Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th Jan 2008 20:44 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems El Reg has an in-depth review of the XO laptop. They conclude: "There's a lot to like about the XO laptop. It's tough, it's great as an eBook reader, it has a big (for its category), high resolution screen. It runs silent and cool, has good battery life, and the clean design of the Sugar interface is easy to use. But several areas need work. The browser should be replaced by Firefox, and the Journal needs to support folders to match how people actually organise their work and play. Multimedia performance needs to be improved, which can hopefully be done through software. The XO needs a unified media player that supports all media types, along with playlists, and should be integrated with the UI. Most of these changes come down to the OLPC organisation placing more emphasis on real-world usability and less on their ideals of a perfect interface. If they can manage to do this, the XO laptop could be a great tool for learning and play."
Order by: Score:
So ...
by mat69 on Thu 17th Jan 2008 22:16 UTC
mat69
Member since:
2006-03-29

So ,conclusio: The UI sucks.
I guess Win 98 would work better. My dad still runs that on an AMD K6 2-450 and well it works (not good, but it yeah ...).

I really wonder why they opted for Sugar and not a different solution. There are so many UIs and WindowManagers for Linux with long time usage. Why not choose one of these?

And all that "it's easier for children" is BS. Learning for children is allways easy, it never gets easier in live, only harder.

It's great though that there is Opera for the XO.

Reply Score: 3

RE: So ... - Sugar = UI unlimited by language and exp
by jabbotts on Fri 18th Jan 2008 17:14 UTC in reply to "So ..."
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Sugar was designed specifically for the XO to transend language barriers and the hurtle of never having seen a mouse and GUI setup before.

It's all picture icons so that one does not have to first learn english or translate the XO into the local languages. It also allows children who have not yet or are still learning to read there native language to understand the UI through it's basic icons.

XO is going to be used by kids who have never even concieved of the mouse and GUI concept before. Not all kids will be like that but many will be seeing a computer for the first time when they are handed a XO. while it seems perfectly natural for someone like you are I to sit down at a GUI and expect the pointer to move when we push the mouse; this is not the case for a first time user. For that reason, Sugar was designed to be fairly basic in it's presentation. Even now, it's hard to teach most people a new program on the same old UI they've always used (MS only users, I mean you) without them feeling overwelmed; a kid who's never seen a mouse and is suddenly dropped into a full KDE/GNOME/IE or osX UI is going is not going to just pick it up.

Try to remember back to the first time you saw a Windows machine. For me, it was after years of Dos (and Apple 2e before that) text input interfaces. I remember sitting down infront of a win3.1 UI at the highschool library and being completely lost with that little I-beam cursor in wordpad. Granted, the lost feeling didn't last long but that was after many years mucking with computers.

Any of us techie types evaluating the Sugar interface based on our own experience can only provide broken analysis because most of us can not clearly remember that first time seeing a mouse and resulting cursor movement. Heck, these days, the younger techie types can't concieve of a non-mouse interface (anyone remember lightpens?).

In short, none of us here can accurately evaluate the Sugar interface. Remember also that it's *nix underneath; how long do you figure it will take for the XO owning kids who share our love of computers too change the UI to something the prefer more?

Reply Score: 1

mat69 Member since:
2006-03-29

Even now, it's hard to teach most people a new program on the same old UI they've always used (MS only users, I mean you) without them feeling overwelmed; a kid who's never seen a mouse and is suddenly dropped into a full KDE/GNOME/IE or osX UI is going is not going to just pick it up.

It seems you are mostly talking about people that allready adopted to a system and are maybe older than 30. I'm talking about children. Children can manage DOS, they can manage Windows they can even manage to learn different languages at the same time.

Children can do a lot more you seem to think.
So instead of teaching them a "language" (UI principle) none speaks they should learn something "international", not that they have to adopt later on when learning is not so easy anymore.

And I bet a child you show how to start a little game/a program to toy with will remember the steps to do so very fast.

It's true that it is not that easy to navigate a computer without reading skills, but children will remember the icons and the shape of the words they have to press in the menu to get to a game they like very fast.
Hell, children beat most grown ups in playing memory, they won't have a problem to remember such little pieces.

Overall: Children rule. ;)

Reply Score: 1

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

"
It seems you are mostly talking about people that allready adopted to a system and are maybe older than 30. I'm talking about children. Children can manage DOS, they can manage Windows they can even manage to learn different languages at the same time.
"

I remember learning Dos and thinking I broke the secret code when I discovered that the neat menu system was a collection of batch files I could edit. I'm also watching my first born go through the natural learning process currently. Oh, I don't doubt how fast kids will learn and that's why I say that the kids who take interest in computers will very quickly and easily be able to change the UI. Not all of them are going to be interested in computers though, for many, the device will be a tool that provides them with content on the topic they are interested in.

But the point is still that the basic UI bridges language barriers and provides an overwhelming introduction to computer use for people who have never considered the concept of mouse and GUI. It's for the youngest school children and initial introduction to them and older school children as well as there parents.

The interface provides access to the devices native functions in a manner that doesn't require children to learn words from other languages. I personally think and understanding if not more complete knowledge of multiple languages is very beneficial but that also shouldn't be forced. (there is already some uproar over us westerners forcing our version of history and other texts on the recipients. a language neutral UI helps overcome that initial fear)

I'm not saying all kids are dim and need to be hand held. I'm just saying that maybe Sugar is very well designed for it's purpose rather than simply slapped together and as restrictive as us full UI users are accustomed too.

Reply Score: 1

Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

I remember very, very clearly how confused I was the first time I sat down at a Windows 3.1 PC. And when I imagine the same situation sitting down at a PC with the sugar interface, where all of the icons are *EXTREMELY VAGUE* and there are no words to tell me if an icon is going to do something good or totally f@!k everything up, I get the impression that the Sugar interface will make the feeling of being lost significantly *more* pronounced, not less.

Then again, I can't say, because even if I were to try Sugar out now, I'm not a real first-time user. The only way to test it out for real is to use real kids who have never touched a computer. Why they didn't actually test things in this manner *before* releasing this device to the masses is beyond me. It seems like things ended up being more about politics and getting to market in time to beat the competition, than about truly coming up with the ideal tool. (Of course, the main competition-- Microsoft--did absolutely jack-squat to make their product more suitable, so it's not like they're any better.)

Don't get me wrong, the hardware is incredible, no doubt about it. It's just the software that strikes me as half-baked. Hopefully it gets better *very soon*.

Edited 2008-01-19 19:27 UTC

Reply Score: 2

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

True, the software can always improve. I'm also waiting to see how it develops when it gets out into real use other than the few test deployments. Just think about those few kids who are going to take to comp eng. Watch the next Linus come form some remote village in five years and blow everyone away with programming learned through self directed exploration.

Reply Score: 1

You are missing the point
by Samhain on Thu 17th Jan 2008 22:51 UTC
Samhain
Member since:
2005-07-06

Although I agree with some of the points you are making from my use with the XO (mine arrived 2 days ago) you are pretty much missing the point of this device.

You are reviewing this as a consumer electronics device. Telling what is missing before you would recommend going out and buying one of these. They are NOT for sale. You are never going to buy one. So the developers don't really care that it is missing the multi-media features that you want.

The OLPC is designed to be given away, and it will be given away as an educational tool, not something to play video's or mp3's with.

Does it still need work as an educational tool? Yes it does, but I bet the OLPC developers are going to work on those things and not your multi-media requirements.

Now, the device is open source. And this means that someone else (maybe even you) could indeed put some other OS on it that does the things you want. Open source is kind of cool that way. So if this is what you want then show us the code. I don't think the OLPC people are going to, and I don't think the kids in Mongolia that they are giving these too (remember it is not for sale in the west, will not be, and is not designed to be!) will care.

Reply Score: 10

RE: You are missing the point
by mat69 on Thu 17th Jan 2008 23:25 UTC in reply to "You are missing the point"
mat69 Member since:
2006-03-29

Well I thought it was for sale in the west.
Buy two and get one or something like that, where the second OX is given to a child in a poor country.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: You are missing the point
by Samhain on Fri 18th Jan 2008 00:53 UTC in reply to "RE: You are missing the point"
Samhain Member since:
2005-07-06

They are not really selling them. That is not what the "Give one, get one" campaign is all about.

They need money to finish the project and in order to get donations they promise to give you one and give one to a child. It is a limited time offer to raise capital, but the laptops were never designed to be sold and it is not supposed to continue.

Even still. That is missing the point that the laptop is designed for educational purposes and not as a media computer for consumer use.

But you can make it that if you wish.

Reply Score: 3

Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

That is missing the point that the laptop is designed for educational purposes and not as a media computer for consumer use.


Computer-based educational programs generally ~do~ include multimedia files and presentations. Playing/displaying a wide variety of media files types is critical for computers in an educational setting.

Reply Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

It's still not a consumer gadget. The buy one give one is/was a great promotional event but the XO is not designed to be a consumar product. This continues to be a concept that us techie types can't seem to comprehend.

It's not a hardware project, it's a hardware supported education project. It's not a consumer product for us spoiled EU/North American kids to play the latest DivX on, it's a hardware tool specialized too the purpose it's meant to support.

Reply Score: 1

RE: You are missing the point
by dagw on Fri 18th Jan 2008 10:23 UTC in reply to "You are missing the point"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

Video and mp3 playback is an absolute must for education. For example one of the best way to learn a new language is to listen to that langauge. Watching a movie in English, subtitled in your local language is amazingly effective way to improve your vocabulary, once you've got the basics of the language down.

Secondly there is an amazing wealth of educational videos and lectures on the web in both video and sound format. Letting potentially interested kids have access to these could be an amazing resource for them.

Reply Score: 2

desNotes Member since:
2006-05-26

There is a program starting in the U.S. where the XO laptop is being available to kids.

9 Jan 2008

OLPC America already has a director and a chairman, and will likely be based in Washington D.C., said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC, in an interview.

"The whole thing is merging right now. It will be state-centric. We're trying to do it through the 50 state governments," he said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/infoworld/20080109/tc_infoworld/94487;_ylt=...

So your wish has come true!!

Reply Score: 2

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

I think it comes down to the want to learn. You have kids in places where learning supplies are very limited but the desire to learn is very strong in those kids. You have other places like here where learning supplies are overflowing but the desire to learn is missing. "Math is hard" is the montra, "I want to be just like Britney and Paris".

Our current generation ignoring math and sciences is a symptom of something other than what hardware is available to them for learning. Look at all the people who run screaming from the thought of FOSS because, again, "math is hard" and self learning is scary.

(anyone remember when hollywood celebrities had to have talent. They where all tripple threat dancers, singers and actors not too long ago.. that's changed.)

Reply Score: 1

OLPC Screenshots
by lqsh on Thu 17th Jan 2008 23:30 UTC
lqsh
Member since:
2007-01-01
RE: OLPC Screenshots
by Laurence on Thu 17th Jan 2008 23:58 UTC in reply to "OLPC Screenshots"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

I know this is designed for kids, but how big does the pointer need to be!? It's bigger than the icons.

Reply Score: 5

Firefox?
by cromo on Thu 17th Jan 2008 23:50 UTC
cromo
Member since:
2006-06-17

I stopped reading at the "The browser should be replaced by Firefox" statement. Yeah. I can see in my imagination children waiting couple of minutes for it to open. Not mentioning the energy waste.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Firefox?
by helf on Fri 18th Jan 2008 00:21 UTC in reply to "Firefox?"
helf Member since:
2005-07-06

LOL... wow, I haven't even read the article yet. Maybe I won't, now. Sounds like a moron wrote it.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Firefox?
by Bobthearch on Fri 18th Jan 2008 02:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Firefox?"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

The review seemed like a balanced write-up that contained both positive and negative comments. Most of the critisisms, if true, were more balanced and relevent than the OSNews comments would have you believe.

The browser, for example. The writer wasn't just whining that his favorite browser wasn't included with the XO; he was highlighting browser features, really basic stuff, that were missing in the XO's browser choice.

I recommend you read the review for yourself.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Firefox?
by Decius on Fri 18th Jan 2008 07:25 UTC in reply to "Firefox?"
Decius Member since:
2006-01-03

I stopped reading at the "The browser should be replaced by Firefox" statement. Yeah. I can see in my imagination children waiting couple of minutes for it to open. Not mentioning the energy waste.


I didn't stop reading, but when he said that Opera was already available, IMHO probably the best portable browser out there(and certainly one of the best for low-power systems), I did think that his browser complaints were baseless and his review skewed.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Firefox?
by NxStY on Fri 18th Jan 2008 09:17 UTC in reply to "Firefox?"
NxStY Member since:
2005-11-12

It already has the firefox browser, only with a different UI, and obviously it doesn't have those problems. What the author wants is the full firefox UI with the keyboard shortcuts and tabs etc.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Firefox?
by Tim Locke on Fri 18th Jan 2008 14:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Firefox?"
Tim Locke Member since:
2006-03-23

I read on the OLPC Wiki that the included Firefox does have tabs. Haven't tried it on mine yet.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Firefox?
by renox on Fri 18th Jan 2008 10:19 UTC in reply to "Firefox?"
renox Member since:
2005-07-06

Yes, it was dumb by the author to suggest using FF on the OLPC (not enough resources): but his point that the current web browser on the OLPC suck is a real issue if true.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Firefox?
by NxStY on Fri 18th Jan 2008 11:50 UTC in reply to "RE: Firefox?"
NxStY Member since:
2005-11-12

Actually the XO-browser basically is firefox with a different UI. What he wants is the full UI with tabs and everything. Firefox isn't as bloated as some people think.

Reply Score: 2

XO Laptop
by Different on Fri 18th Jan 2008 04:23 UTC
Different
Member since:
2007-07-03

Perhaps the UI was purposely made that way to be more kid friendly

Not being able to play multimedia content is a step towards the back. Kids love flashy stuff ;)

Perhaps it's able to install rdesktop then we will be able to play multimedia through Windows environment such as ThinServer XP

http://www.rdesktop.org
http://www.aikotech.com/thinserver.htm

Reply Score: 0

RE: XO Laptop
by Bobthearch on Fri 18th Jan 2008 04:52 UTC in reply to "XO Laptop"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

Yep, I doubt there's a kid anywhere who doesn't want to play mp3 files and u-Tube movies. That's a significant omission. Other standard media file types are reportedly not supported either. FYI to the OLPC folks, distributed educational materials generally contain multimedia presentations!

But the biggest problems I see are more fundamental:

* How can anyone learn to use a computer without being familiar with folders and subfolders? Being able to store, organize, and retrieve data is critical for any job or educational task. The XO file method looks like a real mess, and reportedly doesn't even work correctly.

* Hardware/software problems. Here's a computer long overdue and quadrupled in price, but yet there's defective hardware, and software that doesn't work like it should. Just how would OLPC issue mass refunds or recall repairs for millions of computers distributed to remote locations around the world?

* Why does it take five times longer to boot than the Eee?

* Why is the XO purposefully designed to make running non-included apps difficult? Should children really be expected to launch additional programs via the terminal? And how difficult is it going to be to install those programs in the first place?

One additional topic I wish the reviewer would have "touched" on, how responsive is the keyboard? Do the keys promote proper typing and have a good solid Click? Or are they spongy with no tactile feedback, like the chicklet keyboards from past decades?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: XO Laptop
by Darkelve on Fri 18th Jan 2008 06:38 UTC in reply to "RE: XO Laptop"
Darkelve Member since:
2006-02-06

I bet the children in those countries have bigger worries than getting uTube movies and mp3 files to play. Things like those are a luxury, while having the ability to learn is essential.

Although of course uTube and mp3's (or better, oggs) can be educational too.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: XO Laptop
by Finalzone on Fri 18th Jan 2008 08:25 UTC in reply to "RE: XO Laptop"
Finalzone Member since:
2005-07-06

The flawed assumption is to think the XO as another laptop. That is mostly Western mindset. You can find document on www.laptop.org or wiki.laptop.org that should cover some question. I will try to answer some below.

Yep, I doubt there's a kid anywhere who doesn't want to play mp3 files and u-Tube movies. That's a significant omission. Other standard media file types are reportedly not supported either. FYI to the OLPC folks, distributed educational materials generally contain multimedia presentations!


You mean for developing countries which are OLPC? Most of them don't have the concept about mp3. Remember the OLPC only bundles free and uncumbered patent format which is the logical decision. There is an application called OggConvert that allow to convert proprietary audio/format formats into ogg so it is a no-issue.

* How can anyone learn to use a computer without being familiar with folders and subfolders? Being able to store, organize, and retrieve data is critical for any job or educational task. The XO file method looks like a real mess, and reportedly doesn't even work correctly.


You think too much into the old semantic. One keyword, share. The XO is desgined to share between other XOs. To transfer a critical file you worked, simply insert either a USB pendrive or a SD card, access to Journal activities (it contains saved files from different applications, drag the file into media icon. Granted Journal activites does not have folders concept outside the XO, you can address the issue through bug report. The XO still uses Unix method in the background.


* Hardware/software problems. Here's a computer long overdue and quadrupled in price, but yet there's defective hardware, and software that doesn't work like it should. Just how would OLPC issue mass refunds or recall repairs for millions of computers distributed to remote locations around the world?


You talk about Give One Get One program where you donate one XO you receive one. It already ended since the end of 2007 and there is plan to launch similar program in Europe. You will be surprised the XO is fairly easy to repair. XO value is USD 200 which should drop to USD 100 in a few years..

* Why does it take five times longer to boot than the Eee?

The operating system is not fully optimized yet. It is unavoidable that some new features cause regression. Now that number of XO reached some public, expect a much faster optimization and bug fixes.

* Why is the XO purposefully designed to make running non-included apps difficult? Should children really be expected to launch additional programs via the terminal? And how difficult is it going to be to install those programs in the first place?


There is a bunch activities (applications ) for XO available from wiki.laptorp.org in .xo format. It is clear if you run a non-xo version application, then you will have to go through terminal.

One additional topic I wish the reviewer would have "touched" on, how responsive is the keyboard? Do the keys promote proper typing and have a good solid Click? Or are they spongy with no tactile feedback, like the chicklet keyboards from past decades?


Very responsive although the keyboard is small and get some used to.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: XO Laptop
by Bobthearch on Fri 18th Jan 2008 17:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: XO Laptop"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

* How can anyone learn to use a computer without being familiar with folders and subfolders? Being able to store, organize, and retrieve data is critical for any job or educational task. The XO file method looks like a real mess, and reportedly doesn't even work correctly.

You think too much into the old semantic. One keyword, share. The XO is desgined to share between other XOs. To transfer a critical file you worked, simply insert either a USB pendrive or a SD card, access to Journal activities (it contains saved files from different applications, drag the file into media icon. Granted Journal activites does not have folders concept outside the XO, you can address the issue through bug report. The XO still uses Unix method in the background.


I understand the concept of sharing, and how one of the primary features of the XO is to allow multiple users to network together and complete group projects. But without a method of organizing data and files, the materials from Project #1, Project #2, and the user's personal files are all jumbled together into the same "Journal." That's not productive or logical.

At least that's the way the review describes it. Perhaps someone could clarify if that's not correct?

Reply Score: 1

XO vs Kimble
by aliquis on Fri 18th Jan 2008 05:07 UTC
aliquis
Member since:
2005-07-23

Doesn't this laptop cost much less than Amazons e-bookread? I understand it's bulkier but doesn't it beat Amazons offering at all other things? The screen seems rather nice.

Reply Score: 1

RE: XO vs Kimble
by Bobthearch on Fri 18th Jan 2008 05:20 UTC in reply to "XO vs Kimble"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

The price is the same, $400. I haven't seen either product in real life to compare the screens, but the XO's does appear to be superior based on product photos; at least the XO has color. The battery run time is a large advantage of the Amazon product, as is the flat design and connectivity that utilizes cell phone signals instead of Wi-Fi. But the Amazon Kindle is a one-pony show, it displays text and is capabable of nothing else.

Reply Score: 2

Ugh, another misinformed review
by adricnet on Fri 18th Jan 2008 07:48 UTC
adricnet
Member since:
2005-07-01

The first sentence is a dead giveaway that the gentleman did not know what he was talking about, since he said that XO was available at retail, and that they cost 400. Neither was or is true.

It hardly seems worth continuing to explain how he went wrong, since the rest of the article merely compares the XO to an Asus Eeee for his usage patterns and obliquely fails to mention any of the reasons for the differences.

No fact checking, completely off base, and generally disappointing from the Reg. I expect better from them, or at least more sarcasm. The handful of comments are worse, mostly.

Reply Score: 2