$100 LAPTOP ROLLOUT EVER CLOSER

Computing

Things have progressed since the $100 laptop prototype was first publicly unveiled at a press conference with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and MIT's Nicholas Negroponte at last year's second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia.

What was then just a garish brick of green spray-paint with a wind-up power crank and a loosely fastened LCD screen, has undergone a fairy-tale metamorphosis into a beautiful swan or handsome robotic prince if you prefer. More specifically, a wider range of colours are expected which could include yellow, red, orange and blue. The hand-crank has been dropped (opting for a mains/foot-pedal solution instead), and the screen is now 7.5 inches of the latest e-Ink technology from 3M which features low power consumption and a very impressive 1200 x 900 screen resolution in black and white mode and 800 x 600 in colour mode.

Pete Barr-Watson, project lead for the iCommons/Creative Commons integration with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the non-profit initiative founded by Nicholas Negroponte in 2005 which is responsible for bringing the $100 laptop project to fruition, summarized the current status of the project and spoke about the role that Creative Commons will play in the future at the 2006 iSummit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this past June.

Barr-Watson dedicated a large part of his presentation on outlining the facts of the project so far and dispelling some of the myths that have started to circulate on the Internet. As already discussed, nothing has been finalised with regards to finish and it is likely that the laptop?s colour will vary according to manufacturer and receiving country. The Wi-Fi and "Mesh" networking capabilities remain the same and a relatively new addition, the "horns" on either side of the machine, will double-up as Wi-Fi antennas and protect the Input/Output (I/O) ports on the side.

The Mesh networking capabilities allow for "child2child" sharing and continue to work even when the processor is powered down. This groundbreaking technology also extends the range of the wireless network, an obligatory feature in rural and undeveloped terrain common in Africa.

A special distribution of Red Hat Linux is due to power the laptop, with other open-source solutions including Ubuntu Linux also in the pipeline. This has been made possible by the 512 Megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) that the machines will now ship with, a significant upgrade on the 128 Megabytes that was originally announced.

While rollout of the laptops in the first-quarter of 2007 is still on the cards for the few countries that signed up to receive the first batch, others will have to wait a while longer until the success of the project has been determined, and the OLPC are insistent that they will not be made commercially available to the public.

Plans are currently underway to create a new "kid's only" Creative Commons (CC) license, as well as to incorporate CC reading and writing capabilities directly into the machines. iCommons are working with The Shuttleworth Foundation (TSF) on a new initiative called the iCommons iCurriculum which is currently being discussed online (http://wiki.tsf.org.za/iCommonsiCurriculum) and the outcome of this discussion should yield an exciting new perspective on open curriculum and benefit education.

Highway Africa News Agency