Xo 1.5 - some thoughs

Guylhem Aznar olpc at guylhem.net
Sun Apr 19 20:41:05 EDT 2009


I am very happy to see that 1.5 will hopefully bring the price per
unit down. We'll see if it can really break the $100 barrier.

Yet if the plastic case moulds are to be redesigned I wonder if it
could also be the chance to fix some of the most annoying issues we
are all experiencing :
 - the SD reader should be placed *anywhere* but where it's now. I
understand that it was a late addition and it couldn't go anywhere
else because the plastic mould would then have had to be redesigned (a
costly operation), but please take advantage of the current evolution
to put it say near the USB ports on in the bottom case, below the
trackpad. Developpers will bless such a change!
 - since the wifi chip is going to be replaced, hopefully it could
come with a free wifi firmware this time, or at least a thin firmware
could be available as an option for when 802.1s is neither possible
nor desirable. Having the possibily to run one olpc in AP mode, and
the others in client mode would IMHO be simpler and better because it
just works fine. No need for fancy untested and non-free firmware.
 - the internal serial ports (J1 and CN24) pins should be exposed in
the battery compartment. From what I've read, the wifi chip will be
field replacable without having to discard the whole motherboard -
this is a good idea. Apply the same logic to the serial port! It is
simply a huge waste of time to have to remove everything to plug a
cable to unbrick an olpc with RTC problems, or perform hardware
diagnosis. I'm not sure how much it would cost, but even a hole in the
plastic to solder wire leads would be better than the current setup.

Additionally, some weak points could also be fixed:
 - if it is possible, the VGA pins should also be exposed in a similar
way, so that an OLPC with a damaged screen could be turned into a
fixed computer with only some soldering. No need for edid or other
fancy stuff - just add the resistors and some holes to solder a VGA
port or even just wires. People who will convert an OLPC to a fixed
computer will know what they are doing. We all have plenty of screens
around - good old VGA CRT which will not cost anything, compared to
the costs of changing the display.
 - current speakers produce horrible sound. Would NXT speakers of the
same size be too expansive to add? I tested that, it works just great
- a bit low on the bass, but we aren't talking about a mp3 playback
system. Just something decent enough.
 - could the membrane keys be closer to each-other ? Learning to type
is important - the current keyboard is far too different from other
keyboards. Do not believe children have never been exposed to a
traditional keyboard - if only at a cybercafe to read/send email.

I also think the keyboard should be more like a standard keyboard
(ctrl->cap). I'm saying that while I personally enjoy very much the
ctrl key where it is ! But that's because I'm a hacker. We shouldn't
force our choices to children who first need to learn how to type.
This redesign may not be desirable however, because it would introduce
a serious difference in the OLPC user interfaces - yet I think it
should be mentionned.

Dr. Guylhem Aznar, MD PhD

Unité d'Analyse Médico-Économique
Service de Santé Publique et d'Économie de la Santé
CHU de Fort de France
BP 632
97261 Fort De France Cedex
Martinique, France

Tel : 05 96 55 23 47
Fax : 05 96 75 84 57

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