Well I finally got my XO OLPC (One Laptop
Per Child) computer. I had nearly given up that it would ever come as it had been nearly two months since I ordered it. Now I wanted to find out if it was capable of being used as an onboard computer.
In case you aren't familiar with the XO computer: Explore the XO
and Pleasseeeee let's not side track this thread with discussions about whether giving a laptop
to a third world child is a good thing or not. I only want to discuss its capabilities as an onboard computer.
What really attracted me to the XO was that it draws very little current
so it would be ideal for navigation
on long passages when you're trying to save power. I'll have to take it down to the boat and check the LINK 20 to see exactly how much it exactly draws but I believe its less than one amp.
The other thing of course was the price
, $200. Of course to get one I had to also buy another one for donation but thought it might be worth checking out. Also, it is suppose to be very rugged. They say it can be dropped off a desk with no ill affects.
To start with its very small. When closed its about 9" X 9.5 X 1.5". Look here for all of hardware
features: Hardware specification - OLPC
When it was delivered I thought it was a hard covered book that I forgot about ordering. The computer has no hard drive just a 1GB flash drive but it does have 3 USB ports
and an SD card slot (think it takes other cards too).
The first challenge was opening it. The only piece of documentation
it had was one sheet of paper with instructions how to open it. Everything else is online documentation
. You have to first put up the little WIFI
rabbit ears that also act as latches
. Then I installed the battery
, booted it up and navigated to the Neighbourhood screen
where I could see all the WIFI
connections as little coloured circles. I tried to connect to my WIFI router but it kept rejecting the parameters I entered so I used one my neighbour's unprotected connection and managed to get on the internet
. Later I went back and worked on my connection and found the only way to get it connected was to change the routers security
form 64 bit to 128 . This meant I had to change all the rest of the computers
in the house.
The next challenge was the operating system which is Linux
. I guess a child would have found everything intuitive but I didn't. Anyway I finally found the terminal screen
which is sort of equivalent to the DOS prompt screen. A search on Google
found a hit that said Microsoft is working on getting XP to work on the XO, don't know if its true or not.
My biggest question was whether I could find a navigation
program that runs on Linux
. I finally found the Navgator Mariner program: NavGator Marine Charting and GPS Navigation
that works both on Windows and Linux. I sent them an email
and asked if they had ever run their program on an XO. They responded that they hadn't but had run it on other computers
with far less computing power than the XO.
So I figued out the Linux command to download (WGET) the trial version of Mariner, then installed it using a TAR command. But when I started the program it complained about not having authority to the serial ports
. After some digging around the internet
and another email
to Navgator I got a solution to make the user id have the right authority.
The next problem was getting charts
for the program. The Navgator Mariner only supports raster charts
. I had all of the NOAA charts installed on my Windows laptop so I downloaded a bunch of them to an SD card and then transferred the card to the XO. It immediatley recognized the card but it took awhile to figure out how to get the Mariner program to see them. I found a forum on Yahoo for the XO and posted my question. Within an hour someone responded with the answer.
So now the XO is running the Mariner naviagtion program. My next hurdle will be to get a GPS
connected to it. To do that I will have to go down to the boat, which is laid up for the winter, and find one of my portable GPSs and a serial
to USB cable and see it I can getting it working.
All of the above took place in one day. So far so good. I'll keep you posted.