Monday, December 24, 2007

First Reactions to the OLPC

Last Friday, a big box was waiting on my doorstep when I got home. The 3 XO's that I had ordered on November 12th, finally arrived.

We have 6 kids, 5 of whom are still living at home. My original intentions were that the three laptops I ordered were going to be for the three older ones (18, 16, 14). But after opening one up, and playing with it for a while, those thoughts have been thrown out the window.

It now looks like our twin 8 year old sons are going to be the recipients, and we'll figure out what to do with the third one later. The little guys will be out of their minds excited, about everything related to this machine. And, I can't wait to learn more myself in order to help them learn and take advantage of all this has to offer. There are lots of great comments to make about this machine for younger kids. However, I'm a little disappointed that the older guys won't be getting these as gifts.

So, here is what brought me to decision not to give them to the older kids:

1. I knew they were very cute - from all the pictures - but I thought that this would be 'mitigated' for teenagers by the 'coolness' of being part of the solution. My impression now... No way... it is too cute. And the keyboard is so small and toy like that it is not something a teenager would be caught with.

2. the keyboard - as mentioned above - is very small, built for kids hands, not adult hands. I tried to write this blog entry on the XO, but eventually had to give up, as it was just to hard to type.

3. The 'Sugar' interface. Sugar is the operating system on the XO, and it, too, is very cool, but it is slow, and not intuitive for the hardcore windows and mac users. It is just not as advanced an operating system, and it is clear that it was built by developers for developers. Teenagers are into usage. They only care that they can do what they want, and fast.

4. While the internet is available, and the browser is not bad, some pages come up as inaccessible - and I have yet to figure out why.... It's almost as though it sees them as a popup, but there are not tools on the browser to help configure those types of things.

5. The screen is so small as to prevent larger web pages to be displayed without scrolling up and down, left and right. Definitely a problem in a 'myspace world'.

6. These machines won't support the major apps that the teenage kids use. In our house, the major apps are, AIM, AIM, AIM, iTunes, iTunes, Microsoft word, and powerpoint... in addition to the internet. The chat feature on the XO is cool, but won't allow 'cross chatting' with other systems. I just don't think the teenagers will be able to get past this one, no matter how cool, or cute the machine is.

7. There are some really basic things that 'normal' pc users can do, that I haven't been able to figure out on the XO, yet. For example, I can't figure out whether there is a file system, or if there is how to use it, and manage it. I have no idea how to tell what kind of disk space is available or how to save things. This is probably just my own learning curve, and something I'll eventually get by, but I fear the kids won't give it that type of perseverance.

Having said all this, there are some really great things that the 'unburdened' eight year olds will really enjoy:

1. If you are not a hardcore windows or mac user, then the Sugar interface is clearly designed for a kid. I can't wait to prove this when the boys start using them, but my impression is that this is just their speed.

2. the application loading speed won't be an issue for the little guys, since they have no expectations.

3. the fact that the mesh network can let them chat with each other (and hopefully friends) will be a source of endless delight.

4. some of the included apps will be alot of fun for little guys, and help them with math!

5. If I ever figure out the file system, it looks like tools are available for me to teach them how to program!

I guess that's it for now.... I'll post more after the kids start to play! Merry Christmas!

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