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).

Tech Culture

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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