One ASUS Per Child Initiative

A DIY laptop for the masses?

OK, by now you're probably well aware of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation and its $100 XO laptop. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes, that one hundred dollar laptop has swelled to a manufacturing cost of approximately $175 per unit. Likewise, the XO laptop that was once chided by Bill Gates for its modest screen, crank-up power supply, and lack of Windows support has now been fully embraced by Gates, with a special version of Windows XP for the XO apparently in the works.

What's all of this got to do with the rest of us?

Well, the recent release of ASUS's similarly-sleek and low-cost Eee PC has many analysts predicting big things for the low-cost, low-power laptop product range. Aside from the Village of the Damned marketing photos and its somewhat politically incorrect PR copy ("designed for…young students, children, housewives, the elderly…"), the Eee PC shares many of the same specs as the XO laptop: a solid-state design with 7-inch LCD, Linux OS, 512 Mb RAM, 4 Gb MMC/SD storage, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, USB ports, and audio/video support. Furthermore, there are reports that the Eee PC contains the open-source Open Office suite.

These specs are all very well and fine, but the question on every DIYer's mind is what else can I do with it? Well, for one, would you believe Windows XP? ASUS claims its little notebook will support the full-fledged version, but better performance will probably gleamed from the diminutive bugger known as Tiny XP—a stripped-down, barebones version of Microsoft's OS that has been circulating on peer-to-peer networks for a while (download at your own risk!). In addition to this, ahem, ill-gotten OS, you will also need FSUM for building the Tiny XP ISO.

Now how about Skype Video for Linux on the Eee PC?

Once we get our hands on a $400 Eee PC, we'll test this and other hacks and publish a complete project report on this blog. Hopefully in time for purchasing a stocking stuffer for your fave DIYer who has everything.

Speaking of Christmas, don't forget the charitable Give 1, Get 1 program by OLPC. Starting November 12, you can contribute $399 to OLPC and one of the XO laptops will be sent to a child in a developing nation, while another XO laptop will be sent to you for use with your own child. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: ASUSTek Computer, Inc.)