OLPC review by a 12 year old; XO speed

Ed Felton’s blog features a review of the OLPC XO written by a 12-year-old. Amazingly literate – we mustn’t discount the intelligence of kids! I really think the OLPC project will have results far beyond expectations.

The main negative issue that “SG” mentions is the speed:

My main problem with this laptop is how very slow it is. It’s true that I am used to faster computers, but that’s not the problem. It’s just really slow. I had to wait two minutes to get onto one application. That’s just a little longer than I can accept. Also, it got slower and slower and slower the longer I went without rebooting it. I had to reboot it all the time.

It was confirmed that the machine reviewed was a B2, and I agree they are very slow, especially with the latest software. I’ve got a B2 and a B4 (much closer to the planned Gen1 version) and did some quick side by side tests to show how much faster it has already been made.

Both machines are running build 542, the Trial 2 milestone build.

Switch on to “home” screen:

  • B2: 128 seconds
  • B4: 72 seconds

Launch “Write”, the AbiWord version for Sugar:

  • B2: 25s
  • B4: 9s

Launch “Web”, the browser:

  • B2: 39s
  • B4: 14s

So fortunately that issue has already been addressed. I was interested to see the opinion of a non-adult on the keyboard:

my favorite part of the computer: the keyboard. It’s green rubber so that dust and water won’t get in under the keys, and this makes the keyboard an awesome thing to type on. Every time you hit a key, it provides a certain amount of satisfaction of how squishy and effortless it is. I just can’t get over that keyboard.

Pretty much all the adults I’ve heard comment on the keyboard disliked both the size of the keys (too small) and the tactile feedback. Great to hear from someone closer to the target audience… Incidently, the B4 keyboards are definitely better than the B2 keyboards – on the B2 I had to press the keys hard to make sure they registered, whereas the B4 picks up my typing without missing letters.

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3 Responses to “OLPC review by a 12 year old; XO speed”


  1. 1 Anonymous August 22, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Launch “Web”, the browser:
    B2: 39s
    B4: 14s
    So fortunately that issue has already been addressed.

    14s to launch a web browser is still very much a problem!!

  2. 2 My reply November 7, 2007 at 12:17 am

    14 seconds to launch a web browser — “very much a problem”

    A bit of perspective is in order. I’m all for equal opportunity and the equal distribution of technology across the globe, but 14 seconds is pretty darn good for the price of this laptop, and it beats not having a textbook in the first place. I have some reservations about this program from a social and moral perspective — why can’t they sell a 100 or 188 or whatever laptops that adults can use, for instance? Why do we always focus our efforts on the young, when the developing world is crawling with adults who crave internet access, too — adults who could start businesses, even participate in the internet revolution as producers, rather than receivers of charity.

    But that said, this laptop is an astounding, if imperfect feat of technology, and I wouldn’t use the word “problem” in this context. You go for a swim, you might get wet, and if you pay 188 dollars for a water proof, dust/drop/kid/soda proof laptop with an amazing battery life and an innovative wireless system, then, well, you might have to wait 14 seconds to launch “web.”

  3. 3 Chris November 18, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I agree that adults could use a laptop too. But going after the kid’s market is a smart first-swing for a couple reasons:

    1) It’s more likely to succeed because of the way it pulls at people’s passions – you get more support.

    2) The target user base and is more malleable. Tell a kid “This is how you draw,” he believes it. Tell an adult that, and they’ll tell you you’re wrong, then show you how to draw their way.

    3) The target user base has lower expectations. If you produce something like the OLPC and propose that it’s a business PC for adults, you’ll get a lot of criticism. First, people will complain its 1gb can’t fit all the apps in the world. Second, because all those apps can’t be customized to super-efficient versions, people will complain the machine is hopelessly slow. Then they’ll complain the battery runs out much too fast. I’ve seen this machine before. It’s called a laptop and Dell and HP are standing by to take your call.

    Which isn’t to say this is impossible to do for adults, but it would be a much bigger hassle – and not a technical one, a political/social one, of managing expectations. Who wants that kind of hassle for trying to help somebody out?


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