{March 18, 2008}   olpc and eee impressions

so I’ve had my XO for… over a week now. haven’t had much time to play with it, though. tonight there was a vanlug meeting specifically about the olpc, so I showed up and learnt quite a bit.

when I first got the olpc, I intentionally avoided looking anything up online. I wanted to play around on my own for a while and see how hard it was to figure things out. some things I got right away, some I still don’t get. just this evening I found out that turning the brightness all the way down puts it into black&white mode. I appear to have a “break my desktop” key (top row, second from the right) that often just does nothing… not sure what that’s about, but it isn’t on hte keyboard shortcuts page. I’ve certainly gotten over the size of the olpc; it seems big and heavy now. I swear the darn thing has *grown* :P

at the meeting there were about six other XOs, and one Eee. my most important discovery was that everyone else there had upgraded their xo: I was running old software, and most of my issues had already been fixed. :) yay. there was one XO running xfce there; the rest were all using the annoying sugar interface. (yes, it is annoying. it’s innovative and interesting, but still damn annoying. I want my right-click back!)

I was concerned about the lack of suspend/hibernate, and no apparent lid switch (when the laptop was closed I could see the screen’s light coming out the cracks) – but those seem to be fixed in the latest software. wireless strength isn’t as good as my lovely asus m5n, but nothing is as good as that laptop when it comes to wireless. I love the screen flipping, but the arrow buttons beside the screen don’t rotate with the screen, so left is down and it hurts my brain… but I expect that’s fixable, so I’ll have to report it.

the keyboard is a little… quirky. if you press keys left to right it works as expected, but right to left you have to release one key before hitting the next (sorta – it’s hard to explain without a demo in tamtamjam) so I keep typing “tset” instead of “test”. I don’t have much of an issue with the size, though – I have small hands. :) I just wish the fn key was on the right, so that I could pgup more easily… oh, but this evening someone showed me that the game buttons are actually pgup, pgdn, home and end – so maybe that won’t be so annoying after all. :) I do wish the touchpad had tapping and scrolling, though. I hope that’s something software can change. as for battery life, it seems to be a couple of hours – certainly better than this old laptop (lasts less than 45 minutes these days).

the only real concern that remained in my mind after the meeting was the durability. this thing has been advertised as being able to survive a fair amount of abuse and weather, but I see little cracks between the pieces of plastic that make up the case, and some of them kinda move a bit if I press on them. I love the rubber keyboard ’cause I won’t get crumbs or dog hair in it, but that rubber seems to have a tiny gap where it meets the rest of the case, so I think that it wouldn’t fare much better than any other laptop if a glass of juice were dropped on it. I certainly wouldn’t want my XO being caught out in the rain, or taken to the beach where sand could get in the cracks. it does at least look like it could survive being dropped on the floor – unlike the eee. :)

as for the Eee, I did get to spend a while looking at it… it was smaller and lighter than the XO. someone had installed xfce on that too (I thought it was gnome when I first saw it) because he didn’t like the xandros kde-based interface (I saw a glimpse of this interface, and it did look kinda lame). the speakers weren’t bad, the general design reminded me of my lovely m5n (I like asus design) and the feel of the keyboard was much better, even if it was doomed to collect crumbs. the guy showing it off told me that the reliability of the eee wasn’t great, though. the spacebar on the keyboard wasn’t quite straight, little things like that… and of course it’s more fragile.

so, in general the eee beat the XO at being shiny, and it has more resources for less weight, but the XO wins in terms of cool hardware. flipping the screen around is still fun, and that handle is useful given how often I walk around with a laptop balanced on my hand (hey, at least I’m not the one balancing it on my chin ;) now I just have to find the time to install kde4 on this thing so that I can actually do useful stuff with it…

kawk says:

Apparently, according to this site, the mysterious key on the upper right-hand side “Toggles visibility of the Bulletin Board for the current view”:

I couldn’t figure it out either . . .

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