Re: [TTLUG] Fwd: [hc] One laptop per child (OLPC) - $100 laptop
- I want one!!
On 3/6/07, Deosaran Bisnath <deobisnath@...> wrote:
> The face of the $100 laptop
> Steve Hamm, BusinessWeek | March 06, 2007 | 13:47 IST
> The so-called $100 laptop that's being designed for school children in
> developing nations is known for its bright green and white plastic shell,
> its power-generating hand crank, and for Nicholas Negroponte, the technology
> futurist who dreamed it up and who tirelessly promotes it everywhere from
> Bangkok to Brasilia.
> What has not received much attention is the graphical user interface --
> the software that will be the face of the machine for the millions of
> children who will own it. In fact, the user interface, called Sugar, may
> turn out to be one of the more innovative aspects of a project that has
> already made breakthroughs in mesh networking and battery charging since
> Negroponte unveiled the concept two years ago.
> Sugar offers a brand new approach to computing. Ever since the first Apple
> Macintosh was launched in 1984, the user interfaces of personal computers
> have been designed based on the same visual metaphor: the desktop. Sugar
> tosses out all of that like so much tattered baggage.
> Instead, an icon representing the individual occupies the center of the
> screen; "zoom" out like a telephoto lens and you see the user in relation to
> friends, and finally to all of the people in the village who are also on the
> The $100 Laptop's New Interface
> Acer's Hot New Designs
> The Road Warrior's Toolbox
> It's the first complete rethinking of the computer user interface in more
> than 30 years. "We're building something that's right for the audience,"
> says Chris Blizzard, the engineering project leader for Sugar. "We don't
> just take what's already there and say it's good enough. You can do better."
> The audience he and his colleagues have in mind is the hundreds of
> millions of poor kids all over the world. Negroponte came up with the
> nonprofit "One Laptop Per Child" idea when he was chairman of the MIT Media
> Lab and observed the failure of standard attempts to use computers in
> education to improve the lives of underprivileged children.
> Typically, a handful of computers, designed for business applications, are
> installed in schools; students only use them in special computer classes and
> are forced to share. Negroponte's idea was to give a laptop to each student
> that he or she could take to every class and bring home at the end of the
> "OLPC is child-centric, designed to be a seamless part of their lives at
> home, at school, and in play," he says.
> Nearly a dozen countries, including Brazil and Thailand, have committed to
> buying the computer, now officially called XO. The UN Development Program
> will administer the program locally. About 2,500 beta test machines ran off
> assembly lines in Taiwan in February and are now being shipped to
> participating countries so they can kick the tires on the technology. The
> final version is supposed to be ready by August.
> "You Just Do It Right"
> While XO has been greeted warmly by many, some technologists criticize
> Negroponte and his colleagues for not testing out their new ideas on
> underprivileged school children earlier in the process. And that goes for
> the user interface as well.
> What Your Gadget Really Costs
> The Making of an LCD TV
> Jakob Nielsen, a user interface designer and principal in the consulting
> firm Nielsen Norman Group, falls into the critical group. While familiar
> with the design of Sugar, Nielsen's criticisms focus on the process. It's
> only in the coming weeks that they'll begin to get feedback from kids. "It's
> always dangerous to release any product without the safeguard of user
> testing," says Nielsen. "But it's outright reckless in a case like this."
> But XO developers defend their approach, which grew out of a core
> philosophy of the MIT Media Lab known as "demo or die." Researchers are
> encouraged to build new things, critique them, and then make improvements --
> rather than doing a lot of concept-testing up front. They're backed up by
> John Maeda, a user-interface design guru from the Media Lab who has been
> watching the XO development process from its beginnings.
> "They're using the Steve Jobs method," he says, referring to Apple's
> famous chief executive and design whiz. "You don't use focus groups. You
> just do it right."
> When BusinessWeek visited the OLPC offices in Cambridge, Mass., in
> mid-February, one of the XO designers had just achieved something of a
> milestone. He had loaded a game modeled on Tetris on a test machine and was
> trying it out.
> This scene took place in a large, brightly lit room where a handful of XO
> computers were scattered on tabletops, many with their miniature circuitry
> exposed -- a reminder that Sugar is still very much a work in progress.
> "You're the first to see Tetris running on our computer," said Walter
> Bender, OLPC's president of software and content.
> Neighborhood Approach
> The game, called Block Party, is being used as a sample of how developers
> should create applications for XO. "We're showing them how to 'Sugarize'
> their applications," Bender explained. That means conceiving applications
> from the start as activities that take place on the network and are shared
> by groups of youngsters and their teachers.
> "Sugarizing" also has a technical side: The software is built on top of
> Red Hat Linux, and is an open-source project itself, meaning that any
> interested software programmer could write software to run on the machine.
> But the programs must be small -- the XO has no hard drive -- so existing PC
> software must first be rewritten.
> Sugar has a look and feel all its own. When you start up the machine, you
> see the image of the so-called "XO Man," an O on top of an X, placed in the
> middle of a circle. A darkened border frames the display, lined with icons
> representing activities such as e-mail, a simple word processor, a
> photography program (XO has a built-in camera), a Web browser, instant
> messenger, and an electronic book reader.
> There are also icons representing the three different modes -- home,
> friends, and neighborhood -- that are integral to the "zoom" metaphor. In
> home mode, a user sees the XO Man, and, when she clicks on the icon to
> launch an activity, the icon for that activity pops into a gray ring
> encircling the XO Man.
> In friends mode, she sees icons representing her circle of friends, each
> identified by nickname and chosen color scheme. Next to the friends are
> icons depicting the activities in which they're engaged.
> If several friends are sharing an activity -- say, working on a school
> report together -- they are pictured clustered around the appropriate icon.
> Our user can ask to be invited into a group activity or can start one of her
> own and invite others to join. The neighborhood mode gives a broader view of
> all of the individuals and clusters of friends on the network at the moment
> and the activities they're involved in.
> Wi-Fi For the Village
> One of the key technologies behind the XO computer is its so-called mesh
> network. Created by Mikhail Bletsas, the OLTP's chief connectivity officer,
> the XO mesh connects all of the XO computers in a village via a Wi-Fi
> network. If any one of the computers is connected to the Internet, they all
> get Net access.
> And the computer's antenna is always left on so the network remains active
> -- though networking draws less than half a watt of power from the
> computer's battery. The children are expected to keep their computers
> powered by occasionally turning a hand crank or operating a yo-yo type
> device that keeps the battery juiced up.
> From the start of the Sugar project last summer, Bender urged his small
> team of programmers to keep the interface simple and to organize things so
> children could learn by doing. Even now, the Sugar development team is made
> up of just eight full- and part-time contributors.
> Several of them, including Blizzard, work for Red Hat Software, the
> leading distributor of the Linux open-source PC operating system. One of
> them, lead designer Marco Gritti, an Italian, gave sugar its name.
> Then there is the open-source community, which the organizers are just now
> engaging. Any programmer who is interested is free to view the core software
> code on an OLPC Web site and suggest improvements. And a handful of OS
> efforts have formed to create applications for the computer.
> The project leaders hired Pentagram to help out with the visual design of
> the interface. The Pentagram designers have kept the icons spare and
> universal so kids can understand them instantly no matter where they are
> growing up.
> Text labels are kept very short. The "zoom" feature is being designed so
> kids see the transition from individual, to group, to village as if they're
> in a helicopter lifting off from the earth. "We're trying to use as many
> references as we can to the physical world so it will be easy for kids who
> haven't used a computer before to use this foreign thing," says Lisa
> Strausfeld, the Pentagram partner whose team is working on Sugar.
> Kids Can Tweak the Code
> The interface is being designed to encourage the users themselves to
> explore -- and improve on -- its inner workings. Bender chose a software
> programming language called Python that's simple enough for more-tech-minded
> children to learn.
> If a student is playing a game on the computer, he can actually look at
> the game's code and modify it -- say, changing the colors on the screen. If
> the student makes a mistake, he can restore the program to its original form
> with the click of a button. "The machine is a tool, but it's also an
> experience. It's a way to be creative," says Blizzard.
> To that end, Sugar offers a simple technique for moving objects -- a
> document, say, or an image -- from one application to another. A student can
> pluck a photo off of a Web site by clicking on it and dragging it to the
> left side of the frame. Then, after she launches another activity on the
> display screen, she can click on the icon for the photo and drag it onto the
> screen. The drop-off spot on the frame is conceived as a "pocket" that the
> kids can use to carry around things they want to use later.
> The Journal, another nifty feature, allows youngsters to create a record
> of what they did with the software and what they thought about it that can
> later be shared with others. Once a Journal reaches a certain size, earlier
> entries are automatically shifted to a more powerful computer on the
> network. Documents and photographs can be stored in the same way.
> While the Sugar team hasn't run any formal usability tests yet, Bender et
> al. have received unscientific feedback from a number of children who have
> tried the machine.
> Typically, says Bender, the kids get totally absorbed and disappear for
> hours. Now he's glad to be able to test Sugar in real-world situations. The
> first 2500 Beta 2 machines are being distributed to schools in participating
> countries, and OLPC will finally receive more substantial user feedback.
> "I'm sure we have the basics down, but we can still make changes," he says.
> "We want to get this right."
> See The $100 Laptop's New Interface
> Recent Activity
> New Members
> New Photos
> Visit Your Group
> SPONSORED LINKS
> Indian ocean travel
> Corporate culture
> Cell culture
> Culture change
> Got Yodel?
> Best Yahoo! Yodel
> Give us your best
> yodel and win!
> Yahoo! Mail
> Get it all!
> With the all-new
> Yahoo! Mail Beta
> Need traffic?
> Drive customers
> With search ads
> on Yahoo!
> Finding fabulous fares is fun.
> Let Yahoo! FareChase search your favorite travel sites to find flight and
> hotel bargains.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]