Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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In North America, today marks the start of the "Give 1 Get 1" program.
Children using the XO laptop
I first learned from this when I was reading about Timothy Ferriss' [LitLiberation project] on his [Four Hour Work Week] blog, and was surfing around for related ideas, and chanced upon this. I registered for a reminder, and it came today(the reminder, not the laptop itself).
Here's how the program works. You give $399 US dollars to the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC)[laptop.org] organization for two laptops: One goes to a deserving child ina developing country, the second goes to you, for your own child, or to donate to a localcharity that helps children. This counts as a $199 purchase plus a $200 tax-deductible donation.For Americans, this is a [US 501(c)(3)] donation, and for Canadians and Mexicans, take advantage of the low-value of the US dollar!
If your employer matches donations, like IBM does, get them to match the $200donation for a third laptop, which goes to another child in a developing country. As for shipping, you pay only for the shipping of the one to you, each receiving country covers their own shipping. In my case, the shipping was another $24 US dollars for Arizona.No guarantees that it will arrive in time for the holidays this December, but it might.
To sweeten the deal, T-mobile throws in a year's worth of "Wi-Fi Hot Spot"that you can use for yourself, either with the XO laptop itself, or your regular laptop, iPhone, or otherWi-Fi enabled handheld device.
National Public Radio did a story last week on this:[The $100 Laptop Heads for Uganda]where they interview actor [Masi Oka], best known from the TV show ["Heroes"], who has agreed to be their spokesman.At the risk of sounding like their other spokesman, I thought I would cover the technology itself, inside the XO,and how this laptop represents IBM's concept of "Innovation that matters"!
The project was started by [Nicholas Negroponte] from [MIT University] as the "$100 laptop project". Once the final designwas worked out, it turns out it costs $188 US dollars to make, so they rounded it up to $200. This is stillan impressive price, and requires that hundreds of thousands of them be manufactured to justify ramping upthe assembly line.
Two of IBM's technology partners are behind this project. First is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) that providesthe 433Mhz x86 processor, which is 75 percent slower than Thinkpad T60. Second is Red Hat,as this runs lean Fedora 6 version of Linux. Obviously, you couldn't have Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X, as both require significantly more resources.
The laptop is "child size", and would be considered in the [subnotebook] category. At 10" x 9" x 1.25", it is about the size of class textbook,can be carried easily in a child's backpack, or carried by itself with the integrated handle. When closed, it is sealedenough to be protected when carried in rain or dust storms. It weighs about 3.5 pounds, less than the 5.2 pounds of myThinkpad T60.
The XO is "green", not just in color, but also in energy consumption.This laptop can be powered by AC, or human power hand-crank, with workin place to get options for car-battery or solar power charging. Compared to the 20W normally consumed bytraditional laptops, the XO consumes 90 percent less, running at 2W or less. To accomplish this, there is no spinning disk inside. Instead, a 1GB FLASH drive holds 700MB of Linux, and gives you 300MB to hold your files. There isa slot for an MMC/SD flash card, and three USB 2.0 ports to connect to USB keys, printers or other remote I/O peripherals.
The XO flips around into three positions:
Standard laptop position has screen and keyboard. The water-tight keyboard comes in ten languages:International/English, Thai, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Urdu, Mongolian, Cyrillic, and Amharic.(I learned some Amharic, having lived five years with Ethiopians.)There does not appear be a VGA port, so don't be thinking this could be used as an alternative to project Powerpoint presentations onto a big screen.
Built-in 640x480 webcam, microphone and speakers allow the XO to be used as a communication device. Voice-over-IP (VOIP) client software, similar to Skype or [IBM Lotus Sametime], is pre-installed for this purpose.
The basic built-in communication are 802.1g (54Mbs) that you can use to surf the web usingthe Wi-Fi at your local Starbucks; and 802.1s which forms a "mesh network" with other XO laptops, and can surf theweb finding the one laptop nearby that is connected to the internet to share bandwidth. This eliminates the need to build a separate Wi-Fi hub at the school. There are USB-to-Ethernet and USB-to-Cellular converters, so that might be an alternative option.
Flipped vertically, the device can be read like a book.The screen can be changed between full-color and black-white, 200 dpi, with decent 1200x900 pixel resolution. The full-color is back-lit, and can be read in low-lighting. The black-white is not back-lit, consumes much less power, andcan be read in bright sunlight. In that regards, it is comparable to other [e-book devices], like a Cybook or Sony Reader.
Software includes a web-browser, document reader, word processor and RSS feed reader to read blogs.The OLPC identifies all of the software, libraries and interfaces they use, so that anyone that wants to developchildren software for this platform can do so.
With the keyboard flipped back, the 6" x 4.5" screen has directional controls and X/Y/A/B buttons to run games. This would make it comparable to a Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable (PSP). Again, the choice between back-lit color,or sunlight black-white screen modes apply. Some games are pre-installed.
So for $399, you could buy a Wi-Fi enabled[16GB iPod Touch] for yourself, which does much the same thing, or you can make a difference in the world.I made my donation this morning, and suggest you--my dear readers in the US, Canada and Mexico--consider doing the same.Go to [www.laptopgiving.org] for details.
Continuing my business trip through Canada, an article by Richard Blackwell titled [The Double Bottom Line] yesterday's Globe and Mail newspaper caught my attention.Here is an excerpt, citing Tim Brodhead, president of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in Montreal:
The bottom line for any business is making a profit, right?
But how about considering a different, or additional bottom line: helping make the world a better place to live in.
That's the radical proposition underlying the concept of "social entrepreneurship," the harnessing of business skills for the benefit of the disadvantaged.
Young investors, in particular, now want their investments to produce both financial and social returns, he noted.
Until recently, "we could either make a donation [to a charity] and get zero financial return, or we could invest and get zero social return." People now want more of both, but rules governing charities and business make that tough to accomplish.
One stumbling block is the imperative - entrenched in corporate law - that managers and directors of for-profit companies have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits. That structure is a brick wall that limits the expansion of social entrepreneurship, Mr. Brodhead said.
Some companies have embraced the new paradigm of a double bottom line, even if they are uncomfortable with the "social entrepreneur" label.
This fiduciary duty to maximize profits is discussed in the 2003 documentary[Corporation]. However, some organizations are now trying to aligntheir goals, finding ways to benefit their investers, as well as society overall. For example, organization [ONE.org] helped launch [Product (RED)]:
If you buy a (RED) product from GAP, Motorola, Armani, Converse or Apple, they will give up to 50% of their profit to buy AIDS drugs for mothers and children in Africa. (RED) is the consumer battalion gathering in the shopping malls. You buy the jeans, phones, iPods, shoes, sunglasses, and someone - somebody’s mother, father, daughter or son - will live instead of dying in the poorest part of the world. It’s a different kind of fashion statement.
The company, which has operated in Africa for nearly six decades, expects to increase its investment by more than $US120 million (more than R820 million) over the next two years. In the coming year, IBM expects to hire up to 100 students from Sub-Saharan universities to meet the growing demand in services, global delivery and software development.
"The Sub-Saharan African market is poised for double-digit growth flowing from the development and expansion of telecommunications networks, power grids and transport infrastructure," said Mark Harris, Managing Director, IBM South and Central Africa. "Private and public sector investment in the region is transforming the ability of the market to participate in the global economy."
A recent IBM Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) [report on Africa] indicates that the economies ofdozens of African nations are growing at healthy rates, the best in the past 30 years, with 5.5 to 5.8 percent averageacross the continent. This supports last month's news that [Top IBM thinkers to mentor African students]:
Hundreds of IBM scientists and researchers will mentor college students in Africa. Called Makocha Minds (after the Swahili word for "teacher"), the program will reach hundreds of computer science, engineering and mathematics students.
Makocha Minds is an off-shoot of IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook, an annual symposium of top government, business and academic leaders that uncovers new opportunities for business and societal innovation. "African students need to be trained in entrepreneurship so that they get out there and not just make jobs for themselves but create opportunities to employ others as well,” said Athman Fadhili, a graduate student at the University of Nairobi (Kenya).
Most of the mentoring will be via email and online collaboration.
Mentoring via email and online collaboration is very reasonable. I have mentored both high school and collegestudents through a partnership between IBM Tucson and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers[SHPE]. While thekids were all located in Tucson, I rarely am, traveling nearly every week, but I madetime for the kids via email and online collaboration wherever I happened to be.
To make this work, we need to get email and online collaboration in the hands who need them.I got my email thanking me for being a "first day donor" to the One Laptop Per Child "Give 1 Get 1" (G1G1) project,and have added this "badge" to the right panel of my blog. If you click on the badge, you will be takento a series of YouTube videos that further describe the project.
According to the email my donated XO laptop will soon be delivered into the hands of a child in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda.
How do these work? Instead of buying your uncle yet another $25 necktie, consider buying a $25 Kiva certificate.The $25 dollar "micro loan" goes to someone in the third world to improve their situation, start a business, geta job, and so on, and you give your uncle a Kiva certificate so that he can track the progress. I think that isvery clever and innovative.
My XO laptop arrived Friday, December 21, this was from the [Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1)] program fromthe One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation. The program continuesto the end of this month (December 31).
Here are my first impressions.
Setup was Easy
Open the box, put in battery, and plug in the adapter. Enter your name and choose your favorite color for your stick figurine. No passwords, no parameters. Software is pre-installed and ready to use.
The four pages of instructions included how to open the unit (not intuitive), where the various connection ports are located, what the home screen and neighborhood screen look like, safety warnings, and a nice letter from Nicholas Negroponte with an 800 phone number and website in case more help is needed.
Connecting to the internet was the first thing I did. The neighborhood screen shows all the Wi-Fi access points. It recognized mineand three others. I clicked on mine, entered my WEP key, and was connected.
This is a Linux operating system running the Sugar user interface.There are four screens:
Neighborhood - shows all Wi-Fi access points
Friends - shows all other XO laptops nearby, in my case I am all alone
Home - your stick figurine with all the applications you can choose from are represented as icons at the bottom, just like OS X on my Mac Mini, or the launchpad on my Windows XP. Left panel for clipboard items.
Application - Applications run in full-screen mode
Four buttons across the top allow you to jump to any screen instantly.Everything else is single left-click. No double-clicks or right-clicks.
A circle on the home screen designates which applications are running, and how much of the available 256MB RAM they are consuming. This makes it easy to seeif you can run more applications or need to shut something down. Youcan jump to any application, or shut it down, from this view.
Shutting down the XO is done by clicking your stick figurine,and choosing shutdown.
I fired up the browser. The default 'home page' offers some help offline, as well as links to online resources and a google search bar. The full-color 1200x900 is very easy to read. You can hit ctrl+plus to make the fonts bigger. In bright sunlight, the screen turns automatically to greyscale.The built-in browser is easy enough to use, with standard back, forward, re-load, and bookmark buttons. The URL entry field also shows the pages title. It doesn't have tabs to see multiple pages at the same time, but I was able to fire up a second instance of the browser, so thatI could alt-tab back and forth between the two web sites.
There are so many applications that they don't all fit on the bottom of the screen.Left and right tab buttons will display the next set. I don't know if it is possible to re-order the icons, but I can certainly see some applications appealing to different ages, and perhaps re-ordering them into age-specific groups might be helpful.
Basic applications include the Abiword word processor, a PDF viewer, a simple paint program, calculator, chat, and news RSS feed reader; TamTam music to play and edit compositions; and some learn-to-program-a-computer software including Pippy, Etoys, and TurtleArt.
The 'record' program lets you take 640x480 pictures with the built-in camera, up to 45 seconds of video and audio recording. The picture abovewas taken with my XO, and edited online using [snipshot.com]. Another program can be usedto make video calls to another computer, similar to Skype or IBM Lotus Sametime.
The XO has built-in microphone and speakers, but also microphone and speaker ports, as well as three USB ports, and a slot for an SD memory card.
The QWERTY keyboard is designed for small children hands, I found myself using my two index fingers in a hunt-and-peck style. People who use Blackberry's or other hand-held devices might be able to use their two thumbs instead. Also, I am not used to a touchpad as the pointing device. My other laptops have a red knob between the G/H/B keys that acts like a joystick. So, I decided to attach my Apple keyboard/mouse to one USB port, which allows me faster typing and better resolution with my mouse.
I also inserted a 1GB SD card into the slot. Getting to the SD slot was challenging--you have to rotate the screen 90 degrees so that the lower right corner is over the laptop handle. It appears I need to purchase some tweasers to get my SD card back out, so until then, it will remain there as permanent addition to my XO.
A terminal application provides a command line interface into Linux.
The 'vi' editor is installed, in case I need to make changes to fstab or anythingelse in my /etc directory.
There is no S-video or VGA port. However, a teacher could probably fold thislaptop up in e-book mode and lay it flat on an [overhead projector] since the screen can handle bright sunlight in black-and-white mode.
The Journal and the Clipboard
There are no folders or subdirectories here. The journal acts as your desktop, holding all the files you have referenced, sorted in chronological order with the most recent on top. The journal application is started automatically when you boot up.My SD card is shown as a separate entry at the bottom right corner, but I have access only to files on my top-level directory on the card. The journal allows you to drag and drop between the system and the SD flash card.The list can be filtered by file type and application, so finding things is easy.You can also copy anything in the journal to the clipboard, appearing on the leftpanel of the home screen. You can then launch or paste this into other applications.
Pressing Alt-1 takes a 1200x900 snapshot of the current screen, and puts it into the journal.On websites that allow you to upload a file, including GMAIL, snipshot.com, etc. the browse button brings up the journal. So, for example, you could take a snapshot of the current webpage or paint creation, and send it as an attachment to someone via GMAIL. Google has an XO-enabled version of GMAIL that you can download from the OLPC activities page.
This entire post, including the picture above, was done with the XO laptop itself. I am impressed with the thought that went into this design, and I see great potential here. The interface adequately hides the Linux operating system for those who just want to use the computer, but makes it readily accessible for those who want to learn more about the Linux operating system and computer programming.
Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] project, I have been amused watching the OLPC forum discussion on the choiceof browser options available.
The built-in browser is simple but functional. It is full screen,with back, forward, and bookmark buttons, and an entry field forthe URL. This browser is fully integrated with the Sugar platform,files downloaded will appear in the journal. Download an Activity*.xo file, for example, and you can install it from the Journal.If you want to upload a file, click BROWSE on the website, and theJournal will pop up to choose files from.
Out of the box, the XO supports a minimal Flash that can handlesome Flash-based games but not YouTube videos, and does not supportJava.
The good folks of Opera have built a special edition for the XO laptop.However, some settings need to be changed to make the fonts large enoughto read.
Opera can be run as a Sugar activity, but this just launches a mothertask, which in turn launches a daughter task that actually runs thebrowser. This means that Home View will have two icons. The mothertask has an the Opera icon, but click on it and you get a grey screen.The daughter task appears as a grey circle, click on it and you get thebrowser screen. Alt-Tab will rotate through the Activities, so thegrey screen of the mother task is part of the rotation.
Although Opera has one foot on the Sugar platform, and one foot off,the lack of integration means poor interaction with the journal. The use of Opera is correctly registered. However, downloadingfiles requires a working knowledge of subdirectories, and uploading anythingrequires knowing what it is called, and where it is located. Not obviousfor many of the items created by Sugar applications.
The XO laptop is based on Redhat Fedora distribution, so I downloadedthe Firefox RPM package and installed this. To run, you need to startthe Terminal Activity, and then at the cursor type firefox.Journal only registers that the Terminal activity was used, but not anythingelse.
Since I run Firefox 2.0 on Windows XP, OS X and Linux, I am very familiarwith this browser, and it works as expected. Like Opera, there are shortcut keys, tabs for multiple pages, and optionsto add Java and Flash player. I was able to install add-onsfor Del.icio.us and FireFTP, and they worked as expected. Having accessto FTP sites will make development on the XO much easier.Again all files are uploaded/downloaded to directories, so some workingknowledge of where files are placed is required.
The fonts in Firefox did not expand/shrink as nicely as they had in Opera.Be careful not to select "View->
To close, you have to select File->Quit from the browser window, whichbrings you back to the Terminal activity, which you can then shutdown with Ctrl-Esc.
For now, I will keep all three and continue to evaluate them.I saw a few opportunities for improvement:
The Opera and Terminal icons are not on the first screen.You have to hit the right arrow to get to the "overflow" set of icons. Re-ordering the icons is simply a matter of editing the following file with "vi"(my first few lines I use are shown below):
Put the activities in the order you want. Any activity not listed willappear after these.
It might be possible to create a modified Terminal activity thatinvoked Firefox directly, to eliminate having to type it in each time.
Several people have expressed interest in a browser that runs entirely withthe Xo laptop folded over in eBook/Game mode, such that thekeyboard is completely covered up, exposing only the up-left-right-down arrowsand the Circle/Square/X/Check buttons.
Change the "News Reader" to invoke Bloglines instead. This might be yetanother modified Terminal activity, but borrow the icon from News.
Well, if you have further thoughts on these browsers, enter a comment below.
Wrapping up this week's theme on the XO laptop, I decided to take on thechallenge of printing. I managed to print from my XO laptop to my laserjet printer.I checked the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] website,and found there is no built-in support for printers, but there have been several peopleasking how to print from the XO, so here are the steps I did to make it happen.
(Note: I did all of these steps successfully on my Qemu-emulated system first, and then performed them on my XO laptop)
Step 1: Determine if you have an acceptable printer
The XO laptop can only connect to a printer via USB cable or over the network.Check your printer to see if it supports either of these two options. In my case, my printer is connected to my Linksys hub that offers Wi-Fi in my home.
The XO runs a modified version of Red Hat's Fedora 7, so we need to also determineif the printer is supported on Linux.Check the [Open Printing Database]for the level of support. This database has come up with the following ranking system.Printers are categorized according to how well they work under Linux and Unix. The ratings do not pertain to whether or not the printer will be auto-recognized or auto-configured, but merely to the highest level of functionality achieved.
Perfectly - everything the printer can do is working also under Linux
Mostly - work almost perfectly - funny enhanced resolution modes may be missing, or the color is a bit off, but nothing that would make the printouts not useful
Partially - mostly don't work; you may be able to print only in black and white on a color printer, or the printouts look horrible
Paperweight - These printers don't work at all. They may work in the future, but don't count on it
If your printer only supports a parallel cable connection, or does not have a high enough ranking above, go buy another printer. The [Linux Foundation] websiteoffers a list of suggested printers and tutorials.
In my case, I have a Brother HL5250-DN black-and-white laserjet printer connected over a network to Windows XP, OS X and my other Linux systems. It is rated as supporting Linux perfectly, so I decided to use this for my XO laptop.
Step 2: Install Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS)
Technically, Linux is not UNIX, but for our purposes, close enough. Start the Terminalactivity, use "su" to change to root, and then use "yum" to install CUPS. Yum will automatically determine what other packages are needed, in this case paps and tmpwatch. Once installed, use "/usr/sbin/cupsd" to get the CUPS daemon started, and add this to the end ofrc.local so that it gets started every time you reboot.
Click graphic on the left to see larger view
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# yum install cups...Total download size = 3.0 MIs this OK [y/N]? y
To download the appropriate drivers, you may need a browser that can handle file downloads. I have triedto do this with the built-in Browse activity (aka Gecko) but encountered problems. I have both Opera and Firefox installed, but I will focus on Opera for this effort.I also installed the older188.8.131.52 version of the Flash player (worked better than the latest 184.108.40.206 version) and Java JRE.Follow the OLPC Wiki instructions for [Opera, Adobe Flash,and Sun Java] installation, thenverify with the following [Java and Flash] testers.
Step 4: Download drivers and packages unique for your printer
In my case, I used Opera to get to the [Brother Linux Driver Homepage], and downloaded the RPM's for LPR and CUPS wrapper. These are the ones listed under "Drivers for Red Hat, Mandrake (Mandriva), SuSE". I saved these under "/home/olpc" directory.
By default, the root user has no password. However, you will need it to be something for later steps,so here is the process to create a root password. I set mine to "tony" which normallywould be considered too simple a password, but ignore those messages and continue.We will remove it in step 8 (below) to put things back to normal.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# passwdChanging password for user root.New UNIX password: tonyBAD PASSWORD: it is too shortRetype new UNIX password: tonypasswd: all authentication tokens updated successfullybash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Step 6: Launch CUPS administration
Here I followed the instructions in Robert Spotswood's [Printing In Linux with CUPS] tutorial.Launch the Opera browser, and enter "http://localhost:631/admin" as the URL. The localhostrefers to the laptop itself, and 631 is the special port that CUPS listens to from browsers. You can alsouse 127.0.0.1 as a shortcut for "localhost", and can be used interchangeably.
In my case, it detected both of my networked printers, so I selected the HL5250DN, entered thelocation of my PPD file "/usr/share/cups/model/HL5250DN.ppd" that was created in Step 4. I set the URI to "lpd://192.168.0.75/binary_p1" per the instructions [Network Setting in CUPS based Linux system] in the Brother FAQ page. I chage the page size from "A4" to "Letter".I set this printer as the default printer. When it asks for userid and password, that is whereyou would enter "root" for the user, and "tony" or whatever you decided to set your root password to.
Select "Print a Test Page" to verify that everything is working.
Step 7: Printing actual files
Sadly, I don't know Opera well enough to know how to print from there. So, I went over to my trustedFirefox browser. Select File->Page Setup to specify the settings, File->Print Preview tosee what it will look like, and then File->Print to send it to the printer.
To print the file "out.txt" that is in your /home/olpc directory, for example, enter"file:///home/olpc/out.txt" as the URL of the firefox browser. This will show the file,which you can then print to your printer. I had to specify 200% scaling otherwise the fontswere too small to read.
Step 8: Remove the "root" password
If you want to remove the root password, here are the steps.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ suPassword: tonybash-3.2# passwd -d rootRemoving password for user root.passwd: Successbash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Now the problem is that there is no way to print stuff from any of the Sugar activities. The best place toput in print support would be the Journal activity. Along the bottom where the mounted USB keys arelocated could be an icon for a printer, and dragging a file down to the printer ojbect could cause it tobe send to the printer.
The alternative is to write some scripts invocable from the Terminal activity to determine what isin the journal, and send them to LPR with the appropriate parameters.
I did not have time to do either of these, but perhaps someone out there can take on that as a project.