Friday, January 04, 2008

XO laptop mini-review


My first hours with the XO laptop

Back when the One Laptop Per Child Foundation was running their "give one, get one" promotion, I signed up to donate a laptop, and get one for myself. I figured I could do some good, and get a chance to see what it's all about.

Initial impressions:

Hardware:

I
t's small - really small. Seems more deserving of the "notebook" designation, rather than calling it a "laptop". It'd probably fit well on a child's lap, though.

The exterior case feels very solidly constructed, and has a built-in handle. It reminds of my original iBook. It does look a little like a toy, but that impression goes away pretty rapidly once you start using it.

The keyboard is a rubber dome "chiclet" keyboard of the sort you might have found on inexpensive home computers in the 1980's in the USA. It's not too hard to type on, with the exception of the "space bar", which seems to be made up of 10 or so individual switches, and my thumb keeps hitting it between the individual switches.
The screen is very clear and readable. I haven't used it in black & white mode very much yet, but it's readable in a (fairly bright) room with the backlight off. Not bad at all.

Software:
The user interface is a little weird, if you're used to a standard PC operating system interface. I think someone who's coming to it with no preconceptions would find it fairly easy to get started.

It's running Ubuntu Linux, but you'd never know it from looking at the UI. Everything uses just one mouse button - none of the right-click, middle-click crap from KDE.

The "window manager" doesn't so much manage windows as screens - most of the applications run in full-screen mode, to make better use of the low resolution screen.

The web browser is plain but functional. I'm using it to type this entry, as a matter of fact. So far the only problem is that the cursor disappears in some text boxes. That makes it a little harder to edit text than it should be. Might be a Blogger Javascript problem, I'll see if it come up elsewhere.

I'll report back with an update after I've tried out the other included applications.

5 comments:

Subrata Sircar said...

My issues with the idea are twofold:
a. It's a lot more interesting to have a $200 laptop in a world where a cheap laptop is $2000, not $500.
b. Laptops are a lot more interesting in a world that has the infrastructure in place to support them i.e. ubiquitous free/subsidized Internet access, trade-in depots (on a $200 laptop, if something goes wrong, you'd rather just toss the laptop into a repair bin, pull the drive/copy your current backup onto the new one, and go), readily available online storage (to backup your data), etc.

I don't think even California meets that last standard, so I'm not sure how useful they will end up being. On the other hand, it's good to know that the hardware/software is well thought-out and reasonably designed.

Cory von Wallenstein said...

I don't suppose you had a chance to play with the mesh routing features yet?

Mark Bessey said...

Cory, I haven't had a chance to try the mesh networking yet - it only does the mesh thing to connect to other XO's.

It turns out that at least two other people at work did the "Give One, Get One" thing, so I may yet get a chance to experiment with it.

In general, the Wi-Fi seems to be fairly sensitive, so that feature ought to work pretty well.

chanson said...

I just got my OLPC as well, and completely randomly last night I met a woman starting a Silicon Valley OLPC meet-up - see the SV_OLPC Google group for details.

It'd be great to hang out sometime - it's been far too long! - and to compare notes too.

chanson said...

Grr, I chopped off the end of the link - that should have been to SV_OLPC rather than just to the main Google Groups page.