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OLPC Project Interface Revealed 196

BogusToo writes to mention an EE Times article describing the interface for the OLPC project laptop. Using some fairly intuitive UI concepts (like simplified web browsers and a chat client), the Linux-based system attempts to do away with the kludgey parts of computer use. A video demo of the interface has been placed on YouTube. From the article: "Earlier postings around the Internet have also shown how the physical design of the laptop has changed, including the elimination of the much touted on-board hand crank that was supposed to power the cheap, lime green laptop. It's still there, reportedly, but has now been moved to the power adapter. The OLPC's produced earlier this week in Shanghai still need to go through loads of testing, such as knocking them off desks and dropping them in mud, as kids are wont to do. They may also be kicked around, like soccer balls, a popular sport in 99.9 percent of the world."
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OLPC Project Interface Revealed

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  • Durable Laptop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0jjjjjjjjjj0 ( 1024211 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:24PM (#16975234) Homepage Journal

    Having worked for a school, I know how durable these devices are going to have to be to withstand day-to-day use. The Compaq, Toshiba and NEC laptops of 10 years ago didn't take much more than a nudge to the back of the LCD to crack it or break the backlight, leaving the (admittedly rich) parents to fork out another $3,000 for a replacement unit, or $1,200 for the out-of-warranty repair.

    I hope that these computers end up being not just "cheap" but inexpensive to own, operate and repair. Insurance premiums on cars go up if the cost of parts/repair is high; the perceived value of this device changes in inverse proportion to this - why would a school/state/country buy thousands of them if the spare parts/repair cost is going to be high?

    Here's hoping it's right when it comes out ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:28PM (#16975288)
    Why is the GUI non-standard?

    Seriously... a lot of development effort must have gone into this thing - lots of custom applications and lots of new design. But why? Why not just use an off-the-shelf GUI: KDE for example? Surely there is a lot to be gained by mimicing the de-facto standards established by MacOS and Windows. It helps your users, and helps your developers, and helps third-party developers in the future.

    I just don't get it: what is the benefit of reinventing this particular wheel?
  • Re:gimme a terminal! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:52PM (#16975532)
    I agree that the interface MUST be dumbed down a lot

    Why? My 4 year old granddaughter seems to be pretty capable of cruising around limited parts of the house PC. Her aunts, uncle, and mom seemed to be pretty capable of doing the same when they were that age. Kids are not dumb. They will quickly learn whatever interface you put in front of them.
    Seeing as how the big box stores are selling standard laptops for $400 and under (somtimes a LOT under) this week...when you consider the vast difference in purchasing power...the "OLPC" concept is mostly already here in the west. It's just not backed by a fancy organization.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:19PM (#16975852)
    Yes: take the GTK libraries, rip out all the guts and insert your own. Just make usre it uses all the same function names and parameters so it's compatible at the API level.

    This is likely to be a big enough change that your modified version would be considered a new work in its own right. So while you're at it, change the licence from LGPL to GPL. That way, those greedy closed-source developers will be prevented from linking against it.
  • by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @04:23PM (#16977586) Homepage

    While the low price is a plus for me, I'd personally buy one of the OLPC laptops for durability and power consumption reasons. This laptop is designed to withstand some pretty serious abuse. The $250 laptops from Best Buy aren't nearly as hardened. This laptop actually has to have a decent battery life. The cheapo ones from Best Buy do not.

    In fact, the only other "hardened" notebooks I can think of are high-end Thinkpads and Panasonic Toughbooks. I challenge you to find me one of those for $250.

  • Questionable GUI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:11PM (#16979958)
    As an interactive designer I tend to think that GUI could be even more of a departure from current conventions. We're still introducing conventions and metaphors that will not be common to the people using those laptops.

    That said, you really need to do ethnographic field research in order to develop a proper GUI. Considering that we still fight with antiquated counterintuitive 1970's UI conventions in the first world, despite being bombarded with technology, I can all but guarantee our conventions are not going to fly outside of our bubble. Especially for someone who has been raised to comprehend a completely different system of metaphor and visual communication.

    No doubt, there is value to giving people access to our silly window / menu GUIs so they can learn how our GUIs work. However, access to our GUI conventions can't impair someone who rarely uses a computer and simply needs access to something like vital medical information.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous