January 9, 2008

A dual-boot OLPC XO with Linux and Windows XP?

Author: Joe Barr

News this morning that the OLPC project is working with Microsoft to deliver a dual-boot XO laptop is causing shock waves among many of the OLPC faithful. Nicholas Negroponte was quoted in the ComputerWorld story as saying, "We are working with them very closely to make a dual-boot system so that, like on an Apple, you can boot either one up. The version that's up and running of Windows on the XO is very fast, it's very, very successful. We're working very hard to do both."

Reactions to the story this morning on the OLPC developers channel on irc.freenode.net ranged from shock to anger, with one developer saying that it is "utter crap, and is exactly the opposite of why I support this project."

Red Hat has borne most of the cost of software development for the XO thus far. Red Hat's Michael Tiemann told Linux.com this morning, "I haven't heard much about this, but a BBC report last year says "Between Microsoft employees and third party contractors that we have brought into the effort, we have over 40 engineers working full-time on the port."

Tiemann added "This effort makes it clear that Microsoft still has the enormous cash required to demo yesterday's software on tomorrow's hardware. The XO laptop is revolutionary in a number of ways, and not least that it is based on software that children can read, modify, and share. Whether or not Microsoft's porting effort is successful, it does not succeed in the XO's mission, which is to educate, emancipate, and empower a new generation unless Microsoft also adopts a true open source approach. Personally I'm much more excited about the progress of the /next/ port of Fedora than the /last/ version of Windows, but that's just because I've seen the past and I'm much more excited about the future."

Walter Bender, president of the OLPC for software and content, reiterated the news from last year when we queried him about XP on the XO this morning, saying, "Microsoft has been working on an XP port, which from the little I have seen, takes good advantage of the XO display -- it doesn't feel cramped the way window systems often do on low-resolution displays."

Bender also said he is unaware of any plans by Microsoft to open-source the version of Windows being worked on for the XO, adding, "The foci of the discussions we have been having on the software front are in regard to how we can maintain some level of sharing and collaboration between XOs running Sugar/Linux and children using XP and ways in which to ensure that our different approaches to safety and security aren't mutually exclusive."

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