[Oberon] Re: OLPC - One Laptop Per Child

easlab at absamail.co.za easlab at absamail.co.za
Fri Dec 15 02:46:22 MET 2006

> > OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines sounds good and I think some of
> > its ideas will go into other products. But the original idea of villagers
> > who are 100 km from mains electricity having computer access seems
> > likely to fail.
> >
Aubrey McIntosh wrote:
> Do those same villagers have cell phones?

Yes and 'village _PCs' shouldn't use more than about 6 times as much 
power as cell phones, that's why I think ARM is the way to go.
The hand-cranking scheme seems absurd because there is no new 
technology that can make a mechanical watch competitive with 
a semiconductor one.  Ie. making a cost-effective reliable suitable
power generator would be more of an engineering miracle than
making the rest of the OLPC project.
OTOH I don't have figures for the OLPC's  Goede CPU power 
consumption.  A big colour display is also a power user ?
And wifi ?
As previously stated the simputer had the right idea re. hardware.

Unfortunately they failed in the important 'fuzzy' but vital area:
IMO aviation, radio, micro-processors [hence the computer industry]
 was pioneered/driven by mostly enthusiasts/hobbyists - mostly US.

The collaborative [without immediate remuneration] model, 
which is essential for certain projects, is culturally a no-no for 

Related to the difficult-to-quantify/describe aspects, the MIT 
OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines seems to be worth a Ph.D.,
and reminds me of Xerox Parc. The way wifi is integrated into
all aspects of operation will further boost the kids who are using
it [not African villagers] and increase the digital divide.
IMO if they get the Human_Interface right, the hardware will
follow.   The real problems are socio-political [human related],
not technical.

BTW in the 80's I took a HX20 [8 bit 6301 based for which I had
made a P-code Pascal-subset system] and later a X86-DOS portable
to Malawi and employed 6 locals as 'short hour clerical assistants'
to work on computing projects.  I had the last electrified cottage
on the east side of the lake. One of the biggest problems was getting
scribbling paper, for the 9 months I spent there.

Chris Burrows wrote:
> Oberon will have its time and place but perhaps not exactly in its present
> form. Maybe a universal limited-resource device is the sort of launching pad
> that will make a significant difference.

Technology is moving so fast that limited-resource is becoming insignificant ?
What remains are the human determined factors: we've still got 10 fingers,
English [26 leters ++] is the dominant text, it's much easier to recognise than
remember...etc.   Fortunately much of Wirth's ideas are based on these 
universal human attributes rather than on transient technology.

With my African ISP chaos, I don't know if I've already posted the text
below ?

To: oberon at lists.inf.ethz.ch,crglur at gmail.com
Subject: Re: OLPC - One Laptop Per Child

Aubrey.McIntosh wrote:
> There was the NIC computer that used Linux and booted from a CD, and
> there was no "disk".  It did have ethernet.  I booted BlueBottle onto
> that machine.  They appear to be defunct.
> I also have a LEX CV860A machine on my desk and it runs BlueBottle.  I
> love this machine.  This machine is available for about $250, and has
> no mechanical parts (heat sink, no cpu fan, cflash, USB memory stick)
> I thought there would be some advantage to the Oberon community to
> focus on this class of machines, and I even corresponded some directly
> with some of the BlueBottle group.
> I guess I feel jaded after maybe 15 years of wondering how to make
> Oberon more accepted.  What was your sense of something new or
> compelling about the OLPC machine?
As MIT-OLPC said they are not in the computer making business, but
in education.    It's about the 'digital divide':
  until recently smallpox was a problem - AFAIK mainly USA fixed it;
  they could have fixed polio too, except for the Nigerian Islamists 
    saying the innoculation plan was a racist scheme to sterilize
    their females.
Then there's bird flu which travels globally and is going to kill you.

Since the 1st world can't remain immune from eg. Africa and
it's been proven that the Marshal Plan doesn't doesn't work
with them [Haiti has been 'independant' for over 200 years],
so G7 want to try magic technology to uplift/educate the 3rd

Importantly, health/medicine is now seen increasingly to
depend on knowledge and self managment, rather than 
drugs as it was before the '60s exposure of the dangers of 
smoking.    The extreme example being HIV/AIDS.

Undoubtedly computers & the net facilitates the cheap spread of
knowledge. Hence the OLPC.  It was planned/advertised to be
supplied for US$100 - ordered 1 million minimum quantity.
Now it's said that Lybia bought a packet for US$135 each.
Some reports tell of costs escalating to US$150.

Of course with India & China's population, a million is not much.
But then you must have non-mains-electric operating.
OLPC don't seem to give current consumption figures for their 
'goede CPU'.
But AFAIK the low power capable CPU is the ARM.
Which is what the simputer chose.
And which is apparently also mature for linux. 
Obviously the whole project centers on linux.

The simputer designers had a nice idea: 
   each user would have his own 'flash card' [the flash-mem
technology had not yet exploded at that time].
By that method each scholar/user could have his own data
for minimum cost, and they could time share.  Like buying
a bus ticket when you need it instead of owning a car.

Chris Burrows wrote:
> Oberon will have its time and place but perhaps not exactly in its present
> form. Maybe a universal limited-resource device is the sort of launching pad
> that will make a significant difference.

I could never see why Oberon should be more 'limited-resource' than eg. C.
Probably the non-preemptive OS ?
Isn't BB/Aos preemptive ?
OLPC apparently describes a round-robin scheme too ?
I used to think N-O's round-robin scheme was fine, but for
inet, I see it's painfull: when I call news and it takes 60 secs.
to reply, I've got to pay telco costs while a have useless waits.
By contrast with linux, I can just send off for 10 http pages
via a lynx script, while I'm fumbling manually with mail/news.

== Chris Glur

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