One Laptop Per Child…

I have strange and interesting clients, who allow me to get involved with strange and interesting things. Ok, ok, most of what I do is set up the same-old-same-old information management databases, but still, my clients are eclectic enough to give me some interesting challenges and opportunities for learning.

A while ago (recently re-aired), 60 Minutes did a profile of Nicholas Negroponte and the organization he created, The One Laptop Per Child Foundation. Shortly thereafter, one of my clients, participating in the “GiveOneGetOne” program, purchased a laptop for a child in one of the countries services by OLPC, and received one himself, which is being sent by him to a child in China. He asked me to look it over, and make certain the machine was upgraded to the latest release version of the software. Story and photos after the jump…

So I brought it home, charged it up, and fired it up. The thing doesn’t have a hard drive, instead using flash memory (the same stuff that’s in your flash drive); it has 1 gigabyte of flash, and 256K of volatile memory (the working stuff). It boots relatively quickly, and has pre-loaded a bunch of software. I checked the system, and found a version bump of the core software system, so I (unbelivably easily) upgraded the system by:

1) Download the image and a second file to a flash drive with my desk machine,

2) Held down four buttons (with one thumb!) while booting the machine with the flash drive in one of the three USB connectors on-board the XO, and

3) Released the buttons when told.

Yeah, that was it. I had already set up the machine to use my WiFi connection (more work on the end of the router than on the XO, since I have MAC filters set up), so I let it auto-connect to upgrade any of the components that need to be upgraded. And my work was done.

Before upgrading the OS image, though, I played around with the machine. Like a kid, I browsed the Internet, drew a picture, screwed around with the writing application, and just generally had a whale of a good time messing around. My fingers are much bigger than the ones this machine was designed to accommodate, which took a bit of getting used to, but the thing is seriously cool. It’s designed to be learned-by-doing…no manuals are supplied. But then, give a kid a computer and some time, and they’ll be teaching you how it works anyway, so no problem there. The one thing I kept stumbling over was the lack of a mouse “tap” on the touch pad…most traditional (read: expensive) laptops are programmed to accept a tap as a mouse click, where this is not…frequently I found myself forgetting, tapping, and when nothing happened tapping again before I remembered it didn’t work that way.

This is a seriously cool machine, with a seriously cool purpose, and I’m grateful I got to play with one for a little while.

(Oh, a note to Intel, which recently quit the Foundation. You suck. You care more about opening market share in developing countries than in making sure kids get the laptops they need. I’m going to declare my office from henceforth an Intel-free zone. From now on, I only buy machines with AMD processors, and urge everyone else to do the same.)

On to the pics, which were taken with my cell phone, so don’t expect fine art:

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1 Response to One Laptop Per Child…

  1. ilamfan says:

    I’ve read a few other snippets about this cool little tool – how close is this same setup to becoming worldwide reality? A place where we can keep all of our programs and projects on a super-portable flash drive, using it wherever there are terminals (a screeen and internet connection)? Picture a near-future where the back of every car seat has a terminal…every tabletop at the corner fast food joint…sit-down benches at the mall…maybe!

    PortableApps is a great start – I’m excited about all of this!

    I’ll have to check out the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.

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