Our project goal
To create a solid operating system base for the OLPC hardware which anyone can deploy, requires no administration and provides a clear platform on which to build applications for educational computing.
Children must be allowed to play
Remember that this is a laptop that is designed for children, not for system administrators or programmers. We hope that children will be allowed to play with the base operating system as well as the programs that run on top of it. But at the same time, if they break it it must be very easy to fix and anyone should be able to fix it.
What this means is that the base operating system is something that can be replaced at any time, in a matter of minutes, and without damaging the child's data or the applications that happen to be installed. Simply put, replacing the operating system should not be scary.
Deployment is more important than development
Remember that how you build the operating system is very different than how it will be put into children's hands in the field. The tools that we use to build the operating system - package managers, compilers, installers - are not useful during the deployment of the operating system. This is because we know what the operating system will be and even more importantly we know what the hardware will be.
These two central facts mean we can make certain assumptions about deployment and can create an incredibly easy way to install and update the base operating system.
OLPC is the platform, not linux
Because of the small size of this platform, we have to make choices about what the platform will be, and how we enable applications to be written. This is not a classic GNU Linux distribution, with package manager, and an enourmous universe of loosely related software. If you ask 50 people "what is the Linux platform", you will get 500 different answers. Our applications can make assumptions about their hardware and software environment. We can focus on how to enable people building applications for this platform.