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Education Technology

$100 Laptop Platform Moves On 100

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the things-are-sweeter-with-sugar dept.
The BBC is reporting that Sugar Labs is planning on taking "Sugar," the XO laptop's innovative interface, to the next level and distribute to a broader audience. "Sugar is a user interface that allows children to collaborate even when working on different machines. For example, they can write documents or make music together. The open source software also contains a journal and automatically saves and backs up all data. [...] Sugar Labs will work closely with developers from the open source community to develop the user interface for other computers and operating systems. It has already been bundled with the most recent releases of the Ubuntu and Fedora Linux operating systems."
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$100 Laptop Platform Moves On

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  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yahoo.cEINSTEINom minus physicist> on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:17PM (#23440800) Homepage Journal
    "We've royally buggered things up, software porting to Sugar is limited, quality of code is limited, and developers are leaving, so we'll outsource management of the project to someone who can handle it. Besides, it'll be easier to keep Microsoft happy, if we can deny all responsibility for Sugar working and Windows not."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BadHaggis (1179673)
      2009 will be the year of the Suger desktop.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by rtechie (244489) *
      Doesn't Windows run on the OLPC? I don't get this. I take this more as "We're abandoning Sugar because it sucks".

      • by pembo13 (770295) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:52PM (#23441090) Homepage
        No, this is... OLPC + Microsoft sucks, but Sugar is still a good idea.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by rtechie (244489) *
        I know I got modded down, but my experience has been that most of the people that like Sugar have never used it. Nor do I understand the attack on Microsoft. If MS is willing to provide an operating system with more functionality (better foreign language support strikes me as a big deal) at low cost ($3 is pretty cheap), why is this "bad" other than Linux fanboyism? Why hasn't Redhat, Novell, Canonical, etc. stepped up with a Linux distribution?

        • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:11PM (#23442224) Journal
          Let me see if I can give you a couple of clu^H^H^Hanswers....

          1) MS is not offering their software from the beneficence of samaritan spirit. They are offering it at that price to ensure that even the 5th world will be hooked on their constant upgrade and pay to play cycles. $3/CD is better than zero, and it will lead to sales later on. In the marketing world it's called a loss leader... http://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/lossleader.asp [investopedia.com]

          2) More functionality in this case includes wasted battery usage through OS issues, BSODs, virus prone applications, upgrade cycles that are longer than the XO will be a viable product (read no upgrades)

          3) No matter what language it supports, XP still has the same problems, so this is not much of a bonus, here is some data to see what the real language support is:
          http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Linux_language_support [laptop.org]
          http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/handson/dev/winxpintl.mspx [microsoft.com]

          Now, when it comes down to it, neither is likely to support a dialect that is spoken by only several thousand people in the world, but both support a large number of languages making this an odd point to harp on. I've given you a couple of links, perhaps you can point out to the rest of us what huge advantage XP offers over Linux in general and the XO's original system in particular.

          3) Redhat, Novell, Canonical et al were not asked to step up. OLPC chose their operating system and MS 'convinced' them to re-choose. I say convinced with all the irony that I can muster in this life and the next. MS is offering a raped version of XP, and not the version you are obviously used to.

          Sugar OS was just right for the OLPC and with a few tweaks would have been very nice for the goals of that project.

          As for your general attitude in your comment, I offer this review as rebuttal. It's from http://www.engadget.com/tag/olpc [engadget.com] and the emphasis below is mine.

          It's been a controversial decision, but it looks like the OLPC XO has completed its transition from revolutionary education project to just another tiny Windows laptop with a useless keyboard -- albeit one with a pleasantly whimsical design. Yep, it's official: Microsoft and OLPC just put out a joint press release saying that XP-loaded XOs will be available starting in August or September, with some countries to get the machines as soon as next month. Users will get all the regular functionality of XP -- it's basically the same build as on the Eee and other ultraportables -- but Microsoft's spent over a year developing specialized drivers for the XO's various features like e-book mode, the writing pad, and camera. (We're pretty certain that doesn't include mesh networking, but WiFi is supported.) XP is too big for the built-in 1GB flash chip, so it'll come preloaded on a 2GB SD card, leaving just about 1.5GB free total for apps and media. It seems like Microsoft is thrilled about this partnership, but it's a not going to make NickNeg's search for new vision at the top any easier. As for Sugar? You'll still be able to get it, but we have a sinking feeling about its future. Demo video after the break.
          I realize that you seem to have been throwing down the gauntlet for the Linux fanbois, but you would be wise to remember to bring more than a knife to a gun fight.
          • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:23PM (#23442698)

            In the marketing world it's called a loss leader...


            No, its not a loss leader. With a loss leader you lose money or don't make any, MS isn't doing that. A copy of XP costs exactly $0 for MS to produce. Granted, XP did have some costs related to development but now, we are around 6 years into XP and we can assume those have been paid off. With a physical product each copy costs money, in parts, in time, in shipping. With software each copy can be recopied an infinate amount of times without any loss in quality or any increase in cost, compare this to a gallon of milk where each cow can only produce so much milk. Whereas a gallon of milk has costs related to packaging, software doesn't have this problem with downloads where the price of bandwidth is tiny to almost unnoticeable and using more modern P2P technology makes even those costs go away, likewise shipping is free.

            This is not a loss leader for MS, a copy of XP costs them exactly $0 to make, and they get $3 for each copy so that is a direct $3 profit for each system with XP sold.
            • by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @12:43AM (#23443346)
              I dislike MS as much as anybody else here, but they did put forth time and money developing drivers and the like specifically to make XP run on the XO. (hmm, would be easy to make that a typo)

              Additionally, there are costs associated with maintaining XP with security updates and bugfixes, running product activation servers, knowledge base servers (all of which need to be maintained) and all kinds of other expenses such as licensing of media technologies.

              Don't get me wrong, I greatly dislike MS, but to say there are no costs associated with it is dead wrong. These cost do, however, often apply to open source companies as well, and most certainly some of them apply to OLPC. It may well be that going with MS's deal is just cheaper than doing it all in-house.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by LaskoVortex (1153471)

                Additionally, there are costs associated with maintaining XP with security updates and bugfixes

                Do you honestly think that they are going to support a discount platform with security updates and bugfixes to an operating system that has been earmarked for extinction [apcmag.com]? The plan is to trap people into the vicious cycle of OS dependence, not liberate them. Linux can do anything XP can do and probably more given $100.00 hardware.

              • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward
                Funny, I've been using linux distros for years...free updates, upgrades, software, whatever I want, whenever I want...for all my computer courses that I teach.

                However, the idiotic, criminal,unaccountable school board I work for pays M$ about $400,000 A YEAR for the so-called "Software Assurance Program", which essentially is meaningless, since school windoze labs are still crashing, full of BSODs, malware, etc.

                There is NO comparison. M$ junk is a huge money sink compared to anything open source.
            • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              I'd hate to be picky about something this minor; but, it is not $0. Microsoft does spend some money on logistics: Thier asinine authentication schemes, distributing the actual copies, and "convincing" certain high ranking people to use XP on the XO. That costs money.

              Granted the total spread across the copies is probably less than $1 per $3 licence. But, it's not free. And, no, it does not invalidate your point. (Sometimes people think that because I contradict them that I must oppose them.)
          • by rtechie (244489) *

            1) MS is not offering their software from the beneficence of samaritan spirit.

            Prove it. It strikes me as extremely optimistic to think that, as you put it, "5th world" nations will magically become 1st world nations in short oder and begin providing significant revenue streams. So if this is a "loss leader" investment they must be thinking in the long term, like 100 years. Pretty odd thinking from a company with a constantly-changing 5 year roadmap.

            3) No matter what language it supports,

            If you can't read the text on the screen, a laptop isn't much good to you. According to OLPC, on the site you linked:

            At the moment, the

    • by pembo13 (770295) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:51PM (#23441082) Homepage
      I was under the impression that this was more of a voluntarily, albeit unwanted, exodus from OLPC by the devs who actually care about Sugar
  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by story645 (1278106) * <story645@gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:24PM (#23440862) Journal
    Love that they a)wanna focus on usability b)are still keeping to the project aims c)recognizing that people will happily use sugar on anything if it's good. I think sugar is adorable, wanna throw it on my laptop when I babysit, so I think this could be a good teaching tool. One interface with clicky pictures is easier to work with when teaching, even if there are all sorts of games separately-look at the whole jumpstart line of games. So I'm really psyched, though it'd be nice to have a live usb/live cd version.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:32PM (#23440944)
    Sugar Labs is planning on taking "Sugar" to the next level and distribute to a broader audience

    It will also be renamed HFCS [wikipedia.org] to increase marketability. :-)

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:36PM (#23440964)
    why the fuck do some people insist on calling it the $100 laptop? did they not pass grade school maths?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      Because the OLPC group promised a $100 laptop, and delivered at twice the price.
  • Included in distros? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kernowyon (1257174)
    According to TFA -

    It has already been bundled with the most recent releases of the Ubuntu and Fedora Linux operating systems

    I just fired up my Kubuntu 8.04 system and, looking through the available packages from the Ubuntu repositories, I can find no trace of it. I tried various searches - sugar,olpc etc - but nothing. Can anyone discover the alleged bundled sugar interface?
    I have run it in VMs in the past, but would have liked to have another fiddle with it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In 8.0.4

      aptitude search sugar

      aptitude search sugar | grep XO | wc -l
      19
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dotancohen (1015143)
        It's got a ton of dependencies (at least, on Kubuntu 8.04):

        $ sudo apt-get install sugar
        [sudo] password for hardy2:
        Reading package lists... Done
        Building dependency tree
        Reading state information... Done
        The following extra packages will be installed:
        gnome-media-common gstreamer0.10-alsa gstreamer0.10-plugins-farsight
        gstreamer0.10-plugins-good libavahi-gobject0 libblas3gf libcamel1.2-11
        libebook1.2-9 libecal1.2-7 libedataserver1.2-9 libfarsight0.1-2 libgfortran2
        • Uh, I cannot log in with Sugar. The machine just freezes and needs four seconds worth of begging on the Power button to shutdown. For some reason I suspect that I have either a conflict with Compiz-Fusion, or the proprietary ATI driver.
        • by Vexorian (959249)

          It's got a ton of dependencies (at least, on Kubuntu 8.04):
          Yes, it does.
    • by Tomun (144651) on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:45PM (#23441052)
      Its in universe.

      sugar:
      Installed: (none)
      Candidate: 0.79.0-0ubuntu3
      Version table:
      0.79.0-0ubuntu3 0
      500 http://gb.archive.ubuntu.com/ hardy/universe Packages
      • Thanks for the replies. I must admit that I hadn't checked out my apt sources.list and,although I had updated, the gb archives were not working for some reason. Once I removed the gb, then updated the system I spotted the sugar components!
        Note to self: Check all is up to date before querying TFA :)
    • by Locutus (9039) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:26PM (#23441882)
      just do this:

      1) sudo apt-get install sugar sugar-activities xserver-xephyr

      2) create xephr-xinitrc file in your home directory with this line in it: exec /usr/bin/sugar

      3) run this to start it in a windowed xserver:
      xinit ~/xephyr-xinitrc -- /usr/bin/Xephyr :1 -ac -screen 800x600 -dpi 72

      LoB
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @06:48PM (#23441062)
    For the last time, the man's name is Nicholas Africanamericanponte. I've learned to expect a little racism in Slashdot articles, but when even the story submitters are doing it, things have gone too far.

    And whatever you do, don't respond to this post with your favorite humorous variation of Mr. Africanamericanponte's name. That would be truly depraved.

    P.S. My "captcha" word is "enemas". No joke. This place is sick.
  • Hat trick? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by ozbird (127571)
    For example, they can write documents or make music together.

    Piss off Microsoft? Check.
    Piss off the RIAA? Hmm, probably.
    Please, please, please: let the kids make movies together.
  • Wild Fire (Score:2, Interesting)

    by saibot-k7 (1242596)
    The Asus Eee was quite successful and so were the Linksys wrt54/wrt54gl routers. We know the reason those units sell like wild fire. What I'm wondering is why Google didn't initiate a project like this? They have the money to resist being taken down before their product reaches the market.
  • I don't like Sugar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bogie (31020) on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:41PM (#23441474) Journal
    I realize this design is trying to be as universal as possible but I think they missed the mark and made it somewhat difficult to use. Oh and be sure to watch the kids struggle to open it the first time they get their hands on it. Finally for web browsing it is just really slow, painful if you've surfed the net on a PC less than 8 years old.

    I like the idea of OLPC, I like the hardware, but as someone who has used pretty much every OS out there I personally just didn't grove with the OS. I hope that the intended audience feels differently.
    • by story645 (1278106) * <story645@gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @07:48PM (#23441560) Journal

      I think they missed the mark and made it somewhat difficult to use. Oh and be sure to watch the kids struggle to open it the first time they get their hands on it.
      I agree completely-it looks like it could be sparkly and fun for kids if it's cleaned up, tested, and streamlined. That's where I think breaking off from OLPC and really trying to stand on it's own is a good thing. It allows for a change in structure and resources that could lead to more development of a friendly UI 'cause the focus is shifted back towards education in the like. Plus, I'm hoping that reaching for a larger audience will also give sugar strong nudge towards better UI, 'cause the average user just won't put up with sugar as it is now-they'll stay with jumpstart and all the other education suites.
      • Ditto. I have a two kids (a four year old and a five year old). They're currently allowed to play games at Nick Jr and Cartoon Network, plus locally installed games. They like Tuxpaint, Gcompris, and Ktuberling, are using Kubuntu,and seem to "get" computers more than my wife does. However, KDE is a less than ideal UI for a four year old (I like, it and use it myself, but my kids are a very different audience). I think it would be cool to run the Sugar UI on top of $DISTRO. In developed countries (at least;
  • they can write documents or make music together

    Get that damned "ARCHIES" tune out of my head!!!!!
  • "Moves On"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Friday May 16, 2008 @08:00PM (#23441660)
    The /. article title implies that Sugar is leaving OLPC behind, but the BBC article says only that Sugar will be available elsewhere than on an OLPC laptop. Am I missing something?
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      It's perfect simple. Now that OLPC has decided to see other UI vendors on the side, Sugar is also free to "move on", to a park bench, where it will lie huddled under a pile of OLPC manuals, swigging Sterno from a brown paper bag.

      Sugar is dead. XO/Linux is dead. XO/XP is the only viable platform, as most neutral observers concluded from day 1. The bulk purchasers of the XO don't want to teach their countrys' children to "learn", just want to turn them into productive MS/Office(tm) drones. Sugar was ne

  • But will kids, or more importantly their parents, buy into it?
  • Anyone know why they chose the name of an existing OSS project [sugarforge.org]?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @09:43PM (#23442402)
    Having spent a considerable amount of time with Sugar, I've come to the sad conclusion that Sugar is the weakest part of the entire OLPC project.

    I'm ecumenical when it comes to operating systems and user interfaces. I use Sugar, Macintosh, Windows (both XP and Vista), Red Hat Enterprise, Ubuntu, Nokia IT OS (Debian variant), and iPod Touch on a daily basis; plus a couple of others on a less-frequent basis. I'm pretty well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each of these platforms. I have my preferences, but am no fanboy.

    Sugar's interface fails on a number of points. It is very reminiscent of the old MIT interfaces of the 1970s where hackers built what looked good to them with little/no effort to have a professional designer tell them what to do (much less say "no" to bad UI issues).

    The icons and graphical elements are poorly considered, and design decisions seem to be based more on "be different from anything else" than what makes sense. Typical are the icons for "Erase" and "Resume" in the Journal; these icons look like "do not enter" and "stop".

    The use of color is quite poor; most of the Sugar interface is monochrome except for the little user indicator, which you can almost, but not quite, make look like what is on the lid of the XO if you do scary stuff at the UNIX shell level. The activity icons in the main interface have the same two additional colors.

    Now, if they had any sense, the little user indicator would graphically match what is on the lid (presumably keyed by serial number) without impacting other icons. Even if they're limited in the main color palette (e.g., due to power considerations) they could have done that.

    The actual activity icons are terrible. Some are alright (e.g., Browse and Write), but others are bizarre:

    A comic strip balloon for Chat.

    A snake for the Python development application (cutely called "Pippy").

    The RSS application has a common RSS icon, but it's called News Reader. I can't imagine how a kid with no prior computer experience would interpret it.

    Acoustic Tape Measure is an activity to measure distance between two OLPCs using sound. A cute toy, but the icons is a dolphin with sound coming out of its snout.

    Additional things wrong with Sugar:

    As noted about, many of the activity names are silly or simply bizarre.

    There are four music activities: TamTamJam, TamTamEdit, TamTamSynthLab, and TamTamMini. These should be consolidated into a single Music activity.

    There's a toy oscilloscope. OK, kids like talking into a microphone and seeing his voice show up as waves. We all remember going to the science museum as little kids and doing that. But this application is called Measure, which implies something quite a bit different.

    Memorize is a sample game. Games ought to be under a general fun-and-games category.

    The Terminal emulator and Log Viewer both ought to be under an advanced mode. Not necessarily hidden, but from the main activity it should be a something that indicates that you're getting into the internals (perhaps a screwdriver and pliers as an icon) and not pedagogical work.

    Speaking of the log viewer, there's a lot of scary error messages in the logs suggesting that the software isn't very well debugged.

    Then there is what is missing. Since the focus seems to be for education, the paucity of bundled references and the assumption that you can get what's missing from the Internet is astonishing. What is bundled seems to reflect the interests of the OLPC developers rather than pedagogical purposes.

    The mouse control is idiotic and annoying (to put it mildly). In many of the activities, controls are near the edges of the screen, but if you put the pointer too near the edge Sugar takes over and you have to move the pointer back and wait.

    There is no consistency in controls between activities. Every activity does things its own way, based apparently upon the individual programmer's preference. Sheesh, this is the sa
    • by tmalone (534172) on Friday May 16, 2008 @10:50PM (#23442808)
      Sugar has some issues, mostly with applications. Too many of them are half finished. Then again, what are they going to do on XP? Play Solitaire and write notes in Wordpad? Most of the issues you listed were not with Sugar itself, but with the applications. You're right that Terminal should be hidden (new versions of the OS allow deployments to choose their own bundles of activities). Yes, there should be more reference materials included. There is an app that is being worked on that bundles portions of Wikipedia for offline access. That sort of stuff needs to be localized though.

      As far as the touchpad goes, it does need some work. There has been a lot of work on drivers lately (forcing re-calibration more often) that should clear up some of those problems. Again though, that isn't really Sugar's fault. That is a driver problem which is the fault of either the kernel or X11.

      The issue with controls being on the edge of the screen is something I've noticed. You can turn off the automatic frame thingy though (and just use the frame button to activate it). This should be the default.

      There are some good games available. Tetris and SimCity are both fun. One is even sorta educational.

      Some of the icons are bad, same with Windows, same with MacOSX. Why for instance is the icon for Photoshop CS a quill on a blank white square? Or my new favorite is the icons for page down and page up in Publisher 2007's print preview. You can just barely tell that there are arrows on those icons, if you look really closely.

      I think it has some potential; it's certainly not perfect yet. I like the journal (though I don't like how often entries get duplicated, and activities should ask you to name them when you hit the keep button to save). All in all though, it wasn't that hard to get used to, and after having installed some non-sugar apps on it, I can see why they shied away from the traditional GUIs. I would say that their fear of overlapping windows is a bit intense, especially in Browse where it actually renders many pages unusable if they require a usernam/password prompt in a dialog(perhaps having dialogs that work like ones in MacOS X, where they slide out of the titlebar would work).

      Also, I believe Apple offered MacOS X for free but they were turned down.
      • by westlake (615356)
        Then again, what are they going to do on XP? Play Solitaire and write notes in Wordpad?

        Let's be honest here. The back list of titles available for the Windows OS is enormous. Under all software licenses.

        • by tmalone (534172)
          How much of that software is open enough or written by benevolent enough people to be translated into all the languages that OLPC needs? Is "100 Shareware Memory improvement games funpack Volume II" available in Mandarin? Ethiopian?

          Pretty soon, once you start paying all the fees, you're looking at a $900 laptop. There is Open Source software for windows, but a lot of that is stuff that comes from Linux.

          Now, maybe with this XP deal Microsoft is willing to take on the translation task for more than just
          • by westlake (615356)
            How much of that software is open enough or written by benevolent enough people to be translated into all the languages that OLPC needs?

            one suspects a good deal more than the geek is willing to admit. how else do you explain the world-wide dominance of the Windows OS?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hucko (998827)

      Having spent a considerable amount of time with Sugar, I've come to the sad conclusion that Sugar is the weakest part of the entire OLPC project.

      ...

      Sugar's interface fails on a number of points. It is very reminiscent of the old MIT interfaces of the 1970s where hackers built what looked good to them with little/no effort to have a professional designer tell them what to do (much less say "no" to bad UI issues).

      ...

      ...

      ...

      The actual activity icons are terrible. Some are alright (e.g., Browse and

    • The "talk bubble" icon for chat is pretty standard online, and pretty easy to understand. Calling RSS feeds "news" is also pretty standard... these kinds of programs started out being called "news readers", which made things really tough for people looking for GUI Usenet "news readers".

      But talking about bad user interface design...

      There is no consistency in controls between activities. Every activity does things its own way, based apparently upon the individual programmer's preference.

      Sounds like Vista to m
    • by Alex Belits (437) *
      "Measure" activity can measure AC and even DC input in the microphone jack, it's just by default connected to the built-in microphone so it always has some signal to show.
    • by lordlod (458156)
      I'm not a fan of Sugar either, I think it's a nice Beta but I don't think that it's ready for prime time.

      I do think that your complaints are off target though. For example I don't really care about the icons or names of the programs, that's easy to tweak.

      The colour scheme is deliberately fairly monochrome, the laptop screen has a monochrome mode and the interface has to work in that state.

      I found all the OLPC distributed activities followed the interface guidelines. The share combo is always in the same p
  • by _bernie (170285) <bernie@codewiz.org> on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:04PM (#23442876) Homepage
    Surprisingly, nobody posted the URL yet: http://www.sugarlabs.org/ [sugarlabs.org] .
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      It's not really surprising. Sugar is, well, niche. Really niche. Would you actually choose to install it on your *nix machine? Maybe for laughs, but to actually use it for daily tasks? To choose it as a development environment and target? Never going to happen. Sugar is on life support now. Welcome to RiscOS's world.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by _bernie (170285)
        Not for myself, but if I had kids, certainly. Sugar is a desktop choice on Fedora and Ubuntu. Not sure about Debian.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why did Negroponte decide to go with Windows, at $3/license no less, when Steve Jobs offered OS X for free? Negroponte claimed he wanted an open platform. Why the change of heart? What the hell is going on?
    • [ As most of us know, Microsoft's behavior goes much further back than just this year, but this year has enough examples to make the point ]

      2008:

      Monopolist buys local bureaucrats to ensure passage of OOXML as a "standard", in many cases overriding overwhelming votes to the contrary to railroad the standard through a corrupt and now discredited process.

      Monopolist buys local bureaucrats to demand monopolist's products rather than free alternative (Sugar, OS X), railroading their OS onto what was an open, educ
    • by westlake (615356)
      Why did Negroponte decide to go with Windows, at $3/license no less, when Steve Jobs offered OS X for free? Negroponte claimed he wanted an open platform. Why the change of heart? What the hell is going on?

      The OLPC laptop hasn't been selling in anything like the numbers the idealists expected.

      The price just keeps edging skyward.

      Meanwhile, the designer of OLPC's display has moved on to greener pastures. In a year or two, perhaps three, the XO's hardware will be out-gunned by every budget laptop on the pla

  • by vorlich (972710) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @12:22PM (#23446176) Homepage Journal
    Neither this software nor any other, nor cheap laptops will ever have any impact on the education of children or anyone else. The reason the Socratic Method of teaching (questioning and debate to greatly simplify it) has existed for more than 2000 years is because it works. When Socrates used it he had an arena of interested students who in their search for knowledge questioned him and proposed arguments. Their collaboration in producing documents on wax tablets or playing the lyre communally had the following measurable impact on their learning: zero.

    We learn by asking questions that are important to us. Teaching leads the child to ask questions that may or may not turn out to be important to them (although I'm going to give you a free pass on calculus) but will equip them with the skills required for employment.

    This is the fundamental purpose of the industrialised method of teaching children on the grand scale where they are incarcerated in school from the age of 4 to 16 (I'm using my native Scotland as the model here, other rates may vary.) I am a teacher, I am not terribly impressed by a lot of my colleagues but in their defense - no machine or application can do what a teacher does. This is why so many great creative minds were produced in the last century in the post-war period - people had the freedom to think.

    Of course by the sixties school boards were squandering valuable financial resources on TVs, movie projectors, film loops and other idiotic assorted garbage to the detriment of spending money on traditional classroom resources - books, desks, chalk and teachers and by this time the career was held in such contempt and so poorly paid that the schools were filled with the empty-headed using sociologically based - learning by screaming or whatever dumb theory of the day was popular and all conducted in the language of political correctness.

    A quick look at some figures (freely available on the Scottish government website) shows how much the Scottish states spend on education from a GDP of approximately 56 billion GBP.
    • expenditure per primary school pupil 2700 GBP total =18900 GBP from P1 to p7 amounting to almost 8 billion GBP for the nation
    • annual expenditure per high school pupil 3900 GBP total 19,500 from year 1 to year 5 amounting to 6 billion GBP for the nation


    Have a look at any private schools (curiously called public schools in Britain) where the paying customer determines what is considered a successful curriculum.

    The have computers where they should be, in the computer classes.

    • The laptop does not replace the teacher, it replaces the text-book. It can replace and/or complement books on many subjects and allow educational material to be distributed at no marginal cost (unlike books). At the same time it can replace the TVs, film projectors, and entire, very expensive encyclopedias for a low price.

      But no, they will never be a substitute for good teachers.

A freelance is one who gets paid by the word -- per piece or perhaps. -- Robert Benchley

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