OLPC in Mexico: proudly running Linux

Last week we shared excellent news from OLPC México: Sonora’s plans to distribute XO laptops to 350,000 children across their state over the next three years. A few days later the head of Microsoft in Mexico commented in a Sonoran newspaper that ‘while giving computers to students is a good thing, the Sonora project will fail because XO laptops use Linux instead of Windows.

In the same article the Microsoft spokesperson claimed the OLPC project in Uruguay had been a failure due to “Internet security and privacy issues” and that it changed to Wintel machines. Miguel Brechner, head of Plan Ceibal in Uruguay, corrected those misimpressions. There are 570,000 XO laptops in Uruguay schools, all running Sugar for elementary school students and Linux for middle school students, with no security or privacy problems. While dual-booting Windows was available for years as an option for OLPC deployments, almost none chose that option. (Uruguay tested it out, but opted for Gnome-on-Fedora instead.)

This misinformation from Microsoft is a pity; they seem to have no internal incentives to make accurate statements or to advance education. We applaud the work of the Sonora and Uruguay communities to their students, and look forward to their continued success!

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.

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!