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PyCon: Keynote: One Laptop Per Child

Here's an outline of his talk on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project:
  • Formal education is bad unless you have great teachers.
  • There are a billion school age children in third world countries.
  • They created a next generation LCD screen. Monochrome at high resolution. Color at lower resolution. Sunlight viewable.
  • Laptop has very, very low power consumption: 1 watt.
  • 20 hours of battery life.
  • Automatic mesh networking.
  • Automatic routing for other laptops.
  • They had to get rid of the crank because it was fatiguing the laptop.
  • Many ways to power it including a separate pull chord.
  • All sorts of incredible innovations.
  • No moving parts.
  • Custom filesystem for the flash drive.
  • Wireless range is 2km.
  • Based on Fedora Linux.
  • Completely new user interface paradigms.
  • Great paradox of open source: it's too hard to figure out how to hack on it.
  • Hence, they added a "view source" button and coded almost everything in Python. This is my dream come true!
  • Help them out at
  • $100 price range, but you can't buy one yet.
  • They're planning on rolling out 1-10 million units next year.
  • I tried it out, and it's amazingly cool!
  • OLPC is looking for volunteers, especially to write apps.
  • Contribute significantly, and they'll give you a laptop.
  • "Ideas are dangerous."
  • Get an emulator at


Unknown said…
Why this is a really dumb idea.

1. Much of the world's children have more pressing needs, such as proper nutrition. Without proper nutrition learning is impossible. You can't eat these things.

2. For what these laptops cost you could buy a traditional set of books that you can a) write in, b) refer to without power, and c) don't break.

3. Think of the most-base thing these laptops could be employed as by a group of adults. That's where the will ultimately end up. Hm, ad-hoc networked communication and a battery... what a wonderful thing for a terrorist cell...

4. If the don't end up used as above, they will end up as a) toys, b) blocks, or c) shovels.

5. The batteries and other compounds contained in it that are toxic and should be "disposed of properly", won't be.

6. A computer is a tool for the mind. You must already know basic math, reading, and writing to even begin to use it effectively. But most importantly, you must have a mind. These engineers obviously think that the rest of the world thinks like they do.

7. The vast majority of people in the world are not the least bit interested in the source code.

8. The goals they have can be met in better, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly ways.

9. A laptop for a child is only good for a self-starter. That trait is actually rare, worldwide. The first-world got where it is by working hard and working smart, and, yes, by exploiting others to a large degree. Even now, the worlds poorest children are often put to labor. Giving them a laptop will be meaningless to them. Using the money for these laptops to stop exploitation from large Western corporations would be more effective. The laptops would only add to that. Where do you think the raw material and labor will come from to make these things?

Ultimately, this is just a "feel-good" project for people. But Somalia has a lesson: it's that even good intentions rarely work. The "war on poverty" has been going on for decades now. It's as bad as ever.

However, I do agree that formal education is pretty bad, even in the USA. We should fix our own problems first.

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