Kicking off a gen-1.5 development process: Updating the XO hardware

XO + Tinkertoys(Box and Tinker) = Directional Cantenna

OLPC is excited to announce that a refresh of the XO-1 laptop is in progress. In our continued effort to maintain a low price point, OLPC is refreshing the hardware to take advantage of the latest component technologies. This refresh (Gen 1.5) is separate from the Gen 2.0 project, and will continue using the same industrial design and batteries as Gen 1. The design goal is to provide an overall update of the system within the same ID and external appearance.

In order to maximize compatibility with existing software, this refresh will continue with an x86 processor, using a chipset from VIA. The memory will be increased to 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM, and the built-in storage will be 4 GB of NAND Flash with an option for 8 GB (installed at manufacture). The processor will be a VIA C7-M [1], with plans on using one whose clock ranges from 400 MHz (1.5 W) to 1GHz (5 W). The clock may be throttled back automatically if necessary to meet thermal constraints.

The enabling chipset is hot off the fab line, the VX855 [2]. This single chip provides the memory interface, a 3D graphics engine, an HD video decoder, USB, SDIO, and other system interface and management functions, in a low power and small footprint package. One change induced by the chipset change is a move from AC’97 to HD Audio. This brings higher sampling rates and allows an upgrade to a stereo external microphone (and DC sensor) input.

The CaFE chip is being retired, and replaced with an external Flash management controller, possibly one of the low cost SSD controllers currently being tested. The camera will now be tied directly to the VX855′s video capture port.

The network interface will be upgraded to an 88W8686, which will halve its power dissipation and move it to  an SDIO interface (further dropping the power consumption). The current goal is to locate it in a removable module, allowing its replacement for repair. It will remain powered while the laptop suspends, waking the laptop if a packet addressed to it arrives. It is likely that early production models will not directly support 802.11s (i.e. forwarding mesh packets while the interface is asleep), but we are working with Marvell on several different 802.11s solutions.

Gen 1.5 will continue with the existing display, although OLPC is working with PixelQi to try to improve the brightness and efficiency of the screen. The DCON is retained (even though the VX855 includes much of its functionality) as it provides the low power interface and the timing controller functions for the existing display.

Overall, the target is to match the Gen 1 XO-1 in power consumption while making aggressive suspend easier, and in price (while changing to components which are more likely to decrease in price). It is likely that both goals can be met.

We also expect the Gen 1.5 machines to ship with an OLPC 8.2.x software release, modified to support Gen 1.5′s new hardware but otherwise unchanged from the current production software release and compatible with our current software in the field. Gen 1.5 machines will be deployed in environments already populated by Gen 1 machines, so seamless software interoperability is an important goal.

Early versions of the hardware (bare board) should be available for driver development at the end of May. A larger number of prototype laptops (several hundred) for software development and testing will become available around the end of August. The OLPC contributors program will be the preferred way of requesting a Gen 1.5 machine for testing your software for compatibility or development. We hope to use the contributors program to ensure Gen 1.5 support for the wide variety of application and OS solutions created for Gen 1.0.

We’re excited to be finally able to make this news public. While members of the technical team have been working on this for several months, it was not until last week that we could with any certainty say that we were going to refresh the hardware and what that refresh was likely to be. We’re now committed to this project and look forward to working with you to make it happen.

— John, Ed, and the OLPC Tech team.

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[1] http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/processors/c7-m_ulv/
[2] http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/chipsets/v-series/vx855

20 thoughts on “Kicking off a gen-1.5 development process: Updating the XO hardware

  1. Pingback: OLPC 1.5 refresh replaces AMD Geode CPU with VIA C7-M - Liliputing

  2. Great! I got 4 OLPC computers, when they first became available in the G1G1 program. 3 worked great. One has never worked. The little light comes on, showing there is power, but the screen never lights up. I replaced the little battery inside, that is supposed to fix the clock, but it still does not wok.

    Perhaps I can upgrade and get a working computer????

    It was for a worthy cause, and I appreciated the opportunity to contribute – but being able to use my OLPC would be very nice.

    Steven

  3. Our organization is very interested in the 1.5 when it is available. We obtained day one (day zero) G1 G1 units in November, 2007 (six units) which we now use in after-school tutoring for mostly immigrant youngsters in Virginia near Washington, D.C. plus a hundred delivered July 2009 in Kibwezi, Kenya.

  4. Pingback: XO-3 concept design is here! | One Laptop per Child

  5. I too would be interested in a 1.5 motherboard update. I’ve figured out how to install Firefox 3.6b5, Thunderbird 3, and OpenOffice 3.x, but it requires patience (and swap space on my SD card) to run these apps. at 400 MHz. The expanded RAM and 1 GHz CPU would make a huge difference.

    I still love to show off my XO-1 to folks that have never seen one “in the flesh” before.

  6. Pingback: XO roadmap updates: XO 1.5, 1.75, and 3 | One Laptop per Child

  7. I would love to install anything into my current XO that would allow me to watch streaming video.
    I hope this motherboard is easy to install.
    In the past I have tried to download a flash player but never understood EXACTLY how to do it.
    I love my olpc and hope I don’t have to give it up.

    Be well all.

  8. If the XO-1.5 turns into a real product by the end of the year, I’m ready to order a few – the updates seem awesome! Hugs to the developers!

  9. Put me down as interested in a 1.5 upgrade mobo if its available.
    I’d love to upgrade my existing XO – I like the unit and its on loan to a friend with a small child – as she grows, it might be nice for her to be able to grow with the unit.
    I think it would be better to upgrade it rather than buy a new one – less waste maybe?

    RP in Ottawa, Canada

  10. Jim, although there is a major software update to go with it, the 1.5 project is primarily a hardware (motherboard) upgrade. So while there will still be new software available for the XO-1, you can’t download something that will turn an XO-1 into an XO-1.5 because the XO-1.5 has a substantially different motherboard.

    It is mechanically and electrically feasible to consider installing a 1.5 motherboard into a 1.0 machine, and we’re investigating the possibility of offering an upgrade motherboard. We’re not yet sure we’ll be able to do that, but we do know that people are interested in it.

  11. You can already play video content on your current XO. If you visit Dailymotion (for instance dailymotion.com/olpc) or any other site that streams the ogg video format, you can play it from your browser. If you want to play youtube videos, you’ll first need to install Adobe Flash (wiki.laptop.org/go/Adobe_Flash) .

  12. Does this mean that I will be able to play video content on my current XO?
    Wish that was available.
    I’m a bit slow on these concepts,perhaps someone can tell me.
    Will I be able download the upgrade to this G 1.5 version?

  13. I would like the 1.5 release to be able to support running the OpenOffice
    suite. I know AbiWord is the base for Sugar Write but adults use the machines
    too and older kids might need compatibility (in the states and elsewhere) with
    commonly available formats…

    Also, the XO is painfully slow starting.
    Fedora (upon which the default distro is based) has a 20 second boot plan goal.
    OpenFirmware apps are nice and fast by comparison. Don’t make me figure out microemacs saving to nand or usb just to make some notes on this hardware… Please, pretty please… ‘=/

    Getting online quickly would be good too.
    If not in a school environment, would it be possible to stop looking for school servers and mesh? This has been slowing down the connect so much, as it cycles…
    An easy config option?

    A touchscreen would really help too. Having a 5 yo and most people want to just point at stuff… Realize this may be a 2.0 goal thing, but had to push. It would be good to have as an option for people in 1.5 land to start thinking and developing for that goal target, like backporting…
    Keyboard size is an issue with the existing package.and hopefully the touchscreen could be a way of trying typing too… adjusting the size to age/ disability/ handedness, etc…

    Projector support. Don’t care if it’s a dongle/ extra accessory/ option, but for those trying to push the project locally, showing it onscreen in demos would really help. Don’t think the USBVGA adapter has flown, but might have missed something…

  14. Depending on the out-of-the-box experience, with the 1.5, I may consider picking one up as an ebook reader until Jepson’s newer screen technology filters its way into newer devices. I’ve always been impressed by the XO’s ebook mode, but I have never been able to justify buying an x86 processor slower than anything I’ve owned over the last 9 years. With this I may finally have a solution to shed some bulky university textbooks and, depending on how well it browses and word processes, my laptop

  15. This is good to hear, I think. So long as reimaging isn’t different no matter what version of 1 or 1.5 you have, then I’m in favour of doing this. I think the same case should be used for as long as possible.

    Someone, a student, today pointed out that bluetooth would add a lot to this device, since projectors might support that for video output, thus adding an external monitor or classroom projector option. Is power use a concern?

  16. I use the Quanta IL1 (aka: A110 http://a110wiki.de/wiki/Main_Page ) and I like it pretty much.. now.

    As far as I know the IL1 was a OLPC Candidate. I have this Device about one year and run Linux exclusiv. There have been a lot of Problems! The Modem still doesn’t work.

    The biggest Problem now, is the lack of a good graphic support. There is a more or less broken binary driver and a openchrome driver full of errors and thats for the VX800U. I don’t have much hope for newer chipsets.

    Don’t get me wrong. In the last year VIA did very much to open up their drivers and I am gratefull, but it would be very bad if the OLPC is ready to roll on VIA-Chips but there are no drivers….

    Sorry, I had to wait about a year to get the Cardreader working… that leaves scars.

  17. This is great news. Hopefully it will dissipate a little the constant FUD.

    I just hope people don’t confuse 1.5 with v.2 (and don’t shout “vaporware” here and there)

    I had the occasion to visit the boston office early this year, and that was really great to see all those dozens of XOs (instead of just one in conference / demo) !!

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