Scott Dowdle's blog

OLPC News: The OLPC Tablet at CES?

OLPC Tablet A1 board prototypeOLPC Tablet A1 board prototype

It seems that the upcoming OLPC XO 3 Tablet is getting some buzz right before its debut next week at CES. It is said to be an 8" tablet that may come in a few models. Information about it is currently very sketchy but supposedly some will be revealed next week. I am NOT posting any of the early concept pictures because they are dated and I'm fairly sure the real thing looks quite different... since it is designed to be very rugged for children. Here are some external links to get you in the mood:

COMPUTERWORLD - OLPC's XO-3 tablet to debut at CES

ELECTRONISTA - OLPC XO 3.0 tablet to show at CES with Android, Sugar

ENGADGET - OLPC outs XO 3.0 tablet at last, will make its debut at CES

GIZMODO - The $100 OLPC Tablet Is Really Real and Debuting at CES

OLPC News - What Will OLPC Show at CES 2012 Next Week?

OFFICIAL OLPC WIKI - XO-3 Tablet Alpha test model

There is a lot of repeating of the same speculation (echo chamber) and even some misinformation... but at least there appears to be some interest. For one thing the XO 1.75 is NOT out yet (March 2012?). They are keeping the Pixel Qi screen layer that gives it an eInk display mode just like in all previous OLPCs... but probably not in the $100 model. I think both Amazon and Barnes & Noble really missed the boat when they DID NOT but the Pixel Qi eInk layer in the displays of their Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet products. An eInk display mode in a color display from book sellers would have been a no-brainer. Who would of thought the OLPC project would have remained innovative with a 5 year old feature they pioneered?

I have to wonder if the OLPC folks have finalized the design and all of the models they plan to offer and what features they will have. I doubt it because the alpha board appears to have arrived about a month ago and they said they have more shrinking to do and a few more features to add... although it is currently half the size of the XO 1.75 board. The $100 model will almost certainly sacrifice some features because they can not sell them at a loss and make up the difference with "content sales" like the commercial vendors.

Is the $100 entry-level price hard to believe? Not really. The upcoming $25 / $35 Raspberry Pi devices (not shipping yet but probably within a month) have shown that modern SoC designs can actually be inexpensive. The OLPC XO-3 Tablet will have more hardware features than the Raspbery Pi including the not-cheap display, camera, wifi and battery (although no wired network port).

While the low price points are definitely achievements, there are three factors that make such pricing possible:

  1. Both OLPC and Raspberry Pi are non-profits
  2. Both are using completely free (speech and beer) software
  3. Both are aimed at the education market

One big difference though is that the OLPC project remains focused on only selling in bulk directly to governments and school systems whereas the Raspberry Pi is targeting single-unit direct-sales to the public.

Update: I found some images of the real external design. It is supposedly going to be shown early (Sunday night). The images look real and to the best of my knowledge, they are... and some ports are visible. Note that the thickness is what you'd expect in a rugged device... and is very reminiscent of the display-half of the current OLPC models. Since the existing OLPC models ALREADY had all of the guts behind the display (with the exception of the battery), this is definitely what I was expecting... but the lids are a surprising twist, eh?

OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with coverOLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with cover

Two OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexibleTwo OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexible

By the way, a package showed up in my mailbox yesterday... a long lost OLPC XO 1.5. I just updated it to the latest stable software release and will be revisiting it since I haven't gotten much time with a 1.5. It will be available in the OPLC Lending Library RSN.

Video: Opencast Matterhorn

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At Montana State University - Bozeman, they use Camtasia Relay for lecture capture and distribution. I wasn't even aware that there was an open source alternative until I saw an "Ask Slashdot" type article where someone asked about lecture capture software... but yes indeed there is the Opencast Community / Projects and the system they have produced, Matterhorn. Check out the embedded video below which is an introduction. As far as I can tell, it (only) offers Flash-based video but I'm relatively new to it and haven't gotten all the details yet. So far as its capabilities and features go, it seems quite impressive.

Screencast: Pear OS Linux 3.0 "Panther" for Mac OS X fans

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I threw together a quick screencast that shows the recently released Pear OS Linux 3.0 "Panther" in action. Pear OS Linux is stylistically patterned after (some would say ripped off from) Mac OS X. It is my understanding that this is based on a customized GNOME 3.2 that shows yet again, just how malleable GNOME 3 can be with some effort.

Please excuse the SPICE connection glitches witnessed in the video. I generally don't run into issues with SPICE but this setup was a bit different with the visual affects that are turned on by default in Pear OS.

pear-os-linux-3.0-demo.webm (22.3 MB)

Screencast: History and differences of Xen and KVM

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I threw together a quick screencast for Dann from the Linux Link Tech Show explaining the history of and differences between Xen and KVM. Feedback is encouraged because I'm sure I have some mistakes in there.

xen-and-kvm-history.webm (36.2 MB)

Screencast: MontanaLinux Fedora 16 remix in KVM

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If you didn't notice, today is Fedora 16 release day. Yeah! I've been using Fedora 16 for a while now preping my MontanaLinux remix. I made a 41 minute screencast that does two things: 1) Showcases the desktop environments available in Fedora as melded together in the MontanaLinux LiveDVD remix, and 2) Shows using KVM and virt-manager some.

Please pardon my voice and occasionally sniffing... an allergy is bugging me.

fedora16-kvm-virt-manager-montanalinux.webm (85 MB)

Videos: Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2011

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Recently the Linux Foundation held LinuxCon Europe 2011 in Prague, Czech Republic. Part of it was the Embedded Linux Conference Europe held on October 26-28th, 2011.

The folks over at Free Electrons have done a quick job of making the videos from the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2011 conference available... and in webm format too. Below I provide my two favorites.


BozemanLUG: October Meeting Report

David BorehamDavid BorehamThe October 2011 BozemanLUG meeting was last night. David Boreham from NuevaSync talked about the design, specification and features he came up with for the new servers they're deploying next month as part of a major service capacity upgrade project.

He only had a handful of presentation slides but spent quite a bit of time talking in depth about the current servers he is replacing, the problems he was trying to solve, and why he chose the various parts he did. Here are links to the parts he used:

Drives: Intel 710 Series 100GB and 200GB 2.5" SATA II eMLC Enterprise Solid State Disks
CPU: AMD Opteron 6128 Magny-Cours 2.0GHz 8 x 512KB L2 Cache 12MB L3 Cache Socket G34 115W 8-Core Processor
Motherboard: SUPERMICRO MBD-H8SGL-F-O ATX Server Motherboard Socket G34 AMD
RAM: Kingston 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC (quantity 8)
Case: SUPERMICRO CSE-512F-350B Black 1U Rackmount Server Chassis 350W AC power supply

The case is 1U high and wide, but only half deep... so two can fit back-to-back in a standard rack if desired... although finding rails may take some effort.

He had quite a lot to say about Solid State Drives, the voodoo that they do, and how most of them suck except for the Intel models he chose (100 GB and 200 GB). He had a bit of a challenge with various SATA cables (there are two types of right-angles) and ended up having to flip the SSD drives upside down in the case and attaching them with velcro.

Then came the hands-on portion of the presentation.

Two servers and a switchDavid brought three of his servers to the meeting as well as a switch and a laptop. They were all connected together via the switch and David was able to show us the web interface for IPMI-based out-of-band remote management system included in the SuperMICRO motherboard. He used a Java-based applet in his browser to do a graphical, media-less install of CentOS 6.0 x86_64 on the third server. The CentOS .iso disk image for the install was on his laptop.

David then connected to all of the servers via ssh to show us various performance metrics for the hardware.

For benchmarking the drives David used a tool that he wrote some time ago (diskspeed) that does a series of write and fsync operations. He ran diskspeed several times while using hdparm to turn on and off write-caching. For those who are interested, I hope to get the C source code from David for diskspeed and post it as an attachment to this post in the near future.

The hdparm commands he used were:

hdparm -W 0 /dev/sda (write-cache off)
hdparm -W 1 /dev/sda (write-cache on)
hdparm -W /dev/sda (show write-cache status)

David also used a local build of the smartmontools package to show many of the advanced parameters related to the SSD drive. He ended up working with one of its developers to create a patch that added additional support for the Intel 710 Series SSD. The smartctl command he used was:

smartctl -A /dev/sda

For benchmarking database performance he used a fairly large (~16GB) PostgreSQL database he had and the stock PostgreSQL benchmarking tool. He showed the performance differences between two systems... one with a traditional hard disk and the other with the SSD. The command line he used was:

pgbench -T 60 -j 8 -c 64

October 2011 BozemanLUG attendeesWhile the meeting turnout (presenter and 5 attendees) was somewhat disappointing, the attendees had a LOT OF QUESTIONS for David and we all learned a lot. David is well known for his highly technical presentations having given a number of them to the BozemanLUG in the past including: 1) How he designed and built his wireless business in the valley [about 10 years ago], 2) How his company worked on Red Hat Directory Server and solidified replication [about 7 years ago], and 3) How his company built the software for NuevaSync which included a lot of hairy troubleshooting [last year].

The wealth provided in this presentation wasn't necessarily in the specifics David chose for this project but with his explanation of the process he went through.

A big thank you goes to David and we hope we can get another presentation from him in the not-too-distant future!

Server insidesServer insides

MontanaLinux - Remixing Fedora 16

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I setup a local mirror of the Fedora 16 development repo and got to work on the MontanaLinux LiveDVD remix. I ran into a few minor problems but the 32-bit build seems to be working great now.

Now that grub2 is used by default and grub is also in the repos, you actually have to add grup2 to your package list in the kickstart file or it isn't there when you try to do an install. Check.

When using the sample KDE kickstarts to add to, make sure and remove a few of the really big packages you don't want or your iso may grow over 2 GB at which point a few of the later build pieces may get cranky. After removing a lot of koffice translations, octave, and a few other things... my iso went from 2.1 GB to a more desirable 1.8 GB. Check.

Packages that I noticed that disappeared in Fedora 16 that I needed to remove from the package list: agave and xfprint. Check.

Since grub2 is used the process of rebranding grub has changed and I haven't figured that out yet. In fact, I still need to learn how to customize grub2 since it is no where near as obvious as the grub.conf used to be for grub1.

New stuff in Fedora 16 I still need to figure out

Anyone got grub2 all figured out yet? From what I understand there are a number of config files, and then a few for settings... and then some process to build from those the config file. Editing the config file directly is a no-no.

systemd is now in full force and legacy tools like chkconfig and ntsysv still work but to a lesser degree. The legacy tools only show a subset of services rather than all of them and I haven't figured out yet how to get a complete list of enabled services from systemd.

"chkconfig httpd on" has become "systemctl enable httpd.service". I'm just not sure what the systemd equivalent for "chkconfig --list" is yet.

I still have to work on the 64-bit version but now that I have a functional 32-bit kickstart, that should be a piece of cake. I should have everything done before or by the official Fedora 16 release date which currently is set for 2011-11-08.

Anonymous Comments OFF for Now

I got tired of having to delete about 100 bogus comments from anonymous users every day. Anonymous comments were moderated so none of the spammy ones would get posted so it was a total waste of time to post them in the first place... but bots don't seem to learn.

In any event, I hate having to sign up for an account just to leave a comment on a site... so an alternative is to just email me your anonymous comments along with the URL that they refer to - I'll give it a week and see how it turns out. I am NOT a fan of captcha so I don't want to burden all users with that either.

Site registrations have been turned back ON but registration requirements will be enforced.

Video: Ubuntu 11.10 Review

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For our Ubuntu fans as well as those who just want to learn about the upcoming release, I found this on youtube. I was hoping for HTML5 playback option, but this seems to be Flash only. The review was done from a recent release candidate that I believe will be the final release due out this Thursday. I still prefer KDE myself. :)

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