Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Passion and Optimism Packaged in the XO

The international office has had it's XO for a few days now and we've certainly had some fun with it. Overall, it's been a very positive experience and the XO is going to be a tool that we will continue to use. Here are some quick highlights:

: The overall unit looks like a toy but is solid and sturdy.
: The keyboard is tiny, but you get used to typing with your index fingers.
: The screen is bright and clear.
: I plugged a USB wireless mouse into it and it worked instantly.
: Connecting to any wireless access point is simple. You have to click on the appropriate icon in your Neighborhood view. If you have a secured access point, it prompts you for your key code. Your key code is not kept permanently though, so every once in a while, you do have to re-enter it.
: It's not super fast but definitely adequate.
: Most of what I have used it for is web stuff. Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, simple stuff like that. Uploading large files, like pictures to flickr or attaching a file to an email sometimes works really fast and sometimes not at all. I will definitely be using it when I travel for this same kind of stuff - short email, quick blog posts, etc. I just loaded the Opera browser on it this evening and it runs much faster than the default browser. It also has tabs, your favorite Firefox keyboard shortcuts and bookmarks. That is going to be much more fun.
: I had to cold restart a few times when the machine got hung. I just unplugged it and pulled the battery out.
: The Sugar GUI is very intuitive. My kids started composing music with TamTamJam in the first five minutes they had it.
: Moving files from an SD card to the internal flash memory back and forth is easy with the Journal activity. There is no hard drive.
: I attended the OLPC DC Learning Party earlier this week where there were about 40 people, half of them with XOs. I was able to see and 'friend' a lot of people within the mesh network there and two people at my table were able to get the Chat and Write activities [an application is called an activity] shared across the network. It was a lot of fun and really helpful to learn from others using the XO.
: Speaking about the learning party - every person there was a serious geek and proud of it. Not only that, every person there was just as serious about international development, education and fighting poverty. The cast of characters that I met included linux administrators; network engineers; college students; those interested in collaborative education; a guy who started a nonprofit to get XOs to classrooms in Nepal; and a group of ladies interested in partnership for the underprivileged in College Park, Maryland AND Guinea. And the organizer was Wayan, who was involved with the Geekcorps international tech-development organization and is now a director with Mercycorps and the publisher of OLPC News. In other words - it was an amazingly inspiring group of people to be around. Another real life example of cause creating community.

All in all, the XO is tons of fun and definitely usable for light web stuff. The XO will probably not be your tool of choice if you've got some heavy lifting to do and have the option of working on a 'normal' computer. The bigger scope here is of a tool that is innovative and creative in order to go against the status quo. And like they said of Jeffrey Sachs - optimism and passion. That is what the XO is about.

Photo: From the DC learning party.

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