(This thread starts here - all subsequent posts are relevant to the OLPC "$100 laptop" project).
I have recently come from a presentation at a local company by someone who is directly involved in the OLPC effort. The news I can report is:
1. They have given up on claiming that the device can be powered by a hand crank, although they realize that since this is a highly publicized aspect of the design they will have to speak of it as "optional".
2. There will be a few thousand development systems produced in a few months and at present the project has no idea as to how to distribute them.
3. Much software work will lbe needed to adapt software to reduce waste of memory resources. Firefox was cited as eating huge amounts of memory (64MB for a clock applet, 600MB usage after a days' work e.g.). These kinds of problems can no longer be waved away by citing Moore's projection (I refuse to give any "law" that is implemented by humans the status of a law of nature).
4. The project needs someone to handle the immense task of organizing the necessary infrastructure (servers in all the hinterland schools with backhaul Internet communications and power sources). I briefly toyed with the idea of offering my services in this area, but I have never marshalled armies and would hate to become the scapegoat for the project's failure.
5. The primary justification is given as providing electronic textbooks which can be amortized by five such uses (on the assumption that each textbook costs $20 - a figure which I would question). They disclaim any responsibility for the contents of the textbooks, and I still find myself haunted by the thought that this project would establish the continuously-revisable textbook as a way to place history firmly under control of central governments.
In short, while I am pleased to have played a small part in bringing some engineering reality to the power issue, the OLPC project seems to be rolling along on its own momentum without any significant change of focus. But it is still early in the process, with interesting doses of reality yet to come.