Meeting the XO, aptly at a Geek Gathering and other Yowzahs!

Never have I imagined that Houston would be the place to affirm my geek. Except at my brother’s old place from where he built me my first PC. And then after that when I met my husband, who is a proud one himself. But out in the wild?

It is with a happy note then that I share with you a Houston that has such a dynamic within. Having lived here for not very long, it is wonderful to have these venues to meet with one’s ‘kin’. Meeting folks who will match my very own, “@timeless” with their “@outofbalance” or “@superman” unleashes a smiling butterfly that says, “yowzah!”.

The gatherings come in many wonderful names and behind them smiling headshots coming to life as you meet them. “@imelda’sTwitter Houston and “@laanba’sHouston Photobloggers among many more others.

So finally, last weekend, I quite unexpectedly introduced myself to the XO and some of Houston’s finest geeks gathered for some fun time at a neighborhood bubble tea place. The Technology Bytes folks—Jay Lee a.k.a. the baldheretic—whose photographs of Spain were marvelous, groovehouse—from whom I learned about Yelp and more of online Houston, phliktid, Jennifer—who has a super name I forgot, Houston Chronicle’s Dwight Silverman; Kojo—with whom I had the pleasure of speaking some Chinese since he just came back from living in China; Tom—the nice gentleman who explained some of the OLPC’s desktop interface symbols; and of course, Gerry—who had previously played with an XO and pointed out some of its key features.

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A gentleman named “KD5” brought with him 3 OLPCs and I got to play with one. The machine is such an eye candy for starters. It has a camera, USB port, wireless antenna (yes, those mint bar looking ones that stick out like cute ears!), a comfortable keyboard, and a yo-yo power cord charger. I’ll stick to being a woman and admire how it looks first. I’ll let the experts answer the other curiosities.

For now, let me introduce my new friend.

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What is an XO?

The XO or OLPC is originally conceptualized by MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte as the $100 laptop that he hopes each child in a developing country can have to be a powerful tool in his/her education. Realizing it actually cost $200 per laptop. For now. But beyond that, is the birth of OLPC—One Laptop Per Child, another vessel for development.

This project is truly exciting especially during its dream phase where many would want to know, including myself, how to make it work? Then we realize, it is one of those leaps that we can make with the life we have. And that is one of Nicholas Negroponte’s leaps. And here we are, leaping with him. Why not? It’s a new toy!

So the dream is now in our hands as shown in these photographs. Another “yowzah!”

How is it distributed to target developing countries?

The governments of these countries can order them. Also, it was opened to the market here in the U.S. with its G1G1 policy. Get one, give one. For a limited time. Countries like Nigeria and Uruguay have gone on to acquire these laptops. Albeit, with some issues.

What of the naysayers, before and now?

During the conceptualization, many have questioned and doubted its potential, giving bigger weight to the risks. Walter Bender of the OLPC project says,

“You’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be bold. And what has happened is that there has been an effort to say ‘don’t take any risks – just do something small, something incremental’.”“It feels safe but by definition what you are ensuring is that nothing happens.”

Well, the “No’s” do not have it at this point. As we can see, it is here.

Professor Negroponte said it was an important milestone that had been reached despite “all the naysayers”.

“We’re not turning back – we have passed the point of no return,” said Mr Bender. “It is happening.”

An example of the potential blocks would be the governments themselves or the representatives of these governments whose school children could potentially benefit from this leap. It would depend at some point on how open these governments are to the importance of learning. How then do the movers of this project get the point across? The current Nigerian government is reportedly having second thoughts about its original order of one million XOs for its children.

Other critics have questioned the need for the laptops in countries which, they said, had more pressing needs such as sanitation and health care. But Professor Negroponte has always maintained that the project is about education not technology.
However, the green and white XO machines pack a number of innovations which make them suitable for use in remote and environmentally hostile areas. The machine has no moving parts and can be easily maintained. It has a sunlight-readable display that allows children to use it outside and, importantly for areas with little access to electricity, it is ultra low power and can be charged by a variety of devices including solar panels.

Without hard drives, storage of education materials, say, books, can be done by utilizing the 1GB flash memory, USB port and storage cards (SD). One would argue that this would defeat the important bit of purpose of these machines—low cost. But for what it is and the intention for which it was created, this project just needs to be given a chance to deliver its results—a revolutionary change in learning. It just has to be given its place. My husband, who works at an e-book company, has tried loading one with their books. I have yet to see how it works for this purpose but I am told that it competes with a dedicated ‘reader.’

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I’ll pause with that for today. Sometime, in my later posts, I’ll write about the XO in relation to something closer to home. Thanks to Jay Lee [ 1, 4 ] and Groovehouse [ 2, 3 ] for these wonderful photographs!

The geek gathering is organized monthly by Technology Bytes, a radio show aired at KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston.

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~ by Karina Descartin on 6 February 2008.

6 Responses to “Meeting the XO, aptly at a Geek Gathering and other Yowzahs!”

  1. I love that you are a geek!

  2. I am so glad to read of your impressions. The “Geek Gathering” is my small contribution to the communal geek landscape. Thanks for coming out and thanks for this delightful post!

  3. Jennifer is aptly named, Jennifer The Intern! =)

    Great blog post! It was so nice to meet you again.

  4. The pleasure is mine, being a geek and meeting you all. 🙂

    Oh right, Jennifer The Intern! ;-D

  5. It was nice to see you and Gerry at the Twitter meet up this weekend! 🙂 See ya next month?

  6. Hi Imelda,
    Thanks for organizing the meetup. We will be there for the next! 🙂

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