The Islamic Development Bank will support a 50-school deployment for OLPC Cameroon

Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.

The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroon’s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.

Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.

Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.

0% of XOs run Windows

A stray comment today about Windows not working on ARM machines, by someone who thought all OLPC laptops had moved away from Linux, reminded me to reaffirm something:

Every XO we have ever made shipped from the factory with Linux. The 2M+ XOs running Linux is one of the largest deployments of Linux in the classroom anywhere in the world, and the largest in primary schools.

A few thousand dual-booted into Windows [XP] as well, either at the time they shipped or after being reflashed – after a Microsoft team modded a version of XP for the XO, and our firmware made dual-booting possible. That was an impressive bit of coding and optimization, and Uruguay in particular was interested in dual-boot machines, testing them in classrooms on XO-1′s, but decided not to continue those tests. The only other machines that ever made use of the dual build were part of programs sponsored by Microsoft. In all, under 7,000 XOs have ever run Windows natively, 5,000 in Uruguay.   That is less than 0.3% of all laptops we have ever produced. (In contrast, running software under emulation through wine or SugaredWine is popular in Latin America.)

I have heard of a few teachers that had those machines in at least one class, in Uruguay or Peru, but have never seen first-hand reports from anyone using them. If you visit or know of a school that tried this please share your stories; I would be interested to hear about the experience.

New XO-1.75 contributors program: test our new prototypes

Are you programming on XO hardware today? Working on Sugar core or
activities? Porting Fedora or other distros to ARM?

As I write this, XO-1.75 B1 prototypes are being assembled 20 meters
away from me. These are engineering samples — some will go to drop
tests and mechanical and electrical torture tests. Luckier units will
go to the hands of passionate developers interested in helping us with XO-1.75.

To request one, please follow the instructions on the wiki:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_program#FAQ

We cannot guarantee every request will be satisfied –
unfortunately, we have a limited number of units and we may have to
turn some requests down.

These units will be early samples: expect hardware and software bugs,
and be prepared to report them and help us in the diagnosis and fixing
(it wouldn’t be fun otherwise!). We will be asking recipients to be
very proactive in reporting bugs and using the latest software for
them. And to remember that these machines are /on loan/: offer to pass
on your prototype if it is not being used.

It will be a fun 2011 — our goal is to have a new hardware platform
and OS: XO-1.75 running XO OS-11.3.0, and there is a lot to do between
now and the end of the year.

We’re hoping to hear from you!

OLPC XO-3 design update

The XO-3 design work is coming along, still scheduled for the end of next year.  The screen will be one of the latest Pixel Qi models.  They will run Linux, though what flavor is still under investigation; followers of C. Scott’s blog can read the full details there.  And like the XO-1.75, they will use an ARM chip.

In an IDG interview, Nicholas notes that design discussions about how to implement solar and satellite connectivity continue.  Meanwhile, those interested in working on software for the XO-3 are invited to get involved in XO-1.75 hacking this summer.

Contributors program versions of the beta-test boards will be available soon.

 

Stick computing: GHz USB devices?

Game developer David Braben and colleagues are working on a tiny circuit board suitable for game development, with a few hacker-friendly ports, which will fit into a gumstix-sized package. They are calling the device Raspberry Pi.

Their stated goal is a device with a 700MHz ARM processor, 128MB of SDRAM, a USB (out) port, an HDMI connection, and an SD card slot… relying on the USB input for power.

Unlike Gumstix, which found a corporate and DIY niche for its boards, Braben is focused on minimizing the device’s cost, making sticks ‘cheap enough to give to a child to do whatever they want with it’ and to make learning computing fun. An admirable goal. The project already has its naysayers, however, as it is hard to hack without many peripherals as well. What would you do with one or a few of these?

0.3% of XOs run Windows

A stray comment today about Windows not working on ARM machines, by someone who thought all OLPC laptops had moved away from Linux, reminded me to reaffirm something:

Every one of the 2M+ XOs we’ve ever made shipped from the factory with Linux. As far as I know, under 7,000 XOs have ever run Windows natively* – some 0.3% of all laptops we have ever produced. Most of those dual-booted into both Sugar and Windows XP, as part of programs sponsored independently by Microsoft. I know of a few teachers that had those machines in at least one class, but have never seen reports from a class using them — if you know of one of these schools, I would be most interested to hear about the experience — particularly from schools that used both OSes.

The XO community around the world includes one of the largest deployments of Linux to primary students anywhere in the world. This is something we can all be proud of.


* To be fair: running Windows in emulation through wine or SugaredWine is quite popular for certain activities.  Three cheers for the wine team’s excellent work!

XO-1.75 this summer: lower power, hopefully lower cost

The XO-1.75 prototypes are currently under development, and the laptops will enter mass production this summer. Some touchscreen prototypes are being made as well, but the primary model will not have touch. Thanks to Armada 610 ARM processors and improved Pixel Qi screens, the 1.75 will draw roughly half the power of the 1.5, while keeping roughly the same form factor and most of the existing industrial design.

These will be our first models with ARM chips, which we plan to use in our tablet designs later this year. The 1.75 should be roughly $20 cheaper to manufacture, than the 1.5, but the real drop in cost will come for rural deployments, as a result of the lessened power requirements. Not quite in the human-powerable range yet, but getting there.

The XO-3 will have a larger 9.7″ screen when it comes out in 2012, and will shave off another significant fraction of power – up to another full Watt.