You have to admire a guy who would walk away from a successful project of global proportions purely on principle. Walter Bender, co-founder of One Laptop Per Child, has reemerged and launched SugarLabs, a not-for-profit foundation that will continue the work of developing the Sugar open-source UI that runs on the low-cost XO laptop.
Bender left OLPC in April, after the organization had agreed to work with Microsoft on a version of Windows for the laptops, a move contrary to his original vision of an open learning platform for the children of developing nations. Part of the stated purpose of SugarLabs is to let children “use their laptops on their own terms” and that “children—and their teachers—have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, and content.” Sugar is based on Fedora Linux.
SugarLabs also develops applications for Sugar, which it calls Activities. Those installed by default include an object and activity browser called Journal, a Web browser based on Firefox, a PDF and book reader, word processing, a news reader, a paint program, a music composition and synthesis program called TamTam, and the ability to record audio as well as still and motion video. There are scores of other apps—for everything from programming to play, math and science to chat—that can be downloaded from the Activities Page, and they’re all free. A developer page offers documentation, roadmap, module project repositories and mailing lists and other project infrastructure.
The original XO laptop packs decent capabilities for a unit listing at only US$188. It’s got a 433 GHz AMD Geode processor, 256MB RAM, 1GB storage flash, an SD card slot, three USB slots and wireless Ethernet with a distinctive pair of antennae. Its 7.5-inch LCD can display 1200x900 pixels, it has a built-in mic and 640x480 camera that can record 30 frames per second, a touchpad and rubber-covered keyboard made to resist dust and spills.