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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

XO laptop: first test

This entry is being typed from the OLPC XO laptop that we just received - it's very nice. First impressions are very positive. Since it comes with no instructions, I decided to just fool around with it and see how far I got.

The interface and operation is quite natural, I like the keyboard a lot. It has positive feedback when you click a key, which is nicer than the Internet tablet-type machines I have where the keys are just screen images. The mouse pointer/buttons thing is slightly different from my other mousepads (which allow you to click by tapping on the mousepad, you are not forced to use the buttons) but that's OK. It will take a bit of time to get fast with it, but it is a real computer.

Booting up takes a little time, but a lot less than Windows. No surprise there.

The absolutely great things are the media handling programs.

"Record" camera/video/audio recording stuff just worked...really nice.

"Paint" does what you imagine it might. Maybe more...moving on...

"TamTamJam" The music creation program just made me giggle with delight at the point where I worked out how to put a loop on cricket noises. The animal noises are fantastic! All the instruments you can think of, plus many other sounds can be used with the keyboard to make music. I guess it can record sound also, but I was too busy making the fart sounds with the foghorn to get to that point. All the programming is visual; drag an element onto the screen then click to activate it. Play notes based on that sound on the keyboard (not being a musician I am a bit vague on the mapping of the qwerty keyboard to a clavier). Drag a loop onto the sound. The add in shortcut keys to cue the loop. Only complaint is that the speakers do not go up to 11. It's a tiny bit louder with headphones, but I guess we are not trying to destroy the hearing of the next generation.

"TamTamEdit" - I opened up the this, and it is clearly some kind of sound editing program, but I couldn't do much except play the recording that was there when I started. More study required.

"TamTamMini" is really, really fun. Simpler to user than the TamTamJam, it's for creating music, you set up a beat, then click on a matrix of images (or use keys) to make the appropriate sounds. Scrolling through the sounds on the grid gives some really great effects. More giggles.

There are some interesting programming applications:

The "TurtleArt" application is interesting it teaches programming, with a visual (or largely visual) language. The various operations are represented by coloured tiles, with name labels and value tags. For example: Forward, 100. You drag the tiles and they click together to make a visual representation of the program. You can modify the values. The program drives a little turtle around on the screen and it draws a trace. I've only played with it for 30 mins, but already I can make the turtle do tricks...hee,hee!

"Pippy" seems to be a Python programming development interface (I can hardly call it an IDE) that, well, runs Python. However there are a lot of examples given to illustrate most of the concepts, and they are simple and they work. This bears more study later on.

"Terminal" is exactly that, the Linux command line. Yay! I remember this stuff...long ago and far away...it has to be at least 6 years since I worked on Unix. Wonder if I have root permissions?

"Acoustic Tape Measure" - it looks like if you have 2 of these things they can tell how far apart they are. Well I don't have another...online the nearest guy seems to be 80kms away.

Perhaps it's been too long since I played on a computer. All serious stuff with documents and programs, building and testing. All on Windows :-( I guess this is what Fake Steve means by "a sense of childlike wonder." Chortle! I'm having fun!

1 comment:

Janice said...

Hey Sue... just found time to browse your hilarious blog which also has some techie stuff here and there ;-)

OLPC is/was headed up/promoted by a guy I happen to know personally. I find it very wondersome (I'm patenting that word btw ... :-) when my disparate and widely geographically and technically dispersed group of respected acquaintances/friends/former co-workers prove how small the (tech) world really is.

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