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How to Install the OpenBox Window Manager on the OLPC XO


Given up on Sugar (at least for now)? Finding even XFCE a little bit slow?

This guide is for you. It's neither simple nor quick, but the effort put into installing OpenBox on your OLPC will be richly rewarded.

NOTE: This guide does not uninstall the base fedora operating system and need not uninstall sugar either, so keep in mind that if all else fails you'll have lost naught but 40 recoverable megabytes and a few hours.

Installing Openbox

Settle down into a comfortable position, boot your olpc, connect to a wireless network, and prepare to install from source.

NOTE: If you want to remove sugar, it's recommended to first do a clean install from a flash drive. Go ahead, try 8.2.0. It won't bite.

After connecting to the internet, switch to the alternate console (Ctrl-Alt-F2, where F2 is the three-dotted Neighborhood button) and prepare to install some dependencies and necessities:

 yum install make gcc autoconf automake glib2-devel pango-devel startup-notification-devel /
             libXcursor-devel libXfixes-devel libSM-devel libxml2-devel xterm wifi-radar cmake

Once that's done, navigate to your home directory and get the OpenBox source code:

 cd /home/olpc

Decompress the archive (press 'Tab' after typing the 'o' in openbox for nifty autocompletion):

 tar xzvf openbox-

Navigate to the new directory:

 cd openbox-

Time to configure the install! Following these directions type:

 ./configure --prefix=/usr --sysconfdir=/etc

Then if all goes well:


And finally let's build it from source!

 make install

Modify the local startup file, which is a copy of /home/olpc/.xsession-example:

 nano /home/olpc/.xsession

After the line reading '#xterm' insert on a new line 'openbox-session'. If you want to boot sugar, remove that new line or put a # in front of it.

Reboot using the command line:

shutdown -r now

NOTE: If you use -h instead of -r the computer will instead shutdown. Since I haven't figured out another way to shutdown from openbox, remember this.

Basic OpenBox Setup

After the white screen of the X server starting, you'll get your first exciting transition to...the gray screen of openbox. OpenBox, you see, is solely a window manager, and that means no built-in background, file manager, volume manager...and also incredible speed.

But you're probably wondering what to do at this point, so! Right-click on the desktop to get your first real taste of OpenBox. There is an application menu loaded with many many options that you don't have, and one that you now do: xterm, under Terminals. Click on it and a terminal in a horrible eye-killing font will open. Luckily you won't need it for long, as we're going to be using the wonderful sakura terminal emulator. It's really just a cover for vte, just like Sugar's terminal, but it's fast and small

Type whilst remembering the wonder of tab-autocomplete:

 tar xzvf sakura-2.3.0.tar.gz
 cd sakura-2.3.0
 sudo cmake .
 sudo make
 sudo make install

Those last three instructions courtesy of the INSTALL file in the sakura folder.

Just type 'sakura' into your xterm (if that doesn't work try '/usr/local/bin/sakura'), maximize the beautiful new window that rapidly appears, and prepare to install more things from source!

NOTE: I plan to edit this and provide more detailed instructions, etc., but for now let's leave this to advanced users.

OpenBox Utilities

  • ObConf change OpenBox theme amongst other things (Source)
  • GTK-ChTheme perhaps unsruprisingly this changes the GTK theme (Source)
  • ObMenu an absolutely necessary tool for putting the things you want in the OB menu (Source)

File Managers

  • Thunar requires some xfce stuff, automounts flash drives (sudo yum install thunar)
  • emelFM2 fast, powerful, extremely customizable (Source)

Text Editors

NOTE: Unzip .bz2 files with "sudo bunzip2 <filename>"

Image Viewers

  • Mirage fast and easy image viewer, even takes screenshots. (Source)
  • Feh another image viewer, this one also can set a background image. (Source)


NOTE: Shutdown is "shutdown -h now" (only if dbus is not running; see here), and mounting a usb drive is "mount /dev/sda1/ <mount folder>".

Advanced OpenBox Setup

(in here will go tint task panel, tint settings, keybinds, startup, themes...for now please accept this inspirational link.)

Resources & Links

urukrama's OpenBox Guide

The Official OpenBox Wiki

k.mandla's Software Guide