Questions from New Users

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Schoolchildren reportedly are able to discover how to use an XO without adult assistance, except for features that are not currently working correctly. For those who are having trouble, and in particular those who have run into bugs and unfinished features, help is available.

  • If you have questions about how to use the software, please see the getting started guide, or other introductory material on the Getting started page.
  • If you are having technical problems, please see the Support page.
  • There are also answers for some problems on the Workarounds page.

If the available documentation doesn't help, please post your questions here. Somebody is sure to answer sooner or later.

These questions will become input to the documentation process. So even having trouble becomes a contribution to the success of the program.

New, unanswered questions

Anything about the XO hardware or software that you can't figure out and is not documented.

Put a subheading before your question. If you're signed in, type ~~~~ (four tildes) to sign your post automatically. Or use the signature button on the Wiki edit toolbar.

Airport Extreme

I use a Mac Airport Extreme for my home wireless network. I've been through all the help pages several tiems and still cannot get my XO Laptop to connect to my home newtwork. I updated to build 565 and used the Hexconverter. Can anyone help? --

  • I use an Airport Extreme and I was able to connect. I did have to show my SSID (the "Closed Network Option") in order to make it easy. There is a way to connect via command line to a "closed" network, but I got impatient. One thing that may help you is the firmware on the AEBS. I've had connection problems when upgrading it to the latest version, so I've kept mine with version 7.3.1 and haven't had any problems. Hope that helps.

Reading Word docs between PC and XO

The only thing I use a computer for is to write Word documents. That's it. I travel to Africa often, and I would love to take my XO instead of my laptop PC. The XO is so much smaller and lighter. Here's my problem. I put in my jump drive in the USB port of my XO; I see my documents that were all originally created in Word; I open one; I edit it; I close it. I put my jump drive in my USB of my PC laptop; I find my edited document; I open it as if it's a Word document; and it's gibberish. The computer asks me what program it should use to read such a thing. I have no idea. I have tried first saving my docs as text docs before opening them on the XO. Doesn't work; it's still gibberish on the PC once I've edited it on XO. Can anyone tell me how I can jump Word documents between PC and XO? --

I'm guessing that when Write saves the document it does so in its own internal format. There's no UI in Sugar to "Save as" some other format. I suspect that if this is the cause of your problem, then if you install the free open source AbiWord word processor on your PC then it can read the files (the OLPC Write activity is built on the AbiWord library), and AbiWord has a File > Save as... command to save as .DOC (actually RTF I think). -- Skierpage 04:03, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

A big computer to go with the XO

I'm thinking of buying a computer to go with my XO. I would like to hear what people think is needed on such a machine.

Old 1 Ghz Pentium III? dual-core Athlon x2? Celeron 420?

Is a SD card reader a good idea? Or is the XO enough by itself, perhaps running off a big USB hard drive?

external USB modem

A friend recently sent a XO computer to my daughter. We live where we can't get a good wireless signal, but I do have a dial up internet connection through the phone line. My question is can an external USB modem be used with the XO and if so and one of the developers read this question could you please give me a link to a specific external USB modem that I can purchase as I can't afford to purchase a modem if I am not a 100% sure it is going to work. It seems to me that other people might encounter a similar problem and an external USB modem might be a good optional accessory to add when ordering a XO.

There's a page at Dial-up_access but it sounds like nobody's making any promises. It might be better to have a home network of some kind. I've seen two Windows XP computers sharing a modem through a cat5 crossover cable. It may even be possible to stick a WiFi card in your Windows machine and share through that? I hope somebody has tried it because I don't have the equipment to test it myself.Cuprum 02:42, 1 April 2008 (EDT)


Bugs, unfinished features.

In the first-time user startup instructions - there is no mention of the inital User Name: entry required

  • my experience was that after typing the child's name, the NEXT> button on screen did not work - it wasn't until I pressed the keyboard ENTER key that I got the system to actually start and bring up the UI.

The REGISTER feature never confirmed in any way what was registered - is this a central registration of the machine - or is this in a dynamic ad-hoc network?

Register is a feature for School Servers: not relevant to individual machines that are part of the G1G1 program.

Have not seen Wiki entries for the following:

  • simple instructions for loading new apps (Activities)
See the instructions at the top of the Activities page and at the end of the [1] page.
  • re-imaging the system - where to get image and how to re-install OS
See Olpc-update
See Olpc-update

thank you


From OLPC Ship.2 Software Release Notes

We continue to work on improving support for WPA encryption, and hope to have a better solution in our Update.1 release. In the meanwhile, WPA Manual Setting documents procedures for manual use of WPA encrypted access points.

Q: Why does script have to be loaded from USB device? Can't I just download it to my XO directly (via a non-WPA connection)?

A: There is no reason why not. Yes, you can!


Questions that have been answered. To avoid confusing the Wiki history, entering the answer and moving the question and answer here should be done in two edit sessions.

Build number

How can I find my build number?

In the Home View, if you hover over the OX figure in the center, there's an "About this XO" menu item. I think this is a new feature that arrived around software release 8.1.0 (formerly known as "Update.1") -- Skierpage 04:49, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

A:' In the Terminal activity, enter

cat /etc/issue


more /boot/olpc_build


ls /versions/configs
(this last doesn't work so well in 8.1.0)
I also have a 'xo-sysinfo' script which shows all the build version numbers for all downloaded updates under /versions . --ixo 06:50, 21 February 2008 (EST)

Static IP address

My WiFi network uses static IP addresses (i.e. I don't run dhcp). How can I manually set up networking?

Answering my own question...(with help from OLPC IRC):

1. Open Terminal Activity, become root (su) and cd to /etc 2. In rc.local add the following:

  /etc/init.d/NetworkManager stop
  /sbin/ifconfig eth0 up
  /sbin/iwconfig eth0 key  #I use WEP, don't know about WPA
  /sbin/iwconfig eth0 key restricted  #I use a shared key
  /sbin/iwconfig eth0 mode Managed  
  /sbin/iwconfig eth0 essid  #I found I had to set the essid after setting the mode
  /sbin/route add default gw

3. In resolv.conf add the IP addresses of your nameservers 4. Reboot

After doing the above my XO would automatically connect to my static ip, WEP protected, home wireless network. The key to this seems to be stopping the NetworkManager before calling ifconfig and iwconfig. I'm sure there's a more RedHat approved way of doing this but the above works for me.

One caveat: after making these changes I tried updating my build to 653 (via /usr/sbin/olpc-update ship.2-653). The update seemed to take but when I rebooted I got a Boot Failure message and had to fall back to build 650. Don't know if my changes to rc.local were the cause...

Another editor notes: You can probably simplify the above by putting multiple parameters on the same command line:

/etc/init.d/NetworkManager stop
/sbin/ifconfig eth0 <> up
/sbin/iwconfig eth0  key restricted <>  mode Managed   essid <>
/sbin/route add default gw <>

Entering user name

The initial "Enter your name" prompt is undocumented and confusing. What name? My name? The computer's name? What happens if I "choose poorly"? Can I change it? THis is the very first thing the user sees and it needs to be in the paperwork that ships with the laptop.

This is a good question—perhaps they will enhance the prompt in a future version. There will be an easy way to change the name eventually; until then, there are workaround instructions in the Support FAQ. —Joe 14:13, 21 December 2007 (EST)


I don't see a "Slideshow" activity - is there a good way to create a slideshow on the XO? ToysRGood 11:32, 20 December 2007 (EST)

I'm not sure how this would be accomplished. To me, slideshow means a picture viewer that can move to the next or previous picture in a collection of pictures. However, the limitation is in the Journal application, which is the storage/file management activity on the XO. You may have noticed that you can't open a stored file from a running activity. To open an existing file you have to go the Journal and have the Journal launch the file with an appropriate activity that can understand the file data. This is a security mechanism to prevent malware from attacking the XO. An activity and a file are launched together so that the activity can only manipulate itself and the file it was passed when launched. The activity can't access any other file or program on the XO. An activity won't have an "open file" functionality. The Browser activity has an "open" button when you have downloaded a file, but the browser isn't opening the file directly. The downloaded file is saved as an entry in the Journal, and then the "open" button launches an activity with your downloaded file. As an aside, the Record activity, that lets you take pictures and video, saves each picture or video file as seperate journal entries. Maybe a slideshow concept could be built into the Record activity. Or maybe a special file could be created (like a multi page TIFF) that you could migrate pictures to by using the clipboard. Then within this single file you could flip from picture to picture. Paul Bock 12:10, 20 December 2007 (EST)
    • People have discussed making a slideshow activity in the past—maybe in Etoys or as part of the Read activity's functionality. I've found that you can browse a directory of jpgs using the Browse activity; just click the page title in the top toolbar and change the page address to "file:///", then browse to the image file (probably somewhere in "/home/olpc/.sugar" for journal entries or "/media" for USB drives/SD cards). This technique is counter to the Sugar design, though, so it will probably be superseded by something better. —Joe 16:04, 20 December 2007 (EST)
You can fake it by putting a set of images in the Record activity directory, where the journal has an entry for opening a set of pictures.--Mokurai 16:52, 21 December 2007 (EST)
I don't know about the Journal implications, but I've started a slideshow program (PyGstSlideshow) that uses gstreamer and cairo. I'm willing to improve it if there is interest.--Eph 21:23, 25 December 2007 (EST)
There is also a slideshow Pippy project (it is in the Joyride builds, but it can also be found here. --Walter 09:49, 2 January 2008 (EST)

Anti-virus software?

What about Anti-Virus software? Don't I need it? Is it already installed?

Someone will probably replace this with a more "official" answer, but in a sense of humor let me say this. By asking a question about anti-virus software, you are probably a Windows user. The XO laptop runs on the Linux OS. People who run Linux instead of Windows don't usually run anti-virus software. This concept may enlighten you to stop paying for poor software (Windows and Anti-virus software) and open your mind to more secure, software with freedom. Specifically, OLPC uses a variant of Red Hat's Desktop Linux called Fedora Core. Also, you can run the full blown Fedora Core, for little to no cost, on the same machine you currently run Windows and anti-virus software. The XO laptop is exceptionally good at compartmentalizing program and data to limit what a virus or "bad" program can do, see Online threats and security and Bitfrost Paul Bock 13:04, 19 December 2007 (EST)

Setting time

How can I set the correct time on this computer? And time zone, for that matter? I get that there wouldn't be a whole lot of config programs à la System Preferences on the Mac, but I would think there'd have to be something for this sort of basic configuration.blahedo 01:18, 18 December 2007 (EST)

There will be a control panel user interface available eventually. Until then, there is a command line application that can tweak various system settings, including time zone; see Sugar Control Panel. I'm not sure why it doesn't let you set the time as well... Perhaps it syncs with an internet server? —Joe 01:41, 18 December 2007 (EST)
Update: someone has added instructions to the Sugar Control Panel page for syncing the laptop's time with internet time servers. —Joe 16:04, 20 December 2007 (EST)

Mesh network

What exactly is a "mesh"? I don't really understand this concept- can someone explain it in lay terms?

Imagine trying to yell a message to someone a couple miles away. And you are not allowed to use a telephone (wired network). You will probably have a hard time getting your message to the other person a couple miles away. Now imagine that you live in a neighborhood with people spaced about 10 feet apart. You can easily talk with your neighbor and you tell him the message and who it has to go to. Then your neighbor relays your message to his neighbor and so on until it gets to the person a couple miles away. So anybody that is close enough to communicate with at least one person on the network, can then gain the ability to talk to everybody that is on the network. That's what this mesh network is all about. PaulBock 12/19/2007
And then if one of the people in the network has a telephone, you can talk to anyone that can be called on that phone. The parallel here is that hopefully someone in a village of XO laptops has a connection to the internet, thereby giving everybody in that small mesh network access to the internet. This connection to the internet will probably exist through a School Server. Paul Bock 13:04, 19 December 2007 (EST)

Opening files

Using the Write application, I can save a file but I cannot find a way to open an existing file. For that matter, I cannot determine where (or even if) this file is saved. How does the file saving/opening work?

This was difficult for me too. Every time you use an activity, or save a file, an entry is created in the Journal activity that is by default always running. Go to the Journal activity from the home view and scroll up and down the list to find the file you want. The Journal activity also handles the mounting of an SD card and any USB flash drives. Paul Bock 13:04, 19 December 2007 (EST)
No activity can open a file. You have to use the Journal activity to open a saved file. You find the file in the journal entry list and then "resume" it to launch an activity that can read the file data. The inability for an activity to open another file is a security measure. The concept is single activity to a single file. If you want to work between two text documents you have to open two sessions of the Write activity each looking at its respective text document. Use the clipboard, along the left edge, to move text between the files. Paul Bock 12:24, 20 December 2007 (EST)

My problem is related to this. What is the meaning of the icons next to the files in my Journal? One looks like a blank page with a pen poised over it. Those I can open with no problem. One looks like a page with text on it. Those I cannot open. Can anyone explain that? ~~~~

Shell script

Using the Write application, I was able to type in a shell script. I did a "keep", and I can find the script in the Journal, but I haven't been able to find it from the Terminal to execute it. Is it possible?

You can't save files to the file system from Write.--Mokurai 16:52, 21 December 2007 (EST)
  1. Open your file from the Journal.
  2. Select all of the text, and copy it.
  3. Create the file from the terminal with 'cat - >filename' and paste to the terminal. End with Ctl-D.

The files saved by various programs appear to be stored in /home/olpc/.sugar/default/datastore/store/ with heavily hashed filenames. --Dlarson 20:59, 3 January 2008 (EST)

User account on Wiki

How do you get a user name on this wiki?

There should be a "Sign in/create an account" link in the upper right corner of each page. —Joe 12:59, 19 December 2007 (EST)

Turning off wireless

I would like to use my XO on an airplane. How do I turn off the wireless?

For the current session, in a terminal, enter the following command as root.
iwconfig eth0 txpower off
To disable the wireless so you can turn your XO off and then on again without the radio coming on, you need to rename /lib/firmware/usb8388.bin as root. Something like the following.
cd /lib/firmware
mv usb8388.bin usb8388.bak
To reenable wireless, reverse the process
cd /lib/firmware
mv usb8388.bak usb8388.bin
and reboot--Mokurai 19:18, 16 January 2008 (EST)

See also How do I disable wireless when flying?

Anyone know how to turn off the automatic border that pops up?

The grey "menu" thing that appears if you touch the mouse cursor to the edge of the screen?

You can disable the "hot-spots" by commenting out lines 56-57 in the file: /user/share/sugar/shell/view/frame/

There's a tutorial for newbies including all the steps to do this

My XO abruptly shuts off somewhere around 40% power on the battery....

It just goes black and dies. Is it defective?

Yes. ffm 08:55, 8 February 2008 (EST)
Any more details, or a more complete answer than this? Mine isn't as bad, but shuts off well before the battery level gets to the point where you'd expect it to... I believe mine shut off not too long after I checked and saw 19% remaining. Everett 01:40, 20 March 2008 (EDT)

Is there any easy way to end an "Activity" that has crashed?

Many times activities just flash forever and say "Loading" or whatever. How do I kill them?

In many cases a defect in the activity causes it to exit in a way that Sugar can't recognize; the activity isn't really running—Sugar just thinks it is. If the icons bother you, you can restart Sugar by holding down Ctrl-Alt-Erase (after quitting any other running activities, so that you don't lose work). I believe the developers are already aware of this issue. Hopefully there will be a fix in a future version of Sugar. —Joe 21:33, 4 February 2008 (EST)

How do I put the XO into "sleep" mode?

When I close the case, I can see light slipping through the cracks - i.e., the computer is still on! Is there any sleep or suspend mode? Do I really have to reboot every time?

For the default software shipped with G1G1 machines, the laptops must be shut down each time. However, suspend and resume are two major features added in the next big software update, due in early 2008. —Joe 21:56, 4 February 2008 (EST)

Forgot root password

can you change the root password if you forgot it?

No. ffm 08:55, 8 February 2008 (EST)

You should be able to if 1) you can sudo to root from olpc (enter "sudo passwd" or "su -l" without quotes). Not sure how possible this is on stock G1G1 builds. MartinDengler 09:40, 27 March 2008 (EDT)

In a pinch, one can also just do an update to any build or release, and the root password will be reset (along with a lot other resets, like activities, etc... ) --ixo 04:29, 29 March 2008 (EDT)

new user olpc old linux guru, I have nothing to test with but if you can boot the unit into another operating environment like booting from a usb drive you can change the root password

1. boot from usb / other environment

2. mount the internal disk space

3. chroot /mounted/ineternal/space

then simply change the password passwd root

mp3 player

is there an mp3 player compatible with the XO? preferably one that could play file directly off a flash drive...

in fact, there is. a program called xmms works well, and looks just like the original winamp. you install it, connect to the internet, then open terminal. as the root used, type yum install xmms you'll have to approve its size--15 M.

looks like i answered my own question... Sapien 16:12, 18 January 2008 (EST)

folder system

is there any way to view folders from the journal (or otherwise)? i put my external hard drive in and BAM! 100 gigs of data without a managable way to navigate it. Sapien 16:51, 8 January 2008 (EST)

You can view them in the Browser. Click in the bar at the top, where it says OLPC Library, and you will see the URL for that page, file:///home/olpc/library_pages/search/bundle_index.htm. Erase the page name (bundle_index.htm) to get a browsable view of the file:///home/olpc/library_pages/search/ directory, showing its contents, and a link to the parent directory.
file:/// will get you to the root directory, and you can click from there.
Or you can use Midnight Commander, you can run from the command line. Unfortunately, it requires 13M of downloads, mostly to install Perl. %-[ Maybe somebody else knows of a lighter-weight file browser. --Mokurai 18:38, 9 January 2008 (EST)
Note: New wiki page Midnight Commander with installation information. --ixo 03:54, 16 February 2008 (EST)

installing 3rd party programs

Could someone walk me through the process of program installation? I've never had a linux machine before, and am mostly clueless. Sapien

What programs do you need help with installing? ffm 16:33, 8 January 2008 (EST)

I would like a torrent client (bittorrent maybe?) and an mp3 player. Sapien 16:45, 8 January 2008 (EST)

Make sure you are on the Internet. Then you can use yum as root in the Terminal activity.
su                        #Become root user
yum install bittorrent    #It will ask if you approve of the size of the download, and you can say y.
exit                      #Very important to exit the root shell and become a normal user again before continuing.
If you Google yum, you will get links explaining how it works, and other links to thousands of apps and descriptions.--Mokurai 18:47, 9 January 2008 (EST)

i just tried those things, they didn't work. will yum download the programs? is says error 12, url timed out trying other mirror error: cannot receive repository metadata

so, what should i do? is there a yum tutorial for complete beginners? thanks Sapien 16:25, 16 January 2008 (EST)

Sounds like your network connection is down. Make sure the network is up (try "ping") and then try again... --Walter 17:46, 16 January 2008 (EST)

qemu question

Can someone show me the syntax for qemu's -L option to specify the directory where I installed qemu? ToysRGood 16:52, 20 December 2007 (EST)

`-L path'
   Set the directory for the BIOS, VGA BIOS and keymaps.
according to I don't think this is what you are trying to do. Doesn't your package manager tell you where it puts files?--Mokurai 17:10, 21 December 2007 (EST)


How do you enable the use of a stylus?

Not sure yet, but my USB Logitech optical trackball mouse worked well. Paul Bock 12:48, 20 December 2007 (EST)
The "graphics tablet" functionality of the touchpad isn't supported yet, but it should be supported in an upcoming software release. See Walter's comments on the "Using the stylus area" question on the Ask OLPC a Question page. —Joe 16:04, 20 December 2007 (EST)

Touchpad orientation

Is it possible to alter the orientation of the touchpad to match the screen orientation in book mode?

Yes, but we need to finish integrating that feature... --Walter 21:24, 25 December 2007 (EST)

64 bit key

My WiFi network uses 64 bit WEP encoding. when I try to connect in Neighborhood, a pop up box asks for a 128 n\bit key. The 64 bit key is not accepted. Do I have to change the network? Is there a way to have the laptop accept 64 bit encoding?

I don't know the answer to that, but WEP is hopelessly broken. An outsider can reconstruct your key by listening to a few minutes of traffic, and then read everything you send and receive. (Instructions here.) Get WPA or WPA2 if at all possible.--Mokurai 17:21, 21 December 2007 (EST)
The 40 bit setting should work for 64 bit encoding.

Downloading file from internet

(Moved MP3 installation instructions to Talk:Fluendo mp3 decoder)

Deshler99 19:54, 1 January 2008 (EST)

Where on earth does the Browse activity download files by default? Which directory?

It downloads them into an index. If you want to download a URL to the laptop directly, you can use the "wget" command. ffm 21:01, 12 February 2008 (EST)

(1) how do you retrieve a downloaded file from this index into the file system? (2) how do you cut and paste a URL from the Browse activity into the Terminal in order to run wget on it?

Time-Clock-Time Zone

I would rather fiddle with setting the correct time or time zone. Do I have to? I just want to use the OLPC out of the box without adjusting any settings.

It's my understanding that the XO's internal clock should already be set correctly when it is shipped. The time zone may not be correct, which means that the XO may display the current date/time in another time zone. But if you don't mind that, I can't think of any other problems that arise from just leaving the time settings as they are. —Joe 23:47, 1 January 2008 (EST)
Datapoint: My XO was shipped with the correct time zone (America/New_York) but the time was about 12 hours, 55 minutes ahead of what it should have been. That is, when I set the time zone with the sugar-control-panel command, the wrong 12:55+ time was still displayed, so I had to run the commands to sync it with NIST (see near end of —Sarah Elkins 10:31, 28 January 2008 (EST)
Why fix the clock: When I posted to one of my blogs with my XO, the time-stamp showed up wrong (12:55+). Blog timestamps may not seem that critical, but the behavior suggests to me that one might have problems trying to check code in to a remote repository, depending on how the version control software works (some version control tools depend on timestamps -- you might be able to check code in, but it might mess up the next person down the line, if checkins are frequent). Other interactions involving handshaking between systems might also have issues. —Sarah Elkins 10:31, 28 January 2008 (EST)

Playing Video

This is a really stupid question, but I can't figure out how to play a video I have already recorded. If I click on it right after I record it, it plays fine, but if it goes to the Journal and I later try to open it, all I get is a still of the first frame. I can't make it play again.

Try reopening it from the Journal by resuming the Record session from which you took it.

This works, but only if I haven't shut the computer down in the meantime. Am I supposed to "save" it somehow before I do that? I know this all sounds really dumb, but the "manual" doesn't seem to address this question. If I shut down and then find the video in the Journal, nothing makes it play.

Wait. There's a grey box in the upper left hand corner of the home page which if you put the curser on it, says "Ogg Theora Video." If you then select "open," it then downloads something from the internet and presents you with a blank screen. If you select "view" it plays the video I was trying to play before. Is all this explained somewhere in a manual? I don't find any of this intuitively obvious. Thanks! --Leotoydog 13:28, 5 January 2008 (EST)

The "Ogg Theora Video" has now vanished, and nothing will make stored videos play. I am gathering from reading elsewhere on this wiki and in the questions section that at our current state of software stored videos simply don't play, period. I'm assuming that we all have to live with this until further development fixes it. --Leotoydog

Can't see journal or launch any applications

System boots up fine and is connected to wifi network but journal does not appear and when I launch an application the system just shows "starting" but will not load. Any help would be appreciated. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mkavulich (talkcontribs) 08:19, January 13, 2008 EST

Update to 653. ffm 11:43, 13 January 2008 (EST)

Also try rebooting, with laptop plugged into AC Power. Do a full 'shutdown' and power-on, to assure full reset. --ixo 03:59, 16 February 2008 (EST)

Copy/Paste in Terminal

How do you copy/paste text from a web page (such as instructions or commands) into a command window. I can DND text to the clipboard but can't DND it back into the terminal. thanks. Thanks you for your time and information, JMT

Unfortunately, you cannot paste in the Terminal activity. This feature is missing. You can find a couple workarounds at Scroll-Wheel Copy and Paste.