Part 3 of elf's OLPC Journal

XP on the XO

Wed Aug 06 18:15:44 2008

A report on XP running on the XO.

Week 12 Report

Sun Aug 10 15:36:24 2008

Since the summer holidays began the kids have been using the XO occasionally because of swimming lessons, baseball games, cherry picking, etc. The LOGO Activity was the most frequently used in those days.

Today, it was a cold and overcast day and the kids came over and they were "bored" so I suggested the eToys Activity. There are Project lessons with incrementally challenging exercises that involve scripting a car to reach a goal, with various obstacles placed in the way as each lesson progresses.

Challenge No. 1 was easy. Challenge No. 2 was missing the script, so he cleverly just dragged the car, manually to the goal and proceeded to the next challenge; the "Next" button only appears when the car reaches the goal. He was very confused when I attempted to explain how to use the "Test" block to check for collision with a wall. However, he immediately understood when I showed him how it worked— "TEST: blue Car sees purple WALL? YES: Turn -45; NO:". I asked what should we put for "NO"? He said just leave it empty and ran the program and it worked.

He managed to solve the subsequent challenge involving the blue wall and the pink wall by himself. He then got stuck with the next challenge involving the semi-circular blue road; he also peeked forward to challenge no. 7 with the winding road.

He asked if he could take the computer over to his house to work on it and I said yes. I gave him some verbal hints as to the solution— "go forward a bit then turn a bit and keep repeating this". He said, "Oh, I need a copy of the commands".

The girl complained that she never gets to play with his computer. I said that the computer belongs to both of them and that she should ask her brother for help when she wantes to use it. I also said that I would buy her a computer too. I was asked how much the computer cost (I said $400) and then I was asked how much money I had left over in the bank (a bit). She asked whether it would be a black one; I said no, it would be green just like this one and that the only difference would be the colour of the XO on the case.

Another thing that should be noted is that my nephew constantly raises and lowers the left antenna (an involuntary tic of some sort) while working the mouse with the right hand; I have warned him that if he keeps doing that, the antenna will break.


software activity

Sun Aug 24 08:19:57 2008

I accidently found X2O, a physics simulation that is currently a work in progress. After installing it I played with it for a while; the interface has a few quirks regarding usability.

Week 14 Report

Sun Aug 24 15:34:10 2008

The 6-year-old has been taking the laptop home with him more often this week. Today, he asked whether there was chess for the XO laptop. I said I didn't know and would check. I was surprised that there isn't a chess activity bundle (with options to play against other children on the mesh or against the computer). There are several of alternatives, however; I used the game bundled with eToys (click on the "make a new project bubble", then the treasure box, drag out the "Object Catalog", then click on "Games", then drag out the Chess game.)

<eMBee> noted that GCompris (who invents these names?) has chess among a vast assortment of educational games. The entire bundle with all the games is 52MB. I will likely install it later.

I also made the mistake of mentioning that the colours (i.e. colour-scheme) of the XO could be changed. I had read that sugar-control-panel can change the nick and colours among other things. I found the command-line help for the utility next to useless and had to google for the correct syntax to change the colours. It was noted that the new builds have a (much-needed) GUI for sugar-control-panel. For some strange reason, he expected that the colours on the case would change also. It should be noted that the colours of the older journal entries do not change. Entries made after the colour change display in the new colours.

The 4-year-old wanted to know when I would be buying her own laptop. When it goes on sale, I told her. There was supposed to be a G1G1 program running in September but as far as I know it has been pushed back to either the end of the year (similar to the first one G1G1 program) or early next year.

One Laptop for Every Child in Niue

Sun Aug 24 16:02:53 2008

The OLPC Foundation finally achieved its goal of one laptop per child by donating 500 laptops to Niue, which has a population of less than 1,500.

This page has the number of OLPC laptops manufactured and the countries they were shipped to.

Flower Arrangement

Wed Sep 03 16:18:00 2008

The June 1, 2008 New York Sunday Times Style section, had a photograph of XO laptops, used to display slideshows of flowers, instead of the usual flower arrangements; the fundraiser was for the Robin Hood foundation.

Amazon Will Deliver G1G1 Laptops

Thu Sep 04 17:30:47 2008

The G1G1 program will run again beginning in November (around Thanksgiving) and Amazon will be handling the delivery. No word yet on whether the program will run in other countries other than the U.S.

Things should go a lot smoother than the last time. I had always suggested that G1G1 should have been done by Amazon after the problems I had with getting my XO.

Thu Sep 04 21:15:13 2008:My only other suggestion is to get the writers of the TV show, Big Bang Theory to drop a reference to the XO and the sales will come.

Week 16 Report

Sun Sep 07 13:39:32 2008

Tux Paint

School has started again and the kids are back to using the XO more frequently. I decided to install Tux Paint because despite the XO having a Paint activity, the kids ask to use Tux Paint on my Mac.

Thankfully, Tux Paint does come bundled as an activity. The installation instructions on the page mentioned that several SDL libraries were needed: SDL_Mixer, SDL_TTF and SDL_Image. I was pretty sure these were already installed so I just downloaded the TuxPaint-1.xo bundle and proceeded to install it: cd /usr/share/activities; unzip /media/USBKEY/TuxPaint-1.xo (this took a few minutes; the scrolling display of the files being unzipped made the kids "dizzy"). After the unzip completed, I rebooted and started Tux Paint from the Menu but it just blinked "Starting...".

I assumed that one or more of the required libraries were missing and so I decided to d/l the libraries. Since the XO lacks wireless connectivity, I had to download the RPMs separately, copy them over to an USB key and manually install them. The first problem was finding the RPMs. On a workstation with Fedora 5 installed, I typed, yum search SDL_image, which output:

SDL_image.i386                           1.2.4-1.2.fc5.rf       dries           
Matched from:
SDL_image is an image file loading library. It loads images as SDL
surfaces, and supports the following formats: BMP, PNM, XPM, LBM,

I then went to the listed URL and downloaded the RPM file. I repeated the same for the other SDL libraries.

When I visited the Tux Paint page on the OLPC wiki, it also mentioned that libpaper was required. So I downloaded that library also. It then occured to me that it might be a good idea to ldd the tuxpaint binary to see which libraries might be missing, before going ahead and installing all the RPMs: ldd /usr/share/activities/TuxPaint.activity/bin/tuxpaint. The only missing library was libpaper; so I just installed that one, as root: rpm --install /media/USBKEY/libpaper.1.1.21.i386.rpm

I rebooted and testd Tux Paint and it worked! It comes up fast (as it's a native binary rather than a python script) and as a bonus, it has a lot more graphical Stamps than the Mac version.

Now the only thing the kids still use my Mac for, is playing Professor Fizzwizzle.


The oldest also managed to figure out how X2O (the physics simulator) works and created a few simulations.

Updated PDF FAQ

Fri Sep 19 19:04:07 2008

The PDF XO Support FAQ has been updated to reflect the Sep. 9 changes to the online version.

OS Release Scheduled for Sep. 30

Fri Sep 19 21:18:24 2008

A new release of the OS, 8.2.0, is scheduled for Sep. 30. Given the number of show-stopper bugs present and with just over a week to go, I hope they make it.

Week 19 Report

Sat Sep 27 17:08:42 2008

Professor Fizzwizzle

Last week, after seeing that TuxPaint was available for his XO, I was asked whether the Professor Fizzwizzle game could also be installed on the laptop (I purchased the full version for my Mac). I said that I wasn't sure, but I would try to install it (the Demo version) and see whether it worked. So, today he came over with the laptop and reminded me of my promise to install the game.

While waiting for the laptop to boot-up, I asked whether he was eagerly anticipating the installation of the game during the past week— he said no. But when I asked whether he was eagerly anticipating it yesterday, he said yes, he was excited about it.

The Linux version of the demo game ships as a .tar.gz which I downloaded onto a USB key. I opened the Terminal Activity and after checking that it unpacks into a directory, I unpacked it into ~olpc with: tar zxvf /media/USBKEY/PFDemo.tar.gz. The README indicated to that would run the program. When I ran the srapper script as indicated by the README file, the execution failed with a missing library: So I logged in to to a Fedora 5 box and performed a yum search libstdc++ hoping to find a repository for the RPM— no such luck. So I just copied the library from /usr/lib/ onto the XO's /usr/lib as root and symlinked it to /usr/lib/ (before copying, I checked which libstdc++ was installed— it was

I ran the game: ./backup (the precompiled binary linked against is called backup) and it printed a message in the terminal asking to choose the sound system from 4 choices: 1)Open Sound System; 2)Enlightenment Sound Daemon; 3) ALSA; or 4) No Sound. After a bit of Googling, I found that the XO uses ALSA so I selected that. The game started but without any sound— the graphics were centered on the screen with a large black border; the XO probably refused to honour the resolution request of the game.

I then created a wrapper shellscript called "pf" that cd's into the game directory and runs the backup program and installed it in /usr/bin as the current directory doesn't seem to be in the user's path. I then explained that to run the game, he had to start the Terminal and click the mouse (because for some reason, the terminal doesn't have focus) and then type "pf" and press enter. (He initially asked whether he had to type "all that stuff" I typed while installing the game (he was observing carefully as I was installing the game)).

But he was happy with the current procedure and now he also wants the demo of the sequel (Professor Fizzwizzle and the Molten Mystery) also installed. I told him to wait until next week.

Another Laptop

The younger one asked when I would be buying a laptop for her; this is the second time she's asked. I told her that the laptops weren't available in stores and she would have to wait until it went on sale on the internet (which would be in another two months when the second G1G1 program runs (hopefully it will run in Canada)) and I would then be able to buy her a laptop.

The activities she likes using are: XOSpeak (the speech synth) to type nonsense words and have them spoken back; the Jigsaw puzzle activity and TuxPaint. Though the trackpad still eludes her, she is comfortable using a child-sized Logitech USB mouse.


I was asked why TuxPaint drawings don't show up in the Journal. I said that TuxPaint wasn't really written for this laptop so certain functions don't work perfectly.

G1G1 Date Set

Tue Sep 30 15:16:03 2008

The main page of is reporting a November 17 start date for the second G1G1 program:

give a laptop. get a laptop.
change the world.
coming nov 17 at

Saturday Night

Sat Oct 04 23:46:30 2008

What a night! I just spent three hours on #olpc-help helping someone get a XO laptop working. Just after 8PM, they logged it to the chat room as recommended by the Support Gang (after Paul Newman's recent death, the name recalls outlaws and desperados from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). His problem was that after the laptop booted, their username could not be input into the configuration screen; the keyboard wasn't responding.

I first suggested plugging a USB keyboard and re-trying, to no avail. I feared that the USB controller was dead, so I stepped them through to get to the built-in firmware diagnostics— hold down the left rocker-key and power up, hitting escape to bypass the other diagnostics until the keyboard one appeared. The diagnostics reported a good keyboard.

I next recommended upgrading the OS by following the instructions on the Secure upgrade page. It requires two zip-files to be downloaded— is rather small but the os image took about an hour. While waiting, I asked them to read through the installation instructions and ask if there was anything that was unclear. In the mean time, I watched Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.

An hour later, they had already followed the instructions and were installing the new OS, "theres a grid with gray boxes that turned black and are nowturning green... it think its working!!!!!!". Multiple, consecutive exclamations are always a good sign of success. By 9:30PM, we had a successful install of a new image and a happy customer, "I CAN TYPE!!! IT WORKED!!!! THANK YOU SOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Uppercase letters and exclamation marks are even better! I requested the ticked be closed and jumped in the shower. The ticket was closed just before 10PM, after I returned from the shower.

At 10:06, they returned with another problem— they were having trouble installing the activities. If I may editorialize for a moment— there are times when a certain decisions is made which seems like good ideas at the time but then in hindsight, that proves to be completely and utterly wrong. The idea of separating the activities from the base install was one such a decision. To continue, they reported that the laptop just booted normally and the activities weren't being installed from the USB key. This is a common problem with activity installation when the activity pack ZIP file is unzipped on a Windows/XP PC because Windows, by default, creates a folder and unzips the files into the folder which means that the activity installation files are not in the location that the laptop looks for them. The step for installaing the activity pack is described thus, on the wiki: "Download the activity pack and unzip it to the flash drive (NOT a subdirectory)." The "(NOT a subdirectory)" warning is vague and not especially prominent. I asked them to eject the USB key from the XO and insert it into a PC describe the contents of the drive at which point it was obvious that the files that needed to be in the top-level were infact sitting in a folder having the same name as the zip-file.

After sorting all that out and putting all the files in the right place there was a further complication:

subprocess.CalledProcessError: Command ['/bin/mount', '-t', 'vfat', 'ro', 
     '/dev/sdal', '/mnt/usb'] returned non-zero exit status 255
[19.802572] Kernel panic - not syncing: Attempted to kill init!
[294.419782] atkbd.c : Spurious ACK on isa0060/serio0. Some program 
     might be trying to access hardware directly

And the laptop was just stopped there. Kernel panics are not good. And they usually mean a hardware problem.

I suspected a problem mounting the USB key and a Support Gang member messaged me privately that it was likely the USB key was bad. I suggested formatting the USB key and trying the install again, to no avail. The last resort was using another USB key, but the only one available was an insidious U3 USB key (see my earlier editorial, above, about ideas that seemed like a good idea at the time). Fortunately, they didn't much care for the U3 features, and after Googling, the U3 Launchpad was uninstalled, the activities unzipped yet again and this time, after I suggested inserting the key into a different slot on the XO, the activities installed!

More thank-you's and multiple exclamation marks later, that was enough excitement for 11PM on a Saturday night.

If I had a TV, I would be watching Anne Hathaway host SNL, but I will have to contend with the second DVD of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

The rest is silence.

Onoes! My Activities Are Missing!


Sat Oct 18 19:23:52 2008

I just had an idea about reducing the panicked cries for help when people upgrade their XO and find all their activities have disappeared— include a single activity that tells the user what happened and how to proceed ("Your upgrade to Build 777 was successful. Please click here to download an install the Activity Pack.").

Week 27 Report

Fri Nov 07 13:50:05 2008

I was asked whether there was an activity to play chess (yet again; see Week 14 report). I looked at the Wiki page for Chess and noticed that there have been updates— an activity called ceibal-chess is available for testing (it's beta).

It must first be retrived from the SVN repository via: svn checkout ceibal-chess. Then, cd to the ceibal-chess directory and run to create ajedrez.xo in the bundle subdirectory.

I have to now wait for him to bring his laptop so I can install ajedrez.xo by running sugar-install-bundle in Terminal.

No Canada


Sat Nov 08 12:48:16 2008

I was dissappointed to learn that the second G1G1 program beginning Nov. 17th will not run in Canada.

Now I really regret not buying two XOs the first time; my niece will be extremely disappointed. I, on the other hand, have become used to disappointments.

Imagine John Lennon


Sun Dec 28 12:15:17 2008

John Lennon appears in a digitally created TV ad encouraging donation to the OLPC project.

luis fernandes / OLPC Journal / Last Modified: Wed Jan 07 17:50:01 2009