My Personal Concerns
Although I'm more technical than some, I'm not really a very sophisticated OLPC user. I have lots of questions about my own XO that I haven't been able to resolve yet. I'm going to try to track them here, and update with solutions or resolutions when I find them.
I am frequently unable to connect to the Internet. In help ticket #5695, Katie notes: "WPA was not supported in the Sugar release that shipped with the XO, only via a command line interface. In early December an update for full WPA support and enhanced WEP support was released. If you have access to a public or non-WPA hotspot, you can perform the update online. If not, you can download the WPA script to access your home hotspot and then upgrade."
The keyboard on Thor's XO started to tear soon after we got it. There are a number of theories about how this started (http://www.flickr.com/photos/writesmith/2276522219/) but whatever, it tore and it needed to be repaired.
It got progressively worse.
Finally, spare parts became available to the US G1G1 participants through the Web (http://www.xoexplosion.com) and we bought a new keyboard. After watching ILXO's XO Bottom Disassembly video (http://dotsub.com/view/316bb6f4-0ec7-4da8-b2fa-0640bdf641c4;jsessionid=1ajsp9jo5s7bp) three times, Thor and I finally screwed up the courage to open it up.
We got it right the first time, and now the keyboard is as good as new! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/writesmith/sets/72157607288873744/)
Who am I?
I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades (*ahem*: the quote ends: master of none, but I usually leave that off). I have a bachelor's degree in English, but the closest I ever got to using that degree was when I was a Technical Writer ten or twelve years ago. After that I followed my interests, gradually migrating from writing to Web development to programming. I worked at a variety of startups in Silicon Valley during the heady 1.0 days. I made no money, but it was fun.
These days I'm a "Programmer/Analyst" and I work for the City of Fresno, California. Things are mellow now. My son Thor just turned seven. Technology is still fun. Our primary environment at home is Apple (iMac and iPhone). Family members have wintel PC's, and at work I'm in front of an XP workstation all day long. I have a love for Open Source, though, that dates back to the crazy ad-hoc days of startupdom, and I have a laptop running Ubuntu.
How does this tie in to OLPC?
The concepts of Open Source and collaborative development can reach beyond the computer screen, into the real world. My nature as a generalist, as opposed to specialist, means that I like to learn new things all the time. Wouldn't it be great if all people could just (er, get along?) collaborate? If we can give children tools that allow them, nay encourage them, to learn?
Have you read Cory Doctorow?
A year or so ago I found out about Cory Doctorow through his contributions to the Boing Boing blog. Since then I've read everything on his site, which includes most of the books he's written. He's a science fiction writer, and he portrays vision of the future which are extremely alluring. Start with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: http://www.craphound.com/down/
How does this tie in to OLPC again?
Now Thor has an XO laptop. It was a textbook example of G1G1 done right. We ordered, using Paypal; It arrived a week before Christmas; T-Mobile account activiated without a hitch; We've had zero hardware or software problems with the unit we received (and I even got the WEP workaround working, so we can connect to our FON access point!)
There IS a barrier to entry, though. Even though I am familiar with Linux, and Open Source. Even though I'm comfortable going off the support/consumer grid. I know I can't just return this thing to Best Buy if I don't like it, or it's broken, or I can't use it. But still, Thor and I would like to know how to use the thing. How to really USE the thing.
Thor is at just the right age to start thinking abstractly. He's reading now. And he's got a sharp sense of environmentalism that I really want to nurture. It's nice that the thing is low power, but we'd like to take it up a notch and figure out solar power. Or bicycle power! Wouldn't it be great if you could say to your kid, unlimited computer time, son. Catch is, you have to power the unit yourself by riding your bicycle with the battery hooked up to a hub-generator. Battery is dead? Time to get outside and ride! So, I started poking around on laptop.org, and I found the wiki, and I started learning.
It all came together, though, quite recently. Someone calling himself isforinsects on Flickr commented on one of my pictures (http://www.flickr.com/photos/writesmith/2217493771/in/pool-olpc). I checked out his profile, and I ended up on somebody's Web site (I'll have to try and figure out the details here). This Web site informed me that OLPC could use some volunteer help, and to contact A. Holt for more information.
I sent Adam an email, with just a few lines about me. I included my phone number. I was really amazed when I actually got a call, just a few hours later. Adam embraced me with much enthusiasm, got me all logged in and in the IRC channel. Now I'm really poking around. And I'm finding an ad-hoc community like the one in Down and Out. Wow, this is cool! Imagine what it would be like if this crazy social experiment actually works.
So Here I Am
* Learn more about the XO * Help others get the most out of their XO's!
I think those are complementary. Just like we hope there is a kid in the class who just "gets it" and then starts to show the other kids how to do cool stuff, and he ends up learning more in the process. For once, I'd like to be that kid.
Thanks for reading.