Cunning penguin plot

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This article appeared in the February, 2007 issue of CRN magazine.

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Cunning penguin plot
The bleeding heart brigade has been at it again, this time imploring everyone to pony up for a laptop computer for the forlorn children of the third world.

Don’t get me wrong – Rabid is all in favour of child support and has several court orders to prove it. But do these poor kiddies really need a laptop? The best use most of them could get from a free laptop would be to connect to the Internet, then flog the thing on eBay so they could buy some food and shelter.

And don’t even get me started on the reaction from the little ones around Rabid’s residence when this item appeared on the evening news. “Hey uncle Rabid! How come third-world kids are gonna get laptops when you said we was too young to get one?”

Oh joy. If only we could harness Pester Power and beam a focused spurt of the stuff into the nearest politician maybe we’d all get a better result. And maybe even a free laptop of our very own – after all, it is an election year.

The proposed freebie laptops will all run the Red Hat flavour of Linux, which we’re assuming they chose so the kiddies could also get lots of freebie open source programs. Rabid is wondering whether they asked Microsoft et al. to donate software, but we suspect the perpetrators of this project aren’t big fans of commercial software, even if it’s free – after all, academic copies of Redmond’s code already sells for only $20 a throw in volume.

These laptops are expected to cost only US$100 each, but last time we checked, that’s more money than the annual wage of most workers in the third-world, and not that far below the nephew’s take home pay, thanks to WorkChoices.

No matter, say the sponsors of the project, they won’t have to buy them; we’re going to get wealthy Westerners to donate the laptops to the poor children. Exactly how they seriously expect a child to hang onto a shiny toy that’s worth more than a year of Daddy’s salary hasn’t been fully explained.

Rabid is expecting to be able to buy container loads of the things on the nearest black market any day now. A quick polish and tidy up and they should march out the door for about $500 each.

Maybe we’ve missed the point entirely. The project people can’t all be completely silly, so someone in Linux-land must have worked out that these laptops are never going to end up permanently in third world schools. Most of them couldn’t even afford the electricity bill to keep the batteries charged, anyway. Which means this is really just part of some cunning penguin wrangler plot to rule the world via subterfuge.

Once enough punters get their hands on a low-cost laptop and discover it can do everything the flash new Vista models can do, perhaps the Linux dream will finally come true.

Happy Feet indeed!

Gotta go! Customers waiting!

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