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OLPC's UI To Be Kid-Tested In February

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the nice-day-in-the-neighborhood dept.

GUI 140

dfoulger writes "The AP is reporting that kid testing of Negroponte's '$100 Laptop' starts in February. This article is some of the first mainstream coverage of just how different the user interface of the XO Computer is — it ditches the traditional office metaphors in favor of a 'neighborhood' and an activity-based journaling approach. Video of Sugar, as the UI is called, has been out on the net for a while, and Popular Science recently gave the color / monochrome display a 'Grand Award' in its 2006 technology roundup. What do you think of this new UI?"

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How about reading and writing? (1, Troll)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423466)

Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

This is why countries like Japan and China kick the crap out of us in terms of education - they don't have this Montessori approach to education.

Re:How about reading and writing? (3, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423520)

``Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.''

And then, after that? Wouldn't it be nice if they could use their reading and writing skills to enter the global information highway? Get access to the wealth of information on the web? Share their own stories and content?

There seems to be a misconception that countries in which computers aren't widespread also don't have high literacy. This is not true. Libya, one of the countries that signed up for OLPC has very high literacy; in fact, many Libyans have higher education. From what I'm told, Russia is another country with near-universal literacy, but without universal access to computers. I bet there are others.

Re:How about reading and writing? (2, Informative)

wishmechaos (841912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423914)

I bet there are others.
Argentina, one of the other countries which signed for a million OLPCs, has a 97.1% literacy rate, according to the CIA World Factbook [cia.gov] :

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.1%
male: 97.1%
female: 97.1% (2003 est.)


but only 1/3rd of the population has internet access

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Aczlan (636310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424084)

having recently gotten back from spending 2 years in argentina I would have to disagree with the internet access numbers, if you are talking about internet access in the home it is much less than 1/3, if you are talking about being able to go to a cybercafe and use a computer than the whole nation can

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

wishmechaos (841912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424174)

You're right about that, home internet access is much less, but there also aren't cybercafes everywhere, so I wouldn't dare to say the whole nation can get internet access. 1/3rd of the country are internet users.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Aczlan (636310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426668)

in the parts I was in there were cybercafes everywhere from downtown rosario to the suburbs to in colon, and even the small towns have 2 or 3, they are in everything from commercial buildings to in peoples garages...

Re:How about reading and writing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424778)

Except children, by and large, do not access the great wealth of the world, they access Myspace...
Many of the big pushes for television started the same way and ended with Nickelodeon and MTV...

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425002)

``Except children, by and large, do not access the great wealth of the world, they access Myspace...''

And Myspace isn't a valuable site that inspires millions? It may not be your or my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean it has no value. Besides, just because folks are using Myspace doesn't mean they aren't using the rest.

Re:How about reading and writing? (2, Insightful)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424822)

Actually, many countries claim to have 90 plus percent literacy, even those that supply as little as one year of education. When literacy figures are yes/no, the claims tend to be that they are quite high.

The extent of literacy is more important.

There, access to reading materials is important. For many countries, a town full of $200 laptops would be cheaper than building and maintaining a library with any significant amount of reading material.

That's were the 3R people are missing the point. A low cost computer is cheaper than paper, pencil, and books over even a short period of time.

But isn't this "fundamentalist" stuff off topic? I'm pleased to see that most subsequent threads focus on the UI.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424970)

What's 3R? Reading, riting, and 'rithmetic?

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425122)

Yes, the fundamentals of education, according the the educational minimalists who like to strip public education of other subject matters, are Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, otherwise known as the 3R's.

Isn't it wonderful that computers help us to teach all three ... and that the Internet provides access to a much wider range of knowledge?

Re:How about reading and writing? (3, Interesting)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423542)

What does the laptop have to do with the Montessori method? If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?

Re:How about reading and writing? (3, Interesting)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423582)

I was unaware that the current US educational system had anything to do with Montessori methods to begin with.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424642)

Let's see. Montessori schools are private, and tuition is tens of thousands per year (my step-sister has attended a Montessori for a number of years). So we can immediately assume that the student's parents are have at least marginally successful careers to afford the tuition. That would indicate that they are intelligent individuals, or at least have the drive, focus and work-ethic to provide a steady above-average income. Now, if we assume those attributes are hereditary, then we can see that the children that have the financial means to attend the school in the first place likely have various hereditary advantages. In other words, they would likely excel in public schools just the same.

Dan East

Re:How about reading and writing? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426642)

> If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?

Montessori schools are private, and thus get to select their students, so they don't ever have the inconvenience of anyone who might actually drive their averages down. They're also expensive, and the correlation between affluence and academic performance is pretty well known.

Re:How about reading and writing? (2, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426952)

If the Montessori method is inferior, why has a 2006 study proven that Montessori students averagely perform better?

Correlation does not equal causation.

celebrity gossip blogs and children's minds (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423554)

I agree. I'm not really sure how this is going to enhance learning. It is easy to waste a lot of time on gadgets when what you really need is quality time learning the multiplication table and working on reading comprehension. Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper. If you want to create a consumer culture that loves celebrity-gossip blogs and wants to chat online all the time, then maybe this thing is worthwhile. I actually can't think of a better way to pollute millions of childrens' minds with crap.

Re:celebrity gossip blogs and children's minds (1)

bbn (172659) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423724)

"Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper." - Huh?! Why do you assume reading and writting is best done with stoneage methods?

Looks to me, this thing will be great making kids interrested in reading more. I can just see everybody learning to use wikipedia at a young age to look things up. We definitly did not have that opportunity when I was in school.

Sure, I could have gone to the library and looked something up. But having it instantly available is totally different.

It should also be a great cost saver if it can replace old fasioned school books. I am sure a kid wears out more than $100 worth of books during school.

Re:celebrity gossip blogs and children's minds (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424430)

It is easy to waste a lot of time on gadgets when what you really need is quality time learning the multiplication table and working on reading comprehension. Those kinds of things are best done with pencil and paper.
Are you sure? Reading comprehension can be improved if you have access to a large library of eBooks, and an on-board dictionary; click on any word you don't know in the eBook, and get a definition of it. If that's all it takes, most children would probably click and then they learn something. If they have to go and find a paper dictionary and look up a word in it then they wouldn't bother.

As for multiplication tables, I think it would be easier to learn them if the computer could perform testing (i.e. repeatedly ask multiplication questions and get the child to enter the results. Gradually reduce the amount of time allowed to answer. At first, provide a graphical representation of an N by M square of blobs to re-inforce the association between the numbers and shapes). I found learning French and German vocabulary much easier when I wrote a program to test myself. I entered the English/foreign word pairs, and it would repeatedly ask me one and expect me to provide the other within 5-10 seconds before going on to the next one. Running this for about 20 minutes, followed by a break for 40 minutes and then another 5 minutes locked a set of words in my long-term memory far more efficiently than any other method I've yet encountered.

Re:How about reading and writing? (4, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423614)

Sadly, the three Rs are not enough to create a strong workforce. Computers are the most flexible and therefore most important tool we have and therefore it is important to learn. It also gives incredible access to a huge library of information and powerful communication tools. I'd say learning to read, do basic math, and use a computer should be the basics of education. As for writing I guess it's a cute historical footnote but not overly important. I'd teach basic block letters and of course grammar and spelling but wouldn't waste time on learning cursive.

The Four Rs (1)

XnavxeMiyyep (782119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423842)

Readin', 'ritin', 'rithmatic, and 'rong spellin'.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423912)

The three R's are not sufficient, but a strong workforce cannot exist w/o them.

First, learn to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424106)

It's an ebook reader among other things, and is way more cost effective than shipping in millions of dead tree books, and a lot easier to keep updated an customised for the child/grade/subject, etc.. If you go to their main page and READ about the project you can see this is an education project, not a laptop project per se, they just determined that a cheap tough laptop was the best way to get the most educational resources to the most deserving kids in the most efficient way. It is designed for them to read, write, create, discover, get access to knowledge.

Now the other

In the US, grades K-6 we do well on an international scale, but after that, 7-`12, we fall behind because multiculturalism and other sorts of feel good isms and professional sports indoctrination and learning your place in the upcoming two class society become the primary focus of the schools. As soon as you realise that, we do well, because that is the goal, to raise serfs who mind their masters. Get 'em thumb scanning young, get 'em turning into good little stasis, get 'em tuned in to following orders unquestionably, get them brainwashed to jump and follow the orders of any authority figure with no questions, get them used to random searches and lockdowns, etc.. Basic education is way way WAY down the list of goals. They don't want educated citizens, they want drones and proles, get it? If your kid is in the public schools today they are being raised to be a corporate resource, either in the civil sector or as a corporate mercenary for the endless wars for profit.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Gregory Cox (997625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424152)

Maria Montessori's children's houses took in children from a range of ages, sometimes kindergarten age, and the things they taught included basic reading and writing and even how to tie shoelaces; not that different from what you'd find in a non-Montessori kindergarten.

Japanese education isn't necessarily a paragon of excellence, either. The system of English language teaching has hardly changed in 50 years, and despite its relative wealth, Japan is near the bottom of the league tables for English ability in Asia.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Nulagrithom (998099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424318)

I'm more for efficiency > idea. Being left handed has lead me down a path with a natural tendency to ditch hand writing. By six years old I was telling mom that I wouldn't need to write with my hands because of computers. Now I'm 18, can hardly write more than my name without a computer, and having no problem. The most trouble I have in school when it comes to writing is the hand written SAT essay. I really don't see why we would worry about writing by hand anymore. I see it as simply clinging to traditional tools when far superior tools are available. How many of you can start a fire with flint? How many of you like to set it off with a blow torch? Nothin' wrong with that. Or maybe I simply misunderstood you and you're saying that kids can't hardly read or write yet and we're throwing computers at them.

Re:How about reading and writing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425558)

The most trouble I have in school when it comes to writing is the hand written SAT essay.

I can really identify with this; 20-25 years ago I did my various levels of exams and they HURT! I can still feel my wrists aching as my thoughts raced ahead of my physical ability to express them - but what I need is not a keyboard - it's a brain/text interface; then I really could write as fast as I can talk. Nothing can do that yet - not speech/text software or anything similar (too many errors, I've tried it).

This took about 10x longer to express as it should have. Dammit.

Re:How about reading and writing? (3, Interesting)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424496)

Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

And why does parent post think this excludes learning with a computer?

My daughter enjoyed programs I wrote in Applesoft on an Apple ][ that helped her learn her alphabet and basic counting when she was 3 and 4 years old. She was reading before she entered first grade.

Certainly the most critical part of it was her mother schooling her. But she also has vivid and pleasant memories of playing with that old Apple. The computer was of definite value to her as part of a broad learning experience.

There can be no question that the OLPC computers will be an incredibly valuable adjunct in teaching kids the basic skills of literacy, and of how to learn.

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426924)

And why does parent post think this excludes learning with a computer?
Exactly. What tool do you use the most for reading, writing, and arithmetic? For me it's a computer, hands down. (For leisure reading books still prevail, but then I can afford to buy and shelf them... otherwise a library of e-books would certainly beat nothing at all!).

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424680)

Maybe I'm just a fundamentalist, but children first need to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

You seem to think that a child is incapable of learning multiple things as they develop.

...they don't have this Montessori approach to education.


And what exactly is wrong with the Montessori approach to education? Especially if the children are very young? Do you even know the philosophy behind Montessori education? Look it up on Wikipedia. Here's an excerpt:

The Montessori method encourages independence and freedom with limits and responsibility. The youngest children are guided in "practical life" skills: domestic skills and manners. These skills are emphasized with the goal of increasing attention spans, hand-eye coordination, and tenacity.


So you'd rather try to cram wrote memorization into kids' heads instead of preparing them for learning later after they've properly developed their attitudes towards said learning and knowledge? And if that doesn't work are you one of the people who thinks we should just hop kids up on drugs like Ritalin?

I am all for literacy. Learning reading and writing are fundamental steps toward a successful adult life. But to force it on children before they're ready? Not a good idea IMHO.

TLF

Re:How about reading and writing? (1)

Elentari (1037226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17427130)

Hm, I went to a Montessori school when I was 3 years old, and I spent most of my time being taught the names of different shapes, letters of the alphabet, etc. Sort of contradicts your point.

OLPC is mistargetted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424882)

They should:

a) Target mid level developing countries - $100 education budget on kids in the poorest countries could be better used on teacher funding and books. Books are less likely to get stolen/broken. By mid level developing I mean that median income in that country should be over $90 a month. The laptop.org website claims they are targetting the "poorest kids" instead.

b) Sell the laptop. That's right, make people pay for it. Even a small amount ($25?). People will value and protect it more.

Note: For a variety of reasons, I grew up going to schools in multiple developing countries ... how many of the OLPC developers actually gone to school in a developing country (or visited them and interviewed kids to gain an understanding)? No disrepect to their intentions though, and what their doing is better than the nothing most of the rest of us do.

URL Bar (3, Interesting)

duguk (589689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423490)

I've just watched the video and it looks fairly good.

Why is there no URL bar? It explains there isn't one but why not? Seems a bit of a problem for visiting specific sites as you'd have to use Google for everything it seems.

Monkeyboi

Re:URL Bar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423600)

I agree. What if Google is simply blocked by whatever country you're using this thing in? OOPS! I would imagine you could change the startup URL, but it seems ludicrous to not be able to type in a url directly.

Re:URL Bar (5, Informative)

Nazgul_Cro (868869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423860)

There IS an url bar. It is just hidden behind the title bar. When you click on title bar, you can type regular URL.
Too bad the video does not show it, it actually misleads a lot of people in thinking the same way you did :)

Re:URL Bar (2, Informative)

etelerro (945586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424350)

Next to "does not show it" the author clearly states it isn't there.. To try it yourself (and succeeding in finding the url-bar), go to the url: http://thefinalzone.blogspot.com/2006/10/running-o lpc-emulator.html [blogspot.com] In short, get Q-Emu running and download the image from: http://olpc.download.redhat.com/olpc/streams/devel opment/ [redhat.com]

Re:URL Bar (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425036)

Here and in other discussions you seem to be speaking from direct knowledge when you talk about this. Can it be reasonably presumed that you have used the browser as it is delivered with the XO Computers UI and it does in fact work as advertised. That would put an end to back on forth on the issue.

Beyond that, it seems clear, looking at the OLPC laptop wiki (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Web_Browser [laptop.org] ) that it is possible to install other browsers, including other modifications of GECKO (e.g. Firefox). I assume the general process for doing this follows the outline described at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar#Hacking [laptop.org] .

Thanks in advance for addressing these questions.

Re:URL Bar (1)

Nazgul_Cro (868869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425680)

Here and in other discussions you seem to be speaking from direct knowledge when you talk about this. Can it be reasonably presumed that you have used the browser as it is delivered with the XO Computers UI and it does in fact work as advertised. That would put an end to back on forth on the issue.
I have used qemu emulated image of OLPC, and I played around with Sugar. There are some issues I had with it, my screen size was funky, and I didn't manage to get the emulated networking running, so I couldn't really surf, but I got a good look on the software from non-networked perspective.

I can, however, confirm 100% that you can type URLs manually.

It's just that unusual OLPC design... Our regular browsers display the URL bar, and we got title displayed on our browser window bar. Since Sugar doesn't really have window bars, its fork of Firefox displays the web page title over URL bar until it is clicked, when it switches to standard URL bar. Elegant, but different than what we're used to.

Despite what its wiki says, I believe that they don't just use gecko engine browser, but a fork of firefox itself. about:mozilla works on it, and displays the same message it does on Firefox, IIRC. (can't check it out at the moment because I switched systems since I ran Sugar)

They dont care about phishing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424100)

Apparently the OLPC folks dont care about kids being victimized by phishing sites.

To those wondering why would kids be targetted for phishing? Here's one example: a pedophile run site pretending to be disney asking for their personal information?

OLPC old farts think kids are dumb like them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424306)

Hate to be harsh, but some of the OLPC UI design decisions dont seem to acknowledge tinkering ability. Kids are more adaptable to learning new things especially interfaces.

IMHO, the design decisions seem to be geared towards old people trying to use the OLPC versus kids using it.

Re:OLPC old farts think kids are dumb like them (1)

etelerro (945586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424414)

The OLPC UI design is focused on people who never used a computer, heck some maybe never saw one..

I think it is wise to create a GUI which is maybe "too easy to use" so everyone (maybe with a handicap) can use it..

Added bonus (1)

CPMO (1013807) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423496)

In addition to learning about modern computer technology and becoming net-savvy, as an added bonus these kids will learn Stallman and Torvalds political opinions - unedited and unchallenged. Just the way power-hungry commies like it.

We can look forward to a younger generation whose highest ambition is to recode existing software to get around copyright because they don't think other people should get paid.

Actually that's happened already.

Re:Added bonus (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423670)

Sounds to me like you've gotten caught up in the anti-Vista FUD machine. There's aren't evil DRM gremlins in Vista that are going to try to screw you over and mess with your media. All the DRM stuff is of no consequence if you don't choose to use it. Old apps run fine, I've used Sony Vegas at work and it works as it always does (well, you have to screw around to get it to install since it checks for .NET 1.1). There's no problem importing and messing with un-DRM'd audio and video.

So you can continue to use DRM free tools to your heart's content. The only time you need to start worrying about it is if you want to release content that's protected using the new DRM. Then you'll need to consider what tools you'll need to get for that, what restrictions it'll place on you, etc.

However you needn't worry about an evil gremlin applying DRM to your files while you sleep. Gutmann is just one of the many out there that dislike MS and are spreading FUD related to Vista. It may indeed be true that the DRM'd media files will suck and be low quality, however if you just don't use them then you'll never have to care.

PARENT IS TROLL (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423710)

It should be obvious by the off-topic nature of the post, but the parent is a troll copy-and-paste of a comment from a previous story: http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=214386&cid =17420470 [slashdot.org]

Could this be? (0, Offtopic)

Swimport (1034164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423522)

Could this be a step towards ending Microsoft's dominance? Actually if its any good, im sure theyll just copy it.

Re:Could this be? (1)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423764)

Microsoft already released this UI and it nearly destroyed them. It was called Microsoft Bob.

Re:Could this be? (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424624)

The reference to Microsoft Bob has been made several times. I didn't understand the comment then (Bob limited some aspects of the interface, but was mostly problematic because of its intrusiveness) and still don't. I suggest you revisit the specifics of Bob. Here's a good pointer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob [wikipedia.org]

Video (0, Redundant)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423528)

Does anybody have a video file of that that can be downloaded and played in, say, MPlayer?

Re:Video (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423958)

Use VLC. Come on now.

Re:Video (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424358)

``Use VLC. Come on now.''

I'd be more than happy to...but i need to get a file i can play. How do I do that?

Re:Video (1)

assassinator42 (844848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425446)

This should work. [youtube.com] Just use a player that's capable of playing FLV.

Re:Video (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425732)

Thanks a lot! How do you get at that URL?

Re:Video (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17427280)

Youtube doesn't work for you? Works fine for me on Mandriva.... Just look through the page source and grab the video file URL if you really need to use MPlayer.

Obvious joke in 3... 2... 1... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423532)

I'm waiting until it's mother-approved!

Re:Obvious joke in 3... 2... 1... (1)

vistic (556838) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423564)

...and you beat me to it.

Crap.

Re:Obvious joke in 3... 2... 1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17427118)

Im a doctor with a PHD in medicinalogy, neurology, bodyology, gynocology, geology, doctorology, sexology, eyeology, childology, surology, and nutrology.

I can say with 110% certianty that this OLPC UI is safe for kids of all ages, and is good for them to, with over 400 vitamins and 900 minerals, your kids are garantied to never go a day without their viagra.

Not blown away (2, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423540)

I understand why they did it but as a rule I hate icon based systems. I have a CG software I was trying to use that went that route. In that case they went too small with the icons to cram more in so they look like colored blobs. Instead of glancing at text I find I waste most of my time holding the cursor over icon after icon waiting for the roll over text to tell me what the function is. I was also surprised they were boasting of no text bar on the browser. Leaves you at the mercy of the search engine. In may be better for kids starting out the way they laid it out but how does it give them an education in computers when it doesn't teach them how any other computer on the planet works? They'd be better off with a ten year old Windows machine or far better off with a current Linux system. Nice idea but it seems completely pointless.

Re:Not blown away (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423898)

I have a CG software... [that] went too small with the icons to cram more in... I waste most of my time holding the cursor over icon after icon waiting for the roll over text to tell me what the function is.

Well, clearly the OLPC folks didn't make that mistake. They have a small number of large icons.

The OLPC approach makes a few functions very discoverable, with the tradeoff that the user will need to go to a dialog to do more tasks. For example, on my word processor I can make a bulleted list with one click of a toolbar button, but with the OLPC version of Abiword, the button for that isn't there.

I was also surprised they were boasting of no text bar on the browser.

I'll bet you an ice cream that the user can still go to an address by pressing Ctrl+L and typing it in.

If you consider the size of the OLPC screen, you would not be surprised that they didn't take the space to put an address bar. And the way they did it, newbies won't be trying to type their search keywords into the address bar; when the newbies are at the Google site there is only one place to type anything.

So the user can still go to bookmarks, still make bookmarks, can easily use Google to find things, and (almost certainly) can still go direct by using Ctrl+L (and probably with some dialog or menu pulldown as well).

n may be better for kids starting out the way they laid it out but how does it give them an education in computers when it doesn't teach them how any other computer on the planet works?

I'm partly in agreement with you here. Kids are like sponges, and they can soak up the basic principles of a modern desktop environment (DE) like GNOME.

On the other hand, this interface lowers the barriers to entry; there is much less to master before a kid can start using the laptop. Don't forget that these laptops aren't intended as a means to teach kids how to use a modern DE; these laptops are primarily intended as a replacement for all the kids' textbooks.

Also, these laptops have limited memory. I suspect that the limited "Sugar" DE they are showing us has a drastically smaller memory footprint than a full-blown DE like GNOME. Also, because the OLPC DE runs under Python, the DE can be precompiled Python bytecodes, which presumably take up less memory space than native compiled code. (Note that this whole paragraph is a guess; I welcome comments from someone who actually knows whether I got it right.)

Nice idea but it seems completely pointless.

Well, I think the OLPC DE does have some point to it.

steveha

Re:Not blown away (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17427158)

Also, because the OLPC DE runs under Python, the DE can be precompiled Python bytecodes, which presumably take up less memory space than native compiled code. (Note that this whole paragraph is a guess; I welcome comments from someone who actually knows whether I got it right.)

The size of the code wasn't the reason for using interpreted code; the important thing is that the kids can look at it and see how it works.

Re:Not blown away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17424048)

I have a CG software
No you don't, fuckwit.

What do you think of this new UI? (3, Funny)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423570)

I think Microsoft Bob might have been a better choice for the UI.

Re:What do you think of this new UI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423730)

I found that Funny and Insightful at the same time.

I come one of the third world countries.
Computers are now available for less than $250 US dollars including taxes which can run full blown modern operating systems.

After seeing the UI I am less than confident that this laptop can provide any benifit to childern.

x

Not sure about that UI... (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423578)

First off, I'm a big supporter of the OLPC project. I think it's a fantastic idea that will do alot of good.

The UI they have created (see video) seems like a strange choice, however. It is a very simple and seemingly restrictive interface. It appears childish and maybe even somewhat insulting to the user. I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers (not merely use them as applicances), and (2) encourage them to tinker/modify the system.

With regard to (1) it should be clear that providing a contrived UI specifically tailored to 'kid tasks' may be useful for the first week, but ultimately is a disservice to the children, as they are not learning about the true power and beauty of computers. They are not learning about modern computer capabilities or conventions if they are stuck in a primitive UI.

With regard to (2), my understanding was that Linux was chosen as the OS specifically because it allows for the students to modify, tinker, extent, and customize. The idea was that (unlike with a proprietary OS), they would be able to learn about the inner functions of computers and become truly interested and skilled with computer work. A simplistic UI that hides the true behind-the-scenes working of the computer hardly accomplishes this goal.

I may be mistaken about the UI. Perhaps what we see in the demonstration is an introductory UI that will be used by very young students (with a more normal GUI and system behind the scenes? ... accessible to students if they have the desire/skill to use it?). Hopefully that simple UI can be switched to a 'real' UI and this will be done for all but the youngest students.

Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface?

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

megabyte405 (608258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423790)

It seems like perhaps the concepts of "modern" and "what I already know" are being confused. If anything, it is a more modern interface and could be a model for future UI enhancements to "modern" desktops and a source of new ideas.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423816)

While I agree with your overall sentiments, I think some moderation is appropriate. Disclaimer: I can't watch the video, so I don't know what the actual UI looks and works like.

``I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers''

Yes, but who's to say that's not what's happening? The UI paradigm expressed by OLPC may be different from the desktop metaphor of Windows and OS X, but that makes it no less real. The OLPC computer is also a different beast from the desktop PC; perhaps this UI simply suits it better. Or, perhaps the authors are right, and this is a better UI for the target audience.

``(2) encourage them to tinker/modify the system.''

I think the way the UI works does influence what new software and modifications look like, but I don't think this UI, in particular, limits what can be expressed. For example, I see no reason a desktop with icons and windows and the like, or a terminal emulator, couldn't be expressed in this UI.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (2, Interesting)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423890)

Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS.

My daughter is 7. From time to time, I let her use my PC (other times, I can't stop her...). In XP Pro, she's figured out how to:

* Log on using her mother's account (the password is trivial, it's her name)
* Change her display picture
* Change the password
* Fire up Firefox and surf to a couple of her favourite sites (others she has to ask for help)
* Send voice clips using Live Messenger

She worked out how to record herself singing on her mum's phone and change the tone for text messages to be that sound clip. She's changed the name and background image on one of the cordless house phones, something I didn't even know you could do (not that I've really played with them much, they're just phones...)

Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for (strange, really, given they were all kids themselves once). Some kids are *much* smarter. I know it's a statistically insignificantly small sample size, but in my experience, kids are perfectly capable of using a modern UI.

However, given the low specs of the machine, it may well be that the machine isn't capable of presenting a full, modern UI (yes, yes, WindowMaker, fvwm, fluxbox, etc - I know. They're not what I mean by "full, modern UI".)

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426318)

Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for

You're absolutely right. That's because we were kids once, and we know all the brains go down the drain after puberty. By falsely labeling children as stupid, we are mentally preparing them for the worst years of their lives. It's far easier to set a low expectation and meet it, than set high expectations and have to explain the shortcomings.

Long story short, kids are smart, just don't tell them I told you so.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424004)

Some would argue that we should be doing away with traditional interfaces, and that computers should in fact act exactly like appliances. I think you'll see interfaces getting simpler, hopefully more like this. The way interfaces are now is terrible. Also, the interface is designed in such a way to accommodate the underlying hardware. It is a pretty basic machine and the UI lets you do with it what you can.
Regards,
Steve

One week (1)

matt me (850665) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424670)

>Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface? Give these to kids, and I'm sure in a week they'll have escaped out of the UI to a shell so they can send comprimising videos of their classmates across the neighbourhood.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

Chief Typist (110285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425458)

So why the simplistic interface?
It's a plot by Microsoft to sell upgrades :-)

-ch

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425766)

First off, I'm a big supporter of the OLPC project. I think it's a fantastic idea that will do alot of good.
 
The UI they have created (see video) seems like a strange choice, however. It is a very simple and seemingly restrictive interface. It appears childish and maybe even somewhat insulting to the user.
Actually I was quite impressed by the interface. Note that these computers are being put in environments where it's quite possible that there is no one has ever used a computer before. With no one to show them the ropes it's essential that the interface be as simple as possible otherwise the teacher may just decide not to use them.

I thought that the OLPC was supposed to specifically encourage children to (1) truly learn how to use computers (not merely use them as applicances), and (2) encourage them to tinker/modify the system.
 
With regard to (1) it should be clear that providing a contrived UI specifically tailored to 'kid tasks' may be useful for the first week, but ultimately is a disservice to the children, as they are not learning about the true power and beauty of computers. They are not learning about modern computer capabilities or conventions if they are stuck in a primitive UI.
 
With regard to (2), my understanding was that Linux was chosen as the OS specifically because it allows for the students to modify, tinker, extent, and customize. The idea was that (unlike with a proprietary OS), they would be able to learn about the inner functions of computers and become truly interested and skilled with computer work. A simplistic UI that hides the true behind-the-scenes working of the computer hardly accomplishes this goal.
 
I may be mistaken about the UI. Perhaps what we see in the demonstration is an introductory UI that will be used by very young students (with a more normal GUI and system behind the scenes? ... accessible to students if they have the desire/skill to use it?). Hopefully that simple UI can be switched to a 'real' UI and this will be done for all but the youngest students.
 
Kids are very smart... and I believe they would have little trouble dealing with a modern, full-featured UI and OS. So why the simplistic interface?
The demo didn't address this but I'm sure there is a way they can customize the system and start tinkering around. However, note that they don't exactly have skilled Linux users on hand so they may want to ensure a certain level of competence before the students starts changing things and possibly make their machine unusable. Current Linux user interfaces simply offer too many ways to shoot yourself. Also note that the point of these machines isn't to teach computer science, but to teach them to use the computer as a tool to access information, a job I think it can do well (from the demo). Also I don't think the interface will be a huge problem in restricting what they'll find out, users who aren't interested in the inner workings will just click along no matter what, but inquisitive users try to find out a little more no matter what UI they're in.

Also rather than learning window managers in order to learn computers one is better off learning user interfaces in general. This computer hsd applications with standard user interfaces (firefox, abiword, etc) and the metaphors the users pick up using these applications will be much more useful than those acquired from a more complicated WM.

Overall I was quite impressed by this demo. I can really see a group of children who have never seen a computer before quickly becoming comfortable, and productive, with this interface.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426016)

There is a terminal available and several compilers, it lacks the more powerful IDEs but it has Vi etc.

Some issues I found while using it.

Battery Seating Issues, some problems with startup and poor compatibility with 802.11b/g routers. The Keyboard is pretty uncomfortable, they might need to spend a bit of time working on it. The three mouse buttons don't work particularly well...

It's surprisingly responsive and fast (Probably the flash disk) and lots of fun, it's quite heavy.

My buddy got one, he's working on the music system (TamTam). He's been showing it to everyone since the few of us he showed first got really excited.

My parents asked for one when they saw it as well.

Re:Not sure about that UI... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426878)

So you have seen the hardware? Did you get to try the screen in daylight? Could you compare it to transflective color LCDs used in e.g. GPS receivers? I would love a better reflective display technology, similar to paper.

Wrong focus (4, Interesting)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423626)

They need to test with adults. There's a reason there's a cliche of "my kid fixed the VCR, computer, etc."--because kids' brains are sponges for new stimuli. They're still forming their how-the-world-works schemas and can easily adapt to new things. Adults, even ones who haven't used computers, are going to have more fixed ways of going about things, less willing to learn new concepts, less patient, less curious (just as a general rule.. I've known some older people who are insatiable learners).

Re:Wrong focus (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424450)

Okay i agree with each individual statement, but I don't understand how you then came to conclusion that they should test with adults.

You do realise that these are _for_ the children, right?

Re:Wrong focus (1)

k_187 (61692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424886)

Kids will be more receptive to the differences in UI that will be present. The grandparent assumes that it will be more difficult for an adult to learn how to use the OLPC.

Re:Wrong focus (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425826)

So? Why does it matter at all even if it's impossible for adults to learn?

Re:Wrong focus (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426268)

Teachers are generally adults.

OLPC (-1, Flamebait)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423632)

Kid tested, and might be mother approved had she not died of AIDS years ago.

Just in time testing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17423756)

Errr, they will *start* kid-testing this thing, just months
before the finished thing is supposed to be distributed
to millions of them? Didn't it occur to them to test it
earlier, like during design, or during early implementation???

No kidding (1)

ntufar (712060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423888)

No kids were harmed during the test of this product.

Wow, 20 years back in time (0, Flamebait)

tentimestwenty (693290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423930)

Looks to have a little less power and user friendliness than a Mac Plus circa 1986. The word processor is just a joke. It reminds me of the horrible times I had trying to get text to format correctly with the limited alignment and font options they used to have.

Thankfully ... [Wow, 20 years back in time] (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423982)

... in 2006 word processors are easy to use and do exactly what you want and are so simple that your 70 year old [grand]mom can figure them out by herself while sipping tea.

In some 2006 in some other alternate universe, that is.

*shaking head*

The reality disconnect here gets pretty bad at times.

Re:Wow, 20 years back in time (1)

Nazgul_Cro (868869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425744)

Word processor is a version of AbiWord. It has all the options you would require, hidden within menus :)

Icon Collision? (2, Interesting)

a.phoenicis (1026040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423934)

I find it truly amazing that nobody on the development team realized the obvious icon collision with their primary symbol... the "child" splat and this much older, and more universal symbol [aapcc.org] .

Re:Icon Collision? (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424682)

Interesting observation. Hard to change at this point, as it is the name of the machine (the XO computer), but it does raise interesting issues of language and interpretation.

Re:Icon Collision? (2, Insightful)

wombert (858309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426438)

I thought it odd that they have a few too many similar icons -

Circle+X in a circle = Home / kid splat
X in a circle = Close/end task
X-with-arrows in a circle = Move

I din't like having to depend on mouseovers to figure out which symbol I'm looking at each time ... maybe they've addressed this with consistent placement (the "close task" circle always in a predictable location?) but it still seems a bit overloaded as a result of the simplified icons.

Download OLPC and try it yourself (1)

HappyUserPerson (954699) | more than 7 years ago | (#17423944)

Download the Live CD and run it on your favorite free emulator* [microsoft.com] or burn it on CD and try it out! link [redhat.com]

*Virtual PC is better because...

  • It doesn't take over your machine (even VM Ware player installs funky drivers)
  • It has a much better workstation experience than VM Ware's free offerings (Player or Server) .. the UI is minimalist and easy to use, yet fully functional (compare to VMWare's gargantuan MDI/tabbed interface), and its tiny (<20 megs) compared to VMWare's bloated offering

Prototype impressions (1)

cojsl (694820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424226)

The thing that was most noticeable about the prototype was the triple wide touch pad. It's useful for alphanumeric writing practice and character input for non keyboard compatible languages. The keyboard had better than expected tactile response. The screen was small and a bit dark, but very legible. The unit felt rugged and was quite light. I'll likely buy them for my young children when they become available

Erm, HCI (1)

SillyWilly (692755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424404)

If they're only just involving children in the design process then they're product is doomed not to be user friendly.

KPT, anyone? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424408)

Much like Windows is a rip-off^W^W inspired on Mac OS, that Candy interface looks rather similar to Kai's Power Tools. But is that good or bad? I'm not sure...

Clever Levers (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17424916)

Finally, we'll get to see what that thing can really do.

I wonder how long untill it will get Mother Approved.

Review (3, Funny)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425378)

I downloaded the QEMU image and converted it to VMWare and ran two copies, which I named Tom and Dick. There are some neat ideas. Tom opens the web browser and goes to slashdot.org. Tom shares the web browser. Dick looks at the neighborhood view and sees Tom with a shared web browser. Dick clicks on Tom's web browser. It opens up to . . . google. What happened to slashdot? Tom is still looking at slashdot. Tom closes the browser. Dick is still looking at google. Tom looks at the neighborhood view and sees Dick looking at his web browser still, so he clicks on it and gets slashdot. Dick can't close it. Tom can close it, but Dick is still looking at it. Ok, switch to console, killall -HUP sugar-shell. Now it behaves like it should. It is really pretty neat when it works.

I guess this is pretty typical of how computers work. Throw 'em in the water, they'll learn to swim. Hopefully somebody was taught how to use ps, grep, and kill.

Fp Do7l (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425392)

4.1BSD product, balance iS struck, about a project

Hacking, User Customization, and Etoys (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425574)

Many of the comments so far have suggested that the XO machines interface was limited, and it does appear that some things look more restrictive than they probably ought to be.

Still, the thing that most struck me in the demo was how easy it was for kids to build applications using EToys, a "Logo, Smalltalk, Hypercard, and StarLogo" influenced (see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_EToys [laptop.org] "authoring system"/direct manipulation programming language. The demo didn't take that very far, unless you consider the game widget that was demoed. Clearly, this "langauge" provides a lot of room for kids to step beyond other limitations of the system. Etoys applications can apparently be uploaded, shared, and played through the browser. I can't tell if the browser can be used from within etoys, but it would be interesting if it could be.

Beyond that, it appears that it is possible to install other software on the XO laptop (see http://http//wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar#Hacking [http] . Does anyone know if how easily children will be able to do this? I assume this means that a child can grow the function of laptop over time (to do things like extending the word processor with the functionality that is now missing).

The OLPC laptop wiki addresses the question indirectly, by stating that (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_software_task_list [laptop.org] )"the $100 laptop will not be tied to a specific set of software or content. It will have the flexibility to change with the requirements of the student. Individuals will inevitably find individualized uses; certainly local, regional, and national requirements will drive much of the base configuration." But that is a statement of requirements rather than function. Where do things actually stand relative to that goal?

Test after building? (1)

Judge_Fire (411911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425582)

The article makes the process sound old fashioned and backwards; testing only after building it?!

Surely the concepts have been tested and designed with kids beforehand and especially while building it?

Kids are great to design together with, especially as they don't attempt to hide their dislikes or disorientation in a UI as much as adults tend to. And they can come up with really cool ideas, out of the blue. :)

Re:Test after building? (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425752)

There clearly has been and is testing going on. Downloadable images of Sugar and the proposed software environment have been out for a while. Testing of etoys has been underway for a while as well. The other apps all appear to be adaptations of widely used Linux software and are in teh downloadable image.

Documentation of stress testing for the XO computer (apparently already underway) can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Testing_checklist [laptop.org] .

Etoys (2, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425674)

Cool, it has Etoys. :-) Etoys is amazing; a great way to get started with writing software, especially games. And it's a nice stepping stone to Smalltalk, which is a very nice programming language.

Etoys? (1)

GroovyTrucker (917003) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426488)

Looks like they're using Squeak. http://www.squeak.org/ [squeak.org]

Looks like Negroponte is trying to resurrect Smalltalk :)

(If the OLPC succeeds, that is.)

Over-simplifying (1)

Elentari (1037226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426680)

I don't understand the need to simplify the interface. Are the developers assuming that the kids who'll be getting them are somehow less able to learn than kids in our home countries?

Everyone remembers their first computer, and gradually learning the possibilities, wanting to do more and more with it. Where's the oppurtunity for expanding this simple interface when they grow tired of looking at the same things?

Experiences porting software to the OLPC (4, Informative)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17427146)

I just received one of the OLPC beta test laptops, and I've played around with it and started porting some X11 software to run on it.

The hardware is very nicely designed, and has a cool, unique look and feel, although it's in the very early stages and still has some rough edges and unfinished pieces.

The touch pad doesn't currently work very well, due to a combination of hardware and software problems: the cursor jumps around and stalls, and the left and right sides (for writing with a stylus) are not currently active. But a USB mouse works just fine. The keyboard is hard for me to use because it's so tiny, but it's good for kids because it's simple and spill proof, and only requires a light touch.

The screen turns around and folds over so you can use it in "book mode" without the keyboard or touch pad. The game controller buttons (and camera and microphone) on the screen are usable when it's in book mode. The round four-direction joystick pad and the triangle/square/circle/x game pad seem to send the same arrow key escape codes, and don't auto-repeat, but I think that's a matter of software that will be addressed in the future.

The camera is on the right edge of the screen, and doesn't turn inwards, so your face appears at the edge of the screen instead of being centered. It would be nice for the camera to be centered at the top edge of the screen, but currently there is no any room for that, and it would require a redesign of the case. The directional pad sticks down sometimes when you rock it to the left, but I trust that and other problems will be shaken out in future versions of the hardware.

There is an SD card reader hidden on the bottom on the screen, but no disk drives showed up when I typed "df" after I inserted an SD card, and the spring loaded ejector didn't work so I had to pull it out with my fingernails. Again, I expect this kind of software and hardware stuff to be fixed in later versions -- that's why they're doing this beta test: to shake out problems like that.

The antennas are very cute, and give it an anthropomorphic look like a puppy dog's ears, that I think kids will dig. (Somebody's got to port XEyes, XNose and XMouth to OLCP so it has a face, to complete the look!) It took me a minute or so to figure out that they also function as latches to allow the screen to be opened. I was excited to open the screen the first time I saw it, but I was careful because didn't want to hurt it -- however, kids might break something by trying to pry the screen open before they figure out you have to rotate both antennas to unlatch the screen. I'm afraid that they might get broken off easily, and they're kind of clumsy when then laptop is in "book mode", if you don't tuck them in by opening the screen a bit so they will rotate around to their closed position. They don't latch the screen closed over the keyboard in book mode. When in laptop mode, the screen does not fold back as far as would be convenient. If you want to use a USB mouse or other USB device, external microphone or headphones, you must open up one or both of the antennae, which makes it more possible that they might get broken off.

The screen is amazing. It's quite small, but extremely high resolution (200 dots per inch). The application I'm porting was designed for a large workstation screen, and it comes up with the text and graphics looking very tiny, but quite sharp. By default the display runs in 16 bit mode, at a resolution of 1200 x 900 (201x201 dots per inch resolution according to xdpyinfo). The supported depths are 16, 1, 4, 8, 15, 24 and 32.

There are buttons on the keyboard that switch the display between color and monochrome mode, and control the brightness. The monochrome mode is handled by hardware -- the X server still thinks it's in 16 bit color mode, and the colors are translated to gray scales. However some of the monochrome gray levels show up as weird colors or diagonal cross hatching, unless the brightness is turned all the way down.

Anywhere it displays a 50% checkerboard stipple pattern looks ok in color, but it appears in in monochrome mode as course diagonal lines. That must be some kind of quirk of the "swizzling" hardware that translates color to gray scale. Apparently the color resolution is lower than the monochrome resolution (4 mono pixels to 1 color pixel, I think), and the display hardware has a special "swizzling" algorithm that chooses the best color pixel to represent the four monochrome pixels it corresponds to. In color mode it looks fine, and I can't tell that it's not a normal full color display (except that it's so small and detailed), and the weird color and crosshatching artifacts only show up in monochrome mode.

You can turn the brightness down all the way to save the batteries and use the screen under a bright light (outdoors) in reflective monochrome mode. In color mode you can also completely lower the brightness, so there is no color, and it looks almost the same as in monochrome mode, except for the weird crosshatching of 50% checkerboard stipple patterns.

As a software developer, it's wonderful that I don't have to modify the software to work well in monochrome mode, because it's a lot of work to rewrite an X11 program to support different screen depths, and I'm happy that it "just works" in color and monochrome, without changing any display code.

One issue I've had to deal with is Sugar's "activity" oriented window manager (tinderbox). It insists that applications use only one full screen window, so I'm in the process of restructuring a multi-window application to use one base window and tile the subwindows inside of it. (You can still pop up overlapping dialogs as transient windows, or use override redirect to inhibit the window manager.)

For kids, I think the full screen "activity" approach is a great idea, because it's a pain in the wazoo to manage a bunch of overlapping windows. Of course some applications may want to implement their own internal overlapping or tiling window managers, so it might be a good idea to standardize that kinds of stuff instead of leaving it to each application.

The software development environment is quite solid and well choosen: It's based on Python, GTK and Cairo. Python is an excellent choice as a scripting language for the Sugar interface (and easy for kids to learn), and Cairo provides high quality, high speed 2D graphics rendering, and both GTK and Cairo can be scripted and extended in Python. I'm looking forward to implementing pie menus for GTK in Python, using Cairo to render the text and graphics.

The most wonderful thing about the OLPC project is that some really great people (like Alan Kay, Seymour Papert, Jim Gettys, Mary Lou Jepsen, Mitchel Resnick, Ted Sekler, Walter Bender and other people from the MIT Media Lab, and other places around the world) are finally working together on a good cause, taking a few steps back, focusing on kids and education, and redesigning all the hardware and software together, based on the best available and most practical technology -- not just blindly imitating the mistakes of the past, and bending over backwards to maintain compatibility with obsolete baggage.

-Don

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