Category: Opinions

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OLPC is a success

Posted by Charbax – July 26, 2009

Thanks to OLPC, we have soon 50 million netbooks in rich countries. Intel and Microsoft’s profit margins per laptop are shrinking rapidly.

Thanks to OLPC, children have soon millions of cheap lower power laptops in poor countries.

Thanks to OLPC, the PC/Laptop industry’s interpretation of Moore’s law has totally been reshaped, every 18month now PC/laptops will be half the price instead of 2x more powerful and with 2x more bloatware.

Sure, I would have been happier, and so would most other Linux geeks if OLPC had shipped 100 million laptops to poor children by now, and not just 1 million units. Reason for that not happening yet in multi-hundred million scales though are several:

1. Intel will do anything it can not to be killed off by a non-profit laptop technology revolution. Including abusing of monopolistic situations and corrupting politicians.

2. AMD is not much interested in helping OLPC succeed in lowering the cost of laptops and PCs. Lower cost also means less profits and margins for AMD, and AMD has enough problems with profits and margins as it is.

Looking forward, to reach those 100 million poor children sooner rather than later:

1. OLPC needs to find an alternative to AMD as soon as possible. VIA is planned for XO-1.5 which could hopefully ship a few millions of units in a few months time, if VIA supports this move of OLPC creating a cheaper and lower power market using their processor. XO-1.5 could reach the $150 pricepoint soon and enable dozens of commercial netbooks using the VIA processor and also copying on the way OLPC is using the VIA processor.

2. OLPC needs to implement the worlds best ARM processor based laptops for XO-2 working with Google to implement the so called Chrome OS on those. Cloud computing can work also for places without stable internet access, HTML5 supports offline web apps and offline databases. OLPC needs to push Google to make it work on WiFi Mesh networks as well. XO-2 can start at $100 when released and reach the $50 price point, when manufactured using any of half a dozen ARM processor companies chips. All of TI, Qualcomm, Marvell, Freescale, Nvidia and Samsung, all those ARM processors should fit in the XO-2 design. Competition will bring the prices down faster.

Also, to reach those 100 million children, OLPC needs to have more than just a couple dozen engineers working on the whole optimizations of hardware and software for the project.

What OLPC managed to build in XO1 and XO-1.5 with 30 employees and the little budget that they could get is absolutely amazing.

But what OLPC probably needs for XO-2 to absolutely work and sell laptops soon at $50 to revolutionize education worldwide, is thousands of engineers and the support from Barack Obama and the European Union.

So OLPC’s political agenda definitely needs to be more targeted towards the politics of education and aid of the USA and Europe and with much more ambition to make things happen in huge scale as quickly as possible.

Chrome OS = Android 2.0

Posted by Charbax – July 16, 2009

I would link to the Masterful John C Dvorak for some very clever guessing: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/is-googles-new-os-more-than-just-a-bluff?siteid=

I do not believe John C Dvorak is 100% right in his funny column, though I do believe he is right when he says that this is all a super clever public relations trick put on by Google and that all of it is just the Google OS coming up. John C Dvorak is mostly right about most things that he says.

I believe it will be released open sourced in a couple of months, with the first ARM Cortex A8 and Tegra based laptops.

Android 2.0 and Chrome OS is the same thing. It doesn’t matter what Google says and what bloggers think. There is only one way Google is working towards:

- Making full Chrome browser work on ARM embedded laptops even better than on x86 based laptops.

Now, you might know me as the contiunous x86 basher, I kind of am. But what I believe Google wants is more competition in both hardware and software space for PCs and laptops. This is what Google OS is all about.

The reasons Google might caution Google OS on ARM fans to wait for are a few technological breakthroughs which Google might need before the worldwide availability of perfect $100 Google laptops can happen:

1. ARM Cortex A8 needs to be fast enough for a full browser. If it’s not, then Google needs to wait for broad availability of ARM Cortex A9 starting early next year.

2. Google and the whole ARM community needs to optimize browsers, flash, HTML5 features on DSP and GPU cores of laptops, especially ARM laptops, so that $100 laptops can run a FULL browser and cloud computing experience. Nvidia, Qualcomm, Freescale, Texas Instruments were promising hardware acceleration for the browser, Flash and HTML5 at Computex, but they didn’t really show it yet. I believe they can make it work as a 2003 X86 based browser (something like a 512MB RAM or less system), though that may not be enough for the full mass market to adopt the first version, thus Google might prefer to wait for full launch for it to work better than 2009 x86 browsers.

3. Google wants better connectivity. Google is strongly hoping to start implementing White Spaces worldwide as soon as possible, this will enable free unlimited wireless Internet for all (and destroy all ISPs and telcos in the process). Optimized Connected standby features for ARM devices might only really start working perfectly early next year. First generation ARM Google OS laptops might not have LED lights that turn on instantly on incoming emails, feeds, pings, IMs, VOIP calls and other such crucial presence and social networking web apps which Google needs on the Google laptops for it to really feel like revolutionary products compared to the established systems.

4. Political aspects of this might start being put into places early next year as well such as real competition on HSDPA connectivity, maximum prices of $20 per month pre-paid data-only plans for most of the world and no more contract-plans and other voice and SMS plans forced onto consumers by monopolistic telcos. Also political decision on net neutrality, white spaces, sustainable energy consumption of consumer electronics and servers and crucial for Google to succeed on this global cloud computing plan.

I see it as inevitable, that Google will create Google OS, a super tiny embedded Linux open source OS less than 50 Megabytes for the whole highly optimized OS, and that in a couple of months we will start seeing it ship on $150 ARM based laptops with all types of screen sizes (large screens and keyboards aren’t much more expensive than small ones, consider $50 upgrade for 15″ and full keyboard instead of 10″ and tiny netbook keyboard).

Those $150 Google laptops will be running ARM chips by half a dozen competing ARM processor manufacturers and manufactured by all the major laptop manufacturers in the world. Effectively putting out of business all of Microsoft, Intel and Apple. Together with most of Silicon Valley. That is for the better. For the first time billions more people will have access to this technology very quickly and we will all for the first time really find amazing new ways to use the technology.

As for technical details on Native versus Cloud apps. I believe natively you will have everything needed for a full computing experience. Basically it’s not just the browser, it’s not just flash support, it’s not just HTML5 including native code plugins for the browser and 3D in the browser, it’s like providing you the hypervisors, user interface APIs, clever caching and seamless interface optimizations, which will enable you to not only have a full 2009 x86 style computing experience, it will plug you into the full cloud, in fact giving you infinately more computing power for all the most processor intensive tasks that the biggest professionals would want to use. You can definitely encode videos using grid server encoding, I have been doing that for over 2 years for all my HD video encoding needs, just have a fast enough upload to upload your source files from your camcorders. Google Gears type database and web application caching not only lets you do things while offline, it can turn all web applications into feeling exactly like native applications, they respond instantly without having to wait for any online service to stream the user interfaces back at you. The user interfaces will be locally cached on the machine, only processed data is streamed from the cloud, and clever pre-loading algorithms mostly will not make you feel any difference than processing everything using a local X86 processor. In fact, things will feel much faster cause you will be able to have the power of an unlimited amount of cloud servers to render, process and encode any of your media intensive tasks.

Google OS will take over the world, also for Corporate types

Posted by Charbax – July 15, 2009

Ryanair and Easyjet are full of Corporate World types, who just enjoy that they can save money on flight tickets. Sales of Business class tickets on any airline company are tanking. Saving money and getting smaller, better, cheaper laptops is absolutely a universal thing, not only for the mass market, also for corporate types.

You will get £100 Google OS Laptops, running 15-20 hours on a 3-cell battery, fully sunlight readable with the Pixel Qi screen, highly optimized with built-in HSDPA always-on connectivity, connected standby features (rings or blinks an alert light from full standby on incoming emails or calendar alerts), all Google OS laptops will be based on ARM Processors.

Basically Chrome OS = Android 2.0 optimized for Laptops. It will absolutely take over the world, as the absolute best OS for ARM Laptops, instantly putting Microsoft, Apple and Intel out of business.

I posted this as a comment on http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/15/google_chrome_os/comments/

ARM and Android, the future of laptops

Posted by Charbax – April 1, 2009

The main goal of the OLPC, and thus, of the whole computer industry at this point, is to lower the cost of laptops by lowering the power consumption. The best way to achieve that, is to limit the way applications get full native access to the deep internals of the computer system. Intel’s X86 standard and Microsoft’s Windows OS were designed only for that multi-purpose backwards compatibility where the same unoptimized bloated software would work across thousands of hardware configurations with often full root access to the deepest internals of a computer system. For most of the applications that most people need, you do not need full native code support in third party applications. By limiting full native access for third party applications, you take care in one swoop of all the security problems that one has on Intel and Microsoft based PC and laptops. You basically make spyware, viruses, hacking and all of those problems impossible by design.

That is how Android is made. Android provides a totally sandboxed JAVA-based software layer, which only interacts with the hardware features through totally controllable software-to-hardware APIs. With Android on ARM, you have a complete shift in the way third party applications are run compared to X86 Windows XP/7, MacOSX and even most of those X86 Desktop Linux distributions that have been going around, including Ubuntu and Fedora.

The open source native Android Linux code hacking happens exclusively at the manufacturer stage. Which means, you want to have a manufacturer in control of everything, you want the manufacturer to customize Android for the very specific mass produced hardware in question, providing all the standard and non-standard software-to-hardware APIs for third party software developers to gain access to the all of the devices standard or special hardware features.

What you have backing Android is the worlds absolute best company in Google, comprised of the worlds largest concentration of PHDs and Engineers with the most experience in Web and computer technology. The role of Google with Android is to make sure that the native Android code works in the most optimal fashion with the most optimal hardware configurations that manufacturers are making for it. Google helps manufacturers prepare that Android native code customization for each different System On Chip, for each different variation on the ARM Cortex processor profiles by each of the industry leading ARM processor manufacturers among Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Freescale, Samsung, Nvidia, Marvell and others.

If you want to change the default Android user interface layer and make it look more like the Sugar User Interface layer (which for XO-1 was built on top of an optimized X86 Fedora Linux installation), you definitely can do those changes and customizations. Those would come from the manufacturers, thus in the case of OLPC from the whole OLPC organization, in cooperation with Google or anyone else helping to create a more education-laptop friendly user interface. But Android applications remain the same, and appart from slight porting that can be required, all Android applications are designed to work in full screen mode, and management of multi-tasking, notifications, memory and processing power consumption, all those are managed the same way accros all implementations of the Android OS.

HP has just announced that they are working to support Android in future HP Laptops. Asus has also announced to be working on Android laptops. Look forward to Android ruling over all ARM Laptop implementations, at least for these where the lowest cost and the lowest power consumption levels have been achieved. Look forward to $100 Android ARM laptops. Look forward to the empire of Intel and Microsoft crumbling under the inevitable hardware and software revolution that comes with the XO-2 and with the whole industry’s shift to lower cost, lower power consumption using ARM and Android in all laptops.

ARM in OLPC XO-2

Posted by Charbax – January 29, 2009

OLPC is probably looking for a non X86 architecture for XO-2, probably ARM, where several providers can provide the processor. Using ARM Cortex, OLPC can use any of Texas Instruments, Mavell, Freescale, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia and others, all interchangeably, independently of the deals that will be put in place. The idea being that having all these ARM Cortex providers being more or less compatible with each other, enabling minimal changes in motherboard designs to have them all be compatible, this enables competition in the processor market. This will more quickly drive the prices down much further. This is the only way you can optimize the interpretation of Moore’s law which says that you can cut the price and power consumption of laptops by half every 18 months.

There is a basic reason AMD is not too enthusiastic about this whole new low cost laptop market. The reason is written on the wall, everyones can see it coming, cheaper laptops means it will be much harder to find profits in the industry. AMD isn’t exactly having an easy time already as things are today, Intel’s profit margins and overall income have shrinked 90% in 2008 compared to 2007.

I believe OLPC should use Google Android with Sugar on top, and they should increasingly rely on cloud computing such as the recently rumored Google Web Drive service to store and share all the data on. With XO-2, you should much further synchronize the way the school servers synch storage, processing power and contents to and from the cloud. Basically what you get is an overly simplified Internet access terminal, one with a small ARM Cortex processor behind the next generation of even lower power and lower cost Pixel Qi screens. One that just relies on basic Google Gears for local content caching, and let most of the rest happen using the much cheaper cloud.

$100 laptops using ARM are possible today already. Chinese GPS manufacturers are making them already using uber simple Linux and last generation MIPS or ARM processors: http://techvideoblog.com/category/laptops/

This makes it obvious that OLPC can achieve a $75 price point on XO-2, consider also the advantage of using a dual touch-screen, is that ou can even more easilly mass manufacture exactly the same model for the whole world. Since all the different keyboard layouts and all of the local interfaces are simply going to be a software function of the touchscreens. Mary-Lou Jepsen has done it once already. She can do it again.

My next HD camcorder should have these features

Posted by Charbax – August 2, 2008

- WiFi and HSDPA built-in to upload my HD videos directly to an FTP server without needing to use a laptop. API to interact with online services to then publish that video to video-blogs and Youtube.

- Live streaming using WiFi or HSDPA of the camera feed in a low resolution and bitrate all the while the camcorder is recording the HD quality to the Internal storage.

- Built-in 2.5" hard drive (up to 500GB) as well as SDHC storage.

- Built-in bluetooth or VHF to use for cheap but high quality wireless microphones. Multiple microphones should work with one camera.

- USB keyboard support to enter filenames, description, tags for when publishing the HD videos directly from the camera to the Internet.

- Voice recognition service (could be online), can automatically transcribe title, description and tags from voice recordings made to be linked up with the main HD video file recording.

- On screen live chat from live video viewers in the same way as the Qik live chat works on the Nokia N95.

- Live video feed should be able to go to services such as Qik.com, Mogulus.com, Ustream.tv, Kyte.tv as well as live p2p streaming systems using live Bittorrent protocols, pplive or sopcast.