Why XO?

Special commentary by: Paul Fox

Most of the marketing and message surrounding the OLPC project, and the G1G1 fund-raising effort, is centered on the kids of the world who are our true mission. And that’s as it should be — you only have to look at some of the pictures from the deployments to convince yourself of that.

But let’s face it — if you’re going to donate enough money to both “give one and get one”, you might want to be convinced that the “get one” half — i.e., _your_ cute little green machine — is actually going to be useful. Call it enlightened self-interest. (I’m assuming you’re thinking of this at least partly as a toy for yourself. Go ahead — admit it — it’s okay.) I got my XO during last year’s G1G1 promotion. Maybe I can help convince you.

One of the best parts, for me, is the screen. Shirtsleeve season always feels too short here in New England, so I like getting outside as much as possible when it’s practical. Being able to walk outside to surf the web is a great feeling. Another screen feature: by flipping the laptop into “e-book” form, I take less space on the subway while reading email (offline reading, of course).

Another XO plus for commuting: the extra wireless sensitivity offered by the cute green antennae makes it possible to hit the web, courtesy of a nearby open access point, from my bus stop.

More OS tips and tricks after the drop.

(Use your own judgment, of course, about whether it is safe to be on wifi while running for the bus.)

If you’re worried about using a “kid’s OS”, don’t. Either don’t worry, or don’t use it. First, you might find that you like using Sugar.  Many people do, and it’s getting better and easier to use all the time.  Second, it’s pretty easy to run something else. You can either install a different desktop manager (e.g., XFCE) on top of the standard OLPC release, or you can install Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, or just about any other Linux distribution using the SD card slot to provide extra storage.  There are versions of all of those available (some easier to install than others) with support for most, if not all, of the XO’s unique features. If you go this route, you can always boot Sugar by pulling out the SD card and rebooting — either because you’re sharing the XO with your kid, or because you want to do an update of sugar to see how we’re doing.

Plus, the XO is more than a nice laptop — it’s a cheap general purpose linux machine. If you’re a techie, and run a server in your house, consider replacing it with an XO. The XO can likely handle the load of most home servers, and will only consume 6 or 7 watts while doing so.

There are other opportunities for Linux hacking on an XO, and lots of opportunities for hardware hacking… but those are topics for another post.

3 thoughts on “Why XO?

  1. Teresa, there have been some other people with similar questions or family members who have gotten involved, but I don’t know of any active projects to build those teaching tools yet. You can ask on our accessibility list : lists.laptop.org/listinfo/accessibility

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