Why I won’t install Ubuntu on my OLPC XO (for now)

As you might have noticed, a couple of days ago I finally received my OLPC XO. Of course installing an Ubuntu flavor was one of my major tasks for the first time, but…

… after booting the XO for the first time there is something like a cultural shock: The XO gui „Sugar“ is totally different from what you might have used before. After recovering from that clash you start getting a clue what the small white-green device with the „bunny ears“ called wifi antennas is about. It is about local communities, learning collaboration and creativity. So there is a huge difference between using an EEE Pc and using a XO. The EEE PC came with a Linux gui (Xandros flavor) that was just not what I wanted and as the EEE is actually nothing more than a small and cheap version of a common notebook, installing Ubuntu (yes, even the normal Hardy desktop version) seemed rational and indeed works like a charm.

The XO is different from that: It’s ability to share most applications, the strange network and neighborhood views, the display (that is definitely worse than EEE’s when using color mode but unbeatable when using the greyscale mode in sunlight), the strong wifi antennas invite you to play around with a different approach to work. There are even limitations that enforce not switching back to „normal“: The quite limited ram (256Mb) and Sugar’s limit for only running a specific number of applications invite you to concentrate and focus. Of course you suffer a bit from being forced to use „yum“ on the console when installing applications that are actually not meant to be installed or don’t integrate into Sugar. They are not „Activities“ as Sugar-applications are called. (Besides: „Activity“ is a nice naming convention in my eyes.)

So what about Ubuntu? It’s not only about running it on the XO. You prolly know projects like „It runs doom“ (yes, the OLPC runs doom but somehow you feel wrong about it) trying to run specific software on as many devices as possible. We know Ubuntu will run and it already does. But the task is to take the challenge of providing something different, something focused. There is a blueprint already that gives hints on what is to do: Ubuntu for the One Laptop Per Child Project. It outlines the necessity of providing collaboration software, mesh network support and more of those things you don’t think about in the first when reaching for your notebook. At the end of the day this gives you the possibility to reach an audience you’d never dare to dream of before. So keep on hacking the XO and don’t stop after launching *buntu on it. We can do more.

Ein Gedanke zu “Why I won’t install Ubuntu on my OLPC XO (for now)

  1. Hello

    I also received my OLPC here in Munich after a
    four months wait. I agree with your judgement of
    sugar, it is something new and interesting
    to explore.

    But I must say, I seem to be too stupid
    for using sugar or the OLPC hardware.
    For example, how does one switch between
    the black and white and the color screen?

    Google and the olpc wiki bring up a lot
    of pages raving about the feature, but I
    have not found a single one telling me how
    to turn off color.

    Or, does the book read mode work for you?
    If I turn around the screen, none of the input
    controls accessible next to it do anything.
    So I can look at one page and then have
    to turn the screen back to scroll to the
    next page.



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