Well, I finally did it. After months of rumour about the One Laptop Per Child project, I found the live CD, downloaded it and booted it off an old PIII (Intel 440 chipset) running at 366mhz. It booted nicely and I got an interesting startup screen. The oversize cursor is great. Wonderful attempt to create a child-friendly environment that will assist in literacy. The XO (that’s what the operating system is called), is aimed at a pre-literate market, but relies on some knowledge and linguistic skill.
First off it would seem that a lot more work needs to be done on thinking this project through. Perhaps a variety of screens could be overlaid with age restrictions in mind, deepening the experience? Giving a 2-5 year-old immediate access to the Gnome desktop isn’t thinking this through enough, and I am afraid the whole XO quickly disappears into an awkward mash of hyperlinked windows as Fedora Core and the machinations of TUX takeover the limelight.
But there is hope – XO could turn out to the OS that revolutionises preschoolers and provides entry point into child-friendly computing, it could also be a hackers dream. How about porting a baby-like MP3 player, and keeping the whole project down to puppy-size dimensions. Puppy Linux is one of the mini-distro’s that is making headway in low-bandwidth areas like Southern Africa.
All too often what one sees is software bloat, and last time I checked newswires were all abuzz with talk of bundling Windows XP alongside the XO, as if the project wasn’t top-heavy enough. Let’s put this into perspective. For about a decade I existed on a simple Apple Powerbook 180 with the Haiku-like dimesions of an 80mb harddrive 8megs of ram and a 33mhz processor which was considered speed for its time. I now have a Powerbook 145 with a 25mhz processor and 4megs of memory which I saved off a rubbish dump. Can you believe that apps like Adobe Freehand and Photoshop, as well as MS word existed down here without kicking up a fuss?
So, as far as the nuts and bolts is concerned OLPC XO is already way over the limit of what should be achievable with code and is turning into yet another bloated XP package like the one I am running on what could be called a supercomputer of the Zeroes (1.8 ghz, 1gig ram, 900chipset) which still runs as slow as windows did in the 90s, comparitively speaking. Nothing has changed. Heck, I still type at the same speed and was wondering if OLPC will get a touchscreen? More later.
PS: Downloading the OLPC XO Image:
Open a web browser and navigate to http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_images, under the section entitled ” Latest Stable Build” there will be a link to the latest stable version. From Ubuntu Forums ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=304447