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Computers Linux Windows

OLPC did sell out, folks

Recently, the One Laptop Per Child project announced that it was going to include Microsoft’s Windows XP alongside the Linux-based Sugar OS it had previously been shipping as the only operating system option for the XO Laptop.

There has been a lot of buzz in the Linux community about how this is a sellout on the part of Negroponte and the OLPC project, and rebuttals have been that it’s about the government’s choice to use an operating system (Windows) it wants, the project’s always been about getting computers into the hands of kids (not necessarily open source operating systems), and people who think OLPC has sold out are just Linux fanboys upset because Linux lost out.

No, the definition of sellout in this case isn’t “Went with an operating system we don’t like.” It’s “Went with an operating system it deliberately did not go with before on principle.”

From Free Mac OS X spurned by $100 laptop creators:

Seymour Papert, a professor emeritus at MIT and one of the project’s founders, said the scheme had refused Jobs’ offer on the grounds that Mac OS X is a proprietary system.

Papert told the WSJ: “We declined because it’s not open source,” adding the $100 laptop creators will only choose an operating system where the source code is open and can be altered.

From $100 laptop ‘will take desktop Linux global’:

He said: “AMD is our partner, which means Intel is pissing on me. Bill Gates is not pleased either but if I am annoying Microsoft and Intel then I figure I am doing something right.”

Microsoft allegedly offered to build the operating system for the machine but was rejected by the OLPC project. Negroponte added that the project required an extremely scaled-down OS to enable the eventual machines to run at a decent speed, while using very little power. “About 25 per cent of the cost of a laptop is there just to support XP, which is like a person that has gotten so fat that they use most of their muscle to move their fat,” he said.

I’ve added emphasis in both excerpts. The project started out being about allowing children the freedom to explore and have no licensing or proprietary code restrictions. Now, suddenly, it’s become about spreading Microsoft to even more developing nations. That isn’t choice. That’s oversaturation.

If you have an obesity epidemic, and one of the few efforts to encourage a healthy lifestyle gets co-opted by a pro-obesity program, those people aren’t being offered the choice to continue to be obese; they’re being denied the choice to experience a healthy lifestyle. The choice for Linux has continually been co-opted by Microsoft Windows. And now they are well on their way to extinguishing the emerging (previously Linux-dominated) netbook / subnotebook market by also putting XP on the Asus Eee PC and Vista on the HP Mini-Note.

Yes, OLPC sold out. Might it be good for those kids in developing countries to have a weather-proof Windows laptop? Maybe. But that wasn’t really the original goal of the OLPC project at all. Boy am I glad I didn’t participate in the “Give one, Get one” campaign in November.

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Asus Eee PC

Is the Eee PC for you?

If you read as many reviews of the Eee PC as I’ve read, you’ll know that many of the negative reviews come from people who mistake the Eee for a notebook or laptop. Granted, it looks like a laptop (albeit one hit by a shrink-ray) and does a lot of things a laptop does, but it is not a laptop. People are calling it a subnotebook, a netbook, or UMPC (ultra-mobile PC) replacement. Who knows what name will stick? But this isn’t a total computer replacement any more than your cell phone is (think iPhone and not Macbook).

I was able to replace my desktop computer with an Eee, because I also happen to share a household with my wife, who has a regular laptop (a Macbook Pro), so when I wanted to give a CD mix to a friend, I burned it on my wife’s Macbook Pro (the Eee has no optical drive). The screen on the Eee is tiny—you won’t be doing any heavy graphics editing on it.

The Eee is an internet appliance that also happens to do a few non-internet-related things as well (it has a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a sound recording program, and a music organizer). Mainly, though, it’s great for browsing the internet, emailing friends, and Skyping (I just yesterday tried out video Skype on it, and the webcam and microphone work quite well). There is the occasional website I have to do some side-scrolling with (using the Right arrow key), and if you want to watch YouTube videos, you may want to use Firefox in fullscreen mode (press F11 to toggle back and forth), but it’s a nifty little appliance I’ll think nothing of toting around.

It’s actually made doing laundry bearable (I love reading books in the bathroom or on the bus, but for some reason not while doing the wash), and I’m looking forward to taking it on the plane with me when I visit my parents for Christmas—I won’t have to worry about it weighing down my backpack or being too much trouble to take out for the security check at the airport.

If you find yourself in coffee shops using wireless to blog or check out the latest news feeds and are tired of hauling your 15″ or 17″ laptop around, you may want to check out Asus’ Eee PC (or its upcoming rivals from HP, Dell, and Acer in the upcoming months).