First Person Life

2007-10-06

For Technophiles and Non-techies alike...

Ok, I admit it, I'm a technophile. It's almost as if technology is in my blood... like lead poisoning from my childhood.

I got my first computer when I was 9 years old and was more interested in programming it to succumb to MY WILL instead of playing computer games (Really, I'm NOT a control freak ... much). In sixth grade, I was asked to teach the "smart kids" (the "elite" group that I was *not* placed into until the end of High School ... but I'm not bitter...) how to do computer graphics programming.

I dropped out of the Computer Science program at the State University of New York at Buffalo to enter the Pre-seminary program at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. Between my days at CCAA and the seminary, I spent 10 years in the computer industry. The first 7 years in a regional Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Michigan. The last 3 years in the network engineering/consulting department of a Value Added Reseller serving small to medium sized businesses as they needed to implement technology.

I cut my teeth on the Internet before the first web browser (NCSA Mosaic) was "mainstream" and people still used gopher and FTP to share information. All of my computers run Linux and have for at least the last seven years. When I MUST use Micro$oft Window$ (for example, to complete my SET form or use LOGOS software), I do so in a "virtual machine" running inside Linux.

While I'm not in the computer industry, I still keep tabs on it. I've seen a LOT in the computer industry and it take A LOT to impress me - and today I ran across not one but TWO articles that impress me.

First is the XO Laptop. This little device at about $200 per unit seems to be technology perfection. It's designed as an educational tool and is a bit slower than systems you may be used but only boot-up and opening applications, when you're using the applications, it's reported to be very responsive. It boasts a 6 hour battery life (or more if you don't use the backlight on the display), is rechargable up to 2000 times (with options of plug, hand crank, or solar cell), is almost kid-proof (spill proof, rain proof, drop proof, and dust proof), and has almost everything one would absolutely need in a computer system for basic, every-day computing.

I've been watching the One Laptop Per Child program as it's unfolded. The original plan was to make these units for $100 each. While they couldn't quite do it for that, the $200 price tag is more than reasonable given the features. The goal is to put a laptop in the hands of every child in undeveloped/underdeveloped countries where electricity is scarce and education is even more scarce.

For two weeks in November, they are making the units available to people in developed countries at the "Buy 1 Get 1" price of $400. At that price you purchase a unit for yourself and one is purchased for a child in the developing world.

It'd be great if we could hand them out with textbooks at our Lutheran Schools each year -- unlikely, but great!

The second piece of news is the latest version of Puppy Linux. I will admit to not using it myself yet (I use Gentoo on my personal machines) but I've been watching the "LiveCD" Linux systems from a distance for a while now and this looks like a perfect tool for starting to use Linux and moving people away from the "Evil Empire" in Redmond.

With Puppy Linux and old laptops, it might be possible to create a One Laptop Per Child program at the local school level that would be cost effective. In any case, If you have ever considered playing with Linux, I would recommend starting with something like Puppy Linux. It lets you test drive without harming your existing M$ Window$ installation.

If anyone tries Puppy Linux, let me know how it goes. I may try it myself soon -- and I'll post my impressions here if I do.

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