Friday, December 28, 2007

XO Pros and Cons

Okay, I'm back home on a regular keyboard so I can reflect a bit on my XO experience so far.

I've just begun to explore the One Laptop Per Child XO computer. I purchased it as part of OLPC's Give-One-Get-One program. Here are some initial thoughts...

  • Great software set for kids. It comes with a great collection of constructive software that encourages kids to explore, create, experiment. I think many of my students would come with such a strong schema of "computer" that they would have trouble diving in and figuring things out. I hope kids in developing nations find that easier.

  • Wide variety of applications. The XO ships with a great variety of apps already installed, from photo, video and recording, music creation, measurement, writing, drawing, painting, web browsing, chatting, programming, memory games. There are more available online and still more in development, including Scratch. Can't wait for that!

  • Amazingly strong wi-fi receiver. My old ibook has a good antenna in it, often finding 5 or 6 more networks than Kent's Powerbook can detect. The XO has a much farther range than my ibook, and it is just a click to access unsecured networks, such as coffee shop wi-fi.

  • I don't have access to a second XO or I'd be testing out the mesh networks. Get two XOs in range of each other and they automatically form a mesh network. That in itself is interesting. When you realize that MANY of the applications on the XO are collaborative, then the idea of mesh network becomes amazing. I can invite you to collaborate with me on my picture, my story, my music. I can even invite you to browse the web with me.

  • Visually appealing. I was sitting in a coffee shop today near a window and people on the other side of the window kept stopping to look at it. I would have been interested to see children's reactions to it, but none came by.

  • Expandable. I just bought a 4 GB SDHC card. There is a slot under the monitor. It slides right in. You can't run apps off of it, but you can store files there. Has 3 USB ports so I can plug in mouse, keyboard, thumb drive or other peripheral goodness.

  • Sturdy. Light, rugged, easy to carry (built-in handle), sealed keyboard.

  • Great community. There are already good resources online. Here are a few I've used the most:

  • Tiny keyboard. That's GREAT for its intended users, but is making me crazy. I've ordered a folding keyboard to use with it.

  • Slow typing. I can type much faster than the letters can appear on the screen. Not sure why that is. It doesn't seem to matter if I get way ahead of the display. The letters get there eventually. However, I can't check for typos as I type.

  • Lots of lag time. Slow to start. Web pages were slow to load. Slow to switch between home and a running app.

  • Track pad is a bit dodgy. I've grown too used to my mouse with the scroll wheel and the the ability to scroll from my ibook's trackpad. The XO's trackpad doesn't scroll the window. Mine isn't very well callibrated. I've recallibrated it and that helped, but it is still tricky to click exactly where I want to type. It is also slow. I haven't found a place to speed it up.

  • Bookmarks are temporary. They persist until I close the browser, then they are gone. I hope this is a bug that will be fixed.

  • No tabbed browsing. Didn't realize how dependent I was on browser tabs until they were gone. I can open more than one copy of the browser, and move between them via the home screen.

  • News Reader isn't working. Not with the subscriptions already in it. Not with ones I tried to add.
Of course, the biggest Pro is that if you buy one, a child in a developing nation receives one as well. Pros don't get much bigger than that.

I'd love to hear from you if you have one. How is it working for you? Any killer apps you've found? What do you love/hate about it?

Photo by Manu Contreras