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Try the One Laptop Per Child OLPC XO Sugar Activity Interface Yourself Now Linux Windows

roadskater's picture

Here's a quick note in hopes of inspiring some of you to look into the One Laptop Per Child project and the XO computer for kids around the world, currently coming in at as low as $199 each ha if you give 10,000. For awhile you could spend $400 to give one and get one too, but that deal seems off at least for now.

As for trying the software on your PC, the ISO image and PDF explaining some details are here...


Lots has been written so I won't go into much except to say I downloaded a CD image (an ISO file my laptop knew how to burn into a bootable CD...allowing me to put the XO demo CD in my HP Windows XP laptop and transform by reboot into a memory-based read-only version of Red Hat Fedora linux with some Knoppix hardware tricks included...but without internet access). I took One Lousy Picture of my Computer to prove it worked.

I burned a couple of shiny coasters because I didn't check the MD5 checksum, so if your first go doesn't burn, download it again. I got the freeware HashCalc program from Snapfiles.com (the download site I trust) and confirmed a clean download, then all went well.

Fun! This reminded me of Commodore 64 days in terms of the amount of musical gadgets and the synthesizer approach therein. It also exposes a version of Python scripting (and as I understand it, exposes the operating system to tinkering, something we guys at Compute!'s Gazette were fond of in the old days).

The XO encourages creating in many ways, programmed and not, and includes tons of fun stuff with very few words on the screen, mostly icons. Tons of fun for me, and I think this puppy will be killercool for kids. I can't imagine it being any other way. Even without the internet browsing and RSS feeds and the mesh networking stuff, it was a fun time and to me the equvalent of computer play dough...etchasketch...drum machine programming, oscilloscope and microphone fascination fun. Check it out here...


Check out David Pogue's comments and yes please do watch his fine video on this. His childishness is very welcome in this case!


Check out ways to give one or many XO laptops here...



If you want to learn about current challenges and limitations, check here...



But really, forget about it. This thing is way cool. A legion of Python programmers and performers will peck away gleefully at this machine, and maybe even divert some from games built by others by giving them the stuff to build things themselves.

If you want more on the Sugar activity software, check this out...


To get into the Python code and other resources behind it all...



It is really easy to find big pieces missing, features lacking, whatever. I say whatever. This is exciting to me, and I think it will be to tons of tikes and their stuporvisors...you watch the envy as USA folk try to get some of these...even on my boring Compaq in HP clothing (I bought it because of the deep purpleyblue lights on it) I wanted to spend way more time on the activities than I have allocated for it.

Of course I could be wrong, but I know a spark when it lights me, and that C-64 spark is in here...right down to the ADSR (Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release) waveform shaping gizmos. Take the 64 and mix with early Mac for kids and color and way better hardware than back then and this little Macincheese froglet says fun learning to me. I want one. Yes. I've said it.

Let me know what you think and if it works for you! Skateylove, roadskater


dtg's picture

Nice writup - mine is on the way (supposedly Jan 15th)

I participated in the "give one get one" campaign. Supposedly it included a years worth of wireless as well as one laptop donated and one for the giver. If you're interested maybe I can bring it sometime on a skatey weekend! ;-)
roadskater's picture

Definitely Want to See an XO in person

Yes I'd love to see one of these in person. I looked them up on eBay and they were going for a premium over the holidays, going for anywhere from just under $300 (lately) to $550 or so around the shortest day of the year. Looks like buy one get one could work out many ways, as I've also heard of people trying to give theirs away. Thanks for the comment and we'd love some hands on replies if you have time once the XO arrives.
timv's picture

Keeping up with OLPC

I also enjoyed the first-hand comments. It's interesting how a lot of projects out now are encouraging this kind of hands-on creativity. Open-source development has had a lot to do with it, I think. I've been playing some with a little Arduino microcontroller lately and have gotten that same sense of a return to the excitement of the first home computer boom, except instead of typing in programs from magazines, you can just cut-and-paste them off web pages. Or you can download source for the development tools and hack them instead if you care to.

Incidentally, OLPC is in today's news as Intel (always a reluctant participant apparently) has exited the project:

After close to a year of trading insults, Intel finally joined Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child Initiative last July. The move came as a surprise to many, not only because of the bad blood between the chipmaker and the nonprofit, but also because Intel was, and is, working on a similar project called The World Ahead. Yet with Intel officially joining the OLPC board and offering to supply CPUs for the next iteration of the nonprofit's low-cost laptops, it appeared the beef between the two parties over who was going to save the world with low-cost, easily deployed computers seemed to be over.

Or not.

On Thursday, Intel admitted it had dropped out of the nonprofit project after only six months. That means no board representation, no chip contributing and no educational content. The reason? A "philosophical impasse" with MIT professor and OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Intel's departure stems from Negroponte's insisting that the company stop selling its own Classmate laptops to developing countries as well as curtail shipments of chips to other laptops marketed to schoolchildren in those countries.

Also, it seems that the "give one get one" campaign ended earlier this week.

roadskater's picture

Lots of Toys to See

timv I can't wait to have show'n'tell with some of your new toys and to give updates as I get used to the Forerunner 305 (yes I'm late to the party but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy being there). I remember thoughts of that Palm IIIc which was really a pretty nice device (wish I still had mine but methinks it is gone forever along with other beloved items) and how it was a world small enough to enjoy working around in. Of course I never did a single program using their developer's kit. Anyway, the Arduino looks useful and fun and it will be great to see what people do with it...Oh boy it takes me back to laser lights bouncing off the water's surface of a beaker to sense and adjust the levels of water, all controlled by the newfangled microprocessor units that (wow) had 0 (zero) through F keys instead of red and blue flip switches like the IMSAI 8080 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMSAI_8080). Ahh the nights in the flickering-fluorescent-light closet-sized brick-walled room punching in programs, wondering if that paper punch data machine even worked. When the Commodore PET and CMB 4032 arrived (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_pet) we were hooked. Not long afterward, my brother had a VIC-20, then I got a Commodore 64 and starting reading Compute! and later Compute!'s Gazette and typing in programs. Hopefully we'll see a proliferation of great little machines with open source designs and software.
roadskater's picture

Video: IMSAI 8080, Punchtape, Cassette; also Wargames

This trip down RAM lane had me looking up photos of the well-beloved IMSAI 8080. I think the clunky sounding brightly colored switches and the lights and hum of the thing were some of its appeal, and the fact that it was so astonishing and primitive at the same time. With no keyboard, we just did little programs by flipping the switches up for 1 or down for 0, then pressing a button to enter the instruction. My memory of the punchtape machine is mostly of the dots of paper all over the speckled gray and black concrete floor of the brick-walled closet in the physics building. Funny I don't recall the name of the next units we used, the ones with zero through F for entering hexadecimal instructions. Boring.

The early Commodore PETs and subsequent upgrades had the cassette tapes, graphics character sets and BASIC programming language, along with that green glow. I remember writing a BASIC program to predict where the Galilean moons would be so we could plan pizza delivery to the observatory on a winter night. It was probably based on a program for the Hewlett-Packard HP-34C, another marvel of technology that I resented for being so poorly built. No wonder TI ate their lunch in the long run in my opinion.

I think timv mentioned this in another realm and it was a case of not getting what I paid for, this being along with the Guild D-50 six string that was a major disappointment after so much advertising (which thankfully led me to not be contrary and just go to Nashville and buy an HD-28 and tell Guild sorry I'm not keeping this special order guitar with all these problems straight out of the factory...Ha! I was stupid enough to buy another Guild later, a 12-string that confirmed the earlier opinion of 1980s Guild guitars...Fool me twice, how does that go, oh yeah, shame on me).

Anyway for the rather dry video of an IMSAI 8080, check out this link... 


Also this jogged my memory of the use of the IMSAI as a prop in the movie, Wargames... 


And there's lots of early geekspeak bickering, sniping and blown memory chips at...


Teamwork is great, but there's something wonderful about a project small enough for one person to do by themselves, or mostly so, with a little help from friends here and there. There's something fundamental about setting bits with physical switches that was more like making pottery on a kick-wheel or punching leafy patterns on leatherwork with tiny tools or operating a loom perhaps...or like playing guitar maybe...a physical pattern that syncs with a related thought or visualization, even. Hmm. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about! I think the biggest thing was, these machines were simple enough for me to understand!

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