Times and Measures

One Laptop Per (Inner) Child

Dec 27, 2007

So my resolve to keep blogging regularly was broken, it would seem, by the sad realities of the latter part of the semester. A brief update list, before I get on with the story:

So then, after last time’s (chaotic, poorly-thought-out) blog post, my dear readers should have been somewhat concerned; after all, taking away Brendan’s computer would be… bad. Anyway, what ended up happening is that I took a friend’s laptop with me to Florida for the break– which worked out fairly well. My laptop’s hinge is still broken– my dealer is having trouble understanding the definition of a “warranty” – caveat emptor is one thing, but I’d hate to have to use ahem measures of extraordinary gravity to bring them to my views on the matter. In the end, I suppose they’ll listen to ReasonUltima Ratio Regum, indeed.

I also mentioned, but did not explain, the One Laptop Per Child project. This, dear readers, is the point of my post today, and the climax of my story. OLPC is a wonderful project, the point of which (briefly) is to provide education to the whole world through giving each child a laptop of their very own– the idea being that this computer can be their gateway to knowledge and exploration. The laptop itself is very special– it’s custom-designed to be friendly to small children, from its keyboard (both small and sealed, so it’s waterproof) to its construction (ruggedized, and its shell is nearly twice as thick as that of a normal laptop– and it has zero moving parts, so it is nearly immune to shocks through the average force of a shuttle launch) to its software (the UI is completely new code, using an interface designed to be intuitive to even pre-reading children). I thought this was a great idea from the first time I heard about it– and then, the OLPC foundation announced their Give One, Get One initiative, where people pay twice the ($200) cost for a laptop and receive one, allowing the OLPC foundation to give one to a country whose government cannot provide them for its students. I, naturally, joined the enormous (I have seen estimates as high as 200,000 laptops purchased so far) amount of people interested in the program.

It took a long time for the laptop to reach me (especially as it was shipped out after I flew home for winter break), but at long last, it has arrived– and it’s wonderful. I am actually typing this entire entry on my XO (the program is called OLPC– I suppose you could think of that as the “brand”– the model is called XO, and the release is called MP (for Mass Production)– I use all of those interchangeably), which, while it’s something of an exercise for its own sake (my hand’s spread is actually .75in wider than the entire width of the laptop) is actually not that hard. The whole thing is spectacularly fun to play with– I quite enjoy it. This is good, since it’s the only laptop I have at home at the moment (my hinge-busted laptop not being safe to move off my desk).

Also, since everyone seems to be posting these poignant pictures of themselves from the XO, I suppose I will as well. Here’s my face (such as it is :-) ).Self-Portrait from OLPC

So in addition to playing with the little green laptop (for those who are curious, my X is light green and my O is light blue; each can come in one of twenty colors, the idea being to provide uniqueness across groups <= 400 students), I’ve also joined the global party of G1G1 donors– we’ve all joined the same server, so we can share applications, chat, play TamTam, or whatever catches our fancy together. This makes the whole project more fun– and while I was demoing the laptop this morning, I was able to actually show other people writing in a guestbook I shared with the “neighborhood”– and all of us could simultaneously edit the same document (with different cursors, each in our OLPC colors). Neat stuff!

Anyway, this post has dragged on quite long enough– but stay tuned for more musings, XO things, or general rants in the time ahead. I really will try to post somewhat more regularly as time goes on.

Finally, a new segment: “Entropy.” Otherwise said, a quick highlights reel of my HipsterPDA:

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