Viewing posts tagged Linux

Forget the $100 laptop … China brings the $98 laptop!

From the Tech Video Blog:

HiVision makes the worlds cheapest Linux laptop at $98 using a new cheaper MIPS based processor (perhaps the Longsoon or the Ingenic), WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, voice-chat, skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing. Automatic and secure online software updates. Their current model is running a smooth and pretty snappy Linux user interface. In this video, I got to borrow a review sample of the laptop overnight, and I try to show you all the browser and other software interfaces in this extended video review of this cheap MIPS based laptop. Embedded is the way that I hope that most cheap laptops are going to be based on in the near future, Google will hopefully make a great Chrome browser for this kind of Laptop and hopefully that OLPC soon will announce that they will work to improve Embedded Linux based laptops in the upcoming XO-1.5 and XO-2 designs.

More in their video:

Another m-learning hopeful comes to the U.S.

Another OLPC competitor has entered the U.S. market. This time, Hewlett Packard Co. is releasing a lightweight “Mini-Note” line of notebook computers. Each unit weighs less than 3 pounds with a screen that measures 8.9 inches diagonally. A Linux-based model is available for under $500. According to an AP article, the devices are not being positioned for large-scale deployment in the developing world:

The Mini-Note will compete primarily with Intel’s Classmate PCs — which are designed by Intel and feature Intel chips but are built and branded by other companies — and Asustek’s Eee PC.

To a lesser extent, they also will go up against the XO laptop from the Cambridge, Mass., nonprofit One Laptop per Child, which is intended primarily for schoolchildren in developing countries.

m-Learning comes to the U.S.

NPR reports that the One Laptop Per Child project will provide computers for kids in Birmingham, Alabama. The report highlights a key challenge of the project: Can a slow computer have an impact in a high-speed society? Maybe not.

Meanwhile, Nokia quietly announced the WiMAX edition of the N810 Internet Tablet. As noted here previously, it’s predecessor, the N800, has potential as an m-learning device. The N810 is based on the same hardware and software architecture, but incorporates a keyboard and can connect to both Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks. Can the expanded networking capabilities of the Linux-powered N810 WiMAX fill the low-cost (but highly connected) computing gap in U.S. education?

Does state-mandated free software permit freedom?

Tailing the news that India is making Linux compulsory in schools, the Russian government is working to create a national operating system for schools:

Russian OS is to be installed on every school computer in Russia by 2009. Furthermore, every pupil will get the opportunity to operate the applied software produced in Russia, Leonid Reiman, acting Minister of Communication stated at a press conference. Experts and market participants consider the terms within which software is to be developed quite reasonable. According to Mr. Reiman, that might significantly reduce Russian dependence on foreign software…

Again, I ask, can we expect free software to correlate to freedom? By soliciting bids for the selection of a sole distribution vendor to develop and implement a monolithic, Russian OS, is Russian OS an effort to boost software freedom or is it an effort to increase state control?

Linux Today reader Artem Vakhitov notes that the project is probably not as ambitious as the Minister stated. As he understands it, “several Russian Linux vendors and solution providers, including ALTLinux, formed an alliance to jointly participate in a bid to develop and implement a FOSS operating system and necessary software packages for Russian schools.” There is no guarantee that the government will actually move ahead with the plan. (See the ALT Linux statement…)

Linux made compulsory in India

For a moment, consider the scale of education in India. Then, read this article:

The Director of Public Instruction (DPI) has issued orders making free software compulsory. It says Linux Operating System should be used for IT education in eighth, ninth and tenth standards.

tux.gifThis is huge for a huge country making a huge investment in IT. Big stuff.

I offer a question for discussion: When free software becomes mandatory, is it still what GNU founder Richard Stallman would term “free as in freedom?”

The m-learning potential of the Nokia N800

I purchased my third hand-held device on Friday. My first was a Newton MessagePad 2000 (which I later upgraded to the MP2100). The second was a Handspring Visor Platinum. The new device is a Nokia N800 Internet tablet.

Nokia N800

The N800 is a WiFi device with an 800×480 (!) touchscreen strapped on, and can support up to 16GB of SD flash memory. It runs a light/mobile flavor of Debian GNU/Linux. This means that developers can readily tap into a large library of open source tools. The user interface could use some help. As Sean Luke points out, my old Newton is still superior in many areas.

The N800 has some great things going for it.  I particularly enjoy:

  • The huge screen on a small device, allowing me to view Web pages as they’re intended to be viewed
  • WordPy, a competent offline WordPress editor (one wish: it needs a means to upload/incorporate images from the N800)
  • The option of using a Gecko/Mozilla or a Opera-based browser
  • The community-supported Claws mail
  • Skype!
  • Having a mobile device with an option to use a proper command line interface!

The N800 is not marketed to be used as a m-learning device, but I cannot help myself from comparing it to the Ozing and Noah m-learning devices reviewed last May. Where the Chinese devices fell short on application quality and developer accessibility (at least the Noah NP890+ runs a Linux variant), the N800 has an active, open source development community. Perhaps the Chinese companies will learn from Nokia and open their software to more developers and platforms? Or, perhaps others will leapfrog the Chinese to exploit the m-learning potential of the N800…

Top ten list #6: Tech tools and Web resources to start leapfrogging now

ten-days-sm.pngWe’re back this week with the final five top ten lists! Today’s list contains tools and Web resources to help people start leapfrogging now.

Note: It’s hard to create an innovative tools top ten list while omitting services from Google – but, for the purpose of this list, Google is left off because everybody wants to be like Google. Why be like Google when you can leapfrog the industry?

  1. GNU/Linux: It’s open. It’s free. It works. And, it’s very well supported.
  2. Tom at Sky Blue Waters believes no leapfrogger can get by without a proper RSS feed to quickly digest and disseminate information.
  3. WordPress: Get your message out and solicit reponses with the best blogging tool out there.
  4. Wikimedia or other open knowledge-based software to quickly publish your stuff and open it for public additions, corrections, or (if necessary) deletions. Wikimedia is the platform that powers Wikipedia and Wikiversity.
  5. Second Life, World of Warcraft, Croquet and other virtual environments for building new social contexts, experiences and for trying out things you can’t get away with in the real world.
  6. Skype: You’ll want to talk a lot to others around the world. Why not do it for free or almost free?
  7. Old skool media (also available on the Web): New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc., etc., etc…
  8. Social bookmarking (e.g., Find new ideas and resources, share them with others, and learn more along the way.
  9. Creative Commons licensing: Mark your creative work with the freedoms you want it to carry.
  10. Finally, if the resources you need aren’t out there, create your own. Need help? Consider building a team online.

Review: Chinese m-learning devices

I traveled to Shanghai with Arthur Harkins in April to investigate the use of handheld learning devices in Chinese schools. The Chinese are beginning to use these devices to learn English, take tests, and have fun. With grant assistance from Target, we were able to bring two of the devices back with us: The Noah NP890+ and the Ozing V99. Both are priced in the $200-$225 range.


Noah NP890+


Ozing V99

Both the Noah NP890+ and Ozing V99 represent logical steps forward in Chinese portable learning devices, in a market cluttered by translation devices geared toward students. It comes as no surprise that both devices are oriented primarily toward English learning. The NP890+ ships preinstalled with 5 English dictionaries, a modern Chinese dictionary, an idiom dictionary, and a cartoon/animation dictionary, among others. The V99 contains 12 dictionaries, covering English, Chinese idioms, modern and ancient Chinese, and whole sentence translation. Both devices are capable of speaking words contained in the dictionaries to the user.

The V99 offers recorded lectures by “teachers with honor” and lectures by “super-advanced teachers.” The NP890+ also provides recorded lectures in an “online teaching” tool that displays a video recording along with lecture notes that can be followed along. Educational games and role playing/simulations software also add to the educational library. Currently, Noah provides a library of 31,693 primary-tertiary level courses available for download through their Web site.

Both devices offer multimedia capabilities, allowing for the playback of mp3 audio and mp4 and XviD video. Both contain 512MB of memory, which can be expanded through the devices’ SD card slots. Response time on both devices is quick, although the V99 seems quicker.

The SD slot provides additional possibilities. Although the devices are not WiFi-enabled as shipped, it should be possible to expand the devices with WiFi capabilities by using a SDIO card that incorporates WiFi. The NP890+ runs on Linux, hinting that it should be easy for any competent developer to incorporate drivers and software necessary to connect to the Web. Although the V99’s operating system is not disclosed, it can be assumed that such expanded functionality would be easy to implement.

Software and user experience for both devices have a long way to go. It appears that these devices have evolved naturally from the manufacturers’ clamshell-style translation/dictionary devices. Building these new devices into more PDA-like form factors represents a natural step in technological change. It is not surprising, then, that the devices are heavily focused on dictionary and translation applications –what both companies have demonstrated they are good at creating. The integration of learning software is a positive step in the development of quality m-learning devices.

Final evaluations

Both devices are derived from the natural evolution of translation devices, and are not invented around a need to change pedagogy or transform education. Both the NP890+ and V99, however, provide relatively powerful and relatively inexpensive platforms for creating new software applications that can transform learning.

Given the software shortcomings, do we need these devices in the United States? You bet! We just need to get the right software on them.

Download a PDF document that outlines the functionalities of both devices.