Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stripped XO

Early in January, my laptop was the star of a photo shooting for the German issue of MIT's Technology Review. We took off the plastic enclosure of the "brick", it was pretty interesting, for example to see how the whole display in its metallic housing is carefully held by rubber mounts.

This photograph was published in the magazin's current issue (02/07), along with a shot of the main board (which sits behind the display). The accompanying text not only provided a description of the parts, but also highlighted some design decisions that makes it unique hardware-wise. OLPC's educational goals were already reported on in the previous issue.

Image courtesy of http://www.heise.de/tr/magazin/

The colors are off for some reason after uploading to blogger - they were fine on my disk. Sorry.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Etoys kid-tested on XO

I brought my green machine home this weekend, and my twins had fun with it. Enormous fun in fact for the two 7-year olds, pounding on TamTam furiously. I couldn't bear it anymore after half an hour or so.

Instead, I showed Jakob how to make a little figure bounce around on the screen in Etoys, while his sister went to practice her cello. He painted a simple head, and then we used the "forward by" and "bounce" tiles in a tiny two-line script making it move around. I made the mistake of pointing out that the "bounce" tile can produce some noise when bouncing. Endless fun trying the different noises ensued. Oh well.

Disturbed in her practice by these noises, Sophie came over and wanted to paint, too. So we saved Jakob's project and started a new one for her. I sat back to work on my email and let her brother teach. She spend like half an hour just painting the figure. The paint tool showed that it is not tuned to the XO's display resolution yet, it's far too small. But not giving up that easily, Sophie was erasing and repainting it over and over until she was satisfied with her "cow girl". Then Jakob proudly told her how to let it move and bounce, he had rembered almost everything needed. Together they quickly made it work, and just started exploring the noise-making possibilities again when we were saved by the call to dinner ...

Friday, January 12, 2007

OLPC talk at design school

I gave a talk about the $100-laptop at the Magdeburg school of Industrial Design. We did some very inspiring projects using Squeak, Etoys, and Croquet together before. The designers always come up with interesting ideas, even though not everything is directly implementable by us developers.

Carola Zwick, dean of the school, wrote a book Designing for Small Screens that certainly gives valuable insight for OLPC developers, and she provided (though indirectly) some very important infrastructure for the OLPC office: her group designed the chairs they are sitting on. I got the actual invitation by Christine Strothotte, who got her PhD doing computer graphics in Smalltalk just a few years before I got mine from the same school. She's teaching interaction design nowadays. I'm looking forward to doing an OLPC-related project with these great folks.

A student took some photographs during the talk. Also, from his blog post it seems I convinced him of the merits of the OLPC project (it was a lively discussion). Thanks for posting, Cheng!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sophie, Tweak on the OLPC laptop

I just installed Sophie on my green machine. Sophie is a project of the Institute for the Future of the Book, is implemented in Squeak (just like my Etoys activity on the laptop) using Tweak as its UI framework (which is the original topic of my blog). Tweak is also the base for the next-gen Etoys.

Installation went pretty smooth. I downloaded the cross-platform zip file using the Web activity from Sugar
and unpacked it using the command line. The first start of Sophie failed, but after replacing the failing plugin with one from the pre-installed Squeak it started and worked. Yay!

This is an excellent example why it's a good idea to have a regular X11 installation on the kid's laptop: a lot of software will just work, even if it is not correctly integrated into the Sugar UI.

Michael RĂ¼ger of impara (a Squeak shop leading Sophie development here in Magdeburg, Germany) came over and made a little book, downloading two logos directly from the web (Sophie can do that!), adding a bit of text and color ... Tweak performance is not exactly blazing on the XO machine, I think we made the right decision to not use the Tweak-based Etoys but stick to the proven Morphic-based one. Of course one could optimize it a lot, but who has time for that? Anyway, it was useable - click the image to get a larger view: