I'd like to review all sorts of reviews that have appeared lately online.
I believe, that almost all of them are missing the point.
All these reviews show, or assess, what kind of computer system the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) is and how does it compare to other [known] computer systems.
So, the following components are being compared:
- Hardware specs (specifications)
- GUI (Graphical User Interface)
- Applications choices
1. Hardware specs.
It is well known, that OLPC is nowhere in top 500 HPC systems list. But such a list is not its purpose. Say, if you build the system, and you require it to do the following:
- Surf the web
- Chat with other people (either text, voice or video)
- Write docs
- Read books/other electronic material (and especially in a direct light environment)
- Have a battery life as prolonged as possible
- Have an alternative power source (alternative to standard power outlet which can be found in most homes in developed countries).
Well, considering that all aforementioned tasks are not computing-intensive (except maybe video/chat, which is not that intensive load on the system after all), you won't have to have state of the art machine. I remember being a student in late 90' and being able to surf the net, listen to music, read the books, write lab reports and chat on ICQ with my friends. And that was on Cyrix 120 MHz machine, with 500MB hard drive and lousy 1MB Cirrus Logic VGA chip.
And you know what? Yes, it was slow. I had my kernel (I used Red Hat 5.2 then) compiling in 48 minutes. Compare that to two minutes 20 seconds on today's computers. But still, it did everything I wanted it to do. And did it ok.
I even played really good games on it (at least I think they were good).
So, considering today's applications for surfing, chat, music and reading are not much different (even sometimes even more efficient than those 10 years ago), I believe 300Mhz machine would be up to the task.
Hm, If I were to choose my favorite complain, this would be it.
Many articles complain, how not native this interface to people or even seasoned computer users. The common misconception as I understand it, is the assumption, that OLPC is the first computer that child will have, and it should teach a kid to use a computer.
First and foremost, it is not about teaching children to work with a computer. It is about teaching. It means, that OLPC and especially its GUI should not be directly compared to any other computer system.
Compare it to other education materials instead.
That's what main issue is all about. These computers is education tool. They will be delivered instead of schoolbooks.
Now imagine the potential this thing has.
Reading books (huh, well, any book has this feature, right?)
Editing book which is allowed to be edited.
Writing you school work, and allowing a teacher to test it.
Chat with friends.
Surf the web.
Imagine and do your own.
So, I think, if the child is about to learn something new and exciting - she will. And all you
So, as much as what I said about GUI, I have to say about applications chosen.
First, let me tell you about an OS chosen.
It is Linux OS, based on Fedora Core (GNU/Linux for you zealots). If someone asks why wasn't Windows/Apple OS X chosen - it is very simple. It is not about money. It is not about technology (almost). Its not about politics.
It's about choice.
When you choose a Linux to build your product upon, you have the fullest control possible over final product, both technologically speaking and IP-(intellectual property) speaking. I mean, it is so easy to develop product, when you can change every bit of it for your liking. It is not possible with Windows/OS X.
Besides, technology-wise, the improvements made to different subsystems which comprise the standard distributions (such as kernel, X, Gnome, etc) are to benefit us all.
Second, the applications.
If one would review again the list of requirement, she would understand, that apps she needs are as follows:
- IM (including text, voice and video)
- Book reader (supporting standard formats, such as PDF/RTF/text)
- Music player
- Document writer
There are more.
But no scientific calculator (though it might be useful for older than 7 y.o kids). No shooter games.
Just tetris :-)
Now, to the rest of things.
- I like that OLPC has a screen, that can be read at direct sunlight. If it's for reading books, what else would you need?
- I like that OLPC will have longer work time than most other laptops out there.
- I like that it can be put to sleep in few seconds. I like that it can be awaken in few seconds.
- I like that it weights about 1.5kg
- I like that it has an alternative power source. It means that I'd never have to worry about power outlets around me.
All this because comparisons are basically flawed. They all compare OLPC to something it is not really made to be comparable with. One should try and compare it to something better for reaching that goal.
Try a printed book.