XO-1 Laptop: Second Impressions

Further thoughts on my new XO-1 Laptop:

  1. It is possible to type on it, albeit not as fast as on a regular keyboard.
  2. It’s a real Linux installation — Redhat — on an x86-compatible processor. You can run “yum” in a root shell to install any package you want.
  3. The hardware/software integration needs some more work. For example, there’s a cool button that rotates the screen to any orientation, but it doesn’t re-map the arrow keys or touchpad axes, so it’s confusing to scroll through an ebook in portrait mode.
  4. There’s a lot of room for the platform to grow — the designers included keys on the keyboard that don’t do anything yet, in anticipation of future features.
  5. It is reasonably clever in remembering which WiFi networks you prefer.
  6. There’s no Ethernet port — if you want network access, you gotta have WiFi (or perhaps a USB network adapter).
  7. The bundled web browser only works with file types the XO is configured to handle. I downloaded a .tar.bz2 file but I couldn’t find where it got stashed on the filesystem.
  8. The “Sugar” interface is cute, and the “Journal” feature is downright innovative, but neither is complete enough to serve as a general-purpose computing platform. This isn’t necessarily bad — they were designed to be restricted to child-oriented tasks — but may limit the XO’s usefulness in other areas.
  9. The interface features (menus, icons, transitions) are slow. Unfortunately, I think this is due to the designers’ reliance on Python. Now, Python is a great language, and probably the best choice for an educational tool like the XO, but more optimization — perhaps from the PyPy project — is needed.

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