|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 older184.108.40.206 version of the Flash player (worked better than the latest 220.127.116.11 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
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.
- Game mode
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.
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.
- You dream in Bash
- IPv4, IPv6, Wireless Mesh networking? No problem! You know linux networking inside and out
- Extensive knowledge of BIND, DHCPD, Squid, Apache, security, etc.
- Experience working with [Moodle] would be most excellent (it is basically a PHP web application that maintains MySQL databases for lesson plans, homework assignments and other school related information)
- Adept with Python scripting or could learn it quickly. OLPC has standardized on Python for scripting (although knowledge in Perl and PHP won't hurt either)
- You look to implement a practical solution that less skilled sysadmins can easily maintain over a cooler but more complicated solution.
- You play well with others. You don’t alienate collaborators with rude e-mails that assert your technical superiority (even though you are)
- Your primary concern is meeting the educational needs of kids and teachers. Your rate technical awesomeness a distant second to meeting those critical needs.
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.
technorati tags: OLE Nepal, OLPC, Bash, Linux, IPv6, Mesh, networking, Squid, Apache, security, Moodle, LAMP, PHP, Perl, Python
Normally, when EMC fails, it is worth a giggle. Companies are run by humans, and nobody is perfect. However, their latest one, failing to defend their RSA SecurID two-factor website, is no laughing matter. Breaches like this undermine the trust needed for business and commerce to be done with Information Technology, so it affects the entire IT industry.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in either EMC nor ENC Security Systems. Neither EMC nor ENC Security Systems paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either company or their products. Information about EMC was based solely on publicly available information made available by EMC and others. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me an evaluation license for their latest software release so that I could confirm the use cases posed in this post.)
Of course, EMC did the right thing by making this breach public in an [Open Letter to RSA Customers]. While this may affect their revenues, as clients question whether they should do business with EMC, or affect their stock price, as investors question whether they should invest in EMC, they were very clear and public that the breach occurred. As far as I know, none of the executives of the RSA security division have stepped down. The disclosure of the breach was the right thing to do, and required by law from the [US Securities Exchange Commission]. This law was created to prevent companies from trying to hide breaches that expose external client information.
The breach does not affect RSA public/private key pairs used by IBM and most every other large company. Rather, this breach was targeted to RSA SecurID two-factor authentication. I explained two-factor authentication in my blog post [Day 5 Grid, SOA and Cloud Computing - System x KVM solutions], but basically it is an added level of security, requiring something you know (your password) with something you have (such as a magnetic card or key fob). Both are required to gain access to the system.
Breaches happen. Recently, [Hackers found vulnerabilities in the McAfee.com website]. Last month, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC had a blog post on [Understanding Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)] in the week leading up to their RSA Conference. It was precisely an APT that hit RSA, so the irony of this breach was not lost on the blogosphere. Perhaps Chuck's blog post gave hackers the idea to do this, like saying "I hope terrorists don't bomb this building that hold all of our chemical weapons..." or "I hope bank robbers don't rob this repository where we keep all the cash..."
(The sinister counter-theory, that EMC staged this breach as a marketing stunt to undermine trust in hybrid or public cloud offerings, such as those offered by IBM, Amazon or Salesforce.com, offers an interesting twist. While computer breaches in general are fodder for [Luddites] to argue we should not use computers at all, this particular breach could be used by EMC salesmen to encourage their customers to choose private cloud over hybrid cloud or public cloud deployments. Given all the extra work that RSA SecurID customers have to now do to harden their environments, that would be in bad taste.)
Over on Mashable, Simon Crosby argues [Why the Cloud Is Actually the Safest Place for Your Data]. I am sure we have not heard the last of the implications of this RSA breach. For now, I have two recommendations for you.
- Validate Backup Methodology
Today, March 31, is World Backup Day. This is because many viruses are triggered to operate on April 1. Just like checking the batteries in your smoke alarms every year, you should ensure that your backup methodology remains valid.
Back in 2008, I was a volunteer for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, and built an XS server to be used for Uruguay. I shipped [this baby off to school] to be the central server that all the student and teacher laptops connected to. It was the gateway to the Internet, as well as the [repository for the blogs of each student]. The blogs were accessible to the public, so that parents could read what their students were writing.
Unfortunately, this public access resulted in my little XS server being attacked by hackers, with IP addresses in Russia and China. Why anyone from either of those two countries wanted to ruin the hopes and dreams of small school children in Uruguay was beyond me. Fortunately, I had planned for remote administration. Backups were taken by me weekly to a second drive that was only mounted when I was dialed in to take the backup. The rest of the time, it was offline, so as not to be written to by hackers.
I also shipped along with the server a bootable DVD that contained a modified version of [System Rescue CD], scripts to start up SSHD daemon, and pre-populated for use with public/private RSA keys for me and eight other administrators located in various countries. To effect repairs, the local operator would reboot to the DVD, and then I could login via "ssh" and restore the operating system, programs and data. Sadly, this meant that the students might have lost some of their most recent blog posts since the last backup.
Please consider reviewing your own backup strategies. If your security were compromised, data was corrupted or lost, would you be able to recover from your backups?
- Use Encryption where Appropriate
If you plan to travel this Summer, you may want to consider encryption to protect yourself. ENC Security Systems has just released their latest [Encrypt Stick] which is a USB memory stick pre-loaded with software that provides three features:
- Encryption for your files
- A secure web browser for accessing sensitive websites
- Secure password manager
- Hotel Lobby
Many hotels now offer computers for use by the guests. These are typically running some flavor of Windows operating system. Encrypt Stick comes with an EXE file that you can run to browse the web securely, and have access to your encrypted files and passwords, leaving no trace on the hotel lobby computer.
- Friends and Family
What if you are visiting friends and family, and they have a Mac instead? No problem, as Encrypt Stick has a DMG file to use on Mac OS X operating system. While you may not be worried about your siblings hacking into your bank account, you may not want them necessarily seeing what sites you visited.
- Airport Lounge
I have been to several airport lounges now that use Linux for their public computers. Makes sense to me, as there are fewer viruses for Linux, and updating Linux is relatively straightforward. However, Encrypt Stick does not support Linux. For my Linux-knowledgeable readers, you can build your own with [Unetbootin] bootable USB memory stick to launch your favorite Linux browser in memory on whatever system you are using. The [Gparted Magic] utility rescue tool includes [TrueCrypt] to encrypt your files. Lastly, you can use [MyPasswordSafe] to hold all of your passwords securely.
Several clients have asked if any of the IBM data-at-rest encrypted disks or tapes are affected by this breach. IBM uses AES encryption for the actual disk and tape media, but we do use RSA keys to encrypt the generated keys used on the TS1120 and TS1130 drives. However, these were not affected by the RSA SecurID breach, and your tapes are safely protected.
Advanced Persistent Threats, viruses and other malware are no laughing matter. If you are concerned about security, contact IBM to help you assess your current environment and help you plan a robust protection strategy.
technorati tags: IBM, EMC, ENC Security Systems, EncryptStick, RSA, SecurID, breach, APT, Chuck Hollis, OLPC, SysRescCD, UnetBootin, TrueCrypt, Gparted, TS1120, TS1130, AES
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-resolution200dpi screen, the clever screen that rotates and folds flat into an eBook reader,and the water-tight, dust-proof keyboard. The other part is the software, howthey managed to pack an entire operating system, with useful applications, intoa 1GB NAND flash drive.
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:
- Base Operating System
Qemu is now available to run on Linux, Windows and OS X-Intel. I have an Ubuntu 7.04"Feisty Faun" version of Linux installed on my system from a project I did last year, so decided to use that.
Normally, "apt-get install qemu" would be enough, but I wanted to get the latest release, so I downloaded the [0.9.0 version]tarball of compiled binaries. Note that trying to compile Qemu from source requiresa downlevel gcc-3.x compiler, and my attempts to do this failed. The compiled binariesworked fine.
The Kqemu author hasn't packaged this for distribution, so I download the source code anddid my own compiles. You can do the "configure-make-install" using the regular gcc 4.1compiler and it went smoothly.
Getting Kqemu active was bit of a challenge. I had to make sense of Nando Florestan's[Installing Kqumu in Ubuntu] article,and the subsequent comments that followed.
There is a tiny [8MB Linux image]that should be used to verify the Kqemu is activated correctly.
- The Disk Image
As with other development efforts, there are the older stable versions, and the bleedingedge development versions. I chose the 650 Build from the [Ship.2 stable versions], whichmatches the version on my XO laptop. The image comes as a *.bz2, which is a highly-compressedfile. Using "Bunzip2", the 221MB file expands to something like 932MB.
I renamed the resulting file to "build650.img"
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:
Press "Ctrl-Alt-1" followed by "Ctrl-Alt" to get back to the emulated XO screen.
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.
technorati tags: OLPC, XO, laptop, Qemu, Kqemu, Ubuntu, Linux, Activity, Journal
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
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
- 1-60 days
- 61-120 days
- 121-180 days
- As late as possible
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
- Lotus Notes
Access your email, calendar, to-do list and corporate databases via Lotus Notes on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Corporate databases store our confidential data centrally, so we don't have to have them on our local systems. We can make local replicas of specific databases for offline access, and these are encrypted on our local hard drive for added protection. Emails can link directly to specific entries in a database, so we don't have huge attachments slowing down email traffic. IBM also offers LotusLive, a public cloud offering for companies to get out of managing their own email Lotus Domino repositories.
- Lotus Symphony
Create presentations, documents and spreadsheets on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Lotus Symphony is based on open source OpenOffice and is compatible with Microsoft Office. This allows us to open and update directly in Microsoft's PPT, DOC and XLS formats.
- Firefox Browser
Many of the corporate applications have now been converted to be browser-accessible. The Firefox browser is available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. This is a huge step forward, in my opinion, as we often had to download applications just to do the simplest things like submit our time-sheet or travel expense reimbursement. I manage my blog, Facebook and Twitter all from online web-based applications.
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
technorati tags: , Anniversary, DFHSM, MVS, DFSMShsm, z/OS, dumb terminals, cathode ray tube, personal computer, DOS, OS/2, ThinkPad, cloud computing, Web20, Windows, Linux, MacOS, Apple, Microsoft, OLPC
Yesterday, I was able to get the "Build 650" up and running under Qemu emulation onmy Thinkpad laptop computer. Today, I was able to get my Thinkpad and my XO laptoptalking to each other for a "chat".
The built-in "Chat" activity is one of the many kid-friendly activities included onthe XO laptop for the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] project.It is also possible for two or more people to share other activities, like editing a textdocument, or browsing the internet.
As they say, emulation is only 95% complete, and this is true in this case as well. My Thinkpaddoes not have a built-in video camera, and for some reason the Qemu emulation does not let mehear any sound, despite specifying "-soundhw es1370" parameter. And lastly, it doesn't have the"mesh network" built-in Wi-Fi capability, just standard 54Mbps 802.1g through my Linksys router.
So, I set both XO and Thinkpad to use the new "xochat.org" jabber server so that the two couldsee each other:
$ sugar_control_panel -s jabber xochat.org
I set my XO nickname to be "TonyP" and my Thinkpad to be "Pearson", and chose blue-orange forthe first, and orange-blue for the second.
The process of starting a chat is similar to other IM systems like IBM Lotus Sametime. You havea neighborhood view that shows all people online using the same jabber server. In my case therewere about 30 or so icons on the screen. From the colors on my XO, I was able to locate my Thinkpad,and invite him to a chat. You can share the chat with everyone on the network, or keep it privatebetween two people. I tried both ways to see the difference.
In a private two-way chat, the first person starts up their Chat activity, and sends an inviteto join to another person. The second person sees a flashing chat bubble on the bottom of thescreen to the left of all the other action bar icons. The difference is that the chat bubble isblue-orange matching the sender, rather than black-and-white of the rest of the icons.
If the recipient happens to be busy doing something else full-screen, like browsing the web, theredoesn't seem to be any interruption. It is only when he goes to "home view" will he see the coloredchat bubble and decide to join or not.
The chat itself colorizes the text to match to color of the participant's icons. Blue for one, and orangefor the other. It two people had identical color schemes I guess it might be hard to tell. Thetext is white, so it is best to choose darker colors for contrast.
A nice feature is that you can save your chat session with the "keep" button on the upper rightpart of the screen, and your dialogue discussion will show up as an entry in the "journal".
Using this technique, it is possible for someone who has one "XO" laptop and one regular computer,or two regular computers, to develop and test applications that involve the sharing aspect of educational opportunities. Chats can be between students, student-to-teacher, or event student-to-mentor.
technorati tags: OLPC, XO, laptop, Qemu, Chat, xochat.org, develop, test, activities
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.
Another example is IBM's recent press release [IBM Plans Investment Increase in Sub-Saharan Africa]:
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.
If you missed the "November 12-26" opportunity I mentioned in my post [Innovation that matters: XO laptop
], you have a second chance! Wayan Vota indicates on his blog [OLPCnews.com
] that the program has been extended to December 31, and has [gone global
Seth Godin brings the trend of mixing investment with societal benefit to[Christmas shopping] with this list of ["philanthropic gifts"]:
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.
technorati tags: IBM, Canada, Richard Blackwell, Globe Mail, Tim Brodhead, Corporation, ONE.org, Product(RED), GAP, Motorola, Armani, Converse, Apple, Sub-Saharan, Africa, Montreal, Mark Harris, Global Innovation Outlook, GIO, Makocha, Minds, Society, Hispanic, Professional, Engineers, SHPE, OLPC, One Laptop Per Child, G1G1, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia, Rwanda, Wayan Vota, Kiva, Acumen