I’ll start this off by saving that I collect computers. In the last two years I’ve had over ten different laptops and in the last five years I’ve had over 100 different computers.
Last week something caught my eye on eBay, it was a XO-1 from the One Laptop Per Child Give 1 Get 1 program. Basically the charitable OLPC program sold there laptops to the public in 2008, so long as the buyer donated one when buying one.
Now, five years later, the original G1G1 program laptops are pretty cheap. I got my for under $100 shipped and it’s in good shape with no consmetic issues and a working battery.
Now for the fun part: What make the XO-1 one of my favorite computers?
Upon unboxing my ‘new’ XO-1, I noticed a few things:
- It looks like a childs toy. The bright colors and the plastic built make for a laptop that could easily be mistaken for a ”V-Tech”.
- It has a very strange rubber keyboard. The keys don’t have plastic caps, but are just a big molded rubber sheet. Initially the keyboard was awkward, but over time I find it is growing on me.
- The screen is a special low-power unit. When the backlight is turned off, the LCD can still be read (in black and white) if light shines on it and if the ambient sensor finds that external light is brighter than the backlight, it turns the backlight off for black and white reading.
- In terms of software, I found it was also very childish. One thing that I found very interesting is that the “Sugar” UI that is used uses icons rather than text on dialogs and buttons to make it easier to translate to other languages. My goal was not to use the XO as a learning device, and the Sugar UI seemed very slow.
- After updating the OS and firmware it’s no possible to boot to a Fedora based GNOME desktop.
- In order to install an OS other than the ones provided by OLPC, you have to apply and get a special developer key, which takes 24 hours.
- There is a Debian port “DebXO” for the XO, but it’s based on Squeeze which is getting pretty old.
- There’s an SD card slot that loads under the LCD, so most of the time the card isn’t exposed.
Right now, I’m waiting on a 32GB SD card which I’ll install DebXO on, and then because it’s a standard x86 machine, I’ll add some repos and install software to 1. Make it more like Crunchbang 2. Make it useful for web browsing/music listening.
Oh, and yes, it’ll run DOSEMU if I want to test or develop a GUI