back to article OLPC heir reveals modular laptop design

One Education, an Australian offshoot of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, has opened preview sales for an heir to the XO computer. The “Infinity” has a modular design so while the quad-core, 1.5GHz CPU is baked in, it's possible to replace the battery, camera and just about anything else thanks to the presence of three …

  1. E 2

    So the poor children can waste their money running on the computer upgrade treadmill just like the rich children?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So the poor children can waste their money running on the computer upgrade treadmill just like the rich children?

      .. and suffer "experience" Android instead of a decent OS? Ugh.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        .. and suffer "experience" Android instead of a decent OS? Ugh.

        Sadly, the day Apple release a device cheap enough to be considered for the OLPC project will be the day they start powering their datacentres from a generator whose shaft is connected to Steve Jobs' corpse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Sadly, the day Apple release a device cheap enough to be considered for the OLPC project will be the day they start powering their datacentres from a generator whose shaft is connected to Steve Jobs' corpse.

          Sorry to screw over your foaming-at-the-mouth Apple rant, but I was thinking of Linux.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Sorry to screw over your foaming-at-the-mouth Apple rant, but I was thinking of Linux.

            Funny you should mention Linux when discussing Android…

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Funny you should mention Linux when discussing Android…

              Well, there are two myths I don't buy:

              - Do No Evil

              - Android = Linux.

              Linux, I like. It's flexible, open, supported by a LOT of rather capable people (a lot smarter than me when it comes to writing code) and there are enough stubborn people around to keep it reasonably clean. It allows me to choose what risks I am willing to take, and where I may opt for proprietary because it works better for what my needs are.

              Every time I come near Android, however, it tries to get me to sign up to conditions that rival Facebook in their intrusiveness into my life, and personally, I think they can go and [censored] themselves if they think I buy the "No Evil" part in combination with those terms.

              Which is why I certainly would not want this near children. Think of the children, indeed.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Every time I come near Android, however, it tries to get me to sign up to conditions that rival Facebook in their intrusiveness into my life, and personally, I think they can go and [censored] themselves if they think I buy the "No Evil" part in combination with those terms.

                That phone I took the screenshot of, has never seen credentials for my Google account. In fact, the previous one to that, rejected my credentials, on the grounds it didn't end in gmail.com. Everything I use on that phone, has been either side-loaded, or downloaded from the F-Droid store.

                For the OLPC project, there is no reason why they couldn't offer their own marketplace and services much like what Amazon and Samsung are doing.

                You're partially right about Android and Linux, Linux is just a kernel, nothing more. Android is an operating system. Ubuntu is an operating system. Debian Linux is an operating system. Red Hat is an operating system. Windows is an operating system. MacOS X is an operating system. XNU is a kernel.

                Ubuntu, Debian Linux and Android are all built on Linux. MacOS X and iOS are built on XNU.

                Nobody uses XNU on its own, they use it as part of Darwin, MacOS X or iOS. Nobody uses Linux on its own, it's either part of a GNU/Linux (or similar) operating system or an Android OS.

                I think Android would be fine, but the build would have to respect children's privacy. So you wouldn't use the standard Android build that Google ships with their app store, the OLPC project would build it themselves, and put in open-source replacements for many of the Google equivalents.

                The device would probably ship rooted, so you could tinker. Put the OS on a removable SD card, then if the kid bricks it, you can undo a screw to open a panel, remove the SD card, re-flash it from some other device, and you'd be running again.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

    Decent screen and keyboard should be pretty long lasting.

    Memory package. Upgrade paths are normally planned in at international standards level.

    Processor?

    make the box have multiple "upgrade pods all with the same connectors, including battery pods.

    Want to run for 12 hours? ARM processor pod and a couple of RAM pods. Want the same with an Intel processor, Intel pod, 2 battery pods and no extra RAM.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      >Decent screen and keyboard should be pretty long lasting.

      Then our experiences must differ! In less than ideal environments, keyboards get gummed up or blocked by crumbs, and screens are prone to accidental damage. And that's in the developed world amongst adults, let alone in possibly dustier environments amongst children!

      True, you you go the ToughBook route and make them more durable, but it is by no means certain that this would be a more efficient approach than easily swapping out defunct units.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

        Then our experiences must differ! In less than ideal environments, keyboards get gummed up or blocked by crumbs, and screens are prone to accidental damage. And that's in the developed world amongst adults, let alone in possibly dustier environments amongst children!

        I agree. You named the two most critical parts: keyboard and screen. Keyboards also because they will get liquid splashed over them.

        On the upside, if they manage to make this work, all it takes is changing the colour to sell it to the military. A device that survives children is most certainly adult and bomb proof :)

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      I think the screen is upgradeable to increase its performances. Presumably you can do LOGO in CGA but you are likely to want a better display as you grow older (even if for no other reason than that you can afford it), so a swappable display may allow you to keep that machine for a little while longer instead of getting a MBP. Oh who am I kidding.

      Arguably socket-swappable processors could be good (if not better), although I don't see that working for different architectures.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      My laptop is on third keyboard.

      CPU power isn't relevant for last 10+ years except for gaming or HD Video, where also the GPU is even more important. Oddly since 2002 approx cheaper laptops / netbooks have had poorer screens to save money, someone may like a screen upgrade and old one can be used to replace a broken one. I have one old laptop here that originally had a choice of three different types of GPU boards (each with various RAM options soldered on) and about four different LCD panels. It's still possible to "upgrade" with parts from broken ones on eBay.

      Laptops used to be a lot more modular than today.

      Screens are very easily damaged.

      Batteries definitely need replaced, especially in hotter climates.

    4. joeldillon

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      And, uh, then swap out the hard drive too and lose all your work. Unless you plan to boot an x86 kernel on ARM or vice versa.

    5. tojb
      Happy

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      Simple, just unplug your screen, battery, camera (and whatever else, details are sketchy in the article) then order in the new plastic box (dirt cheap in itself) containing the upgraded mobo.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oddly I've alway s thought it's the *processor* that should be upgradeable.

      In a way the processor is upgradeable.

      You remove the screen, keyboard and other modules from your existing computer and plug them into the new one.

      Here at home, I still run a Sun monitor from the turn of the century and a PS/2 keyboard.

      And, uh, then swap out the hard drive too and lose all your work. Unless you plan to boot an x86 kernel on ARM or vice versa.

      And what, prey tell, stops U-Boot on a flash chip from loading the ARM kernel from a FAT partition residing on the same hard drive as the x86 OS? It works with SD cards: been there, done that.

  3. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Project Ara for Laptops

    Five days ago The Reg reported that Google is postponing its limited launch of Project Ara - a modular component system for mobile phones. In response to that story, I osted a comment about expanding the Ara concept to laptop/tablet sized components:

    As a modular systems for just phones, it may prove to be a bit niche- many users might find that their needs are more simply met by owning a selection of traditional handsets and selecting one for twon and another for the woods.

    However, if this modular system is extended to tablet screens, keyboards and more, the possibilities become more interesting. A user could create any of the following:

    - 5" clamshell with a Psion 5 - style keyboard...

    - ...or candy-bar with Blackberry-style keyboard if that's your thing.

    - 12" tablet with pen digister and full size SD-Card slot for working with discreet cameras

    - 7" e-ink configuration, with light-weight battery for comfortable reading

    - physical controllers for games

    - good quality camera modules, akin to Sony's QX-100

    - laptop

    - desk-bound workstation

    - High-end audio interfaces / microphones, for musicians and journalists

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This shit again?

    In a world of £50 tablets capable of most basic computing requirements, and certainly more than adaquate to satisfy the needs of a schoolchild, what exactly do these guys hope to achieve?

    OLPC was a dumb idea 10 years ago, now it's so irrelevant as to not be worth reporting about. It actually wouldn't surprise me if the organisation is a front for something sinister.

    1. tojb
      Boffin

      Re: This shit again?

      On the face of it yes, an off-the-shelf for-kids android slab such as leafpad should cover the "educational slabtop" market, however it is not the same thing at all.

      People who have never used a computer are impressed to see their two-year-old granddaughter playing lego cities or similar on a parent's tablet, but that is a far cry from doing science projects on a machine which is not only a fully functional computer but is *intended* to be used as one, rather than say as a pocket-sized shop window.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: This shit again?

        In response to tojb: well yes and no. My daughter uses a 7" tab with a plug in keyboard/mousepad jobbie and the two cost about £80 altogether and perform pretty well. Without the keyboard you have full multitouch for stuff.

        Its not a full sized computer by any means but its more than usable for the school work at the moment and I dare say will be for a while.

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: This shit again?

      In a world of £50 tablets capable of most basic computing requirements,

      Except, of course, for anything useful. It will also last for a wonderful 5 years (if you protect it well), because no physical keyboard and no clamshell device, erm, well, if your "computing requirements" are Facebook, Twitter and the occasional tablet-oriented game, in a clean and safe environment, yes; otherwise, no.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PCs for the new generation

    Modular design tends to lend itself to greater flexibility of use in a physical world, something that is unknown to the current generation of fondle-slab users.

    It will be interesting to see what add-ons, adaptations and hacks that will evolve out of this.

  6. razorfishsl

    Hi kiddies need a 40 " screen for that?

    OLPC... the smart way to dispose of E-Waste in 3rd world countries.....

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