Ask OLPC a Question/archive/Q1 2006


Jump to: navigation, search

Bold textNote before Posting:

  • This is the Page that is dedicated to answering any question that you have about the OLPC project. Just edit this page and add the Question in and as soon as possible it will be added to the OLPC FAQ.
  • If you wish to submit ideas, check out the OLPC Idea Pool.
  • Lots of questions need answering. If you know the answer feel free to reply, sign your responce and then put it in the Answered question. There, the community can discuss and revise, so the question can be integrated with the main FAQ.


Answered Questions

eBook Specifications

When I am making Ebooks for OLPC, what font size should they be in, and what should the page size be? Also, is there a place to upload them when they are finished? --Munchinguy 20:09, 27 June 2006 (EDT)

well, you can't really make Ebooks for OLPC. They have to be made for kids in specific countries who speak specific languages and live in certain cultural environments. After that, there are far more important issues other than font and page size. If you look at this page and the pages linked to it, then you can find some discussion of the issues.
Font size is quite likely to be user selectable and screen size/resolution could vary over the life of the OLPC project. Indeed, even books designe for translation will have problems with page size because readers of different scripts will have different preferred font size which leads to different page sizes.

How are the textbooks going to be authored?

I read somewhere that the DJVU file format was going to be used for this project. Since DJVU authoring programs are few and far between, I'm curious how the DJVU files will be created. Anyone know?

DJVU books are not authored with software. Any paper books or documents, including handwritten ones, can be scanned and compressed into DJVU format. DJVU is more efficient than other compression formats but it also allows multiple page scans to be stored in a single book file that makes it easier to read than a folder full of PNG images. Click on DJVU for more information.
In some of the countries where there is little to no computerisation, DJVU will be the major tool used to make existing paper books available. Even in an advanced country like the USA, there is value in using DJVU compressed maps, historical documents, etc. For example, once you have installed a DJVU plugin from here, go to the Illinois Geographical Survey and click on one of the chapter headings in the table of contents.

Which countries are confirmed?

I remember reading something about Costa Rica, is this Central Anmerican country at the project? --Dagoflores 02:57, 19 March 2006 (EST)

If there is interest in Costa Rica, then you should ask the Costa Rican Ministry of Education to contact the OLPC team directly.

Libya has signed an MOU.--Mokurai 15:23, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Doesn't it seem to be catering to small kids only

with just around 400-500 Mb of space available we cant expect laptop to be used by students in high-school or so who ,sometimes,need to store huge data.Dont you think that memory space should definitly be increased?Otherwise it becomes a 'playtoy' and not a 'tool' for kids.Because if we provide laptop to student at age of 7-8 yr and if it becomes useless at age of 13-14 yr when he actually realizes the capacity and power of the machine,the whole 'OLPC' idea fails.Because if laptop is unaffordable at age of 8,it remains so at age of 14 as well.

It would be instructive to have an example of an activity that a high-school student needs to engage in that is beyond the capacity of the machine.Walter 17:31, 13 July 2006 (EDT)

SVG is not well supported in GECKO - is somebody working on improving that?

  • To replace Flash at least SMIL Animations should work [1]
  • SVG is based on Cairo - is somebody developing a hardware accelerated Cairo version for the OLPC laptop?
  • Wikimedia supports SVG - will SVG be enabled in the OLPC WIKI?
  • What is the difference between GECKO and xulrunner? Is SVG better supported by xulrunner?
There is a javascript implementation of SMIL at [2]. To allow javascript for example in a wikipage is not a good idea - SMIL (without javascript) makes no problems for security.

South Africa

Has this project taken off in South African schools, particularly KwaZulu-Natal where there are over 6000 schools, over 50% of which are deep rural. If not, why not? JRosario July 13 2006

Not yet. We are in our launch phase right now and will be issuing a request for proposals as we progress. We look forward to seeing a proposal from South Africa and hope to be of some assistance to the school children there. Walter 11:15, 12 July 2006 (EDT)
We are in the process of putting together an RFP as a mechanism for countries to get involved in the project. As the details as worked out, we'll post them on this page: How can my country get involved?. Walter 16:49, 13 June 2006 (EDT)

Can you refer me to pages in French on this project?

I am working in Mali and have worked in Haiti and Quebec, in the past. I would like to refer my contacts to this project, many of them are strong in English but if I could send them URL's for French documentation that would be great, thank you. Patrick Fitzgerald'

Try as a start. Also, OLPC France. My apologies in advance for the quality of the translation. Please feel free to make improvements at Fr PO. Walter 11:19, 24 June 2006 (EDT)
I just now searched for OLPC Francais on Google, and got 185,000 hits. Google est ton ami.--Mokurai 02:26, 13 October 2006 (EDT)

Why not a small hard drive?

Hello. Wouldn't it be better to have a small HD instead? As far as I know, Flash memory has a much higher Gb cost than that of a standard HD. I also know that there are ridiculously small HDs with really large storage capacity, at least in comparison to the meager 512Mb you currently propose. Wouldn't a larger capacity storage help to extend the life of such a machine?

The biggest single point of failure of laptops is the HD. We are opting for robustness over more on-board storage. Synchronization with the "school server" should help mitigate some of the capacity challenges raised. Walter 02:03, 5 May 2006 (EDT)
Actually, I have been told that HDs are only the 2nd biggest point of failure; internal connectors breaking is Number 1. We are trying to eliminate most of those as well.Walter 03:40, 7 June 2006 (EDT)

What stops the thieves?

What will prevent gangs from targeting children who have these highly desirable laptops, and stealing them for resale? 11:03, 24 May 2006 (EDT)

The garish childlike colors and the toy appearance of the units will make them undesirable for adults to use or steal. But do not underestimate the child owners. They will know very well that this is a valuable object which they have been entrusted with. They will not want to lose them and will be careful about where they take them and when.

Would optional sound capabilities lower the price?

I wonder if the sound capabilities are really necessary, an option would be to leave them out to lower the price of the basic PC, and produce an optional USB device for sound capabilities for those that need it (blind people, analphabets learning to read, etc.). --Dagoflores 01:04, 17 March 2006 (EST)

The sound card can also do modem. A modem can attach to radio and phone lines, that gives you the internet. 10:12, 18 March 2006 (EST)
Music is fundumental and will not be compromised. We will have sound. Also the microphone input can be used for sensor input. Finally, a modem is of little use without a phone. Walter 10:56, 26 May 2006 (EDT)

Is there any work has been done for the making of e-Textbook?

One original goal of the OLPC is to use laptop to replace conventional textbooks. There is no much time left before the first release of OLPC laptops to these 7 developing countries in early 2007. The content of textbook is a very political thing and the making of the e-Textbooks could also not be a simple work. So it could be a very urgent and serious problem for the OLPC task.

There is work going on in the various launch countries (and elsewhere) on electronic text books. There are also several efforts to build textbooks as resources under a Creative Commons license. However, OLPC itself will not be creating any text books. Walter 09:52, 12 June 2006 (EDT)
We have a page for Electronic textbook projects.


Are "OLPC" and the "$100 Computer" the same?

No. One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is the name of a non-profit association whose mission is to provide a laptop computer for every child as "both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think." The $100 Computer (or Laptop) is the machine we are developing towards the realization of this mission. Walter 15:35, 4 June 2006 (EDT)

Improving scale of products sold and commercial partners

OLPC relies on economy of scale to reach low prices. To improve scale, why not sell important parts separately from the laptop? For example, the screen technology could be sold for use in home theatre remotes and in-car computers at higher prices to subsidize OLPC somewhat. Assuming there is some central OLPC organization with employees, I would suggest creating a few non-laptop departments focused on other mass-market uses of the technology--then again, attempting to find companies that would be interesting in buying a million or two units might be a better strategy.

I feel like restricting the laptop and its components to one purpose is unnecessary--then again, I haven't studied the problem. Maybe someone can explain why it's necessary, but I wonder if it's just a lack of managerial resources.-Qwertie

The bottom line is that our mission is learning, not laptops. While we will be working with a commercial partner at some point for both machines and interesting parts--we've been looking at models where by the commercial side can help drive down the cost for the kids--our immediate priority is the non-commercial machine. --Walter
The Laptop is made of stock parts, such as memory, and custom assemblies, such as the screen and case. The stock parts are already made and sold in quantity by various commercial enterprises. The custom assemblies probably won't match the requirements of other products, except possibly the screen and power supply.
The real question is whether licensing the screen technology would bring in more revenue. I know companies that would be interested, if OLPC wants to talk to them, but this sort of thing takes time. It won't help in the initial launch.--Mokurai 15:32, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Inclusion of BASIC: an easy-to-learn programming language?

The inclusion of BASIC in the early home computers in the west created a generation of children who could program, many of whom turned into professional programmers. The UK IT industry for one owes a lot to these early home computers. Will a language, such as BASIC, be included with these laptops? - Dan Huby, dan at huby dot me dot uk.

We will ship with at least four "Turing machines": Python, Javascript, CSound, and Logo. Walter 01:47, 17 June 2006 (EDT)
There are numerous other programming languages available for download in Free Software implementations.--Mokurai 15:35, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
As of the mass production date, there is still no LOGO, but there is a non-recursive visual programming system called Turtle Art. --IanOsgood 19:35, 12 November 2007 (EST)

Is it possible to add a pen input interface (e.g. touchscreen) for OLPC Laptop?

If OLPC Laptop has the pen input interface, it will be a good start point for the R&D of the handwirting recognition in the open source community and good for children in the furture.

We are working on two tracks: a touch interface for the screen and dual-mode trackpad that is capacitive (finger) in the center and resistive (stylus) across the length of the keyboard. Not sure which will work, but we will make every effort. Walter 23:39, 8 June 2006 (EDT)

Font rendering on the OLPC laptop

On a Microsoft Windows platform, point size translates to pixels as 1 point is 4/3 pixels, though rounded to a whole number of pixels. For example, 12 point is 16 pixels above the base line of the font plus extra for any descenders, at the same scaling.

On an Apple Mac, (I think) it is one point is one pixel. So 12 point is 12 pixels. How descenders work I do not know.

Could you say how 24 point renders on the OLPC laptop please? This information is important as it is possible to some extent to help a font render well by careful design of the positioning of contours in relation to grid lines within the font unit space of a TrueType font even though hinting is not used.

Traditionally, as indicated in the table you have provided below, one point is 1/72th of an inch, so the relationship between point and pixel would be dictated by the resolution of the display. I recall that the original Macintosh was 72DPI, hence the 1-to-1 correspondence between pixels and point. Since we will have a fixed-resolution display, we should be able to map directly to the traditional measure as well. At 1200×900 pixels on a 4:3 aspect ratio, 7.5" diagonal display (6"×4.5"), the pixel resolution is 200DPI. Therefore, 1 point is 2.8 (200/72) pixels; 24 point is 66.7 pixels. Walter 13:30, 20 June 2006 (EDT)
   * in: inches -- 1 inch is equal to 2.54 centimeters.
   * cm: centimeters
   * mm: millimeters
   * pt: points -- the points used by CSS2 are equal to 1/72th of an inch.
   * pc: picas -- 1 pica is equal to 12 points. 
   W3C CSS2
   1pt = (25.4 millimeters) / 72 = 0.352777778 millimeters
   1px = (113.4 millimeters) / 900 = 0.126 millimeters
Pixel size depends on monitor size, and is not fixed in relation to font size as you seem to think. In addition, many applications allow the user to increase or decrease the size of a displayed document, so 24 pt type can show up on the screen in just about any size. Anyway, Linux uses standard TrueType and OpenType font rendering, so you should look up how the font engines like xfstt do it. For line layout of multiple languages, the Laptop will use the Pango rendering library.--Mokurai 02:31, 13 October 2006 (EDT)

Cultural effects?

Has your team considered the cultural ramifications of injecting first world technology into the third world? Granted, it aims to allow the recipients to be more competitive in the first world marketplace- but is it really our place to pushing our culture onto these developing nations? Please do not be offended by this question, as my goal is not to attack the project- but rather I am certain that these issues have been discussed amongst the participants and I am curious about their philosophy on this. (ie: do they see this as a form of muted cultural imperialism?) -- Adam W, July 12th 2006

First of all, the OLPC initiative is a "pull" initiative, not a "push" initiative. We are not pushing anything on anyone. However, to the extent that cultural imperialism is "the practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation in another," we are promoting the use of computation as a "thing to think with," a means of empowering children to learn. However, this is not strictly a First World concept. It is well in line with the work of people like Paulo Freire and others who have had profound impact on learning culture globally. And by adopting an open architecture, we are both enabling and encouraging the project to be appropriated by the local culture (language and literature). Walter 11:15, 12 July 2006 (EDT)

man-centered vs social-centered: a media (laptop) for the kids or a tool for the teachers ?

Is the use of a laptop, a tool very individual oriented, against the social background of many of the target people of this project ? Many of the kids that this project is targeted to are born in society more social-oriented than the westener countries, in countries where information/knowledge is accessed more through social bridges more than individual experience. The Individualism of modern western society is focusing on giving "individual" learning tools: laptop, pc, even books. In other society the teacher is still the main "medium" and source of knowledge; first (or second) the family, third the friends/society as a whole.

The basic model we are working with is "create and share." We are leveraging three basic human attributes in our design: (1) the ability to learn; (2) the need to express; and (3) the need to be social. By default, the laptop will be all about being social, not about the individual. In fact, one of the reasons we think that the laptop is an important form factor (and the reason for our emphasis on the mesh network) is that we expect the families and other community members to be part of the learning experience. Walter 11:15, 12 July 2006 (EDT)


What is the purpose of these devices as new multimedia devices with similar capabilities are almost getting to this price point?

We are designing a laptop for children to learn with. These other "new multimedia devices" are targeting a different need and hence have a different set of design criteria, i.e., they tend to be optimized for received expression rather than personal expression. Walter 11:15, 12 July 2006 (EDT)

Why is the laptop using SLC Flash instead of MLC Flash? Is MLC not cheaper than SLC?

The short answer is lifetime: SLC flash is rated at ~100K cycles and MLC flash is rated at ~10K cycles. Walter 22:06, 12 July 2006 (EDT)

How rugged are these laptops going to be?

I read that these laptops are supposed to be "rugged" and (as much as possible) unlikely to break. How do they compare in the regard to conventional laptops, "semi-ruggedized" laptops, and "ruggedized" laptops? It would be quite a feat if they could perform as well as ruggedized laptops, since they typically cost hundreds more than their equivilent "normal" counterparts.

The OLPC is not ruggedized for the most part. Instead the approach taken has been to make a robust and rugged design that does not suffer from the weaknesses of existing laptops. One of the few features that could be considered ruggedization is the case. But, unlike normal laptops, the OLPC has no hard drives, no internal cables, no fans. By removing the weak points, we do not need to add additional costly ruggedization features.

Official software list: eToys?

Will Alan Kay's Squeakland and its eToys, and Scratch be included in the official OLPC distribution? (Roughly speaking, Squeakland is a custom Squeak Smalltalk image specially built for K-8 education by 'learning by doing'. Scratch is another Squeak image for grades 9-12.)

Squeak is not on the current list, but you can certainly join the discussion on its page.--Mokurai 15:48, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Why is the list of official OLPC sotware not linked from the Software page on the wiki?

The list of official software is linked from the menu on the left, which is visible from every page.--Mokurai 15:48, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Where is the debate on what software will be included and what won't make the cut (somewhere on the wiki? Sorry I couldn't track it down.) -- David, July, 2006

On the Talk:Software page, accessible from Software by clicking the discussion tab.--Mokurai 15:48, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Economic Impact

Some people are fearful of OLPC in that Brazil, India & China are expected to become economic powerhouses. I think their fear is due to a lack of understanding of global economics and that they view this as a zero-sum game. Has any recognized economist addressed this?

As far as I know, most economics textbooks fail to point out clearly enough that in a Free Market, both parties to a transaction come out ahead. This comes from too much focus on money prices and on marginal cost of production, and not enough on value. Goods and services are priced by the market in an equal manner, but valued by the individual participants entirely differently. A baker and a dairyman both put a high value on that part of their production that feeds them and their families, and a much lower value on the remaining stock that they trade. They then put a high value on some quantity of the others' product, and are eager to trade some of theirs for it.
In international trade, the good of the consumer is frequently sacrificed to the interest of specific groups of politically-organized producers. So the US turned down the offer of low-cost gasoline from Venezuela during the Katrina disaster, and refuses entry to (that is, sets high tariffs on) Brazilian fruit and sugar products, including orange juice and alcohol (made from sugar, in competition with highly subsidized US corn, but is nevertheless cheaper) for cars.
See Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents and Making Globalization Work. Stiglitz received a Nobel Prize for analyzing economic situations of unequal information. What we need now is the recognition that for people with no information, the economy is out of reach, and that access to information needs to be treated as a fundamental Human Right.
See also Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, which explains the ways in which people act out their desire to be, and more importantly to appear, richer than others.--Mokurai 17:09, 28 October 2006 (EDT)


How many years will these machines be operative?.

It is usual in developed countries to replace computers after three years or so, since computers increase in capacity and performance at a rate of 35+% annually. I have suggested that countries could issue new Laptops to schoolchildren in grades 1, 5, and 9, or in grades 1, 4, 7, and 10, and I have done some cost calculations on that basis, published elsewhere on the Net.--Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Have you thought of a reciclying program?. Enourmous amounts of garbage could result from all these equipment when they become obsolete.

OLPC indeed thought about recycling, as stated elsewhere in this Wiki, but there are no definite plans yet. The question does not arise seriously for three or four years to come. --Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Also, are the modules interchangeable so that semi-skilled people can make one good one from two dead ones?

No, a tightly integrated system is cheaper to make than a modular system. But the children may work out how to make FrankenLaptops anyway. ^_^ --Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Like people, laptops have many age-related illnesses, ranging from plastic embrittlement due to evaporation of plasticizers (the laptop I am writing this with is now dying of this, as parts of the case now shatter when bumped) to the common combined use of aluminum bonding wires and water permeable plastic packaging in ICs so that chips literally corrode in moist environments. The list is seemingly endless. Regardless of the production rate, an "equilibrium" will eventually be reached when they die as fast as they are manufactured. Does anyone have any idea what that equilibrium is?

If it is more than three years before failures become common, it doesn't matter. Equilibrium will never happen, because old computers will be replaced with new ones en masse.--Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

There ARE good approaches for very long life, but plastic cases and conventional keyboards wouldn't seem to be a part of them.

Really? I and my family have some more-than-ten-year-old systems (in plastic cases with conventional keyboards) in our personal collections that still work fine. Commodore 64s, for example. The Computer History Museum has working systems more than 30 years old. --Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Then, there is the ox cart approach, of making everything easy and inexpensive to replace, e.g. using individual standard battery cells rather than custom battery packs that cannot easily be repaired by semi-skilled people. Of course, this approach would involve the use of more expensive connectors. What is the anticipated level of connectorization?

Answered above. No. --Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

The design lifespan, whatever it is, is a basic hardware parameter that should appear in the hardware specifications. What is it?

The actual lifespan is unknown. There is some stress testing being done, which will give a partial answer. However, the designers took the expected lifespan of components and materials into consideration when choosing them. --Mokurai 17:30, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

How serious are you about this project?

Yesterday I talked to the principal of a school in my neighborhood here in Accra, Ghana. He said, he wanted to have computers for his students. I referred him to wait for another year. After this, I assured him, he could buy a Laptop for around 150 $ from the OLPC. He was amazed and will now organize some funding, to have it ready by next year. He will not look into any other option; he will not buy a crappy desktop for the same price now. If the 100 laptop were to be ready in 2008, he probably would buy a crappy desktop.

Tell us about the crappy desktop he can get for $150. Does that include a monitor, or does your friend already have one? Is a hard drive included? A faster processor than the Geode in the Laptop? I am guessing that this computer is faster and has greater capacity than the Laptop, and your friend should not wait.--Mokurai 17:40, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

My point is: Please announce every setback as early as possible, please be very conservative in your estimation and planning, and please consider: every day you keep somebody waiting faithfully you keep him from taking action. A false promise is the worst thing to give to a developing country (and to anybody).Simon J Smend

It is improper to make promises on someone else's behalf.
  • OLPC can hardly announce plans for next year's price and availability before getting this year's first orders in. First deliveries are expected to occur in mid-2007.
  • Current plans for retail sales depend on getting some vendor to buy in, and the price will more likely be in the neighborhood of $350.
--Mokurai 17:40, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Individuals and OLPC

I've heard that individuals won't be allowed to buy OLPC laptops, or that it won't be available to the public. If so, why not? Wouldn't it be good for the project? You can sell them without having to provide a general-purpose OS preinstalled, after all. -Qwertie

It has been stated several times in this Wiki that OLPC is discussing retail sales with various vendors, and that nothing has happened yet. --Mokurai 17:54, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

I think it is important that the general public be able to purchase this especially professionals in the IT industry.

Why? This is not a suitable product for IT professionals. You can do development for it on any desktop or laptop Linux system. Only hardware and driver developers need access to the hardware, and they have but to ask. --Mokurai 17:54, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

It's a bit like OPEN SOURCE. Access by the public is what has made it so great....and thus projects like the OLPC can benefit as a result. In my view it is absolutely consistent with the OLPC objectives of learning. - NWs

I think it would be very sensible to allow access to these computers for richer individuals, if only to encourage development of literature and educational materials availability internationally.

Currently it is governments only, minimum quantity 1 million, cost $250 million including servers, infrastructure, training, and so on. See the Libya MOU.

Patchoul here, my daughter is age 6 with Down Syndrome and ADHD and developmental delay, however she responds well at home when using our family PC and is learning language, reading and writing but she has limited use of the school PC and all of the professionals who see her suggest that more use on a PC in school would help her. Our local education authority will not fund another PC for her to use and as I a lone parent of three children and I am myself disabled, I do not have enough funds to purchase what could be an expensive piece of hardware, for her to use in school. Would there be any way of one of the robust laptops in your project, being made availablke for her to use please ? I would fund this myself if it is possible please. thank you, from Patchouli, Liverpool, UK.

You would do better to get her a $500 laptop, which will have a significantly faster processor, much more memory, a capacious hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive. If you want Linux and Free Software generally, which I recommend, talk to your local Linux User Group about what hardware to buy, and take it to a Linux Installfest. Ubuntu and Kubuntu are currently the most popular Linux distributions for such systems. Ask to see both before you decide. There are non-profits that can help you acquire one. Post here again if you need help finding them. (I and my children have milder disabilities, and you are absolutely right about the necessity of getting the children their own computers/mental prostheses.) --Mokurai 17:54, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

*BSD operating systems

Has there been work with using any BSD operating systems on the hardware? journaling flash file system for any BSD?

Did you just put your hand up? ^_^ I would be delighted if any BSDers took up the challenge. I don't speak for OLPC, but according to their hardware policy, you could probably get a few Laptops for the development group.
There are journaling flash file systems for Linux, too.--Mokurai 18:00, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
I hear FreeBSD is "much faster than Linux" but I haven't confirmed this. This leads me to the ridiculous and impulsive thought that maybe Linux's mm/ tree needs a complete rewrite. --Bluefoxicy 16:18, 23 September 2006 (EDT)
"Please check your facts before posting nonsense to Usenet."--Beable van Polasm, alt.religion.kibology ^_^ --Mokurai 18:00, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

How will these societies will be impacted

How will the poorest societies in the world will be impacted by a sudden injection of technology on this scale? This is a critical question that needs much deeper answers than this FAQ has given. I've added some necessary questions to dig deeper:

  • How will the success of the project be gauged?
You tell us. We aren't the final judges. But I would think we would start with how much more the children are learning, how well it relates to their needs, whether it results in improvements in health, agricultural practices, social organization, economic opportunity, creating more responsive and less corrupt governments, real debate on the future of the world...Well, that's enough to be getting on with. --Mokurai 18:19, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
  • How much research has been conducted on how the societies will be impacted?
  • How will family, community, and religious structures that have existed for generations be impacted?
  • How will the project affect relationships between generations or traditional social structures based on age?

Everythingisok 11:21, 25 May 2006 (EDT)

Song, The World Turned Upside Down, played at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War according to legend.
Seriously, how can we tell? It hasn't ever been tried. But you could look at, say, the history of the printing press and the social revolutions it inspired, from the Reformation (printing of Bibles in local languages), to scientific publications, to the American Revolution (Freedom of the Press).
For your last question, I only want to point out that computers and communications systems mean that the generations will be able to maintain contact, even if the children move to the cities, or to other countries, to get work. And that Laptops will make it possible to preserve languages and cultures far beyond anything possible before.
For a completely different view of these issues, see the Science Fiction novel Air, or Have-Not-Have, by Geoff Ryman, in which a village is put on the Net 24/7 with direct mind links, but with no warning or assistance. ("Have-Not-Have" is a literal translation of the Chinese idiom "You mei you?", which simply means "Do you have it?" or "Does it exist?") --Mokurai 18:19, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Are there efforts to make OLPC an international organisation?

At the moment OLPC is an American-based non-profit organisation. The development of the $100 laptop hardware design was an excellent work! But isn't it time now to make this a more international movement?

There are numerous OLPC affiliates in other countries --Mokurai 18:32, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
  • The open source community is called "External Developers".
Yes, we in Free and Open Source Software are fully involved in creating ever more software that will run on the Laptop, even if we aren't part of the organization. --Mokurai 18:32, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
  • Some countries are not able to take part in OLPC because they fear the American influence.
Well, I'll grant you all the countries under embargo by the US, including North Korea, Burma, Iran, Cuba...Whom else did you have in mind? --Mokurai 18:32, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
  • The Boss of the United Nations traditionaly is from Africa and is black — couldn't OLPC do the same?
Not so. See Wikipedia: United Nations Secretaries-General. UK, Norway, Sweden, Burma, Austria, Peru, Egypt, Ghana, South Korea. Only one black African. I'm sure that Kofi Annan would be happy to take on an honorary leadership position, but he can't do the technology or business parts of the job. --Mokurai 18:32, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

"Not a laptop project, but an education project"

I'm a little confused.

I'm a little confused about what you are confused about. I will answer according to my understanding, and I hope that you will not take it amiss if I answer the wrong questions. Please ask again if we do not understand each other correctly. --Mokurai 18:50, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Sometimes OLPC is called an education project.


If it is an education project then the hardware and the operating system are only small parts of the project.

Correct. See pages on software, the various Education pages listed in the Table of Contents, and so on.

The page Predecessors_of_OLPC has changing content because people don't know what OLPC really is.

Well, it has changing content because this is a Wiki. What precisely is your concern? Did you express it on the Discussion page?

There is no problem if OLPC "only" makes the hardware, system software and software development tools. This is good enough for a Nobel prize.

OLPC also does communications infrastructure, Internet connections, school servers, training, curriculum development, and support for localization into numerous languages.

People should know what OLPC is working on and what other organizations should do. 99% of the information in this wiki is about technology. There are some really good contributions like Talk:Localization_Common_Room. To understand different cultures is very important for this project but I can't see any efforts in that direction.

Check the pages OLPC, Literature, Countries, Languages, Writing systems, Keyboard layouts, and Input Methods. What else would you like to see? You are entirely at liberty to create the pages you want.

If OLPC is an education project then use this education platform to learn something about other cultures. "Eat your own dogfood" [3] — that makes a project successful.

Works for me. Check my page. --Mokurai 18:50, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

If this learning platform should support children in learning to write— test your platform and learn Thai, Chinese or a language from the Indian subcontinent.

I don't see the connection. Yes, more people should learn more languages, but the subject here is building the tools. Once the Laptop is in schools, the opportunity to learn another language will be vastly greater than it is now.

(grammar and spelling corrections are welcome) --Bz 12:55, 10 June 2006 (EDT)

You're fine.


In the Software Ideas - System Software page is the following.

Should there be an easy way to install and remove applications from the device without corrupting the system image? I am thinking of something like klik ( -- DPalmerJr

-> An initial proposal and a proof-of-concept demo is here. -- Probono

There appears elsewhere in this wiki discussion of which linux implementation is to be used on the OLPC laptop.

Is the decision of whether to use the klik system a decision which is independent of which linux implementation is used on the OLPC laptop?

Is the decision of whether to use the klik system a decision for the OLPC management or is klik in effect at an application program level such that any individual OLPC laptop could use or not use the klik system depending upon the choice of the owner of the particular laptop?

Boot language

Linux for normal starts with some text messages. These messages for normal are in english and even for power users not easy to understand. Are there plans to translate these messages to a language the children understand? The children for normal don't speak english and even if the children speak english - they will not understand it.

Khim: Linux boot messages are not for normal humans! Period. They only are ever needed if "something goes wrong"(tm). You can spot some simple problems right away, but if not - you'll be asking someone on mailing list, or in forum, etc. You google for it or send it back to the original developer (kind-of-last-resort) and then... it will be ignored if original developer can not undestand them. You'll do HUGE disservice if you'll translate them. But hiding them behing splash screen unless some key is pressed - this can actually be good idea...

Font type

Will the OLPC laptop use TrueType fonts and only TrueType fonts?

TrueType, OpenType, PostScript, and bitmap, just like any other Linux. TrueType is not adequate for some writing systems. SIL is the authority on this subject. --Mokurai 18:53, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Why a QWERTY keyboard?

Since you're obviously interested in effective design (i.e. removing the caps lock key, etc.) why not use the Dvorak keyboard?

Dvorak keyboard layouts come standard with Linux. I'm using one to type this. However, Dvorak is only suited to English and a few other Latin-alphabet languages. We have to allow QWERTY, since more people use it, and also French AZERTY, German QWERTZ, and so on, as well as layouts for other writing systems --Mokurai 18:56, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

How can our organization/group/country/region etc. participate?

Why not have the product available to poverty level children in the USA?

We have an art project for low income kids that could use this.

Why could this program not ALSO be targeted to poverty-stricken schools in the US? Our kids are so far behind other developed countries in these schools...this "education-project" would well-serve our country as well and perhaps develop more people like those behind OLPC...

Well, go ahead, then. Start OLPC USA to lobby Congress and the separate states to buy into the program. Wait a minute, I can do that. Hmmm, I'll get back to you. --Mokurai 19:00, 28 October 2006 (EDT)
Yes, here you go, OLPC USA.--Mokurai 20:01, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

How will you make sure they are fairly distributed?

You plan to distribute the laptops through the government in such countries as China. How will you make sure that the laptops are distributed fairly, and not just to kids in communist party households?

Governments have to commit to supplying Laptops to whole classes, not selected individuals. The public has a responsibility to report on violations. This means you. --Mokurai 19:18, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Also, another concern I'm sure you've heard raised is that the hardware is not open source. Won't proprietary, closed-source software limit the spread of the laptops?

Let's be clear. No hardware is Open Source, although the Simputer people have a partially open license. The Laptop will come with Free/Open Source Software exclusively, as I read the plans on the software page. Users will be free to download non-Free software if it suits them, but will be able to run on just Free Software.--Mokurai 19:18, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

Lastly, concerns have been brought up about the economic effect of releasing the computers in a closed market. What is your response to critics who argue that computer companies in poor countries would be hit negatively by the wide availability of these laptops.

I just don't think leaving it up to the government is a good idea. And buying in bulk (thousands) isn't realistically in any sense.
Computer companies in poor countries are not selling to schools in significant quantities now, whereas schools getting OLPC Laptops will need more computers than they get from OLPC, particularly for teachers. Employable graduates of the schools and those going on to college or university will need to buy their own computers. The market will boom.
It isn't up to governments alone. They do the deals and the organization, and the rest of us get to watch what happens and comment to the world if anything goes wrong. I think you'll be surprised (as will some governments) at how quickly the process becomes transparent. After all, we are talking about putting people on the Internet in million lots. If anybody tries to interfere with their access, they will have every opportunity to get the word out. And pictures, too.
Again, that's "million", not "thousands". Libya signed up for $250 million worth (MOU, no contract yet), and other countries are discussing it. They don't think the deal is unrealistic in size. They just have to convince enough of the movers and shakers within the country that the results are worthwhile. Maybe some bankers, too. --Mokurai 19:18, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

The computer is a really good idea—MAKE US PAY

I wish, please do they sold in every high developed countrys

This is by far the most Frequently Asked Question on this Wiki. Yes, there will be a retail version, but not before 2008, as far as I can tell. And yes, any country can buy Laptops (except for countries under US embargo, apparently). --Mokurai 19:25, 28 October 2006 (EDT)

FOR 150.- Dollar! (To elemantary schools etc. its a perfect machine.) And then you can go down with the price for poor countrys about 50.-$, better!

I'd just like to add that, as a British university student, I would personally pay up to maybe £250 ($300 - $350 USD?) to have one of these for myself, and would be happy to spend a good £50-100 extra on top of this as long as I knew that ALL the money I spent was going to help lower the costs of distributing these in schools around the world. Portable, durable, reliable, small, Linux (I'm assuming this version is user-friendly?), lots of USB ports, no higher spec than is neccessary, the sort of thing I could take everywhere I go without worry, and it has a crank handle (absolute genius!!!) - it's perfect!

There's a hell of a lot of people who want nothing more than a simple, portable, reliable typing machine with USB and optional internet, and who'd be happy to pay extra for a good cause and a guarentee that they weren't being ripped off by something badly made. Unlike every other computer manufacturer in the world you satisfy all of these criteria. It'd be a very simple way to modestly boost fundraising and awareness. Plus it'd make people like me very happy!

Nice :-)
Make it with a different color case(grey) and stamp a logo and message into the cover (like Apple does in their laptops). The message would say "I donated to the OLPC project". This way you prevent the real units being diverted into the 1st world retail stream.

Totally agree. 4 good reasons to let everybody to buy it :

  1. I'm a software developper and I'm very interrested to pay twice the price for a OLPC laptop. Then I could easily create and test software that works well on it.
  2. The twice of the target price is not so high compared to many "test computers" and still can give financial support to the project.
  3. Another interresting border effect is that a critical mass is reached faster. The scale that permit a production/shipping price under the target price.
  4. I'm interrested to buy this kind of educationnal tool for my own children. This is more interresting than a game console but not more expensive. More, this is a good platform for educationnal games.
(KEF, Belgium)
Gooda agree with that - the thing is cute enough, light enough - eco-friendly enough, etc, etc - Americans will pay $300 or $400 for these things - so "Buy one - get two others for <country of your choice> free" would be a great way to get them 'out there'. Furthermore - you know that the more educated geeks have these things - the more clever software will be written for them - and the more you sell, the lower the price. Heck - put up a pre-order form and you'll get my $400 today. I'm off to read more technical specs. SteveBaker - Texas, USA
There is obviously a lot of interest in other countries. I think you should really try and get some serious publicity in the USA.

Frankly i disagree. First world countries have no direct need instead should be motivated to fund this milestone project. I could see however how certain small and special project in the US could also make use of this laptop however there should be a consistency in the target group that the cannot afford the laptop.

I think it would be very sensible to allow access to these computers for richer individuals, if only to encourage development of literature and educational materials availability internationally.

Imagine a gadget that a poor kid in rural India could get her hands on, but I couldn't! Preposterous! "Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa". New post: I had the same idea as another poster above, to sell them for a higher amount to those that can afford them, with the extra profit going towards lowering the cost for those less able to pay the full price for them. Allowing us to donate money might also be an option. My only concern is that something be done to remove the "devil horns" for the final design... :-) CN, Minneapolis

Could you get the next generation off of staggered QWERTY keyboards?

First, congratulations! This is a wonderful project that plenty of folks said couldn't be done. Since your targetted users have no investment in the legacy typewriter keyboard, I really wish you could take this opportunity to move the world off of the darned things.

QWERTY keyboards are only used in countries with a Latin-based alphabet. Many of the target countries will not use QWERTY because they have a totally different writing system.

The keyboard layouts for Korean and the languages of India have the vowels under one hand and consonants under the other. The arrangement of consonant keys is somewhat systematic and therefore mnemonic. I learned Hangeul layout much faster than Dvorak. But that is not an issue that OLPC has anything to say about.

Many of the target countries DO have a substantial investment in their existing typewriter keyboard layouts.

Could you provide a keyboard with the keys arranged in columns, with a more sensible layout as the default?

Can you cite any studies that demonstrate columnar arrangements to be superior to staggered arrangements. I suspect that staggered arrangements are better for fast typists.

The only historical reason for staggered column keyboards is that it allowed the typebars to be equally spaced on manual typewriters. This writer has lost hours (over 25 years of professional writing) to the staggered positions of B, 6, and ` on staggered QWERTY layouts, and even some time to X in Dvorak. That includes time taken to look for a key, and time to correct errors. The problem is greatest in the early stages of learning.

I don't know about you, but I can't really manage my pinky going straight up as easy as up and out. The staggered feel is much more comfortable; although I do use a modified attack (my left index finger handles both Y and F; my right handles D and X. I'm on dvorak).

SHIFT and BACKSPACE under the thumbs somehow instead of the pinkies? Seems like this is the *ideal* opportunity to get a new generation of users onto a better typing foundation -- faster learning, faster typing, fewer errors, less stress on the tendons, etc. Your volumes are such that the development of inexpensive keyboards that match your design would be inevitable.

Getting the next generation of users on a decent keyboard would do the world a big favor (to add to the HUGE favor you are already doing it!).

You misunderstand the goals of the OLPC and the customers. The goal is to educate children but the customers are national Ministries of Education. It is up to them to choose the keyboard layout.

-perhaps there could be a site for sugestions of keyboard layouts to be chosen between for the ministries.of.educations to choose between - a presentation of different options/suggestions may make their decisions easier, otherwise they may not consider an alternative to 'convention'. a new generation of keyboard layout culd be a very progressive move in computing.

Where is the website that's already selling the 1st Gen OLPC?

There is no such website. For more information on retail sales, keep an eye on the Retail page. There was a site where people could pledge to buy a 2B1 for $300 but it failed to reach the required number of people.

For now, the only way to get a 2B1 is to be one of the developers. Or, you could try to Build your own.

What happens when a kid nukes the software on his/her computer?

Is there a way to wipe everything and start again, if a kid accidently screws up a config file or what not? --Stranger 00:57, 14 June 2006 (EDT)

In addition to booting from the flash disk in the laptop, you can also boot from a flash disk attached to one of the USB ports on the laptop. This flash disk can have a program that repairs any damaged files on the internal flash disk. It can also nuke the disk and re-install from scratch. Eventually it may be possible to do this over the Wi-Fi network too, but that is more of a wish than a plan. Tef
I think it's important to remember that you can't hug your children with nuclear arms, especially when dealing with childrens' machines. --Bluefoxicy 17:03, 23 September 2006 (EDT)

Constructionist learning software: eToys?

Will there be room on the laptop for Alan Kay's Squeakland and its eToys, and for Scratch ? -- David, June 2006

Yes! This was answered here Talk:Squeak -- David, July 2006

Papua New Guinea

Please include Papua New Guinea in this project. The children there are so desparately disadvantaged and PNG seems to slide under the radar of US charity projects :) And while I am mentioning the overlooked poor, how about considering the children of the South Pacific Islands- Tonga, Nuie Is, Cook Is, Samoa etc.

You are welcome to create OLPC Papua New Guinea, or any others that you want, and to lobby the governments there.

Hardware question: CCF vs LED

This question was actually prompted by the seemingly innocent statement about the laptop's screen being the brightest light in a third-world home at night. Wouldn't white LED's be cheaper and have a longer lifespan than the CCF's and required inverters that typically are used in LCD displays? Not to mention the effect that they would have on the total wattage required?

Note that this is an unofficial answer. This has been discussed in other places this is just my understanding.
The OLPC laptop does not use CCFs (Cold-Cathode Fluorescent)backlights. They are too fragle and power hungry. They actually use LEDs for backlighting in color mode. (I think they use Red Green and Blue LEDs in an innovative way that I can't explain.) Also in section 4 of this news letter the addition of two LEDs for keyboard illumination was discussed. (The news letter also discussed the origin of the brightest light in the house story.) tef

Public availability?

I heard a rumor over the weekend that the laptops would be publically available at triple-cost, with one third going to the purchased unit and two thirds going to purchase two more for children. Any thoughts on this? I know the site says that the systems are primarily focussed towards government level purchases for education, but I heard this and thought this at least was a cool idea. --Drew, Chicago, IL

  • Update: I found the info on this. Check out [4]; they're collecting pledges from 100k people to pull this off.
See also Retail.

Unanswered Questions

Cambodia test?

The FAQ mentions Cambodia twice. Can you link to more information about the pilot in Cambodia? Or provide details about it in the FAQ? When? How many devices? What hardware? What ages? What type of network access? What software was used? What operating systems?

Also, what village in Cambodia?

Can tribal organizations within the US participate?

Within the US there are Native organizations and rural villages who could benefit from this as well. How can organizations which can find funding (1) work to make these available to the Tribal youth who could use them and (2)work toward customize Native content within the programming environment

Can a legitimate NGO or foundation apply for your program?

In some countries there is a lot of corruption. Would OLPC partner with an NGO instead of the education ministry?

Well, because corruption in the Government, in Mexico of the contracts for Enciclomedia (educational material) landed in friends of the president. Likewise the distribution and maintenance contracts will go to "relatives & friends" of government officers.

Maybe NGO´s are fair organizations (like Red Cross, Rotarians, Caritas, etc.).

Campaigns for OLPC laptops for Laos and Ethiopia

There are people enthusiastically putting forward cases for Laos and Ethiopia. What information does the OLPC management need presented to it in order for a case to succeed? How will their cases be assessed please?


As far as funding goes, considering how economy works in industrial countries, i would say once the project is ready for roll out, you should seriously consider to make the laptop open to everyone through a webshop:

Promote different customary designs (limited editions - for psychological reasons), promote it together by putting emphasis on how to improve the world by making a small contribution and actually getting a quite usable AND very sturdy as well as ingenious laptop not to be seen elsewhere. Sell them for around 499$, and especially by advertising that by making this small contribution 4 laptops in a dev-country (which is not to be decided by the buyer for ethical reasons) and a small amount goes in to the olpc foundation.

Reflection on "Funding Idea": $499 is a price point that many TVWeb appliances attempted; unfortunately, it's still too high. However, if they were available at $199, aproximately $50 usd over cost, a fairly high percentage of geeks on Slashdot, digg, hackaday and various other communities would not only purchase them, but I would venture that this would spur system and application development as well. The cost of selling to the public need not be high; I would suggest even allowing any of the various OSS-CD online stores, thinkgeek, and the like to carry them and the administrative overhead in exchange for a small percentage over $199 (not to mention coolness factor).

How will updates work?

  1. How are the OS and applications going to be updated?
  2. Will the teacher push updates?
  3. Will some other authority push updates?
  4. How will systems be protected from viruses/worms?
  5. Does the OS/apps need a deeper level of protection than local user data?
  6. Do you need one server system per school/village/district to handle updates?
  7. How are updates authenticated?
  8. How will rollbacks be handled?
  9. Will encryption be allowed/disallowed?
  10. Since some authority is furnishing the laptops, is the assumed privacy level zero?
  11. Can Village A spy on Village B via the mesh network?

15:00, 3 April 2006 User:BobBagwill

Personal tools
  • Log in
  • Login with OpenID
About OLPC
About the laptop
About the tablet
OLPC wiki