LunaticTippy (872397)
        The human body does better than 50% conversion efficiency, so 20 watt hours would cost about 30 kcalories. That's a pretty small amount, even on an extremely low-calorie diet. The kids might use less calories with the computer, since they might be running around playing otherwise.

        For those who thought about using this as a pleasant form of exercise, here is a handy guide: 8 hours of cranking at maximum speed will burn off a third of a dry bagel. Keep it up all day and night and you'll burn off an entire

  • OLPC = One Leg PC?
  • Yo-yo (Score:2, Funny)

    by bobs666 (146801)
    Make the string the power coord and you could have a yo-yo.

    Fun and power.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:36PM (#15770936) Homepage Journal
    The best mechanical coupling design would have a open interface. A rotating bolt that can take the pullcord attachment, or a sewing machine pedal cam, or a bicycle tire clip, or a homemade windmill/waterwheel/goatwheel, or any mechanical rotation.

    Then include in its desktop a link to a blog for new powerup inventions worldwide. Necessity is the mother of invention, and local materials the father. Give these kids a way to improve and share, and we'll all get the benefits of their unique insights. What better way to harness the power of global kids?
  • Profit? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:38PM (#15770953) Journal
    There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.
    That gives me an idea -- I'm going to ride the technology wave by converting all the 8-year-old sewing-machine-treadle-operators in my sweatshops into 8-year-old server-farm-power-treadle-treadlers.

    To anyone who objects, please note that this is a carbon-neutral technology and therefore won't contribute to global warming except for the hot air from 'activists.' The Free Market -- gotta love it!
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:38PM (#15770954)
    [..] or clamping the generator to a desk, attaching the string to one foot, and using leg power."

    Why not just attach the string to an electric motor? That way the legs/feet would be free to operate the rudder pedals.
  • "According to Technology Review, the $100 laptop intended for children in the developing world will be powered in much the same way that you might start an outboard motor on a boat."

    I used to start my old outboard by priming the fuel bulb, choking a bit and starting it with the electric starter. Seems like a lot of steps just to turn on a computer. Then again, it was a lot of steps just to start a boat so I got one with eletric fuel pump, choke, and starter. Now I just turn the key.
    • The old Compaq proliant servers I used to support had a key.....but my computer never got "Started Up" until the Rolling Stones whored themselves out to Microsoft.

      Layne
  • by bratwiz (635601) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:44PM (#15770994)

    Aha! At least the get-rich scheme is revealed... hook them on pull-string laptops and then sell them replacement strings when the string breaks... ingenious! My hat's off to you Nicholas Negroponte!!! :)
  • I can totally see this -- a cluster of laptops.. err.. kids.. cranking or pulling away, but no, they aren't powering their laptop... The electricity is instead routed to a high-speed fan that's blowing over the local overlord.
  • by 4solarisinfo (941037) on Monday July 24, 2006 @12:51PM (#15771034)
    Don't forget boys and girls, You too can own what is sure to become the ultimate geek accessory and make a charitable donation all in one fell swoop. Sign up now to donate $300, recieve one computer, and know you've sent two where they are needed.

    http://www.pledgebank.com/100laptop [pledgebank.com]

    Well, maybe you can own one, but your only chance of getting one in the US is probably to sign the pledge to convince everyone it's a viable solution.

    • Well, maybe you can own one, but your only chance of getting one in the US is probably to sign the pledge to convince everyone it's a viable solution.

      I think I speak for the majority of people when I say I'll just wait until they show up on ebay.

      Seriously though, I've had this conversation before, but I'd pay $200 and bankroll one for a kid in another nation, but I'm not buying three and only getting one. I simply don't feel that charitable.

      • Well, if you really want to be charitable, you could also go to http://www.heifer.org/ [heifer.org] , and for $300 sponsor a llama, a trio of rabbits, hive of honey bees, and a flock of geese.

        But then you wouldn't get the cool OLPC, that they aren't supposed to sell in the US commercially...
        • But then you wouldn't get the cool OLPC, that they aren't supposed to sell in the US commercially.

          Well, I think that is stupid. Sell them for $150, and reinvest the profits into the project. Just as I think you'd have an order of magnitude more orders at $200, you'd probably have ANOTHER significant jump at $150. I wouldn't mind paying $150 for one, although that's about the limit I'd pay; But I WOULD donate $100 to buy one for some kid somewhere if I could also buy one for $100 at the same time. I am N

    • That pledge seems doomed to failure. Having 97000 more people sign up before the end of October is inconceivable - it would require around 3 people signing up every 4 minutes for the next 90 days. The petition is worded in a way such that if there are not 100000 signatures, none of the pledges are valid: nothing less than a fully successful drive can be submitted for consideration. Even then, it would only be a suggestion. Articles on the laptops have repeatedly stressed that these will not be for sale, and
      • You're right; you can't make a difference, so no point in trying to encourage others to pledge either. As you so eloquently pointed out, there IS a geek market for these, but that's no reason to try and support the only current legitimate suggestion for supplying that market. Better off to point out that effort is doomed, and it'll be better to get a hold of them fraudulently.

        FYI - school children in NO country will be able to 'buy' these. Sponsors provide them, if children sell them (I guess at the near

        • The point is that one could make a difference, but not with this pledge. Why does the wording not only include the 100,000 disclaimer, but also add "only if" to this? This is like adding "I don't support this proposal if it doesn't get over 75% of voters in favour" to a vote. It is quite possible that far fewer than 100,000 people would be enough to convince the OLPC to sell the laptops in this way, but this restriction makes the pledges much less clear. Furthermore, the pledge is restricted to $200, which,
          • The point is that one could make a difference, but not with this pledge.

            Well then bravo, but somehow, I didn't get anything like that in your first post. Was it after "That pledge seems doomed to failure."

            or just before you said "I don't recall anything that indicates something like this is even being thought about by the association itself."

            Was it near the optomistic "there will be a somewhat lucrative market for laptops taken from or sold by the students."

            or the "the only ones hurt by the sa

    • Why haven't more people signed this pledge? Currently it is
      Go sign it now!
  • BUT, it had only one program that when you pulled the string you got responses like "The cow goes MOOO!" Long live the talking wheel!
  • I was assuming that you had to wrap a rope around the fly-wheel and pull, repeat, until the damn thing started(my outboard was a really, really old two and a half horse British thing. Damned if I can remember the name), and an electric starter kinda defeats the purpose, no? Now with the foot peddle idea mentioned there, I'm sort of worried that a bunch of slave kids will be used to power a beowulf cluster of these things, like they are doing with the looms now.
  • A machine that combines exercise for the body at the same time it's providing exercise for the mind. Boy, those 3rd world countries are really getting a deal here.

    Of course, they could put in a modern Pentium and heat the house at the same time that they train for the Olympic team.

  • These types of generators are great as you can use very simple wind-powered cyclic motion devices to power the generator. You could even use a tree branch that was moving in the wind. Saves having to pull the string yourself.
    • You could even use a tree branch that was moving in the wind.
      Right... then, after a few days, your spaceship will return and finally take you home.
  • by pilgrim23 (716938) on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:19PM (#15771241)
    In World War II in the War in the Pacific, American planes were outfitted with a special emergency device. This was a hand crank generator coupled to a Morse Code transmiter on a spindle much like a music box. As you turned the crank it would power the trasnmiter and the spindle would key the correct di di di dah dah dah di di dit (SOS) and some other information so a search plane or ships with direction finding equipment could find you.
    The slang name for this box was a "Gibson Girl".
    • RAAF not US... It was a kite with the line being an aerial for the broadcast...
    • It was called a "Gibson Girl" because of its mandatory shape. You see you needed one hand to operate the morse code key, the other hand to crank the generator, which left nothing obvious to hold the transmitter with. You HAD to have somethign to hold it as you're probably in a flimsy rubber life rafs, so you can't set it down, and all that cranking requires some way of holding the transmitter to keep it from spinning on you. Some bright enginner figure you could hold it between your legs if it was shaped
      • I am speaking of a later model. it had a cylinder with the proper message already encoded on a cylinder using the same tech as a music box; A lever sticking out which lifted keys. Rather then playing a musical note, the keys would do a long or short to the transmiter making the proper emergency message. No morse key was required. crank away and it transmits. And yes, it was still shaped like a "Gibson Girl" :)
  • After the power grid fails, these will be rolled out to allow people to work. Since there will be no internet connectivity, static Myspace.com pages will be included to keep teenagers from rioting.
  • So it's going to be a "laptop". With a pull-start power source. So your laptop is going to require:
    • Somebody to operate the computer.
    • Somebody else to HOLD DOWN the laptop.
    • A third party to do the pulling.
    • A fourth party to explain to the gathering crowd why the third party is huffing and puffing.
    • A fifth person to go find some nylon rope. To replace the pull-rope that will break about every 288 pulls.
    • A sixth person to go grow some food and earn some money, to feed #4 and #5.

    Sheesh!

    • He was task with removing the burden of men watering fields in a third world country.
      He came up with the idea of having water bufallo's go up a moving conver belt making the belt move turning a electric generator. And when they reached the top do the same on the way down... Simple... Purs the effort on them.

      Well the Water Bufallo's did not like it at all.... So the men started to shove them up the ramp! And at the top. It took even more men to shove them down the other side... Yep they were producing power
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We have been discussing this kind of thing for a very long time where I work. According to the news, Americans are some of the most heavy in the world, and to narrow it down further, most of those heavy people are computer professionals. (http://www.obesity.org/subs/fastfacts/obesity_US . shtml) and (http://www.perspectives.com/forums/view_topic.php ?id=40450&forum_id=64&page=3) We designed and built a very simple solution to this problem... We took a stationary bicycle and attached a generator to th
  • wouldn't that have been a more appropriate/identifiable analogy than an Outboard Motor? Most people don't live on the water, you insensitive clod.
  • "imagine Beowulf of those"? Is slashdot going down the tubes?
  • I'm pretty sure that there's a lot of computer users (including myself) who could really use the exercise. Hell, just hook up a treadle to an alternator, and run that to trickle charge a UPS, so if you stop pedaling, your computer switches to hibernate mode.
  • ...consider an electric starter.

    (sorry, just couldn't resist).
  • If it is as small and low speed as it seems to be, a treadle isn't the only way to use it!

    As a low speed generator, it could be used in a smaller windmill, too. And as the generating element in a micro hydroelectric system.

    Has anyone found any details on this little unit? Squid labs doesn't yet appear to have any information on it.

    And, since the OLPC unit is running linux, that means cross development onto something like the Atmel AVR, MicroChip PIC, or Zilog Z8 might be just a short step away. Since I

  • But I still have to question how useful this will be in the overall scheme of improving conditions in the countries where it's targeted. While the laptops aren't intended for places where there's no running water or a lack of food, I'm not convinced that you can jump-start a country's development by skipping important steps like industrialization and infrastructure.

    Understand, I'm not arguing that there's no point in doing this, I'm merely suggesting that 50,000 hand powered laptops might not be the most ef
    • "I'm not convinced that you can jump-start a country's development by skipping important steps like industrialization and infrastructure."

      I'll take you at your word that you're not trolling, and in fairness, your scepticism is phrased a lot more gently than many others'.

      I think your misunderstanding stems from the assumption that we'd be skipping an essential step, when in fact what's happening is that we're moving straight to a point that other (developed) nations had to reach in small increments.

      Wir

    • If these are destined for developing countries, how are you going to enforce the rules governing who gets the computers? It seems to me that it won't take long for the militaries/ militias/ guerrilas/ warlards etc. to realize that a laptop can be a real asset to the operations. Consider the following:

      Early development was sponserd by the millitary
      1. Modern computers are largely due to code-breakers, artillary table generators, etc. developed during WWII.
      2. ARPA/DARPA developed the Internet.
      3. Would we
  • There are plenty of sewing machine treadles in the world, too -- I hope someone can figure out a way to combine them with the new design.

    I experimented with taking a spare keyboard, mouse and monitor and hooking them onto an exercise bicycle so that I could work out while using my computer. The motion required to turn the pedals made it very difficult to use a mouse and read the screen. I wonder if a treadle might have similar issues.

    I ended up using hotkeys to replace most of my mouse movements. I even

    • The motion required to turn the pedals made it very difficult to use a mouse and read the screen. I wonder if a treadle might have similar issues.

      I'm guessing that you've never seen a treadle in use or used one. The motion required to work the treadle is very gentle, mostly relying on calf muscles / lower-leg movements. Which allows the seamstress or tailor to make fine movements to orient and align the fabric as it passes through the needle area.

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