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Education Businesses Mandriva Software Linux

News On Laptops For Education 121

AdamWill notes a Mandriva press release with the news that the government of Nigeria has selected Intel-powered classmate PCs running Mandriva Linux for educational use in a nationwide pilot. About 17,000 machines will be involved at first. We can only wonder at the maneuvering and negotiations that went on with the OLPC project. The latter had its first announced order for 100,000 XO machines, from Uruguay, with a potential for 400,000 over time. The bigger news out of OLPC is that Microsoft is porting XP to the platform, and chairman Nicholas Negroponte says that's fine with him: "It would be hard for OLPC to say it was 'open' and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open."
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News On Laptops For Education

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  • I'll probably get mod'ed flamebait or something, but I think it's really telling that Microsoft isn't attempting to create a software load based on Windows Vista as the starting point. And they have already stopped retailing XP... and though they prolonged XP OEM sales, it's still set to be cut off in a relatively short time.

    Frankly, I think they'd have better luck bringing back Windows98 to put on the OLPC/XO machine. I can't begin to imagine how badly it would perform, but judging from some of the WinXP
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      From what I've read lately (I'm too lazy at the moment to look up the articles. I believe it was in a dead tree publication that I get), Microsoft is trying a new approach for the next OS. They're making it more module based, starting with a core set of functionality and then adding on the appropriate modules for the various editions.

      It's a good idea that's been used by a number of operating systems in the past and it's about time that they got around to trying it. I hope it succeeds. It should cut out
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Microware's OS-9 comes to mind when you're talking about modular functionality. Linux essentially does that now with so many drivers and functions being made available as a kernel module rather than part of the monolithic unit. Granted, it's not for the same purpose or intent exactly, but it often gets used that way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MikeUW ( 999162 )
      Add to this the problem that XP on a low cost laptop becomes the initial hardware price, plus $X for the OS, plus $Y for useful productivity software (assuming MS pushes that too), plus $Z for who knows what else. I know there's no reason anyone would be forced to buy extra software just because their machine runs Windows, but you have to admit that it helps reinforce the mindset that software should be purchased from a company like MS. Try to imagine that mindset combined with the perspective of new user
    • by BUL2294 ( 1081735 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:06PM (#21175831)
      Are you serious? Even Microsoft knows better than to submit 3rd-world kids to "the wow is now..."

      Check the specs from [] ... 900Mhz, 0 L2 (prominently featured on the page for some reason), 256MB RAM, 1 or 2GB flash, 800x480 screen. Somehow the 2GB version incredibly manages to fit XP Pro (why Pro?) and MS-Office.

      Vista would look at this configuration and show a screen of Bill Gates laughing at the user. Hell I doubt even M$ could trim Vista down enough to run in such a configuration, given the bloated piece of crap Vista is. (I wonder what Vista's "experience rating" would be--0.2?)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pyrion ( 525584 )
        Why Pro?

        Cuz Home can't join a domain.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Avtually, XP strips down to about 88 megs, with much of the crud removed, and is both surprisingly functional and rather well performant. I've also managed to strip down Vista Home Premium (via vLite) to just about a half gig (that's with things like wmp codecs, Active directory and IIS7 left in), with similar results, the only catch being that it won't complete the install on less than 256mb of RAM.

        Okay, sure, nLite'ing XP/Vista installs is probably not exactly legal, but just because Microsoft doesn't ret
      • But aren't MS supposed to be re-working Vista to run on the Asus Eee PC [] which has similar (or even identical) specs to the classmate?
    • I'm guessing that XP already has some drivers and changes that XO needs that 98 doesn't and that Vista is so heavy to run that it would be more work to take it all out then to just use XP. The funny thing is that they do have Windows CE [] that is made for this kind of thing. The only reason I would guess they are not using that is because it looks "too 90's" or something.
      • Windows CE is for embedded devices. You can run it on a x86 but I'd expect compatibility with shrinkwrapped applications wouldn't be too impressive because it only supports a subset of the huge API that the NT based OSs support.

        You can't run MS Office for example, only Pocket Office. Which is seriously limited []

        In an ideal world, you could create a Microsoft Word or Excel document on your desktop computer, put it on your Handheld PC, edit and format it on the road, and then send it back to the office as a .DOC or .XLS file, with content and all formatting still intact.

        This is what Windows CE users expect from their mobile computers.

        Unfortunately, this is not how it works right now. Pocket Word, the "word processor" shipping with all Handheld PCs, is perhaps the biggest disappointment for mobile users: No headers or footers. No tables. No outliner. No on-the-fly spell-checking. Severely limited text formatting. Image support? Barely existent.

        What about document conversion then? As soon as you move a .DOC file to your mobile device, all features that Pocket Word cannot deal with are stripped and thrown away. Not much more than bold, italic, and a few font variations survive.

    • Putting Win98 on anything in this day and age is one of the worst possible things you could do, and even Sony wouldn't be dumb enough to pull Win9x from the grave. It's DOS-based, insecure and unstable (whose reputation still hangs over Windows to this day) and a dead end as far as OSs are concerned. Win2k (or NT5 if you want to think of it like that) would be a much better choice, as I believe it fits their specs well enough (or is at least a good enough starting point)
      • The thing about DOS based, Win9x, is that, the guts of it are all written in pretty heavily hand optimized assembly language, whereas the guts of Windows NT flavors are written in C. I understand that its hard to think of Windows as "fast", but, if you look back on it, you'd find that Windows 9x did run pretty well on hardware that is positively cramped by today's standards. I remember jettisoning a lot of the junk and having Windows 95 run reasonably well on a 386DX33 (that's 33Mhz) with 4mb of RAM, and
    • Re:Why not Vista?? (Score:4, Informative)

      by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:18PM (#21175991)

      It was the purpose that was formulated followed by a selection of an OS which just as easily could have been BSD or even Windows if it was best-suited.

      Part of the requirement had to do with licensing, so barring Microsoft releasing their OS under an open-source license, it couldn't have been Windows. Microsoft, IIRC, tried to get to be the OS supplier, and didn't start bad-mouthing the OLPC project until they were rejected based on licensing terms.

      It could have been BSD, though.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but why use a system who demands that much hardware in a simple computer? Another point: since the main idea is use this for educational purposes, I don't think is necessary too much in terms of eye candy. I'm not saying that this is bad, but the machine resources should be used with care. And I'm not even talking about money... :)
    • Why not 2K + (if they really, really, really must) ClearType? In fact, if they ported the 2K kernel and claimed that it was XP, who'd know the difference?
      • Now this is only a (mediocrely educated) guess, but I assume the XP kernel is just an evolutionary upgrade to 2k's kernel and may be just as fast if not faster. Surely XP had several things that slowed it down, but the kernel may not be one of them.
    • I'd think that if Microsoft wanted something to run on the OLPC the best candidate from their current lineup would be Windows CE (or whatever that is called nowadays). It is supposed to be lightweight an so should fit the hardware nicely. Software would have to be ported for it but they might as well face the fact that OLPC is not made nor meant to run Office & friends...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

      I'll probably get mod'ed flamebait or something, but I think it's really telling that Microsoft isn't attempting to create a software load based on Windows Vista as the starting point. And they have already stopped retailing XP... and though they prolonged XP OEM sales, it's still set to be cut off in a relatively short time.

      You're not serious, are you? I was all set to post a joke about "Yeah, I'm not impressed; port Vista, then I'll be impressed." These laptops are severely underpowered by today's standards; bear in mind that today's software is bloated and requires such overpowering. The OLPC machines are more like PDA's on steroids than laptops as we think of them -- but that's a good thing, because today's PDA's are pretty powerful. I have a Palm Tungsten that's great for word processing if I hook it up to the external IR

    • And they have already stopped retailing XP
      according to [] XP is still supposed to be availible retail and direct (big brand) OEM until June 30, 2008 and system builder (whitebox OEM) until January 31, 2009 .
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @03:55PM (#21175643)
    I just got an email from son of the former Education Minister of Nigeria.
    In the mail he states that he has recently acquired 17000 classmate laptops
    (seventeen thousand US laptops) and he is trying to get them out of the country.
    He is asking for my assistance and I shall be rewarded greatly (5000 laptops).
    To cover up the expenses he is asking me to send five Packard Bell notebooks
    with Windows Vista Home Premium.

    What should I do? Is this some kind of scam?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sammyF70 ( 1154563 )
      I'd be carefull if it didn't have any spelling errors in the mail body. Legit offers of that types are recognized by at least 3 typos or grammatical errors/paragraph.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by arth1 ( 260657 )
      It takes one to know one?
      I'm not the least bit surprised that someone high up in Nigeria raised a finger and said "wait a minute" when there were plans to buy tens of thousands of portable devices from the brother of the US national intelligence czar, and who also coincidentally just happened to be on the ethics committee for the newspapers who have praised and hyped the XO, and similarly coincidentally just happens to be a board member or consultant for several of the parts suppliers for the OLPC project..
    • You should write back and tell him that his Pentium 75Mhz notebooks loaded with Vista are on their way but you wonder if Packard Bell is a good choice since their out of business and all the laptops laying around are just a little under spec for Vista.
    • To cover up the expenses he is asking me to send five Packard Bell notebooks
      with Windows Vista Home Premium.

      What should I do? Is this some kind of scam?
      Totally a scam. You were actually thinking of sending him Packard Smell notebooks? What a jerk.
  • OLPC open? (Score:2, Interesting)

    The OLPC is suppost to be completely open and user maintainable. But the wireless drivers are blobs. From the OLPC "Core principles"

    There is no inherent external dependency in being able to localize software into their language, fix the software to remove bugs, and repurpose the software to fit their needs. Nor is there any restriction in regard to redistribution; OLPC cannot know and should not control how the tools we create will be re-purposed in the future.

    I like the project, but I wish they could stick to their core principle. I would really like a completely open computer, especially such a cool looking, low power, rugged laptop.

    • Re:OLPC open? (Score:4, Informative)

      by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:47PM (#21176317) Homepage Journal
      The "open" comment quoted in the summary kind of implies that Microsoft is working on a port on a level playing field with the "open" folks. If you actually read the article, though, you find that the OLPC folks are actively working with Microsoft, sending them first-run hardware, and otherwise favoring Microsoft in order to get XP onto their system. That's not just "letting it be open", it's actively working towards getting a more closed OS onto the system.

      Also, I vaguely recall a rumor that Apple offered MacOS X for free and it was declined, so I'm not entirely clear on OLPC's motives here.
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )
      Not true, the wireless card has a processor on it, that runs a program that no source is provided for. However the specification to interact with the card is open. If Marvel provided the chipset with the firmware set in ROM on the chipset mask would that offend you as well.

      In the same way my laser printer has a processor that takes PCL and turns it into dots on the page. I don't have or need the source code for that, and my printer is just as open.

      I really don't understand the obsession with demanding that
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FranTaylor ( 164577 )
        Ironically enough, rms got the idea for free software when he couldn't get at the source code to the printer in his lab.

        I do agree with you, though. You can think of the blob as some microcode for controlling the hardware. It could have been integrated into the hardware, but it would be slower and harder to work with. If it were in the hardware, nobody would be clamoring for its source. If we are really paranoid about drivers, perhaps they too could be boxed-in like SELinux does with applications.

    • But is the core purpose of the OLPC to build open laptops or to build inexpensive laptops? Remember, they chose Linux because it was inexpensive. Having open drivers would certainly be nice, but they have deadlines to meet, and they probably figure that, if the drivers work for their intended purpose, then their job is done.

      Besides, if you want open drivers, then you're free to write them yourself and make them available.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        On the olpc wiki site, there is a page called "Core principles" ( This page lists five "principles" that, judging from the page titles seem to be the core principles of the project. The fifth "core principle" is titled "Free and Open Source", from wich I got my quote. Maybe they should create a page called "things that would also be nice" and put "Free and Open Source" on that page. My opinion is that the page of core principles is actually correct, but th
    • Re:OLPC open? (Score:5, Informative)

      by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @05:35PM (#21176889) Homepage Journal
      The wifi driver is GPL (and included in the mainline linux kernel already). The wireless chip firmware is the proprietary part. But, of course, that's more open than most of the chips in the system, which can't be changed in the field at all, and when can't be modified without a chip fab. People are actually working on reverse-engineering the chip specs (it looks like an ARM920T with a radio peripheral), but it's perfectly reasonable to consider the chip as a device with a detailed specification [] that has a very long, particular, and incomprehensible (but carefully documented) startup sequence.
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:01PM (#21175749)
    I don't know if I like how this project is being rolled out. For example, the Nigerian government has said they will pay for these laptops with part of the proceeds from a bank account containing $500,000,000 left by a rich oil baron who was killed in a car accident and left no heir. However, they are asking Negroponte to pose as this guy's heir, and also to give them a few thousand dollars for documentation fees and the like. I just don't see this thing turning out well.
  • not to whoever will kill the project with close sourced software. Perhaps this means they plan to open the source code for WinXP! That way they can claim the "community will support it" and they'll focus on Vista/Longhorn
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How will an XP port kill the project? Does it precent Linux from being run on it? No. Does it raise the cost of the laptop? Only if MS charges for XP, and it's mandatory that every machine include it.

      People would be screaming bloody murder if the OLPC folks had initially selected Windows for the laptop and then refused to allow Linux developers to have a look at it so they could port Linux to it. I fail to see the difference here. Fair is fair.
      • What's the point of setting up a socialized laptop project if people are going to be allowed to run the wrong software on it? You might as well leave it up to the free market in that case.
  • "Dear SIR,

    Our kind lawyer has advised us to purchase 100,000 notebooks with Linux....
    we have placed the funds of millions of dollars worth of gold for you in a Swiss account, but need you to advance us a small forwarding fee so that we can get that money to you..."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:06PM (#21175827)
    From the OLPC Wiki ( -- "Give me a free and open environment and I will learn and teach with joy."

    Sounds good, but wait ...

    "It would be hard for OLPC to say it was 'open' and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open."

    So you're open to the idea of making the OLPC closed? Well done! I'm not sure what the heck OLPC is about anymore. At first it seemed great, then the price went up, they chose a non-open manufacturer for their network chip, and now Windows? Give me a break. I bet they'll use "the children" as an excuse for their actions this time aswell.
    • by ricegf ( 1059658 )

      So you're open to the idea of making the OLPC closed?

      I believe this is precisely the argument made by BSD partisans - that the freedom to eliminate other people's freedom is "more free" than the constraint to preserve freedom. Having it applied to laptops is pretty novel, though.

      You can do what you like with your own software (or laptops), but I'll invest my efforts in products that stay free for use and innovation by the masses.

      (What's this world coming to when an aging Reagan Conservative starts a

    • by NekoXP ( 67564 )
      Marvell are as open as any wireless chipset manufacturer is for one very simple reason: regulatory standards on the transmission and reception of RF data.

      Some of the channels on WiFi are illegal to use without a license. In the US, it's channels 12, 13 and 14, which are fine in Europe. Japan seems to only have 2 channels available and in other countries (Spain) there is also some weirdness.

      Who gets the knock on the door if a laptop ships which can break these regulations? Who do the FCC raid?

      Not Dell, not t
    • At first it seemed great, then the price went up, they chose a non-open manufacturer for their network chip, and now Windows?

      Price: What do you expect? Negroponte paying $80 per sold laptop so they could ship it for the attempted $100? Keep it real. It is (apparently) not currently possible to build a device that would satisfy their needs for (Plus shipping a POS (not talking about Point-of-Sale) device to developing countries who might spend quite a big chunk of their educational budget (assuming they hav

  • Freedom is Slavery Ignorance is Strength ...aaaaannnd according to Negroponte: Open is Closed
    • and Slashdotters are intelligent.

      Giving someone freedom means they might do something you don't like. If you restrict them to only doing things you approve, they don't have freedom in the first place.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:10PM (#21175891) Journal
    On the one hand, the OLPC is open, so let MS port their OS. On the other hand, the chances the MS will port any of the bloated MS products to work well on the OLPC will convince a great many people that MS OS products are not necessarily the thing that they *MUST* have to be relevant in the world of computing.

    I would have thought that Windows CE would be the better choice for the OLPC. XP??? What are they thinking?

    Sure, it might be possible, but it is a move that is so far in the opposite direction of where MS products have been going you have to ask yourself if it is a joke? Even with their flagship OS, the latest great update has been the kind of success that you wish on your competition. How in the hell are they going to make XP fit on the OLPC? It's performance has not been lauded around the world as THE shining example of how an OS should work on a laptop.
    • Well I expect they just take XPs kernel and strip it until it's bare naked. You can do that with the linux kernel and if you have the source, you can do that with the XP kernel as well. Then you put a thin graphical shell on it. Voila XP on the OLPC.
      • You can strip an XP install down to 80MB just with nLite. And that's just hacking ini files.

        Most of XP is still there, including things like plug and play which are not needed on a machine with no expansion ports. I'd guess if you had access to the source code you could strip it down a lot more.
    • I've run xp acceptably (no games, of course, some patience involved on various load times) on a 900MHz athlon. The clockspeeds are comparable, but we all know how little that matters.

      RAM's going to be an issue, and I think the 2GB of "HD" is going to come back to bite them pretty quickly. At least on the eee, the OS and apps take up about 75% of that. I'm sure the damnsmalllinux guys are deeply amused.
    • the chances the MS will port any of the bloated MS products to work well on the OLPC

      Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm pretty sure this is a situation MS is not going to allow itself to screw up like Vista's launch. Vista was a home match. It wasn't some operation to attract new customers, it was an upgrade to existing ones and maybe a (weak and probably somewhat failed) attempt to lure MSFT->AAPL switchers back home.
      The XO/ClassMate situation, however, is completely different. If they do it right, they

  • Classmate PC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Woek ( 161635 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:11PM (#21175901)
    When I looked into the Classmate PC I read on Intel's site:

    Developed to address gaps in education found by Intel's extensive ethnographic research,...

    Riiiight... It has nothing to do with the positive response on the OLPC project.
  • Heh... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Otter ( 3800 )
    Between here and Reddit, I probably picked up 50 negative moderation points during 2007 for daring to question OLPC's predictions of 13 jillion computers shipped by year's end. (The fact that Nicholas Negroponte seemed completely oblivious to whether the governments with whom he had shaky agreements (Thaksin, Hamas) were even still in power was a tipoff.)

    I predict that 2008 will provide similar opportunities to bleed karma; also, it's going to be The Year Of Linux On The Desktop!

  • "They'll learn to use something other than Windows! It's competitition!"
    I think the goal of OLPC is "Teaching Children", not "Teaching Children to use computers". While I'm sure some children exposed to computers through this program might wind up taking up the craft, the majority probably won't. The real question is: Can Microsoft, once done porting, use the full force of its might to create a superior system for Children, the way it has for Businesses? (people who think OOo isn't a peice of shit need not
    • I think the real issue is how Microsoft can differentiate the two systems (OS's made for XO vs conventional computers.) If they could get it so that Office works on these computers with (relatively) rediculously low specs, then they may have found Windows 7. Unless they just stick to Windows XP. Would that mean that they are going to continue support for it then?
      • are going to continue support for it then?

        No need to. All they need the system to do is create an iron grip on the developing computer market in the developing world. Trust me, no user down in Africa will call Microsoft's U.S. helpline about problems with his XO. The hardware will also only change very slowly and probably be as compatible as it gets. After developing v1.0 of their XO XP, all MSFT will need to do is wait. Wait for a nice marketshare, wait for users to get used to Windows, wait for the count

    • OOo isn't a piece of shit. It is a pretty good product. There !
  • Open??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kgskgs ( 938843 )
    "OLPC" stands for "One Laptop Per Child", open or not.

    If Negroponte said open, only because it made it easier to deliver the envisioned product. If it makes sense to go "Close" and get one laptop per child, then so be it.

    You care about "Open" only when you have enough of "Closed". For those who have none, what matters is having something.

  • I predict: (Score:3, Funny)

    by E. Edward Grey ( 815075 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @04:53PM (#21176389)
    In 10 years, every IT department is going to say "Why buy Windows servers, when I can get a free or nearly free server OS that's more stable, run it on cheaper hardware with half the horsepower, and hire a Nigerian immigrant who knows it inside and out to administer it?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tzhuge ( 1031302 )
      Also: "Why use grid power, when that same Nigerian immigrant can hand crank that server?" Server admins typing with one hand will be even more standard than it is now.
    • Why wait for the Nigerians? If all that is required to administer a server is an IQ in the ballpark of 67 and little to no English skills, there must be a horde of latent IT admins flooding across the Mexican border every day. As a bonus, these people are positively geniuses when compared to the Nigerians, and are currently wasting their time picking fruit and washing dishes. []
  • by Plekto ( 1018050 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @05:03PM (#21176535)
    I noticed that it has a 2GB flash drive. I wonder how long it will take for windows to burn it out with with its swap file.
  • Why not Win2k? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eniac42 ( 1144799 )
    Wouldnt Win2k be a better target for conversion than XP? It was *designed* in the days of 2Gb HDs, and can actually do useful work from 64Mb RAM..

    Has anyone out there managed to get it to boot and run off Flash?
    • Afaict it depends on how the flash is connected, if the flash is on IDE (e.g. a compactflash card in a CF-IDE adaptor) then it is no problem to install windows on it. If it is connected in some other way then it will probablly be much harder.
  • "Times of India is reporting about the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development's progress on the $10 laptop per child. Considering the OLPC price has slipped to $200 from the initial $100, it would be interesting to see the price if/when it lands in the hands of the children. From the article : Having rejected Nicholas Negroponte's offer of $100 laptops for schoolchildren, HRD ministry's idea to make laptops at $10 is firmly taking shape with two designs already in. So far, the cost of one laptop,
  • October 30 2007

    FROM: Mr. Ben Ahore
    Central Bank of America
    New York, NY

    TO: Honorable Nigerian Linux User

    Dear Sir:

    I have been requested by the American National MacroSoft Company to contact you for assistance in resolving a matter. The American National MacroSoft Company has recently concluded a large number of contracts for softwares exploration in the sub-Western region. The contracts have immediately produced moneys equaling over US
  • I know a lot of people might disagree that this is good, but I believe Bill Gates is doing great, charitable things.

    He has access to make this happen and he believes in Windows OS; So good on him! Not everything has to come from marketing executives. He doesn't live by those rules any more and his wife who also deserves a mention believes in this as much as he does. He just happens to have a lot of money and influence to carry it out. I don't use it or like it, but I doubt very much my nerd ego matters
  • []

    "We recently closed a deal with the Nigerian Government. Maybe you heard about it, Steve. They were looking for an affordable hardware+software solution for their schools. The initial batch was 17,000 machines.
    And then, today, we hear from the customer a totally different story: "we shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward." MS knows how to play this game...or they just invent thei

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."