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OLPC's UI To Be Kid-Tested In February 140

Posted by kdawson
from the nice-day-in-the-neighborhood dept.
dfoulger writes "The AP is reporting that kid testing of Negroponte's '$100 Laptop' starts in February. This article is some of the first mainstream coverage of just how different the user interface of the XO Computer is — it ditches the traditional office metaphors in favor of a 'neighborhood' and an activity-based journaling approach. Video of Sugar, as the UI is called, has been out on the net for a while, and Popular Science recently gave the color / monochrome display a 'Grand Award' in its 2006 technology roundup. What do you think of this new UI?"
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OLPC's UI To Be Kid-Tested In February

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  • Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

    This is why countries like Japan and China kick the crap out of us in terms of education - they don't have this Montessori approach to education.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:49PM (#17423520) Homepage Journal
      ``Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.''

      And then, after that? Wouldn't it be nice if they could use their reading and writing skills to enter the global information highway? Get access to the wealth of information on the web? Share their own stories and content?

      There seems to be a misconception that countries in which computers aren't widespread also don't have high literacy. This is not true. Libya, one of the countries that signed up for OLPC has very high literacy; in fact, many Libyans have higher education. From what I'm told, Russia is another country with near-universal literacy, but without universal access to computers. I bet there are others.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by wishmechaos (841912)

        I bet there are others.

        Argentina, one of the other countries which signed for a million OLPCs, has a 97.1% literacy rate, according to the CIA World Factbook [cia.gov]:

        definition: age 15 and over can read and write
        total population: 97.1%
        male: 97.1%
        female: 97.1% (2003 est.)

        but only 1/3rd of the population has internet access

        • by Aczlan (636310)
          having recently gotten back from spending 2 years in argentina I would have to disagree with the internet access numbers, if you are talking about internet access in the home it is much less than 1/3, if you are talking about being able to go to a cybercafe and use a computer than the whole nation can
          • You're right about that, home internet access is much less, but there also aren't cybercafes everywhere, so I wouldn't dare to say the whole nation can get internet access. 1/3rd of the country are internet users.
            • by Aczlan (636310)
              in the parts I was in there were cybercafes everywhere from downtown rosario to the suburbs to in colon, and even the small towns have 2 or 3, they are in everything from commercial buildings to in peoples garages...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dfoulger (1044592)
        Actually, many countries claim to have 90 plus percent literacy, even those that supply as little as one year of education. When literacy figures are yes/no, the claims tend to be that they are quite high.

        The extent of literacy is more important.

        There, access to reading materials is important. For many countries, a town full of $200 laptops would be cheaper than building and maintaining a library with any significant amount of reading material.

        That's were the 3R people are missing the point. A low cost c
        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          What's 3R? Reading, riting, and 'rithmetic?
          • by dfoulger (1044592)

            Yes, the fundamentals of education, according the the educational minimalists who like to strip public education of other subject matters, are Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, otherwise known as the 3R's.

            Isn't it wonderful that computers help us to teach all three ... and that the Internet provides access to a much wider range of knowledge?

    • by zr-rifle (677585) <zedr@zedrMOSCOW.com minus city> on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:53PM (#17423542) Homepage
      What does the laptop have to do with the Montessori method? If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?
      • by Phil-14 (1277) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:59PM (#17423582)
        I was unaware that the current US educational system had anything to do with Montessori methods to begin with.
      • by Dan East (318230)
        Let's see. Montessori schools are private, and tuition is tens of thousands per year (my step-sister has attended a Montessori for a number of years). So we can immediately assume that the student's parents are have at least marginally successful careers to afford the tuition. That would indicate that they are intelligent individuals, or at least have the drive, focus and work-ethic to provide a steady above-average income. Now, if we assume those attributes are hereditary, then we can see that the chil
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        > If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?

        Montessori schools are private, and thus get to select their students, so they don't ever have the inconvenience of anyone who might actually drive their averages down. They're also expensive, and the correlation between affluence and academic performance is pretty well known.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SeaFox (739806)
        If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?

        Correlation does not equal causation.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I agree. I'm not really sure how this is going to enhance learning. It is easy to waste a lot of time on gadgets when what you really need is quality time learning the multiplication table and working on reading comprehension. Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper. If you want to create a consumer culture that loves celebrity-gossip blogs and wants to chat online all the time, then maybe this thing is worthwhile. I actually can't think of a better way to pollute millions of childrens
      • by bbn (172659)
        "Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper." - Huh?! Why do you assume reading and writting is best done with stoneage methods?

        Looks to me, this thing will be great making kids interrested in reading more. I can just see everybody learning to use wikipedia at a young age to look things up. We definitly did not have that opportunity when I was in school.

        Sure, I could have gone to the library and looked something up. But having it instantly available is totally different.

        It should also be a gr
        • It should also be a great cost saver if it can replace old fasioned school books. I am sure a kid wears out more than $100 worth of books during school.

          Not if they're public domain, which applies just as much to digital versions.

          Beyond that, computers require a lot of maintenance. I believe the current estimate for the TCO of an OLPC laptop is $1000. And you have to get one for every person, unlike books, where you only need to get enough to share around. And they don't last as long as normal books when given the same degree of care.

          • by burns210 (572621)

            Not if they're public domain, which applies just as much to digital versions.
            The biggest cost of textbooks for countries interested in the OLPC (Mexico is the example I heard), is printing the hardcopy in sufficient quantity, not getting the material available for the book. A digital version makes replications costs near 0.

            Beyond that, computers require a lot of maintenance.
            Modern computers, yes. But they have things like moving parts (fans, harddrives) and high heat output... And Windows. All thing

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        It is easy to waste a lot of time on gadgets when what you really need is quality time learning the multiplication table and working on reading comprehension. Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper.

        Are you sure? Reading comprehension can be improved if you have access to a large library of eBooks, and an on-board dictionary; click on any word you don't know in the eBook, and get a definition of it. If that's all it takes, most children would probably click and then they learn something. If they have to go and find a paper dictionary and look up a word in it then they wouldn't bother.

        As for multiplication tables, I think it would be easier to learn them if the computer could perform testing (i.e.

      • by fferreres (525414)
        My dad bought me a computer when I was 8. I used it to play. Afterwards, I become a little more interested. I learned a bit of english (learning to read well), and found a lot of interesting thing to do. Also, having a laptop as a child at 8 means not that much. Having a laptop in a poor country makes a difference. I't will become a status thing. Kids will get interested. And as with books, many will put them to no good use, but the ones that do, will be able to get interested than something else than soap
    • by MikeFM (12491) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:02PM (#17423614) Homepage Journal
      Sadly, the three Rs are not enough to create a strong workforce. Computers are the most flexible and therefore most important tool we have and therefore it is important to learn. It also gives incredible access to a huge library of information and powerful communication tools. I'd say learning to read, do basic math, and use a computer should be the basics of education. As for writing I guess it's a cute historical footnote but not overly important. I'd teach basic block letters and of course grammar and spelling but wouldn't waste time on learning cursive.
    • Maria Montessori's children's houses took in children from a range of ages, sometimes kindergarten age, and the things they taught included basic reading and writing and even how to tie shoelaces; not that different from what you'd find in a non-Montessori kindergarten.

      Japanese education isn't necessarily a paragon of excellence, either. The system of English language teaching has hardly changed in 50 years, and despite its relative wealth, Japan is near the bottom of the league tables for English ability i
    • I'm more for efficiency > idea. Being left handed has lead me down a path with a natural tendency to ditch hand writing. By six years old I was telling mom that I wouldn't need to write with my hands because of computers. Now I'm 18, can hardly write more than my name without a computer, and having no problem. The most trouble I have in school when it comes to writing is the hand written SAT essay. I really don't see why we would worry about writing by hand anymore. I see it as simply clinging to t
    • by mysticgoat (582871) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:36PM (#17424496) Homepage Journal

      Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

      And why does parent post think this excludes learning with a computer?

      My daughter enjoyed programs I wrote in Applesoft on an Apple ][ that helped her learn her alphabet and basic counting when she was 3 and 4 years old. She was reading before she entered first grade.

      Certainly the most critical part of it was her mother schooling her. But she also has vivid and pleasant memories of playing with that old Apple. The computer was of definite value to her as part of a broad learning experience.

      There can be no question that the OLPC computers will be an incredibly valuable adjunct in teaching kids the basic skills of literacy, and of how to learn.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        And why does parent post think this excludes learning with a computer?
        Exactly. What tool do you use the most for reading, writing, and arithmetic? For me it's a computer, hands down. (For leisure reading books still prevail, but then I can afford to buy and shelf them... otherwise a library of e-books would certainly beat nothing at all!).
    • Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

      You seem to think that a child is incapable of learning multiple things as they develop.

      ...they don't have this Montessori approach to education.

      And what exactly is wrong with the Montessori approach to education? Especially if the children are very young? Do you even know the philosophy behind Montessori education? Look it up on Wikipedia. Here's an excerpt:

      The Montessori method encourages independen

      • by Elentari (1037226)
        Hm, I went to a Montessori school when I was 3 years old, and I spent most of my time being taught the names of different shapes, letters of the alphabet, etc. Sort of contradicts your point.
        • No it doesn't. You may have went to a school claiming to be practicing the Montessori approach, but they weren't. Not if that's all they did.

          TLF
    • Learning only occurs when the learner is interested, which is why Montessori schools in the real world actually manage to produce well-educated people. I'm not sure what you're holding up as a good and functional alternative, but the traditional "do your math exercises" model has a strong negative effect - it teaches people that the topic being forced is not interesting or fun.

  • URL Bar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by duguk (589689) <dug.frag@co@uk> on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:46PM (#17423490) Homepage Journal
    I've just watched the video and it looks fairly good.

    Why is there no URL bar? It explains there isn't one but why not? Seems a bit of a problem for visiting specific sites as you'd have to use Google for everything it seems.

    Monkeyboi
    • Re:URL Bar (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nazgul_Cro (868869) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:33PM (#17423860) Journal
      There IS an url bar. It is just hidden behind the title bar. When you click on title bar, you can type regular URL.
      Too bad the video does not show it, it actually misleads a lot of people in thinking the same way you did :)
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by etelerro (945586)
        Next to "does not show it" the author clearly states it isn't there.. To try it yourself (and succeeding in finding the url-bar), go to the url: http://thefinalzone.blogspot.com/2006/10/running-o lpc-emulator.html [blogspot.com] In short, get Q-Emu running and download the image from: http://olpc.download.redhat.com/olpc/streams/devel opment/ [redhat.com]
      • by dfoulger (1044592)

        Here and in other discussions you seem to be speaking from direct knowledge when you talk about this. Can it be reasonably presumed that you have used the browser as it is delivered with the XO Computers UI and it does in fact work as advertised. That would put an end to back on forth on the issue.

        Beyond that, it seems clear, looking at the OLPC laptop wiki ( http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Web_Browser [laptop.org]) that it is possible to install other browsers, including other modifications of GECKO (e.g. Firefox). I ass

        • Here and in other discussions you seem to be speaking from direct knowledge when you talk about this. Can it be reasonably presumed that you have used the browser as it is delivered with the XO Computers UI and it does in fact work as advertised. That would put an end to back on forth on the issue.

          I have used qemu emulated image of OLPC, and I played around with Sugar. There are some issues I had with it, my screen size was funky, and I didn't manage to get the emulated networking running, so I couldn't really surf, but I got a good look on the software from non-networked perspective.

          I can, however, confirm 100% that you can type URLs manually.

          It's just that unusual OLPC design... Our regular browsers display the URL bar, and we got title displayed on our browser window bar. Since Sugar doesn'

  • Video (Score:1, Redundant)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
    Does anybody have a video file of that that can be downloaded and played in, say, MPlayer?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm waiting until it's mother-approved!
  • Not blown away (Score:3, Interesting)

    by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:53PM (#17423540)
    I understand why they did it but as a rule I hate icon based systems. I have a CG software I was trying to use that went that route. In that case they went too small with the icons to cram more in so they look like colored blobs. Instead of glancing at text I find I waste most of my time holding the cursor over icon after icon waiting for the roll over text to tell me what the function is. I was also surprised they were boasting of no text bar on the browser. Leaves you at the mercy of the search engine. In may be better for kids starting out the way they laid it out but how does it give them an education in computers when it doesn't teach them how any other computer on the planet works? They'd be better off with a ten year old Windows machine or far better off with a current Linux system. Nice idea but it seems completely pointless.
    • by steveha (103154)
      I have a CG software... [that] went too small with the icons to cram more in... I waste most of my time holding the cursor over icon after icon waiting for the roll over text to tell me what the function is.

      Well, clearly the OLPC folks didn't make that mistake. They have a small number of large icons.

      The OLPC approach makes a few functions very discoverable, with the tradeoff that the user will need to go to a dialog to do more tasks. For example, on my word processor I can make a bulleted list with one c
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *
        Also, because the OLPC DE runs under Python, the DE can be precompiled Python bytecodes, which presumably take up less memory space than native compiled code. (Note that this whole paragraph is a guess; I welcome comments from someone who actually knows whether I got it right.)

        The size of the code wasn't the reason for using interpreted code; the important thing is that the kids can look at it and see how it works.

    • by Chyeld (713439)
      Text is nice, till you have to localize it. Remember this isn't going to be used soley by English speaking people. Using icons has the advantage of being accessible to all without as much risk of the "Bite the Wax Tadpole" [snopes.com] or Engrish pitfalls.
  • by stubear (130454) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:57PM (#17423570)
    I think Microsoft Bob might have been a better choice for the UI.
  • by kebes (861706) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:58PM (#17423578) Journal
    First off, I'm a big supporter of the OLPC project. I think it's a fantastic idea that will do alot of good.

    The UI they have created (see video) seems like a strange choice, however. It is a very simple and seemingly restrictive interface. It appears childish and maybe even somewhat insulting to the user. I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers (not merely use them as applicances), and (2) encourage them to tinker/modify the system.

    With regard to (1) it should be clear that providing a contrived UI specifically tailored to 'kid tasks' may be useful for the first week, but ultimately is a disservice to the children, as they are not learning about the true power and beauty of computers. They are not learning about modern computer capabilities or conventions if they are stuck in a primitive UI.

    With regard to (2), my understanding was that Linux was chosen as the OS specifically because it allows for the students to modify, tinker, extent, and customize. The idea was that (unlike with a proprietary OS), they would be able to learn about the inner functions of computers and become truly interested and skilled with computer work. A simplistic UI that hides the true behind-the-scenes working of the computer hardly accomplishes this goal.

    I may be mistaken about the UI. Perhaps what we see in the demonstration is an introductory UI that will be used by very young students (with a more normal GUI and system behind the scenes? ... accessible to students if they have the desire/skill to use it?). Hopefully that simple UI can be switched to a 'real' UI and this will be done for all but the youngest students.

    Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface?
    • It seems like perhaps the concepts of "modern" and "what I already know" are being confused. If anything, it is a more modern interface and could be a model for future UI enhancements to "modern" desktops and a source of new ideas.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      While I agree with your overall sentiments, I think some moderation is appropriate. Disclaimer: I can't watch the video, so I don't know what the actual UI looks and works like.

      ``I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers''

      Yes, but who's to say that's not what's happening? The UI paradigm expressed by OLPC may be different from the desktop metaphor of Windows and OS X, but that makes it no less real. The OLPC computer is also a different b
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tim C (15259)
      Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS.

      My daughter is 7. From time to time, I let her use my PC (other times, I can't stop her...). In XP Pro, she's figured out how to:

      * Log on using her mother's account (the password is trivial, it's her name)
      * Change her display picture
      * Change the password
      * Fire up Firefox and surf to a couple of her favourite sites (others she has to ask for help)
      * Send voice clips using Live Messenger

      She worke
      • by billcopc (196330)
        Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for

        You're absolutely right. That's because we were kids once, and we know all the brains go down the drain after puberty. By falsely labeling children as stupid, we are mentally preparing them for the worst years of their lives. It's far easier to set a low expectation and meet it, than set high expectations and have to explain the shortcomings.

        Long story short, kids are smart, just don't tell them I told you so.
    • by LnxAddct (679316)
      Some would argue that we should be doing away with traditional interfaces, and that computers should in fact act exactly like appliances. I think you'll see interfaces getting simpler, hopefully more like this. The way interfaces are now is terrible. Also, the interface is designed in such a way to accommodate the underlying hardware. It is a pretty basic machine and the UI lets you do with it what you can.
      Regards,
      Steve
    • >Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface? Give these to kids, and I'm sure in a week they'll have escaped out of the UI to a shell so they can send comprimising videos of their classmates across the neighbourhood.
    • So why the simplistic interface?
      It's a plot by Microsoft to sell upgrades :-)

      -ch
    • by quantaman (517394)

      First off, I'm a big supporter of the OLPC project. I think it's a fantastic idea that will do alot of good.

      The UI they have created (see video) seems like a strange choice, however. It is a very simple and seemingly restrictive interface. It appears childish and maybe even somewhat insulting to the user.

      Actually I was quite impressed by the interface. Note that these computers are being put in environments where it's quite possible that there is no one has ever used a computer before. With no one to show them the ropes it's essential that the interface be as simple as possible otherwise the teacher may just decide not to use them.

      I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers (not merely use them as applicances), and (2) encourage them to tinker/modify the system.

      With regard to (1) it should be clear that providing a contrived UI specifically tailored to 'kid tasks' may be useful for the first week, but ultimately is a disservice to the children, as they are not learning about the true power and beauty of computers. They are not learning about modern computer capabilities or conventions if they are stuck in a primitive UI.

      With regard to (2), my understanding was that Linux was chosen as the OS specifically because it allows for the students to modify, tinker, extent, and customize. The idea was that (unlike with a proprietary OS), they would be able to learn about the inner functions of computers and become truly interested and skilled with computer work. A simplistic UI that hides the true behind-the-scenes working of the computer hardly accomplishes this goal.

      I may be mistaken about the UI. Perhaps what we see in the demonstration is an introductory UI that will be used by very young students (with a more normal GUI and system behind the scenes? ... accessible to students if they have the desire/skill to use it?). Hopefully that simple UI can be switched to a 'real' UI and this will be done for all but the youngest students.

      Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface?

      The demo didn't address this but I'm sure there is a way they can customize the system and start tinkering around. However, note that they don't exactly have skilled Linux users

    • There is a terminal available and several compilers, it lacks the more powerful IDEs but it has Vi etc.

      Some issues I found while using it.

      Battery Seating Issues, some problems with startup and poor compatibility with 802.11b/g routers. The Keyboard is pretty uncomfortable, they might need to spend a bit of time working on it. The three mouse buttons don't work particularly well...

      It's surprisingly responsive and fast (Probably the flash disk) and lots of fun, it's quite heavy.

      My buddy got one, he's
      • by timeOday (582209)
        So you have seen the hardware? Did you get to try the screen in daylight? Could you compare it to transflective color LCDs used in e.g. GPS receivers? I would love a better reflective display technology, similar to paper.
        • Somewhat better, under halogens it was about the same.

          It's not as good as paper.

          In black and white mode it's better under both.

          Remember this was a beta unit, the real result will help.
  • Wrong focus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PurifyYourMind (776223) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:03PM (#17423626) Homepage
    They need to test with adults. There's a reason there's a cliche of "my kid fixed the VCR, computer, etc."--because kids' brains are sponges for new stimuli. They're still forming their how-the-world-works schemas and can easily adapt to new things. Adults, even ones who haven't used computers, are going to have more fixed ways of going about things, less willing to learn new concepts, less patient, less curious (just as a general rule.. I've known some older people who are insatiable learners).
    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      Okay i agree with each individual statement, but I don't understand how you then came to conclusion that they should test with adults.

      You do realise that these are _for_ the children, right?
      • by k_187 (61692)
        Kids will be more receptive to the differences in UI that will be present. The grandparent assumes that it will be more difficult for an adult to learn how to use the OLPC.
        • by JohnFluxx (413620)
          So? Why does it matter at all even if it's impossible for adults to learn?
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Teachers are generally adults.
          • by k_187 (61692)
            Presumably, children won't be the only ones to use it. Thus, making the UI impossible for anyone to learn would be a bad thing.
            • by JohnFluxx (413620)
              I think you are presuming too much... The One Laptop Per Child project is very much for the children. They aren't supposed to be designed for adults to use - but the children. Hence the name.

              Besides, I'm sure if an adult really wanted to use one, they could always get their kid to show them.

  • Looks to have a little less power and user friendliness than a Mac Plus circa 1986. The word processor is just a joke. It reminds me of the horrible times I had trying to get text to format correctly with the limited alignment and font options they used to have.
    • ... in 2006 word processors are easy to use and do exactly what you want and are so simple that your 70 year old [grand]mom can figure them out by herself while sipping tea.

      In some 2006 in some other alternate universe, that is.

      *shaking head*

      The reality disconnect here gets pretty bad at times.
    • Word processor is a version of AbiWord. It has all the options you would require, hidden within menus :)
  • Icon Collision? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by a.phoenicis (1026040)
    I find it truly amazing that nobody on the development team realized the obvious icon collision with their primary symbol... the "child" splat and this much older, and more universal symbol [aapcc.org].
    • by dfoulger (1044592)
      Interesting observation. Hard to change at this point, as it is the name of the machine (the XO computer), but it does raise interesting issues of language and interpretation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wombert (858309)
      I thought it odd that they have a few too many similar icons -

      Circle+X in a circle = Home / kid splat
      X in a circle = Close/end task
      X-with-arrows in a circle = Move

      I din't like having to depend on mouseovers to figure out which symbol I'm looking at each time ... maybe they've addressed this with consistent placement (the "close task" circle always in a predictable location?) but it still seems a bit overloaded as a result of the simplified icons.
    • by macz (797860)
      Looks more like the Cingular logo [google.com]
  • The thing that was most noticeable about the prototype was the triple wide touch pad. It's useful for alphanumeric writing practice and character input for non keyboard compatible languages. The keyboard had better than expected tactile response. The screen was small and a bit dark, but very legible. The unit felt rugged and was quite light. I'll likely buy them for my young children when they become available
  • If they're only just involving children in the design process then they're product is doomed not to be user friendly.
  • Much like Windows is a rip-off^W^W inspired on Mac OS, that Candy interface looks rather similar to Kai's Power Tools. But is that good or bad? I'm not sure...
  • Finally, we'll get to see what that thing can really do.

    I wonder how long untill it will get Mother Approved.
  • Review (Score:4, Funny)

    by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdot.sbyrne@org> on Monday January 01, 2007 @06:08PM (#17425378) Homepage Journal
    I downloaded the QEMU image and converted it to VMWare and ran two copies, which I named Tom and Dick. There are some neat ideas. Tom opens the web browser and goes to slashdot.org. Tom shares the web browser. Dick looks at the neighborhood view and sees Tom with a shared web browser. Dick clicks on Tom's web browser. It opens up to . . . google. What happened to slashdot? Tom is still looking at slashdot. Tom closes the browser. Dick is still looking at google. Tom looks at the neighborhood view and sees Dick looking at his web browser still, so he clicks on it and gets slashdot. Dick can't close it. Tom can close it, but Dick is still looking at it. Ok, switch to console, killall -HUP sugar-shell. Now it behaves like it should. It is really pretty neat when it works.

    I guess this is pretty typical of how computers work. Throw 'em in the water, they'll learn to swim. Hopefully somebody was taught how to use ps, grep, and kill.
  • Many of the comments so far have suggested that the XO machines interface was limited, and it does appear that some things look more restrictive than they probably ought to be.

    Still, the thing that most struck me in the demo was how easy it was for kids to build applications using EToys, a "Logo, Smalltalk, Hypercard, and StarLogo" influenced (see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_EToys [laptop.org] "authoring system"/direct manipulation programming language. The demo didn't take that very far, unless you consider the

  • The article makes the process sound old fashioned and backwards; testing only after building it?!

    Surely the concepts have been tested and designed with kids beforehand and especially while building it?

    Kids are great to design together with, especially as they don't attempt to hide their dislikes or disorientation in a UI as much as adults tend to. And they can come up with really cool ideas, out of the blue. :)

    • by dfoulger (1044592)

      There clearly has been and is testing going on. Downloadable images of Sugar and the proposed software environment have been out for a while. Testing of etoys has been underway for a while as well. The other apps all appear to be adaptations of widely used Linux software and are in teh downloadable image.

      Documentation of stress testing for the XO computer (apparently already underway) can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Testing_checklist [laptop.org].

  • Etoys (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday January 01, 2007 @06:38PM (#17425674) Homepage Journal
    Cool, it has Etoys. :-) Etoys is amazing; a great way to get started with writing software, especially games. And it's a nice stepping stone to Smalltalk, which is a very nice programming language.
  • Looks like they're using Squeak. http://www.squeak.org/ [squeak.org]

    Looks like Negroponte is trying to resurrect Smalltalk :)

    (If the OLPC succeeds, that is.)

  • I don't understand the need to simplify the interface. Are the developers assuming that the kids who'll be getting them are somehow less able to learn than kids in our home countries?

    Everyone remembers their first computer, and gradually learning the possibilities, wanting to do more and more with it. Where's the oppurtunity for expanding this simple interface when they grow tired of looking at the same things?

    • Are the developers assuming that the kids who'll be getting them are somehow less able to learn than kids in our home countries?

      No. They are assuming they have to deal with a small screen.
  • by SimHacker (180785) * on Monday January 01, 2007 @08:56PM (#17427146) Homepage Journal

    I just received one of the OLPC beta test laptops, and I've played around with it and started porting some X11 software to run on it.

    The hardware is very nicely designed, and has a cool, unique look and feel, although it's in the very early stages and still has some rough edges and unfinished pieces.

    The touch pad doesn't currently work very well, due to a combination of hardware and software problems: the cursor jumps around and stalls, and the left and right sides (for writing with a stylus) are not currently active. But a USB mouse works just fine. The keyboard is hard for me to use because it's so tiny, but it's good for kids because it's simple and spill proof, and only requires a light touch.

    The screen turns around and folds over so you can use it in "book mode" without the keyboard or touch pad. The game controller buttons (and camera and microphone) on the screen are usable when it's in book mode. The round four-direction joystick pad and the triangle/square/circle/x game pad seem to send the same arrow key escape codes, and don't auto-repeat, but I think that's a matter of software that will be addressed in the future.

    The camera is on the right edge of the screen, and doesn't turn inwards, so your face appears at the edge of the screen instead of being centered. It would be nice for the camera to be centered at the top edge of the screen, but currently there is no any room for that, and it would require a redesign of the case. The directional pad sticks down sometimes when you rock it to the left, but I trust that and other problems will be shaken out in future versions of the hardware.

    There is an SD card reader hidden on the bottom on the screen, but no disk drives showed up when I typed "df" after I inserted an SD card, and the spring loaded ejector didn't work so I had to pull it out with my fingernails. Again, I expect this kind of software and hardware stuff to be fixed in later versions -- that's why they're doing this beta test: to shake out problems like that.

    The antennas are very cute, and give it an anthropomorphic look like a puppy dog's ears, that I think kids will dig. (Somebody's got to port XEyes, XNose and XMouth to OLCP so it has a face, to complete the look!) It took me a minute or so to figure out that they also function as latches to allow the screen to be opened. I was excited to open the screen the first time I saw it, but I was careful because didn't want to hurt it -- however, kids might break something by trying to pry the screen open before they figure out you have to rotate both antennas to unlatch the screen. I'm afraid that they might get broken off easily, and they're kind of clumsy when then laptop is in "book mode", if you don't tuck them in by opening the screen a bit so they will rotate around to their closed position. They don't latch the screen closed over the keyboard in book mode. When in laptop mode, the screen does not fold back as far as would be convenient. If you want to use a USB mouse or other USB device, external microphone or headphones, you must open up one or both of the antennae, which makes it more possible that they might get broken off.

    The screen is amazing. It's quite small, but extremely high resolution (200 dots per inch). The application I'm porting was designed for a large workstation screen, and it comes up with the text and graphics looking very tiny, but quite sharp. By default the display runs in 16 bit mode, at a resolution of 1200 x 900 (201x201 dots per inch resolution according to xdpyinfo). The supported depths are 16, 1, 4, 8, 15, 24 and 32.

    There are buttons on the keyboard that switch the display between color and monochrome mode, and control the brightness. The monochrome mode is handled by hardware -- the X server still thinks it's in 16 bit color mode, and the colors are translated to gray scales. However some of the monochrome gray levels show up as weird colors or diagonal cross hatching, unless the brightness is turned all the way down.

    Anywhere it

  • by Millenniumman (924859) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:21PM (#17427908)
    Personally, I don't find it easy to use at all. When it first boots up, you get a screen with a little symbol in the front. Clicking it does nothing. Eventually, if you happen to leave your cursor on the side of the screen, a little thing will pop up. You then have a few strange, ambiguous, unlabeled icons. Only one of them really indicates what it does (the chat one), and it probably wouldn't to people who had never seen a computer.

    Even if you figure out what those buttons do, the interface is very tedious. The only way to switch "activities" is to move your cursor to the side, wait, click a little, unlabeled button, and click another unlabeled, ambiguous button. In other systems you just click the (I'll admit, likely unlabeled) button on the taskbar/dock. It might seem like I'm complaining over nothing, but trying to, say, take notes off a web page in abiword would take much longer than with with a book, paper, and pencil, even assuming the person using it could type (unlikely).

    How is this easier than GNOME, KDE, Aqua, XFCE, or even Windows?
  • I know I am sceptical as to the real benefits of the One Laptop Per Child project as to it's contribution to fighting poverty in the world. It is possible for some time to download the virtual image of the OLPC Linux version and I decided to give it a test drive. The main criterium I looked for wass desktop usability. Does it make sense and will it make life easier on the kids that have to work with it.

    The main screen looks okay, but navigating it is very awkward. You have to move the mouse to the top and o
    • "I know I am sceptical as to the real benefits of the One Laptop Per Child project as to it's contribution to fighting poverty in the world"

      OLPC was never meant to fight poverty in the world, what is does do is provide low cost technology to people who could otherwize never afford it.

      "Does it make sense and will it make life easier on the kids that have to work with it"

      That remark smacks of white mans burden. Since when will working a computer make life difficult for these kids. If they are like

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