Monday, October 22, 2007

Farewell light

So, sad but true -- Keyboard LEDs were removed a while back and I still miss them. Not that I haven't mourn enough on this but still hurts. Why, you might wonder (if you care at all). Well, here is the story:

When approaching OLPC for the first time I quickly sought something to do to start bonding with the existing development team. It wasn't really that difficult, this was soon after A-Test prototypes became available so really, there was a massive amount of stuff for a newcomer to pick and do. I don't recall if writing the kernel driver for these LEDs was my first choice but I do recall Chris Ball helped me through it from the ground up, Andres Salomon was there too and at some point I got help from Marcelo Tosatti and Jonathan Corvet (Thanks All). The driver had two incarnations, It's latter one used the LED subsystem (which btw, I advice you to hack on if you're starting or thinking on doing some kernel work for the first time) and made its way into the shipped kernel. I'm not good with dates but I will go ahead and pretend the code made a few hundred keyboards shine for about two months, now its gone. It turned out the LEDs where not fulfilling their purpose not to mention they sucked too much power so they were banned.

These LEDs were for me like a badge for others; a way to open some doors. From there I have done a few things but sadly -- none of them 'shines' the way these folks did. I'm going to miss them, Can't help it.

Long live light!


Wayan @ OLPC News said...

I too miss the keyboard lights. They were a very cool addition to the BTest-3 computers.

reynaldo said...

Thanks, I do had the impression of not being the only one. There were important reasons to leave them out so at least they didn't die in vain ;-)

Carl Gundel said...

I have a Thinkpad X20 which has an LED keyboard light. It works well and there's only one LED. It is inside the top of the screen frame and points down. The keyboard is black with white markings and the light is a very effective aid. Perhaps you could lobby for them to use just one LED?

Also, one other approach to making it easier to read in the dark is to have a white keyboard instead of the green one. Or use an ultraviolet LED and put some flourescent brightener in the keys. ;-)

reynaldo said...

Hi Carl. Well, guess this is one of those 'cheap,fast,good -- choose any two' kind of LED issue. There was simply no alternative in the marked for a cheap, low power and good performance (ie: usesfull) LED. I don't recall when but seem to remember even the idea of using lenses to aid focusing the LEDs light was discussed without convincing results. Design is not something being took lightly here. That been said, There is no question I'd like to have them or at least one of them back for future models ;) (but not your neon disco-like kbd/light array I'm afraid ;-)