|Tony Pearson holding his new XO laptop|
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.
- Main Screen
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.
- Pre-installed Applications
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.
- Connection ports
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.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~] $ df -hFilesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on mtd0 1.0G 365M 660M 36% /tmpfs 35M 0M 35M 0% /dev/shm/dev/mmcblk0p1 983M 7.9M 975M 1% /media/CANON_DCThe '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.
technorati tags: OLPC, G1G1, XO
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.
- Built-in Browser
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
bash-3.2# /usr/sbin/cupsdbash-3.2# echo "/usr/sbin/cupsd" >> /etc/rc.d/rc.localbash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
- Step 3: Install Opera or Firefox browser
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 older22.214.171.124 version of the Flash player (worked better than the latest 126.96.36.199 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.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# cd /home/olpcbash-3.2# rpm -vi brhl5250dnlpr-2.0.1-1.i386.rpmbash-3.2# rpm -vi cupswrapperHL5250DN-2.0.1-1.i386.rpmbash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
- Step 5: Create a "root" password
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.
technorati tags: OLPC, XO, printing, printer, linux, Opera, Firefox, Java, Flash
As we wrap up the year, people's thoughts turn to archive anddata retention.
The [Robert Frances Group] have put out a research paper titled Optimizing Data Retention and Archiving - November 2007 that helps IT executives understand the cost differences for a disk-only archive approach versus disk/tape archive approach and how an [IBM System Storage DR550] offering can help address the long-term storage archive requirements with a world-class storage strategy that reduces cost, improves efficiency and supports compliance. Here is an excerpt:
Ongoing legal, audit, and regulatory requirementswill continue to drive IT groups to improvearchive policies, processes, strategy, andefficiency. The choice of which technologies touse will have a profound impact on the success ofsuch efforts, since technologies like the DR550embody many aspects of the strategy, processes,and policies that must be decided upon. When itcomes to tape, IBM's DR550 is unique inproviding that support. Competitors tout disk-onlysolutions as the wave of the future, but researchindicates otherwise. The most basic benefits arecost and mobility, and despite the various vendorproclamations to the contrary, tape is still only afraction of the cost of disk and will remain so inthe foreseeable future.
This paper is yet another nail in the coffin of EMC Centera.In his post [Anyone Naughty on Your List…], Jon W Toigo points to an eBay fire sale of an EMC Centera Gen 4.
There has never been a better time to switch from EMC Centera to theIBM System Storage DR550.
technorati tags: Robert Francis Group, IBM, DR550, archive, data retention, storage, solution, disk, tape, drunkendata, Jon Toigo, EMC, Centera
Over at StorageMojo, Robin Harris writes in his post[The High-End Storage Melt-Down
Expect to hear a lot more about the SMB segment over the next 6 months.
Because the high-end market is sucking wind. NetApp and EMC are both reporting problems in the high-end. HP and IBM don’t break out as much detail but I’m sure they are feeling the chill as well.
With Hulk/Maui coming in Q2CY08, you should hold off on any 2nd tier storage purchases you can. I estimate that H/M will be about 30% per GB less than the current gear.
Robin blames the U.S. subprime mortgage mess, butI disagree with the term melt-down.
IBM doesn't publicly report subset numbers on individual product lines, but we are growing, albeit single-digit growth, on the high-end with our IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS6000 series products. Single digit growth is not "booming", but it is what we expected in this space, so it is not like we are"feeling the chill" as Robin stated.Obviously, if the U.S. market overall is doing poorly, then it must be from something else. IBM's success appears to be from organic growth in our Asia and Europe markets, and taking marketshare away from the top two contenders, EMC and HDS. Here are my thoughts why:
- EMC is remodeling its kitchen
Not happy with its status as #1 disk hardware specialty shop, EMC is admirably trying to redefine itself as an ["information infrastructure"] company, buying up software companies and introducing new storage services. [Byte and Switch] reports onEMC's recent acquisitions:
EMC is the latest vendor to pin its colors to the SaaS mast, revealing its plan to offer SaaS-based archiving services during its recent Innovation Day in Boston.IBM has offered[Managed Storage Services] foryears through our Global Technology Services (GTS) division. Gartner recognized IBM as the #1 leader in storageservices, with three times more revenues than EMC in this space.
EMC gave another clear indication of its SaaS intentions last month, when it spent $76 million to acquire online backup specialist Mozy.
As with a restaurant that is remodeling its kitchen, it can expect a temporary drop inrevenue. If it is done right, customers will come back to a bigger brighter restaurant. If not, the restaurant re-opens as a much smaller lesser version of itself. Recent events this year might incent EMC to get that kitchen done quickly:
- A recent [class-action lawsuit]might result in having EMC's "86 percent male" sales force goes to sexual harassment sensitivity training, takingtime away from selling high-end storage arrays in the field. Analysts consider "high-end" boxes as those costingover $300,000 US dollars. Because of the money involved, there is a lot of competition for high-end storage, so face-to-face time with prospective customers is crucial to making the sale.Anytime any vendor is mentioned in a lawsuit (andcertainly IBM has had its share in the past, as Chuck Hollis correctly points out in the comment below), priorities get shifted, and there is potential dip in revenues.
- Dell acquires EMC's rival EqualLogic. Dell resold EMC midrange storage, like CLARiiON, so this should notimpact their high-end storage sales. While Dell will be allowed to sell EMC until 2011, this new acquisition mightmean Dell leads with the EqualLogic offerings, and that could potentially reduce EMC revenues in the midrange space.
IBM went through a similar phase in the 1990's, redefining itself from an "IT Technology" company, intoa "Systems, Software and Services" company. These transitions can't be done in a quarter, or even a year, theytake several years. IBM lost business to EMC in the 1990s, but is back with a stronger portfolio in the 2000's, and so IBM's kitchen remodeling effort appears to be paying off. We will see what happens with EMC in a few years.
- HDS puts on the white lab coats
Meanwhile, HDS appears interested in taking over as #1 disk hardware specialty shop.For years, Hitachi was the stereotypical JCM (Japanese IBM-compatible manufacturer) that made well-engineered"me, too" storage arrays. They would see what innovators like IBM and EMC were doing, and copy them. Recently,however, they seemed to have changed strategy, introducing new featuresand functions on their high-end USP-V device, like[Dynamic Provisioning].
The problem is that customers don't want to feel like [Guinea pigs] in an experimental lab, especially withmission-critical data that they trust to their most-available, most-reliable high-end disk storage systems.Like IBM and EMC and the rest of the major storage vendors, Hitachi has top-notch engineers making quality products, but new features scare people, and so there is a lag in the adoption of new technologies.
In our youth, we might have preferred beer with recent born-on dates, and tequila aged less than 90 days. But as weget older, we switch to drinks like wine and whiskey, aged years, not weeks. The same is true for themarketplace. New start-ups and other "early adopters"might be willing to try fresh new features and functions on their storage systems, but more established enterprises prefer storage with more mature and stable microcode.Storage admins want to leave at the end of the day, knowing that the data will still be there the next morning. In tough financial times, many established companies want the technological equivalent to ["comfort food"], nothing spicy or exotic, but simplehearty fare that fills the belly and keeps you satisfied.
Recognizing this, IBM often introduces new features and functions on its midrange lines first, and position them accordingly. Once customers are comfortable with the concepts, IBM then can consider moving them into the high-end lines. For example, dynamic volume expansion was introduced on the DS4000 and SAN Volume Controller first, and once proven safe and effective, brought over to the DS8000 series. This strategy has served us well.
Well those are my theories. If you have a different explanation of why storage vendors are not doing well in thehigh-end, drop me a comment!
technorati tags: SMB, EMC, NetApp, DS8000, DS6000, HDS, Dell, EqualLogic, subprime, mortgage, USP, USP-V, Dynamic Provisioning, DS4000, SAN Volume Controller, SVC