No XO Laptop For A Peace Corps Volunteer Going to Ghana

   
   
   
   
   

It is with great sadness that I have made the decision to sell my XO computer. Last fall when I heard that the XO was going to be on sale, thanks to OLPC News, I said this will be the computer for me! My co-workers will tell you that this computer was awaited as eagerly as my first child. I was in love with this computer because of the commitment to open source. I was in love with the idea that it was NOT Microsoft.

I loved the educational mission of the computer. I love the size. I loved the chance to learn. And I love the philosophy of the computer. It's built for the conditions I will experience in Africa. In June I will leave the US for two years to serve with the Peace Corps in Ghana.

I am very positive about technology. I love new tech and usually put up with a lot of glitches. But the OX defeated me. I had high expectations because they were being sold to people in third world countries as their only computer.

My disappointments are as follows:

  1. No alternate power source shipped with the OX. Even for people living in the US an alternative power source was attractive because we often use our laptops where there is no power. And for me it was even more attractive because I was going to a third world country and though an alternative power source would be wonderful. OLPC was adamant that they would not send me one. The manufacturer of the YOYO would not sell me one. I tried to find the amazing $12.00 solar charger. No luck.
  2. The touch pad is very buggy. I do not want to have a mouse. The less stuff I bring and carry around Africa the better. The touch pad goes crazy at least once an hour some times more often. Then you have to reboot sometimes just reboot, sugar other times reboot the whole computer.
  3. Booting up takes a very long time. It's like using a computer from 5 years ago. I usually have a puzzle to do while the computer boots up.
  4. The camera and the record features are great but only seconds of recording time?
  5. The video on the camera is very poor quality.
  6. My browser does not work. It crashes all the time. I have upgraded to the latest update of the OS. That does not help.(I use Opera instead)
  7. The file system (the Journal) is very bad. I personally want a way to organize and sort my files so I can find them quickly. Even after have the computer for only 3 months I have too many files in the Journal to make finding things a quick process.
  8. Using Opera or the supplied browser I find it hard to use all the features of the internet that are common everyday features. Flash works sometimes and other times it does not.
  9. The system hangs at least once a day, like it's a Microsoft product, thus causing another reboot.
  10. Sometimes for unexplained reasons surfing the net slows down to a crawl.
  11. Managing photos is hard and viewing is a very time consuming process. The only photo viewer is the browser and there is no way from the browser to locate photos and view them.
  12. Not enough hard drive space. Hard drive space is cheap and small these days. I don't understand the reasoning behind this decision. Same goes for RAM.
  13. Programs also run slow at times then other times run just fine. I can't figure out what is causing the slow down. I'll be messing around in E-Toys and wham everything slows down. Nothing fixes it except to go away and come back later.
  14. I could complain about customer support but I KNEW there would be none and that was part of the deal.
  15. If he makes a deal with Microsoft I will make it my mission to turn everyone off from this computer.
  16. The only way to connect to the internet is wireless.
If it were one or two or even 4 of these problems I could have most likely gotten by with the XO computer in Africa . But this is just too many problems. I feel that this computer does not use the existing technology to its fullest.


Is the XO good enough?

There are a few computers out there now that are close to the price point and that work like computers made in 2008. I just feel that this computer's hardware, it's speed and disk space are a few years behind the times. It feels like we are offering a second class product to the third world countries.

How many kids will be patient with the speed problems?

The internet problems are big to me because I believe the Internet is the largest library of information available to everyone. As a librarian I think the information available on the net is a valuable resource. The net is not just a text based medium. The need for plug-ins to work consistently and for pluggins to be incorporated into the browser, not opening e-toys for mp3 files, is vital.

So with great sadness I will sell my XO to a new person who perhaps does not need it as their only computer and can be a part of the development process. I do have to ask what about all the kids in third world countries who will have this computer as their only one?

This summer, Vicky Chase will be joining the Peace Corps to teach computer science to teenagers in Ghana.

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52 Comments

Well, what did you expect? The wrtinig has been on the wall for 3 years now. Any person of even moderate intelligence should have easily seen through Prof. Negroponte's outright lies and misrepresentations. They are *that* transparent.

Your only hope is to wait until Mrs. Jepsen releases her own "$75 laptop" wonder...


How many times can you scam people with the same empty promises?

:-)

I am an eternal optimist. I usually take people at face value. Most of the time it serves me well. But I took a hit with the XO. I read the blogs, OLPC News included, and the OLPC Wiki and website. I knew there were some bugs and fully expect to deal with that. From my research I was lead to believe it was state of the art and the newest thing in laptops. So sorry my definition of that and NN's are so far apart.

Thank you for the most comprehensive listing of what is wrong hardware-wise with the OLPC. After reading your post it does indeed feel like a sub-par product is being distributed to developing countries people who, having never had a computer, just do not know any better, and will think this one is great.
In fact, I am reconsidering whether I will buy an XO at all, even though XO eBay prices are falling faster than the New York exchange... Vicky, you may want to go quick with disposing of yours.
Anyway, for what it matters, you are supposed to be able to connect to the internet with a wire, see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Support_FAQ#Can_I_use_a_wired_Ethernet_connection.3F
A lot of the issues you mention take me back to my youth with Windows 3.1, like the unexplained slowing down, etc. Oh, those were the times when computing was an adventure, you didn't know when the blue screen would get you, and it was so...
Now, kids that haven't experienced our Z generation culture in the US will be fine as to the speed and most of these bugs, basically because they have no higher expectations. I still think that is a sorry excuse for us giving them a buggy product to begin with. Thank you for your post

For someone who claimed to have been very enthusiastic about the OLPC project, the guest writer didn't seem to know very much about it before making a donation. It sounds very much like she was looking for something comparable to a fully-featured conventional laptop for under $200, which just wasn't going to happen, even if that had been the goal of OLPC.

A number of her disappointments are pretty valid, most of them concerning the buggy OS (points 2,3,6,9,13). However, a number of the other ones come from artificially high expectations and being uninformed.

Disappointment #8 comes from the XO's using an OSS implementation of Flash, Gnash, something she claims to support. Even if she just wanted complete Flash functionality, there's tutorials available on how to install Adobe's free (but not Open-Source) version.
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Flash_Player

#5 seems a silly complaint as the included camera was never intended to be high-quality, but cheap and functional.

#7 and #11 relate to the journal file system, which has been a feature of the XO for a long time. These disappointments may have more to do with a traditional western PC mindset than anything objectively wrong with the storage system.

#12 illustrates her ignorance by talking about a "hard drive," when the XO contains no such thing. And the storage space and RAM are small because they wanted to keep the XO CHEAP. Her comments about more storage and memory being cheap are again reflective of a western mindset where an additional $20-30 is no big deal, as opposed to a near insurmountable hurdle. I'd hate to think what her impressions of the XO would've been had it shipped with its original specs of half the current memory and storage. Plus, in terms of storage, the XO provides an SD slot and USB ports for easy expandability.

#16 is not insurmountable, a USB dongle will allow other forms of net access. However, since the writer is going to Ghana, I'm wondering how much wired access she's actually going to find over there anyway.

I also find it amusing that the writer felt the need to stretch out the number of disappointments to the point of including fairly dubious ones. #10 is just a rephrased #13. #15 has nothing to do with the functionality of the laptop she had. I especially like how #14 isn't a disappointment at all, since she knew about that beforehand and expected it.

I see from her blog she bought an Asus EEE PC now, which I think is much more suited to her needs. Perhaps if more people had researched the subnotebooks available before grabbing an XO that was never designed to meet their needs, there wouldn't be so many disappointments with it.

I sympathize with your problems.

However, reading your list of problems, many seem to revolve around the software distribution.

Problems 6-11 and 13 could be solved at least partially by installing another Linux distribution.

Problem 12: "Disk space" can be solved with a cheap SD card (up to 8GB I heard) or a USB stick or disk drive, which would also solve the space problems for the video
Problem 4. RAM I wouldn't know.

Problem 3: A $200 computer will never be blazingly fast, so I am afraid that problem will cost you money.

Problem 16: You seem to be able to use USB-ethernet adaptors:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/USB_ethernet_adaptors

Bad microphones and cameras will just cost you money.

Anyhow, given your problems with and feelings for the XO, it seems to be not the machine for you. If you have to replace everything and do not feel comfortable with an XO you would be well advised to switch it for another low cost, low weight laptop that will work in West Africa.

Winter

WTF?! ... this was covered in a thread in the News Forums already!
http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=2101.30

WAYAN DELETE THIS POST! There is NO reason for this gross misinformation to be on the FRONT PAGE! >:[

>Perhaps if more people had researched the subnotebooks available before grabbing an XO that was never designed to meet their needs, there wouldn't be so many disappointments with it.

The clincher here is "meet their needs". I am quite dubious anybody except those who have other effective venues for education will find the OLPC (as currently extant) meets their needs. It is an exploration tool, not an educational one, as far as the definition of education is understood by most of those outside the educationese community.

@ Goney3
Goney, your communication style was already commented on in that post you indicate. Would you mind?

BTW, if we hang around it is that we have not given up on the OLPC (yet), but want it to be a meaningful thing. Pretending there are no issues, even if those are merely perceptual, is being in denial. Let's be honest and get things to improve, and respect those who have clearer vision as to the king's new clothes look like.
The OLPC concept, revised, could be a true winner in bridging the gap and all that.

This guy doesn't understand about the project. The XO laptop is not for him. It is for children. The Sugar OS is for children. Get it? Kids are happy playing with it. It is not meant to surf news.yahoo.com.

If you want it to be for an adult, you need to install an adult OS, such as Xubuntu or Xfce on it and whack Sugar. Then you will be happy with what you have.

I am very happy with my OLPC. It is running Fedora/Xfce, the real Abiword, the real Opera, mplayer, etc. I have deleted as much of Sugar as possible, since I am an adult. However, this takes some computer ability, which this author obviously does not have.

It has become a trusty companion of mine and has a long battery life for its size.

Oh, I did install Flash and that only worked intermittently with the Opera Browser I also installed.

I am not sure the desire to find my files quickly and have them organized so I can do that is part of the western mindset. I guess I'll learn more about the non-western mindset in Ghana.

And I did say I expected some bugs and would have put up with a few because I liked the philosophy behind the computer. I assumed since OLPC was creating a laptop that would be used as a person’s only laptop then I could use it as mine. I kept making changes and adding this or that so it would work the way I wanted it to and it just didn’t. I frankly ran out of time and patience.

You are right I really don't understand about the storage space. I used external storage on the XO. I have a hard drive for my digital photos. I have opened photos from my hard drive on my XO. But I still don't understand if I could have loaded Gimp on my external hard drive and have it run on the XO. As I said the XO defeated me.

I sure did expect a laptop that would be fully functional and up to current standards or at least up to 2005 standards. I didn’t want a game computer. I didn’t want to create feature length movies. It was designed at MIT for goodness sake! Don’t you think that alone raises expectations? I certainly expect innovation, excellence and geek pizzaz from MIT! In the 80s MIT designed their own Integrated Library System for MIT Libraries. Many libraries asked vendors for features that were in the MIT software.

If anyone asks me in Ghana I will recommend another similar laptop. If its between a computer that has less bugs, more functionality and works the way I want it to out of the box vs a computer I have spent 3 months tweaking and am still not happy; You bet I’ll choose the later. If money is an issue maybe you buy six for a school instead of 12. Everyone having their own laptop might be part of the western mindset as well.

vc

You can find workarounds for nearly all of these complaints, as has already been pointed out.

I can't believe someone would honestly think that a very inexpensive computer made for children would meet all of her grownup world-traveling demands like this. Sounds like what she really needs is an Apple Air--but even that laptop doesn't have some of her requirements.

This is looking like an incendiary topic.... Vicky has a few valid points in there - the one that resonates with me the most is:

#7 (Journal/File manager) - This, to me, is the biggest short-coming of the XO. I don't know what files are stored where, wonder if 'old' files will be bumped off when the flash-memory is starting to get full, have difficulties removing activities that I don't want any more, have to wait a LONG time for the journal (I think) to launch when accessing it from within an activity (e.g. adding pictures to Memorize tiles), can't easily preview photos (#11), etc....

If Journal (or a better 'Sugarized' file manager) improves, I think everyones XO experience will improve.

The machine IS slow - disappointingly slow at times - but I can accept this, considering the cost target of the machine. Memory is a non-issue, that's what the SD slot is for, right? If I could only figure out how to install activities on it....

Vicky mentioned it in her blog post but not in the list above - viewing big-file size PDFs is still a big problem for me. The promise of using the XO as an e-book reader was big selling point for me. The READ activity is slow and crashy; I've installed Opera and Evince, but I still haven't found a solution that really works.

Re: Journal complaints
I believe the intent of the Journal was the establish a different paradigm for how one views and interacts with the computer. The filesystem organizational paradigm was abstracted away into more of an event-based paradigm, where one interacts with "Activities" and things that one has done in the past, rather than a "file system", which is based on an analogy taken from offices and the like, which presumably children in the third world don't have much experience with.

The complaints seem to be of the form, "Sugar doesn't match up with my existing paradigm!" Yes - it doesn't. That was intentional.

Vicky wrote:

"I sure did expect a laptop that would be fully functional and up to current standards or at least up to 2005 standards."

Serious mistake. The XO is not that and will never be that.

The XO is for people who don't know any better. Prof. Negroponte travels first class, looks for an exit/CEO and would endorse Hitler's ideas or install Windows ME on the XO if those actions represented sales. Mary Lou Jepsen received free licenses to use the research that contributors paid for; she will give the OLPC some money if she makes some with it. Papert is too old and damaged to even express an opinion and geeks are dissapointed, looking for their $400 on Ebay...

Such is the situation in OLPCland.

This guy is a woman who has worked in tech for 25 years. I teach people how to use computers. I will be doing that in Ghana for two years.
I am mildly geeky and have upgraded and worked on my Microsoft computers - software and hardware.

I did sell the XO.

I don't understand the name calling and the need to say I am incompetent because I disagree that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I don't want to install a whole different OS. Why buy a computer and do that?

I am still debating if kids will find it useful or be able to figure it out. Since I am not a kid it's hard for me to tell if kids will just pick it up as NN says. And since I teach people how to use software I am inclined to believe that most people and kids need some help learning how to use software.

Because I disagree with some of you about the computer I do not feel the need to call you names or incompetent. I try to respect your opinions and respect you as well. In fact when Wayan asked for this to be a guest post I specifically asked him to be sure I was not insulting or rude.

Thanks to all of you who are joining in on the discussion and refraining from name calling and rude remarks. The XO community was a great help to me when I owned mine. With any discussion there is the opportunity to learn if you open your mind. I have learned from this discussion and eagerly read the comments on my post to learn more.

Vicky - thanks for the post. I can't stop wondering what you're brining *instead*. I brought a Powerbook Duo 210 for my service in Lithuania from 1995-1997. I wrote about my experience getting online here--it wasn't easy.

http://www.wisecontradictions.com/2004/09/two_years_of_cy.html

So cool that you're going to Ghana to teach computer science.

Overall, I found having the computer and printer to be a pretty valuable tool for me as an English Teacher--I imagine that not having a computer wouldn't be an option for you. I was amazed at just how crafty the Lithuanians were when my power supply failed--they're experience in keeping things working served me very well.

If I were going somewhere today to serve, I'd be hard pressed to imagine going without my MacBook, but I could imagine brining an XO along. I'd hope to teach myself Python. ;)

All the best for your service. Peace Corps truly lived up to the "toughest job you'll ever love" tagline for me.

Ted, Love to hear from RPCVs. Most of you are all so postive about the experience. I am bringing an Eee PC with me. So far it does the things I need it to. I'll check out your blog.

Vicky,

Nobody's called you incompetent, double-check yourself. A lot of people have pointed out that most of your disappointments stem from expecting something from the XO that it was never designed to deliver, that of a fully-featured laptop on par with what current laptops in the western world deliver. Others have pointed out available solutions to the issues you had.

The XO certainly is incredibly innovative, just not in the areas you tend to think of in relation to the term. The whole focus was on affordability, ruggedness, connectivity, environmental friendliness, and power consumption. In your blog, you've already mentioned the EEE runs hotter; that's because it uses far more power to run than the XO. In terms of ruggedness, hopefully you won't drop your EEE in Ghana and break it, miles away from any tech support. You may end up wishing for a "buggy" subnotebook that can at least survive a fall.

The mesh networking is an incredibly innovative feature, especially the ability of the XO to continue meshing even when it's "off." However, this feature is only of use to those the XO was originally intended for, a group of children in a village with no other network who want to communicate with each other. For a lone XO user, this innovation is lost on them.

"I assumed since OLPC was creating a laptop that would be used as a person’s only laptop then I could use it as mine. "
This was your error. Keep in mind that this wasn't meant to be the end-all-be all of laptops. It's a "person's only laptop" only in the case of people who likely can't afford ANY computer, or even afford to power a typical computer.

Also, you fault the G1G1 XO for not coming with an alternate power source, something that was known from day one of the G1G1 program, yet you seem fine with an alternate laptop that is going to have much fewer power options available than the XO. At least the XO can take a wide range of voltages.

You ask "why buy a computer and [install a whole different OS]?" Well, for one, you don't have to install a whole new OS, there are solutions that only install a new windows manager and other programs over the existing OS. And the reason to do this is because the OS it came with was not intended for the uses you wanted from it.

So we've got another one, eh?

My reaction, as it always is with complaints such as Vicky's, is;

Didn't you read anything about the XO before you bought it? It doesn't matter where you saw anything about OLPC or the XO there was alway - ALWAYS - mention of who the machines were meant for.

Kids. And not just any kids (this was also mentioned), but kids in the 3rd world. Kids who would think something called YouTube was a personal straw.

And then - if you bothered looking a little harder at how OLPC was to accomplish it's teaching objective (and what was going to be installed on the XO) - was that this little laptop was going to run a GUI that was based on an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PARADIGM than current GUIs. (not shouting, but I can't figure how to italicize).

And then, even knowing what you knew, you decided to buy one as your primary machine. AND THEN you have the gall to say "I don't want to install a whole different OS. Why buy a computer and do that? "

That's when we go back to my first question; Didn't you read anything about the XO before you bought it?

It boggles the mind. The mind. It boggles.

But, good luck with your trip. Folks like you are invaluable.

>Kids. And not just any kids (this was also mentioned), but kids in the 3rd world. Kids who would think something called YouTube was a personal straw.

Matt, I can see your point. However, that very same line of reasoning is what is so worrisome. It justifies and explains comments such as "It feels like we are offering a second class product to the third world countries", which is my feeling exactly, except that I would so far rate it as a toy-gizmo rather than just a product.
It was already elsewhere mentioned that Sugar deals brilliantly with the needs of rich countries but does not seem to deal with issues such as literacy and other fundamentals that are needed in developing countries. The need for those is great, and within measure, greater than exploring creativity. It is us who have the time and leisure to explore, not the kids in DP, who should be able to explore, but mostly should be helped to learn skills that will put bread on the table.
There's plenty of folks around - grownups - that enjoy the masochism of managing through with XOs and post and blog about it.
Notice that as an educator, Vicky would have been very well justified in taking a supposed educational concept to show in Africa. And I do believe there are official OLPC postings on how the XO will be usable by the entire family.

All in all, she is too right for comfort. In the same way that Winter has taught me about the limits of OLPC-constructivism as an ideology (and thus I have become an advocate of fundamentals for the OLPC and other sub-notebooks), I can see this thread as quite revealing in the issues of hardware and the mentality behind it, though I know for a fact that there is a lot of effort in making the XO more adult-friendly, both in hardware as in software.

Remember, families out there do not have several computers, like my family or yours does, they have only one, the XO, and it better do everything it can to bridge the gap for the whole family and community.

I share goney3's dismay, but I appreciate as a site owner it's in Wayan's interest to post stuff that generates a strong reaction. To expect him to ignore something like 'Peace Corp volunteer laments tragic failings of XO' when it's dropped in his lap, even if it is largely BS... well, this isn't some respectable, academic journal after all. Go with what generates interest in the site.

yamaplos, you make some valid points. Namely that there is no one education approach that will fix the world's education problem, but saying the XO won't help illiteracy is akin to saying books won't. An XO can be a multitude of books (though apparently not very large :). You still need a teacher no matter what.

Also, thinking the XO is a second rate product is nothing but affluent western arrogance speaking. The XO would be the fastest (or only) computer if given to many households I personally know. And would have been in my own home if I had gotten it this time last year.

Her article tries hard to make the XO out to be a POS. Though all it does is point out the XO is ill suited for her, because of her own false assumptions, unreasonable expectations, and her inability to recognize the XO is not meant to be a replacement laptop for adult westerners.

Her vision is not clear, it's muddied by what she *wanted* the XO to be. This seems to be the case with almost everyone that grows a dislike for the XO. "I can't watch YouTube/Webkins." "The write activity is not like my usual word processor." "This doesn't behave like the commercial software I've always ran." Someone who has never had a win/mac box won't have her assumptions and will, like every computer literate kid I know, learn how to use whatever is in front of them.

This is not to say NN hasn't over exaggerated, over promised, and unwisely grandstanded at every opportunity. This is to say the XO was not designed with us in mind. If you disregard that one crucial piece of information, every decision and opinion that follows is, well, probably wrong.

Lastly, Vicky would only have been 'justified', as an educator, in taking an XO to Africa if there were going to be other XOs there. Otherwise, it's just a cheap, somewhat rugged, oddly configured laptop that could easily be replaced with any other sublaptop. As it has been.

Vicky,

Thank you for the very informative commentary. It's very rare to see analysis from people who have both, and OLPC and an EEE. I think the tone of these responses show why OLPC has had such a hard time selling these.

There seems to be an impression that children, not adults, are responsible for evaluating and buying these things. Any adult that can write a check to fund the purchase have heard of file systems and know how a browser is supposed to work.

PS - the EEE is not as fragile and the OLPC is not as indestructible as some people make out. http://www.dailymotion.com/search/eee/video/x4dhhl_tests-resistance-chocs-chaleur-froi_tech

Good luck in Ghana.

Regarding #7, an object-centric view is being worked on: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Designs/Journal

Mattd wrote:

"her inability to recognize the XO is not meant to be a replacement laptop for adult westerners"

In all fairness to Vicky, Negroponte & Co. have spent years telling everyone that the XO can do everything a regular laptop does and comparing the XO with regular laptops.

False advertising? Sure.

Check this article quote:

"But the Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptops can do anything a regular laptop can do except store huge amounts of data, according to Negroponte. "

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2005/laptops-1005.html (5th paragraph).

It is possible to be critical of the XO without misrepresenting it:

The XO Laptop: Not for You
( http://backofthebook.ca/technology/2008/02/xo-laptop-not-for-you.html )

Frequently Asked question & Negroponte's response:

What can a $1000 laptop do that the $100 version can't?

"Not much. The plan is for the $100 Laptop to do almost everything. What it will not do is store a massive amount of data."


No wonder so many people bought the XO thinking it would be functionally similar to a machine costing ten times more...

I can see where Vicky is coming from.

I have been able to get my OLPC XO to a state where it is functional for my purposes, though this involved ditching Sugar. The hardware on both of the XOs which I use (one for me, one for my niece) has been fine.

However, I have issues with the design of Sugar. Even if it was working perfectly, I think it is conceptually flawed.

I've written much more about it here: http://www.villamil.org/?p=101

My main complaint is that the developing world is already full of low-cost, pragmatically assembled computing infrastructure, and the OLPC (and especially Sugar) makes it almost impossible to integrate well.

I propose that the "education project", the "Sugar project" and the "laptop project" be treated separately. They need not be so interdependent. The education project can use other software and hardware platforms (mobile phones & Java, anyone?), the Sugar project can run on other hardware (though frankly I don't see why bother), and the XO can use the same apps as other cheap computers already in use in the schools. This would allow them to tap into a much broader application base, not just the tiny ghetto of Sugar-ized activities.

You do know that the OLPC is not the only game in town, right? http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.107.html Maybe someone else will either be in Ghana or let you pilot it for them?

Kids get the XO. They get it in ways that I think most of those critical of the program would be surprised by. I don't have a huge sample size, but I do have two of the little buggers (XOs. I'm not calling my kids buggers, really I'm not.) and I've spent some time with other kids we come in contact with on a regular basis, ranging in age from 18 mos old to about 8.

Kids get this machine.

They get that it's for them. They are drawn to it. They think it's the neatest thing in the room. They put down their Nintendo DSs and drop the xbox remotes and ignore the fast computers in the room. I'm not using hyperbole, this has actually happened.

They can't use the XO completely alone. They are fearless explorers and will try anything, but they typically hit a wall a few minutes in. However, a few gentle pointers from an adult or more experienced kid, suggestions for things to try, explanations for activities ("try that one - it's like a memory game where you match up letters") generally gets the kids going in the right direction. No learning experience for a child should take place in a complete vacuum. There is always a role for a more experienced coach/mentor/teacher/adult/student when a child is learning.

The 18 month old couldn't keep her hands off it, when she learned that pressing the keys made the baby giggle in TamTamMini. (this turned out to be a challenge as she didn't want to stop banging on the keys. While I believe the XO is solidly constructed and unlikely to break, I did end up putting it away after 10 minutes.) The 3 year olds crowded around the camera to mug for a shot and take turns making the alien sounds on TamTamMini. The 4.5 year old boy wanted to put a puzzle together after posing with his cousins for a photo (he needed some assistance in loading the picture into the puzzle activity, and yes - I had preinstalled puzzle.) My 6 year old son regularly makes videos (yes, short ones) featuring his playmobil action figures or the little green army men. His 4 year old sister does same with barbies or stuffed animals. She also plays the maze activity in tablet mode, using the gamepad keys to move the cursor around.

We're a technology family. My kids have access to five or six computers with fast internet connections, a few video game consoles, several hand held gaming systems, etc. They have each been using a computer since about age 2, unless you call accidentally emailing mommy's boss by banging on the keys before age 2 as "using a computer." They enjoy their XOs as much, or more than their other systems. They can do far more with their XOs. It's much more open. They haven't even used it much for web browsing, they are content with the activities available (or that we have downloaded.)

The 8 year old used the Write activity to copy info from his favorite Pokemon cards. The 5 year old girl played with TamTamEdit, figuring out things with it that I hadn't yet. My 6 year old son has learned how to make drawings with Turtle Art (yes, with coaching from me although the last time I saw a turtle program it was on an Apple II+ and was white on a black screen.) We've also dabbled in Pippy, and he was very excited to learn about etoys and scratch from some meetups we attended together (I've blogged about meetups with my son here on OLPCNews.com in the past.) He really wants to learn to program lego robots, and I've explained that he needs a grounding in basic computer skills first - understanding the way a computer takes instructions from you and follows them exactly, for instance. The computer is as stupid as you are, the saying goes in our family.

With mesh and two machines, we are able to play connect four against each other, use a chat room, use the acoustic tape measure (although I'm not sure we have it figured out yet) and otherwise collaborate via the mesh network. This feature set is significant, but somewhat unobservable when you only have one XO.

Have I mentioned the part where my kids teach other kids stuff via the XO? That part is pretty cool. To really learn something, try teaching it.

The machines are not without their limits. I agree that the file management metaphor isn't quite there yet. My children, who as young people have fewer ingrained metaphors for file systems in their heads, have trouble finding things they have worked on in the past. I think it's partly due to the different metaphor, partly because the journal page is somewhat slow, and because they aren't actively tagging their things even though that is a natural child behavior (I haven't encouraged them to do that because we aren't using the XOs for regular work, but rather for exploration and learning new things.) I think some improvements can be made in this area.

The speed of the computer requires patience, particularly on bootup and launch of activities. While we can debate the need for speed (and I find it hard to argue with a desire for zippy performance) - patience is not a bad thing for my children to learn when interacting with technology, no matter what the technology may be (the automated check-out system at the library works equally slow, and patience is required when withdrawing money from the automated teller, using the remote on the TV, etc. Things that may not be commonplace in developing nations, but are here.)

So, in closing, I'll mention this again. Kids get this computer, even western kids who have access to other technology. They get it, and are excited about it - even months later when many other Christmas presents are forgotten on the shelves.

I am sorry it didn't meet the needs of the original poster, but suggest we not extrapolate a failure of the goal of the project based on a mismatch in needs/features between an adult and the laptop. There are other adults who have experienced a similar mismatch. And still other adults who are completely satisfied with their friendly green machines and find they are able to meet their needs.

But I'll say it one more time - kids get it.

Vicky,

I am sorry to say that getting insults is quite common on blogs and internet discussion forums. We would all like people to grow up when they get older, but sadly, too many stop all too soon growing up.

It is a pitty that you are not comfortable with the XO. But that is bound to happen as it is the same with every single product on the market. One size fits no-one. And I agree with you that it is rather pointless to buy a computer, remove all the installed software, and buy a bucket of periferals, to get a functional computer. I have been there too many times with Windows computers that couldn't be bought with Linux installed.

But it seems you misunderstood the function of the Journal, which is quite common, see the following comment:
"I believe the intent of the Journal was the establish a different paradigm for how one views and interacts with the computer. "

Actually, the journal is a version control system. It was anticipated that the children in the target countries will have problems with the whole "file" concept and what "backup" means. The Journal links data to applications (a safety feature), keeps a log of all changes (nothing is lost), and performs automatic back-ups. The aim is to prevent ANY data loss, as long as there is any backup-server in the neighborhood, and to prevent cross-application system compromises, eg, an email infecting the photo storage application. It would be a real disaster if a child's photographs or other documents would be emailed to some criminal site, as would be a complete loss of these data due to some error.

The ideas is brilliant, but if the implementation is inadequate, it simply won't work (I wouldn't know, I still don't own a XO).

As you see with the Journal example, this is not a feature covetted by many computer literate adults. They can handle these functions all by themselves (except for the infection part, it seems). So I can really understand you get frustrated by it.

But good luck in Ghana.

Winter

Thanks Winter on your comments about insults etc. Just as I enjoy sharing my opinion about my XO I also like to share my opinion that we should be civil to each other.

I was pleased to read KayTi's post about her(?) kids using the XO. It encourages my belief that we learn better together. I am hoping to encourage my students to learn tpgether.

Maybe software IS the problem. that would be great because that's an easy fix IF the desigers listen to the user. I have spent many years battling Library software developers. for some reason it's pretty universal that the developers are too far removed from the users to ever truely understand what we need. ome of the comments on this post lead me to believe that the developers of this software may suffer the same near sightedness.

My experience with library software developers also leads me to be very suspicious of promises of future software features. These promises are often as valuable as the paper they are written on but if they do come to fruition they usually take at lest twice as long to implement as promised.

Now I have a computer that is also using open source software, has some learning, play features on it,some office software and reliable access to the biggest library in the world(the Internet) and it worked the way i wanted it to out of the box. Why is that not desirable for the third world?

@Vicky:
"Now I have a computer that is also using open source software, has some learning, play features on it,some office software and reliable access to the biggest library in the world(the Internet) and it worked the way i wanted it to out of the box. Why is that not desirable for the third world?"

It is!

Almost any computer with internet access is better than no computer.

But there are a few flies in the oinment:
1 Security. Elementary school children cannot handle passwords
2 Security. There is more to security than passwords
3 Backups. Idem for backups and saving files
4 We tend to forget how awfull the desktop metaphore is, especially on limited hardware.
5 Collaboration is what makes children tick
And we can go on.

But again, A computer is better than No computer.

Winter

I am curious about exactly what area of computer science the author will be teaching. Computers and politics? I use an XO every day as a tool in the development of enterprise class servers. Anybody who claims to be a computer scientist should be able to understand what this machine is capable of and how to use it to maximum effect. I understand her frustration with Sugar, but the alternatives are out there and they work very well. Apparently, she is either incurious about these things or incapable of understanding them. Blind hatred of Microsoft is always a bad sign. I feel sorry for her students.

Bfayette,

Vicky isn't a computer scientist, she's a librarian (or at least has a MLIS and worked in libraries for 25 years - which is where she "worked in tech").
http://1person.wordpress.com/about-me/

I'm sure her tech experience is more extensive than the average user, but probably not on par with a Computer Science major. I'm guessing her teaching and support in the Peace Corps will be limited to mostly basic operation of PCs.

The hatred of Microsoft is interesting too, especially since she went with an ASUS eee, which has a proprietary version of Linux and has been Windows XP capable since day-one. ASUS has also been keenly interested in having XP pre-installed on the eee, the only thing really holding it back is price.

I find it baffling how anybody can think that the XO hardware is not utterly amazing - it costs less than $200, you aren't going to get a supercomputer for that money! Although, actually, the power of the XO WOULD have been considered at supercomputer levels for most of the nineties as a home machine.

I learnt to program in the 90's first on Amiga's, and then low end PC's - nobody was complaining about the lack of functionality or ability to learn on those machines and what you have now is a million times superior. If you really can't teach computing on an XO then to be honest you have no business teaching computing in the first place, it's that simple. I cannot think of one area of computing which at least the bascis cannot be taught on that machine, and for free, other than Windows based IDE's like Visual Studio etc. (although you can easily install Eclipse, which I use to program in professionally TODAY). I could have taken my entire degree in computer science on this machine without any trouble at all (grad. 2001), so to insinuate that child level computer education cannot be achieved with an XO is woefully wrong.

You don't like Sugar? Me neither. I admire the high ideals but it is a dog to run, very slow, and like many others I detest the journal too - so I now have a dual boot on a 4GB SD running XUbuntu. I had never used linux before getting my XO and was able to follow the instructions on this site to install XUbuntu with few issues. A note on XUbuntu - I am literally amazed at how good it is on the XO, especially once you work out how to use Synaptic. I have full Firefox, Open Office, Eclipse, USB drives work like a charm and everything runs at a decent speed. It was all - everything - entirely FREE too. Free AND legal.

Do I think that this is how the XO should have been shipped? Yes, and I feel the software writers could have better spent their time writing widgets and connected features for that environment (XFCE) too. But then I (and you) are NOT the target audience for the machine. The target audience has likely never seen a computer before in their lives and certainly never owned one - Sugar (whilst still less than ideal) may well be the helping hand that they need to get going with computers. And you know what? When they are ready to go to the next (western, if you like) level of computing THEN THE XO WILL BE MORE THAN ABLE TO ACCOMODATE THEM.

Good luck teaching kids from your EEE PC screen in sunlight BTW, and I hope no sand/dirt/water etc. gets under the keys. Also hope that you can find a stable, capable power supply everywhere you go too - and that your machine doesn't run too hot in that environment - overheating can really kill "modern" machines.

As for Irvin, what a sad example of humanity. Either you are a professional troll, or a hopelessly pathetic, bitter human being. I'm not sure which is worse but either way you have nothing constructive to bring to improving the OLPC project and, I suspect, the human race in general.

Irvin IS a little tough on NN but I don't think that's a reason to call him a troll. No one is a troll here. We are obviously all interested in new technology. Interested in exploring and sharing our ideas when we explore. And most of us are interested in having a civil discussion. I am curious about the people who aren't so civil. Do you interact face to face the way you do in comments? Do you call people trolls to their face? Do you insult them to their faces?

You might be surprised to know that many people in the third world have already been exposed to computers. There are internet cafe's all over Africa. Many schools have computer labs in them. And yes the speed is slower than here - many are dial up connections. Some schools in Ghana have wireless and use satalites for access to the web.

Like I said in a previous comment I am beginning to believe that the problems I had were software related. I hope they fix them. The software is how most users are involved with the a computer. Even if someone has never seen a computer before in their life should we ship them a computer with buggy software just because they won't know any better? I think I was pretty patient for only a "librarian" tech with fixes and work arounds on the XO. As I said there were just too many fixes and work arounds for me.

I have a solar panel to power my Eee PC.

@ Vicky: I already commented on your blog post when you announced that you were going to sell your XO. I do believe that every device is not a perfect match for every person, and if there's something else out there that suits your needs better, by all means use that instead. I hope your re-homed XO has gone to someone whose needs are a better match for its capabilities. That's a win/win situation in my book. :)

@ Irvin: Are you seriously offering comments from October 2005, when the XO was no more than an idea in the process of being formed, as proof positive that the XO fails to fulfill promises? That article still calls it the "$100 laptop" and describes it as having a hand crank. Show me RECENT, as in "once the specs were finalized or close to it", descriptions of the XO's capabilities and compare THAT to the actual device. That's the only way to determine whether the XO product meets its objectives or falls short.

Incidentally... what, exactly, is a "regular laptop" doing that the XO can't do? Other than viewing Youtube videos, I haven't found anything that the XO can't do in my ordinary uses of a laptop. I want email? I have email. I want to surf the internet? I surf the internet. (I use Opera since I'm spoiled by years of using a tabbed browser.) I want word processing? I take real-time meeting minutes with it, including touch-typing on those wee keys, and I do so with AbiWord, a full-featured word processor that's already ON the XO. All I had to do was rename one file to gain access to it. (Rename the file, a one-time event; open Write, the default browser; hit CTRL-N. AbiWord opens.) So what are these capabilities that are lacking on the XO? Speed? That 28-month-old article didn't say that the XO would do everything AT THE SAME SPEED as a full-sized laptop, just that it would do everything but store large amounts of data. The only thing that slows down my XO after extended use is Opera, and that was something that an outside party was kind enough to port over to the XO. It's not the XO's fault if someone else's software has got some bugs to work out. I just restart Opera when it slows down, and the problem is resolved.

I'm curious as to why I rarely or never find an Irvin-generated comment on the news articles that show the actual deployment of XOs, like this one about Peru http://www.olpcnews.com/implementation/plan/picturesque_pilot_progress_peru.html . This one has got some concrete success stories in it, including how the kids taught their fathers how to use the XO to access the internet, to appease said fathers who were upset that the kids didn't want to work in the fields anymore. But let there be an article about theoretical applications of the XO, or an article pointing out shortcomings of the device, and Irvin is involved in the discussion of THOSE things. I'm not saying that theories should NEVER be questioned, or shortcomings should be swept under the rug, but a truly neutral party would have something to say about the POSITIVE aspects of the story, not just the theoretical (as-yet-unproven) and negative items. MHO, YMMV (your mileage may vary), and all that good stuff. :)

Vicky, if you care to go back over many of Irvin's posts (the one at the top of this page would be a good place to begin) you will see that it is he that continuously makes personal attacks on these boards. He is the very dictionary definition of a BBS troll and I would have no problem telling him that to his face, as I have no problem telling the truth to anyone's face. He has not come up with one single constructive statement on these boards and seeing as how obsessionally he follows and posts on them that really is some achievement. Your defence of him in this regard really is pure comedy.

I fully respect your voluntary work though and hope it goes really well for you, people that do things like the Peace Corps are a force for good in a world that is sadly sorely lacking in that respect. A very close friend of mine did her own VSO in Ghana not so long ago and had a really fantastic, mutually rewarding time - i'm sure you will too.

To address your point about sending second class kit to the third world though - before OLPC who was trying to send any kit at all? I am certainly no OLPC apologist but at the end of the day they have achieved something great with their hardware and what they need is people like you getting out there and fighting the good fight on the front lines with XO in hand. Yeah the software sucks in many respects, but you still have a gloriously solid, open platform on which to build. It really isn't that hard to move away from Sugar if you want to (the user experience is vastly better) and in the process also learn a lot about linux computing yourself, as i have.

Take the XO, write a diary of what's working and what isn't, what features you'd like to see included to make teaching with it a better experience for you and your kids - then send that to OLPC, or post it here or wherever else open source programmers hide!

At the end of the day OLPC set out to make a useful, cheap, open platform for poorer communities. They aren't a big corporation looking to turn a profit off these people and that alone should mean that we go the extra mile in supporting the project, even if it entails using an OS that, currently, ain't that good. And before anyone accuses me of just talking the talk, I have also just quit my very well paid IT job and will soon be teaching disadvantaged kids abroad - I will be taking my XO with me.

Hey all - I too am going into the Peace Corps later this year. I did the G1G1 deal right away and have always been excited and optimistic about the OLPC program around the world. I will admit that I had some struggles with the XO and I don't use it for daily use, but I am really excited about taking it with me to South America next year. I think the ruggedness and size will make it wonderful. I am a little disappointed with Sugar and am thinking about trying another OS (maybe Ubuntu, but open to other ideas). Basically I just want to (easily) show the people I will be working with pictures, listen to music at the end of a lonely day, and type journal entries into a basic text editor. Also, transfer pics from a cheap digital camera to a flash drive so I can email them from another computer should I come across one. Maybe I don't have to abandon Sugar to do that, but don't know what the best way to go about that would be. Any ideas? XFCE over top of Sugar? Reformat the internal memory with another OS? Peace all!

@ dominohc: Sugar is the window-manager on the XO. It uses the Fedora OS, so you can put XFCE, Fluxbox, etc as a new window-manager without having to replace the operating system :)
There are some really good tutorials on the News Forums here to get you started.

Sugar seems to be constantly under development, maybe one day it will work how it was envisioned. Good luck on your adventure, several of my friends are in the Peace Corps and love it (one even extended another year in Zambia)

Cheers!

Wow,
This article sure generated some strong feelings!
Here are just a few of my own to add to the mix.

It sounds like Vicki wanted and has found something more suited her her needs!It is also good to know that many of her issues, had some work arounds available-for her.I can understand that she was frustrated and it does sound like she tried a variety of things to make her XO more functional. So for Vicy she made a good choice to find something that met her needs.
HOWEVER
Since the XO was made for kids here is an interview I did today asking my 2 kids who use the XO Frank donated. It increased their self esteem-they have loved the activities and Sugar has worked just fine for them, The user interface is very kid friendly-I do want to figure out how to get flash to work-just haven't had time before today to take it away from Joey and Zach long enough to do it.
So here's the Joey and Zack review of the XO.
Me: What do you think of the XO now that you guys have had it for over a month?
J: I like the squessey keyboard
Z: I like the twisty screen.
J: Yeah we like to flip the screen around when we use the calculator
Me: What Activities do you like the best?
J: The programs??
Me: Yes:
Z: I like the Write activity-I am going to become a writer
J: No Zach we like the plane (gcompris) the best-remeber that has the thing where we figured out how to fly
Z: Yeah I like that too. It has connect 4
Me: Some adults think the computer is too slow-what do you think?
Zach-They need to learn patience
Me: Laughing -okay using my own words against me- that's one for you
J: It goes pretty fast Mrs. D- it just blinks when it gets ready.
Z: Ya no green bars-blinking
Me: Do you miss flash?
J and Z: Flash?
Me: The stuff that makes the games go?
Z: Oh that-you can do that on any computer-our computer is a learning one.
J: Can we play now??

I have seen the boys problem solve in etoys-and use many of the activities- I have seen it get dropped and still work!! We have washed off sticky keyboards- and--I have watched their classmates ask them for help.... So in our little corner of the midwest the XO has more than lived up to expectations-it exceeded them!

I feel like I should preface this by saying that I don't think you're stupid and I don't think you're a bad person. However, I think you're missing the point.

This computer wasn't designed for you and me. It is not suitable as a business laptop, and it's not the best bet for anyone who is trying to recreate their experience with modern first world computers. It is slow, the keyboard isn't comfortable for adults, it doesn't play Flash out of the box, and it's not great for a lot of the multitasking types of things most of us do every day.

But your criticisms, like a lot of the others I've seen, seems to miss the point of the project and of the device. You don't even mention the educational aspects. Did you try it as an ebook reader? Did you play around with Pippy, TurtleArt, or Etoys? What about Measure or TamTam? Yeah, they take a little while to start up, but once they do, they're pretty smooth, and I still haven't found my way around half of them.

I can completely understand that it's frustrating trying to use this for your purposes. I wouldn't want to use it as my primary work computer, or even my primary messing around on the internet computer. I got mine so I could use it to check my email, read my RSS feeds, and read ebooks.

I am honestly surprised, though, at how often I've found myself sucked into playing with the Activities. That is where the XO really shines. That's what it was made for, and it does it beautifully. I can only imagine how thrilled I would have been to have something like this when I was a kid. And while a lot of first world kids might lose patience with it or compare it unfavorably to the faster, shinier technologies they're used to, I honestly believe this is a superior educational tool to anything I've seen on store shelves in the US.

And that's why it bothers me to see you saying these things about the XO. It may be a second rate solution for your needs, but as an educational tool, it's head and shoulders above anything else I've seen.

Lisa, Thanks for your gentle approach. I am not really upset or hurt by the rough treatment just curious at why the online world seems to have much more rudeness and snap judgments expressed than the real world. The people that are saying things about me don't know me. My friends are ready to make a posse!

I did try the activities. I made turtle art. loved the funky art i could create with turtle art and that i was learning by playing. I played with etoys. However getting into either of them was hit or miss. More than 25% of the time they would not open so I had to reboot sugar and sometimes I had to reboot the whole computer cause everything was frozen. I ran the browser for about a week until I read about installing Opera on the OLPC Forum. I battled with the email to get it to attach files from the journal. Finally won that battle with help from OLPC and the OLPC forum. I used the email a bit longer but then the whole browser function crashed. Even after two software updates the browser function never really worked again so I just used opera. Using Opera I had no access to the beginnings of a library that I had with the OLPC brower. The bible I downloaded was unaccessible. The second software update I wiped the computer clean and installed the lastest version. Thinking that would clear out any bugs It didn't.

I used the record activity but found it lacking due to the 45 second time limitation. The photo function was frustrating because I had no control over where i saved the photos in the file system thus they were not in an easily accessible place when i wanted to attach them in opera.I did know to name my activities.

My determination to use the touchpad also lead to a lot of frustration. I didn't want to use a mouse. One I was determined to use the XO as shipped. Kids that get these computers won't have mice shipped. And I will use my personal laptop in the field a lot when i am out making photographs. The touch pad causes the cursor to freak out at least once an hour. The four finger salute worked about 1/4 of the time, Rebooting just Sugar worked another 1/4 of the time but half the time I had to reboot the computer (after trying the first two). With the freaky cursor then the frame kept popping out at the most inconvenient times.

What I consider basic internet functionality was not there. PDFs did not open well in opera. PDF is a basic internet add on. Its been around for years. I did install the recommended flash for the XO Opera browser yet flash worked intermittently. and I wasn't asking flash to do that much. Display my stats in wordpress or yes play a Youtube video. Do you know how many educational videos are on Youtube? I use YouTube videos all the time to as part of my teaching in the library. Check out CommonCraft videos for very cool explanations about Web2.0 applications. I could listen to podcasts but that was clunky with Opera as well. I saved it then opened it with etoys. Again lots of very good educational podcasts out there on the web.

I used the ebook reader but having only the touchpad to move the mouse and click to change pages was also frustrating. The screan is turned around and flat on top of the keyboard and touchpad. That the most convenient way to read. I had hoped the game buttons might assist with that. Other ebook readers I use had page turning ability right next to the screen. I think even if I wasn't determined to use only the touchpad i would not have wanted to be limited by using a mouse and the need for a surface for the mouse. I would want to read in bed or laying in a hammock or in a chair with no access to a solid surface for a mouse. i found nothing in the forum or the OLPC wiki about a way to turn pages with the buttons near the screen.

I do like the educational mission of the XO but I think there are still many kinks to workout. The people who have installed other OSs on the XO have basically given up on the installed software. They are not using the Activities. Many people have mentioned that there are work arounds for most of my problems. Great but a country gets 1000s of XOs is it right to ask them to purchase mice for them all because the touchpad does not work? Or if Opera gives a better internet experience should the purchasing country be required to install it on all the XOs it buys? Can we expect people who have "never seen a computer to be capable of all these work arounds? In my job I have evaluated software and hardware that has to meet the needs of people with a wide range of computer ability. If a vendor gave me a product like the XO and I gave him my list of problems and he said well there are work arounds for all your problems you just aren't smart enough to figure them all out. I would ditch that vendor in a second.

The people who are telling me that I am not using it as intended are wrong. It is intended to be a persons only computer. Even a families only computer. When I wasn't at work I was using my XO. My home computer sat there except to print directions a couple of times. Aren't the XOs being sold as the only computer a kid will have? Qren't they being sold without a mouse? Aren't they supposed to access the internet? How will the users load new activities or upgrade the OS if the internet isn't working well? The kids won't say to themselves. This is an educational computer so I can't expect to be able to do x y or z. Don't these kids hqve the right to expect a computer that functions with out work arounds. A computer that does not freeze or slow to a crawl intermittently? Most of these kids won't have a backup. it won't be another toy for them to play with. I will be their only computer.

This is what I want from the XO.

1. I want a touchpad that works or I want a mouse shipped with each XO. OLPC expects me to use the touchpad or they would have provided a mouse. Haven't I been chided for saying it wouldn't cost much more to beef up the RAM etc? So why should we expect a third world country will have the resources to buy mice for all these computers they purchase.

2. I want an internet browser that uses the basic functionality we have come to expect in the past 5 years. I believe that the internet is the best and biggest library and educational tool that will be available to many of these kids. I don't think all individual users should be expected to have the skills and abilities to upload Opera and flash for Opera if many of them have never seen a computer before. And I don't think the countries IT team or the schoosl should be expected to manage work arounds. If vendor sold me even 25 computers for my library and said you need to install Opera because the browser we gave you is not working quite right, I would say no. And I have would have the ability to push that software out from a central site for the install. I wouldn't be that much work for me, It would be the principle of them trying to sell me something that is not working.

3. I want OLPC to fix the problems with freezing. Its not acceptable period. I still don't understand why standards of performance can be different for a third world country.

4. I want activities to open at least 9 time out of ten. Since the reboot takes so long I really don't want to do that more because of faulty software design.

5. I want OLPC to bring teachers, facilitators, trainers or whatever word you want to call them to teach teachers to use this tool. I do believe that we learn from each other. Absolutely. In training session after training session I have seen my students teach each other - once they had the basics down. That learning takes place with the guidance and assistance of a resource person who understands the whole picture of the software or tool being taught. Sometimes there is student who can pickup software on their own but there is no guarantee that every teacher in a classroom with this computer is that kind of person. I learn from my students every time I teach.

6.I want the ebook reader to be designed so I can read it like a book with the screen turned around on top of the keypad and touchpad. I want to be able to go to the next page using the game keys on the screen.

Just becuase i believe in the mission of the XO doesn't mean I can't be critical of it's failings. I absolutely believe in the mission of libraries and I can probably make a list twice as long about what is wrong with libraries today. If you can't look at something critically it will never improve.

@Vicky:
"I am not really upset or hurt by the rough treatment just curious at why the online world seems to have much more rudeness and snap judgments expressed than the real world."

A preponderance of adolescents and those who never outgrew it?

@Vicky:
"More than 25% of the time they would not open so I had to reboot sugar and sometimes I had to reboot the whole computer cause everything was frozen."

Sounds like you had a broken unit. This looks to me like some intermitant hardware failure (faulty memory or some bus disfunction). Could still all be software bugs, though. However, those with hands on experience with the XO might be able to pinpoint the problem.

But even with these clearly faulty functioning corrected, it seems to me you would not have been happy with the XO even with all activities working like advertised. In your case, you might have used the hardware with Xubuntu, an 8GB SD card, and some USB converter cables.

But then the question crops up of why buy an XO for that? You could better buy yourself a notebook with some distribution you like (Xubuntu IS nice). I find it already commendable that you went through all the effort to get an XO and work on it. Keep up the good spirits and have a good time in Ghana.

Winter

I find it quite interesting how much I learn about otherwise undisclosed to-do areas in the OLPC project by listening to intelligent posts from people who (as I do) support the OLPC initiative but have a viewpoint that accepts more of the OLPC official positions, some of which I want to compare to my own knowledge and experience. Thus I finally became aware about the ideological extreme OLPC is sold to constructivism (bad, if it's the only option available), and now about the expectation of clusters (not so good either).

@ Mattd
>Lastly, Vicky would only have been 'justified', as an educator, in taking an XO to Africa if there were going to be other XOs there.

I believe that the whole mesh thing is a work in progress in many levels. I do not agree with the assumption by many OLPC fans and the official stance that it _has_ to exist, or worse, that it is essential to OLPC use and success. I respect your view, Matt, but I believe that unless XOs can be successful even as one of a kind, the whole project is missing in its chance to full-blown success. There are pedagogical reasons to want to have good, functional independent operation, and sadly, simple practical realities, like there not being enough of the green things to go around.

I believe clusters, on which a lot of the original assumptions and uniqueness of the OLPC is based, is a nifty feature, welcome, but if it is a non-negotiable, we are missing at too many levels in terms of opportunities to reach the needs of kids. Kids do not NEED intercommunicating machines. They do need interaction. Intercommunicating machines are a Good Thing in thats sense, but when that becomes vital, we find self-limiting clauses to OLPC deployment, like NN not wanting to sell by less than a nation-load.

Thank you Mattd. Even if I do not agree with you on this point, I do appreciate your help in making this OLPC phantom visible to me (not that it was hidden, it's all over OLPC official position papers, but I had not yet noticed how Bad Thing such an ideology is)

@Vicky:
"[I'm] curious at why the online world seems to have much more rudeness and snap judgments expressed than the real world. The people that are saying things about me don't know me."

I still haven't seen much in these comments that I would categorize as "rudeness" (saying that you're wrong or have misconceptions about certain things isn't rude), however the reason people online make snap judgments and express them is precisely *because* we don't know you. We have only what you write to judge from, and you repeatedly write things that people either disagree or have issues with.

@Vicky:
"I used the record activity but found it lacking due to the 45 second time limitation."

What are you recording that you need more than 45 seconds for?

@Vicky:
"The photo function was frustrating because I had no control over where i saved the photos in the file system thus they were not in an easily accessible place"
This problem seems be to two-fold. First, your again showing the bias of a traditional PC user by being used to having to control where the file system saves everything. Secondly, you're using a program that's not fully integrated with Sugar at the moment. Commenter Dave posted an interesting link earlier that shows a newer design of Journal that could sold a lot of these issues, especially if Opera gets better integrated.
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Designs/Journal

In regards to Flash, there is a plugin available for the XOs built-in browser.
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Flash_player

It's not included by default because it's proprietary software, and thus there's licensing issues, especially if shipping XOs overseas. At least OLPC includes the open-source alternative, which, like most open-source initiatives, should improve greatly over time.

Any problems with Opera, including Flash and PDF views, are not problems with the XO, but with the use of unsupported software on the XO. Any faults with it is on Opera's hands, not OLPC's.


@Vicky:
"i found nothing in the forum or the OLPC wiki about a way to turn pages with the buttons near the screen. "

The Wiki page on the Read activity mentions scrolling using the gamepad buttons as part of the basic test:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Read#Basic

@Vicky:
"If Opera gives a better internet experience should the purchasing country be required to install it on all the XOs it buys?"

It's debatable that the Opera browser is "better." It just offers certain functions that typical PC users have become used to. It certainly isn't a requirement, and many of the end users will probably be able to get along fine with the included browser.

The majority of the workarounds are to get the XO to work less like it was intended and more like a traditional PC. As long as you don't need the XO to live up to your expectations of what a traditional PC "should" be like, a lot of the workarounds aren't necessary, especially for children.

@Vicky:
"It is intended to be a persons only computer. Even a families only computer. "

Well, it's primarily supposed to be a kid's own computer. But it may turn out to be the only computer they or their family have. However, the standard configuration should work fine for them. The problem is that you seem to have thought that it was intended to be EVERYONE's only computer. It certainly was never intended to replace most Western nations existing computers, or to implement all their functions and capabilities, good or bad. You wanted it to do things it wasn't designed to do, at least out of the box. Thank goodness it is based on open-source software though, or it likely wouldn't be as configurable as it is. For example, there's a US non-profit that designed a handheld for students called the "Teachermate" that's designed to do even LESS than the XO, and thanks to it's proprietary software, likely will only ever be able to do exactly what it was designed for.

The points you make about the touchpad not working correctly, in addition to several apps, the Sugar interface and/or the background OS, are all valid. They shouldn't have shipped the XO with such a buggy build. Hopefully Update.1 fixes most of the bugs and problems people have with the actual functionality of the existing builds. It seems clear now that the OLPC perhaps jumped the gun a bit on starting manufacturing and shipping the XO before the OS was fully ready (although OLPC certainly isn't alone in the software world of shipping products that need extensive fixes via later updates). However, the appeal of open-source is that these bugs are being constantly worked on and even in the unlikely event that the OLPC goes belly up, people around the world have access to the source code and can continue improving and adding to the Sugar interface and its Activities for years to come.

Some remarks were thrown at Vicky's choice of the XO. That her decision was made through misunderstanding OLPCs actual goals, etc.

As a brilliant example of WHAT are the actual expectations of people, in this case parliament decision-makers, do visit
http://www.eux.tv/article.aspx?articleId=19953
that someone had pointed out us to but I forget who, so thanks anyway...
I think this shows more extreme confusion and hopes than Vicky's ever were.

This is my last post on this thread, thank you all, with the conviction that Vicky acted in a most reasonable way for someone who really cares. I wish her and her kind well, and apologize for the way some posters might have let their own idealism forget their manners.

Vicky,

Sorry to see that you ended up disappointed with your original choice of using XO. Although, given the destination are goint to, you're bound to be disappointed with some aspects (eg. short battery life, overheating) of Eee PC as well... Some of the points (although you seem to 'stretch' the list somewhat :) are valid and, if you look at the development list, are acknowledged and worked on as we speak. Still, you and XO are just not meant to be... ;)

On the other hand, given the response on the 'How do we like it now?' [1], it's clear that, even though XO is not designed for this market, overwhelming majority of users are pretty happy with their XOs. With the rapid development of Sugar ('bugs fixes'/speed/functionality) the situation can only get better...

[1] ( http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=2101.msg16561#msg16561 )

Yama,

"The clincher here is "meet their needs". I am quite dubious anybody except those who have other effective venues for education will find the OLPC (as currently extant) meets their needs."

A pretty vague statement. XOs are not meant to replace schools. They are meant to aid in the places where the education is failing, for many reasons, already. Do you agree that books have a role in education? Do you agree that they're very expensive ? Can you envisage XO used (at its very basic functional level) as a practical and effective replacement for them? Many people do - here are some (by who actually used the XO) experiences: [1 - 3] ...

" It is an exploration tool, not an educational one"

I'd suggest to you that any parent who is involved in their kids' education has a pretty good idea what does and does not work. From my own experience, I find that 'exploration' is the most powerful means to 'education'. I find it absolutely amazing that you, and I understand you are a teacher, put these terms as somehow unrelated. Poor kids...


[1] TeleRead: Bring the E-Books, 'Blind to e-book possibilities, the Economist knocks the OLPC machine'
( http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/01/09/blind-to-e-book-possibilities-economist-knocks-the-olpc-machine/ )

[2] TeleRead: The OLPC laptop as a promising school and library machine–plus detailed e-reading tips for people lucky enough to own XOs already
( http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/01/13/the-olpc-laptop-as-a-promising-school-and-library-machine-plus-detailed-e-reading-tips-for-people-lucky-enough-to-own-xos-already/ )

[3] TeleRead: Legal site on the OLPC XO: E-book potential and a long-lasting screen, among other positives
( http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/01/27/legal-site-on-the-olpc-xo-e-book-potential-and-a-long-lasting-screen-among-other-positives/ )

Akwaaba Vicky and you are lucky to be going to Ghana.

As a PCV there in the late 70's (during the JJ Rawlings coup d'etat), I was delighted by the local competence in adapting cast-offs and also-rans from the more-developed countries to their immediate needs. Entire ecosystems of cast-off objet' and amazing uses existed then, and they exist now. That is part of the beauty of the Ghanaian way; sure there is out-and-out copying of the developed world's reality, but there is also full-blown transformations of things we could never realize that are steeped in their culture of 1000s of years.

I would humbly argue that part of your duty while there is to make sure your pupils can make the HUGE jump between what they have, where their country is, and where so much of the rest of the world is at now. Help them understand as many of the tools that are out there as you possibly can, and let them work out their own uniquely Ghanian solutions to fill the needs as they see them.

Remember childhood picture books? -- Great first steps for reading, but always a little jolt when those quesy college-texts finally fully abandon pictures for the more important stuff!! Along these lines lie my biggest concern with the XO Laptop. Of course there will be a jolt from an XO (or any simplified machine) to anything more feature-rich. Can all make that jump? Is the XO the best 'picture book'? I don't know that answer, but certainly there will be some students in your classes who can make those kinds of jumps - XO/Ubuntu to Vista to C++(!) to Leopard etc. easily. Who can separate the machine from the software and better yet from the coding language that gives them the software!

I'm glad you decided to abandon the XO as a primary machine for you since it would limit your access to the wider world of tools out there. But could and XO be of any use to you? Perhaps.... to open the eyes of those you teach to the myriad ways to accomplish any given computing/display/browser goal. I know you'll have a few ordinary students who just need to get through the basics. In many respects a Ghanaian teacher may be more appropriate for many of those same students since that person could speak/teach from their pupil's own vernacular. The beauty of the PCV experience is that a few truly exceptional individuals will pick your brain 'till you feel they've caused more neuronal growth in YOU than you have in THEM. In six months you'll probably have a whole set of differing views on what you and your students need. And if at that time you think you may find tinkering with an XO to be useful, then let me know and I'll send mine over!

Could an XO be of use to children of Ghana? I think (conceptually) it is an excellent option, but more tinkering needs to be done, and a cadre of talented teachers would need to be established. That should serve as a challenge to you and your future students. Maybe not for using the XO, but some uniquely Ghanaian solution to the problems the XO was designed to try to solve.

Best wishes

As our technology is progressing computers became highly in demand. Through the use of the internet we can do a quick research about on many things. Most of us have run across an email scam at one point or another. Several popular email scams (beyond just insipid chain letters) included giveaways from Microsoft or the Gates Foundation, or unclaimed money from a foreign national. One of the most rampant scams making its rounds these days is the Nigeria scam. You get an email from someone claiming that for a cash advance they'll send you money unclaimed from the Nigerian government or royal family, or oil reserves. Warning-if you fall for it, you won't be seeing your money again. Unless you're actually contacted by a verifiable Nigerian official, don't do anything – delete the message, because it's an email scam.

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