I know I haven't posted anything for a while, but Real Life (tm) has been keeping me busy. Hopefully, this little post will help make up for that deficiency...
For those that haven't already heard about it, there was a project started called One Laptop Per Child: the goal being to provide appropriate educational technology to kids that needed it and would benefit from it. [Note: these would be kids in the second- and third-world, not here in the U.S.]. The original idea was to come up with a laptop (for portability reasons) that was as easy to use (they're kids that have likely never even SEEN a computer, right?) and reliable (2nd- and 3rd-world, remember) as possible. Additional factors were price (affordability), efficiency (power isn't always available or reliable in a lot of places), flexibility (who knows what they're going to be needed for, or what use someone will want to put them to), and so on.
After a lot of testing, design, re-testing, re-design, and so on, what was ultimately developed was the XO, which can be sold for $188. While not any kind of competitor to anything else in the world, the XO/OLPC system seems to have met its goals admirably. Some of its features are:
- sealed against dust, dirt, water, and about anything else that it might be exposed to
- built-in 'mesh' networking (ad-hoc networking between XO systems), along with 'regular' wifi
- color display that can be adjusted to allow grayscale viewing of plain-text documents
- 4-hour battery life
- physically scaled for use by kids
- can be recharged with an AC adapter, solar panel, or even pull-cord charger (think pull-starting a lawnmower)
- all but bullet-proof (can be dropped from 4 feet [!!] and will keep running)
- the OS and all applications in Flash memory, so no hard drive to die
- capable of multiple languages, for local needs
- built-in camera, speakers, and microphone
- the mesh networking allows (encourages!) collaborative activities
- over a dozen built-in applications, ranging from (very basic) word processing, drawing, web browser, music creation, games, and such
- apparently pretty damn intuitive to operate (judging by some of the reviews I've read)
- Uses Linux, so it's stable, doesn't require any licensing fees, and can receive upgrades as long as the hardware holds out
- much, much more...
You might wonder what the hell a third-world kid needs a laptop for - but when you consider how easy and flexible these little boxes are, and the way they can leverage education and learning, you realize that they make a lot of sense: with a donated XO box, a kid doesn't have the expense of paper and pencils (sure, cheap to us, but...), greater resources (if even one XO box can pick up a wifi signal, it can share that link with all the rest, making the entire Internet available), durability (waterproof and all that, remember), educational (even the games encourage thinking and reasoning), and so on.
To have a look at the little buggers yourself, go on over to http://www.laptop.org and see what they're all about. You'll also have the chance to participate in the 'Give One Get One' program, where you can buy one (for $399) for yourself, and have another donated to a kid. On the site, there are also links to reviews of them, and plenty of other nifty information.
If you can, I'd encourage you to participate in the GOGO program - I mean, it's Christmas, f'cryin out loud, and what better gift to give anyone than providing some kid with a shot at having a future?