Archive for July, 2008

As a possible middle/high school solution, I started looking into getting Ubuntu to run on the XO.  OLPC has some information here – but teapot’stutorial on OLPCNews is definitely the way to go:

http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=2240.msg21169#msg21169 – also, do yourself a favor and get a SanDisk SD card (or flash drive)….they’re just easier to work with on Linux.


The latest version of Ubuntu Linux can run on the OLPC XO device off of a 2GB SD card, similar to how Microsoft is running windows XP on the XO.  Configuring Ubuntu to run off of an SD card takes a couple hours.  However, once it is properly running that SD card can be used to run Ubuntu on any XO device and can be easily duplicated using an SD duplicator.


Advantages of running Ubuntu off of an SD card:

1.       A desktop environment similar to windows XP / Mac that feels familiar to U.S. users.

2.       The XO becomes a dual-boot machine with the ability to load into Sugar for younger audiences, or into a more advanced environment for older students and/or teachers

3.       Ubuntu has a wealth of open-source applications that it can run and that can be very easily installed through a GUI installation application including:

a.       Open-office – a full-featured office suite of applications (Word processor, spreadsheet, photo editing, presentation software)

b.      Firefox 3 (with flash and java enabled)

c.       Video editing software and viewing software – allowing for all video formats. 

d.      Web design software

e.      Email / calendaring / communications software

f.        Educational suites of applications

4.       The ability to print wirelessly

5.       A familiar file-structure (as opposed to the journal) – important for things like inserting photos/videos into documents.

6.       An easy to use and configure wireless connectivity application

7.       The ability to have multiple users with different levels of access to programs (a student user / teacher user / admin user)

8.       The ability to access and use NYC student systems like ARIS and Acuity (tested) and Scantron (not yet tested…should work fine). 

9.       There is proven open-source community developing for Ubuntu (as opposed to Sugar)

10.   It is opensource and free – Windows would be an added cost, an office suite even more. 

11.   A school server is not required.



1.       The sharing features of Sugar are not build into Ubutu and its applications

2.       It is running off of an SD Card, and therefore limited to the speed of the card’s transfer rate to the devices resources.  There isn’t anything we can do about this, but it is a limitation.  The same holds true for Windows XP on the XO.

3.       A 2 GB SD card would add ~$15 – $20 to the cost of the device.  4GB (~$25 – $30) might be better and would give the user ~2.7gb of free space for files.


In my mind there isn’t anything that Windows XP and the programs that run on XP can do that Ubuntu can’t do.  Ubuntu and its programs are all free and theoretically should run faster than XP.  There is obviously more testing that needs to be done however. 


The potential here is huge.  A couple things I want to look into – and if anyone out there has any suggestions / recommendations, please comment.  First, speed and testing – how reliable is this running off an SD card?  It seems pretty quick and stable on the two machines I have tested, but if it is replicated 500 times over, will we see a percentage of machines that just don’t run well off of SD?  Stupid question?  Second is edubuntu – I can’t hunt down a tarball of edubuntu to test…I’ll keep looking though. 


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