Hands-on OLPC

Today I was woken up by a courier who brought me a very interesting box. The box had an OLPC and some CDs inside.
The package was kindly sent to me by Mr. Karounos in order to present it in our local LUG event on the 9th of June in Ioannina. (Visit the website for more information).

First thought when I took it out of the bag…”it’s very small but it’s kinda pretty in a way too”. I put it on my desk and tried to open it. Well, it took me more than 1 minute to find out how to open it. I plugged it to the current and pushed the power button. I was greeted by Openboot bios and after 3 seconds it started to boot. It takes more than 1 minute from the time you press the power button until the sugar interface comes up.

When the interface had finished starting up I was a bit puzzled. I didn’t know what exactly to do. If you have used any kind of computer before, sugar will certainly stun you, for good or for bad. I started checking out the applications it comes with. The “Paint” application is really nice kids and so is “BlockParty” which is a tetris clone. Next was the “Camera”, I really liked the camera’s resolution, I didn’t expect it to be that good. “Calculator”..is another calculator with scientific functions as well, if you enable them. “Write” is an abiword clone, it’s very easy to use and you can import pictures taken with the camera and put them inside the document you are writing. What I didn’t like though was that the default “save as” format was “Microsoft Word .doc”. Why ? Anyway, continuing with the applications, next came the “News Reader” which looks like a minimal version of liferea but since I didn’t have any networking yet I could not test it any more. “Web” is a web browser that when you open it it takes you directly to your local Library of e-books. Very very usefull. At that time I couldn’t do any more testing of web sites due to lack of network connectivity. “Read” is a stripped down version of evince for reading various documents. Absolutely necessary for the kind of job this laptop must do. “TamTam” is a music creation tool for kids. And finally Etoys. Etoys is something that needs a lot of studying. It’s a creativity suite for kids. I won’t go into this any deeper for now.

Then was the time to connect OLPC to my access point at home. I tried various stuff from the interface but nothing made the “Web” connect to any sites. I couldn’t resist any more…I had to find access to the linux console somehow. I tried ctrl+alt+ various keys until one got me to the console. There are no F-keys on the OLPC keyboard so it wasn’t so straightforward as one might think. I was very lucky because when you give the root login no password is asked. You are immediately given a shell. I tried the usual iwlist, iwconfig, dhclient commands and …tada! they worked! ifconfig showed that I was given an IP by the Access Point. Back to the sugar interface with another ctrl+alt+another key and the “Web” was finally working. The browsing experience was quite good I can say. Four buttons (up, down,left,right) next to the OLPC’s monitor make the browsing a bit easier because OLPC keys on the keyboard are small. NO, they are not just smaller than a normal keyboard…they are so small that only a five year old kid can press them with ease.

I have been playing for more than 7 hours today with OLPC and did various interesting (at least for me) stuff on it. Even this post is written through OLPC’s “Web” browser (and believe me it’s very very difficult to type, but hey…this laptop is not for me, it’s for kids :) )but I feel that I need to spend a lot more to fully understand the “sugar interface”. I will try to write more about stuff I’ll be doing on the OLPC in the next few days.

Feelings ? Mixed, both good and bad. There were some things I liked a lot, for example the monitor, and some things that I didn’t, for example in sugar’s network manager there’s no “interaction” when you choose/click between mess networking and normal access point (more on how, where, etc on a another post), so there were times that I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, whether it’s trying to connect to my access point or not.

That’s all for today. I hope I can write a bit more about OLPC in the next few days but I have to finish my presantation for ILUG’s event on time too.

I have some pictures from the OLPC on my flickr.

Thanks again to Mr. Karounos for being so helpfull.

P.S. If someone wants to type with greek characters you need to edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add these 2 lines inside Section “InputDevice” where Identifier is “ATKbd”:

Option "XkbLayout" "us,el"
Option "XkbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle"

then you can change to greek with alt+shift. e.g. “Ένα Λάπτοπ για Κάθε παιδί”

2 Responses to “Hands-on OLPC”

  1. May 31st, 2007 | 10:08
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox 2.0.0.3 on Windows Windows XP

    lucky kids..
    wouldn’t you buy one of those, if you could find them in the computer market, in a reasonable price?

  2. hi
    November 17th, 2008 | 23:57
    Using Safari Safari 525.20.1 on Mac OS X Mac OS X 10.5.5

    you can do buy one get one. amazons doing it right now!

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