Friday, February 23, 2007

PyCon day 1

Gave the testing tutorial with Titus yesterday; went pretty well from the feedback we got. We'll publish the slides soon.

Just got out of the first keynote, Ivan Krstic's talk on the "One Laptop Per Child" project. Pretty interesting -- here are some tidbits I remember:
  • OLPC wants to change the way teaching and learning is done these days; they want to go back to the time when preschool kids interacted with each other by playing, and learned naturally peer-to-peer (as opposed to institutionalized teaching, which is one-to-many)
  • contrary to popular opinion, the laptop does not have a hand crank (it would wear down too fast if it had one); however, the laptop can be powered by a pull string that reacts to the puller's strength and powers the device accordingly
  • the 2 rabbit ears are used for wireless; the laptop can speak 802.11s, a new protocol that can be used for fully meshed networking; as soon as one laptop is connected to the internet, all the other ones in its mesh will be connected too
  • the CPU is an AMD Geode at 366 MHz (not 400 or 500, actually 366)
  • no hard drive, uses 512 MB of flash storage
  • OS is a stripped-down version of Fedora
  • runs Python wherever it can (including the init boot daemon); some exceptions are the X.org windowing system, the mDNS daemon, and the bus communication; pretty much all other user-level software, including the file system, is written in Python
  • the laptop has a 'show source' button which obviously shows Python source code that can be edited, etc.
  • no adult has ever been able to open the laptop in less than 2 minutes
  • no child has ever needed more than 30 seconds to open the laptop
  • two fortunate souls got an OLPC XO laptop today: Guido (as the creator of Python), and a guy who was able to recognize a very complicated formula that Ivan showed on a slide (the BBP formula for computing the n-th decimal place of pi); the guy needed approx. 1 minute to open the laptop; Guido's was already open, in a sign of respect I guess
  • OLPC needs good Python developers; if you're interested, check out dev.laptop.org

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