I'm Mike Lee and I'm starting a series of posts here on OLPC News about accessories for the XO-1. I have also been asked by Wayan to help run the OLPC Learning Club - DC blog and meetings, which I am looking forward to doing.
Because I've had a couple B4 machines since August, I've had some time to look into accessories such as carrying cases, AC/DC adapters and alternative power sources such as solar panels. I still have a lot to discover--and learn from you all--but for this first post, I'm going to tell you about the perfect little LED keyboard light for the XO.
As you may recall from Wayan's earlier post here, there were two LEDs in the plastic bank on either side of the screen hinge of the B2 prototype that could be activated to bathe the keyboard in bluish light. The LEDs were removed from the design after that batch of machines, and some really missed having the feature. In the comments on Wayan's post, Mary Lou Jepsen, the CTO of OLPC, explained that the LEDs were removed to save a little money and complexity. Mary Lou reasoned that because kids are shorter, the screen could be tilted forward more to allow the screen's LED backlighting to cast light onto the keyboard. Perhaps this is workable for a small child, but as an aging adult, I find that when surfing with the XO in bed at night, shifting my gaze from the screen to the keyboard, my eyes don't adjust very quickly. Adding a USB LED light was the obvious thing to try.
Plugging in one of the commonly found gooseneck USB lights solved the problem, but I didn't like how much airspace the USB light took up around the XO. Next I tried a little Targus LED light that clipped onto one of the mesh antenna ears. A coiled power cord ran from the light to one of the USB ports. This worked much better for me, but the Targus light had to be stored in its original custom plastic case because the clip and ball joint around the LED light are pretty delicate.
Googling around, I hit on a product called the iLite, by MCT in Florida, USA. The owner is actually named Mike Lee too! The iLite is a custom designed USB mini light that was designed for small devices such as UMPCs and the OQO, but works fine in any USB port. The iLite is not much more in form than a USB plug with a 1" repositionable plastic stalk tipped with a small LED. On the XO, with the light aimed downward, the keyboard is illuminated quite well. There's some spill light on the screen, but it's not objectionable. I'm not bothered by the slight amount of glare from the LED either.
The iLite comes with a reclosable plastic box, but I'm sure you'll find a cool tin mint box to use for storage instead. The blister pack package copy says there's a red LED version available, but I couldn't find that on the web site. An iLite that emits red light would be great for when the XO is taken up by amateur astronomers.
Mike at MCT also customizes Kensington and iGo power adapters for the MacBook, and seems to really like hacking hardware, so maybe we can all lobby him to start a line of accessories for the XO.
Note: the iLite is being sold by Restoration Hardware for US$ 12.00.