Holiday Cheers

It’s under­stand­able that some peo­ple get depressed around this time of the year. There is the uncom­fort­able weath­er, lack of sun­shine, and inces­sant reminders of how we should all be out shop­ping, etc.. For­tu­nate­ly, the flip side of that is that we can get cozy at home (with a tasty stir-fry of lemon­grass-mar­i­nat­ed beef), meet with friends in the evening (the blog­ger meet­up was this Thurs­day night), give and get gifts, and per­haps even make plans for the new year. Pam has the jump on me this year in sev­er­al ways: first, with one of the coolest gifts that you can give a nerd, an OLPC (One Lap­top Per Child) XO com­put­er. Although it has­n’t arrived yet, I got the email con­fir­ma­tion of the gift so the cat is out of the bag. The way the OLPC pur­chase works is to ‘give one and get one’, so in get­ting me this inter­est­ing piece of tech­nol­o­gy, Pam’s also insured that some child in anoth­er coun­try (like Uruguay and Rwan­da) also gets one. It’s a project start­ed by Nicholas Negro­ponte, the flam­boy­ant and charis­mat­ic founder of MIT’s Media Lab, and now the of the Non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion (OLPC) that has cre­at­ed the device with the idea of get­ting an inex­pen­sive (the orig­i­nal goal was <$100, the real price is now a lit­tle less than twice that num­ber) lap­top in the hands of chil­dren in poor­er coun­tries all over the world, with the hope of bridg­ing the infor­ma­tion divide). Here’s an ad with Heroes’ Masi Oka for OLPC:

You can be sure that future post­ings will be about this new gift, and giv­en that it has a pret­ty long wi-fi range and is one of the few lap­tops that has a screen that is vis­i­ble in full sun­light, as well as long bat­tery life and light­weight design, I’m hop­ing that there will actu­al­ly be some post­ings for this writ­ten on it (per­haps from the park out back?) as well.

Big Trav­el Plans
Penguins in Antarctica

I men­tioned that Pam had the jump on me in the gift depart­ment. She’s also out ahead on plans for next year. She’s going to do some­thing that she’s want­ed to do for years now: see Antarc­ti­ca. In Feb­ru­ary (the end of sum­mer for that part of the world), she will first fly to San­ti­a­go, Chile, then board a char­ter flight to the south­ern tip of Argenti­na at Ushua­ia, Tier­ra del Fuego (the world’s south­ern­most city). At that point, she’ll board the ship Explor­er II, a “Dou­ble bot­tomed Ice Class ves­sel with an ice rat­ing (Ital­ian RINA Class 1‑D) that exceeds the require­ment for oper­at­ing safe­ly in Antarc­ti­ca” (thank good­ness for that, with the recent sink­ing of a ves­sel from Gap Adven­tures, the M/S Explor­er) The ship cruis­es for 2 days through the Drake Pas­sage to the Antarc­tic penin­su­la. She’ll spend about 4 days there, mak­ing excur­sions in Zodi­ac rafts to the ice,where hope­ful­ly she’ll see pen­guins like these. There are plans to land on the South Shet­lands, includ­ing Half Moon, Cuverville, Paulet, Pen­guin, Goudi­er and Decep­tion Island, depend­ing on the weath­er con­di­tions. I’m hop­ing that she’ll be able to send some of the day-to-day details of her voy­age, although I’m not sure how easy email will be.

Before all of this starts, there are a few oth­er (less impres­sive trips), includ­ing a vis­it to my par­ents’ house in Bal­ti­more, and a week in San Fran­cis­co for Mac­World Expo. Looks like 2008 is going to get off to a busy start.

5 Replies to “Holiday Cheers”

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I had read about OLPC a while back and then for­got­ten about it. But, after read­ing your post and check­ing some stuff on-line, I just ordered G1G1. I’ll be check­ing back to see what you think of it… once San­ta arrives.

  2. Thanks, Melis­sa. That’s great to hear that you went out and got one your­self! Hope­ful­ly we’ll be able to com­pare notes some time.

    Bob, Pam says thanks and that she’s still got 6 more weeks (but I’m sure that will go by pret­ty quickly.)

  3. Hey David — I keep hear­ing about the OLPC (I LOVE the pro­gres­sive stuff that seems to be hap­pen­ing, large­ly thanks to tech and 2.0, noth­ing to do with gov­ern­ments — not that I’m hap­py it’s not gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives, but if they won’t do it, the peo­ple will! … I say, over­ly opti­misti­cal­ly). Any­way — I’m kin­da scared to ask the ques­tion, but if the ‘put­ers are made at less than $100, umm, are they being made by exploit­ed fac­to­ry work­ers in asia? Ok. Had to ask.

  4. That’s a good ques­tion, Nan­cy. As far as I know, the economies that were made on the OLPC to try and get the cost down were pri­mar­i­ly tech­no­log­i­cal deci­sions: some cheap­er mate­ri­als, leav­ing out some fea­tures like a disk dri­ve, ports, a cheap­er, slow­er proces­sor by AMD, leav­ing out the cost of Win­dows (it uses a ver­sion of Lin­ux called Fedo­ra with a spe­cial graph­ic inter­face called ‘Sug­ar’), and a dim, but very cheap display. 

    That said, when I explored the OLPC Wiki site ( — which has a lot of specifics about the device and the project), I could­n’t find any­thing detailed about the manufacturer.

    When I get a chance tonight, I’ll ask this ques­tion on the site and see if I can’t get a more defin­i­tive answer. It would indeed be ridicu­lous if this altru­is­tic project was guilty of exploit­ing Asian fac­to­ry work­ers in order to help oth­er peo­ple in coun­tries that are even poorer.

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