I am blessed to be able to work on the OLPC project full-time for Red Hat. I consider it to be one of the best jobs in the world, and I am thankful every day that I have it. OLPC is a special project to me. I am passionate about the success of OLPC.
And when passionate, sometimes I am angry.
What makes me angry today? Slashdot. More specifically, the headline: “Colombia Signs Up For OLPC Laptops With Windows.”
I would like to point out a few facts. Facts, people. Verifiable facts, straight from the honchos at OLPC themselves.
1. Microsoft committed to purchase 10,000 machines in May, customized to run Windows. They’re free to do whatever they want with those machines. For instance: if Microsoft wants to run a pilot of unspecified size in two towns, and turn that pilot into a huge PR event… they are perfectly free to do that.
2. The reason these 10,000 systems had to be customized? Simple: Windows can’t even boot on open firmware. Can’t even boot! Which means that the other 990,000 XO (or so) systems in the wild CANNOT EVEN RUN WINDOWS with the firmware installed on them.
3. OLPC builds XOs with Linux. OLPC will continue to build XOs with Linux. OLPC has no plans to change this. None.
Now, again, these are the facts. But it seems like, sometimes, facts don’t matter. Perception is reality.
So we need help changing people’s perceptions. Every time I go out to talk about OLPC, inevitably I hear that people aren’t interested in OLPC anymore because they are “Microsoft’s stooge.” And why is that? Because every time Microsoft farts in the general direction of OLPC, somebody prints a headline like “Microsoft cloud hovers over the OLPC project” that gets read by, oh, a bazillion people. And then we get another rousing chorus of the “OLPC sold out to Microsoft” song.
It’s funny. OLPC may still represent an amazing opportunity for free software to make a huge difference in millions and millions of lives… but the free software community is scared of the big bad boogeyman Microsoft. People! Microsoft isn’t even in the game yet — and for the first time, they’re fighting on our home turf instead of the other way ’round.
This is not the time to give up. This is the time to fight harder. There’s all kinds of opportunities to help; if you’re interested, just ask.
The next time you hear someone say that OLPC has sold out to Windows, please link them to this blog post, kthxbai.
Also, feel free to digg this up, or whatever it is that you kids do these days.