Fedora Summer of Open Hardware and Fun


I submitted an application for the Fedora Summer of Open Hardware program. Haven't heard of that? Well, the Fedora folks had accumulated quite a bit of hardeware that they wanted to pass along to their community members. The hardware consisted of Aurdino, Raspberry Pi, and OLPC XO-1.75 units. Since I already have a Raspberry Pi that I bought myself... and I'm part of an OLPC Lending Library project that already has X0-1.0 and XO-1.5 units... I thought I'd go for an XO-1.75. I just got word today that I was approved and should get the laptop in a few weeks.

How does the XO-1.75 differ from previous models? Well the main difference is that it uses an ARM-based CPU rather than an Intel compatible. As a result the XO-1.75 supposedly has an improved battery life. All of the OLPC models so far use the same case so even though they may be vastly different inside, they all look the same on the outside. Another area where some of the models vary is in the keyboards they have. For example, the "HS" model stands for "high school" and it has a hard plastic keyboard like a traditional netbook rather than the rubber keyboard the non-HS models have. With the XO-1.75 it appears that the keyboard has changed again. While it is still a rubbery keyboard, it is mostly covered by a white, hard plastic cover that has holes that they keys stick out through. See the picture above. The laptop on the left is an XO-1.75 whereas the one on the right is a previous model with an HS keyboard.

It just so happens that I have an XO-1.75 laptop at my house right now because our friend Caryl Bigenho happens to be visiting Montana for the summer again and she let me borrow it for a week. I made sure to download the current software release and install it because she said she wasn't sure if it had the latest or not. The current version is still based on Fedora 14 but they are working on a new release that I think is based on Fedora 17. You have to remember that being ARM-based means that there is additional development/build work involved... but as an end user, the update process was still the same... download two files, stick them on a USB thumbdrive, and then boot the machine with the thumbdrive plugged in while holding down all four of the gamepad buttons.

It just so happens that the XO tablet model that is currently in the works is a reworked version of the XO-1.75 motherboard with, so far as I know, the same ARM CPU. The main difference is that they have added a touchscreen layer to the screen and they have done away with the keyboard half. That means they had to fit the battery in under the screen... and the motherboard needed to be scrunk down some to accomodate a battery.