Dienstag, 26. Mai 2009

Speak activity, usability issues

Even though the Speak activity has a very simple user interface, there are IMHO issues.

First, the keyboard "focus". Usually the focus is in the text input field. When you press Enter, the text is spoken. There is a button next to the text input field. When you click this button, a list of previously entered text is displayed. Now, if the button has the focus and you press Enter, the list pops up. Press Enter again, the list goes away, but the button keeps the focus. While I understand what is going on, I would rather like not need to explain this to my four-year old. Or to a six or seven year old child. I know it's a fact of life on all major platforms, but still. I think it would be great for the GUI to have a keyboard focus on text input fields only. Maybe as the default mode, with the option to drive buttons (and other widgets) with the keyboard when the kid is more experienced.

Second, the German voice cannot pronounce Umlauts correctly (although it can handle e.g. UE instead of Ü).

Third, the popup lists. I'll write about those next time.

I will need to find out where to report bugs (or rather, rants in this case), and how I can help to fix them...

Speak activity

The Speak activity is one of my son's favourite. He can't read, write, or type, so we do this together. There are lots of fun situations, when e.g. he's asking a question, and the laptop answers them. This is sometimes quite puzzling for him, and I need to explain that the computer is not actually understanding what he was saying, but just speaking whatever I type into it.

Gregor knows a couple of English words (we read him childrens books in english sometimes, and also from CDs), and we get some mileage out of switching between English and German, and fooling around.

The children should own their laptops

"The children should own their laptops". This is a quote I picked up while reading up on OLPC somewhere. So that's what I tried with my son, and he is very proud that he is given the responsibility. But there are, well, issues.
First, as he is four years old, he drags the laptop around rather clumsily sometimes. A standard netbook would not take this kind of handling well for a long time... So far, the XO is doing very very well.
He has not had any exposure to computers before, nor to video games or even TV. I realize that half an hour a day, or at most one hour, is about the limit for what seems to be good for him.
Which is of course a good source for debate, since he "owns" his laptop, it's difficult to explain why we need to restrict his time using it.

Activities for a four-year old child

My son is now four years old; he is the very proud "owner" of an XO-1 now. For the first two weeks, we spent about 1 hour per day together exploring all activities that are available. Most of the activities require at least some amount of reading capability. While we were able to do some stuff with almost every Activity, my son quickly lost interest in the more complicated ones. The Activities that we have found most interesting were Maze, Speak and TuxPaint. I'll blog about those separately...

First meeting with Austrian OLPC guys

I went to the meeting of the Austrian OLPC folks this month. Had the pleasure to finally meet with Christoph Derndorfer, a very nice guy! He is my "mentor" for my activities with the laptops.

Mittwoch, 6. Mai 2009

Updating to 767

The laptops had build 656 installed, so I updated them, using the Terminal activity:
$ su -
# olpc-update 767

So far, so good. After rebooting, the laptops insisted on updating their flash memory. This requires a connection to the power supply.
Which I did not yet have (the laptops came with US plugs). I have ordered simple adapters for use in Europe, but had not received them yet. So, after rummaging in my box of power adapters, I found one that fit the laptop, and everything went fine.

So be sure to have a power supply before doing a software update...

Dienstag, 5. Mai 2009

Bringing the laptops online

I have a wi-fi router at home. Here is how i set up networking for the laptops:
First, i checked the mac addresses, using the Terminal activity and the command
$ /sbin/ifconfig

I configured the router to supply a static IP address for each laptop. Things worked like a charm, almost. I could ping the laptops from my desktop PC. The laptops could see each other in Network view. I tried to share some activities (Chat, Write), and the invitations showed up as expected, but...
the activities were not shared.

It turned out that I had to configure the router to allow network traffic between WLAN clients. On my router, a Zyxel P-334WT, this option is called "Enable Intra-BSS Traffic". On to more exciting stuff...

Welcome to edw-xo

Hi, welcome to my blog. This blog is about the OLPC (see laptop.org). I have recently managed to get 2 XO-1 laptops. I intend to write up my experiences, and the experiences of my two kids, exploring the laptops and its software.