OLPC and Windows

Published on: 2008-5-15

Home | Archive

OLPC and Windows


Thanks to Justin for brining this to my notice: http://radian.org/notebook/sic-transit-gloria-laptopi The very first comment by Ben Shwartz clears up most of the confusion. But I feel tempted to comment on a few of Ivan's observations. No, we don't know that laptop recipients will benefit from fixing software on their laptops. Indeed, I bet they'd largely prefer the damn software works and doesn't need fixing. This is standard FUD against Free Software. No, majority of users will NOT fix/improve the software. But a minority WILL - otherwise you won't be having so much of Free Software! The improvements that this minority will feed back into the system can be used by *everyone* - that is the key! Developers start out as users. As the user base grows, so does the developer base - and everyone gains! Oh, for fuck's sake. You really just employed a simile comparing a proprietary OS to addictive drugs? You know, ones causing actual bodily harm and possibly death? Really, Stallman? Really? Ever heard of "piracy", Ivan? Proprietary s/w vendors employ a simile comparing looting a ship and causing bodily harm and possibly death to its inhabitants to a simple act of copying a program to your friend! Never knew that the right to use similes and strong language belongs only to the proprietary world! The problem is that Stallman doesn't appear to actually give an acrobatic shit about learning, and sees OLPC as a vehicle for furthering his political agenda. It's shameful, the lot of it. The problem is that RMS thinks from a much wider perspective than you are willing to. One of the favorite arguments of the free software and open source community for the obvious superiority of such software over proprietary alternatives is the user's supposed ability to take control and modify inadequate software to suit their wishes. Expectedly, the argument has been often repeated in relation to OLPC. Ivan is being silly here. It is exactly this freedom for each user to improve things *if* he so wishes which breeds a group of developers who *do* improve things and feed it back for the benefit of the vast majority of others who don't. YOU don't have to improve things yourself, but the fact that you have the freedom to do it is *tremendous* empowerment. And lest you think this is some kind of Apple-paid rant, I'll mention Mitch Bradley. Have you read the story of Mel, the "real" programmer? Mitch is that guy, in 2008. Firmware superhacker, author of the IEEE Open Firmware standard, wrote the firmware that Sun shipped on its machines for a good couple of decades, and in general one of the few people I've ever had the pleasure of working with whose technical competence so inordinately exceeds mine that I feel I wouldn't even know how to start catching up. Mitch's primary laptop runs Windows. So what? What are you trying to prove? There are plenty of super-intelligent people in the world who use Windows or OS-X. Ivan sees the OLPC as an educational tool while RMS views it as a vehicle to lead millions of kids away from a world of non-free software, besides being an educational tool. If porting Sugar to Windows on OLPC XO has the effect of strengthening MS, it should be avoided at all costs.

Boycott Novell » Links 17/05/2008: More GNU/Linux-based Devices and Deployments Worldwide

Sat May 17 07:31:34 2008

[...] OLPC and Windows [...]


Sat May 17 11:24:45 2008

As it has been said before.. This is not an OS war, but a war about freedom and business. I've been trying out the OLPC interface (Sugar), and it's so much more inspiring than XP. Unless the teacher demands it, I think those kids who get a dual-boot laptop will choose Sugar over everything. I just wish they would do a little more of those "give one, get one". I would participate for sure. It's also odd that EU (or any other big guys), doesn't strike Microsoft for this. They have already given them milliards in fees because of monopoly, and now when they get more users, they are just free to do so? What a world, what a world..

Sun May 18 11:16:51 2008

That's right. Users do not need to be programmers to benefit from freedom. All they need is access to the code and the authority to practise all four software freedoms. Everybody will benefit as long as there is at least one person willing to share their work with the community. Anything that deprives the user of their essential freedoms should be avoided as this would cause the community of software users to be helpless and divided which leads to restriction of the culture of sharing and cooperation. Society should not be divided from cooperating to work with each other. Since proprietary software is designed to divide users, we should reject proprietary software if we are to maintain our freedom.

John Wilson

Mon May 19 00:35:34 2008

It is the mere fact that RMS sees OLPC as a propaganda tool rather than an educational one is where I part company with FSF and GNU on this issue. I support the goals of both the FSF and GNU in the expansion and adoption of free software but there are times where an ideology, no matter how well intended, no matter how necessary gets in the way of doing what is right and ultimately good. What is so tellingly sad and heartbreaking about the discussion around OLPC is just this. On one hand the advocates of proprietary software warring with the advocates of free and open software across the internet. Meanwhile there are a billion children out there who are not getting an education of any kind nor will they if either group "wins". Frankly I'm torn between wondering if this is yet another example of first world social and economic imperialism at the expense of the third world with both sides of the argument indulging in their own peculiar brand of imperialism at the children's expense. It's simply a whole lot easier to point out that you're all fiddling while this particular Rome burns and none of you give a tinkers damn about the children. Does anyone truly think that poverty striken children in the remotest parts of the Brazilian Amazon, the African sahel, the tribespeople of New Guinea or the people of bone dry Angola or the downtrodden people of Zimabwe know or care about the ethical discussions around proprietory vs free software? If any are reading the discussion around OLPC right now they must be both desparing and angry. They'd be well justified in both. Ideally, I want OLPC to continue as it was planned and designed as a platform with good and decent distribution, planning and promtion in place. I may get that and should I will support it and so will many, many others. Should it occur on XP I will be sad. That said it will happen and it's much better it does with Sugar ported there because, at least, the children will get enough of an education to begin to discuss and understand the ethical differences between free and proprietory software. At that point they may even care. Either way the children using Sugar will get the chance to learn and play with programming because Python is included for them to learn and use. With XP they won't have the wealth and breadth of free software but at least they'll get there. Does avoiding porting Sugar to Windows mean that GNU and FSF are willing to break the GPL in order to do it? If so, proprietary software wins because the leading advocates of free software prove themselves no better than Microsoft. Anyway, I rather think it will look after itself given this history of the tech industry. If you doubt me have a look at this: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/technology/18digi.html Meanwhile, the Gods may be crazy but on this issue they're looking at what is said about OLPC because the children, the important ones, remember? are forgotten.