Thanks to the generosity of Colin Davitt, my dreams and those of my family to have our own XO laptop have come true! (I interviewed Colin last December right before Christmas about his first impressions of the XO.)
The XO arrived this afternoon in the mail, and by the time I got home after six my 10 year old son had already been exploring its applications. He was not able to get it online by himself, however, for reasons I’ll detail below. I’ve spent a couple of hours this evening using it to read my Google Reader “education” feeds and learning about the XO’s different features via the Getting started section of the OLPC wiki. There is so much to learn, but so far I have found the XO very easy to explore and use. The applications which come pre-installed on it are diverse in their functionalities, and will take quite awhile to explore in their own right.
The main challenge to using the XO for me is the size of the keyboard: It’s definitely made for small hands and fingers. When my 8 year old daughter returns from her Washington DC trip, I’m wondering if she is going to want to take charge of it– especially since it will fit her hands quite well! As I detailed a bit in my April post “If you just want to play games online, don’t get an XO,” I did have a chance (thanks to Mark Ahlness and Glenn Malone) to play with XOs during the NCCE conference in Seattle back in February. Based on the brief introduction I’ve had to the XO and its setup / menu system, I was readily able to explore and use applications as well as the computer’s basic functionalities. I love the size and weight, and think I may enjoy its functionality as an eBook reader more than anything else in the evenings!
My first technical challenge with the XO was getting it on our home wireless network. It wasn’t hard to do, but I had to disable the WPA2 encryption I have been using for some time with the Airport Express router and access point we use at home. I couldn’t get the XO to accept our WPA2 password, which I expected would be the case based on what I’ve heard from others like Mark, but I couldn’t get it to accept a 128 bit or 40 bit WEP password either. So, for now our home network is open / not encrypted. For the first several years we had wireless Internet access at home, I simply hid the SSID of our network and left encryption off. At that time, before the 802.11g standard was available, there seemed to be a noticeable slowdown when using WEP encryption over WiFi. I wanted as fast a connection as possible, and it seemed to be “enough” of a precaution to just hide our wireless network from neighbors who might “borrow” our wireless network if it was visible and available.
Since I turned off all network encryption this evening, I was curious if any of our neighbors might be on our network without permission. I’ve actually been a bit distressed with what I found. Since that is a bit of a different topic, however, I’ll leave that discussion for my next post. I AM going to need to get some help updating the firmware on the XO (if that is the right word – the operating system version) because I think the newer versions WILL support WPA2 wireless encryption. Apparently that IS going to be needed in my neighborhood… more about that later. My understanding of current consumer wireless encryption standards is that WEP is almost worthless (although tons of people use it) and easily hacked/circumvented by someone with a basic knowledge of wireless networking hacking and some free software tools like airsnort, kismet, and aircrack. WPA and WPA2 encryption standards have NEVER been cracked– yet, from what I understand, and free or commercial software tools are NOT available (yet) which permit would-be hackers from getting into your wireless network secured with these protocols.
Thank you Colin for the XO! You are THE MAN! Now I have much to learn about the XO….. 🙂
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