A teacher came upon a student demonstrating Linux to other kids and handing out LiveCDs. The teacher confiscated the CDs and wrote an angry email to HeliOS’s founder, Ken Starks: “Mr. Starks, I am sure you strongly believe in what you are doing but I cannot either support your efforts or allow them to happen in my classroom. At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. … This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all. I am sure if you contacted Microsoft, they would be more than happy to supply you with copies of an older version of Windows and that way, your computers would actually be of service to those receiving them…” Starks pens an eloquent reply, which contains a factoid I have not seen mentioned before: “The fact that you seem to believe that Microsoft is the end all and be-all is actually funny in a sad sort of way. Then again, being a good NEA member, you would spout the Union line. Microsoft has pumped tens of millions of dollars into your union. Of course you are going to ‘recommend’ Microsoft Windows.”
Update: You can find the original blog entry here.
During the recent Greener Gadgets Conference in New York, former OLPC CTO (and XO challenger) Mary Lou Jepsen discussed the real-world difficulties with using the kid-friendly laptops, including the creation of an XO “hospital” used to repair broken computers. Apparently, in the crowded conditions of schools in places like Nigeria, the little green laptops have a tendency to be jostled around and even knocked on the floor from time to time. As there’s typically no repair shops nearby, the kids have learned to fix the systems themselves, setting up a “laptop hospital” where they can repair what’s broken using simple tools and cheap replacement parts. Mary Lou says the company designed the systems to be easily fixable, including extra screws embedded in the computers themselves, and allowing for quick changes of the LCD backlight and other components. The in-house repairs cut down on shipping, promote reuse, and increase kids’ understanding of ownership and responsibility, thus furthering the OLPC mission, and making everyone generally want to hug.
Since I got my XO laptop, I’ve been frustrated by its incompatibility with WPA encryption for wireless connections, since I have my home network set up for WPA. Aside from reducing the security, changing it would mean changing the settings of my wii, Airport Express, and Slingbox, which isn’t too convenient.
Digging around in the OLPC Wiki, I found that an unofficial software update to build 653 is available. I was able to get the XO online by temporarily turning on internet sharing with no encryption on my Mac Mini to install the update. After updating, the XO will now connect easily to my Airport Extreme and is able to go online
After using the XO laptop for a few days, my opinion of it is mixed. On the plus side, it’s small, lightweight, easy for kids to use, and seems to be a good way to help kids learn programming. It’s a real Linux system (kernel 2.6.9) and it looks like it will run GCC-built x86 binaries from a standard Linux system.
However, it has some very serious flaws. The battery life is worse than my MacBook Pro. After about 20 minutes, the battery is 75% drained. This doesn’t look good for a laptop meant to be used places where power is scarce.
The security is very lax – in the terminal you can simply type ‘su’ with no password and you have root access! It’s also very slow. It takes a while to launch an activity, which is surprising since everything is in flash memory so it should load very quickly. The UI also feels kind of sluggish.
The wireless connectivity is terrible. I haven’t been able to connect reliably to any of my networks, even sharing from my mini as an open network without encryption. If I have such difficulty connecting, how do they expect a kid somewhere with limited connectivity to get online?
Hopefully a software update will fix some of these issues.
As my readers know, my XO laptop arrived two days ago. However, I received this email a few minutes ago:
Your XO laptop is on its way.
We’re happy to inform you that your XO laptop has shipped. In order to help you get the most out of your experience with the XO and One Laptop per Child (OLPC), here are some important links. Please save this email for reference.
To find out everything you need to know to get started with your XO laptop, please click here or visit www.laptopgiving.org/start.
Your order reference number: XXXXXXXX
You can track your shipment on the FedEx web site http://www.fedex.com/Tracking
Your FedEx tracking number: 999999999999999
If your laptop is a gift for a child, click here to download a gift card that explains that a child in the developing world will receive an XO laptop, too, as part of this program.
For Terms and Conditions of the Give One Get One initiative, click here.
To learn more about T-Mobile USA’s offer to provide one year of complimentary access to T-Mobile HotSpot, click here. Please note that to activate this offer, you will need to enter your Give One Get One order reference number: XXXXXXXX.
From all of us at OLPC, thank you for your participation in Give One Get One. Your gift will help give children around the globe amazing, new opportunities to grow, explore, learn and express themselves.
Late this afternoon, UPS left a surprisingly small & heavy box at my door. It was my OLPC laptop! There are no printed manuals; instead a note directs you to a getting started page.
The laptop is much smaller than I expected. The keyboard is a little too small for adult hands to use it comfortably. The screen is very readable, despite the size. It looks like it would be a nice ebook reader for long flights.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to connect it to my home network, since it doesn’t support WPA (an update in early 2008 is supposed to ad WPA support, however). I’m now setting up a computer to computer network on my Mac Mini so I can connect it.
I just got an email from OLPC welcoming me to the community and letting me know that my XO Laptop is on the way.
Thank you for being one of the first to participate
in Give One Get One.
All of us at One Laptop per Child were inspired by the number of people who joined our Give One Get One program on its very first day! Your participation makes you part of the growing community of people working to give children all over the world new opportunities to grow, explore, learn and express themselves.
Your XO laptop is on the way.
Your donated XO laptop will soon be delivered into the hands of a child in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda. In one of our recipient children’s own words, “I want to thank you people because you had given us the laptop and I love it so much.” Your generosity will make a world of difference in these children’s lives, and in the future of their respective countries.
Thanks to your early action, your XO laptop is scheduled to be delivered between December 14 and December 24. Our “first day” donors are our highest priority and we are making every effort to deliver your XO laptop(s) as soon as possible. We will send you an update upon shipment.
Share and play with friends.
Once you receive your XO laptop, you will begin to discover all the features that make it so remarkable. One of the most ingenious features of the XO laptop is its ability to create a “mesh” network. The little green antennae “ears” serve to automatically connect the XO with other XO laptops in the vicinity. What this means is that if your child has friends nearby that also have XO laptops, the children can chat, play and share information freely and safely, with or without an internet connection. If you would like to let other parents know about the XO laptop and Give One Get One, you can not only greatly increase your child’s enjoyment of the XO laptop, but also help us further our mission.
You are part of something big.
As a participant in Give One Get One, you have become a member of an international educational movement. Our goal is to create a web-based learning environment built around the XO laptop that will allow children in the U.S. and Canada to use their XOs to learn about the lives and experiences of children using XOs in the developing world, and vice versa. We also hope to bring together the world’s educators and software developers into a volunteer, global community that will provide essential feedback about how to improve the XO, as well as help create dynamic, open-source educational content that will engage and inspire children all over the world.
We will be creating an OLPC Community section on our website that will provide more information. We hope to see you there!
Once again, from all of us at One Laptop per Child, thank you for helping us bring education and connection to children in even the most remote regions of the globe.
I got an email update on the status of my OLPC “Give 1 Get 1” order:
Thank you for participating in the One Laptop per Child “Give One Get One” program. Your donation of $399.00 will bring education and enlightenment to children of the developing world. $200 of each $399 “Give One Get One” Donation is tax-deductible (your donation minus the fair market value of each laptop you receive).
As a “Give One Get One” donor, you will receive one of the first XO laptops to be distributed in North America. Laptops will be delivered on a first come, first served basis. While early purchasers have the best chance of receiving their XO laptops in time for the holidays, quantities are limited and we cannot guarantee timing. We will provide you with regular email updates.
T-Mobile USA is proud to offer you one-year complimentary access to T-Mobile HotSpot in recognition of your support to the One Laptop per Child “Give One Get One” program. As you help children in developing countries stay connected, educated and enlightened, T-Mobile is supporting you! You will receive an email message close to the time that your laptop ships containing instructions on how to begin your complimentary year of T-Mobile HotSpot service. Please refer to http://hotspot.t-mobile.com for additional information on T-Mobile HotSpot Wireless broadband Internet service.