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« See you in Anaheim and San Antonio | Main | OLPC - follow-up »

Another OLPC follow-up posting

Update: more people are receiving their XOs! Thank goodness! 

First, my bad, that I have not gotten to mess with the XO as much as I would like to or that I am not a Linux geek. Like I said yesterday, this machine could have gone to a much more deserving person. I had a meeting last night so didn't get a lot of time with my new baby. I have not read as thoroughly as I should the XO wiki, but intuitively, I so far have not yet fingered out how to do this these things with the XO:

  • FInd the stylus
  • Use the pressure sensitive pads (with a borrowed stylus). I've only tried in the paint program, to be fair.
  • Use this as an e-book. The pdf I downloaded took forever to open just the first page. When the machine is in the tablet mode, only the game controllers, screen display mode (portrait/landscape) button and power buttons are accessible. I couldn't figure out how to save the Gutenberg .txt file to the computer's memory- yet.
  • Save a bookmark in the browser so it is there the next time I OPEN the browser.
  • Figure out how much storage I have remaining, what how much RAM I am using, etc.
  • Find any built-in help screens.
  • Configure any sort of preferences.(I did see instructions on the Sugar Control panel. Yeah, right.)
  • Register using the "register command" under the main icon on the home page. It seems to just hang.

I did successfully install two new apps -  a direct link to gmail and SimCity. Navigating is getting easier (mastering the Activity, Browse, View commands.) Remembering that programs are not apps, but activities. Adjusting to the keyboard. I found a new online resource for OLPC info: the FYX US OLPC XO Forum <>.

Here once again are comments and answers to your questions from yesterday:

Unfortunately, for you, I was shown how the display worked while trying out a prototype at PyCon last year. For better or worse I think almost all the useful info is going to be on the OLPC wiki. It will be a good object lesson on the strengths and weaknesses of wikis.

Regarding some of the questions above about extensibility, what OS's work on it, etc. Applications need at least some modification to work with the XO's UI and security model. The changes will be easy for some applications and hard or impossible for others. Getting some other Linux distros and eventually Windows to boot will come along, but it will be a lot of work to get them to take a advantage of the XO's advanced features, some of which the XO's OS itself isn't really taking advantage of yet (e.g., power consumption will improve significantly with software upgrades). Tom

Thanks, Tom. I am also wondering just how far the 1G of storage and 256M of RAM will get me when I try to add more programs. Like I said before, I can't figure out yet how to check these sorts of stats. There is a list of software on the OLPC wiki (where I got SimCIty and Gmail). I am guessing "power users" will store files figure out how to pimp their machines with extra RAM, use external flash memory, etc.

Also, if in your findings you discover that the wireless range is longer than normal, let us know, as that is one of the most touted features. Reg

The signal strength is only indicated as a graphic rather than a percentage on the home screen (as far as I can find). We have one wireless transmitter in the old brick building where my office is located (on the second floor). I had to go to the basement before I completely lost the signal. I think that is good, but haven't compared it to my Mac. One mysterious thing is that when I click on the "Neighborhood View," I always seen 3 or 4 "mesh" network connections - other folks trying to propigate a network, probably unknowingly.

How is the security worked for the GetOne models??? I just read the transcript of the Mary Lou Jepsen on a podcast, talking about the Bitfrost security arrangement, and wondered if we will get a USB key or if  the security is turned off. Tinktron

What security? I've not yet figured out how to turn any security on, add more users, etc. I did see somewhere you could register for a key to get access to the OS programming, I believe.

I'm hoping to get mine in time to take with me for a business trip to Silicon Valley next week. I bought mine for several reasons The primary reason I bought the OLPC OX is that I am a major klutz, so it's durability is number one. I'm hoping to watch tv shows that I prerecorded using Freevo on my Linux box. I also plan on downloading a bunch of books from the Gutenberg project to read on long trips and train rides. I also plan on taking it with me to the bookstores (Yay, free T-mobile hotspot) and library on Sundays to catch up on my periodicals. It will be great to immediately be able to go online and research something about which I've just read or sample the music of an artist whose review I've just read. I have already bought a roll-up USB keyboard for the long emails I might have to write when I take it on the road. Just turn the display around and it should be perfect. Thanks to Mike Lee's great posts over on, I've already got an iGo auto/air power 40 adapter that has tip that fits the OLPC XO perfectly. It was only $20 on clearance at Radio Shack. I'm disappointed that Potenco didn't have the pull chagers ready to purchase in tandem with the G1G1 promotion. I'm hoping to show off the OLPC XO to as many people as possible before the G1G1 promotion ends and the pull charger would have been great to have for these demonstration even if it meant taking on an extra $20 to the order. And I also plan on letting my numerous nieces and nephews play with it when they come to visit for the holidays. con

Rugged it seems to be. At least cat-proof. But then, I've not dropped it yet either or put in an oven or bathtub. External mouse and keyboard seem to work fine, but the right mouse button doesn't have any functionality that I have found so far and the escape and Fn keys do nothing on the keyboard. Flashdrive stick recognized (use Journal to see contents). JPGs open with Paint. PDFs open with Read (but very, very, very slowly). Word doc with graphics (Mac 2004) opened using Write. Tried to open a .mov, but it seemed to just hang. One thing that is frustrating is that the Journal view of documents doesn't show documents' file extensions.

I plan to let my grandson experiment with the XO as well and watch his reaction. He may already be spoiled by using his dad's PC.

Don't know if this was the problem, but according to this support page: "the cursor sometime jumps erratically due to a miscalibration error—you can recalibrate the touchpad by doing the “four-finger salute”." Documentation of the fix to recalibrate the touchpad is here: Reg

Having already tried the one-finger salute many times without effect, I did try the four-finger version. There was no visible sign that it did anything, but I will see if it helps with the cursor jitters. Thanks!

Does the directional pad to the left of the screen depress in only 4 directions or will it depress in 8? Is this essentially another set of up,down,left,right keys on the keyboard? Many of us will want to put MAME on this machine via USB stick or SD card when we get it. The gamepad would be a great feature for this but will essentially be usless for many MAME games unless it depresses in all 8 directions, and the driver is written to allow this. --Phil

The pad LOOKS like it should support more than four directions, but I have not found anything yet on which to test it.

You seem to be handling your fame quite well. It can't be easy to have hundreds of geeks suddenly looking to you for news, info, and hints of coming rapture. Just for fun, do you have any stats on what happened to your blog traffic after you announced your olpc? I know I looked around. Great job! koaziji

My visits (according to ClusterMaps) jumped from around 500 to 1500 per day over the past couple days. No big change in Technorati rank. But thanks for the kind words. I feel so, so ... inadequate. (Oh, and I do know my work productivity and spousal satisfaction rating are at all time lows.) I am still trying to figure out how much of my frustration comes from my lack of skills (or child-like perspective) and how much is due to this machine still feel very Beta-like.

I guess that is it for now. I plan to do deep OLPC wiki reading as soon as I can.

And FedEx. PLEASE deliver some other folks their XOs. The pressure here is getting to me!

 Note: April 2008. This entry has become a target for spammers so I am turning off the comments. If you have them, you can email me directly at doug0077 (a)


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Reader Comments (16)

Thanks for the follow up Doug. You seem to be quite the statistical outlier in terms of delivery time...

In terms of the saving questions, my understanding of the design intent is that things should be automatically saved and recallable from the Journal view. Look and see if the pdf you viewed or the text file you read were stored there. That is "this is what I would do" advice, not "I know the answer" advice. Regardless, the answer should be some kind of journal-foo. Also note that when you start a browsing session you can name it and it will be stored in the Journal -- not the pages themselves but the URL's. This replaces at least some bookmarking functionality.

There are several layers of security on the XO, some of which seem to be turned off -- you didn't need a special process to activate it (used in the field to help make sure the XO's don't "fall off the truck" on the way to a school). My understanding is that if you want to mess with the base OS, you'll need a developer key from OLPC (instructions on the wiki, yes, this is DRM, more or less ;-). A lot of the security model is transparent, which is good because asking 9 year olds to read warning pop-ups and make smart decisions about security is pointless. I'm not sure exactly how much of that stuff is implemented and turned on in the shipping versions, but basically applications are limited in how they can interact with the system (a game that doesn't need the network can't access the network, for example), and applications are separated from the rest of the system in various ways that make it difficult for one rogue program to hose your system.

You don't add users. It is one laptop per child.

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Doug. While the hardsware you have is pretty final, the software is still in development like you guessed (by january there will be a new update). I suggest you get some help at from one of the mailibg lists, or irc channels.

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo H. Silva

You can also go to #olpc-support at to get help.

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo H. Silva

Once again, good information, Tom. Thanks.

It will be upsetting for techs not to have an "admin" user login. Hopefully it is not necessary. I would think a login screen for privacy purposes is critical, but then maybe kids don't have much to be private about?

Interesting review "by" an 8-year-old at:

Tonight I attempt to "master" the Journal. It's a different concept.

I am really wanting to like this machine, but it is quirky!


December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks, Eduardo. I'll give the IRC a try.


December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

And, there's also a new-born mailing list, with accompanying forum (messages to both places are synchronized). You can see all the mailing lists and subscribe at .

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo H. Silva

Thanks for another XO post, Doug! I think it's safe to assume just about everything about the XO right now is in beta--I've even heard of the XO-2 being in development, but haven't read anything definite yet. Being such an earlier adopter you must always expect things to be uneven and buggy. I'm an early adopter, generally, and so I'm ready for problems. Given the idea behind the XO, I'm, frankly, honored to have been able to help any way I can.

Oh and I did find this:

That's a review of the XO by a 9 year-old British kid. I think the key with using the XO is remembering that it's experimental in that no computer with any real ability has been designed with a child in mind. So, maybe thinking about things the way a child might would help?

Regarding security, I only know what I've read on the wiki, at and from using an emulated version of Sugar on my Mac. So far there's no obvious way for someone to control your computer. The way it works is that there are three levels--you, friends and community (I'm paraphrasing from memory) and, the way I remember it, you drag each Activity (application) to a particular level depending on who you want to share it with. Beyond that, I have no idea how people would get in or out.

Continued good luck and as it's after 5pm my time, it looks like I'll be waiting another day for mine to show up. :( Sorry to put so much pressure on ya! But we geeks do appreciate your posts, info and patience. :) Take care and good luck with your XO!

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThePete

Hi Pete.

Thanks, Pete.

Here is another "review" by a kid. Somewhat different...

I'm giving mine, I think, to my 6 year old grandson via his techie dad (if I get my daughter's OK). I'll be interested to see what he thinks of it.

Looks like more people are getting these now. Hope yours shows up soon. Let me know when you get it!


December 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I posted a little discussion of the admin login issue here:

December 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

I found the following about browsing with the directional buttons.
Don't know if it's relevant, but hope it helps.

December 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterReg Aubry

By The Way.

I already ran out of space on the flash memory after loading it up with a bunch of PDF's and other stuff. Was using the journal to get rid of the contents and had a problem. Still don't know what that was about. The journal would not always delete all the files. I think it might be due to my loading files from the browser hacking to the address of the USB key, instead of loading them from the journal. I'm thinking that might have been the problem. I actually have two XO's and the second one has not had that problem in deleting files. It may be something I ran into by operating it incorrectly.

I'll post more on the wiki XO site. I have a someone long post about this already on the XO wiki support page, and have been hacking through the thing using the Linux console.

There's a Linux space command you can use from the Linux console that will tell you how much memory you have left.

The command is:

df -h

There are other nice interesting commands in Linux Unix.

The CD command allows you to change a directory location. You can CD .. to go down a directory.

You have to cd into the "hidden" .sugar directory under

To get to home type
cd \
or keep typing cd ..
alternating that command with
ls -ltr

The "ls -ltr" command will show the directory contents.
once your can see the home directory or are in the home directory you can start drilling down.

cd olpc

Then ls -ltr
to see what's below it.

You won't see the hidden file structure unless you use a -a option as well.

But once your in the OLPC directory you can just type

cd .sugar
to get to the hidden .sugar directory.

Then type
cd default

then type
cd data

Now your in the
directory. Like being in a DOS prompt type of system.

If you type:

ls -ltr from here you'll see all the data files that most of your applications/activities are using. This is where the bulk of data is stored. There are other areas also, but this is where the big items are.

My problem was my 2nd Xo would delete files from here when I ERASED them from the Journal, but many of these files remained in the first XO laptop even when I deleted the journal entries. It could be I did something that broke it.

So I had to use a RM command (CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL IN USING THAT) to remove the files under the "data" directory which were not being removed by the XO.

They were mostly JPG and PDF files. I had multiple copies of PDF files, probably from HUGE downloads I was making from "the internet archive". These were taking up space. There's also a possibility that I transferred some from the memory stick using the browser and that caused a problem. I'm not sure yet. I'm continuing to look at it. It seems my first XO is doing everything correct now, it's memory is almost as free as the second XO which has only been used for a few pictures a little bit of surfing and playing with the MESH network.

It's important to realize there's a lot of power in the Linux commands if you have to dig into the machine. But it's better to rely on the built in programs.

They really need a bulk file manager or finder like tool for US sponsors. Something that allows multiple deletes. They are supposed to have this high on the priority list.

Hope this information has been useful.


December 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Hi Greg,

I admire your expertise and time spent on figuring the XO out. I do hope you share your findings, as you indicated, on sites like the OLPC wiki or the discussion lists that are springing up. I love getting comments on the Blue Skunk, but your target audience for this kind of info is probably on the discussion boards and wiki.

All the very best,


December 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


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