XO musing (8.)2.0

I’ve not used my XO nearly as much as I anticipated:

  1. The keyboard is even more a “fatal flaw” than I thought at first.
  2. The LCD panel failed (right side went blank) just before I was going to take it to Nicaragua. (A free under warranty replacement machine was shipped promptly, but not promptly enough.)
  3. Miscellaneous software annoyances, most notably the WiFi limitations and the power management deficiencies, also limited applicability.

Obviously, the keyboard is not going to get better, the LCD failure is history, but there is good news about #3.

My opinion last year, “it definitely feels to me like a ‘version 1.0’ product that was pushed out the door too soon.”, still seems apropos. OLPC referred to that version as “release 7.1.0, also known as ‘Ship.2′”.

Now, there are two much more encouraging options:

  1. Release 8.2, which came out in October, and which I installed on my XO a few days ago, feels like a real product, what I would have liked to have seen originally.
  2. Fedora 10 is available on an SD card as a boot time alternative to the standard OPLC Fedora derivative with “Sugar”. I’ve ordered a copy and expect to try it out in a few days.

(I’m not counting the most publicized option, Windows XP. Based on the specs and experience with release 7.1, I can’t imagine this hardware being sufficient for seriously using XP.)

Some of the improvements I’ve noticed in 8.2:

  • Sugar usability and configurability are noticably improved. In particular, Sugar “activities” appear as a large circle on the primary screen, so that they can be easily browsed and selected without the ugly horizontal scrolling of 7.1. Activities can be easily configured to be absent or present in the circle.
  • WiFi configuration for WPA is now easy with Sugar.
  • Power management seems adequate
  • Flash performance under the Browse Activity seems noticably better, e.g., “The Parting Hand” plays reasonably, with continuous audio. (The video is jerky, but so was the video on the alternative XP desktop that I used for comparison last year.)
  • It is obvious how to easily configure the system languages other than English.

There have been a few annoyances, but nothing compared to before. (The olpc-update process did not retain applications, e.g., Opera, that I assumed would be retained, and did not retain accounts and passwords I’d established. The latest Flash from Adobe doesn’t seem to work with Opera. Those are the only annoyances I recall at this moment.)

For now, I’m waiting for the Fedora 10 SD card, wondering what the performance will be like, what Fedora packages have been included/excluded in the 4G SD card, and how much space will be left on that card.

I’m assuming I will finally get to try the XO in Nicaragua in a month or two.

But with the plethora of manufacturers producing analogous machines, now typically called “netbooks”, I look forward to getting one with a usable keyboard and robust processing capability sooner or later.

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