Monday, December 31, 2007

December 2007 Summary

The introduction of the XO laptop made for a very exciting December. I look forward to posting and learning more tips as the OLPC Foundation ships laptops around the world. The following were this months efforts to share what I learned.

This site was created to help kick start new XO laptop owners, especially those who have little knowledge of Linux. I have no formal connection to the OLPC Foundation.

If you have any specific questions I’ll do my best to research an answer. Email questions should be sent to BillP //at// If I find an answer I will post it here so everyone can benefit instead of responding to each Email.

Happy New Year, Bill Pytlovany BillP Studios

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Give One Get One While You Can

Unless a change is announced you only have one more day to Give One to Get One. 

“The Give One Get One (“G1G1”) initiative ends on December 31, 2007. In connection with your payment of US$399 to OLPC Foundation, OLPC Foundation will provide you with one XO laptop, and a second XO laptop will be given by OLPC Foundation to a child in one of the least developed countries in the developing world. “

The OLPC Foundation created the G1G1 program to seed interested U.S. XO laptop buyers and supporters.  It was a good decision. Originally, this program was due to end in November but its popularity allowed it to be extended under December 31st.

Will it be extended again?  I can’t say but if you’d like to participate I wouldn’t risk it. This is a non-profit foundation so if it is extended it won’t be for the sake of profit.  If anything I could see the OLPC Foundation making laptops available to prevent a black market in XO laptops that might prevent them from getting to the kids. Already, we’re seeing scumbags trying to sell XO laptops on eBay at inflated prices. 

So if you have $400 cash left over after the holidays you have an opportunity to do something good and be a part of a growing community of new XO laptop users.

Just go to but don’t wait long.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Expand your Neighborhood and Chat

My thanks to Tom Hoffman who has created a virtual machine to test the internet share services of the XO laptop and Sugar interface. Thanks also to the good folks at OLPCNews for pointing me to the instructions below. They really make me wish I had jumped on board the XO bandwagon a year ago.

I’m not sure I understand how it all works yet but the result is a great demo of the power of the XO laptop. Even though I have two XO’s myself it’s great to chat with other new supporters of the OLPC project.

My new neighborhood

My new XO Neighborhood

I’ve only run into the nicest people but obviously I don’t recommend this for unsupervised kids. To expand your neighborhood use the following steps:

  • Step 1: Launch the Terminal Activity and enter the following commands.
  • Step 2: sugar-control-panel -g jabber
  • Step 3: sugar-control-panel -s jabber
  • Step 4: Reboot Sugar with CTRL-ALT-ERASE

If you see an open Activity, just click to join. There is still one problem with the chat activity. The default build has a bug so soon after you start to enjoy your chat the screen scrolls all the way up each time a new chat message is sent. If you want to see everyones chat you’ll need to keep scrolling up. Very annoying but worth it for now. I have already had some experience rebuilding my XO so when a new build is available I’ll provide instructions.

A recent chat Activity with my new XO friends.

My first XO Chat Experience

A tip to those who haven’t received their XO laptops yet. When you first boot you’ll be asked for a user name. The name will be displayed in the neighborhood so pick something that you want others to see. I like folks who included their location, but if your child will be using it, don’t include their last name.

UPDATE: The following comment was posted on January 7th

Please be aware that the server is now very overloaded - I see lots of networking retransmits and people are often not visible. The load is proportional to the product of the number of registrees times the current number of users, for the reasons documented at XMPP_Extensions. So don't connect (and thus automatically register) unless you will really be contributing, and/or set up your own ejabberd server. -Neal McBurnett

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Saving XO Screenshots to a USB Drive

and.. How do I copy XO files to my own computer? It took me a few days to learn how to do screenshots to post here. It’s really simple and this lesson will also teach you how to copy almost anything from the journal to a USB drive connected to your XO laptop.

Step 1: Get the screen you want and just hold down the Alt key and press 1. (Alt+1) This will create a screenshot.

Step 2: Go to back to Home and resume the XO Journal Activity. You’ll see a new “Screenshot”

Drag the screen shot down to the USB icon

XO Journal

Step 3: Plug in a USB thumb drive or other supported USB drive into one of the USB ports. You could actually do this at anytime but I wanted to split up the two operations. When your USB drive is plugged in you’ll see a USB icon on the bottom of the screen.

Step 4: Click on the Screenshot; drag it down and drop it on the USB icon. You can also drag down other data objects like photos or files created with Write.

Step 5: Hold the pointer over the USB device icon and wait until you see “Unmount” appear. Be sure to Unmount the device or the the screenshot file may be corrupted.

Be sure to Unmount your USB device

Step 6: Plug the USB drive into your other computer and use explorer to view your files. You should see “Screenshot.png” followed by “Sceenshot_1.png”,“Sceenshot_1_2.png” and so on. Most photo and imaging programs will read the .png format.

Monday, December 24, 2007

XO Laptops On Their Way

I’m grateful to PC Worlds’ Harry McCracken for a mention in his blog but was sad to read that Harry and many others have not received their expected XO laptops. Some folks received mail saying their laptop wouldn’t arrive until January 15th but were still surprised with an early arrival so don’t give up.

Harry's Blog captured on my XO laptop

Much of the information you’ll read here is available on various official web pages. They have acknowledged that there was a shipping glitch and in an effort to please they have switched to overnight or 2nd day shipping.

I hope does whet the appetite of those of you still waiting for your laptops. My intent here is to document my experiences and share what I learn as I figure it out. For now my target remains other OLPC supporters like myself and not necessarily kids in Paraguay and Peru. Hopefully, I can help you all enjoy and take advantage of the XO laptop as quickly as possible. The more I explore, the more I find how powerful this little laptop can be.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Update Flash to Play Games on your XO.

The new XO laptop comes with a Flash player installed but it doesn’t fully support some of the games I've tried online. Luckily, there's an easy way to update to the latest version of Adobe Flash.

Click on Terminal to access the Linux command line

Step 1: Launch the "Terminal" activity which comes pre-installed and allows you to access the Linux command line.

If it’s not installed you can download it from the OLPC Activities page using your XO browser. See my last post for downloading instructions.

Step 2: Click on the Terminal input area and the first thing to type is the Linux command “su” to give yourself the appropriate privileges. “su” stands for Super User. su

Step 3: Type in the following “rpm” command which includes the path to the newest version of Adobe Flash for Linux. “rpm” is a Linux “Packet Manager” command used to install, un-install, query and update software that comes as an .rpm package.

rpm -i

Command line to update your Flash Player

You’ll note that this command is version specific and .115. happens to the newest build today. By the time you read this Adobe may have a newer version or build number so you may want to modify this command line to obtain the latest build.

Click here to check for the current build number from Adobe.

Step 4: Close the Terminal activity and open your XO Browser. Go enjoy your favorite Flash game from sites like This should work fine for most games although it still may not provide fluid streaming for flash videos.

Update for Opera Users: I have learned that version 115 does not work with Opera. While Opera isn't the default browser used by the XO some folks have installed Opera. Use build # .48 if you expect to switch to Opera. If you need to remove version .115 to install .48 use the following commands.

su - yum remove flash-plugin-

The guys doing the OLPC Wiki have been keeping up on this topic so you can find more into at

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Download Activities and Games

The XO Laptop comes with a great number of Activities pre-installed but if you’re like me you want more.  There’s so much to explore but I know you all want some games to play on your new laptop.

While you’ve been waiting for your XO Laptops a number of folks have been working to make sure you have something to play with and they’re accessable with just a few clicks.

The initial browser screen has the link to new activities and games.

Open your browser and new Activities are just a click away

Just click on the .xo file to download your favorite game.

Click for download instructions.

Click Continue to downloadLook in the upper right hand corner and you’ll see a Cancel button and a “Continue” button with a download countdown.  You don’t have to click continue for the download to complete.

Click OpenWhen the download is ready to install, you’ll see “Open” and “OK”. Just click OK and move your cursor to the corner to bring up your frame.  Your new download will be available in the Activity launcher.

Worried about new downloads taking up too much space? Stay tuned and next week I’ll be posting everything you need to know about the “Journal File Flash System” used by the XO.

Friday, December 21, 2007

OLPC XO Laptop: Getting Started

My new XO Laptop is proving to be very controversial. People seem to either love it or hate it. If you’ve never heard of it you’re not alone but you’ll be hearing more. If you’re sick of me writing about it I promise to cover other topics soon.

The target audience for this laptop is not the typical computer geek but we’re all giving one to get one so we can play and learn more. Almost everything about this laptop is new and the excitement I feel is reminiscent of my old Commodore days.

The user interface for the XO is called “Sugar”.

  • Instead of programs or applications, the XO Laptop has “Activities”. Most Activities are designed to be used in a share mode.
  • Instead of a Desktop you’ll be “Home” when the laptop starts. Your Home lets you switch between Act ivies. Like the computers I grew up with, only one Activity will run at a time.
  • Your Local network of friends is called your “Group”. In a classroom environment you’ll see your classmates and can create a buddy list and/or participate in a group bulletin board.
  • The more familiar “Neighborhood” will show your available Networks.

The main User Interface of the XO Laptop using Sugar. Home mode with Frame visible Green text was added

Along the top the Places you can access are Neighborhood, Group, Home, and Activity. When you move the cursor into any “hot” corners, the “Frame” will appear and provide an interface to “zoom” to your Places, People, Objects and the “Activity” launcher. Move the cursor back off the frame and it will disappear. Toggle the Sugar Frame using this keyThere’s also a Frame key in the upper right corner to toggle it back and forth. Most data items in your Activities may be stored in the XO clipboard as an Object. Multiple objects can be stored in the clipboard and hey will be displayed on the left side of the screen. On the right side of the screen you’ll see other People you can share with on the Mesh network.

While many user interface elements are completely new you’ll find some familiar computer concepts.

For instance, Delete and Backspace have been combined into “Erase” which operates like the traditional backspace. Clipboard concepts like Select All and Cut,Copy,Paste are available and so are the familiar shortcut keys of Ctrl+A,X,C,V. Use the Function key to access Home, End, Page Up, Page DownYou’ll want to know how to use Home, End, Page Up and Down. Hold down the function key and press the arrow key. Like legacy computers holding down the shift will select the text.

For a full description of all the keys Click Here

For all the Linux fans out there with good eyesight here’s what you’re looking for. You can access the Linux command line. by holding down Ctrl+Alt+Fn and press 1. When asked for a Login name, type “root”. To return to the Sugar User Interface hold down Ctrl+Alt+Fn and press 3.

OLPC Evaluation Guide - First Impressions

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my new OLPC so I expect to write a lot about my experience with this new XO Laptop. I doubt I’ll be the only one writing about this unique device.

OLPC Evaluation Guide

Rule 1: Forget everything you already know. The target user for this laptop are kids who have never been exposed to a computer before. You’ll need to look at using this computer as if you’ve never used Windows, Mac or even a C64 before. That means forget about double clicking by tapping on the touch pad. The position of OK and Cancel buttons won’t match the Windows interface. You shouldn’t expect File/Edit drop down menus. Instead of Save, you’ll “Keep” your data and access it from your journal. Forget any concept of a folder based file system.

Rule 2: Forget about the price In theory, the kids won’t ever know the market value of the OLPC laptop. It was supposed to be the $100 laptop but that price will have to wait. If you Give One to Get One, you are making a donation. Don’t expect your OLPC laptop to be anything more than a conversation piece or toy.

Rules 3: Take your Time I had thought I could spend a couple days to evaluate the OLPC. I was really wrong. I keep learning more and more and there’s no way I can do justice to this machine until I spend at least a month with it. Nobody should publish any review for this laptop until at least next year.

Tristan taking his photo with the OLPC Tristan playing with the photo/video/audio application.

OLPC First Impression

My first impression was disappointment but that’s already starting to change. The interface is different which is ok and expected. Unfortunately, it’s fragmented. It tries to be different but still tries to teach computer skills. I think there’s always been a gap between the academia and real world. What sounds good in some white paper may not convert well to a real product(::cough:: Ada). Profit is sometimes the best motivation in the creation of great products.

Earlier this month John C. Dvorak wrote an article suggesting it might be better to just give $200 worth of food. John was just being a cranky greek and I still disagree. Giving this laptop is an investment and while risky it’s worth a shot. It’s not like it cound hurt America’s image any more than the Bush Admistration as already done.

What I Like

  • The browser doesn’t suck: It’s quick enough and while limited, it supports Flash, Javascript, PDF files and Cookies(Yea that can be a good thing)
  • Applications are plentiful: It even includes a number of programming examples for kids to learn how to create their own programs.
  • Size: It’s small for kids hands.
  • Networking: It took a little practice but it now always finds my WiFi network and searches for any available Mesh networks.
What I don’t Like
  • No power crank: I thought this was the whole point.
  • Durability: I expected it to be a just little more ruggedized.
  • Bugs: I’ve had my share of reboots and mouse weirdness. I can’t say if it’s hard,soft or firmware related.
  • No Popups: Some web apps actually use pop ups.
  • Sound quality: The quality is similar to my old C64 but the speaker isn’t as good.
One thing for sure, there huge need for some instruction books along with tips and tricks. I have to wonder if David Pogue is already working on “OLPC: The Missing Manual”.

Playing with my OLPC Laptop

I received an early gift from Santa today and it looks like I’ll be snowed in all weekend so I’ll have plenty of time to play. It doesn’t come with manuals but after a little exploring I’m now connected to my WiFi network and surfing my favorite web sites.

My new Give One, Get One OLPC Laptop

OLPC stands for “One Laptop Per Child” and this is my half of the “Give One, Get One” program from the makers of this unique device. You may also hear it called the XO Laptop.

I really didn’t expect to receive my laptop so soon. Perhaps the folks trying to get out all the Nintendo Wii’s for Christmas could take a lesson from the OLPC Foundation. I have a 2nd laptop coming so I can play with the wireless mesh network which is integrated into the machine and ideal for classroom usage. As a developer I’m looking forward to creating something useful to do my part.

I’ll be writing more but for now I just wanted to let folks know they’re real and they really work. If you participated in this program hopefully yours may be arriving soon. My only problem so far is, I keep trying to tap on the touch pad to select which isn’t supported. You have to click the left button.

I also took note of my Blog stats to see how accessing web sites is recorded.

How the OLPC appears when it visits a web site. Web stats from an OLPC laptop

The Give One, Get One program is curently available but is scheduled to end on December 31st. The price of the laptop is $200 so your total donation is $400 plus tax. If you’d like to know more go to