One Laptop Per Child
Under the Give One Get One program I got an XO Computer. I've had it for 6 days and would like to write a reflection on my experience. Up front I will say that this machine was designed with the use in mind and from what I can tell, that design is great. It is not like any pc that I have used, but I can use this laptop well and I am sure that it will benefit those children who receive and use it. It is sturdy, uses very little power, can be used in broad daylight, and has an interface and programs that a child could figure out by poking around. A child with no experience of a computer would "get it" while someone like me who has a lot of Windows and Linux experience on a pc needs the support page. :-)
The paper that came with the machine had a link to help me since I could not figure out how to open the laptop: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Getting_Started under "opening the laptop." Then I went on to "getting connected" which meant pushing the first little button in a series of 4 and then clicking on a circle. It was really easy once I got the idea of thinking simple. There was an open wifi in my area; so I was online.
The third button took me back to the Home View. That is where the action begins. Using the touchpad I could move the cursor around. In the center I could choose to reboot or shutdown. At the bottom are the program icons which start various programs. When you start a program you see an icon for that program begin blinking in the activity circle in the center of the screen.
Once the program begins, you see something like this image of the browser at work. Notice to the left the word Activity. When that is selected there will be the X on the right top with the Book next to it. Clicking on the Book saves information, like the place where you are currently browsing. The X stops the program.
If you want to start another program, but not stop this one, then you press the third button again to go to Home View and start something else. If you want to go back to the browser, go back to the Home View and right click with the touchpad and the right click button on it. Then select Resume and you will be back in the browser.
Then there is the Journal. All the activities you do are kept in the journal. You can get there from the Home View by clicking on the Book at the bottom of the Activity Circle, or you can press the 4th button which takes you directly there. Here is what the journal looks like. That page also tells you how to start a previous activity from the journal and how to get files to or from a usb drive. Yes, there are 3 usb ports and a slot for an SD memory card. You can open ogg files in browse and play them or pdf files for reading.
This laptop can open up in book reading mode by twisting and turning it. This is really nice. If only I could read those DRM locked e-books I've purchased! They aren't pdf either; so I'm doubly out of luck there.
You can write on this machine and save as rtf. You can't print, because they don't have a lot of paper to waste in places where these are going, but I kind of like that idea and have been getting used to saving stuff by printing to pdf when some place tells me to save a copy of something by printing. You can save the rtf to a usb stick and print elsewhere if you need to.
The OS is basic Fedora 7 with a python GUI called "Sugar." Yes, you python lovers, this is what is used for these programs. There is a program here to learn python as well. These kids will be writing their own programs, I bet.
There is a built in microphone and camera and programs for editing such things. The kids can network together even if they don't have internet and work on projects or communicate. The antennae on the machine don't just receive wifi, they send as well. A mesh network can be set up where all can use the internet if one has it. Granted, the connection is quite slow, because they wanted to keep down the energy use. Here I got a cord that I can plug into the wall to get current to recharge. The kids will get a sort of yo-yo thing and I think something solar to recharge by hand.
There is an email client in the works, but so far email has to be via webmail. WPA is also in the works for wifi. I think it can be used by setting it up under the hood by hand. The keyboard is small, but not as small as your cell phone. :-)
There is an active community on their forum and mailing lists. Some folks are working very hard on this. There is good dedication in this project and I am hopeful that it will bear much fruit.
Oh, I almost forgot my next project with this laptop . Just kidding!!