some first impressions
olpc at guylhem.net
Fri Aug 10 22:27:40 EDT 2007
Today I just received my XO after having some problems with DHL and
DDP. I'm in France, but I had the same problem Xavi mentionned on
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User:Xavi/My_XO : basically, they don't
understand what DDP means and insist on making recipients pay the
duties. Looks like double dipping.
Anyway, after that, I have been playing with it for hours, and I have
some immediate raw feedback (the best feedback IMHO are the "first
About the hardware part:
- the power cable is far too short. Power plugs are not always at
hand. In some places you have only one plug per room - even in
- the plastic built is not ideal. There are some sharp edges which
could be harmfull to young and experience-hungry hands (especially a
kid hits another with something as heavy as the XO). On a side note,
the platic bottom (near the battery) makes funny noises when pressed,
which could be a distraction.
- the SD is amazingly hard to remove. If no spring can be used, at
least plastic should be removed aroud the SD slot to ease its removal
with bare fingers, ie without having to resort to pliers
- the screen is impressive. I have many ideas to test it :-) Yet in
pda mode, it feels strange to be unable to interact with it. You
really want to click on it. If a touchscreen is not possible (too
expansive ?) at least an additional trackpad area near the handle,
along with mouse buttons, would be very helpful, especially to browse
- this afternoon, while I was trying to read text in pda mode, the
pages started to slide by themselves, as if some buttons had been
pressed. It may be related to the reported ESD problems I read about.
- some parallel port (or similar) should be made available, for
children to play with in physics. I remember playing with a PC
parallel port with some simple software to turn leds on and off. When
you are a kid, being able to send commands to projects you create is
great (think about modern legos, but using simpler stuff like leds,
motors, etc) : it translate the "virtual part" ie the software you
create on the computer to the "real world" where you make leds blinks
in sequence, or a motor move. The resulting keyboard, with
Shift/Ctrl/Alt/Algr would be just as complex as a PC, but even that
would be nice.
About the HCI:
- if it can be supported, the touchpad should support interaction
with two fingers. Multitouch may be an overused buzzword, but being
able to scroll the text with two fingers and moving the mouse with one
finger is a real plus when reading hypertext documents for example. It
means readers can be immersed in the document, instead of having to
press keys to turn pages
- some explainantions about the keyboard buttons would be helpful.
What is the use of the magnifier key at F1? Is it the "view source"
key? (IMHO it is a sweet idea, but not by default, unless you can
easily revert back to a working system after some errors have been
introduced in the code).
is not current.
- 5 modifiers is too complex. Shift + Alt + AltGr + Ctrl + Hand + Fn
= big headache, unless you want to introduce emacs (esc meta alt
control shift as we vi users joke :-) .
Some should go - Fn is my #1 candidate. Unless Fn is helpful in
languages where you can switch keymaps "live", it is a useless
complexity: if I understand correctly it only serves for page up/down-
home/end for the arrows, F1-F12 for the numbers (which already exist
as separate keys), and to turn erase into delete. Nothing that AltGr
Placing an Undo/Redo key where the Fn lies would be more usefull to
let children experience more freely (that idea is also in the
references guidelines IIRC)
The hand keys could also be removed if two fingers interaction with
the touchpad is possible
About the software:
- saving/loading local copies of HTML pages has been made more
difficult in the 546 built that in the 4xx built that was installed by
- there should be a direct key to go to the journal, since that is
where the main interactions will happen
- Having a separate application to display PDF files is quite
complex. A single ebook "reading" activity would be better, with an
easy way to save stuff downloaded from the internet (ex: a reference
page from wikipedia, a chm file, a pdf file, a plain text book, a
dictionnary) to be read later (ex: at home) without internet access
- Speaking of reading, comic books (cbr) and existing ebooks formats
(plucker style from the project gutemberg, or the opie-reader specific
evolutions rb2 format which was extremely fast while achieving great
compression too) should also be supported by this application, to take
advantage of the existing content. A good starting page would be the
library (the idea of bundling a library of books, pictures, etc is
- BTW, where is the library now? After I flashed 546 I could not find
it anymore. Any hint about its location? Are there language-specific
library available? (I could certainly give a hand and write some
content about biology and medecine)
- speaking of science, what about replacing the calculator by
something easier to use, like mathpad2 ? Basically, you write your
equations and it solves them right where they have been written. Much
much better for learning than a calculator. It also gives more visual
See some examples on : http://www.cs.brown.edu/~jjl/mathpad/graph.jpg,
or google for mathpad.
- I could not get a single sound out of tamtam. I tested the sound
output with cat on the commandline - works fine. Strange. Is there a
- Are there any plans to allow listening to streams with the media
player, and to create a stream (from the audio-in port) ?
- Is the lack of audible feedback from the volume up/down keys on purpose?
- Is there an easy way to turn wifi off during tests? (during the
week I work at an hospital where wifi is not allowed. I could spent
more time on the OLPC if I could disable it)
- Is there a guide presenting how to quickly develop Sugar
applications? I would like to create a very simple application to
display SignWriting at different resolutions and let the children
chose the one they best like (to compare the results with a standard
screen). It's a good opportunity to learn sugar.
This message is full of critics, but honnestly the current state of
the software is quite impressive. Most of the parts work as they
should. Congratulations to everyone !
Thanks for any help.
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