I'm typing this on a Classmate PC

I'm typing this on a Classmate PC

Summary: My Classmate PCs arrived today from Intel and I finally had time to break them out tonight. You can find an image gallery here with first looks and some screenshots.

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My Classmate PCs arrived today from Intel and I finally had time to break them out tonight. You can find an image gallery here with first looks and some screenshots. I'll be writing several more detailed posts over the next few days as I actually live with these machines for a while, but I wanted to give my initial impressions to accompany the pictures. The Classmate, by the way, for those of you not familiar with it, is Intel's foray into 1:1 computing. Although it's designed for kids in developing countries where it could supplement existing classroom materials and curricula, I wonder if it might have some real value in developed countries, as well (more on that in the next few days as I get students' feedback).

 Image Gallery: Check out my first impressions and screenshots.    


First off, this is a really small keyboard. Surprisingly, the small screen (7 inches) is not a problem. However, the keyboard takes some serious getting used to. I have really small hands, so I'm adapting fairly well, as I imagine most kids would. However, kids and adults with larger hands might struggle. My biggest niggle with the keyboard is actually the single shift key on the left side only. Again, though, since the target audience will be relatively computer-naive, this may be less of an issue.

Secondly, the computers seem quite rugged and they are fairly light. The actually have a small handle but these feel like they could be jammed inside a lot of backpacks with no problem. The latching mechanism is magnetic, too, so there are no latches to snap off.

Finally, much to my disappointment, the Windows version is running faster and better than the Linux machine. Intel is actually looking into an issue with the theft prevention software on the Linux computer that may be causing some problems, but the OS for the Linux laptop (a customized version of OpenSUSE called Metasys running KDE) seems a bit bloated for this processor. Problems in particular are cropping up with being unable to type on the top window on a screen if mulitple applications are open (including a Save dialog for an application).

There are so many great lean choices out in Linuxland, I'd love to see this explored further. I have a conference call with Intel Thursday afternoon; I'll bring this up then and see if these problems are just related to pre-production softare. The Windows XP laptop is remarkably quick for a 900MHz processor and handles moderate multitasking pretty well).

There are many more details to come from much more rigorous testing. I'll keep posting as my students and I start putting them through their paces.

Topics: Software, Hardware, Intel, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Windows

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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107 comments
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  • I love...

    ...the handwriting recognition device.
    christopherborne@...
    • And it actually works quite well

      Just a bit of a learning curve in terms of pressure on the pen and location, kind of like a Mimeo board. Very cool, otherwise, though. Great for math/science applications that do not lend themselves to easy typing or Asian languages that don't map well to a qwerty keyboard.

      cad
      mrdatahs
      • New Classmate

        Have you tried it out on yoru students and your own kids?
        You have mentioned your kids in previous posts, you have 5 boys? And you said two of them are autistic, what programs work best for them? Do they all share the techno craze you do? Are you gearing them to be IT personnel? Sounds like they would all be computer savvy with you around.
        AppleAddict1
    • Can the handwritten characters be pasted into word processors

      Can the handwritten characters be pasted into word processors? Or more importantly, a translation program like Wenlin?
      griz326
  • how much please how much

    i wanna have one now damn it plese what a nice little piece of gadget i love it
    Quebec-french
  • WinXP has always been less bloated than most full Linux distros

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=140

    WinXP has always been less bloated than most full Linux distros. XP not only boots faster and works faster than Desktop Linux, it also requires far less RAM. However, Vista now requires more RAM than desktop Linux but it still manages to boot faster though I wish Microsoft would go back to their old lean mean self.
    georgeou
    • What?

      George, where do you get that crap??? I have XP and Fedora 7 dual booting on my systems and Fedora is A LOT faster than XP in every way! Always have, and always will! Windows XP is fair, and somewhat usable, but lets get real, and get some facts too.

      My new HP Pavillion with Vista is a joke. As soon as I get the time, it too will be scrubbed for Fedora 8.
      linux for me
      • Wow...

        What zealous answer. So, you're calling his experience a lie? How presumptious of you. No wonder Linux isn't killing Windows. I bet you're an RTFM lout as well.

        Maybe you should read what he said again.

        Here it is again so you can actually read it.

        [b]Finally, much to my disappointment, the Windows version is running faster and better than the Linux machine. Intel is actually looking into an issue with the theft prevention software on the Linux computer that may be causing some problems, but the OS for the Linux laptop (a customized version of OpenSUSE called Metasys running KDE) seems a bit bloated for this processor. Problems in particular are cropping up with being unable to type on the top window on a screen if mulitple applications are open (including a Save dialog for an application).

        There are so many great lean choices out in Linuxland, I?d love to see this explored further. I have a conference call with Intel Thursday afternoon; I?ll bring this up then and see if these problems are just related to pre-production softare. The Windows XP laptop is remarkably quick for a 900MHz processor and handles moderate multitasking pretty well).[/b]
        mkleinpaste@...
        • Read Carefully

          He is replying to George Ou comment:

          "WinXP has always been less bloated than most full Linux distros. XP not only boots faster and works faster than Desktop Linux, it also requires far less RAM. However, Vista now requires more RAM than desktop Linux but it still manages to boot faster though I wish Microsoft would go back to their old lean mean self."

          Would you mind to read carefully the posts?

          Thanks

          Marco
          marcovj
        • Mike,

          He wasn't responding to the story, he was responding to George Ou.

          George is one of the very few people for whom everything worked in Vista on DAY ONE and he has never experienced a security failure with any version of Windows. Ever.

          ISTR that a few years ago he was claiming that you had to compile any Linux software you installed.

          Other than not knowing what he's talking about, he's harmless.
          Jambalaya Breath
      • I'm running Ubuntu 7.10 and Vista

        and both are the same speed - booting and running apps. I have no complaints with either.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • considering...

        ... i have a Dual boot t42 (Ubuntu and WinXP) the only reason my WinXP boots slower now is all the crap i have managed to install at startup (that I keep cleaning out, and end up with more in there eventually).

        From a REAL world experience, I haven't found Vista all that slow. Of course, running it on an Intel Quad Core, with 2 gig RAM and a high end video card (and a 10,000RPM SATA as OS drive) so I can't really say it's an average machine, but it handles it nicely. And runs my games to boot (Linux can't do that for me without a subscription piece of software).

        So No, I would agree with George insomuch as "all things being equal" (IE Fresh installs) category.
        ivanotter
    • Linux distros

      No, XP isn't less bloated than most full Linux distros (unless you look at XP prior to SP1 and SP2). Most linux distros come with much more software than XP, but that's not the same as bloat.
      pinroot
    • Bloated?

      I'm puzzled as to why the Classmate is specified with 2GB of flash memory for WinXP, but inly 1GB for Linux (see http://www.intel.com/intel/worldahead/pdf/CMPCbrochure.pdf).

      Is it because WinXP is less bloated?

      Er, hang on...
      Martin.Taylor@...
      • Reason for storage difference

        It's quite simple: Microsoft Tax as well as discriminatory practices against Linux users.

        Here's a question: Why would I pay the same price for a Linux machine with less hardware than I get with the Microsoft version?

        This is a historic fact when it comes to computer manufacturers. Over the last few years I would check on laptops an compare the offered Microsoft os version with the Linux os version. In almost all cases, you could get the Microsoft os version of the Laptop with a larger monitor than the Linux machine.

        There is a definite discriminatory bias against those of us who would like to have a Laptop with a Linux machine and not pay for the Microsoft OS.

        You see the same obvious discriminatory bias here.

        I will likely not purchase one of these machines as a single gig of storage gets filled quite fast depending on what you are using if for. So does two gig, but the fact is you see a bias here and I do not like people and especially businesses discriminating against me simply because I am part of a different crowd.

        Scott
        satovey@...
        • Let's see ...

          Is it really a Microsoft TAX that makes a Linux box with fewer features cost the same? Or, is the reality that OEMs can ship a Windows machine for less money than they can ship a Linux machine -- if for no other reason that they can ship so many more of them?
          M Wagner
      • geez...

        Wow, you take one aspect of it, and try to use it as justification. Perhaps... you should look at they have same RAM among other things.
        ivanotter
      • Bloated?

        Wow ... we actually made it to something like 4 messages before this deteriorated into yet another Windows vs. Linux flame war. Good going troops!

        -CB :)
        CodeBubba
        • Flame War

          This is ZDNet - what did you expect?
          Martin.Taylor@...
    • Agree

      I'm doing a triple boot right now on a brand new Dell Optiplex 740.

      It's a AMD64 3800+ processor (2.4 Ghz) with 2 GB of RAM.

      Windows XP speeds along like I can't believe including booting up. Windows Vista boots up fairly slow but runs pretty good once up. Ubuntu boots up about the same as Vista but much slower than XP and it's applications open and run much slower than both XP and Vista.

      Just my observations from my new PC.
      rkuhn040172@...