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A closeup of the marvelous mini-computer, that's the size of a USB stick -- and almost as cheap as one.  (Source: p Raspberry Pi Foundation)

With a mouse, keyboard, and monitor/HDMI-compatible TV, a child is set to play on the device.  (Source: p Raspberry Pi Foundation)
Forget OLPC, just give kids one of these things

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was an ambitious and forward-looking plan.  Unfortunately for all its ambition, it might have been a bit poorly executed.  The initial target cost of $100 ballooned to $188 per laptop.

However, a software great in Britain has devised [video] what could be the salvation of OLPC and similar future programs -- a fully functional computer that's as small as a USB stick and costs only $25 USD (£15) to make.

The tiny computer -- dubbed "Raspberry Pi" -- looks somewhat like a standard USB memory stick, as a USB 2.0 connector juts out of it.  But on the side it packs a SD/MMC/SDIO card reader to provide Flash storage (of course buying said storage might bump the price $10-$20).  And on the side opposite to the USB port an HDMI connector sits, capable of piping out 1080p video to a monitor/TV.

The little board has smartphone-esque hardware, with a 700MHz ARM11 processor and 128 MB of SDRAM packed in.  Specifics on the processor, including the manufacturer were not yet revealed.  The GPU also was not revealed, but it is said to be capable of handling OpenGL ES 2.0 (hence the 1080p output).

Mice/keyboards can be plugged in via the USB slot.  The computer runs a version of popular open-source Linux distribution Ubuntu 9 and comes with a variety of open source software tools (Iceweasel, KOffice, Python).

An expansion port allows for additional hardware models.  For example, a 12 MP camera module was shown off.

A full spec sheet and overview is available here.

The inventor David Braben is the founder of development studio Frontier Developments and co-developer of the game Elite.  His game studio has offered such hot-selling titles as the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, ThrillvilleLost Winds, and most recently Kinectimals.

Lately Mr. Braben has been driven to try to inspire the next generation to success in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).  He is looking to deploy the mini-computer as a device packed with courses for children that teach them about the basics of computer hardware and programming software.

He has launched a UK registered charity dubbed the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

He states that children will be able to "use [the device] as a computer to learn program, to be able to run Twitter, Facebook, whatever.  But also to be able to understand the whole process of programming.  A lot of things have been obfuscated these days in the sense that you can't get at them.  There's so much between you and doing something interesting or creative that it gets in the way.  And hopefully this device will be one of the pieces that helps change that."

The Raspberry Pi foundation plans to distribute the tiny PC to children in the UK, as well as third world children, though no solid release date has been announced yet.

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RE: These initiatives are silly
By Solandri on 5/7/2011 12:55:44 AM , Rating: 5
The problem with the food, water, and medicine approach to "helping" people in developing nations is that long-term it ends up hurting them. Almost all of the world's population growth is in developing nations. There's something about industrializing and modernizing which makes people want to have fewer kids.

If you give people in developing nations food and clean water without changing anything else, all that'll happen is their population increases even more due to a lowered mortality rate. So all you accomplish is increasing the number of people who need food, water, and medicine here and now. And by increasing their population you've made it that much harder to modernize their country in the future.

What you want to do instead is to start off by helping them modernize their country. This means education and engineering expertise, and economic loans to help them start their own businesses. Once you've done this, they will build their own infrastructure, grow their own food, build their own water purification systems, and construct their own hospitals. Things like OLPC attempt to address the education and engineering expertise part of the problem. They give these people access to educational and reference materials they otherwise wouldn't have (textbooks are bulky and heavy and a pain to ship).

And as for the power to run these things, the OLPC could be powered with a hand crank. The specs on this USB stick PC the guy gave on his site are that it'll draw between 50-700 mW (the high end being a future version with a 3D graphics chipset). That's next to nothing. An average person can generate about 100-200 W on an exercise bike. Hook one up to a generator and battery and pedal for 10 minutes and you have enough power to run one of these for 24-48 hours continuously @ 700 mW. 2-4 weeks @ 50 mW.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By hiscross on 5/8/11, Rating: -1
RE: These initiatives are silly
By invidious on 5/9/2011 12:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
Educating people to make responsible family choices is not the same as population control.

Capitalism is not going to help them when this is a global economy and outside forces come into to exploit them. If it was an isolated society things would work themselves out in the long term. But its not, and if left alone the poverty is more likely to get worse and spread rather than go away.

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