Community XO software builds

Adam Holt holt at
Wed May 6 10:49:47 EDT 2015

On Wed, May 6, 2015 at 12:54 AM, Samuel Greenfeld <samuel at>

> I saw some discussion last week about the community XO software builds.
> This seems to be something which gets many people excited.
> However according to my web server, there have not been very many
> downloads of them.
> If I may ask:
>    - Who actually is using/testing these images?
I have asked quite a number of deployments to try but they are very resistant
to try until others have documented first.  Breaking this Vicious Cycle
won't happen overnight, but a Virtuous Cycle is possible, if we build
tight/participatory documentation around key builds-

>    - Why?
They all seem to want a better browser and better codec support to view
various+sundry videos, within Sugar ideally, but if that's not possible
then within Gnome.  One group per week asks me for the above, above all
else (often more than one deployment/group per week).

>    - Is there a reason you are not looking into using an official (OLPC
>    or deployment) build?
James Cameron and Nathan Riddle have made tremendous progress with SD cards
improving XO-1 builds, but this is not financially viable in most all
impoverished countries where we work.

>    - Have you engaged OLPC or another party to work on changes?
In the past: is a derivative of OLPC
Release 12.1.0 widely deployed starting in early 2014 thanks to the
volunteer work of James Cameron, George Hunt and many others.

While it's not financially or logistically viable to rebase every year,
OLPC or Community OS 15.x.x in the coming year (if such an OS arises with
better codec support, better browser support, sufficiently stable Sugar
and/or sufficient speed) will affect MANY thousands of people, inside Haiti
and far outside Haiti.  (On XO-1s especially; the 3 other more modern XO
laptops always crop up too).

>    - What direction do you believe the builds should go?
Reliability.  Impoverished countries are very accustomed to dealing with
broken leftovers + electronic waste shipped to them by rich countries, so
don't ask for perfection, but do ask for "basic sanitation..."

If it's truly achievable, Gonzalo is right to push for CentOS durability
rather the Fedora treadmill which creates many quite unintended
casualties.  The world has become a more dangerous place that 2007 when XO
mass production began: we are now almost a decade later with intermittent
2G/3G nearly ubiquitous across the 3rd World (no matter how pricy+tenuous,
I no longer run into communities that can say with a straight face they are
"completely offline").  Sneakernet is to be encouraged, but the consequence
is that schools' inability to easily patch F18-based XO's against and the drumroll
of similar security holes, is emerging as an existential threat to their XO
learning environments.

But if CentOS is not realistically achievable, F22 might be more
appropriate, given it's final freeze is supposed to be less than 1 week

Building XO builds by repacking existing work is relatively trivial.
> But the low-level kernel, driver, and OS work necessary to support XOs
> with newer operating systems (as well as newer XO batteries) is something I
> cannot do, and where we really need help.
> Without guidance from OLPC or others, I could build thousands of XO-#
> laptop images.  But unless it looks like a significant number of
> deployments/children actually would benefit, there really is no point.
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