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Bunnie Studios (e.g. Andrew Shane Huang), who just finished his Ph.D at MIT's Project Ares group, has published an insightful review of the hardware design of the XO

The review skips over the basic disassembly and looks more at the components and hardware design itself; concluding overall that "its mechanical design is brilliant. It’s a fairly clean-sheet redesign of traditional notebook PC mechanics around the goal of survivability, serviceability, and robustness [...] When closed up for “travel�, all the ports are covered, and the cooling system is extremely simple so it should survive in dusty and dirty environments. [...] That’s thoughtful design."

The innovativeness of the design includes the oft-lauded power and heat management, where the XO really shines, such as the low-heat Geode paired with a heat spreader letting the cpu be more flexible in where it was placed in the design.

Beyond just the ruggedizing of the laptop, it's also designed to be field serviceable to a large extent, focusing on making the parts most likely to fail easy to replace, including the shock-mounted LCD (and its backlight).
Extreme XO screen closeupNot all was happy hacker roses; though to be fair, on the hardware side of things, it basically was.

Andrew found that despite the high sensitivity of the wifi antennae, he had some trouble getting the native UI to associate the OLPC to my access point, and to get it to stay there." Besides, everyone knows that the only real outstanding question is, in comparison to the iPhone, will it blend?

He further was under-impressed by the software and ease of adding new tools, seeing it as "appliance-like." To an extent, however, it is an appliance, and designed to be less of the super-over-flexible Linux desktop style. Not unlike the Eee, you want to drive the new user to very safe and stable actions.

The XO does allow advanced users to install their own software (or even their own non-RedHat/Sugar OS). If anything, there's a lacking middle layer enabling easier addition of known-safe programs that aren't packaged into actions as yet:Overall, the software on the OLPC is clever but very “appliance-like�: there are some pre-loaded applications and it’s not immediately obvious how to add new applications using the native UI (it’s hackable from the command line but that’s not very beginner-friendly).

Then again, it does include some education-oriented scripting languages that kids can use to write programs, even if it does lack a local gcc installation, and it includes the basic infrastructure for chat, video, audio, and photo sharing functionalities.In the comments section, he returns to this topic, adding an interesting angle on the need for novelty to sustain interest:I guess my strongest gut reaction is that once the novelty of the few preloaded apps wears off, what’s there to keep you coming back? [...] It feels like the pre-loaded apps on the XO are geared toward more advanced curriculum–not quite something I’d see being the focus of entry-level curricula, and I don’t see entry-level teaching staff necessarily generating new applications on the fly.Ideally, and as he discusses in his post, Squeak/eToys will provide the base for lots of mostly-easy-to-create (and share) software and tools, but it would be handy to have some more things ready out of the box that tie into curriculum needs as well as an easy, straightforward way to discover and install new tools.

Also published (with some discussion) at OLPCNews.com

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