One Laptop Per Child

There was a request to take a gander at the $100 Laptop: One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), and reading Fedora People recently made me want to snap up the opportunity to give it a go. Here are my first impressions on the emulator, known as the OLPC SDK, by Daniel Berrange.

Installation, if instructions are followed on FC-4 work fine. There are spec files to rebuild for FC-5. During the bootup sequence, I noticed that LVM was starting up, and finding no volume groups – can’t this be disabled? There doesn’t seem to be a use for LVM on the OLPC.

Once you get past the fairly slow emulator startup (its qemu based), you’ll notice that at the heart of it, you’ve got FC-5 sitting there. Very sexy.

Looking for a terminal? While gnome-terminal isn’t supplied (and probably will never be), xterm is there for the moment. Alt+F2, xterm, and you’re on your way. The root user has no password, so su – shouldn’t be a problem.

What doesn’t work with the olpc-2006_02_06_16_08.ext3 firmware image is networking. Try modprobing for ne2k-pci, and it’ll fail, mainly because 8390.ko is missing. This should be fixed with the next firmware image.

All’s not lost however. If you run file on the .ext3 firmware image, you’ll notice that it contains an x86 boot sector, code offset 0x48. A little fdisk, will show that there are 63 sectors/track, with each sector size being 512 bytes. Multiply that, get 32256, and that should be the offset to mounting the image.

sudo /sbin/losetup -o 32256 /dev/loop0 olpc-2006_02_06_16_08.ext3
sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/loop0/mnt
merrily going on making changes
sudo umount /mnt
sudo /sbin/losetup -d /dev/loop0

Its well worthwhile to not have QEMU running with the disk image – make sure it isn’t, otherwise corruption is likely. Once that happened, it was fairly trivial to get MySQL installed. So I did.

MySQL running on the OLPC

The question is… do we want 61MB of a package sitting there? It can probably be reduced in size tremendously. So can removal of /var/log and /etc/yum.repos.d/ and so on…

From reading the software task list, it doesn’t seem like there’s a focus on teaching IT to the owners of the OLPC. Does MySQL pass off as educational software, covering a database component? I don’t see being listed as something that will be on the OLPC, and the GNOME Office (Abiword and Gnumeric) don’t have a front-end for database connectivity.

I’d like to thank davidz and Daniel Berrange for assistance when needed! Oh and read his blog for little tips – the simulator debugging did come in handy.

One Comment

  1. There are probably a billion different intended audiences.. but my first take is to look at what an 8 year old child will need to be able to work when when they reach 18. When they are 8 they don’t need mysql, openoffice, etc. They need tools to learn to read, type, do math, do basic science, and social studies. There should be updates and other images that can be gotten for advanced studies.. but the majority of these may end up in the hands of children who are younger than 12.

    I wouldnt remove /etc/yum.repos.d/ .. not being able to later update would allow for any security problem to be able to have a million bad boxes to live on from then on.