Well, it's that Back-To-School time again! Mo's thirteen-year-old reluctantly enters the eight grade, still upset the summer ended so abruptly. Richard's nephew returns to the University of Arizona for another year. Natalie has chosen to move to Phoenix and pursue a post-grad degree at Arizona State University. They all have two things in common, they all want a new computer, and they are all on a budget.
Fellow blogger Bob Sutor (IBM) pointed me to an excellent article on [How to Build Your Own $200 PC], which reminded me of the [XS server I built] for my 2008 Google Summer of Code project with the One Laptop per Child organization. Now that the project is over, I have upgraded it to Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, known as Lucid Lynx. Building your own PC with your student is a great learning experience in itself. Of course, this is just the computer itself, you still need to buy the keyboard, mouse and video monitor separately, if you don't already have these.
If you are not interested in building a PC from scratch, consider taking an old Windows-based PC and installing Linux to bring it new life. Many of the older PCs don't have enough processor or memory to run Windows Vista or the latest Windows 7, but they will all run Linux.
(If you think your old system has resale value, try checking out the ["trade-in estimator"] at the BestBuy website to straighten out your misperception. However, if you do decide to sell your system, consider replacing the disk drive with a fresh empty one, or wipe the old drive clean with one of the many free Linux utilities. Jason Striegel on Engadget has a nice [HOWTO Erase your old hard disk drive] article. If you don't have your original manufacturer's Windows installation discs, installing Linux instead may help keep you out of legal hot water.)
Depending on what your school projects require, you want to make sure that you can use a printer or scanner with your Linux system. Don't buy a printer unless it is supported by Linux. The Linux Foundation maintains a [Printer Compatability database]. Printing was one of the first things I got working for my Linux-based OLPC laptop, which I documented in my December 2007 post [Printing on XO Laptop with CUPS and LPR] and got a surprising following over at [OLPC News].
To reduce paper, many schools are having students email their assignments, or use Cloud Computing services like Google Docs. Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University use Google Docs, and the students I have talked with love the idea. Whether they use a Mac, Linux or Windows PC, all students can access Google Docs through their browser. An alternative to Google Docs is Windows Live Skydrive, which has the option to upload and edit the latest Office format documents from the Firefox browser on Linux. Both offer you the option to upload GBs of files, which could be helpful transferring data from an old PC to a new one.
Lastly, there are many free video games for Linux, for when you need to take a break from all that studying. Ever since IBM's [36-page Global Innovation Outlook 2.0] study showed that playing video games made you a better business leader, I have been encouraging all students that I tutor or mentor that playing games is a more valuable use of your time than watching television. IBM considers video games the [future of learning]. Even the [Violent Video Games are Good for Kids]. It is no wonder that IBM provides the technology that runs all the major game platforms, including Microsoft Xbox360, Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation.
(FTC disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM has working relationships with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. I use both Google Docs and Microsoft Live Skydrive for personal use, and base my recommendations purely on my own experience. I own stock in IBM, Google and Apple. I have friends and family that work at Microsoft. I own an Apple Mac Mini and Sony PlayStation. I was a Linux developer earlier in my IBM career. IBM considers Linux a strategic operating system for both personal and professional use. IBM has selected Firefox as its standard browser internally for all employees. I run Linux both at home and at the office. I graduated from the University of Arizona, and have friends who either work or take classes there, as well as at Arizona State University.)
Linux skills are marketable and growing more in demand. Linux is used in everything from cellphones to mainframes, as well as many IBM storage devices such as the IBM SAN Volume Controller, XIV and ProtecTIER data deduplication solution. In addition to writing term papers, spreadsheets and presentations with OpenOffice, your Linux PC can help you learn programming skills, web design, and database administration.
To all the students in my life, I wish you all good things in the upcoming school year!
technorati tags: IBM, Linux, Bob Sutor, BestBuy, Ubuntu, Video Games, erase, hard+disk, Google Docs, Windows Live, Skydrive, Linux Foundation, OLPC, Google, Summer of Code, Firefox, xBox360, Nintendo, Wii, Sony, Playstation
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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.
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Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation, I successfully managedto emulate my XO on another system.
Part of what is attractive of the XO laptop is the hardware, the high
The drawback for developers like me is the risk of changing something that breaks the system. For example, my first attempt to create my own activityresulted in a blank space in my action bar, and my journal went into someinfinite loop, blinking as if it were still loading for minutes on end. I fixed it by deleting out the activity I created and rebooting.
To get around this, I successfully ran the disk-image under Linux's Virtual Machinesoftware called Qemu. This is an open source offering, with a proprietary add-onaccelerator called Kqemu. Here were the steps involved:
Once I got all this done, I then made a simple script "launch" in my /home/tpearson/bin directory:
#!/bin/shqemu -m 256 -full-screen -kernel-kqemu -soundhw es1370 -net nic,model=rtl8139 -net user -hda $1
Then "launch build650.img" was all I needed to run the emulation. The full-screen mode helpsemulate the view on XO laptop. I was able to change the jabber server to "xochat.org" and see otherXO laptops online on my neighborhood view.
When running under Qemu, you can't just press Ctrl-Alt-something. For example, Ctrl-Alt-Erase onthe XO reboots the Sugar interface. However, do this on a Linux system, and it reboots your nativeX interface, blowing away everything.Instead, you press Ctrl-Alt-2 to get to the Qemu console, designated by (qemu) prompt,and then type:
With this emulation, I am more likely to try new things, change files around, edit system files,and so on, without worrying about rendering my actual XO laptop unusable. Once debugged, I canthen work on moving them over to my XO, one at a time.
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In North America, today marks the start of the "Give 1 Get 1" program.
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:
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No, this is not an announcement about myself moving to Nepal.
My friends over at OLE Nepal are [looking for a Super SysAdmin]willing to live in Nepal for five months and help out with their project to help the students in the localschools there. I think this might be a great opportunity for someone to help changethe world. Those of you who have read my past blog posts about the One Laptop per Child [OLPC], such as [Understanding the LAMP platform] and [Supporting OLPC Schools with LAMP stacks] may understand the type of work involved.
I've been working with Dev, Bryan and Sulochan for the past three months (remotely here from Tucson, AZ)but we've come to a point where we need on-site expertise. I will continue to provide remote support.
Given the number of readers who have contacted me over the past year looking for an IT job (or a different job because they are not happy where they are), this could be an amazing experience.