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Thursday, 24 April 2008 07:07

OLPC: one excuse per child

By
Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the One Laptop per Child project, is in the news again, this time trying to rationalise the appearance of Windows XP on the laptop manufactured by the project.

I suspect very much that Saint Nick has taken a page out of the manual drafted by the Linux Foundation. Else, how would he expect people to swallow the following argument?

1. We are using an OS called Sugar on the XO laptop

2. We are going to be dual-booting this with XP shortly.

3. Later, Sugar will run on top of XP.

4. This does not mean the role that Sugar plays in the project is diminished.

5. It actually means that the role played by Sugar is enhanced.

Shades of George Orwell and Animal Farm, methinks.

Negroponte's announcement about XP included an excuse for the departure of Walter Bender, once the number 2 in the project.

Bender was demoted sometime back and has now chosen to go his own way. He is the third high-profile person to leave, following Mary-Lou Jepsen and Ivan Krstic.

Negroponte can spin things any way he wants; one does wonder, though, how he reconciles the change to XP with this "core" principle of his project:

"There is no inherent external dependency in being able to localize (sic) 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."

And one wonders what the Australian distributors of the OLPC will do now, given that the project appears to have degenerated into one that merely hawks laptops running XP. The identity of the distributor is not provided on the website, nor is there any email address for contact, just a bog standard form for submitting inquiries.

But then if one is planning to sell laptops running XP, the lack of transparency is understandable.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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