XO side-by-side with eMate
Originally uploaded by rikomatic
I've had a bit of the One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop envy as of late. The idea of an educational project based around this amazing, unique piece of hardware is very interesting to me.
As a graduate student I wrote a paper refuting Seymour Papert and Nicholas Negroponte's assertions that the OLPC project was not about the hardware, but rather the educational project that the hardware allowed. At the end of the paper I discussed the eMate, positioned as an educational computer, and how it was a good piece of hardware that could be extended to accomplish some of the same tasks as the XO laptop.
Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Calculator: handled by built-in NewtonWorks
RSS: Raissa is still actively developed and supported
Web Browser: Originally bundled with NetHopper (no longer developed). Courier is a text-only web browser that integrates tightly with Raissa. NewtsCape is a very powerful browser.
Email: Mail V is another actively developed and supported email client, handling POP and authenticated IMAP.
Collaboration: Jan Jan Janken, an adaptation of Rock Paper Scissors, can be used to settle disagreements.
Connectivity: a wide range of ethernet cards as well as the WaveLAN wireless card are supported.
So, back to the XO envy. I asked myself, after reading this cool post about hacking around the Linux on the XO and getting it to work on the XO Chat ejabberd server that XO users are using for "testing, experimentation and collaboration via the Sugar interface," is it possible to instant message on the eMate? After all, I had a good email client, RSS reader, and web browser running on it, so why not an IM client? I located NewtonIM, an amazing little application by Jake Bordens.
Fortunately, Chris Chapman did the heavy lifting with a decent how-to. There were a couple other emails on the NewtonTalk mailing list that were also very helpful:
It took some struggle on the Mac to get my head around using Psi to create an account at Jabber.org then find the appropriate AIM conduit (since all my "buddies" are on AIM) over at aim.netmindz.net (update: I moved to jabber.meta.net.nz, which has an AIM transport as well). The Newton client was persnickety about getting the proper using name and password saved, but eventually I got it to authenticate.
This evening I fired up NewtonIM and managed to catch my sister on the AIM network. We IM'd back and forth for about 10 minutes. The eMate, which does have a memory upgrade card, worked great via wireless. I had it plugged into the AC adapter because the wireless card is active and moving packets and I knew I would quickly drain the battery. Even on a 25 MHz machine, it worked without too much delay. It was pretty nerdy!
I can add another comparable capability of the eMate when stacked against the OLPC XO laptop. It was a nerdy fun experience learning about the Jabber protocol. Hats off to Jake and Paul Guyot, who tidied up the source for NewtonIM and got it working great, in my opinion. If you have the means, give NewtonIM a shot!