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Negroponte Sees Sugar As OLPC's Biggest Mistake 268

Posted by timothy
from the neat-tech-but-has-some-drawbacks dept.
griffjon writes "In an interview, Nicholas Negroponte claims that the biggest mistake OLPC made was the revolutionary Red Hat-based Sugar desktop environment — instead, he says, they should have built Sugar as an application that ran on a 'vanilla' Linux OS. Some disagree."
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Negroponte Sees Sugar As OLPC's Biggest Mistake

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  • Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:47PM (#28759859)

    The biggest OLPC mistake was Negroponte.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:48PM (#28759879)

    Things whent downhill the second they started working with MS.

    Seriously, they should have stuck to ultra-cheap durable laptops, rather then try to cater to MS's Windows. They lost their focus and thats the end of them.

  • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:53PM (#28759949) Homepage
    Amazing how an interesting and informative comment can be totally ruined by pointless racism...
  • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:53PM (#28759953) Journal

    The answer is very simple, and strikes at the heart of what is wrong with the open source movement: regular folks prefer products they can use without much effort. It's called "usability" and for-profit companies invest a lot of money and time always finding ways to make their products more "user-friendly".

    It seems to me that open source developers have heard of that "usability" thing, just two examples here:
    http://usability.kde.org/hig/ [kde.org]
    http://library.gnome.org/devel/hig-book/stable/ [gnome.org]

    And where did you get the fact that for-profit companies don't use open source development method? Just a one example, search here for 'Who is sponsoring the work'.
    http://www.linux-foundation.org/publications/linuxkerneldevelopment.php [linux-foundation.org]. Personally I think that nobody wants this great OS is because people aren't ready to risk their existing pre-installed OS since switching an OS is a non-trivial risky thing which takes time, however good the new OS might be. And people are often content if something works just enough even tho something else might be more productive in the long run. "NOBODY in a for-profit company like Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, IBM, ect., would ever let a new computer ship without the capability to install a printer and print from within applications out-of-the-box."

    Can you honestly argue that every single device that you have plugged into a computer shipped by the above companies has worked out-of-the-box? If you can you're an extremely lucky individual. I myself have had nightmares with getting devices to work with, for example, Windows 98, ME and even WinXP even tho it has good hardware support. And computer/OS distributor can't have perfect hardware support because printers have drivers which need to be specifically programmed for a certain OS so if a device company decides so, it can make drivers for its device only for one OS leaving the others without support (which might be added by someone else who is willing to do reverse-engineering). "Open source projects are the opposite: they concentrate on pleasing the "experts", with the result that the products are usually good, but of no interest to the general population." The GNOME project, the other one of the biggest desktop environments for Linux, focuses on simple interfaces and actually annoys power users since cutting down on choices makes for less features. For example I am a power user and dislike GNOME applications and I also think that most open source applications are nowadays made for non-power users. As an example here, Mozilla Firefox is an open source project and it seems to be quite good for newbies too.

    "One more example: installing applications on the XO often requires making use of the command line. well...99% of people out there have no idea what a "command line" is. How clueless can a team be?" I thought that 99% of people in the target areas also have no idea what a "graphical user interface" is. Command line is efficient, flexible, fast, consistent and lets user automate tasks easily so it might not be that horrible if people would learn it. But I agree that applications might be good to be installable with a GUI tool like synaptic.

    (Sigh, you are a fucking troll..."Niggerponte" indeed...)

  • by Useful Wheat (1488675) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:54PM (#28759965)

    Its a shame Sugar didn't turn out to be as popular as it could have been. I know as a kid I used to play with the computer for hours on end, changing settings and playing with QBASIC (gorillas anyone?). By giving children an open source OS to play with (as well as some kind of instruction) they might have really had the opportunity to learn something.

    However, in terms of the OLPC goal, they should of gotten on their knees and begged for Windows XP. Giving children all around the world laptops is the more important goal than spreading FOSS, and the lack of a windows environment is what helped its competition grow and crush the project. I remember at least one major sale was blocked because Intel's competing laptop (which was more expensive) had a windows environment. If they would of dual booted sugar, the children would of found it and learned it. If anything else, just to annoy their parents.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:55PM (#28759971) Homepage
    shithead who decided microsoft windows simply MUST run on the OLPC in 60 days?? and now his professional evaluation of the open source operating environment he wanted to replace is that it sould have been sitting atop vanilla linux??

    whats left? a big bold redmond boilerblate on the case that says "fuck you red-hat" with clippy waving the bird?!
  • by mcrbids (148650) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:55PM (#28759979) Journal

    Compatibility is a very, very important feature. And the more complex something is, the more important compatibility becomes!

    Every technology has its "API" - the specific interface between it and its environment. And it's very, very, very important to ensure that this "API" is consistent with existing implementations of the technology in order to be successful.

    We have many different models of cars, all with their respective features, at price points that range from $2,000 to $200,000 and this is OK because they all have steering wheels, gas/brake pedals for the right foot, and will fit on a standard road.

    Take *any* of these basics out of the equation, and you suddenly have a non-starter. The interface between a car and the gas station is but one simple parameter, and yet electric car company startups have come and gone simply because this simple interface breaks.

    When looking at an operating system, it's very, very important to maintain compatibility between the operating and applications, sure, but it's also important to maintain compatibility between the operating system and its USERS. It's vexing for users to switch from MacOS to Windows, or from Windows to MacOS, and both have long-established, entrenched interfaces that they are all *very* slow to change. Windows still has it's "X" window kill switch in the top right corner, etc.

    With this in mind, it's not a surprise that a whole new graphical interface for a start up caused all kinds of problems. Sure, it's innovative, logical, easily learned, etc. The meta-language Esperanto has all these qualities, yet we all still speak English, with all of its spelling oddities and grammatical exceptions and cruft from its thousand-plus years of history.

  • by eln (21727) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:58PM (#28760027) Homepage
    First, advertising it at first as a $100 laptop was a mistake...it's stupid to announce a price before you figure out what your cost structure is going to look like.

    Second, and more importantly, the distribution plan was flawed. Their big idea was to sell this thing to the governments of third world countries, despite the fact that most third world countries are led by corrupt governments that have little money, and use what money they do have to grease the palms of the inner circle of the government. Most charitable organizations learned decades ago that trying to get corrupt governments interested in doing something for the interest of their poorest citizens is a recipe for failure.

    What they should have done is sold these things to charities that already work in these areas and have knowledge of the difficulties involved and would know where the greatest need is. They should have been dumping these things on charities as fast as they could take them, but instead they were busy trying to get these governments to distribute them, thereby assuring they were only going to be going to countries with relatively stable governments with experience delivering large-scale deployments of things like electrical power to their residents. This means the people that would get them were the ones least likely to benefit.

    Third, they didn't do enough to get the American public interested in the project...sure, there were a bunch of stories in tech rags about how cool this was going to be and how no one could get them unless they were a poor person in a third world country, but that was it. This meant the people most likely to have the spare cash to donate to this cause didn't know enough about it, and never had a chance to get their hands on one except through the short-lived "buy one, get one" program.

    The Internet is fast becoming what electrical power was 50 years ago: It separates the people who are able to participate in the global economy from those who can't. The so-called "digital divide" has been largely closed in this country, but it remains a huge problem globally. The OLPC program is and has been a great idea with a piss-poor implementation plan.
  • mistakes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Digi-John (692918) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:58PM (#28760031) Journal
    When your customized system takes 2-3 times as long to boot as Windows on the same hardware, you probably have made a mistake. Maybe next time don't write it all in python.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:08PM (#28760179)
    Develop thicker skin. You don't throw out all the good stuff just because you find one element offensive. If the U.S. government had told Von Braun to fuck off on his rocket ideas just because he used slave labor in his factories and was a SS officer, we wouldn't be celebrating the Apollo landing anniversary today.
  • by h890231398021 (948231) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:11PM (#28760229)

    The Internet is fast becoming what electrical power was 50 years ago: It separates the people who are able to participate in the global economy from those who can't.

    50 years ago? Electrical power IS STILL a huge separator today. Many "developing" countries have unreliable electrical service at best, and often NO electrical service to the poorest of their citizens. Added to all the other problems you said, OLPC should have realised that putting a damn computer in the hands of some country's kids is completely missing the point when the kids have probably no electricity, not even basic healthcare, no sanitation, little or no education, and perhaps barely enough food. Forget the computer ---- there are far bigger problems to solve first.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:12PM (#28760243) Homepage

    The big mistake OLPC made was Nicholas Negroponte. He's too much into his own self-importance. His thing was dealing at the national leader level and getting himself into the press. What was needed was somebody who knew how to get a low-cost product out the door and sell it in quantity.

    The OLPC should have been in a bubble-pack in every Wal-Mart and Walgreens in America, in every souk in the Middle East, and in every market in India, selling at a small profit and dropping in price every three months. But no, Negroponte had to try to make big deals with governments. That might have happened after they actually had the product out there in volume.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:13PM (#28760259)

    It's vexing for users to switch from MacOS to Windows, or from Windows to MacOS, and both have long-established, entrenched interfaces that they are all *very* slow to change. Windows still has it's "X" window kill switch in the top right corner, etc.

    Right, because we all know the villages in Africa must all be using Windows XP and every kid knows how to use them. Sure when marketing this to the first world, you must keep that in mind, but that isn't the goal of OLPC. The goal is to take children who have only heard of computers, perhaps have seen a computer, but don't know how to use one. You aren't taking the average guy who works with Windows at work, uses Windows at home and giving him the Sugar UI, you are taking a poor kid with no knowledge of computers and giving them a computer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:20PM (#28760353)
    So until they chose to offer a machine that ran Windows you feel it was a widly successful project? You base this on what data?
  • by bbasgen (165297) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:29PM (#28760475) Homepage
    Sugar has had it share of issues, to be sure, but this notion that OLPC should be a hardware company is quite absurd. Thanks but no thanks -- hardware is a commodity that you can get from anywhere. It is the creation of innovative software, specifically tailored to children, that makes the device interesting or not.
  • by Zey (592528) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:34PM (#28760533)

    ``The key to it all is that kids own their machine, so all the admin stuff (networking, power management, etc.) *needs* to work within a consistent, simple GUI.``

    That view, and the Sugar UI FWIW, stem from a completely flawed understanding of children. Kids are inherently quick at learning and highly adaptable. Give them a Linux or a Windows UI and they'll thrive, taking that knowledge with them and building on it to adulthood.

    What Sugar did was try to lock them in a world of Fisher Price toy simplicity, as if they were intellectually retarded. None of the UI knowledge of Sugar would benefit them later. It thoroughly deserved to fail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:39PM (#28760593)

    1. Regarding Walmart, etc., you're absolutely right. It wasn't Sugar's fault, or the windup crank's fault, it was the fact I could not easily purchase them for my kids. I could not purchase them at all in fact until Negroponte made them unnecessarily expensive.

    2. Regarding national leaders, you may be onto something. His brother after all is renowned diplomat and friend of dictators John Negroponte.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:42PM (#28760629)

    Their big idea was to sell this thing to the governments of third world countries, despite the fact that most third world countries are led by corrupt governments that have little money, and use what money they do have to grease the palms of the inner circle of the government.

    And that differentiates 3rd world governments from Detroit, DC, New Orleans, Chicago, NYC, the entire state of CA, how exactly? So that is not much of an explanation.

    Most charitable organizations learned decades ago that trying to get corrupt governments interested in doing something for the interest of their poorest citizens is a recipe for failure.

    Tada, there is the problem. Most ethnic minorities are poor because their government likes it that way... Some foreigner trying to make life better for a hated minority group, is never going to accomplish anything, ever.

  • by SoCalChris (573049) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:42PM (#28760637) Journal
    They didn't just lose focus, they lost a lot of goodwill by working with MS.

    Personally, I think their biggest mistake was not selling it to first world consumers. I know a lot of people who would have liked to buy one, but couldn't. This was a fatal mistake since their plan required being able to produce large enough amounts of these to be able to sell them cheaply, and they were turning away the people who were willing and able to buy at the time.
  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:46PM (#28760695)

    Exactly. If they'd just given all the money they've wasted to a bunch of Chinese backstreet hackers, this thing would be all over the place now.. Probably would also run "XP" just fine too...

  • by careysub (976506) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:56PM (#28760859)

    I am in an excellent position to evaluate this issue, having purchased one of the first XO OLPCs through the give-one-get-one (GOGO) program for an 11 year old child, and then obtained an Asus Eee PC netbook running Xandros Linux (a window-ized interface to Debian Linux, along the lines of Ubuntu).

    The 11-year old's verdict: thumbs down for Sugar, thumbs-up for Xandros. She gave up with fiddling on the XO after a few weeks, but loves to use the Eee PC. As the network support resource for my household, I can further point out that Sugar shipped with unusable wireless security (WEP only), which some months later was upgraded to WPA, but with this fatal flaw: every time the computer is powered up the user has to reenter the entire passphrase to get wireless access. Since a rather lengthy and obscure passphrase had been previously selected to provide household network security, this was an intolerable nuisance to an 11-year old. And dumbing-down the household security for the convenience of one cheap product is unacceptable to this network support resource.

    Perhaps the passphrase remembering problem has since been fixed (since the XO is not used by its target audience any more I am not inclined to upgrade the OS to test it) but it illustrates the fatal problem with the Sugar approach: writing a decent OS is hard work, and taking a quick and dirty stab at it gives a foundation of sand for the whole offering. Absolutely they should have run a solid robust proven OS (Linux) for the system, adding on what ever they felt was needed.,/p>

  • Re:Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:24PM (#28761305)

    Damn, you beat me.
    But it is so true.
    He was the one that doomed the entire project.
    It started off fine, then as each quarter went by, the project just faded.
    Then along came Wintel with its axe and the rest is history.

    But of course, their biggest mistakes were selling to "Third World" only, and not doing it for profit. (seriously, not-for-profit? Fuck hearts, fuck decency, not making a profit is suicide in computing, hardware especially in this case since this was the only thing that was bought, ever)
    I knew a good 20 odd people who wanted one but couldn't get it. (pre buy-one-donate-one)

    Fuck Negroponte and fuck Wintel, he was a clueless fool who destroyed hope for countless people by allowing the "borg" a piece of the pie.
    The original idea could have done so much for those people, now all we have is this sad twat rolling around in Microsoft's money damning FOSS to Hell.

  • by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:30PM (#28761421)

    I am responsible for a half-dozen different "appliance" server platforms. They all have Linux at the core, but a specialized CLI and GUI (usually web-based) layered on top for administration and maintenance of the box itself, and configuration and monitoring of the application it runs. They are by no stretch of the imagination Unix servers, despite a *nix-like core underneath, where the user can't get at it easily (or at all).

    This is standard industry practice in the year 2009, and not a "mistake."

    The mistake made wasn't committing to Sugar first, the hardware second - the rush to cram Windows on their boxes was stupid and self-defeating. The OLPC was best categorized as a personal computing appliance rather than a general purpose workstation, and Sugar was and is fantastic for this purpose. By committing to the learning-appliance concept, they could tweak Sugar to run on whatever hardware offered the most bang for its buck. Processors come and go, storage drives obsolete themselves like clockwork... it doesn't matter. The processor isn't the purpose, the RAM is not the point. The point is that the kids have a computer that's easy to learn, rewarding to master, simple to maintain and reliable under all circumstances... and that starts with the interface.

    Besides, Apple doesn't have a problem running its interfacer overtop *nix.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:38PM (#28761533) Homepage

    Personally, I think their biggest mistake was not selling it to first world consumers. I know a lot of people who would have liked to buy one, but couldn't. This was a fatal mistake since their plan required being able to produce large enough amounts of these to be able to sell them cheaply, and they were turning away the people who were willing and able to buy at the time.

    I think this is only a symptom of the biggest mistake, which was a flawed vision of how this project needed to work. Negroponte thought he could swan into the offices of big-time politicians in third-world countries and just talk them into buying these computers en masse, even while he insisted they were not really computers (and could not run Windows) but educational tools. Educational tools? At $100 a head (and climbing)? How many of these countries are investing $100 per student to build schools? What's more, how well has this model ever worked for vaccines, or malaria nets, or cooking stoves? The only way Western countries have managed to bring these things to the poorest people of the world is for independent charities to strap on their boots and go deliver them by hand. Governments are not going to do it for you.

    Further, and more to your point, so you put a $199 laptop into the hands of a child of a family that doesn't earn $199 in six months. What then? How much is that kid going to learn about computer programming, open source, and all that other good stuff, when the fields need to be ploughed? One of the main reasons people in third-world countries have lots of kids is that they need them, particularly in areas where people are regularly knocked out of commission by malaria for half the year. So how long is it going to be before that family sells the OLPC?

    And then what? Exactly. The OLPC ends up in the hands of ... someone who can afford to buy it. This is Negroponte's real biggest mistake: Denying the basic forces of economics.

    If, on the other hand, he had put them into every Wal-Mart -- or screw that, Walgreen's -- and every souk and ever bazaar, in the teeming millions, it might have had a shot. The only way to counteract the economic forces in the poorer regions is for not just the cost, but the value of the device to be low... and the only way to do that is to bump up supply. Keep focused on making the devices virtually ubiquitous, as commonplace as bicycles. In short, the OLPC project needed a lot more people on board and a lot more money backing it. It needed the participation of international charities and it needed to be subsidized by people buying the devices here (at a "novelty" markup, even).

    Instead, they went with the "I just need to go shake hands with Nice General Abouda, and he'll help us out" model. Seems like a recipe for failure, to me.

  • by IntlHarvester (11985) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:43PM (#28761619) Journal

    Right, because we all know the villages in Africa must all be using Windows XP and every kid knows how to use them. Sure when marketing this to the first world, you must keep that in mind, but that isn't the goal of OLPC.

    The biggest myth surrounding this project is that these laptops would go soley into dirt huts in the middle of the jungle somewhere. In reality, a lot of the interest was coming from developing countries that have commercial economies.

    Not that WinXP was the only solution, but when the customer base is more interested in teaching children word processing and office applications, it's obvious that a specially designed edu-ware interface missed the mark.

  • Re:Obvious (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:47PM (#28761685)

    The whole project was nothing more than an ego-trip for Negroponte, so...

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:07PM (#28761985) Homepage

    Yup - the give one get one was a bad idea. The idea was that an OLPC was so nice to have that rich people would pay double to get one - that just wasn't the case. Sure, they should have definintely made it easy to donate towards giving one away (and in fractional values less than one whole unit), but they should also have sold them to anybody willing to pay for one.

    The whole "if they want one they can pay for two" thing just caused people to not pay for any, and it lowered their production volumes which worked against them as well. As you said, if this became one of the top 5 selling computers in the first world it would have been much easier to sell it in the 3rd world, and maybe they could actually have sold it for $100.

    Not being able to make it as cheap as was originally planned also killed them. Once you get into the $200 range you're almost at the point of competing with Netbooks (which, amazingly enough, are actually sold at Walmart).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:11PM (#28762027)

    Then celebrate the accomplishment, not the motivation.

  • It was Sugar... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TrailerTrash (91309) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:39PM (#28762451)

    Standard disclaimer, I've used a zillion operating environments, like most /.'ers, with my favorites being VMS and Ubuntu's flavor of GNOME (In MY DAY, we used punch cards, and we had to punch the holes out with a hand-bone of a squirrel we had to catch and skin ourselves. Now get off my lawn!). I also bought a GOGO Sugar machine. My kids hated it, I hated it. The wireless would lose all connectivity after each 24 hours (yes, my DHCP lease was infinite), after taking days of fiddling just to get it to talk to the secure wireless modem. I eventually gave up and got a USB wired ethernet connection. It still would hang randomly, though less often. And the only thing the machine ever did was FireFox. The "documentation" was more missing than real. I chalked all that up to the program being more focused on getting the machines to Peru and Mongolia. But it didn't make the system any less painful to use.

    It now sits on the floor in my office, in a dusty heap. If I ever get the motivation I'll put a flavor of real Linux on it, but that's pretty unlikely.

    If it had come out with a semi-standard Linux interface I think it would have stood a better chance of success, if only to me. How long did it take to develop the environment and apps when the resources could just as well have been devoted to making a lean and mean distro to fit the hardware? Poor resource planning, it seems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:39PM (#28762457)

    I would have jumped at the chance to buy a single OLPC, but I wouldn't give anyone anything I am I can't test drive or touch first. I loved the idea of the OLPC, and without Negroponte's efforts there the Netbook wouldn't exist.

    But seriously....

    I have only seen 1 OLPC outside in the wild, and the sound guy who had owned it and loved it, for nearly 3 years, hacked it to be rid of Sugar. His complaint was the file management scheme that listed everything in reverse chronological order, with no alternative. As if the kiddies wouldn't be able to learn file management any faster than my 75 yr-old father. The OLPC's performance and durability, running Ubuntu, are great according to it's owner. His only complaint is there's no way to replace the battery, which is now degraded to 50% of it's initial capacity.

    Negroponte may be right about Sugar, and MS collaboration may have been a mistake (history certainly reveals this to be a major pitfall for many who thought they could avoid the feet of the elephant), but don't forget that Intel joined the fray just long enough to subvert the effort as well. Intel joined, kibbitzed, launched a competing product, then pulled the plug on their involvement when it became apparent that there was no chance they could slip their Atom processor into the works in place of the AMD Geode.

    I laugh when people talk about big companies "doing the right thing." Neo-Darwinian philosophy rules the world of the small, business minds.

  • by lennier (44736) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:56PM (#28762665) Homepage

    In the immortal words of Tom Lehrer:

    Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
    A man whose allegiance
    Is ruled by expedience.
    Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown.
    "Ha, Nazi Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.

    Don't say that he's hypocritical,
    Say rather that he's apolitical.

    "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:14PM (#28762855)

    They didn't just lose focus, they lost a lot of goodwill by working with MS.

    The push for XP came from the education minister - the guy who is expected to sign a purchase order for 100,000 units.

    This was a fatal mistake since their plan required being able to produce large enough amounts of these to be able to sell them cheaply, and they were turning away the people who were willing and able to buy at the time.

    The XO-1 was something of a cross between an e-book reader and a netbook - when neither product was clearly defined or particularly economical to produce.

    The first to dive off the pier-
    usually misses the deeps, hits his head on a rock and drowns.

    The netbook may still lack a clearly defined market: Many netbook buyers aren't happy [chron.com] [June 21]

    It wouldn't be entirely unfair to describe sales of the Linux netbook as "a flash in the pan."

    OLPC needed to sell millions of units each year to avoid being lapped by its commercial competitors. I don't think that was ever going to happen.

  • Re:Too Different (Score:2, Insightful)

    by metallurge (693631) <metallurge@gmaiBOHRl.com minus physicist> on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:25PM (#28762945)

    M$ has established what a computer interface should look like.

    Actually, no. Xerox PARC established what a computer interface should look like [wikipedia.org]. Apple took from Xerox & improved it. Microsoft took from Apple &... well... became more commercially successful for reasons mostly of a preexisting monopoly, namely MS-DOS.

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:49PM (#28763213)

    If you give a child a laptop, it'll last a few years. If you teach a child to use open source software, you've given her technology for a lifetime.

    There is almost nothing of interest in open source that isn't routinely ported to Windows or begins as a native Windows app.

    But there is quite a lot in FOSS that remains second-tier at best.

    FOSS is attractive to programmers. But it hasn't hasn't solved the problem of recruiting and supporting first-rate talents with other skills.

    Even in its own domain it has real trouble competing with the tightly integrated solutions offered by Apple and Microsoft.

    iLife for off-hours play. MS Office tools for every task at work.

    "No assembly required -" all the pieces are in place.

    Whatever a spreadsheet program was worth to me in 1999, it's worth the same thing to me today

    This is true only if your job description hasn't changed in the last ten years.

  • by schwaang (667808) on Monday July 20, 2009 @07:31PM (#28763629)

    To make a really bad car analogy, bad marketing didn't kill GM, in fact marketing kept GM on life support for decades *in spite of* their crappy cars.

    The XO as delivered during the first G1G1 (and to country projects during that period) was nearly unusable. Hardware functionality was great, but the software didn't measure up at all, in several respects. Software was still experimenting in blue sky when they needed to be delivering on goals.

    First, it didn't perform acceptably within the severely limited RAM (severe for non-memory-footprint-optimized software). Most likely running the same software on the XO gen-1.5 refresh [laptop.org] will fix that level of performance issues.

    Second, the software was not complete, in that promised features were not yet implemented. Some were important in the real world, like the advanced power saving. Things crashed a lot.

    Third, the software implemented experimental ideas like the Journal, which were under revision without taking end-user feedback into serious consideration.

    [And Fourth, it was damned hard for willing FOSS volunteers to contribute meaningfully. The build you could easily download and run and report bugs on was far obsolete from what the developers were running, and getting in sync with them was tough.]

    From what I could see on the developer mailing lists, they had a severe cat-herding problem. Too many smart people going in whatever direction their creativity and youthful self-confidence took them, rather than getting all hands on deck to recognize the shortcomings and get them fixed *now*. I think they undertook this project in the spirit of constructivism, when they needed to switch gears and deliver a product. Too much green hat [wikipedia.org], not enough blue hat.

    Those are my opinions as a fan of the project.

  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:01PM (#28765355)

    It's a shame for everyone who read deeper into this, because the whole pretext of this story is based on an over approximation.

    Negroponte said this:

    [T]he biggest mistake was not having Sugar run as an application

    He in no shape or form said Sugar was a mistake! He is talking about the implementation, you fools! It is like saying the automobile was a mistake, when the inventor just said he should have used a cleaner engine.

    The person disagreeing [olpcnews.com] with the words they put in Negroponte's mouth says:

    Sugar was not a mistake, it is one of the defining aspects of the XO laptop, and saved it from even more unfavorable comparisons to traditional laptops and accusations of being underpowered.

    Right. So in what way are you disagreeing with the claim that Sugar should have been more modular, the system architecture should have been simpler, and that Sugar could have been more interpolatable with other systems?

  • by Teriblows (1138203) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @01:57AM (#28766321)
    you don't need a forced expensive program to do this. if they are so poor software is free regardless. anyways "open source" is frankly not all that important to most of the worlds people. its being over sold as a necessity or skill. you might as well claim everyone should be their own car mechanic.

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. -- Henry Spencer

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