Back in December, I was one of the 170,000 eager Linux geeks who forked out $400 for the privilege of getting my hands on a One Laptop Per Child XO. To be honest, my initial impression was not great. For one thing, the keyboard was (and continues to be) the wrong size and feel for productive typing by an adult. I really can’t complain about this, as it wasn’t designed for adults, and I have managed to adapt somewhat to get something approaching a reasonable typing speed.
More troubling was the poor state of the WiFi stack, which seemed incapable of connecting to a WPA encrypted network. Even when using WEP or no encryption at all, getting and keeping a connection seemed to be a hit or miss adventure. And while the Sugar OS was certainly innovative, it really started to grate on me when I tried to do the kinds of things I wanted to do with it.
In truth, I pretty much hung the thing on the staircase banister and relegated it to the “interesting but not practical” category. Then I started to read about people installing alternative Linux distros using the SD reader. I actually hadn’t even noticed it HAD an SD reader, it’s well hidden under the display.
After a week or so of messing around with a few different sets of instructions, I managed to get xubuntu booting reliably on the XO, and xfce running as the desktop. What a difference! For one thing, I can install pretty much any Ubuntu package I want. Also, the Wifi is solid and I can use a USB dongle to connect to hardwired networks.
The XO has become my default lug-around laptop. It works great for reading GMail, and I’m working on getting it to work as a PDF reader in tablet mode so I can use it as an eReader. It’s light, the battery lasts a good long time, it charges quickly, and it raises comments everywhere I go with it.
The next logical step is a version of the XO with an adult-sized keyboard. I can’t wait!