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OLPC Set To Dump x86 For Arm Chips In XO 2 274

Posted by timothy
from the just-make-it-faster dept.
angry tapir writes with this excerpt from Good Gear Guide: "One Laptop Per Child is set to dump x86 processors, instead opting to put low-power Arm-based processors in its next-generation XO-2 laptop with the aim of improving battery life. The nonprofit is 'almost' committed to putting the Arm-based chip in the next-generation XO-2 laptop, which is due for release in 18 months, according to Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC. The XO-1 laptop currently ships with Advanced Micro Devices' aging Geode chip, which is based on an x86 design."
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OLPC Set To Dump x86 For Arm Chips In XO 2

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  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:48PM (#27170901) Homepage

    The OLPC project is dying. Four years ago, you didn't have the netbooks. Now you do.

    Shifting to ARM will simply ensure the death of the OLPC project, because being able to run real windows is an underappreciated benefit of x86.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:50PM (#27170945) Homepage Journal

    The guy is so pissed off at the likes of Intel he's driving the platform into a ditch. An ARM based client computer. May as well try and bring back the Amiga.

  • by timholman (71886) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:54PM (#27171025)

    Shifting to ARM will simply ensure the death of the OLPC project, because being able to run real windows is an underappreciated benefit of x86.

    Or for that matter, being able to run OS X. For example, by all accounts the Dell Mini 9 can be turned into an excellent low-cost Hackintosh.

    But you are correct about the effect of the netbook market on the OLPC project. The OLPC was a visionary idea, but visionaries rarely outlast the revolutions they help create.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:07PM (#27171185)

    The whole excuse people use for running Windows is it runs their applications. Seeing as how they're all for x86, porting Windows itself is only 1% of the issue.

  • by Phroggy (441) <{moc.yggorhp} {ta} {3todhsals}> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:16PM (#27171367) Homepage

    Microsoft wouldn't need to artificially limit an ARM port of Windows to only allow three applications to run at a time, since there would only be about three applications available for the platform.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:17PM (#27171377) Journal
    Even if Microsoft bends over backwards, and dedicates half their resources to the ARM port, it'll still be crippled. Not because "OMG M$ suxx0rs!" but for the same reason that always comes up in windows vs. linux flame wars.

    Applications.

    Perhaps the largest argument in favor of windows on x86 is that virtually every bit of legacy software that somebody or other absolutely cannot live without for whatever reason runs on it. There is zero chance of most Wintel legacy software ever being ported to ARM(not to mention drivers. Given how much the x86/x86-64 transition sucked, it is pretty much impossible to be optimistic about an x86/ARM transition).
  • No Change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FrostedWheat (172733) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:20PM (#27171415)

    OLPC is in talks with Microsoft to develop a version of a full Windows OS for XO-2, Negroponte said.

    So you'd get all of the disadvantages of Windows, while simultaneously loosing the only real advantage it has, plentiful software. Smart.

  • by doctormetal (62102) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:23PM (#27171449)

    That should only be the case for native applications.
    For pure .NET applications (fully MSIL) is should not matter as long as the runtime is available..

  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:48PM (#27171857) Homepage

    I may be kind of cynical, but it seems ot me the OLPC project is now saying they recognize a lower power, less expensive processor would be a major benefit to their stated goals...but they can't (or really don't want to) adopt it anyway unless Microsoft® gives them the "okay", since they've effectively abandoned already-capable-of-running-on-ARM Linux for Microsoft.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:08PM (#27172173)
    If this change means Uncle Bill can no longer hijack the OLPC project, I'm more than good with the concept.

    The XO was a product of the western media lab -

    custom hardware, FOSS and a western - constructivist - philosophy of education bundled into an all or nothing package for the third world education minister.

    His alternative was the Classmate - a straight-line path to the higher grades, the trade school or college, the job market -

    for the students who had a real shot at making it that far.

  • Re:Time for OS X (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deanston (1252868) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:19PM (#27172327)

    I paid $200 for my XO in the G1G1 deal. 6 months later I paid $200 for my iPhone 3G. The iPhone has 8 times the capacity, Wifi so easy a kid can configure it, and is hands down a better 'computer' than the XO in my opinion. Sure, it doesn't have Python, but coding on the tiny keyboard was a pain anyhow.

    Apple has been making computers for education long before Negroponte. I wouldn't be surprised if it comes ahead again. Think of all the educational apps that can be built with the iPhone SDK and distribute for free. Never, EVER, spurn Apple while Jobs is still alive. He'll make you eat your words.

  • by MoxFulder (159829) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:34PM (#27172599) Homepage

    This is basically a weakness of proprietary software in general...

    We've had x86_64 for what, 6 years now? Windows XP got ported pretty fast, but driver support is still awful since most hardware vendors haven't bothered to port their drivers. And true 64-bit app support is even worse.

    On the other hand, the Linux kernel got ported to x86_64 shortly before the physical processors were actually available. I was running a full-blown Debian distro on it a couple months later. All the apps were open-source and the kernel makes great efforts to design device drivers for portability, and so for distro maintainers it was largely a matter of just recompiling the packages.

    What lags behind in 64-bit support under Linux? Surprise, surprise, it's closed-source stuff like Flash and video drivers.

    Closed-source software develops a massive amount of inertia against architecture changes. With open-source, as soon as one developer decides to recompile for the new architecture, maybe tweaks the code a bit, you're off and running.

  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:43PM (#27172753) Homepage Journal

    I suspect power consumption has more to do with it (although given that battery cost is a significant cost of a system, reducing power may reduce cost too)

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:35PM (#27173649) Journal

    I've seen surprisingly few pure .NET desktop applications on Windows. Most use P/Invoke and/or COM interop in more than one place, often to call some third-party C++ library.

  • by laddiebuck (868690) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:20PM (#27174261)
    Depending on the style manual the journalist used, this is correct. For instance, if you read the BBC, acronyms are spelled with only the first letter capitalised -- hence Nato, Isaf, etc. This rule is not followed under some circumstances (probably depending on whether you can pronounce the word), so DHS, BBC, USA.
  • 2 Questions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XMode (252740) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:26PM (#27175187)

    Ok I have 2 questions..

    Firstly, WHY would Microsoft ever want to port XP to anything? This is an OS they have been desperately trying to kill off so they can get people buying their new ones. If anything is going to be ported its going to be Windows 7, and I personally cant see that going well.

    Secondly, even if you HAD a port of windows on ARM, you'll get about the same number of Apps that you did when windows ran of the Alpha, ie, none. So why would you bother? "Being able to run all the normal software people use" is Windows ONLY selling point these days, and that nothing to do with the OS and everything to do with the developers.

    Given the whole OLPC Linux to Windows switch fiasco, i'd be surprised if they get anyone seriously interested on helping them with a Linux port and you'd probably find a few people trying to actively hurt them for it.

    Absolutely amazing idea (some may say world changing) but the implementation was very pore and badly managed. 2/10 would not shop again.

  • Re:Oh dear God no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hacksoncode (239847) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:27PM (#27175197)
    However, it would not be the first time someone has built a WinCE laptop. I believe it was HP that tried this trick many years ago (I worked on a peripheral driver). It wasn't a success, but it wasn't a brick, either.
  • by Nursie (632944) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:03AM (#27178919)

    But it needs an interface made for non-programmers (not going to happen anytime soon) and a new name. Then it can stand a chance against Photoshop

    1. There was a project to do this, gimpshop, but I don't know how successful it was.
    2. This little topic always makes me slightly angry. How many of the people saying "Gimp is no photoshop" actually paid for photoshop?

    It must be one of the most widely pirated apps out there, yet somehow every man and his dog seem to complain it's one of the things stopping them moving to Linux. Always confused me. When the choice is FOSS or piracy, I personally prefer the FOSS option, even with worse interface. Though I'm pretty sure Adobe see the rampant piracy as a (microsoftian) mechanism to maintain dominance, and won't go after it too harshly.

    (I am aware that if you use it professionally then the license allows you to have a home copy as well, I just don't think that anywhere near as many people use it professionally or pay for it as claim it's important to them).

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:55AM (#27179505) Journal

    Even a 400MHz Pentium2 will run circles around those 1GHz ARM CPUs.

    Nowhere near true. Clock for clock, the Cortex A8 has similar performance to the Pentium-M.

    That's the point, really, isn't it? ARM chips need special hardware DSPs for just about ANYTHING you want to do.

    No, but it's more power efficient. A 1.5GHz Pentium M can't decode 720p H.264 without dropping frames, while the DSP on a typical A8-based SoC can handle it easily in around 200mW. Doing the same thing on something like an Atom CPU would take around 2-4W. You're talking at least an order of magnitude power difference for doing the same task, which in a mobile device is very important.

    Yes, because most people don't do anything computationally intensive with their netbooks

    Exactly, and for the things that are computationally-intensive it makes more sense to have dedicated silicon that can handle it in a fraction of the power consumption. That's why most of the shipping ARM SoCs have a DSP and a GPU on die.

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