Archive for November 27th, 2006

OLPC, Again

I downloaded a recent bootable OLPC image and ran it on VMWare Player. The custom UI is disgusting, in terms of usability. It just ain’t good. And I am not talking about the “client” apps (Abiword, PenguinTV, Gecko, Gaim), but the Sugar shell itself is just not as easy and self-explanatory as it should have been. And why the hell the Squeak UI needs to be there? Squeak was hip in the ’90s with their “object” programming, but it’s pretty useless today. Not only that, but it’s extremely ugly and the UI is notoriously difficult to figure out most of the time. I maintain the opinion that Sugar is a big mistake, Squeak UI an even bigger mistake and after actually using the whole package, I believe this even more firmly. And don’t give me that “it’s still beta” shit, the basic Sugar UI ain’t gonna change all that much in production.

OLPC running Squeak

They should have modified Gnome’s UI to be more focused to what they wanted to do, instead of creating this toy. For example, they could remove all of the gnome-applets (only leave in the volume and networking notification items) and Nautilus (replaced by the “presense” bg), put the taskbar in that single gnome-panel at the bottom of the screen, and have icons with mouse-over explanation to launch the various apps needed on the left of that panel too. Alternatively, they could rewrite a less-heavy gnome-panel (so they don’t have to use HAL, DBUS and other stuff that usually gnome-panel requires and eats lots of memory). I don’t see how this is worse or more difficult to use than Sugar (which has hide-out menus that are only enabled via special keys in the keyboard or by moving your mouse cursor in the screen corners — not obvious at all). It is easier to do, will cost less money, and it will be closer to real-world computing.

OLPC mockup