Fast and Smart Challenge: XO-1.5 vs XO-1.0

Late last year, an XO-1 and XO-1.5 were run through a “Fast and Smart Challenge” and videotaped both engaged in some desktop-swapping youtube-playing adventures, on what seems to be a semi-intelligent mat with built-in timer.

They show side-by-side boot and activity launching, and note improved wireless experience on the new machines. The whole recording is a bit rocky but charming; the XOs had clearly been used and customized.

DebXO 0.6 released!

(adapted from this recent mailing list thread.  this is a sweet build; try it out.)

After waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to long of a delay, I just tagged and built DebXO 0.6 (installation guide).  In some ways, it’s very polished (I’ve actually tested all of the desktops myself), in other ways it has a number of regressions (due to Debian updates breaking things, switching to an almost-stock Linus kernel, etc).  Either way, I wanted to get it out because people keep asking about it, and dropping JFFS2 leads to such a massive improvement.

DebXO is a version of Debian (testing) that is customized for the XO-1 hardware.  The 0.6 release adds initial support for the XO-1.5 hardware; however, XO-1.5 is not officially supported [yet].  I’ll update the official wiki page with instructions for XO-1.5, for the early adopters.


  • Update distribution to Debian Squeeze.  All packages and desktops have been upgraded.  This is pretty major; for example, Sugar is now at 0.88, and Gnome at 2.30(ish).
  • Kernel update.  Switch from the olpc-2.6 tree to Linus’s linux-2.6 tree (based upon 2.6.37-rc4+).  A few pending patches from -next and -mm have been included, but other than that… it’s stock.  The config closely matches the Debian stock kernel config; at a future date, we’ll just switch to a standard Debian 686 kernel.
  • Switch the nand images from using JFFS2 to UBIFS.  This makes an amazing difference in terms of usability.  Over time, JFFS2 filesystems get slower as they fragment, while UBIFS doesn’t appear to.
  • Initial XO-1.5 support. It’s still rough around the edges, but it’s functional (currently xorg.conf and /boot/olpc.fth must be edited).  …
  • Continue reading DebXO 0.6 released!

The New XO-1.5 HS: a blue, blue world

Part 2 of a review of the XO-1.5

Over 90,000 Uruguayan high school students will receive a new XO-1.5 HS (High School edition) laptop.  So how is it different from the XO-1 that their younger classmates have?

From the outside, the XO-1.5 HS has the same feel — it’s the same size, and the same antenna ears… though they feel different somehow in dark blue.  The color variation on the backplate is more limited — there may be just one set of colors to match the dark blue casing.

To make it easier to use for high school students, the keyboard features larger keys for larger fingers — and it’s now a standard responsive, ‘clicky’ keyboard rather than a waterresistant membrane. Its light/dark blue color scheme represents Uruguay’s national colors, more subtler than the bright green of the other XOs.

Since we redesigned the keyboard, we took the opportunity to make a few other handy changes. The new keyboard screws in and pops out without dismantling the bottom of the XO — taking 2 minutes rather than 15 to swap one out.

I tried it myself during my first XO teardown – the keyboard was probably the easiest thing for me to get out. We did a half tear down and photographed it, so we can also add guidelines for upgrading your disk on the 1.5’s motherboard. And now people seem to be making hybrids of XO-1.5s with the new keyboard (see our Flickr stream for more). I’ll post again when the new repair guide section is ready.

The XO-1.5 HS: Hackably Sweet

Part 1 of a limited series

Gillian and I spent part of the day taking apart an XO-1.5 (HS edition!) and putting it back together.  We’ll be showing you how to do everything from a (2-minute!) keyboard replacement to a flash drive upgrade.  Stay tuned for the photo series and guide.

XO-1.5HS Teardown
Gillian removes the new keyboard
Mike upgrades his onboard storage.
Me swapping out the XO-1.5 onboard storage (that's a 4G Micro SD card)

Ceibal high-school project update

An update on Uruguay’s deployment of olpc in high schools: Plan Ceibal has posted some details and images of the laptops that will be used in this project. Some schools will use the new blue XO-HS laptops, and others will use Magellans — the only implementation of the Classmate design that has been used in large scale deployments (in Portugal and Venezuela).

You can see their take on a feature comparison of the machines. While there’s no check box for “sunlight-readable screen”, robustness, or power management, it’s a good look at how schools perceive their options. I would be glad to see classrooms worldwide adopting any platform like this — both can share the same software and materials.

XOs for High School: new design, Uruguay snags 90,000

We have been working on a new XO laptop for high school students — one with a larger and more responsive keyboard better suited to the hands of older students. And Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal, expanding into high schools across the country, will be the first recipient — they’ve ordered 90,000 of the first production run.

These XO-1.5 HS machines are largely the same as a regular XO-1.5: they are VIA machines with Sugar and Gnome desktops, running both Sugar activities and Gnome apps.  Only the bottom half is different: they have ‘clicky’ rather than membrane keyboards by default, and the base has been redesigned so that keyboards are much easier to swap out or clean — there are two screws you can access from the battery compartment that release the keyboard, then you can pop it out.  No more 10-minute teardowns!

Uruguayan Flag

The new machines will be shades of dark and light blue; the factory is still working on getting the plastics and dye selection just right.  I saw an early stab at this design, and it was very sexy — but I haven’t seen the final keyboard model they are using yet. As a keyboard fanatic (I can get 70wpm on my XO-1), I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the first one back in the office and will post a review for you.

Now that we have a half-dozen designs or models, we’ll need to come up with a better naming scheme… I’m taking suggestions for names and themes.