OLPC: Upgrading X0-1 to new SugarLabs Release

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I saw an announcement the other day about a development OS release (os16) for the OLPC XO-1 laptop that basically brings it into parity with the release on the XO-1.5. I downloaded it, got a developer key, unlocked an OLPC, and figured out how to install it. Once you become familiar with the process, it is actually easy and straight forward. I even played with the FORTH-based firmware for the first time.

The main new features in the OS16 devel release are:

  1. Based on Fedora 11 (was 9)
  2. 2.6.31 Kernel (was 2.6.27)
  3. Includes "Switch to GNOME" option
  4. Additional productivity Apps
  5. Updated Sugar release

Of course the hardware in the XO-1 has not changed but the new software still runs quit well in 256MB of RAM with no SWAP.


OpenVZ Project Update - July 2010

Just wanted to mention a few news items from the OpenVZ Project.

Updated vzctl - vzctl 3.0.24 has been released. Even though the version number only changed from 3.0.23 to 3.0.24 there are a ton of changes, fixes and some feature additions. Of special interest is the --swappages option as well as being able to refer to a container by its name rather than requiring the CTID with vzmigrate. Over all it was a long overdue, much appreciated update.

Updated Official OS Templates - The last wiki notice is dated April 27th but looking today at the dates on the OS Templates they appear to have been updated May 27th. One thing to note is that there are now OS Templates for Ubuntu 10.04 which I'm sure Ubuntu folks will be happy about.

Beta Fedora 13 OS Templates - And speaking of OS Templates, Kir just released Beta OS Templates for Fedora 13. On the day Fedora 13 was released I tried creating my own OS Templates by taking Fedora 12 containers and updating them but ran into a snag. With Fedora 13 a lot of new stuff has been added to the init setup and some of it causes a container to just hang during startup. I was glad to see the beta OS Templates released. I created containers from them, made my own changes, and then uploaded those to the contrib section.

As luck would have it, later in the afternoon the Fedora Project released a whole bunch of updates and among them was a new initscripts package. I suspected that when I upgraded my container whatever changes the OpenVZ folks had made to the init setup that made it work in a container would be wiped out and I was correct as upgrading the initscripts package did make the container get stuck in the init process upon container reboot. I ended up filing two bugs: 1566 and 1567. I joyfully await their resolution.

2.6.32 devel kernel - There have been a few releases of the 2.6.32 devel kernel and it appears to be making progress. While there have been a number of OpenVZ devel kernels that died on the vine, 2.6.32 should be different mainly because it is the kernel in the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, the upcoming Debian 6, and in Ubuntu 10.04. I have no guess as to when it'll be marked stable. My guess would be sometime after RHEL 6 is released.

***Please note that any URLs mentioned (and the information they contain) in this posting are time sensitive and will surely be outdated not long after posting.


Video: Netbook Pixel Qi Screen Mod

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It appears that the netbook shown in the video is a slightly newer build of the one I have (Acer Aspire One D150) and should fit in a number of 10.1" netbooks. Unfortunately I don't have $275 to spare to try this screen out myself. This is the first OLPC-type screen available as a mod.


You can order one from here if desired.

I think I'll wait until the Pixel Qi screen (or one like it) is standard in new netbooks. In this case I don't think it is too practical because, to the best of my knowledge, you can't get to the eReader mode (monochrome at a higher resolution) until you have a BIOS update that will allow the backlight to be completely turned off. Supposedly though, in color mode, they are still very readable in direct sunlight.

Torn Between Two VDI Solutions

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I'm investigating virtual desktops at work. My goal is to do a small proof-of-concept trial of VDI this summer, see how it works out in practice, and then expand it or dump it as appropriate into the future.

The two products I like are Virtual Bridges VERDE and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Desktops.

What I like about both products:

  • Uses the Linux-based KVM hypervisor
  • Supports both Linux and Windows Desktop VMs
  • Designed with VDI in mind rather than bolted on

Video: Red Hat Summit, Jim Whitehurst

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I really enjoyed this video so I'm sharing it.

OLPC Update - June 2010

A few quick bits of news from the OLPC world.

X0-1.5 - If you didn't know already, the XO-1.5 models are out. In fact I currently have one in my possession but I'm only borrowing it and will be giving it back soon. What's new? Well from the outside you can't tell anything is different because the outside has not changed at all. The insides are completely different with a new motherboard, new CPU, new video chipset, everything. With the new motherboard comes greatly expanded storage for both the firmware and permanent storage. One big change in the software is that now it includes the GNOME desktop and an easy mechanism in the settings to switch back and forth between SUGAR and GNOME.

X0-HS -The X0-HS is the X0-1.5 with a different keyboard for bigger hands. The new keyboard is hard plastic rather than a rubbery membrane. I haven't seen any pictures of the X0-HS yet but as I understand it existing X0-1.5 units can easily be retro-fitted with the HS keyboard. I believe it is also supposed to include a different set of default installed activities... ones that would appeal to an older crowd.

Watching TV? - This video speaks for itself but you can find the activity site here. I assume the content is delivered over the network:


Upcoming X0-3 - Just in case you were wonder what future hardware the OLPC folks were working on, check out this youtube video.

Video: Death of the Desktop

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I found this video fascinating (although the editing is a bit erratic) so I decided to share it. I personally do not see the personal desktop (hardware nor software) dying any time soon.

There is a lot of passion in the discussion and as a result some passionate words are used that some might find offensive... so be prepared.


What do you think?

Video: TED Talk on Lack of Fashion Copyright

David Eder brought this video to my attention last night at the BozemanLUG meeting. I believe I saw some blurb on Slashdot some time ago about this but I never made it to the video. I'm posting it here as to expose a few more to it. Enjoy:



VP8 Video Codec Opened. Now What?

I haven't seen it hit the mainstream IT media yet but give it a few minutes... Google has released On2's VP8 video codec... both the source code and the specification. They have created a project named WebM that includes VP8, the Vorbis audio codec, and a container format based on a subset of the Matroska media container. To get it going, they have released patches to mplayer and ffmpeg that adds VP8 support. Gstreamer is listed as coming soon.

Haven't heard of VP8? Well I'm pretty sure you have heard of the Ogg Theora video codec, right? Theora is based on On2's VP3 codec. On2 continued to work on video codecs and came out with VP6, then VP7 and then VP8... each adding an additional layer of functionality to the previous codec. VP8 is said to be a high quality video codec that is highly compressed and streams well... comparable at a technology level with the proprietary H.264 codec.

The complaint had been that Theora, being based on VP3, was good BUT that it was not on par with H.264. Now that VP8 is open, we supposedly now have a free codec on par with H.264. The question that remains is... Now what?

Building a Fedora 13 Beta Remix

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From attending Jesse Keating's talk about the upcoming features in Fedora 13 I learned that the rawhide repository has been split in an effort to provide a more stable build environment for Fedora releases. I also learned that it is a good idea to disable the updates-testing repo to help avoid potential breakage. Jesse also said that at some point during the upgrade cycle that the Beta will turn into the release version. With the new information, I decided that it wasn't too early build my MontanaLinux Fedora remix.

I had installed the Beta on a couple of physical and virtual machines and was fairly impressed with it so I decided to go ahead with the remix effort. First I would have to find all of the repository URLs to pull the packages from. That wasn't too difficult... just look at the files in /etc/yum.repos.d/ on a Fedora 13 Beta system.

To save on bandwidth over many builds I decided to rsync the entire development tree down so I would have a local copy. The i386 devel tree is about 19GB with 16,787 packages. The x86_64 devel tree is 21GB with 20,811 packages. I also have to rsync every day or two to keep up with package updates.

The RPM Fusion folks already have packages for Fedora 13 and the existing Adobe packages work fine on the Fedora 13 Beta as well so the this remix will be pretty close my previous remixes.

I am building from within a Fedora 13 Beta KVM virtual machine. I composed the first build yesterday and installed it on my netbook last night. I have noticed a few glitches in my initial package selection. For example I installed sugar* and that brought all of the sugar packages including sugar-logos which is a boot-time Plymouth animation. As a result, booting my netbook for the first time after install showed the Sugar animation which I wasn't expecting at all. Also the number of packages I had was right on the edge of 2GB and I wanted to insure that it would continue to fit on a 2GB USB thumbdrive... so I decided to update the package set. I decided to remove sugar completely because that would free up some room and get rid of unwanted boot animation.

I'm doing a second compose right now. We'll see how that turns out.