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The XO Frame and Desktop

Very simplistic word processor

Web browser is Firefox
OLPC interface simple but lacks enthusiasm

More updates have been released on the OLPC XO machine which has yet to be fully deployed in any country but is still going forward. The XO machine itself is already commencing production in China, and the project is on its way to be test-deployed across several countries. Despite all the recent news about the XO however, the user interface remained at large, until now.

A video on YouTube revealed the Linux-based XO machine to have somewhat of a clean interface, although perhaps too clean. The interface is comprised of two main parts, the desktop and the "frame." The frame is the main interface mechanism for applications and system navigation, which appears around the edges of the screen. From the frame, an XO user can launch a word processor, messaging client, web browser and a host of other applications and games.

At first, navigating the system seemed to be quite user friendly, but some applications appeared to be toned down in terms of usability. The word processor for example, was very simplified and it did not appear like tables, charts, and other more advanced elements could be created. Basic text formatting and page formatting functions were available but other than that, the application seemed sparse. Despite the simplicity, the target audience for the XO may not ever require more features.

The web browser that the system uses is Firefox, and appeared to work quite fast. Most web browsing controls appeared in tact although it's unclear whether the system has much in terms of storage capacity for downloads. Other things included with the system include a number of typical games such as chess and a version of Minesweeper.

With initial first impressions, the user interface appeared simple and easy to use. Considering that the XO is targeted towards young school kids however, the interface appeared to be cold and lacked any sort of color coding. Almost everything is black and white, which makes the machine appear more like a simple terminal than an actual user friendly computer.

DailyTech previously reported that Thailand backed out of the OLPC project despite being one of the first countries that expressed interest. Representatives from Thailand mentioned to reporters that it was considering developing its own OLPC-like project. On a positive note, Brazil is now expressing interest in the XO, but the country has not yet released a confirmed order.

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Alpha grade software
By psychobriggsy on 11/25/2006 7:34:44 AM , Rating: 2
Given the hardware limitations of the display used in the OLPC (using colour reduces the resolution by a factor of 4 in the areas it is used) I can see why they are using high resolution black and white imagery for icons.

However the rest of the interface looks awful. Plain blocks of colour without any highlights at all! Simple highlights are good - they don't have to be extravagant images like in XP or Vista. Simple greyscale gradients, etc.

Maybe the children won't mind - it isn't as if they've used modern PCs, and there are strong arguments for a task based interface that is clean and simple to use.

Having not used it I will reserve my final judgement, and I'm sure it will be tweaked over time.

Given that this device is more about replacing textbooks in countries that can't afford them, and so on, it probably isn't too bad. I went through most of school without using more than a calculator technology-wise -- but there was One Textbook Per Child (per course) and pens and notebooks. This appears to be an adequate replacement for these -- school reports should be fine using the Wordpad-like editor, for example.

RE: Alpha grade software
By mindless1 on 11/25/2006 11:39:19 PM , Rating: 2
Gradients? you know nothing about interfaces or icons.

Gradients look pretty but actually reduce recognition and usability. It's not a matter of clean and simple, it's that artistic endeavors are harmful, not helpful to a GUI, particularly with resolution limitations.

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