OLPC Live CD Distribution

I was on the OLPC Wiki and realized that I could download a Live CD of the latest version of the OLPC operating system. The OLPC is based on the RedHat operating system (not Fedora). I downloaded it and ran it in a virtual machine. Here are my initial reactions.

When you first start up the system it starts up pretty quickly. I gave the virtual machine I put the Live CD into 256 MB of RAM. The PC I am using has a 1.5 GHz AMD processor. Live CD’s are usually always slower since everything has to load into the system’s memory to be able to run. However, it started up pretty quickly.

Once you get to the login screen. You type in your name and you choose a color. You have to click several times on the human icon to choose a color. Personally, I would have found a drop down menu or color wheel much more handy. Also, the cursor icon is huge. Once you login the color you chose is the color of the icon in the middle of your desktop.

Once you login and get to the desktop everything is pretty simple. There are a few icons on the bottom of the desktop. An interesting thing to note is that there is an option to use Classic Gnome. I decided to click on this and switch over to it. However, it appeared as though Gnome had been stripped down. There was no Application, Places or System menu. On the desktop you could access a file manager, developer information as well as a terminal.

After not being able to quickly get back to the Sugar interface I rebooted the LiveCD and started playing around with some of the other applications. The applications are designed for school children, none of the functionality you would expect is there. It’s also not very easy to figure out how to get back to your desktop once you have an application open. Now, this might be something they are going to correct with a button on the actual OLPC. I just found it extremely annoying to get back and forth between open applications or get out of applications. When you hover over an icon you don’t get a tooltip to explain what it means.

Whenever you open the web browser and open a website, you get a zoomed in view of the website. This, too, may be a feature they are going to allow you to control with hardware based controls.

Overall, I have to say that I am not very impressed with the OLPC operating system development. It really bothers me that the interface has been dumbed down. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that due to the limited resources of the OLPC they had to make some sacrifices somewhere. It still bothers me though. I feel as though the OLPC project is overly simplifying the operating system and not giving the children in the countries where the OLPC will go a chance to learn how to use a real operating system. Or at the very least, an operating system that resembles others.

Also, the fact may be that I am simply overly privileged to have a good computer and the children/families/people who are recipients of these machines will probably be more than happy with them.

With all the above said, I have to say that I think the project is a great idea. I think more people need to be able to gain access to computers for research and school projects. Personally, I wish they’d sell more to the United States. Some people in this country still cannot afford a decent computer.

Download the OLPC Live CD