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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Sunset is an angel weeping / Holding out a bloody sword
— Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage
April 6, 2006
Thin Systems

Nicholas Negroponte is still thinking different even as the rest of the world does not.

Negroponte: Slimmer Linux needed for $100 laptop

“People aren’t thinking about small, fast, thin systems,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit association, in a speech at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. “Suddenly it’s like a very fat person (who) uses most of the energy to move the fat. And Linux is no exception. Linux has gotten fat, too.”

Why does this matter?

First, the goal of a $100 laptop is an admirable one, even without considering the unique needs of the third world. Most people do not much more than email and surf the web these days — spending more on your computer than you do for your computer’s communication link makes not much sense.

Second, as Negroponte has long pointed out, there will always be a finite limit to resources in the world. This is as true of bandwidth and processing power as it is of oil, although the specific economics can vary.

The process of fabricating silicone is a wonderful example of doing more with the same resources. The single greatest impact on the increase in available computing power within current resources has come as a result of vastly increasing the density of the silicone to such a degree that we long ago passed what we thought was physically possible, and yet we still keep going.

The same cannot be said of bandwidth: as the number of people who have come online has increased, the solution to perceived bandwidth problems has been to simply install more. As a result, despite theoretical economies of scale your DSL connection still costs about the same as it did when DSL had no economies of scale.

Negroponte argued in Being Digital that the solution to the world’s bandwidth problem came not from laying more pipes ad infinium (although it was important to recognize that more pipe would be laid) but rather from doing more with what we have. Better compression codecs (h.264 anyone?) will be needed anyway, particularly as more and more of the world just keeps filling that crazy pipe with data.

Negroponte’s vision is the sort that keeps the world moving forward: it’s a shame that some haven’t yet learned that learning to do more with less is better done early when one can plan, than late when desperation sits in.

Posted by skooter at 2:43 PM This entry is filed under Politics, Technology.
This entry is tagged: Conservation, Hardware

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