Monday, March 3, 2008


I got my XO-1 today - the cute little white and green laptop from the much-hyped One Laptop per Child project. I'm not exactly blown away, but it's an interesting piece of hardware. I'd intended to let Allie be the first to try it out; what better way to test the usability of a device made for children than to give it to an 8-year old? After playing around with it a bit myself, I decided that maybe it would be a little too frustrating for her without help.

At the moment, Charlie's got it. He's been begging to try it out since I got it out of the box. I figure it should be much less of a challenge for a reasonably computer literate 12-year old. Sounds like he's either using the oscilloscope function or the recorder right now; I can hear him making noises and strumming his guitar.

The machine's definitely not fast, at least in terms of loading applications. The applications themselves seem to be responsive enough once they get started. The keyboard is just barely usable by adult fingers. The user interface is most definitely not the simple, intuitive system I was expecting from all of the hype.

Charlie just brought it back, apparently tired of trying to get around and find applications. I don't know what he did to it, but it was running very slow for a few minutes. I managed to close a few things and it's running better now. If just loading up several things at once is enough to bring the system to a crawl, I think that's going to be a problem. It's not immediately obvious how to exit from all of the programs.

I tried to close TamTam jam, but it says 'Keep error: all changes will be lost', and gives two options: 'Don't stop' and 'Stop anyway'. Not terribly informative.

The system seems like it's designed by programmers for kids who want to be programmers. I'm all for allowing tinkering, but it's like the highly nerdy and obscure humor in Futurama - great if you can fit it in for those who appreciate it, but only if it can be done without annoying those who don't.

Some day maybe I'll work on some long-range comm hardware for it. Would be kind of cool to come up with a portable HF / amateur satellite email gateway, at least.

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