Archive for the 'Xo / OLPC' Category

Tethering a Treo to an XO for internet access

Friday, January 11th, 2008


Tethering Treo to XO

One of the things I really like about my Treo is that I can use it to provide internet access for my computer. I normally do this using a program called PDAnet, however it only works with Windows. I was interested in finding a similar solution for my XO.

A Google search led me to an app called USB Modem which said it would work with my Treo 755p and a Windows, Mac or Linux computer. This made me hopeful. My search also led me to instructions on tethering a Treo to a machine running Ubuntu which was specifically for Sprint service and an older model Treo.

Through a combination of the above, and a bit of experimentation, I was able to figure out how to use my Sprint Treo 755p’s EVDO connection to get internet access for my OLPC.

Step 1: Install USB Modem
Download the USB Modem zip onto the computer you normally use to sync with your Treo.
Unzip the USB Modem archive. Install USBModem.prc in the Treo RAM (not a card) using a HotSync or by other means.

Step 2: Set up ppp
Copy the ppp-script-evdo-template file from the USB Modem distribution onto an SD card or USB drive. Insert the SD card or USB drive into the XO. Open the Journal activity to see if the media mounted properly (you should see an icon appear near the bottom left corner). Open Terminal and copy the ppp-script-evdo-template file to /etc/ppp/peers/ppp-script-treo (you may need to create the path manually). In my case I did this by typing: cp /media/Kingston/ppp-script-evdo-template /etc/ppp/peers/ppp-script-treo. You may need to replace “Kingston” with the name of your SC card or USB drive. You can use the command df in Terminal to display the name of your usb drive.

Note: The PDF instructions that are part of the USB Modem archive tell you to modify their files by replacing USERNAME and PASSWORD. I found it unnecessary to do these steps.

Step 2a: Install ppp.i386 on the XO
To install this on your XO you need to have internet access. In the Terminal activity type “su” to switch to superuser. Then type: “yum install ppp.i386″. Next type: “reboot”.

Step 3: Connect
Connect your Treo to the XO using your USB HotSync cable. Start the USB Modem application on your Treo, set the Connectivity method to USB and enable the modem mode. On the XO now type in the command prompt: “/usr/sbin/pppd /dev/ttyACM0 call ppp-script-treo”. For convenience you can place this command in a script file and chmod it for execution.

It will print how the connection setup is performed. If it was successful a new network interface will be created (usually ppp0). The only thing left is to copy the content of /etc/ppp/resolv.conf to system-wide /etc/resolv.conf for proper name resolution:
bash-2.05# cat /etc/ppp/resolv.conf > /etc/resolv.conf

USB modem offers a free trial period and can be purchased for a one time fee of $24.95. I can tell you that there are many places where you can get a data signal on a Treo and not find wiFi (even with the XO’s impressive range). The one time fee is also worth the price when you don’t want to have to pay for wifi and your one year of free T-mobile Hotspot service has expired.

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My XO Impressions after 12 Days

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Happy New Year - Under 21 version
I first opened up my XO box late at night on December 24th, 2007. I’ve had it for nearly 12 full days now.

Let me give you a run down of my experiences.

Let’s start with motivations. I was originally tempted by the Eee PC as a lightweight blogger / travel Linux running computer. But for one, I couldn’t quite justify spending for it when my trusty Dell Inspiron 600m was still going strong and two, they seemed to be sold out everywhere I looked.

The OLPC (or more correctly the XO-1) was brought to my attention by two friends. I had heard of the “$100 Laptop” but had long forgotten about it since it wasn’t available to the public. Only now it was; for a limited time, as part of a Give One Get One program run by the OLPC. The charity aspect of the cause along with the promised ruggedness, energy saving features and sunlight readable screen of the computer were very appealing to me because not only am I a slightly idealistic geek but I’m a bit of an outdoors gal as well. The opportunity to learn more about Linux plus the ability to write off some of the cost as a tax deductible donation and the free year of T-Mobile Hotspot service were the final clinchers for me to the hit the donate button before the promotion ended.

Under normal circumstances I would have done more research on the laptop itself. I am usually only an early adopter in terms of software and not hardware. The uncertainty kicked in after the money left my account. Had I done the right thing? Reading about the XO on the net I fluctuated between worry and happy anticipation. I was happy to give money to what I saw as a grand educational experiment but I also wanted to have a use-able tool for myself.

By the time I actually got my box I had read so much about the XO — that the keyboard was too tiny, that it was slow, that it was hard to figure out how to open — that after the thrill of seeing the box had arrived, opening it was almost anti-climactic.

My very first impression after taking it out of the box was that it was heavier than I thought it would be. Which led to disappointment in terms of taking it on extended backpacking trips. But my next impression was that this puppy was quite solidly well built and could probably handle being stuffed in a pack. Once I checked out my own XO colors (I got a purple O and a blue X) I opened it up and got my next disappointment. The keyboard really was small. “I’m going to need to plug in a USB keyboard”, I said.

And so it went. My first full day of having my XO can generally be described as one of disappointments. It was heavier than I had imagined (but much lighter than my Dell of course), the keyboard was smaller, the unit itself was bigger (good for using the screen not as good for bringing climbing) the system launched applications slower than what I’d liked and the default browser did not play flash automatically. But I did like the camera-audio-video Record application (or Activity in XOese). I also was favorably surprised with the sound and speakers. The music activities seemed quite intriguing as well.

I’ll compress the next days a bit, think of it as the happy couple montage part of the ‘XO meets girl geek movie”. I found I could install Adobe Flash for the default browser. I explored what I call “close to out of the box” uses for the XO. Following up on a question asked on the OLPC News Forums I figured out a way the XO could work as a digital picture frame. I opened the built in browser and surfed to my Picasa web photo albums, after selecting an album I chose the slideshow option and then used the full screen browser mode. On my own I discovered the browser could play my streaming radio playlists from Finetune.com if I used the Wii interface. I found I could sit in direct sunlight and still read my screen thanks to the backlight off feature which turned the screen into a black and white mode and also conserved power.

I got braver and went back to the Terminal Activity.

I found out how to install the Opera browser and Flash for that as well as Javascript capabilities. This changed the online useability of the XO for me quite a bit which made the whole thing much better for using the various web2.0 tools I’ve become used to using as a blogger and internet entrepreneur.

I joined a hosted jabber server and the whole Neighorhood concept finally sunk in to me. Sharing Activities with your Neighborhood was more than just having documents on the Mesh for others to open and read. You could edit them yourself, even concurrently. You could also share a browser session as well as other activities. I could imagine a school in a developing country being able to share lesson plans or creative works with each other. The antennae range on the XO is very wide. My Dell can see 3 networks at home, my XO can see 6 from the same spot.

Now the movie of XO meets girl geek begins to spin down into the present. For testing and feedback purposes I’ve done simple installations of apps for children that are available to those in the OLPC program (“yum install X” and then “Y” for yes). For fun I’ve run VNC viewer, installed NetHack and SimCity and played Pong. I’ve also gotten into more complicated stuff; altered some XO settings and done harder installations. I have mPlayer on my XO to play movies (and audio if I want it to). I’ve legally downloaded, for free, MP3 codecs so I can play MP3s and also to be able to export my audio files from Audacity — a sound editing program which I’ve already been using on my main computer to edit my podcasts and something I had thought would not be use-able on the XO. So now I’ve got a way to record podcasts on the road, edit and upload them. I also found a sequence to play podcasts on the XO using a hidden yet included music player called Totem. I can also transfer pictures from my camera’s memory card to the XO and upload those. I even have a roundabout procedure for taking the videos the XO’s built in web cam takes converting them into more prevalent file types and using those online.

The wonderful thing is that I am not done yet. I have more to do and more to learn. And the wondrous thing is that I’m excited to do it. And while I’m pushing the boundaries of what this machine was intended to do, I would like to imagine that there is a child with the fraternal twin of my XO equally excited about using his as a learning tool. It may be wishful thinking but I’m positive that no matter what, that child won’t forget his first computer.

By the way, I never did plug in a keyboard. I think it’d be nice to have one but I’m happy to say it isn’t completely necessary for me. I wrote this entire article touch typing on my XO.

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Pong on the XO – An OLPC Easter Egg

Friday, January 4th, 2008

The OLPC’s XO shipped with a few Easter Eggs, turns out one of them is Pong, playable in the game / ebook reader configuration!

As you can see in the short video, you use the directional pad and the game pad to control the “players”. You hit the rotate screen orientation button to start a new game. When you’re done playing, open up the screen a little and hit the Escape key (top left with the X on it). No sound though, I miss that. I think some linux modding may be in order?

Pong on the XO, talk about old school video games! Now you just need my Pong t-shirt ;)

For those who like to find Easter Eggs on their own, stop reading at this point.

For all others here’s how you get Pong to play:
Start with your XO off. Hit the power button and hold down the directional rocker pad to the right while booting up the XO. Release that button when it says to on your screen and you’ll see the Pong screen.

VNC on the XO – Remote Control Computing

Friday, December 28th, 2007

So I’ve had my XO for a few days now. The included applications or “activities” in OLPC terms, are great and I’m not done exploring them all.

However one thing that surprised me was that the XO ships virtual network computing capable. To use this you need a server software package installed on the computer you’d like to control. My boyfriend recommended TightVNC which is free and runs on Windows or Unix. It was a quick download and set up, pretty much just needing me to set a password, select preferences and run the application.

On the XO the process is even simpler. First make sure you have TightVNC running on the computer you’d like to control. Then on the XO you just launch the XO activity “Terminal” and at the prompt type in “vncviewer”. It launches and asks for your server, you supply the IP of the computer on the network you’d like to control and you get to the next screen which has a field for a user name (greyed out) and one for the password. Type in the password you set up earlier. Hit Enter.

Bingo, instant computer within a computer. Use it to access your home computer from the road or you can control your media center / HTPC while at home :)


XO remote controlling an XP

The XO Laptop – Brief Overview

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I made this video after getting my XO. I explain a few of the hardware features.


The XO Starting Up and Comments

More informational posts coming up. Website for the OLPC: http://www.laptop.org

And here’s the picture I mentioned showing the sunlight readable feature:

The XO/OLPC Screen in Direct Sunlight

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