The built-in OLPC browser is basic but functional. The Browse tab has forward and backward buttons, reload and a box to type in URLs.
While the XO's browser may use the same Gecko engine as Firefox, this is no Firefox. It doesn't support keyboard shortcuts for backwards and forwards. It doesn't support tabs, or the ability to open a link in a separate window. This makes browsing feel constrained, as one can't open a link in the background and come back to read it later. You either click it now and remember to come back to the original page, or read the original page and try to remember to follow the link later. This alone makes the browser frustrating to use.
It also lacks a familiar bookmark system. To bookmark a page, select the Browse tab and click the star in the upper right corner, and it will add a thumbnail view to the Tray at the bottom of the page. To hide the thumbnails, press Alt and Space. Next click the Activity tab and name the bookmark collection. Note the Share With option can allow others to watch a browsing session. Finally, click the Keep button to save the bookmark collection to the Journal.
After using the browser for a while the weird bookmark system and lack of tabs gets increasingly annoying.
Fortunately, Opera has a build for the XO, which supports traditional bookmarks and tabbed browsing. Opera makes full use the XO's high resolution display and packs a lot of information on screen in crisp but tiny fonts. It's a full port, so it supports the +/- keys to change the font size. The system fonts for dialogs are microscopically small.
Firefox and other Linux apps can be installed, but non-native XO apps aren't integrated with the Sugar UI and must be launched from a terminal window. Hopefully, a native Firefox port will be available soon.
Next page: Up against the Eee PC
Eee PC FTW.
Maybe what they should do is ruggedize/childproof a low end EEE PC instead, or just rework the installed software. As much as I dislike the fact the EEE PC base 'nix is Xandros, it does work quite well.
It sounds like the bundled software on this OLPC is far from ideal.
Read the "Case Study" of Arahuay Before Opinionating
As posted by "Jansen":
I find it impressive in detailing the XO's impact, but it also highlights the importance of structural preparation and support within the country receiving the XO's. There has to be some kind of educational infrastructure and context in which to integrate the XO. These machines cannot just be "thrown" at the students in hopes something magical will happen - it does take supporting effort, and it seems Peru is making that effort, as well as providing valuable feedback to OLPC to improve the XO, which it seems to have taken seriously.
My wife teaches first grade at a North Carolina inner-city school, and had her eyes opened a bit as to what "underprivleged" means in a non-American context. She has kids on welfare with no parental interest (or often even presence) who would be considered "wealthy" by the Peruvian kids who have received XO's with a great deal of gratitude and keen interest.
I doubt a number of her students would be nearly as appreciative or motivated by an XO because they have been spoiled by ready access to technology for purely entertainment purposes even if they don't have decent housing/clothing/medical care/etc by (US "standards"). It is all a matter of context.
We have ordered an XO with the "Give One, Get One" program to see if it could be of use in her context. I can provide the Linux support, and she uses Mint Linux at home on an almost constant basis (strictly as a "Gnome end-user" ;-), so it should be "interesting".
Think outside the box, but focus on the objective here of bringing the enabling technology to those who have not had any such exposure before. The Arahuay example is very instructive in how much can be accomplished when done right. It remains to be seen how sustainable the effort is, and how well it can be replicated in other locales. It needs CONSTRUCTIVE criticism to succeed, and not just nay-saying based on pre-conceived notions.
I maintain the effort is *useless* without proper support -- training, maintenance, reposition, content creation in Portuguese -- do you trust our government to do it? Without it how is it going to reduce the digital divide?
It is just yet another waste of money from a government that likes to be seen doing things.
xjy got it right -- solving illiteracy is way more important. Ability to learn and use knowledge is a far more effective tool for citizenship than a shiny nifty probably-unsupported toy.