Wednesday, October 8, 2008

OLPC back with Get Once/Give One program starting Nov. 17

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) [1] is an amazing initiative: use technology (sometimes develop new ones) to bring education materials to kids in poor countries.

When studying at the university, I acquired experience in building chips (building blocks of npn gates) to extension cards (with Transputers and TMX chips). I build pieces of software to optimize pipeline in CPUs (on Cray XMPs, for example) up to OS process scheduler. Now, I am just an end-user application developer but that is a different story ;)

The first time I heard about the OLPC initiative, I was impressed by one specification: a computer made to last in tough conditions! And the result does match this requirement:
  • There is not fan and, when it is closed (with the “ears” covering the USB ports), dust and humidity cannot reach the core.
  • The CPU is under the flat screen, so kids having the laptop on their knees cannot be harmed.
  • There is no moving part (no CD-ROM drive, no regular hard drive, just a solid state drive-SSD).
  • Minimal poser consumption and many power sources [2]: the grid power, a hand crank charger, solar panel, and a pull string generator!
Check the in-depth review of the hardware conducted by Mr. Huang beginning of 2008 [3].

Today, I have been able to see the interview of Chuck Kane, OLPC CEO, by Robert Scoble.


Interview by Robert Scoble

After the hardware, the feature I like the most is the mesh network. Scoble also interviewed Michail Blestas, VP of Advanced Technology and Connectivity, who gives few details about it. Among the features I like: independent of any wifi infrastructure, laptops relay packets even if they are “turned off” (if there is sufficient battery charge or mains input), peer-to-peer communication protocol, etc. [4].


Interview by Robert Scoble

Now, what should I do? Ideally, I would like to help sending these laptops to African kids, especially in Democratic Republic of the Congo, in relation with my involvement in the Diku Dilenga organization [5]. But it will not be tomorrow :( So this year, I am going to participate to the “Get One, Give One” program that will start November 17, and will be served by Amazon [6]. I will acquire one XO (name of the laptop) that will find its way up to Kananga, Occidental Kasa├», DR Congo. The second one will be donated by OLPC to a South American kid...

I am going to continue following OLPC progression, especially the XO-2 which promises to innovate even further [7]. Who knows, maybe big corporations (like Intel, Microsoft, and al.) will stop pursuing their individual goals (place more chips or licenses, so augment the revenues, and maximize shareholder's profit).

A+, Dom
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Sources:
  1. One Laptop per Child website.
  2. OLPC power supply.
  3. Review by Andrew “bunnie” Huang of the OLPC hardware.
  4. Details on the OLPC mesh network.
  5. Diku Dilenga: delivers micro loans to entrepreneurs, support education and healthcare initiatives.
  6. Amazon will distribute OLPC XO for the 2008 program “Get One Give One”.
  7. Preview of OLPC XO-2.

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