The OLPC User Interface Revealed
November 24, 2006 6:13 PM
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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.
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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RE: Target still unclear.
11/25/2006 10:55:16 AM
Actually, a lot of the OLPC idea is to correct for the difficiencies you mentioned. The target use is a shool child in a poorer, but industrialized nation. The unit itself is very tolerant of unstable power, the system itself always runs off the battery. The local software was intentionally designed to be highly dependant upon the availability of distributed client resources. The thin client usage model facilitates further cost reductions in the hardware.
Many of the user applications you mentioned are already completed and deployed or being ready for deployment. They will be distributed using the web-browser as the primary terminal client. That is why only the most basic functionality is available without an internet connection.
Yes, the internet connection will be provided at no additional expense to the user in most cases. Though each country will provide the Internet connection by a manner of their own choosing, schools, even in remote areas, can use satelite, wireless, or even multiplexed X.25 for connectivity. The applications themselves are very low bandwidth and can be served from anywhere in the world. So hosting can be accomplished in areas where the availability of material and human resources are not so unreliable.
Recently, several faith-based organizations have even volunteered to put up wireless hotspots to help extend connectivity beyond the schools.
Your statement that "In a developed country this "thin" device is too crippled." is accurate. To, the following comment, "In an underdeveloped country, the issues relating to power supply, internet, printing, etc. cripple the device." I must reply; The OLPC is the current answer to those problems, specifically.
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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