Friday, January 05, 2007

Developing For the One Laptop Per Child Computer

One of the most amazing things about the One Laptop Per Child computer is the new User Interface. It's not every day that someone decides to reinvent the GUI wheel. Though the launch of the system is not exactly breaking news (my article at The Theatre of Noise is playing catch-up), not everyone may be aware of how easy it is to develop for the operating system. In fact, all you need is Python!

Though few of us have working prototypes of the OLPC computer, it is possible to install the OS, Sugar, on a standard computer running Windows, Mac OS, or UNIX. However, the process requires technical smarts and a lot of hacking.

Thankfully, this step can be skipped entirely. Simply write your app in Python and use the PyGTK module to access the UI library GTK. Your finished application should run perfectly on the OLPC!

Of course running under Sugar would be recommended for the final testing of your app. But nonetheless this is an excellent example of leveraging Python's strengths as a cross-platform development tool.

The development page on the wiki provides a few additional tips. The Human Interface Guidelines provide a fascinating insight into the UI. In particular, the desktop metaphor has been replaced with the community metaphor, and the idea of "applications" with "activities".

I think we will be amazed when we see what comes out of this venture.


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