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olpc-update is a command-line program to update your system software. It preserves your files (journal) and activities you have installed.

olpc-update can download the new version from the internet, or from a file on a USB drive. See Updating the XO for other update scenarios.

The old software version is erased the first time the new version is booted, but this can be prevented.

(Certain really old builds, like 656, can't olpc-update to recent builds. Check the release notes of a recent build to find out if olpc-update can be used from a really old build. If not, then you must install the recent build afresh.)

What version do I have now?

To tell what version of the system software you have, follow How to check the OS and firmware versions.

Disk space requirements

Due to its fail-safe design, olpc-update must store all of the changed files in the release that you are updating to, alongside the existing release that you are running, for a short time. olpc-update cannot complete if there is not enough disk space available.

If upgrading between minor releases within the same release series or between development releases in the same development stream, the space required will be low. However, if upgrading from one major release to another (e.g. 10.1.3 to 11.2.0), you will probably need more than 300mb of disk space available (even though the upgrade process will finish with approximately the same amount of disk space available).

How to upgrade

See the Releases page for the releases that are available. The release notes for each recent release will explain exactly how to use olpc-update to update to that particular version. Be sure to read the release notes before starting the update.

The instructions below are generic.

Simple online update

Note: You should always back up important files; e.g., to a USB drive or to a school server before updating, just in case.

olpc-update is designed to work with even the worst internet connections, and will do no harm if it is interrupted during download. It will resume from where it left off, without having to download what it has already downloaded.

To manually upgrade your machine when a new version is released:

  1. Plug the XO into an electrical outlet
  2. Connect to the internet. If you are upgrading because you have a WPA hotspot at home, you might want to go to a Public Hotspot to connect to the internet for an online upgrade, such as a T-Mobile hotspot or a local libary.
    Firewall note: olpc-upgrade requires outgoing TCP PORT:873 to be unfiltered by the hotspot's firewall. In otherwords if the laptop has functional-access to the internet but olpc-upgrade returns the message "I don't think you're connected to the internet." check the hotspot's firewall is not blocking the outgoing TCP Port 873.
  3. Start the Terminal Activity (or if you cannot do so, open a console) and type the following (press the Enter key after it):
sudo olpc-update build-identifier

The build-identifier is normally identified on the release notes of the release you are upgrading to. Historically, build identifiers were simple numbers (e.g. 802), for newer builds prefixes are used to separate between the different laptop models (e.g. 10.1.3_xo1.5-860).

If you get an error saying "command not found", type "su -", press enter and then "olpc-update build-identifier" and press enter. For example:

su -
/usr/sbin/olpc-update 802

If olpc-update successfully connects to the update server, some messages should display

Downloading contents of build build-identifier
Updating to version hash xxxx
Making clean /versions/updates/...
Trying irsync_pristine update from rsync://updates.laptop.org/build-build-number
- Cleaning tree.
- Fetching contents.
- Performing incremental rsync.
Verifying update.
Installing update in /versions/{pristine,run}/xxxx

Where xxxx is a version-specific number.

The olpc-update program uses several methods to update. If "irsync_pristine" fails, it will try "irsync dirty update", and then try "Performing full rsync". As long as the last method completes without errors, you're fine. This process may take more than thirty minutes.

When the process is complete, you need to reboot, unless you supplied the -r option to olpc-update. If the new build includes newer firmware, then your XO will reboot twice. When the XO restarts the update will be complete.

After updating, you should run the Sugar activity updater from the control panel. If not, you may find that various activities are not working.

Simple offline update

Unless you are running a very old release, you can also download the new release data onto a USB disk from an internet-connected computer, and then use olpc-update on an XO to perform the update, without requiring any internet connection.

Prepare a USB drive

Your USB drive needs to be writable from the computer on which you'll download the files, and readable from a running XO (as /media/YourDriveName).

  • (Note that /media changes to /run/media/olpc for Fedora 17 based builds used in 12.1.0 and later).

Download .usb and .toc files onto USB

Insert a USB drive into a computer connected to the Internet.

Go to the download.laptop.org site to fetch the latest XO-1 release or the latest XO-1.5 release. You need to download two files from the build's directory to the top directory of your USB drive: osNNN.usb and osNNN.toc, where NNN is the numeric part of the build you are updating to. For example, if you are updating to build 711, the files would be named os711.usb and os711.toc; if you are updating to build joyride-1452, the files would be named os1452.usb and os1452.toc. Right-click (Ctrl-click for Mac) on each of the two names and choose "Save Target As" ("Save Link As" for Firefox). Save both files to the USB drive. Do not open the files.

USB update

  1. Plug the XO into an electrical outlet
  2. Insert your USB drive with the .toc and .usb files on it into your XO.
  3. Start the Terminal activity (or if you cannot do so, open the console), and enter:
sudo /usr/sbin/olpc-update --usb

If you get "command not found" errors, enter:

su -
/usr/sbin/olpc-update --usb

When olpc-update is finished, reboot to start using your new build.

Retention of previous versions

As of release 11.2.0, olpc-update only keeps 1 software version available by default (i.e. the old version is deleted after booting into the new version for the first time).

Older releases maintained two versions ("primary" and "alternate"), so that you could switch between the two (accepting any strange side effects caused by a software downgrade, not really supported by OLPC or the software that it ships).

Avoiding purge of previous versions

You can avoid olpc-update from deleting old versions in any situation by marking them as sticky, e.g. for build 802:

touch /versions/sticky/802

Restoring a previous OS

If you are using an old release where 2 versions are maintained, or if you are running a modern release and have requested olpc-update to not purge one of the versions, you can switch between the 2 versions as follows:

  1. shutdown the XO
  2. power-on while holding down the ' O ' gamepad key.
  3. release the key when you're instructed to do so
  4. check the OS version

Purging a previous OS

If you have marked a version as sticky and now wish to remove it, or if you are running an old release where the old version is maintained and you wish to free up the disk space occupied by it, you can follow the example Terminal session log shown below.

Identify what is present

List the available builds on the system.

# ls /versions/pristine/*/boot/olpc_build
# cat /versions/pristine/*/boot/olpc_build

This shows there are builds 802 and 851 available on the system.

Identify what is running

# cat /boot/olpc_build

This shows that the build currently running is build 851. Do not purge a build if it is the one running now — things break badly.

Measure free space before purge

# df /
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/mtdblock0         1048576    708572    340004  68% /

This shows roughly 340004 KB available.

Purge the unused build

# rm -rf /versions/pristine/802 /versions/contents/802 /versions/run/802

Removes all the files of the unused build. Takes a few seconds.

Measure free space after purge

# df /
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/mtdblock0         1048576    495944    552632  48% /

This shows roughly 552632 KB is available, a significant increase.

Verify builds present

# ls /versions/pristine/*/boot/olpc_build
# cat /versions/pristine/*/boot/olpc_build

This shows only the one build is now present.

There is no need to reboot or restart after purging the alternate build.

More information

The olpc-update script works by transferring only the differences between builds from a USB drive or across the internet link from an updates server. This makes updating easier, mostly quicker, and almost always with less data transfer.

As an example of the data efficiency gain,

  • A full reinstallation from OS build 602 to 603 would normally take about 279Mb of download data, whereas olpc-update takes 16Mb of download data,
  • A full reinstallation from OS build 603 to 608 would normally take 262Mb of download data, whereas olpc-update takes 6.5Mb of download data,
  • An olpc-update from OS build 602 to 625 takes 33Mb of download data.

The time efficiency gain is less easy to characterize. It depends on the speed of the internet link, the speed of the updates server, and whether the update was able to use its server-friendly efficiency mode. An olpc-update from 602 to 603 took under 17 minutes.

The current updates server is updates.laptop.org.

Advanced usage

Update using another laptop

Q: How can I re-use the bits for multiple laptops, using a laptop?

A: Imagine that you have two laptops, one is called SOURCE and the other TARGET.

On the SOURCE laptop, add an rsyncd.conf file to /etc:

        path = /versions/contents
        uid = root
        gid = root

        path = /versions/pristine
        uid = root
        gid = root

Then start rsync --daemon there.

On the TARGET laptop, use rsync to check access and identify the build that is available:

rsync rsync://${SOURCE}/contents

Where is the IP address or domain name of the SOURCE laptop.

Take note of the build identifier. It will be a hexadecimal hash, 64 characters long.

On the TARGET laptop, create an appropriate 'hints' file:

export SOURCE=
export BUILD=dd44...597f
>>> import os, bitfrost.util.json as json
>>> hints = ('%(BUILD)s' % os.environ, 'normal', [('rsync','rsync://%(SOURCE)s/pristine/%(BUILD)s' % os.environ)])
>>> open('hints.json','w').write(json.write(hints))
>>> exit()

Now on the TARGET laptop, use olpc-update to upgrade or downgrade to that build:

sudo olpc-update --hints hints.json

Several laptops can all be updated in the same way from one source with the same 'hints.json' file.

Setting up a local updates server

The school server integrates with olpc-update. The XS-rsync component accepts software images and makes them available to olpc-update clients.

A dated, alternative solution is described at Upgrade Server.

For Developers

Original specification: XO updater


Maintainer: User:DanielDrake

olpc-update uses olpc-contents for most of the heavy lifting.

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