Monday, September 17, 2007

$100 Laptop For Only $188

I've addressed the $100 Laptop in a few previous posts (here's the last one that I've found, and it links to earlier ones). If you want to avoid reading the links, the story is simple--a non-profit was formed to give kids in the Third World cheap laptops with built-in wireless capability (there's plenty of signal in rural Zimbabwe, I'm sure). Watch the education revolution unfold! As you can tell from my sarcastic tone, I'm not impressed, and my previous posts on the topic outline why.

Well, enter a new problem. It seems the laptops, which were originally supposed to be only $100 ea, now cost $188 ea, and production hasn't even started yet!

Wouldn't it be cheaper to get old laptops that run on Windows 98 and give them to Third World kids? At least those computers have hard drives, unlike the so-called $100 laptops. I have one I can donate--the one I have been issued by my school.

That's right, folks. Windows 98. How many operating systems ago is that?


Anonymous said...

I think we should give them things that would help more with education, though. And Rubik's cubes.

In America our kids don't need laptops.

Darren said...

I count 4:

Win ME
Win 2000
Win XP
Win Vista

As I pointed out in previous posts, ubiquitous computers here in the US haven't created stellar surges in academic performance in our students, if TIMSS results are to be believed.

allenm said...

I'm still waiting for much in the way of evidence that computers are being used effectively in schools, for education, here in the U.S.

Also, some of the noise coming out of Africa suggests that us rich Westerners haven't done Africa much of a service by all the promiscuous giving we've taken such pride in. Turns out that if charity comes from the heart it still has to go through the brain to keep from being more of a liability then an benefit.

The realization is gradually infiltrating the newer generation of African leaders that a blank check is only an advantage to whoever is cashing it. Everyone else has to wait for the crumbs to fall off the table and it's the African leadership that cashes the checks.

Matter of fact, the whole OLPC project bears a striking resemblance to the way computers-in-education are sold in these United States. That when they falleth as the gentle rain education will spring up in their wake. We're rich enough to afford that sort fairy tale, the developing world isn't which means that what's happening - they aren't selling many of them to the governments that are supposed to buy them - was predictable.

The reason not to hand out computers with any flavor of Windows, beyond the objection about the lack of demonstrated value, is that Windows of all flavors is a security and maintenance nightmare. A significant part of the OLPC (XO-1 actually) design and creation process is security of all kinds.

Anonymous said...

Setting aside the fact that responses to a question about "how many operating systems" are only including Microsoft's offerings, there was also 98 SE....

Anonymous said...

All discussion of the pedagogical merits/demerits of OLPC aside -- which is a huge aside -- there are some aspects of the design of the XO that do make it preferable to the "give them old laptops with Win98 on them" approach.

1. The XO weighs around 3.5 pounds, which is considerably lighter than the typical Win98 machine.

2. The XO is somewhat ruggedized, with a rubber coating over the keyboard to keep dust or moisture out of the internals.

3. There appear to be some improvements in power management, although the specs on battery life and such are a little too technical for me to understand fully.

4. It has a hand crank. Come on, how cool is a laptop with a hand crank? I wish my Macbook had that.

There's also the issue of paying for the Windows operating system (your choice of flavor) if a plan to recycle old machines were put into play. I have no idea of any details for this, but it always seems to be that Microsoft figures out how exactly you broke the licensing agreement for Win** if your computer changes hands. Free OS's have their drawbacks, but licensing legalities are not one of them.

Again, the main issue with OLPC is the perceived/assumed pedagogical benefits. But I think there is some very interesting and potentially useful engineering coming out of the project that could benefit lots of people, not just in third world countries.