OLPC is the Greenest Laptop ("By a Factor of Ten")

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program is moving ahead with orders from Nigeria, and strong interest in the machines from Uruguay, Nigeria, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, and Libya. The computers are destined to be the possessions of the kids, not the schools so the kids will have an incentive to take care of them.

The specs for this small laptop are impressive, the first models, the OLPC XO-1 will have:

  • 700 Mhz AMD x86 processor (They went to Intel first, but Intel dropped the ball by not responding fast enough. AMD ended up with the contract.)
  • 256 M Ram
  • 1G flash memory provides instant on and very long battery life. Your typical hard drive sucks a lot of power.
  • 3 USB Ports
  • Inbuilt Video
  • Wifi mesh network (kids can collaborate, text message etc.)
  • Rugged (survives drops that would kill an ordinary computer. No hard drive to crash.)
  • Stereo sound with 2 audio output jacks
  • Dual mode display for indoor and outdoor viewing (sunlight readable)
  • Highest resolution in dots per inch than any laptop they know of
  • Extreme low power: 2W Nominal. (A well-nourished person can generate 15-20W with the “pencil-yellow hand crank”. TheyÂ’ve got it so you can get 10 minutes of use out of 1 minute of cranking.)
  • Adjustable ear antennae give it 2-3x range for picking up wifi.
  • Sugar user interface (you should check this out, very abstract looking)
  • Wide range of alternative power inputs  
  • “Greenest laptop by factor of ten” (1/2 size, 1/2 weight, 1/3 part count, RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive) compliant, no Hg, Cd, Pb, etc.)
  • Fedora Linux, Windows XP ready (which is convenient as Microsoft just announced that theyÂ’d be selling versions of the Windows OS for $3 in select developing countries.)

First thoughts are that the amount of memory seems tiny and 1Gig storage… even tinier, but the OS is very efficient and I can remember being impressed by a lot less not so long ago.

Other benefits: no bloatware (that heinous stuff that you never want that ships on your brand new laptop and takes up space/processor power), no capslock (becaUSE WHO USES…darnit…stupid capslock), AND peer to peer everything (woohoo!)

A friend of mine who ran a program that brought computers and laptops to the Detroit Public Schools pointed out that tech support may be the Achilles heel of the project. Not much has been said of the OLPC tech support. In areas where there is little or no communications infrastructure this could be a concern.

Much thanks to Catherine Laine at AIDG for this info, there is much more at the AIDG Blog.