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 XO laptop, OLPC

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troglodite
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2007 9:32 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

One laptop per child. Right.

I decided to go for the buy-one-give-one program, as the concept and the machine interested me. It arrived, and I popped open the box. One green-and-white thing that looks sort of like a Speak-n-Spell. One wall transformer. One sheet of paper that basically says how to plug it in and open it up.

Ok, plug it in and turn it on. It wants my name. OK, now what?

For an "educational tool" there's no lesson plan, or any hint of anything educational about it except for some dimwitted games. Yes, you can surf the web. Not much else, though. It is based on Fedora Linux.

Hmmm, surf the web...

Egads! They've created the one-laptop-per-mugu program! These things will be stolen from the kids and used for fraud! Ech! (Yeah, I just had to get that off my chest. No resale value for a stolen OLPC machine? Guess again.)

Three USB ports, one SD port, WiFi, microphone and headphone jacks. The WiFi antennas double as case locks. The wall adapter delivers 12V at 1.4A, so the laptop can be driven by solar panels or a car generator.

*Sigh*

Yeah, I really did expect more from an "educational tool." The loaded applications are pretty dismal. As it is, it is just a toy. The OLPC group is interested in mesh network programming, not in writing educational apps. These guys definitely have their priorities misplaced.

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DrWho
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2007 11:04 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I got mine a few days ago and think it is great. All the information you need is on the web page and the user help wiki. The one piece of paper explains that to save the cost of printing a booklet of instructions they are on line. Also to create an atmosphere of learning and experimentation you need to discover how the laptop works. I have spent most of my time getting the wifi to work but only because my home network has "special needs". I now have figured the whole thing out and how it works. It actually logged into a neighbor's router the first time. I did make my laptop unbootable at one point by changing a file I shouldn't have. I learned how to reflash the system (very easy) and now am ready for the major upgrade next month. The system seems to be very self repairing and noob friendly. Which can be a problem if you want to customize, but not a big problem. You need to learn something about linux but mostly a few command lines is all you need and they are like the dos commands. I am surprised at how much of the full size kernel is still available at the command line.
I am impressed at the quality of the screen image. A standard USB mouse and keyboard can be used to make use a little easier. I have an external harddrive that I haven't tried to use yet. But besides the USB drives you can attach there is an SD card slot. I haven't tried to see what the max memory addressable is yet.
The look is a bit childish but that is who is was design for. I figure it will not be very attractive to thieves and is easy to carry. I intend to use it for travel, writing and reading.

Quote:
They've created the one-laptop-per-mugu program!
Oh how narrow minded and short sighted. The Luddites are recruiting again. I suppose we should just give up on everything as what ever you do, it can be perverted to crime in some way. Cars make it easier for criminals to travel to your city to steal your money. Let's outlaw cars.

Quote:
any hint of anything educational about it except for some dimwitted games.
There is a program to create music that looks pretty advanced. Also video capture software. But I haven't looked into those yet. My feeling is that a machine is as useful and educational as the intelligence and creativity of the user is.

Quote:
I really did expect more from an "educational tool."
The education is in having kids experiment and figure out for themselves uses, not spoon feed preprogrammed "learning packages".

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rootuser
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 2:16 am Reply with quoteBack to top

So it's based on Fedora? Does it have access to the Fedora-repositories?
In there are quite some good and interesting educational tools. From learning how to type, to language-training, a periodic table of elements with lots of information about the elements of often even photos. There are some really cool programs for people who love to look at the stars. There are KStars and Stellarium, which both give an earth-based view into space, and there is Celestia, which lets you fly through space, which is really cool.

From a quick look into what kind of educational stuff the repository offers there are "childsplay", which is a suite of educational games, "drgeo" to teach geometry and "gcompris", another educational suite.
I didn't look into these yet, but I will when my son gets to the age where he can start using a computer.

I actually love those observatory-tools, like KStars... Even better, but not included in Fedora, is XEphem...

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DrWho
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:12 am Reply with quoteBack to top

There isn't enough room for kstars etc.

You can install programs through rpm packages. There is also a 'yum' package thingy but I'm not familiar with it. As there is only 512m memory and 1 gig storage, you have to be frugal with program size. Also clock speed is about 800mHz to limit the heat generation as there is no fan which doesn't let you run high cpu intensive programs.

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rootuser
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:20 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Only 1GB storage? Well, that's really a bit small.
And when you take a look at current prices for storage-media they could have really put in a bit more. I got myself a sweet 250GB SATA2-HD a few days ago and it was only 500HKD (which is 45EUR or 64USD, whatever currency you prefer...).

Even if they don't have an HD inside but some flash-storage, also those aren't that expensive anymore. I got my step-daughter a 2GB micro-SD for just 150HKD (13EUR or 19USD).

That way that thing could actually be quite useful, even more than only to learn how to use a computer and stuff. When they get familiar with it they could actually use it for something meaningful...

Does it at least come with OpenOffice or KOffice?
By the way, which Window-/Desktop-Manager does it use?

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"..., if it not the destiny has reduced us together, then who?"
"may u die tomorrow in jesus name"
"The devil has eaten away your soul as you will decay in the hail fire, so go and die with your dyning devil hopless devil advocate."
"This is what i sent to them am not with any money to go back to nigeria pls help."

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:35 am Reply with quoteBack to top

An office suite? You are under the affluent society syndrome. What would a third world 10 year old do with an office suite? It comes with Abiwrite. The whole idea is to provide the lowest cost computer with usable software and hardware. Sure you can get flash memory relatively cheap. Then it would raise the cost.

The GUI is a new one designed for this use called Sugar. You can force a boot to the SD car and load your own os if you want. Go to olpc.org and read about it.

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rootuser
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 8:29 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Just had a quick look and found it's http://laptop.org/ Wink

I really have to say that this thing is ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly! They could have made something nicer for the same price, I'm quite sure for that.
Okay, it's aimed at children, but still I think it could have looked better.

Okay, it has Abiword, that's okay. Does it also have Gnumeric? That way those kids at least get two essential programs of an office-suite. I don't even expect OpenOffice or KOffice, which I know are both monsters. Both in terms of disk- and memory-use.

I have to admit, this thing might be an adequate learning-tool, but I really don't know if its capable of more. That's for you guys to tell, you got yourselves one.
But if it's really not much more than a learning-machine, then I don't think that this is a big step. It sure is a step in the right direction, the question only is how big this step is.

At least it runs Linux, that way these kids get an actual advantage over most other kids, which grow up totally controlled by Windows and never get to see Linux.

_________________
"..., if it not the destiny has reduced us together, then who?"
"may u die tomorrow in jesus name"
"The devil has eaten away your soul as you will decay in the hail fire, so go and die with your dyning devil hopless devil advocate."
"This is what i sent to them am not with any money to go back to nigeria pls help."

United Kingdom (0.25 go to fake_buster)

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thud419
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 11:25 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I have my eye on one of these, if they are ever available over on this side of the pond.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 1:25 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

troglodite wrote:
For an "educational tool" there's no lesson plan, or any hint of anything educational about it except for some dimwitted games.
That's because it's a laptop, not a school...
Do you expect your child's calculator to come with a maths text book programmed into it? The purpose of the XO laptop is as an educational tool, it's not designed as a "speak and spell" type device that'll teach your toddler how to read. It's designed for developing countries where the schools can't just turn an old classroom into a computer lab. Perhaps you'll want to read around the project a bit more before slating it in this way. I've followed it since the beginning and I have to say, I think the end result is fantastic.

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troglodite
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:05 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Dr Who, could you please not start in with the personal attacks?

I come from a family which has a lot of teachers in it. Mom, aunts, cousins, etc. My dad was a librarian and managed our region's branch libraries. I grew up around a lot of text books, and books in general. So when I question the educational value of the machine, I'm not just blowing rings of ganja smoke. I honestly don't think that the creators of the machine did much consultation with educators.

Based on my perspective, I think that you guys are looking at it as a cool toy, and it's fine as a cool toy. I look at it as an educational device, and I expect software that honestly addresses that issue. That software is not on that machine. The open-source educational software is really lacking. How much educational software exists for the Xo's target age group? There are sites giving lip-service to it, but not much actually exists, and certaintly not in non-English languages.

Look at the range of commercial educational software, and then look at open-source offerings. Bit of a difference, eh?

I simply agree with an educator from India. He said that what the students need are books, school supplies, and desks. The children do not need laptops.

PC World wrote:
(article) India early on decided not to buy XO laptops. "We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools," India's education secretary Sudeep Banerjee reportedly wrote in a letter to the country's Planning Commission.
...
"In the developing world, the ministers say, 'Why aren't you using [XO] in the U.S.? Why should I risk my limited budget on your dream?' [OLPC] hasn't done objective testing -- no data that shows XO laptop is a better option to educate kids in the classroom than other computers, or better-trained teachers," Vota said.


Dr Who, I don't know how old you are or your personal background, so I will only speak from my personal experience. The first computer I got my hands on was a Commodore PET 2001-N, which was the property of the school. Commodore had a buy two, get one free program for schools. I was in junior-high at the time, and I had never had the silver-spoon opportunity of getting my hands on a computer before then. Did my lack of computer exposure hurt me? Not in the least. I took to the machines like the code junkie that I am.

What would have hurt me is if I did not have the most wonderful of human inventions, the public library. Libraries are a glorious source of knowledge that has been repeatedly ignored, even more so in our "enlightened" times. The amount of information in a library is incomparable with what is on the Internet.

What is typically bemoaned in the software industry? A lack of good books, not computers or software. As an example, take "Network Programming for Microsoft Windows." That title is out of print, and copies go for $200 and more. There is no replacement for that book title. There is no replacement yet for printed material. The book is absolutely the best human invention, ever. We need more of them, not fewer.

What I do like about the Xo is that it is built for a very rough environment. I grew up dirt poor, and dirt does have a way of getting into everything a kid touches. The hinge on it is absolutely the toughest that I have seen yet on a laptop. What the laptop lacks is software. What the children lack are the basics.

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rootuser
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

The problem you mention, that there is not enough free educational software, might be related that free software more or less is developed on a "what I need for myself"-base. And most people who write software just don't need educational software. Of course some of those people have a life besides coding (which is hard to believe, but true) and may have children which they then write programs like Gcompris or others for. Others write tools like Kiten or KVerbos to help them to learn languages. And again others write science-related tools like Kalzium (periodic table or elements) or KStars.

As said, free software is developed (at least initially) on the base of personal needs. Unlike commercial software, which is developed to fill a spot on the market and get in some money.

_________________
"..., if it not the destiny has reduced us together, then who?"
"may u die tomorrow in jesus name"
"The devil has eaten away your soul as you will decay in the hail fire, so go and die with your dyning devil hopless devil advocate."
"This is what i sent to them am not with any money to go back to nigeria pls help."

United Kingdom (0.25 go to fake_buster)

Safari x4 Wole A.: Akure, Nigeria to Cotonou, Benin, Akure, Nigeria to Tanguieta, Benin (both with Thomas-the-Tank and Simba), Akure, Nigeria to Kano, Nigeria (with TtT and OD), Akure, Nigeria to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (with TtT)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:57 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Trog: Sorry if you resemble my remark but it is my expeience. If you don't fit it then don't take offence. You attacked the OLPC with no abiity for them to answer your remarks. Claiming they are only providing free laptops to scammers.

As being a "code junky" I would expect to see a great deal of educational software coming out of you soon to support the educational system since your family is so inclined. I have found there are educational software around and there will be more as linux and open source becomes more common.

Books are great. I own alot of them. But they are expensive. OLPC isn't going to change the world but I believe it is a step in some direction.

And I started programming on an IBM 1130. Can use C, C++, PHP, HTML, PERL, windoz GUI, bash shell, xwindows. All Self taught.

_________________
"i think you people do not know whom you are talking of,i am not in any terrorist organization or planning any such of terrorist activities."
"i am not a terrorist and your america cia cna also investigate me."
"i am not a terrorist.send the shit stuff and let me get it fillied."

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troglodite
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:08 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Dr Who, as a matter of fact I did buy the machine for the purpose of writing educational software for it. I simply think that the OLPC team's direction of engineering global mesh networks is quite mistaken. But before I get cracking on the educational software, I have some projects over at AA419.org that need to be finished up.

BTW, with the skills you have boasted here, please note that the field is wide open for more projects. Why don't you join in and write some yourself? Fedora is free, and the OLPC team has a XO distro for download, and they even have a Live CD.

What I think will happen with the laptops is that they will be stolen by scammers, not that OLPC is providing them for scammers. When the OLPC project was first trumpeted, they laptops were advertised as having some kind of lock-down system, whereby they would be generally useless unless they were in an educational environment. Well, that's not actually the case. My laptop renders these forums quite well, and I'm sure that it would render Yahoo! or Gmail just fine, too. My mouse plugs into it just fine, and I'll be that a normal keyboard will work great on it, too. USB drives are mounted the normal Linux way, no problems there.

rootuser: I am quite familiar with writing software as a volunteer. When I was in high school I volunteered as a programmer for a city government. I wrote programs for a Sperry-Univac 90/40 system. Massive beast with 1Mb of memory, 1.25Gb of hard drives (tubs! oh, the tubs! 13 platters before the heads, yo ho ho and a bottle of ... oops...), 32 users max, and when I started they had recently completely moved away from their punched cards. TIP-30 operating system, and I (inadvertently) found that I could crash the whole system with a single print statement. I still remember my first COBOL program: four pages long and six pages of errors. Yeah, those were the days.

Anyways, I wrote programs for what people needed. They needed it in COBOL, so that's what I learned. The stuff that I am writing for the AA419 group is also stuff that they need. While I polish my C# skills, they get stuff they need. It all works out. When I start with the OLPC stuff, I will be polishing my GUI skills. I have oodles of experience below the hood, but not so much with UIs. So things work out there again.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:42 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I mostly stopped doing "real programming". I work as a web-programmer, so I earn my money coding PHP. I've done quite some other stuff in the past, Basic, Pascal/Delphi, some C and also Assembler, but I don't use those very much these days. Sometimes a bit C to write something I need (just recently did some stuff again, also first time to make some GUI around it with QT Designer) or to write patches I need for software to compile.

But as said, I mostly do PHP now, and Bash-scripting. Actually I always wanted to learn NASL, but never got around to find the time. Anyway, next book will be about SELinux. After I mastered that I can still think about learning NASL.

I'm running two free software projects on my own, that's the main reason why I know that most of the stuff really comes into life because you need it yourself. Sometimes it's influenced by other people. I'm also active in a big help-community and some of the PHP-stuff I wrote started out as tests to figure out the problems of other people; but most of the stuff was created either because I needed it or because I had an idea and it developed into something quite useful and worth sharing.

I appreciate that you plan to write more educational software. I agree that free software still has a deficit there and it's good when people take the time to produce something like this to share it with others. I know that writing stuff is a lot of work, and sometimes it can be frustrating (like when you release something and afterwards still find 2 bugs, and by fixing one of those you introduce a new show-stopper...), so, kudos to all the guys spending their spare-time on developing free software.

_________________
"..., if it not the destiny has reduced us together, then who?"
"may u die tomorrow in jesus name"
"The devil has eaten away your soul as you will decay in the hail fire, so go and die with your dyning devil hopless devil advocate."
"This is what i sent to them am not with any money to go back to nigeria pls help."

United Kingdom (0.25 go to fake_buster)

Safari x4 Wole A.: Akure, Nigeria to Cotonou, Benin, Akure, Nigeria to Tanguieta, Benin (both with Thomas-the-Tank and Simba), Akure, Nigeria to Kano, Nigeria (with TtT and OD), Akure, Nigeria to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (with TtT)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:20 am Reply with quoteBack to top

troglodite wrote:
they laptops were advertised as having some kind of lock-down system, whereby they would be generally useless unless they were in an educational environment.


I don't know who has made such claims but that is impossible to do ! And even if it was possible you can still argue that some of the kids who gets one of these things will grow up to be a scammer and use the skills learned at school for ripping off people. Of course these things will be abused but they will also do some good.
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