Goodbye to my XO

It is with great sadness that I say good bye to my XO computer from OLPC. It is not enough computer to do the things I want to do with a computer in Africa.

There is not enough hard drive space which is a mystery to me since hard drive space is so inexpensive these days.  It is so slow booting up which is multiplied by the times I have to reboot. When using the touch-pad the mouse goes crazy and I can’t control it any longer so I must reboot. This happens at least once an hour.  For unexplained reasons the computer just slows down to a crawl and I have to reboot. Sometimes it just freezes and I have to reboot.

The supplied browser crashes frequently but it’s the only web-browser that uses the evince PDF reader so I have to use it to read PDFs. But it won’t open PDFs with more than two or three pages, instead the browser crashes or the computer freezes.  Flash has the same problems.

I use Opera most of the time for my browser but flash works sporadically at best and Opera also crashes or freezes. Many of the free online apps I love don’t work in either browser or are funky.  Typing in Zoho writer is a jumping jumble.

The file system is primitive and after only 3 months I find it incredibly frustrating to locate projects, text or photos I have stored. And I have figured out how to name my files and how to show only specific type of file in the journal.

And very important to me I could not get an alternative power supply. The yoyo manufacturer would not sell me one.  Even after I pleaded my case OLPC would not even sell me one let alone give me one. I could not find the elusive $12.00 solar panel charger. And  OLPC support is cautious about recommending one to me.

I do feel OLPC is sending an inferior product to the third world. It displays the attitude that second rate is good enough for the third world. The educational tools on the computer that don’t rely on the Internet are mostly focused on computers and programming. I think the most important general education tool on this computer is the internet so the internet needs to be working up to 2008 standards. Running this computer takes me back to the old frustrations of running a Windows 95 machine. And the support for the computer is also internet based. Its very frustrating to try to solve a problem when your problem solving tool is buggy. Keyboard response time reminds me of a windows 95 machine as well. There is significant lag time between hitting the key and the input showing on the monitor.

The media capabilities are very limited. Its very cool that there are video and audio recorders but only seconds of record time and no way to edit the recordings? Its a given that I have to have an external hard drive to store my digital photos. Then it’s very clunky to view those photos. The browser is the only photo viewing tool. I can’t open photos from the browser so I must switch between browser and journal for each photo. There is not enough disk space or RAM to install a photo editing tool. The online tool Picnik does not run but freezes the computer.

I was a huge fan of this computer. I loved the educational mission. I loved the commitment to open source.  To fulfill either mission OLPC needs to create a better box to put it in.

OLPC lost the chance to have an ardent supporter living and working in just the type of place they want to sell their computers. I will be teaching computer science to Ghanian teens. Too bad I won’t be demonstrating the cool little XO computer to everyone I meet there.  I won’t be singing the praises of the XO to my fellow teachers and the government of Ghana.

I’m buying the latest Eeepc instead.



This post was typed on my OX the spacing and line breaks are part of the funkiness when using online apps.



  1. Khürt said,

    March 7, 2008 at 9:35 am

    It may not be adequate to YOUR expectations for a laptop computer but does it meet the expectations of the INTENDED audience for the product?

  2. Vicky said,

    March 7, 2008 at 10:08 am

    They have might have no expectations becuase thye have never used a computer BUT shouldn’t they get a computer that functions at todays minimal standards?

  3. Donna said,

    March 7, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Sorry to see you ran into issues with the XO. I’ve seen some of those things happen — for example, the Opera browser sometimes gets extremely slow after I’ve been surfing for a while. I chalk that up to some bugginess in the Opera version that someone was kind enough to port over to the XO. I used to reboot the XO when Opera experienced a slowdown, but now I just close and reopen Opera. That saves lots of time.

    I am not sure why you are having difficulty opening PDFs that are larger than a few pages. I have used the XO to read multiple PDF ebooks (including Tale of Two Cities, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice) without having it crash. I used Browse, the included browser, to access the books which I have downloaded to an SD card.

    I use the SD card, or else a USB memory stick, for all my storage of documents, ebooks, and photographs. That way, I can save room on the XO itself for programs I might want to install.

    Speaking of documents, I use the XO for word processing. There are instructions on the boards for how to get a full-fledged version of AbiWord to run on the XO, and it doesn’t even involve installing anything. It involved renaming one file in the Write activity folder, starting the Write activity, and then hitting CTRL-N. Bingo — instant full-fledged word processor. That’s what I use to take meeting minutes in real time.

    I do realize that the XO isn’t for everyone. No computer is. (Look at the vehemence of PC vs. Mac wars, lol.) If the XO doesn’t suit your specific needs, it’s just as well if you make it available to someone else for whom it might be a better fit.

    BTW, I am on the mailing list for both Potenco and Freeplay, so that when their yoyo/crank chargers become available to the general public, I’ll find out. In the meantime, you might be interested in portable solar panels like the Power Pocket, and portable batteries like those made by Tekkeon. They’re not as inexpensive as the proposed $12 solar panel, but they do exist and they do work with the XO.

    Best of luck to you in Ghana.

  4. Fyoder said,

    March 7, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    You’ll note Khurt refers to it as a “product”, and he’s on the right track. You (and you’re not alone) are probably confused by the thing being marketed as ‘the hundred dollar laptop’. That sets up certain expectations. However, the xo is an educational appliance designed to be used in the classroom by a class of students each with their own units participating in a limited variety of activities supported by the Sugar graphical environment. Getting one of these things to work as what most consider a laptop is subverting the original intention, and it requires time and effort.

    Also note that cost is a limiting factor in the design. Countries are expected to purchase these things, it isn’t all charity. Viewed in that light, the xo has succeeded quite well, and hopefully they will eventually achieve their goal of $100 per unit, because price matters. I’m sure Apple would be happy to sell them all MacBooks, but that ain’t gonna happen.

  5. March 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I think you are missing the purpose of the XO. It has a lot of neat technological features that are different than other laptops. For instance, you say that the screen takes a little while to respond to input, but the processor is a special chip that can turn itself off while the system is still on. This is to save battery life in places that do not have good supplies for electricity. It’s not really made for people who blog, its for people who could not otherwise afford a computer. And you ask why there isn’t more ‘hard drive space’ since its so cheap these days… Well the storage device isn’t a typical hard drive. It is a flash based drive that is better on energy and reliability, but not so great in the price department. I know the XO isn’t a perfect device, but it is groundbreaking and I think it will help many people. I donated to the OLPC project.

  6. con said,

    March 7, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    I, too, am sorry to see that you did not appreciate what a brilliant device the OLPC XO-1 is. I use mine all the time for watching videos, taking notes while researching at the library or writing notes while drinking coffee in a cafe. I can’t wait to take it on the road and see how portable it really is. There are plenty of alternative electricity methods that others have already deployed including cow poop in India. I often boot mine off a 16 gb SDHC that i recently purchased for $60 which is plenty of storage space for my needs. Nview works great for viewing photos and I use Gwenview when I boot into Xubuntu.

    I think you gave up too easily. Good luck with teaching.

  7. Sam said,

    June 8, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I’m with you. I to had great expectations of the XO and it barely works. I’m amazed at some of the comments (great comments just amazing the difference in experiences) as you plainly stated this is for teaching.
    It can not run flash (sure I can download Opera but why?). Seeing most Children sites are Flash based I’m at a loss. Those who find it capable of running video I want to know more! We (my 4 year old daughter) sat and watched the blank screen for an hour but no video.
    Does it meet the needs of children? My daughter finds it very frustrating and much more enjoys Dad and Mom’s computers that are a thousand times faster and a thousand times more stable. I’m a big Linux fan but this is Linux on sugar substitute. More of a curiosity for Dad the geek then my daughter the explorer. I can understand now the unease of “developing countries” in purchasing the unit. It may be that “developing countries” are more developed then developed countries trying to sell odd gear to them. The idea is excellent but the product is sub-standard for the audience intended. Is it better then nothing? sure.

  8. Vicky said,

    June 9, 2008 at 5:25 am


    I did find it was a lot of geeks who loved the product ut not too many real users. If you love tweeking a new product and finding fixes for bugs then this might be the computer for you. I also found that commitmtnet to the xo was almost religious.

  9. October 31, 2010 at 4:30 am

    to date, solar panels which generate more than 100Watts are still expensive but hopefully they are getting cheaper each day ,

  10. September 2, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Good job over again! I am looking forward for your next post=)

  11. ipad-2 free said,

    September 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Hi-Ya! I just loves your gorgeous site thanks and please stick to it

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