Friday, January 11, 2008

Knocking OLPC...

Article here, referencing stories such as this one.

As often happens when commercial deals happen within the free software world - as outside the free software world - the exact terms of the OLPC and Microsoft deal are somewhat sketchy. It's very easy to assume something is true, when in fact there isn't really any way of justifying that assumption.

There's one particular statement in the above article I wanted to pick out (the rest of it is mostly an opinion piece):

"Nicholas Negroponte has always been willing to go where the wind blows: the original OLPC prototypes ran Debian, notable because it's produced by a public-benefit non-profit. Once Red Hat offered money and resources, Debian disappeared from the system. Now it's Red Hat's turn to disappear."

An OLPC employee responded thusly:

"OLPC is not taking Microsoft’s money, and we are not being assisted in any way technically by the company. Bruce also claims that “original OLPC prototypes ran Debian […] OLPC XO prototypes never officially ran Debian."

(It should be obvious that both people can be correct - Bruce may have seen the hardware run Debian, and Ivan may be right that it was never officially supported: what is clear is that I can't find any evidence that the Debian project was officially involved in the OLPC project)

Is it right to impugn a project as being fiscally motivated, rather than motivated by the project goals, especially when the project is being run by a non-profit, when there is no evidence of money being involved? There is also no evidence that RedHat is somehow being pushed out; their status within the project has not changed (as far as the public is aware) recently.

1 comment:

Bruce Perens said...

You're jumping to a conclusion, Mr. Fact-Checker Sir :-)

My statement that Nicholas goes where the wind blows is not meant to say that he or the project are profit-motivated. However, I think there's a good chance that he and the project are looking for significant charitable donations from Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. IMO this might achieve one goal of the OLPC project while stinting another. Kids would have laptops, and e-texts, but their e-texts would be DRM protected and they wouldn't be getting the same opportunity to bootstrap their nations economy into an infrastructure that they could support on their own without being beholden to anyone else.