New OLPC for Me (Christmas Comes Early)

The XO laptop computer that I ordered earlier this Fall through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project Give One Get One program arrived yesterday just in time for the holidays (courtesy of FedEx). This, of course, means that Christmas has come a bit early this year for me (and my daughter) — however, courtesy of Give One Get One, it also means that it has come a bit early for a child in a developing nation as well.  I have not yet had a chance to spend a lot of time checking out my new XO, but thought I would share a few thoughts.  From what I have seen so far it is a pretty cool device.

The design is pretty much as advertised, with a brightly-colored and very durable feeling (and looking) hard plastic case. The case opens by deploying the two antennae on either side of the case. When not deployed, the antennae serve the dual purpose of forming clips to hold the case closed. Deploying the antennae also reveals USB and audio in/out ports, which remain conveniently hidden beneath the antennae when not deployed. With the antennae deployed, the case swings open easily to reveal the screen and keyboard. The keyboard too is designed for durability, with a one-piece sealed rubber membrane forming the keypad surface. While the entire design of the XO is slightly smaller than I had envisioned, the key size and placement (although made for a child) is more than large enough for adult-sized hands. Like the rest of the XO, the operation of the keyboard has a solid feel and I found the design to be fairly easy to type on (in fact, I typed most of this entry on the XO).

I found the screen itself to be surprisingly bright. Most of the interfaces are in a greyscale format with color used to highlight the icons (which does help). The XO also has a brightness adjustment for use of the device in various lighting conditions.

I have not yet been able to spend much time checking out the various applications pre-installed on the XO, but firing it up was a breeze. I was quickly able to connect to my wireless network at home. It appears, however, that I will have to wait to try out the mesh networking feature of the XO as the initial search for other XOs in my neighborhood showed none in range. :-(

OPLC has provided an online support site for the XO (although the operation of device and the software has proven to be very intuitive). Since the XO is based entirely on open source software (see the software portion of the OLPC wiki or the XO source code browser for more information), I am kind of hoping that we will also see a strong developer/hacker community emerge around the XO as well — not unlike what has happened with the Roomba.

For anyone looking for a late Christmas gift for the hacker/geek/recovering-engineer-turned-lawyer on your list this year, OLPC has extended the Give One Get One program through December 31st. If you have not already joined the fun, I encourage you all to check out!

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