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Unwrapping the XO laptop

Michael Tiemann unwraps one of the the XO laptops from the G1G1 program.

XO Portrait of Michael Tiemann
One happy blogger Michael Tiemann

Santa's elves worked overtime to ensure that little green laptops would make it to homes across North America by December 24th. After reading of another's horror story (give one get none), and then after reading more and more reports of XO laptop deliveries elsewhere throughout my corner of cyberspace, I'd begun to wonder when my pair would come. Amy called me just before noon to let me know my shipment had come in...

The official XO is definitely different than the protoype: it's ruggedized, a bit more colorful, and it boots in graphical rather than text mode. It was fascinating to see a graphical/colorful view of the wireless networks in our neighborhood arranged by distance and cued by signal strength. There are at least two other mesh network computers my XO could see...but after more than an hour of an open chat line, none chose to respond to my chat greeting and invitation. Maybe there's more than one kind of mesh already setting up here in Chapel Hill?

On the applications front I found cool apps that are directly and immediately useful for things I've wanted to do when volunteering at my daughter's school. The application 'Measure' is an audio oscilloscope, which is great at showing how characteristic sounds (like a piano or a whistle or the human voice) have characteristic shapes. Next summer I'll have to see if the built-in mics work at bat frequencies!

The second application, which will have to wait until Christmas Day, is 'Acoustic Tape Measure'. With two laptops (which I have, but don't yet want to open), it is possible to use an acoustic signal between them to measure the distance between them. All one must do is enter temperature and relative humidity, and <chirp> the distance can be computed based on timestamps negotiated between the two. Many times I have seen our school kids using all kinds of devices to measure distances a bit larger than the average tape measure. With these laptops they will be on their way to mapping (and understanding) the world. Good thing there's already a great open source GIS system waiting for them when they mature to full-scale laptops.

Having seen the prototypes since last year, I am very pleased to see the final product. Remember that it's not to late to place your order if you act before December 31st.

Happy holidays!