One of the things I've noticed about my two Apple laptops is a certain inability to read the keyboard without adequate lighting. Now, I'm a writer, so I don't need to see the letter-keys to type. I do need lighting to see the function keys along the top of the keyboard, however. My PowerBook's keys are silver with a black font. My MacBook has black keys with white font, so it's a little less of a problem. The XO's keyboard features green keys with black font. So, seeing the function keys on it will be an issue and it's an issue Mike Lee deals with in a recent post. (Mike Lee is some kind of developer connected to the XO--I haven't been able to work out how, but he's based in DC and is helping to run the DC XO users group there.)

Now, according to Mike Lee, who has had "a couple B4 machines since August" (lucky bastard!):
"there were two LEDs in the plastic bank on either side of the screen hinge of the B2 prototype that could be activated to bathe the keyboard in bluish light. The LEDs were removed

Mary Lou Jepsen, the CTO of OLPC, explained that the LEDs were removed to save a little money and complexity.

These made for ideal keyboard-viewing in low-lighting, according to Lee, and in his recent post on, wrote about finding another way to see the keyboard in poor or no-light situations. The idea for kids was that they would just angle the screen down a bit to see the keys. However, since adults tend to be taller, Lee felt that another solution was in order. He writes about the iLite, a small USB light for the XO laptop's keyboard that you can plug in and aim at the keyboard in a way that won't disrupt your view of the XO's screen.

Mike Lee also explains in his post that he will be doing a series of posts at on accessories for the XO that I, for one, am chomping at the bit to read.

In the comments of Lee's post, people ask him about solar solutions for the XO, while I was able to share some of my limited knowledge about solar and my research on powering the XO with it, I don't know anything first hand. Lee linked to, a: "blog covering the topic of powering ultra-mobile and ultra-efficient personal computers through solar and natural energy sources."

The site looks packed with great DIY solutions for mobile computing under the power of the sun. Sadly, it all looks like it requires a bit more tech-skill than just walking into your local Radio Shack and asking the first employee you see: "Can I have the 2nd solar panel on the left?"

But seems to make solar-powered computing a definite possibility even if it's not without some doing. All fascinating stuff if you're a gear head.

Both Mike's blog and Solar-UMPC I'll have to add to my reading list now! Damn!

ANYway, so there are quite a few other things you can buy for the XO, even if solar panels aren't quite read for admission into the XOniverse. One question I asked Lee about in his OLPCNews post was about a slipcase for the XO. The XO laptop is 9x9.5 inches in size. I've never come across a laptop bag that small before. What does Lee suggest? A slipcase for 10 inch DVD players. He recommends the Case Logic model that has an extra pocket for the XO's AC adapter. I'm not a big fan of handles on my slipcases, so I may look for something else. Still, looking for cases for portable DVD players is a great idea. I was also contemplating working on something custom-made with TheWife's sewing skills in tow. Though I'm thinking we may not have the time for it.

Either way, keep watching this space or for more on the XO laptop and what can be done with it. Remember, as Mike Lee said on one of his posts on the average person's reaction to the XO at Hiptop Nation:
when you spend $399 to donate the XO laptop to a child in a developing country, you get a laptop to keep AND T-mobile throws in a year's worth of WiFi access. That's a $349 value. Plus you write off $200 on your taxes.

You can still take advantage of what Lee says there by going to (or Once there, place your order for an XO (it'll run you around $425 with shipping). This is a limited time offer as I type this--December 31, 2007 is the cut-off. It may be extended again, but there is no guarantee. If you're thinking about it and can afford to do it, I suggest you don't wait (especially considering that they're manufacturing each XO as it's ordered which means it could take a couple months to get delivery).

Actually, the tax write-off may not be as possible, as Lee suggests, thanks to the free T-Mobile service being a "profit" in some people's minds--just be sure to talk to a tax person before you try to write ANYTHING off.

SHIPPING UPDATE: Rumor had it that the G1G1 XOs were shipping out yesterday--however, considering that we all got emails when our donated XOs went to one of a handful of developing countries, I'm not letting myself get too excited about shipments until I either get an email from the OLPC folks telling me it's on its way or Mr. UPS shows up at my door with a box with green writing on it in his hands.

OK, that's it for now! Stop by tomorrow for another OLPCXOLPotD (OLPC XO Laptop Post of the Day)!