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$5 for OLPC Software on a USB Stick

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 21 comments
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The OLPC Foundation has been tireless in its efforts to educate children in developing nations through low cost laptops. Now former president of the non-profit, Walter Bender is trying something different.

Bender left OLPC to found Sugar Labs, a company which promotes Sugar, the software used on OLPC machines. TechnologyReview reports that Sugar Labs will today announce Sugar on a Stick. For $5, you get the 40 applications running on all XO laptops on a 1GB USB stick (including Read, Write, Paint and Etoys) and the ability to turn old, clapped out computers into useful educational tools.

"What we are doing is taking a bunch of old machines that barely run Windows 2000, and turning them into something interesting and useful for essentially zero cost," says Bender. "It becomes a whole new computer running off the USB key; we can breathe new life into millions of decrepit old machines."

TechnolgyReview also reports that this summer, Sugar Labs will deploy the software at the Gardner Pilot Academy, an elementary school in Boston, under a $20,000 grant from the Gould Charitable Foundation.

Read the full story here.

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  • 2 Hide
    zzz_b , June 25, 2009 8:50 PM
    I do not think those "decrepit old machines" can boot from a USB stick!
  • 3 Hide
    Hanin33 , June 25, 2009 9:03 PM
    sounds good... power to the people!
  • 1 Hide
    falchard , June 25, 2009 9:05 PM
    Hate to agree but I agree, its a bad method to boot from a USB disk. Considering the age, you would be on USB 1.0 which has slow transfer speeds and may not be acceptable to do the read/write operations of a boot HDD.
  • Display all 21 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    computabug , June 25, 2009 9:19 PM
    Why do hobos get all the great deals and we're stuck with cheap ass stupid american government systems?
  • 0 Hide
    yourtechsupport , June 25, 2009 9:22 PM
    Well, you could always install it as the OS.
    I can't find a link to this $5 thing. I'd gladly donate a little bit of change, hardware or no.
  • 0 Hide
    Regulas , June 25, 2009 9:45 PM
    Total crap, if the rig can run 2000, be it barely, why stick this rubbish on it. Download and install for free, Linux of your flavour. Netbbok Remix mabe iof you want the "Simple" interface.
  • 1 Hide
    hemelskonijn , June 25, 2009 9:46 PM
    First a computer that age will boot from a usb drive though this depends on the firmware (BIOS) of the computer.
    Second usb 1.1 is fast enough to get about the same performance as you

    would get from the OLPC laptop and if not those computers do have pci slots and for about 7-15 usd you can buy yourself an awesome pci USB 2.0 upgrade.

    Last RAM costs nothing or near to nothing who is to say they wont run the complete system from ram (on the OLPC the software takes only 256 megs so it should be able to run from a ramdrive).

    In both solutions i just came up with you can use a Pentium 2 system do a RAM upgrade (512Mb DDR is about 20 USD if you look hard) and or plug in a 7 to 10 USD USB PCI card.
    Total cost do make a donated system viable is below 40 bucks!
  • 4 Hide
    blarneypete , June 25, 2009 9:47 PM
    But what I really want to know is: Will it blend?
  • -1 Hide
    joefriday , June 25, 2009 11:21 PM
    Quote:
    First a computer that age will boot from a usb drive though this depends on the firmware (BIOS) of the computer.
    Second usb 1.1 is fast enough to get about the same performance as you

    would get from the OLPC laptop and if not those computers do have pci slots and for about 7-15 usd you can buy yourself an awesome pci USB 2.0 upgrade.

    Last RAM costs nothing or near to nothing who is to say they wont run the complete system from ram (on the OLPC the software takes only 256 megs so it should be able to run from a ramdrive).

    In both solutions i just came up with you can use a Pentium 2 system do a RAM upgrade (512Mb DDR is about 20 USD if you look hard) and or plug in a 7 to 10 USD USB PCI card.
    Total cost do make a donated system viable is below 40 bucks!

    1. No Pentium II system used DDR ram.
    2. I also greatly contest your claim the USB booting is supported on old Pentium/K6/Pentium II or even Pentium III motherboards. Even socket 478 and Socket A motherboards rarely had support for that function.
    3. Old motherboards have ram limitations. For example, the i810 and i815 series only supported 512MB total ram (2x256). The even older Ali Alladin V only supported 256MB ram. The 440BX allowed up to 768MB. You can't go shoving 512MB ram sticks in there all willy-nilly and expect it to just work.
  • 1 Hide
    aspireonelover , June 25, 2009 11:44 PM
    computabugWhy do hobos get all the great deals and we're stuck with cheap ass stupid american government systems?

    Hey, we're here to help em with what ever they need. Man kindness.
  • 0 Hide
    gmo , June 26, 2009 2:09 AM
    I don't think Tom's Hardware got the juice of the story in this post. Sugar on a stick is designed for kids and learning. Yes, it's on open source Linux distro...but it's been tweaked for kids. Meaning simple to use and tons of features a youngster could learn from.

    I don't know about you geeks, but I'm one, and would hate to have my 5 year old mess up my computer, so booting from a USB stick into a closed environment for $5 is a dream. I can help me kid play and learn on the computer without harming my coveted PC.

    Sure I could grab a tutorial off the web and load up a stick, but I'm gonna save my 3 hours of trying and spend $5 bucks. Where do I send my money...
  • 0 Hide
    skora , June 26, 2009 5:27 AM
    Joefriday, even if the older laptops can't boot from a USB device, burning a live CD might actually be cheaper and still be able to load the software onto the HDD or just run in regularly in Ram alone. I use puppy linux on a 433 mhz celeron from 2001 and it works just fine, wifi and all. Striped down distros can run completely in ram as low as 128 mbs. My laptop sports 256 and runs just fine with that.

    Laptops that old will use sdram like pc100 or pc133 in sodimm ff. Very cheap to find since most people are throwing it out instead of buying it up.

    Props to Walt Bender for finding a solution to get the most out of antiquated yet capable equipment.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 26, 2009 10:52 AM
    WiHood (www.WiHood.com) has been providing a succesful virtual PC service for children and students for over a year in developing countries and the US.

    They provide their service on a USB bracelet that is very cool and can be purchased on Amazon.com.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , June 26, 2009 11:17 AM
    blarneypeteBut what I really want to know is: Will it blend?

    I am sure it will, not lets push the "Educate" button.
  • 1 Hide
    tenor77 , June 26, 2009 12:56 PM
    Software....on a stick.

  • 0 Hide
    areteoftrade , June 26, 2009 4:45 PM
    Guys, I love the comments, shows passion. PC's are great you need a few things to waste your time w/ them. cheap constant power, cheap hardware, OS to run on various cheap hardware, cheap transfer of media. Looks like this guy is trying a go on the last one. Without broadband, usb sticks could go to a central server on foot and update usbstick with latest and greatest. If you had an OS on the drives it solves another problem, not the best way but it could work.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 26, 2009 5:29 PM
    Even 3 years ago I could download the OLPC Linux OS (For free) from their site, and run it in a virtual environment or as a bootup OS.
    I think switching Win2000 for Sugar is a step backwards, as there are hardly any programs out there that support Sugar.
    And any computer that is too old to run Windows 2000 is a computer that must be at least a Pentium MMX. I don't know of many MMX-es still being used today. We're talking in the likes of 166Mhz and below.
    Windows 2000 runs pretty fine on any 233Mhz pentium and up.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 26, 2009 5:33 PM
    you'd basically get the OS for free.
    Many stores are selling a 1GB stick between $4 and $10.
  • 0 Hide
    hemelskonijn , June 27, 2009 12:50 AM
    Quote:
    1. No Pentium II system used DDR ram.
    2. I also greatly contest your claim the USB booting is supported on old Pentium/K6/Pentium II or even Pentium III motherboards. Even socket 478 and Socket A motherboards rarely had support for that function.
    3. Old motherboards have ram limitations. For example, the i810 and i815 series only supported 512MB total ram (2x256). The even older Ali Alladin V only supported 256MB ram. The 440BX allowed up to 768MB. You can't go shoving 512MB ram sticks in there all willy-nilly and expect it to just work.


    1. Loads of pentium II systems used DDR RAM though most of them indeed used SD which coincidental even cheaper for those who are willing to find it.

    2.The ability to boot from a usb device is not something depending on the chipset but rather on the firmware (BIOS) so again its not impossible.

    3.Your right there are limitations to how many RAM and in what formation it could be used though these limitations rarely bring it under 256megs and thus sufficient ram is possible.

    I do understand that your the glass half empty kind of person but that does not mean in any way that it is impossible.
    Making your notes kind of redundant since any one knows there are system specific limitations to each system, this however was not the question the question was could it be done.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , June 27, 2009 4:23 AM
    The OLPC 2 is very cool. I think what may HELP out the OLPC is that its ALSO targeted more so in western countries. It'll go for about $200... Its super high-tech compared to the original OLPC and very star-trekish. More functional as a device for children as its a book, a tablet and notebook.

    Check it out here: http://blog.laptopmag.com/first-look-olpc-xo-generation-20
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