LeapFrog Evaluates Synergies with OLPC Project

Opinion: LeapFrog's Eugene Ciurana has spent his free time testing the OLPC's XO laptop and says it hits the mark.

Eugene Ciuranas focus at LeapFrog Enterprises is building infrastructure for the companys Web-enabled product initiatives, but his role also has allowed Ciurana to get involved with the One Laptop Per Child organization. The OLPCs XO laptop and the open-source Sugar interface that runs on the system have drawn the attention of many in the IT community, including me.

"We at LeapFrog, being an educational company, get the OLPC and understand its value. We were approached by the guys with the initiative, and were trying to figure out what the synergies are," said Ciurana, director of systems infrastructure at the Emeryville, Calif. company. "Its another example where LeapFrog is aware of things happening in the open-source world and trying to figure out how to contribute to [that community], while at the same time doing something good for the company."

Ciurana has spent time testing one of the OLPCs groundbreaking XO laptops and has gotten involved—in his spare time—with efforts to debug the XOs networking software stack.

As someone whos had the opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the much-discussed but still-elusive device, I was eager to hear Ciuranas impressions of the XO. After all, while the XO is intended for use by children in developing countries, its new technologies appear to hold promise for computer users on both sides of the digital divide.


To read more about LeapFrogs jump into open source, click here.

Networking: The XO is designed around Wi-Fi network connectivity, and, based on Ciuranas experience with the device, this focus appears to be bearing fruit. "The UI [user interface] portions of the networking are still a little flaky, but the networking hardware—the infrastructure for supporting networking—I think is better than on my MacBook," Ciurana said. "Im able to pick up wireless access points with the OLPC that otherwise I dont see with the MacBook."

Applications: Ciurana also has high hopes for XO applications. "The applications are very useful," he said. "As far as taking it as a travel computer, I tried that during the last conference I spoke at in Barcelona. I was able to take notes [and] save them to Word—it supports all the standard formats you can imagine."

Thats not to say the XO could drop into any environment. "The problem youre going to find is that the keyboard is designed for small hands," said Ciurana. "If youre a touch-typist, youll catch yourself looking at the keyboard because your hands are probably going to be too big for it. But the Web browser is excellent; [its] based on Gecko, which is the Mozilla Firefox engine... So, if you can see it on Firefox, itll look almost identical on the OLPC."


Read more here about the technology behind OLPCs XO laptop.

In the end, of course, the XO is designed to provide children with new opportunities, and Ciurana thinks its hit the mark. "I think theres an interesting lesson to learn there," he said. "Most geeks would start complaining about not having a mouse and not having all the accoutrements of a regular GUI, but I believe the target audience for [the XO] is totally ready, and I think its very well designed for that."


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