OLPC


The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative has recently released it’s XO-1 laptop. For a $200 donation, it will send one to a child in a developing country who doesn’t have the means to buy one. You can also get one for yourself by donating one to a child.

Technology-wise, the XO-1 is a study in contrasts, its sub-500MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, and 1GB of flash storage are puny by today’s standards (though fine for children between the ages of 6 and 12). Other features, such as its networking capabilities, LED-backlit screen, and ruggedized exterior are things I’ve seen in $2000 laptops.

The two antennas serve as both screen latches and port covers, shielding the three USB ports as well as the headphone and microphone jacks. The XO-1 is WiFi enabled, compatible with 802.11b/g, and capable of 802.11s mesh networking, in which the laptop acts as a node in a P2P network.

The laptop’s 7.5″ screen can pivot 180 degrees into an e-book mode. The interface is built on Fedora Linux. A taskbar at the bottom displays icons for functions such as Chat, Browse, Write, Paint, and Calculate, as well as open-source, educational programs. Among the more advanced are the TamTam music-creation program, and TurtleArt and Pippy, which teach computer programming. The browser, a tweaked version of Firefox, supports Flash and AJAX-based sites.

The XO-1’s green and white frame is resistant to water, tumbles, and temperature extremes. The keyboard is very responsive. The XO-1 uses so little power that any 8 to 11 volt power system is enough to run it. I measured power usage at 18 watts while the battery was charging and 6 watts when charged.

Millions of kids around the world have never used a computer and lack the means to get one. Putting the power of technology into their hands, and those of their families, has the potential of both improving their standard of living and moving us towarda true global village. And who knows? The XO-1’s success may change the future of laptops in the world.

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