Robert E. Seastrom rs at seastrom.com
Tue Nov 18 07:37:52 CST 2008

Sean Sheedy <sean at theSheedys.com> writes:

> The OLPC buy-one-donate-one offer is on again, and I noticed that  
> there was a discussion about this last year, and several people had  
> some in their hands.
> This machine looks like a killer ham laptop for field day, outdoors  
> work, or using in the shack on emergency power.  I read a criticism  
> that the keyboard was too small but I seem to not use the keyboard  
> that much for ham applications and one can plug an external keyboard  
> and mouse in via the USB ports.
> A year has passed; what's the opinion about these machines now?

I've played with one and come to the following conclusions:

1) Keyboard is too small for adult hands.  "You can plug in an
external keyboard" defeats the whole purpose of having a small laptop.

2) Screen is smaller than you want.

3) The Linux flavor and window manager are alien technologies compared
to what you want if you're looking for a "killer ham laptop for field

4) Retrofitting other Linux distros or Windows or whatever onto it is
a chore and a half, though possible.

5) Having been involved in some educational-technology-for-young-kids
brouhahas here in the US, I'm casting a dubious eye on the underlying
premise (aside from the "e-book reader is cheaper than distributing
paper and cardboard books, which might be true depending on what kind
of magic accounting you use).  Despite my impending unemployment at
the end of this year, I intend to make a donation of equivalent funds
to the "buy one give one" to a charity that is actually doing stuff
that is desperately needed in the Third World.  Last year, a group my
uncle volunteers for ( http://www.lifewater.ca/ - they've got way cool
geek content on their site should you wish to drill your own well
using low-tech hardware) got my money.


Just as the standard-capacity-magazine-ban of 1994 combined with
proliferation of shall-issue concealed carry created a whole new
generation of nifty small, concealable handguns, so too Negroponte's
media whoring has caused there to be a whole bunch of new interesting
laptops out there.  Known as "netbooks", these are generally Celeron,
Atom, or Via-based low-power, low-capability, small-in-size laptops
that carry a correspondingly low price tag.

Two that I have actually handled are the Intel Classmate and the Asus
"eee".  The larger eee (the 1000) actually has a usable keyboard; I
did not find the Classmate's keyboard too odious.  The Lenovo Ideapad
S10 looks very interesting too; I'm thinking if I buy one of that type
of laptop it may well be an Ideapad.

One of those running XP or Ubuntu should be just the ticket for field
day.  Before you buy, check around for an appropriate 12v power supply
for extended runtime when you're operating from battery/emergency power.

My $0.02,

-r (ai4uc)

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