XO: Second Impression

Now that I’ve had more time to play with my XO, I feel like I can expand on my initial impressions of it. My impressions may also be hampered by the keyboard; I suspect that I have a case of the infamous “sticky keys” which have been plaguing the XOs, so I’m going to use it for another week or so and then decide if I need to ship it out for a new keyboard. Apparently there is a process for this, although given my general frustrations with OLPC, I’m hoping my keyboard settles down so that I don’t have to deal with it. Given the way I slam through keyboards on the desktop, I feel like a functioning keyboard is a pretty critical need for me (a replacement keyboard just arrived today for the one that’s crapping out on me; expect a review on that in the near future, since it was quite expensive and it’s supposed to be very good).

One complaint I see from a lot of users is that the XO is slow, and in comparison with a lot of computers, it is a bit slow. But it’s not intensely slow. It’s very easy to switch between activities (XO users who have not figured out the Alt+N trick should start using it, because it saves a lot of time). Booting up and shutting down are a bit slow, but not unbearably so; of course, I’m not one of those people who needs everything to work instantly, so maybe my impression there should be taken with a grain of salt. The activities launch quickly, and they are pretty speedy; the only time my XO has really lagged is when I’ve confused it.

I continue to be intrigued by the Sugar interface, which is very different. I actually kind of dig it. I don’t use my computer for anything terribly complex, and I like the simplicity of Sugar. It’s very straightforward, simple, and clear; even using the terminal is not terribly challenging, and this comes from someone who is not very adept with manipulating things from the terminal. Navigation from within Sugar is clear and logical; I’m actually rather surprised that people have had issues with it.

I’m sad to hear that OLPC is partnering with Windows, because I feel like that violates the organization’s open source goal. And I don’t think Windows is a good choice of OS for the XO. It’s bloated, it crashes, and, er, it’s not very good. Rather than trying to build a lean, stripped down version of windows, I think that OLPC needs to concentrate on refining Sugar (ha ha). To go back on the open-source pledge would be a pretty major compromise, in my opinion.

When I was at the coffeehouse with the XO the other night, a friend noticed that the networking capabilities are pretty formidable. Since this is one of the main features of the XO, it was nice to note that I could see six networks from Headlands while my friend could only see three, and I was getting a pretty strong signal from five of those networks. No other XO’s in the region, of course; I don’t think anyone else up here has one, which is kind of unfortunate, because I would like to play with the mesh networking and collaborative features of the XO.

I have not tested out the e-book reading mode yet; I know that’s a topic of interest to some people, but I don’t really do e-books, so I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. At some point I’ll need to open a lengthy .pdf and maybe I will check it out then, assuming my loathing for .pdfs can be overcome.

My major complaint about the XO at this point has to do with the power management. I really think that the development team needs to sink some serious energy into power management, and I hope it’s a priority for the next build. I can get about three hours on a charge, which is alright since I have ready access to electricity to recharge. People in developing nations, however, need more serious battery life. What if people can only charge their laptops every few days? Or once a week? It’s kind of silly to provide kids with laptops that they can only use for three hours between charges.

I’m interested to see reports from school deployments, especially from the perspective of educators.