Kibler Electronics OLPC Page


One Laptop Per Child is a project to get small laptop computers to children in low technology countries. To help spark interest and attrack more money, G1G1 was started. Give one get one (G1G1) allows you to get a olpc computer while paying for one to be sent overseas.

I ordered my G1G1 on the first day possible and recieved it the week before christmas. I have other things to than play full time with the olpc, but my experiences so far are very positive.

At this moment I am sitting in my TV room, updating my web pages remotely using ssh with a server located in my office. It took me a little tweaking - ssh needs user logon to be same at both ends, and thus I had to add my user name to olpc before I could connect. This required manually editing /etc/passwd and creating a user home directory.

Being linux based, it comes with most of the tools needed and has a newly developed sugar graphic windowing system. It takes some getting use to and it helps to read some of the help web sites, as some features are not what you might expect.

Overall, I am very impressed with the hardware - the screen is excellant, the size just right - although as expected, the keyboard is a bit small for full time keyboarding. I can't say enough about the screen - it is great! It is sharp and makes reading both text and web easy on the eyes.

However, and here starts the real facts and problem reviews, I have found a few issues - which can all be fixed to some degree. Being a Unix/Linux user for many years I have found a number of items with the sugar gui that drove me crazy. Not really wrong or bad, but just enough different to be unacceptable. The solution is changing over to xfce4 window manager. At this point I will not cover all the changes, but using the web to check olpc xfce will get the help you need.

So far I have found all my needed answers on one or more of the olpc wiki/help sites. They are good and you will find most problems and questions already covered. One item that has caused me considerable time and money has been the SD support. I saw several web sites say that 8GB SD devices are supported and thus I bought one. Let me say that the olpc can read for the most part 8GB devices. The problem seems to be the larger sizes are not fully supported. By that I mean, best not to use them for now - stick with 2 or 4gb and you will be happier.

I spent about 8 hours over two days and found this out. The 2GB devices will mount successfully everytime after a reboot, not so for 8GB devices. I even formatted them with ext2, which helped, but didn't fix the issue. The real problem was copying files from an nfs mount point. The 2gb devices had no problems. The 8gb device locked up after about 10 files and required a reboot to clear things. That is due to kernel level i/o problems - I suspect due to minor hardware variations between the smaller and the larger devices.

So far I haven't found any show stoppers other than the 8GB SD issues. I believe the issue is not olpc but linux in general, as I was unable to read the 8GB devices with SUSE 10.3. I saw some comments of fixes for this class of devices in a coming up release of the kernel. Since the olpc actually read the device, it seems to be doing better than the major releases.

The major issue remains the keyboard. It really is not for adults. Just too small for regular keying. This html was anything but fun keying in. I kept hitting an up arrow instead of the shift key. Now for some system admin work or fixing a few errors in some text files, the keyboard is fine. I find the old hunt and pecking in of data works great. Keep in mind, that USB mice and keyboards can used, but my testing has been using the olpc as is.

I loaded firefox and have been doing web searches and creating postings and have not had any real issues. You will probably need to adjust the font size for easy reading, as many of the default settings are just too small to read - sharp and clear - but just too small. It is great fun seeing just which web pages adjust down and which refuse to work at less than some monster resolution.

The olpc is great, I especially like the overall software approach, the school server, linux support, and information for hackers, that will make this project a success. For my own use, I have a few ideas for some embedded projects using it, however as a regular laptop, I might look instead at ASUS eee PC, which I understand is more adult oriented with slightly better hardware.

For now the olpc is enough of a laptop to keep me in touch while watching TV from the comfort of a stuffed chair and not a stiff backed office chair. What more could you want.
Bill Kibler, PO Box 535, Lincoln, CA 95648-0535, USA.
Copyright © 2011, Bill Kibler/Kibler Electronics.