Monday, February 11, 2008

Spreadsheet for your G1G1 Laptop

The OLPC project has received support from a variety of professionals who have been in the industry for years.  One such elder is Dan Bricklin who is still best known for bringing the spreadsheet to personal computers.

One of the Activities initially missing from the OLPC project was a spreadsheet so Dan has gone to work porting his online Wiki spreadsheet to run on under Sugar on the XO laptop.  Built mostly on Javascript a very early test version is available at


Social Calculator for the XO laptop

Click for More Info

I had heard that Google was also working on making their online spreadsheet available but last I heard it wasn’t able to meet the quality and performance requirements.  Meanwhile, others are looking at creating a Python based spreadsheet like the one being tested at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fun XO Camera Trick

When I ordered my XO laptops I wanted one because they seemed both innovative and fun.  I mentioned once how the OLPC project has taken me back to my Commodore 64 days.

OLPC evangelist Mike Lee showed how fun he could be with the creation of a home made viewfinder for XO laptop.  It goes to show where there’s a need, someone will find a way to fill it.

The Mike Lee Lego view finder

Way to go Mike.  If you’d like to build one check out Mike’s Flickr Slideshow for complete details.


Friday, January 25, 2008

People Don't Want a Cheap Laptop

Sorry I haven’t had time to post new information in the last week or so. I was busy putting the final touches on a new version of my WinPatrol program. See “WinPatrol 14 Enhances Keylogging Detection” for more info.

While I haven’t posted in a while I’m still very excited about the OLPC project and my XO laptop. While I’ve been off the OLPC Foundation has had its share of bumps and bruises. They’ve had some shipping and contact problems and may be losing some enthusiastic supporters.

I also keep reading articles that compare the XO laptop to so-called cheap laptops. Robert Scoble even got Lenovo’s CEO Bill Amelio to admit they’re working on cheap laptops. I guess Amelio wasn’t around to remember the IBM PCJr. If I haven’t said it already; “People don’t want a ‘cheap’ laptop. They want Innovation!”.

I’m going to be in D. C. next week and by chance will be in town the same night as a meeting of the local OLPC Learning Club. The meeting is Jan 31st from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM at Greater DC Cares on I Street. If you’re interested in attending you can learn more at

OLPC AustriaI was also excited to hear that OLPC Austria is working on a new OLPC Activity Handbook for programmers . You can download a draft of the first few chapters at If you’re interested in knowing more about Sugar and trying your hand at a building an Activity in Python, check it out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

AmigaOS or Windows on the XO Laptop

In the midst of all the news this week from CES came my favorite story of the week. A group of software developers in Italy have ported an emulated version of the Amiga OS to the XO laptop. Like many, I’m nostalgic for the Amiga and while I don’t expect to run Video Toaster on my XO this is still a cool story.

Running Amiga OS on the XO laptop shows it's real power and flexibility

Dual-Boot Windows on the XO.

In other news, I keep reading stories about how Microsoft is creating a dual-boot system which would allow Windows to run on the OLPC XO laptop. Unfortunately, the folks I know at Microsoft tell me this just isn’t true. True Microsoft has confirmed they are working on a flash based bootable Windows. True, many engineers in Redmond are playing with the XO laptop. Does Microsoft want users to have an easy choice between Windows and Linux. Not so much.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Name and Color for my XO laptop

Now that I’ve joined a large neighborhood on I realized I want a new name to identify myself to others. I have also noticed that some color selections aren’t easy to see in a chat room.

Example of how some color combinations are hard to read

Your name and color information is stored in a config file which appears easy to edit. I was able to edit my colors but the OLPC Wiki recommends using the commands below so that new keys will be properly generated. 

My configuration file
Edit Config file

If you’d like a new name and colors use the steps below.

  1. Launch your Terminal Activity
  2. Type “suto give yourself permission to remove files.
  3. Type the following remove commands.  “rm” is the command to remove a file.
    After typing the first command, use the up arrow and bring back the previous command. Then backspace to where you want to start typing again to enter the next command easier.
  4. rm /home/olpc/.sugar/default/config
  5. rm  /home/olpc/.sugar/default/owner.key
  6. rm  /home/olpc/.sugar/default/
  7. Reboot the sugar interface by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Erase (sound familiar?)
  8. Enter your new name and then click on the XO logo to select your colors.

Commands to re-enter your name and colors

The OLPC wiki also points out that this method will cause you to lose any files you have on the “school server” but you’ll still have all the files currently in your journal.

If you’ve used my previous instructions to connect to the “Jabber” server you’ll need to repeat those commands as well.  The default Jabber server on the first public XO’s will be “”.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

OLPC Chat Activity Scroll Bug Fixed

The more I use my new OLPC XO laptop the more I find myself using the Terminal Activity to modify and add new features.  I’m no Linux guru but with some good examples it’s not hard to understand.

Last week I posted information on how to expand your neighborhood and find others to play with and chat. Unfortunately, the Chat activity suffered from a bit of a scroll bug. You’ll still find many other activities that are shared and can be a lot of fun.

The folks who have been working on the open source programs included with the laptop have been hard at work, even over the holidays. A fix had been posted so you can enjoy chatting with other new XO laptop users.

Close any Chat Activity you have open
Launch your Terminal Activity and enter the commands below.

  • su
  • cd /usr/share/activities/Chat.activity/
    ( Chat.activity is case sensitive )
  • mv
    ( This renames Chat.
       If you have problems you can rename the .old one back )
  • wget

No Reboot required. Just look for a shared chat in your neighborhood.

Special thanks to Morgan Collett.

Using the Chat Activity isn’t the only way to chat with other new G1G1 participants. You can also download the xoIRC activity and chat in one of the OLPC support IRC rooms. Go to for more information.

The main documentation for the OLPC XO laptop continues to be The OLPC Wiki. The information there is dynamic and is being updated daily. I recommend visiting often. If you don’t find an answer to your question today, it may be there tomorrow.



Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Play Doom on your XO laptop

A week ago folks were joking in the forums about running Doom on the XO laptop. Sure enough, someone figured it out.  Yesterday, OLPC News posted instructions on how to download and install Doom on your XO laptop.  Not only does it work, but it runs well.

Playing Doom on the XO

Playing FreeDoom on the XO laptop

  • Step 1: Launch the Terminal Activity
  • Step 2: type  “su”  to become a super user
  • Step 3: Type  “yum install prboom
  • Step 4: Enter “Y” to accept all downloads
  • Step 5: Type “Exit
  • Step 6: Typing “prboom -geom 1200x900” will start the game in full screen mode.
  • Step 7: To run into the future just go to Terminal and repeat Step 6.

Installation screen to download FreeDoom

Doom Installation Commands

I’m not sure how I feel about this revelation.  It shows that the XO laptop has some real power and can still make me nauseous playing doom.  I really hope the kids in Peru or Nigeria don’t read OLPC News or and learn about this particular tip.