Amazon sponsors round 2 of OLPC program

This year's Give One, Get One program for the One Laptop Per Child Foundation is being handled through, which is running TV commercials to promote awareness (and sales).

I learned about the new Give One, Get One program of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation the same way most people will--from a TV commercial sponsored by, which is handling order fulfillment for the new program through this page on Amazon's Web site.

Like last year's program, which I wrote about here before and after I bought one myself, the deal is simple: you buy two laptops for $399, and you get one. The other goes to a deserving student somewhere in the developing world. (This is why I sometimes call it the Buy 2, Get 1 program, or B2G1.)

The XO-1 laptop from the OLPC Foundation OLPC Foundation

The laptops themselves are the same XO-1 models offered last year, not based on the XO-2 prototypes I wrote about here last May. I wrote about my XO-1 in some detail when it arrived, but since I never really found any good reason to use it regularly, I never got around to writing a full review.

But there is something new: version 8.2.0 of the XO software, which works just fine on last year's hardware. I installed this on my own machine last week so I could offer some personal comments here, and the short summary is, it's a significant improvement.

The new software is more reliable, more capable, and better organized. I hope to find time to give a better review of 8.2.0 here; it has some nice features that could reasonably be adopted in more mainstream Linux distributions.

With Amazon's support--especially the TV commercial, which I've seen several times during major network broadcasts, including, perhaps oddly, football games--the new G1G1 program is likely to achieve better results than last year's effort, which resulted in the sale of about 167,000 units.

Even with the new software, the XO-1 is really just a proof of concept showing that laptops can be used in an educational context. Educating young children, however--whether in the U.S. or Rwanda--isn't about learning to use a laptop but rather about learning language, math, history, and other more fundamental facts and skills. Certainly, a laptop can be used to teach these things--but that requires a lot of software that simply hasn't been written yet.

Because the OLPC project runs mostly on volunteer labor, the best way to get that software is to get a lot of systems out there, and Amazon's sponsorship of this year's G1G1 program could do more to achieve that goal than all previous efforts put together. We'll see.

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