31 March 2007

One Laptop Per Child - revisited

On 28 March 2007, the Financial Times reported that the OLPC project's sole supplier of the XO laptop hardware, Quanta Computer of Taiwan, would be introducing a laptop to developed nations with a $200 price point.

"Quanta Computer, the world’s largest manufacturer of notebook computers, will start making ultra-low-cost computers that could be sold in developed markets for as little as $200 this year or the next, according to its president. The Taiwanese contract manufacturer is already producing a laptop developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers that will be distributed to children in third-world countries – under a non-profit project called One Laptop Per Child – for as little as $150.

But Michael Wang, Quanta’s president, said on Tuesday that the concepts developed through the OLPC project could be applied to create commercially viable machines that are cheaper than anything on the market so far.

'We will definitely at the right time launch a commercialised product similar to the OLPC,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that several of Quanta’s customers were seeking to launch such a product.

. . .

But Mr Wang said the low-cost machines would not remain limited to developing markets. 'There are a lot of poor people in developed countries, too,' he said.

Quanta has now created a new business unit for 'emerging PCs' with the explicit aim of creating a new market for the low-cost machines.

He said the cheapest models were likely to be sold without hard disks, have small screens and run on open-source software, like the OLPC version."

Earlier in the week, I stated that Charles Kane, the CFO of the One Laptop Per Child project, will be coming to my current place of employment to speak about the OLPC project and the XO laptop device. I had two questions to ask but will now include a third:

  1. Given the recent announcement by Quanta Computer regarding a commercial offering of low-cost laptop computers to developed nations, will the OLTP project continue to utilize their engineering and manufacturing abilities? Was the OLTP project consulted regarding Quanta's intentions? Does this move provide any friction between the OLTP project and Quanta that could put the future of the project at risk?

I hope the questions are addressed if I am unable to attend the session. If so, and I am able to secure permission, I'll post responses here.

30 March 2007

Competition for TED

I just noticed a single page spread in GQ advertising the New Yorker Conference/ 2012: stories from the near future. The site wouldn't render fully in Firefox so I didn't get a chance to explore fully but the print advertisement made it seem very TED-like.

The raw HTML meta content is somewhat interesting:

<meta name="keywords" content="New Yorker, Conde Nast, Conference, David Remnick, Malcolm Gladwell, Microsoft, Discover" />

<meta name="description" content="A rare opportunity to be a part of a brainstorm conceived by the writers and editors of The New Yorker. Join us for presentations, demonstrations, interviews, and discussions with experts across disciplines, both well-known and newly discovered, to explore what will impact our lives within the next five years, from board rooms and trading floors to music studios, design labs, art galleries, technology centers, think tanks and beyond." />
Microsoft is sponsoring the event. Condé Nast/CondéNet is the parent company of GQ and the New Yorker. The web server appears to be running an Akamaized version of IBM's web server over Linux. Wonder how MSFT feels about that?

27 March 2007

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

Charles Kane, the CFO of the One Laptop Per Child project, will be coming to my current place of employment to speak about the OLPC project and the XO laptop device. It seems like a great project and I certainly hope it is wildly successful. With any luck, I'll be able to bring-up the following issues for clarification:

  1. By leaving the distribution of the laptops to the nations that purchase them, it seems that there is a tremendous amount of room for inappropriate behavior or even flagrant misuse on the part of the ordering nation. Aside from the various Memoranda of Understanding being issued, what mechanisms are in-place to encourage positive behaviors and follow-through on whatever agreed upon terms exist between the OLPC project and the host nation? What prevents a nation from accepting the laptops and then distributing them within the government as opposed to the intended children?

  2. It seems that there is potentially an inherent bootstrapping problem: many of the nations purchasing laptops for their children simply do not have the necessary infrastructure in-place to support this program. Areas within the nations often lack completely or at least have inadequate access to electricity, education, health care, etc. I know that the devices can be recharged via a hand crank and that the UI and activities are designed to promote self-learning but doesn't the vision of the program seem a little myopic when one takes into account that there may not be much individual incentive to learn and to use the devices when one does not have access to clean drinking water or a reliable food supply but live under an oppressive government or with constant civil unrest?

Glad I read a bit more before asking about a possible 1-for-2 program with wealthier countries purchasing two XOs while donating one to a more needy country. Color me silly.

As a final note, Nicholas Negroponte, author of Being Digital, founder of the MIT Media Lab and the OLPC project gives a great talk at the always inspiring TED gatherings.

24 March 2007

Future Opera Geek (and I don't mean the browser)?

Accessibility is key. Until today, I had only experienced one opera while on my honeymoon in 2002. We stayed for a few days in London and tried getting tickets to The Breath of Life playing at the Theater Royal Haymarket (it starred Dame Judi Dench). Instead we saw The Phantom of the Opera (Original 1986 London Cast) at Her Majestys Theatre.

Whatever the case, until today I had not really had any exposure to opera.

That changed when my wife and I went to see a performance of The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) by the Metropolitan Opera...at a movie theater. The Met Opera has an interesting initiative where they are pushing high definition content out of the opera house to theaters around the world. This is a great way to bring opera to the masses in a setting most people are comfortable with and within.

No, the libretto is not printed on a popcorn tub (it's subtitled on the screen).

I discussed this with a packet-pushing friend of mine and we're both of the opinion that the Met simply pushes the performance as a multicast stream and authorized theaters simply joins the multicast session. In other words, it's cable television pay-per-view on the big screen.

I've contacted the Met in the hope of interviewing people involved with the HD program. I'd like to hear about the technical challenges and solutions as well as the inspiration for and future of the program. If I get a response, I'll do my best to post it here. I'd love to someday be able to go to a community movie theater or college campus and watch a HD stream of symphony, drama, opera, pop music, etc. that I would never otherwise have a chance to see.

23 March 2007


Well, everyone else is doing it so I guess I'll join the ranks. I am now...a blogger.

I guess.

This is largely a playground exercise for me to explore the medium a bit and to learn how it fits into and around other technology- and social-related context. Only time will tell if this evolves into something or devolves into one of the zillions of other abandoned blogs, littering the blogosphere. We'll see.

More to follow....