Posted in Christopher Blizzard
In August 2006, Christopher Blizzard spoke at the Red hat Summit about One Laptop Per Child during Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik's keynote speech.
Blizzard's presentation video:
The transcript of Christopher Blizzard's speech:
Many of you have probably read and heard a lot about the One Laptop Per Child initiative. I'm very pleased to introduce to you next to someone by the name of Chris Blizzard who is also a very candid person and contributor in the open-source community, and his roots lie very deeply in the whole Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Project. So let me introduce you to Chris Blizzard who will talk to you about the One Laptop Per Child initiative.
Chris Blizzard: How's everyone doing? Pretty good? Having a good time? Good?
So who here has actually heard of One Laptop Per Child? I'm pretty blind up here, I can't see, so I'm going to assume most people have.. [applause] Just to give you a quick introduction for the people who don't know me, my name is Chris, I've been involved in open-source probably as a user since 1994. I joined Red Hat in 1999, basically because I thought that this is going to be interesting, it's going to be important.
I'm one of the first people, I think, that sort of grew up with Linux and part of the first generation where I never used other operating systems - that was all I really knew. I had to learn and explore basically how to use it, and how to get involved with computers; and really what came along with that was the sense of community and the sense of social which goes along with technology that's really important.
But I'll jump into One Laptop pretty quick here. What I want to do is give you a quick overview of what One Laptop Per Child is about, why Red Hat is involved and then touch very briefly on the technology given in the amount of time we have.
So we'll jump right in, and our first slide. The first thing you need to know about One Laptop Per Child is that it is absolutely about learning: doesn't actually have anything to do with technology, doesn't have anything to do with getting open source in the people's hands, it has absolutely, absolutely everything with kids and giving them the tools to be able to learn.
Kids are programmed to learn, when they come out of the womb, they're ready to go - they have half a dozen reflexes, but everything that they learn had to deal from walking, to talking, to yelling [xx] your parents - everything they do, they have to learn how to do it. This is really about giving them tools to be able to do it.
A second piece of this is really important is expression - the tools that we have today are rough, we can talk over IM, we can use text. We can basically use those tools to talk to each other, but if you notice things like smiley faces and shorthand for conversation, so it's really a sense of expression. It doesn't have to be painting, it doesn't have to be literary works; expression is something that happens all the time, and kids absolutely express themselves in various ways. They do have their own languages with their invisible friends, they paint, they finger paint, they write, they do all kinds of things.
But expression is closely tied with learning so what we want to do is create a platform that allows a sense of expression along with everything that they are able to do.
And the last piece is sharing and collaboration - these laptops - I don't know how much people know about them out here - but all of them contain wireless networking, and ad-hoc wireless networking and a wireless mesh, so that laptops are able to see each other; and that's a huge advantage, we can create an environment where there's learning and expression, and then all those kids are able to share and collaborate with each other. So one of the things we're trying to do in this project is to make sure that we give them the ability to communicate, we give them the ability to teach each other.
The other thing I want to say is that this is really simply the [xx]. One of the telling things that the One Laptop guys says, you know what, if we didn't have to build laptops, we wouldn't. There are just so many interesting things to say - nobody is creating laptops that are low enough cost to get into enough hands to be able to really have an impact so that they just say that we're going to go out and we're going to drive this technology, we're gonna create it, we're going make this happen as opposed to waiting it to come round. So, the laptop itself is more of a symbol, it is a vehicle that drives these three purposes.
So what I'm going to spend some time talking, sort of corny for those Red Hat associates in the audience, but at Red Hat we have a set of four values, these are the four values that define the company and hopefully set the context for decisions that we make. What I want to say is why is Red Hat involved in this project, why not another company or why haven't the One Laptop people decided to do this themselves.
The first value that we have and have it mentioned as I heard in his talk is freedom. Learning and freedom are very closely tied as concepts. Unless you're free, you're not free to learn, you need to be able to associate, you need to be able to create ideas and you need to be able to share those ideas with other people. We hope that this is the first and highest value inside the company. The One Laptop Per Child people understand this and I think it's one of the reasons that we're involved.
The second one is courage: if I said to you, we're going to go out and we're going to make between ten and a hundred million laptops and distribute that to kids all over the developing world, you'd laugh, [xx], right? It takes a lot of courage, these guys have actually been working on this for 15, 20 years, on and off to try and make this a reality so they've got the perseverance and courage to be able to stand up and make it happen. We hope that as high values well so i think it fits pretty well..
Accountability is a difficult one to talk about in this context, but I'll start by saying that if there are kids all over the world and you know you can improve their lives, why aren't you? It's an important thing that I ask: it is our responsibility, I believe, to make a difference if we have that opportunity. As a company, we have researchers, we have the ability, we have the focus, we have the skills on hand to be able to make that happen. I think that if you were out there, and you said, 'You know, Red Hat, you had that chance, why didn't you?' You should hold us accountable, but I can reverse that and say that as open research contributors - I know that there is some of those people in this audience - why aren't you helping? It's an important question to ask and it's probably something a lot of people won't challenge you on. But I think it's important that we do so.
And the last one is commitment. Red Hat has put time, we got full-time developers on this, we put a lot of money aside to be able to fund the One Laptop Per Child organisation, and the most important thing to say is that this is absolutely happening. This is a picture that I took, I think, last Tuesday or Wednesday, we had a big meeting at the One Laptop Per Child office, and this is the latest prototype that has been has been put together - it's got a working keyboard, it's got a working processor in the back, it's based on the actual motherboard that will be in the machine, it is running an operating system - that's not a mockup - it does have a display, you can use it. It's pretty nice. But this is actually pretty close to what the actual laptop will be. This is just a demo model that they put together, but it's just to show that this is actually technology that's coming together.
So let's talk a little bit about the technology itself. What is it? I tried to come up with some metaphors, this is the best one that I come up with: everybody knows cars, so these are the two sort of icons of the modern age of cars that describe, you mix them together and it describes what this laptop is. We've got the very small and efficient car and the laptop itself is very small and efficient, it has 128 meg of ram in it, and it has half a gig of storage in the form of flash so it doesn't have moving parts.
But at the same time it is pretty rugged, it's designed to be in dusty environments, it's designed to be used in parts of the world where the mean time between failures of equipment like hardware and software are pretty low. It's got sealed components for the US... there are three USB ports on the outside of it, all of those are sealed. It's got a sealed keyboard, it doesn't have any vents because it doesn't generate enough heat so you have to worry about that, but it basically makes the lifetime of the machine - it has no moving parts - much longer.
There are quite a few challenges associated with that. How do we take what we have today and put it on that laptop? A half of gig of storage is actually not that much. If you think about the desktop today, I did the minimal install of our software the other day, and it was like 1.3 gigabytes. It's pretty large.
So we've managed to do is we've managed to take all the components we really care about and are really appropriate for this laptop, and what we've got so far is about 250 megabytes in size, we'll probably get that down to about 210 to 220, there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit there. It's really just made up of the components that fit the learning and the exploring and sharing and collaborating pieces.
But we've got the compression, compressing filesystems, we can actually get that probably down to - in terms of how much flash it's actually using on the disk - maybe about a 120, 130 megabytes. It still leaves 300 megabytes, 350 megabytes for kids to use for storage: pictures, documents, whatever they want to use. so it's not too bad, but there are significant technical challenges.
And really I think that having touched on some of these, this is really sort of an evolution for us, we think of this as an evolution for the current desktop. Being able to do things with sharing and collaboration really wows.. if we can make assumptions about where the notebooks or laptops are and how they're put together; if you're gonna have small clusters you can make assumptions about the software that's on the machine, you can make assumptions about who they're interacting with and the levels of interaction, so we can build software that is specific for that environment so we're able to evolve the current desktop metaphors to the next level. That's a big deal.
And just my last couple of notes here. We talked about the social impact, we talked about 20 million, 30 million, 300 million kids, and in some cases they could be affected by this project. But it's important that when we're designing the software and we're thinking about it, we have to worry about one kid - how do we impact one child's life, how are we going to make that child's life much better. We've actually done a pretty good job of this inside our project: it's easy to get distracted by the numbers, but we need to know, we need to keep that focus on one kid, because if we can keep the focus on one kid, and we replicate that 10 million times or 100 million times we'll certainly have a huge social impact. We have to start at the beginning.
I'll finish up here real quick because I know we're running out of time. We do have a keynote from Nicholas who will be much more interesting, engaging than I am. He's going to be here Friday, at 8.45. I will be doing a [xx] talk that's hopefully a more technical talk, talk about more specifics, a big chance for Q&A, I'm hoping a lot of people will ask questions, at 3pm today. We do have places to get involved, we have [xx PC] which includes a lot of the OLPC people, a lot of them hang out there; and we have a wiki, and a mailing list if you want to come and talk about the software. That's about it, thank you very much!