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« Another OLPC follow-up posting | Main | My OLPC XO came today »

OLPC - follow-up

olpc2.jpgI was obviously remiss in not providing more detail about the Second Coming of Christ ... I mean, the arrival of what may be the first shipping of an OLPC XO. I was flogged in the OLPC news blog for a less than delirious reaction to the new computer, and had lots of questions from Blue Skunk readers which I will answer below.

In my defense, I had been attending the state tech conference all day Monday and Tuesday, presenting both days, had a long drive home, cooked supper and unpacked before I could get to the new machine. Readers, remember I am a geezer with a geezer's energy and enthusiasm levels. Sorry. The first machine should have gone to someone more geek-worthy.

Anyway, the picture at the left shows pretty much the whole package. The small box included the computer, the power adaptor, 2 sheets of paper with minimal instructions, and the battery which had to be installed. The package was shipped FedEx from Libertyville IL on Dec 7 and arrived on my doorstep at exactly 4:30PM yesterday, Dec 11. I had no advance notice and did not need to sign for the package.

In response to comments and questions regarding yesterday's posting:

HOW CUTE!!! (talking about the cat!! I have an orange and white tabby who also sports this look--half an orange mustache and a brown dot -- or mole dare I say?--on his nose!) I can't wait to hear about the new toy as well--it is cute too.

Thank you, Cathy, for the nice words about the cat. She is lovely thing, but given to upchucking on a regular basis. Like most creatures, she is a mixed blessing.

.we'll have to compare notes. 

Dean, I hope your XO arrives soon, and I'll be happy to compare notes. I am hoping a user community will grow up around this computer, much like one has around the ASUS Eee.

Is this a real G1G1 XO laptop? Might you be the very first to get one? Do tell!!

Wayan, yes, as far as I know, this is a real XO. I am surprised to learn that I may be the first to get one. Had I know this, I'd have been far more reverential. Maybe even thrown a little party.

Did you ever get a message from UPS that it was on its way? Or did it just suddenly "show up"? I haven't heard of anyone else even knowing for sure if they had shipped yet (I mean something besides the somewhat weak implication in the weekly news). Where did it ship from? I figured it would be coming from one of the coasts, but to get yours first in Minnesota? Are you just a G1G1 like the rest of us, or do you have some other connection to olpc?

Jared, I think I answered your shipping questions above, and no, I have no special connections with MIT, Negroponte, or FedEx. Come to think of it, I don't know that there is any place in the world I get preferential treatment, which is kind of depressing if you think about it.

Normally, I would be concerned having a laptop, a drink, and a nearby pet cat that could knock the glass over and spill its contents onto the laptop's keyboard. But not with the OLPC XO!If this was a G1G1, did it come with the code to activate the complimentary T-mobile hotspot access?

Con, I do preach care of technology at school and would be horrified if anyone else had a drink and cat near his/her laptop. Thank you for pointing out that I am setting a bad example for others. You are correct. The XO does look pretty damage-proof. It is tough to keep the cats from sleeping on my Mac laptop, given the warmth it generates. I so far have not located how to get the T-Mobile connectivity.

How do you find the screen, in its various modes? I am trying to keep my expectations slightly lowered, but it's difficult ;) I've been downloading various free eBooks with which to keep it occupied, too. Do the included directions give any directions as to how long to charge it (if at all) before use? (That cat is thinking of ways to destroy the laptop, but that's not evil, it's just QA.)

Timothy, the screen in the regular mode is nice and bright. I've yet to figure out how to get it to go into the passive mode. (There is not exactly a wealth of information that came with the machine or on the web about what all the buttons mean on the keyboard or case.) No instructions that I could find on how long to let the battery charge. I just plunked it in, plugged the computer into the wall, used it, then let it charge overnight. I will let it fully discharge today before plugging it in again. The cat loves the laptop - see previous paragraph.

 I'm not a First Day Donor but I'm hoping their "conservative estimates" will still mean I'll get mine by January if I'm lucky!

Fricka, I was a first day donor of the G1G1 program. I called in that morning and talked to a nice lady. 

 I can't wait for mine :) I've got on being sent to a friend in Canada - then have to wait until she comes over in the Spring. ...

Emma, you are welcome to live vicariously though my experiences until yours arrives.


Morgan, yes, it has a little program called Pippy, which is supposed to be a stripped-down version of Python. The icon is a snake - sort of cute. The whole row of icons on the bottom look more like talismanic figures than computer icons. Mystic!

olpc3.jpgSo a couple initial reactions:

Just a reminder that I am delighted to receive this computer. As you can tell from the photo at left, I can hardly contain my excitement. (Do remember that we Minnesotans tend to be more inwardly expressive.)

This seems to be very much a computer made for children, not adults. From the short time I've played with it, the stripped down feature set of the web browser, text editor, and operating system, are designed for simplicity, not extensibility. The ASUS Eee, on the other hand, feels like a machine made for adults. This will NOT be a replacement for a regular computer for grown-ups, I don't believe.

Everything seems to work out of the box - the keyboard, camera, screen. It took only a few seconds to get connected to my home wireless network. I am having some problems with a spastic track pad when on the web. I think I read that there will be a fix in the next OS release for the problem.

This is a VERY different operating system. Nothing is in the same place you'd find it in a Linux, Windows or Mac OS. The learning curve may be longer for adults with computer experience than for kids with no tech experience at all. But again, I've used this for about an hour and a half and won't get back to it until this evening. (Darned day job.)

So, that's all the news for now... Maybe I will ask the LWW to video me doing a happy dance sometime.

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Reader Comments (42)

Going into the "passive" non-backlit mode is deceptively easy. There is a slider near the top of the keyboard that controls the brightness. Slide it all the way down. At the lowest setting the backlight is off. If you've in a room where you usually use computers, you'll probably think the display is just off. Put it under a light and you'll see you can still read the display. I'll be interested to see just how much ambient light you need to use this mode.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Tom,

You're right. That was easy. It looks like it will take a pretty bright light (or better eyes than mine) to read the screen in this passive mode.

Any good sources of information like this that you shared?



December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Congrats! You are truly lucky and preferred today. And I don't know about you, but I might just have to call in sick with a "virus" the day I get my XO.

Now if we only know more about the T-Mobile subscription...

Seems you didn't get any info on that with your shipment, eh?

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWayan @ OLPC News

More questions:

- Some people may be disturbed to hear that boxes are being left on doorsteps, no signature required. Did the box have any markings on the outside to indicate what was inside?

- What time of day did you place your order?

BTW, it is certainly possible to boot this machine into other operating systems (that's why the SD card slot was added... I just got a new 16GB card yesterday for this!). I expect a more grownup-oriented version of Linux to be available soon from various groups.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Jones

Hi Doug,

The box has an outline drawing of a laptop in green and the other logo emblems. It is a pretty small box. I live in a rural area and everyone in Minnesota is honest, so I was happy it was left at my house.

I ordered my G1G1 on the first Monday in the morning, probably about 8AM CST.

Your comments about the multiple boot is one reason why I hope a user community will grow up around this device.


December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Congrats, Doug on being the first to get one and post about it! Thanks for sharing the experience with the rest of us. One other question I have is are you able to tell where it shipped from?

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCon

Have fun Doug. You'll have to let us know if Skype for Linux works on your XO.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Fesel

I am interested to hear if the xo shipped with an alternative power source- pull cord ? crank ? anything?
Can't wait to get mine !

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjjaroscak

Thank you for your good humor and good will, as you aptly deflect the firehose of attention directed your way for being the first blogger to get one of these babies. Lots and lots of education professionals are helping OLPC along -- and lots more will no doubt be doing so from home in weeks to come as the G1G1 XO's roll in. Glad you're with us. Come visit my home on the wiki, we'll have a cup of coffee:

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHexagonal

Thank you so much for sharing, Doug! The information you've provided is very useful to those of us bouncing off the walls, wondering what to expect. Of course, because I know to expect FedEx and not UPS, and FedEx trucks are smaller in my neighborhood, I'm now leaping to the window at the sound of every skateboarder riding by (I live in a city, near a university).

Also, there's already a bit of a community growing around the XO--check out if you haven't already. Many people post comments and Wayan Vota (whom you've already gotten comments from on your own blog) runs the site and accepts guest bloggers all the time. With your background in education, I'd imagine you'd be able to provide a very interesting take on the XO. I hope to read more about your adventures with it!

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThePete

Hi Jen,

The only crank near the XO is the user. No alternative power supply ships with the computer.

I can't find a stylus either.


December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks, Hex. I've been to your site and appreciate it.


December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi ThePete,

I've added the RSS feed to my Reader for OLPC News. Thanks for suggesting it.

Hope yours arrives soon.


December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


Thanks for the post Doug. I jumped over here from OLPCNews and really appreciate the follow up and information. I'm eagerly awaiting my own, though as a Nov 24th donor I won't be getting mine for some time. Until then, I'm happily living vicariously through those who have gotten theirs thus far.

How have you found typing on the smaller keyboard? Is it passable for an adult writing a quick email or two?

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Wolfe

Hi Alex,

I am writing this on the XO. These smaller keyboards always require that I deliberately slow my typing. This keyboard also has a strange feel to it because of the rubberized surface. I am sure it is simply a matter of using it enough to get "the feel."


December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Unfortunately, for you, I was shown how the display worked while trying out a prototype at PyCon last year. For better or worse I think almost all the useful info is going to be on the OLPC wiki. It will be a good object lesson on the strengths and weaknesses of wikis.

Regarding some of the questions above about extensibility, what OS's work on it, etc. Applications need at least some modification to work with the XO's UI and security model. The changes will be easy for some applications and hard or impossible for others. Getting some other Linux distros and eventually Windows to boot will come along, but it will be a lot of work to get them to take a advantage of the XO's advanced features, some of which the XO's OS itself isn't really taking advantage of yet (e.g., power consumption will improve significantly with software upgrades).

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Ah, good deal. I should be fine then. I worked for years on a tiny HPC (Jornada 690), so this looks like it should be fine. All else fails I can always bring a little roll up keyboard along with me.

I intend to use this as my digital journal as I travel, as a traditional laptop is a little too prone to breaking and severe battery drain.

That and I'm very interested in learning some Python and mucking around a bit, seeing if I can create anything useful. All else fails I can probably write some documentation on the use of the laptop.

What're you going to use it for? (not just you, but everyone commenting)

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Wolfe


Thanks for the info! I hope the trackpad is not too much of a problem, as I planned to use the XO quite extensively for web work (surfing and research). Also, if in your findings you discover that the wireless range is longer than normal, let us know, as that is one of the most touted features. Like all of you out there who ordered yours on the first day, I, too, am waiting the delivery with great anticipation. And a shout out to any Massachusetts folks who want to meet and XO together!

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterReg Aubry

How is the security worked for the GetOne models???
I just read the transcript of the Mary Lou Jepsen on a podcast, talking about the Bitfrost security arrangement, and wondered if we will get a USB key or if the security is turned off.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTinktron

I'm hoping to get mine in time to take with me for a business trip to Silicon Valley next week. I bought mine for several reasons The primary reason I bought the OLPC OX is that I am a major klutz, so it's durability is number one. I'm hoping to watch tv shows that I prerecorded using Freevo on my Linux box. I also plan on downloading a bunch of books from the Gutenberg project to read on long trips and train rides. I also plan on taking it with me to the bookstores (Yay, free T-mobile hotspot) and library on Sundays to catch up on my periodicals. It will be great to immediately be able to go online and research something about which I've just read or sample the music of an artist whose review I've just read. I have already bought a roll-up USB keyboard for the long emails I might have to write when I take it on the road. Just turn the display around and it should be perfect. Thanks to Mike Lee's great posts over on, I've already got an iGo auto/air power 40 adapter that has tip that fits the OLPC XO perfectly. It was only $20 on clearance at Radio Shack. I'm disappointed that Potenco didn't have the pull chagers ready to purchase in tandem with the G1G1 promotion. I'm hoping to show off the OLPC XO to as many people as possible before the G1G1 promotion ends and the pull charger would have been great to have for these demonstration even if it meant taking on an extra $20 to the order. And I also plan on letting my numerous nieces and nephews play with it when they come to visit for the holidays.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercon

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