Love it or hate it, the XO by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is bringing the power of technology as a tool for education to as many students in the world as possible.

OLPC Mission:

Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade…
Given the resources that developing countries can reasonably allocate to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per pupil, compared to the approximately $7500 per pupil spent annually in the U.S.—even a doubled or redoubled national commitment to traditional education, augmented by external and private funding, would not get the job done…
Any nation’s most precious natural resource is its children. We believe the emerging world must leverage this resource by tapping into the children’s innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own. Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children’s machine designed for ‘learning learning…’

To kick-start their mission, OLPC offered a program whereby consumers could buy two XO units, one of which they’d get to keep and one of which would be donated to a child. One of our customers here in the Burlington store (a happy MacBook owner) took part in this offer and recently received her XO unit. She was generous enough to come let me play with it for a few minutes. I had a great time learning the operating system, which was amazingly simple and intuitive once I’d had a moment to get a feel for the user interface (UI). This customer and I both found the touchpad a bit difficult to operate and decided to checkout mouse options. I was amazed to see that Apple’s wired Mighty Mouse worked right out of the box since it’s system requirements are Mac OS v10.4.8 or later, Windows 2000, or Windows XP and USB v1.1 or later. Even the right-click and scroll functionality was there! Considering that the unit has a CPU clock speed of 433Mhz and 256MB of RAM, it feels very snappy. I suppose this just goes to show the advantages of a “sparse” UI. The wifi range is also unbelievably powerful. The device as a whole reminded me of the infamous eMate, a rare form of the Newton.

Feeling jazzed about supporting the OLPC mission and the unique hardware of the XO device, I spent the evening researching the consumer purchase/donation program. Unfortunately the XO device is no longer for sale in the United States since the only way I could find to legitimately purchase one was through the donation program which is no longer being offered. I did see several of them supposedly available here and there about the web on sites such as eBay.

See a few more pictures on our Flickr page.

If you’ve got an XO, we’d love to see a picture of it visiting our new Smalldog.com!

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