One Laptop Per Adult for Steven Levy: HP Mini Note


Recently, the famed technology writer Steven Levy submitted his gadget list for 2009. His second request? One Laptop Per Adult:

I was skeptical about the XO at first but was pleasantly surprised by its ruggedness, screen quality, antenna sensitivity, and software, which treats every app as an invitation to collaborate. Yes, it's great that OLPC wants to sell these in bulk to kids in developing nations, but I'd like to see a consumer company license its innovations to make an adult-safe version (with a real keyboard) for the price of an iPod classic.

I would like to present Steven with his OLPA now. May I introduce the HP Mini Note Netbook. This is the 4P Computing category killer we have all been waiting for. Recently, I bought one as an adult XO experience, and I'm quite impressed.

  1. The 1035NR has the look and feel of a real laptop, just shrunk. Its case and keyboard are stylish - well past the cheap plastic feel of the Asus and approaching a Vaio.
  2. The 8Gig solid state drive, expandable with SD cards, can withstand heat, dust, and shocks better than spinning hard disks.
  3. It runs Windows XP or Ubuntu 8.10 with ease. I even have it dual booting - XP for her, Ubuntu for me.
  4. At $400 it is within the price range of business people in the developing world, and close to the XO laptop's G1G1 price.
  5. Sadly, its 3 hour (max) battery life is nothing like the XO, and its screen is too glossy and weak for sunlight reading.

So while Steven Levy might continue waiting for the perfect adult XO, I would recommend the rest of us go with a HP Mini Note. The HP 1035NR to be exact.

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The HP also lacks the ability to communicate with other computers without internet the way the XO does. The big difference, though, is that HP doesn't give a laptop away to a child in the third world for every one that is purchased the way G1G1 did. Its fine to say that doesn't matter to you, but I think it is disingenuous to compare the prices without saying that.

As someone tired of dealing with all sort of legacy hardware, I am always pleased that HP printers have Linux support pretty much across the board.

This might be high treason, but "giving a laptop to a child in the third world" in itself solves nothing for that child or her community, unless it sparks a community-based mindset to create local value by creating local knowledge. Unless it's hidden somewhere in secret documents, this is not the intention of G1-based deployments, and the evidence so far (Haiti, Mongolia, Rwanda) is not showing channels to appropriate community knowledge are in place, nor to establish the kind of sustainable protocols that would actually empower these deployments toward being able to fend for themselves, apparently just reinforcing paternalistic paradigms that definitely are of no help to that kid, her parents or siblings. Nothing I would be particularly proud of, and something that needs to change.

I understand your point, it's only that, alas, G1 and any non-community-based deploys ain't what it is supposed to be, and it's our fault if we don't strive to make it become what it should be.

The ideas and concepts introduced with the OLPC are great. Unfortunately, their implementation pales in comparison.

I'm following the netbook market very close, but until now there is no OLPA. The device above is already in the upper price range, but has no tablet, no touchscreen, no passive display, far to little battery time. The screen resolution may be okay though. Is it cooled passively? No? Trash.

You're right, the Mini Note does not have a tablet, a touchscreen, a passive display, passive cooling, or decent battery life. But do those matter to a 4PC consumer - your developing world business person?

I would argue that only the battery life and cooling matter, and yet the XO fails even greater when compared with the HP for adults.

The XO does not have an adult keyboard or operating system, which means the end user must really peck at the keys and (usually) install another OS. Not many business people in Africa are going to do either.

Again, this doesn't make the XO "bad" only targeted to a specific market - children. The Mini Note is the best adult option.

i am dissappointed. seriously. this is not while i don't expect the curtains of fanboi-ism here, i do expect a certain bias.

this article says "go by an HP"


maybe OLPCNEWS should just call it a day, if you want to be just a netbook news place, then do that so i know not to bother reading here.

it is bad enough already with the months of anti-olpc tones of your articles.

but this...

this is the cake. here, eat it too, you deserve it.

me? i'm too busy supporting OLPC to support your crap any more.

It often surprises me when people compare netbooks to the OLPC. I haven't seen a single netbook that I think is in any way equivalent. There are three main reasons:

1. The OLPC screen is unique. Hopefully Pixel Qi will remedy that someday, but it hasn't happened yet.
2. The OLPC puts the CPU with the screen, so that it can hinge easily and reliably - there isn't a bundle of dozens of wires carrying high-frequency signals across the hinge.
3. The OLPC is rugged in general, designed to be maintained by the owner, and designed to last for at least five years.

No netbook of which I am aware has any of these attributes, to say nothing of having all of them.

There are three things I would change about the OLPC to make it more of an OLPA:

1. Fix the keyboard. Small is okay, but my fingers need real keys. I'm thinking of grafting an eeePC keyboard into my OLPC.

2. First-class kernel support. For whatever reason, Linux doesn't support the OLPC - they have their own kernel fork, which is way out of date. This is no good, because it means that it's the OLPC way or the highway. You can install Ubuntu, but it's a hack, not a clean system.

Either get Linux to start supporting the OLPC for real, or use a kernel managed by a smaller organization, like NetBSD, where it will be welcomed with open arms.

3. I'd put a different CPU in it. The Geode is okay, but you can get a lot more bang for the watt out of an ARM CPU, and there is absolutely no advantage to having an intel compatible CPU other than that you can run Windows.

I think you all miss the point of the post. For adult users, the XO is not ideal as it is not designed for adults. It's designed for children, and great for them.

Yet if you want to look into an OLPC-type computer, what I like to call 4PC's and others call a "netbook", for adults - the point of Steven Levy's post - then the HP Mini Note is the best option, in my oh so humble opinion.

I read the article in Wired and think it is you who missed the point. More importantly, I think that making posts here about products like the HP and then collecting money when people click through to Amazon to buy destroys all credibility. If you had made a post in reply to the Wired article and tried to talk about what the community had done for OLPA (DebXO, for instance)and tried to organize/rally people to address the other issues, you wouldn't have made money off it. However, it would have been more constructive and been taken more seriously than just a way for the site to cash in.

Thank you Sean, and 'ha!'.

I have been wanting to speak out against this for some while.

Sure enough there is economic realities in maintaining and developing this website.

But I guess OLPC News and its management selling out is in-line with the current trashing of the project.

I would like to make a public call for the ad revenues generating from this website to be released...

You are happy to publish OLPC Staff salary, which I think is extremely unethical. Let's see how much OLPCNews make from 'exposing' such information.

No, we didn't miss the point. Yes, the OLPC has problems when used by adults. But I've successfully used the OLPC as my main computer when traveling, and it works pretty well. And it's closer to what I want than any netbook that's currently available. The only thing that makes it a child's computer is the keyboard.

There's obviously a market for netbooks, or the eeePC wouldn't be so successful, and all the major computer manufacturers wouldn't be trying to compete with it. But the OLPC is fundamentally different from any netbook we've seen so far, and at least for me the features the OLPC has that other netbooks lack are crucial:

- Low power consumption, leading to long battery life
- Transflective display, so that I can use the computer in direct sunlight (e.g., while sitting in the passenger seat of a car).
- High resolution display (most netbooks have very low resolution displays)
- Durable - I can just throw it in my backpack and not worry about it.
- Cheap - assuming you could buy one, it would be no problem for me if it were stolen, because I could just buy another for another $200. Too bad you can't buy them. That's probably the biggest blocker to the OLPC being an OLPA.

Actually, you could never buy an XO for $200.

If you wanted an XO, you had to pay $400. Yes, part of that payment was a donation, but the real cost for an XO to you was still $400. Hence the price comparison with the HP.

Sadly, OLPC quit G1G1 so if a business person wanted an XO (and I still think that's not common) then they would be out of luck - except for eBay.

Well, the price tag can be tricky. There are really two standards. We either call it the $200 laptop, and that price holds constant for everyone, or we call it the $400 laptop AND the $0 laptop depending on who you are and where you live.

If we stick with the "price is what you pay" yardstick, it cost me $400 per XO and it cost Rahul and his classmates in Khairat $0 each.

dear wayan,

i stand by my previous comment. This is not if you wanted to do a story about how sugar works on other platforms, that would be one thing. but this is OLPCnews. i expect to see news on OLPC, not reviews of HP computers.

There are quite a few machines out right now with price, physical dimensions and other specs comparable to this HP line --- the EEE line, the Acer Aspire, the MSI Wind (the one I'd probably buy), etc. That makes it a bit odd to tout the HP machine in particular while ignoring the others --- which is why it struck me (if not other readers) here as sounding a bit more like an ad than I'm comfortable with....

There are many 4P Computers, and I researched almost all of them in depth to get to a single recommendation.

I looked at over 20 different ones, actually, from Asus to Cherry to Elonex, so many that my wife was in the "Buy one already!" camp back in November.

To your preference, I too looked at the MSI Wind, but chose the Mini Note for its better keyboard and more professional look.

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