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OLPC XO-1 Review, Tips, and Comparison vs. Asus EEE

Posted on Saturday, March 22, 2008 @ 06:44:08 PM CDT by David Yee [] [read 14953 times]

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I finally received my OLPC XO-1 Laptop today despite making my $400 donation (+$23.95 for shipping) for the give 1 get 1 program back on December 7th, 2007. The box says it came from Bright Star US Inc. in Illinois. There were only a quick start pamphlet and a Thank You letter in the box other than the XO-1 and its AC adapter. Unfortunately the quick start pamphlet doesn't really tell you much. It was useful, however, in telling how to lift open the screen of the laptop- you have to life the two antennas out first. The four page pamphlet also pointed to which gave much more detailed info on how to use the XO-1.

After installing the battery- I noticed that the XO-1 is a little heavier than the Asus EEE. I then lifted up the screen & after connecting the AC, I pressed the power button. There was a melodic four-note chime, and a moving icon indicated the booting progress. The initial boot up of the XO-1 was very slow. It too several minutes before it came up fully. Subsequent reboots took about 90 seconds, which was also kind of slow. In contrast, the EEE booted in an impressive 23 seconds. Going back to the inital XO-1 setup process, it then asked for a name, and after which it showed an interesting desktop that was devoid of text- just icons.

What I wanted do next is to browse the web. But I had to locate the OLPC XO-1's MAC Address first. It didn't seem to be labeled anywhere, so a quick search on the net showed that you can go into the shell- find and clicking on the [$_] icon did the trick. Note that it's on the 2nd page of the bottom row of apps. Then doing a:


I found the hardware address of the XO-1 for "msh0". After entering it into my wireless access points MAC ADDRESS access control list, I then went to the "Neighborhood" of the OLPC and clicked on my SSID. The wireless icon on the left bottom side of the screen then started flashing. I then opened up the browser and voila, internet access!

After looking a few web pages I must say that I'm very impressed by the screen of the OLPC-1. I think it is better than my Asus EEE simply because the resolution is higher but text seemed just as readable. The cool thing about the XO-1's screen is that to save battery you can even turn off the backlight completely and the screen becomes black and white. You'll have to have a light source to read the screen at this point but it's definitely very readable if you get enough light. You can also rotate the screen orientation by hitting a button below the D-pad. The D-pad itself and little directional buttons on the OLPC LCD screen really helps out with scrolling webpages. So overall I would have to give XO-1 the edge over the EEE in terms of viewing web pages. As far as the actual browsing experience, however, the XO-1 is definitely more difficult to use as it doesn't even seem to support saving of bookmarks. You could bookmark URLs, but once you close the browser and go back those bookmarks are gone. Huh??? You can view your bookmarks in the activity journal, but weirdly I couldn't figure out how to access them from within the browser. Thankfully you can install Opera browsers built for the OLPC XO-1 by doing the following:

Open up the terminal activity [_$] and type:

su -

rpm -vi

You can then add the Opera icons via the following:

mkdir /home/olpc/Activities

cd /home/olpc/Activities


tar xvzf opera-activity.tar.gz

rm opera-activity.tar.gz

Reboot the XO-1 and voila- you will find the Opera icon on the second page of the Activity menu row on the bottom of the screen.

Performance-wise, the Asus EEE wins hands down. The less-powerful CPU & fewer RAM are probably the culprits. The XO-1 can lag quite a bit when new programs are opened or minimized, and on the EEE you don't feel that.

Interface-wise the XO-1 is hard to get used to. That's mainly because I've grown so accustomed to the Microsoft Windows-style interface. But for its intended audience of school children who may have never put their hands on a computer, the interface may well be more intuitive. The pre-installed educational applications and games are certainly well suited for kids as well. In addition to the Mozilla-powered browser, bundled programs includes Chat, Write (a word processor), Record (lets you record videos from the webcam/microphone), Paint (a drawing program), TamJamJam, EToys (some sort of matching game), TurtleArt, Pippy (a front end for programming in Python), Calculate (a nifty calculator), Measure (let's you view real-time sound graph), TamTamEdit (a musical game), TamTamSynthLab, Memorize (a math-based memory game), News Reader (an RSS reader), a Log Viewer, Analyze (an activity analyzer), and Sonic Tape Measure which lets you measure the distance between two XO-1 laptops.

The OLPC XO-1's power usage is 7-8 watts when battery is fully charged. It's power draw increased to 21 watts when on and charging, and uses 20 watts when the laptop is off and charging. AS for the Asus EEE, it draws 2 watts with the battery full charged and the laptop not on. When plugged in and ON, the EEE draws between 14 and 15 watts (12 watt with screen off).

As an adult, typing on the XO OLPC gets quite the getting used to. I would say it's definitely more difficult to type on than the Asus EEE for adults. But the cool thing about the XO-1's small keyboard is that it's waterproof. In fact the entire laptop is supposedly waterproof- though I didn't feel like testing the capability ;-).

Both the Asus EEE and the XO-1 have built-in webcams. Both are easy to use and of solid image quality. The OLPC doesn't seem to have a built-in video player for mpg, .avi (divx, xvid), etc. Apparently you can install VLC & MPlayer for it, however. The Asus EEE has MPlayer built in, and you can even play network shared videos once you mount the shared directories into local folders. So as far as playing multimedia files, the Asus EEE has an advantage here.

When it came to environmental friendliness, the OLPC XO-1 has the edge over the Asus EEE. The XO-1 came with a non-toxic Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFeP4) battery. The XO-1 used 1/2 the electricity of the EEE. Also for some reason the EEE was leaking 2 watts when plugged into the AC adaptor despite being off and the battery being fully charged. The XO-1 drew 0 watts when off and the batter had finished charging.

In the end I found the OLPC XO-1 a mixed bag. It certainly has potential, but for adults familiar with the Windows interface it's hard to get accustomed to. For kids I can see this rugged laptop being used as a nice educational tool. Bottom line is that this is a computer designed for school children, and I wouldn't be surprised that it is well received by most of its intended audience. The Asus EEE is a much more elegant-looking, faster, and more adult-friendly of the two. It does cost about twice as much as the OLPC XO-1, however.

Some useful hotkeys for the OLPC XO-1:

-CTRL-ALT-F2 (Function key + the number 2) or CTRL-ALT-Nighborhood: brings you to the console terminalscreen (the login user name is "root" with no password)

-CTRL-ALT-Home (Home is the key with the dark circle with a small white circle in the middle): take you back to graphical GUI from console

-CTRL-ALT-erase: restart the Sugar GUI interface

-Alt-C: exit the current app

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