Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

When are the technical barriers too high?

I’m trying to get one of the XOs in our lending library ready for a family to use.  I initially thought, this would be a good time to try out the OLPC software 11.3. Downloaded appropriate files, followed pretty good directions on the OLPC wiki, but got a message telling me I needed to update the firmware.

So, I went back to the wiki, downloaded the file, struggled but eventually updated the firmware on the XO 1.0, then tried to run the OLPC software again.  No luck.  Something about a bad date (November 1999?). So I gave up, and figured, I’ll just go with Sugar on the XO–nothing wrong with that.

But this XO doesn’t have many activities, so I started downloading activities:

Implode: fail.

Maze: fail.

Textdungeon: fail.

Etext Reader: fail.

Mancala: success!!

The family getting the XO is Rwandan, new to Fargo, so I am hopeful that they will love having Mancala, but is this really any kind of acceptable fail rate?  This laptop clearly needs additional updating by someone with more technical knowledge than me, but I am doubtful that the time and effort spent updating it will actually pay off in the end.

OLPC and XO, I want to love you, but you make it hard.

PS: I can’t remove these failed activities.  I can get them to disappear, but they come back every time I boot.


6 comments on “When are the technical barriers too high?

  1. Bob Braxton
    December 22, 2011

    Our G1 G1 XO 1 set (about six or seven) all seemed to update using USB (as we have done in the past 2008 June for version 703, 2009, 2011 etc.
    I assume you had the battery (fully charged) and always plugged in to electric when doing the erase and reload?

    • kab13
      December 23, 2011

      The one I tried to update had been in deep freeze. We debricked it, but obviously the updates have not gone well. I’ve got some techie friends who might be able to solve this puzzle.

      Colleagues of mine are about to head to Kenya. What would it take for them to visit your deployment? They will be based in Nairobi, January-April.

  2. kevix
    December 23, 2011

    if you have not done so, send an email to
    if XO-1s are in storage for 3 months or more, the coin cell battery can dischage or die. leading to a ‘invalid date’/sad face. This means that the coin cell has to be rechanged or replaced. I’m not sure about what happened with the upgrade. Did you start from 656?

  3. ncarrol
    December 23, 2011

    You have to take care of the time problem first:

    Run Terminal activity
    Become “superuser” with su
    date -s 20111223 for example
    date -s 13:02:01 for example

    Then reboot with your update USB in XO. Battery must be fully charged and AC power plugged in !!!!!!!!!!!
    If things do not work, then do USB update again.

    If there is the date error, the update attempt will load sugar, but not update firmware. You can check this in settings>my computer.

    After any “debricking”, you must recharge the RTC battery by leaving XO powered on (only recharges then). Suggest 4 hour recharge at least.

    • ncarrol
      December 23, 2011


      If the XO does not hold time, then battery holder pad may have broken loose from the circuit board. Have seen a number of cases where manufacturer failed to glue the holder to circuit board and heavy weight of battery causes the break, especially during shipping. Sometimes the glue does not stick to the holder — same result.

      During repair, I drill a couple of 1/32 inch holds in battery holder so glue pushes up through the holds to form an anchor (epoxy glue in my case). A wire has to be soldered across the break.

  4. ncarrol
    December 23, 2011


    You can always get rid of uncooperative Activities (not compatible) by deleting them from the Activites directory.
    When you become “su” you are in /home/olpc . Activities directory is there.
    You need to know how to use linux commands to remove the offending Activity and all its subdirectories. (use sudo instead of su for safety ?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on December 22, 2011 by in OLPC, Sugar, XO.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 952 other followers

%d bloggers like this: