OLPC Spotted In Wild

Spotted a real OLPC user on the subway this weekend. An OLPC is that funky device that is supposed to be given to poor children in developing countries but the foundation did a “give one, get one” program which explains why this guy has one. Some people on the R train from Manhattan to Brooklyn gave him and his green and white contraption an odd look out the corner of their eye.


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  1. snoop-blog says:

    for some reason,….i kinda want one.

  2. snazz says:

    is that a ‘speak n spell’?

  3. DeltaPurser says:

    I had an easy-bake over that looked kinda’ like that…

  4. Clushje says:

    Brave man. Yes, functionality over aesthetics etc. but no way would I use it in a public place.

  5. gisgt says:

    I have some spoiled, suburban kids that also need one. Where did it come from? How can I get one? Will it keep them off of my computer?

  6. banderlin says:

    I’m still waiting for my OLPC. I can’t wait to play with it.

  7. It’s a great little computer.

  8. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    In a city setting, does it still do that thing where it piggy backs internet connection with others of it’s kind over long distances?

  9. homerjay says:


  10. azntg says:

    Only in New York. I can recognize the MTA PSA posters and that’s the interior of a R44/R46 (from the photo, I mean).

  11. pwillow1 says:

    I donated one of these at Christmastime and considered doing the “give one, get one” promotion. Instead, I purchased an ASUS eee, which is awesome. I got the 4G one for about $400, but they have a 2G “surf” model for less. The Asus is only 2 lbs., very compact and highly portable. It’s great to have internet access almost everywhere I go. It’s been quite a surprise to see how many (unsecured) wireless networks there are in my town.

  12. sickofthis says:

    My partner just bought something similar, an EEE. She loves playing around with different Linux distros. It’s a pretty cool little basic computer, but the screen and keyboard are too small for my tastes.

  13. Parting says:

    Who cares what electronics he uses. Some people dress like crap, a green gadget is not the worse thing you can see in subway.

  14. AcidReign says:

        I must live in a third world area. These things are all over the town I live in. One of my cousin’s kids brought one over to the house on Christmas day. It’s not exactly high-def, but it’s better than the screen on my Commodore 64! The machine looks pretty durable, too. All rubberized corners, and a screen you can read in the sun. And Bill Gates isn’t profiting on them, either…


  15. Peeved Guy says:

    Wow, this program is an awesome success! Just last week that guy was living in squalor in the middle of Africa, now he’s a successful investment banker in NYC.

  16. spanky says:


    It should, as long as there are enough other devices in the vicinity. Mine activates and looks around, but I’m in a less densely populated area, so I haven’t seen another XO yet.

    I really love mine. It picks up wireless signals better than anything else I’ve tried, and the e-book functionality is just about perfect. The only big downside for me, really, is that it does kind of attract attention.

  17. fisherman23 says:

    Hmmmm…I thought it was an Etch-a-Sketch.

  18. @spanky: And the battery management isn’t up to par yet. But they are working on it every day!

  19. PDX909 says:

    @Peeved Guy:

    Thanks, that really made me laugh

  20. stevegoz says:

    Crap — here I just bought a new laptop next week when I could’ve been doing good for others!

  21. firesign says:

    @stevegoz: since you won’t buy it until next week you have time to change the future!

    oh, and that thing is still way fugly. eee pc ftw.

  22. Angryrider says:

    Wow… I was a bit interested in this laptop for the novelty… I’m a little more tempted to buy one.

  23. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    It looks like such a toy, it would be funny if he was looking at porn on it.

  24. Christy says:

    Haha, that’s definitely the DC Metro. There are semi-regular OLPC geekfests in the city to show off what it can do. So… not surprising it would turn up here, though if I saw it on my morning commute, it would pretty much make my day. Thank Jeebus for camera phones.

  25. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    I did the whole buy one, give one thing, and wasn’t really all that impressed with the device for what I wanted it for. Probably works great for children, especially with some well-designed software. Great device, just not for me.

    Who knows? Maybe the guy in the photo is the one I sold mine to.

  26. jtlax3 says:

    I saw a guy in Spokane at a Starbucks, and each of his kids had one. I couldn’t believe that they actually existed in real life!

  27. fuzzycuffs says:

    Friend of mine got one to play around with. He says he played around with it the first week, and it’s just been sitting there since.

    Whereas I use my EeePC almost daily.

    But I guess I don’t live in a third world country. I do quite like the mesh network app on the OLPC, if it actually had people to mesh with.

  28. IC18 says:

    I guess it would be kinda cool to have one, looks like a mobile X-Box. OLPC (Odd Looks Per Child).

  29. That was shot either going to or coming from Brooklyn I would bet. Though not on the L, which kind of surprises me.

  30. chemmy says:

    100% the NYC Subway… I’m thinking the V train since it’s so darned empty… (Inside joke)

  31. Erskine says:

    @Christy: Not Metro – look at the floor, the straight car walls and the color of the entranceway.

    NYC subway.

  32. CyGuy says:

    I put in my order on the opening day of the B1G1 and we got ours just before Christmas.

    I’d say it lives upto expectations, the wifi reception blows away any other notebook I’ve tried with 8.11b/g I don’t have enough experience with 8.11n to compare it with though. But for example, I can connect from inside a building to the signal from a cybercafe on the otherside of a shopping center parking lot.

    A couple tips to make it more useable for webbrowsing, upgrade to a newer stable build of the OS right away. Then get the version of Opera tailored for the OLPC, and get the Adobe Flash package. Also, follow the guidance for uninstalling the open source Flash package called gnash.

    Of the kid games that run natively on the device, my daughter’s favorite is called SPEAK, it has an animated face that reads whatever she types. Since she can’t spell I’m just waiting for it to read a word that isn’t apprprpriate for her young ears.

    (btw, this comment was posted from out OLPC)

  33. Aph says:

    These are poppin everywhere on the Humboldt State Univ. campus.

  34. mathew says:

    OLPC? That’s nothing. Twice now I’ve seen someone using a PSP in public.

  35. Garbanzo says:

    I just saw my mother-in-law’s new OLPC yesterday. It did seem to me to be really designed for children. I had trouble imagining using it due to its tiny keyboard, and I’m someone with pretty small hands for an adult. Just something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about getting one. I don’t think it would be a satisfactory replacement for a full-powered laptop for many people.

  36. meneye says:

    if he pulled this stunt in Texas, they’d tell him to take hisself back to San Fransisco

  37. spanky says:


    Yeah, it’s definitely not designed as an adult laptop. The keyboard was intentionally designed to be uncomfortable for adults, as a sort of passive security measure. It’s also slow by adult, first world standards, and needs some tweaking to do many of the things adults might want it to do.

    I got mine because I like its focus on open standards, ease of maintenance, and durability, and because it is just about perfect for my limited needs*; but I would never ever recommend it for someone who needed a standard business laptop or something.

    *And because, for the price of a Kindle, I got improved reader functionality on a fully functioning, fully configurable computer; and I got one for someone else too.

  38. AT203 says:

    It might have been D.C., I guess Ben could tell us for sure. The Shmoocon computer security conference was in D.C. the weekend of Feb. 15th, and there were some OLPCs floating around.

  39. lincolnstein says:

    My friends works at a library where they have one and we played with it this weekend.

    They are ridiculously hard to use. But there are a lot of cool features to it such as a music editor, a ms paint like program, and a wifi card.

    But like i said before…they are difficult to navigate and figure out.

  40. iMike says:

    I have one. I’m keeping it in the box since I don’t need it and got it as a “collector’s item.”

    Not sure what it’ll be worth in 20 years, but there you have it.

  41. Chris Walters says:

    @pwillow1, @tmccartney, @firesign, and @fuzzycuffs: I use my EeePC daily and have no regrets getting it instead of an OLPC. I’m running the Eee-tailored Xubuntu on it and post regularly to the Consumerist from it (maybe that explains my frequent typos).

    The only real problem I’ve had is any time I take it out and fire it up, someone interrupts me to ask what it is and tell me what they would use it for. I’m half-seriously thinking of printing up a sheet of informational cards to hand out so I don’t have to keep pulling my headphones out when I’m trying to work. Eee ftw!

  42. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    @meneye: Oh come on! There aren’t subways in Texas. :)

    Are there?

  43. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    @Chris Walters: I looked at an EEE in the store one day, and couldn’t really see myself using it for the normal things. The keyboard was really tiny and the screen wouldn’t display google reader in a manner I would like. As such, I picked up a proper laptop instead.

  44. loueloui says:


    Hey. I take offense to that. Just kidding.

  45. snoop-blog says:

    these things are selling for as much as $450 on ebay. crazy! you can buy a pretty nice machine for just $150 more. if they sold these at say wal-mart for $100, i’d buy one just as a throw around. this does sound like an excellent first computer for a child though.

  46. loueloui says:

    BTW, this guy does look kinda rough. Maybe that explains why he POSSIBLY has one from the give one get one program. I could totally see this guy mugging some little peasant girl.

  47. pwillow1 says:

    @Chris Walters: I haven’t gotten anything more than curious looks yet. If you’re getting that much interest from people, maybe you should start selling them! Just hang out in cafes all day and your customers will come to you.

    The thing I love about mine is that my mom doesn’t have a computer, so I take it with me when I visit, and use an open wifi signal available in her building — it picks up wireless signals great. I can share online photos with her, or we can shop.

    A close friend took one look at my EeePC and ordered one for herself. She was sold instantly.

  48. dafountain says:

    These things will soon flood the city of Birmingham, Al. The city is spending 3.5 million to give every child (about 25,000) in the city’s school system a laptop computer. The mayor is also trying to convince all the churches in town to become wireless hot spots. If you knew anything about any town in the south then you know this would practically blanket the city solid with wireless internet.

  49. forgottenpassword says:

    Whipping out a laptop on the subway!??? wtf???

    I never pull out a laptop in public for fear of some POS grabbing it & running off. Even though I live in a nice area (but there are always scumbags about in practiclaly any area).

    I still cant bring myself to pull my laptop out at the local ihop. I imagine some POS scumbag who may be a customer there… seeing it, leaving then waiting to jack me in the parking lot for it.

    Besides…. my laptop is too valuable to me because it has sensitive info on it & its the only laptop I have. If I had an old “junker” laptop…. I’d be willing to whip it out in public, but not my current laptop.

    Same goes for ipods in my book, show it in public & you are just asking for some little punk to snatch it & run.

  50. ninjapoodles says:

    My 5-year-old daughter got an XO (OLPC) laptop for Christmas, and while it was tricky for us grownups to navigate, she had the thing walking, talking, and singing the blues in no time, all by herself. Amazing. So based on my observation, it must be very intuitive for children. Her single complaint is that it’s painfully slow with any flash application…which essentially means no Webkinz on the XO. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

  51. zibby says:

    Wait until all these children and other assorted yo-yo’s get on the internet and ruin this paradise for all us normal people. Enjoy it while it lasts my people!

  52. laker says:

    Sounds about right… a guy headed to Bay Ridge WOULD be cool enough to have an OLPC! :-)

    I wonder how many folks take even their regular laptop out on a train like the R? I know I do…