E-Toys Tutorial #2 – Basic Drawing

March 8, 2009 at 16:13 | Posted in OLPC, Tutorials/Howtos, Vod/Pod casts, XO | Comments Off
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Posted my second tutorial on E-Toys. It covers basic drawing to make “players” in E-Toys

Enjoy!

You can get E-toy from SqueakLand

First E-Toys Tutorial

March 8, 2009 at 14:38 | Posted in OLPC, Tutorials/Howtos, Vod/Pod casts, XO | 2 Comments
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I am doing a series of tutorial on E-Toys from Squeakland.org

This is the first of many. It introduces basic navigation and the “Halos”.

Enjoy!

Privacy and the XOs BrowseActivity

February 5, 2009 at 15:23 | Posted in Privacy/Security, XO | 2 Comments
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As mentioned in earlier posts I have been looking into ways for users to increase the Privacy/Security stance of the BrowseActivity. My biggest annoyance in this field so far has been the lack of a way to clear cookies and the browsing history. I was further miffed to find that the BrowseActivity completely ignores some of the About:config settings related to the history and p cookies.

I have found the the following do work:

using about:config and setting:

network.cookie.cookieBehavior to  1 will indeed block third party cookies.

network.cookie.lifetimePolicy to 2 will make all cookies “session only” clearing them when the browser closes.

The above two settings will only effect cookies that come in after the settings are changes third party and persistant cookies that came in before will be uneffected. But we’ll clear thous out in a sec.

you can control Java and JavaScript with:

security. enable_java and javascript.enabled . They can be set to true to allow or False to disallow either java or javascript. Keep in mind that the XO does not ship with a Java run time environmentso the effects of security. enable_java are meaningless unless you install Java. Disabling JavaScript will break many sites but is also a lot safer so you might what to write that down some place if you think you might ever take your XO to risky websites.

Now for the History and Cookies.. After some poking around I found that the XOs Browse Activity stores cookies and the history in sqlite databases. These can be tricky to track down, but not to worry. if you have a G1G1 XO. (I’m guessing that is most of you). you can:

open the Terminal Activity

Become root with either the “become root” button or by typing su – at the commandline

change back to the olpc directory with: cd /home/olpc

then type: find isolation/ -name places.* -delete

that will find and delete your browsing history (where you’ve been)

now type: find isolation/ -name cookies.* -delete

you guessed it, that will clear out all the cookies.

If I have the time I may write a quick Activity that will flush the cookies and the Browsing history, If I get really clever with it it might even be able to remove all of the “Browse Activity”s from the journal. But at least you have this for now.

If you are worried about Browsing privacy on the XO you might also want to check out my post on Privoxy on the XO

Happy and safe computing :)

Blocking Ads on the XO’s Browse Activity

January 6, 2009 at 16:28 | Posted in OLPC, Privacy/Security, XO | 1 Comment
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I have been noticing several post by people wondering how to block ads on their XO’s. Being familiar with Privoxy and it’s ability to block ads I decided to go ahead and try setting it up. It was fairly easy so here is a Quick Howto.

On your XO make sure you are connected to the net and then…

Open a terminal activity

Click the “become root” button (or enter the command: su - )

Enter the command:

yum install privoxy

Once it is done installing you will need to make one quick change to the config file. So type

nano /etc/privoxy/config

Scroll down till you see the line:

logdir /var/log/privoxy

change it to:

logdir /tmp

I had to do this because the /var/log/privoxy directory doesn’t survive the machine restarting.

Press CTRL+X to save and exit

You’ll now be back at the Terminal Activity prompt.

We need to tell Privoxy to start-up at boot time so type:

chkconfig privoxy on

We should also start privoxy now so type:

service privoxy start

Alright, now it is time to set up the Browse Activity. Exit the Terminal Activity. Start the Browse Activity and in the address bar type:

about:config

A rather daunting page will come up tht looks like this:

config settngs page

The about:config settngs page

In the filter line type: proxy

The Screen will chance to look like this:

config Proxy settings

about:config Proxy settings

Now we need to change a couple of the settings.

double click on network.proxy.http

a dialogue will pop up letting you enter the new setting.

Enter localhost and click ok.

Now using the same technique change

network.proxy.http_port to    8118

network.proxy.ssl to   localhost

netwok.proxy.ssl_port to   8118

network.proxy.type to  1

After doing so your screen should look like the image above (may not be exactly the same but the 5 settings I mentioned should now all be bold, have a status of “user set”, and the appropriate values).

Now we can test the settings.. in the address bar type p.p and you should get a screen that looks like this:

Privoxy Sucessfully set up

Privoxy Sucessfully set up

If instead you get a screen that looks like this:

Failed To Connect to Privoxy

Failed To Connect to Privoxy

Then either privoxy is not running or you entered one of the proxy settings incorrectly. Double check the setting in about:config. If they are fine go back to the Terminal Activity, become root, and type:

service privoxy restart

and watch the output carefully for errors.

Once you have it up and running I suggest giving it a couple of days on the default settings as privoxy is configured by befault to block may ads. If you find there are some annoying ads still getting through you can  add extra rules to privoxy. Please read the documentation on the privoxy website before you embark on making changes. The built-in interface at http://p.p lets you add/modify rules if you change the approrpiate line in the config file (see the docs on the Privoxy website).

Enjoy!!

My next blog entry will be on using about:config to make browsing on the XO more private/secure.

Working with the XO – Audio and Video

December 14, 2008 at 12:56 | Posted in Tech | Comments Off
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This is the first in an ongoing series of post on “Working with the XO”. By “Working with the XO” I am referring to working with it in it’s native state. I’ll have other series of extending or hacking the XO. This series is for people that Love the XO for what it is and want to keep it as close to a pure XO as possible.

Today I’ll be discussing Media (audio/video) on the XO. Many people that get the XO find that it can not play many formats “out of the box”. This is more a choice by OLPC then a hardware limitation. But there is good thinking behind the choice. Most Video/Audio codecs (compressors/decompressors) are patented and OLPC would have to pay royalties to include them. The XO does however support free, open source codecs. Those being Vorbis for sound and Theora for video and the OGG/OGV container formats. Sadly these are not the standard on the Internet (yet?!?, well I can hope). It is however quite easy to convert other formats to These free standards. The tool I have been using, which is available for both Windows and Linux is OggConvert. It is fast and simple to use. There are other programs that can do the converting but OggConvert is a good place to start.

Now that you can get the Media into a format that the XO understands it’s time to talk about the hardware limitations. Remember the XO only runs at 433 Mhz, so you aren’t going to be able to see a full frame rate 720p video on it. I got into the whole computer/multimedia thing back when I had a 500 Mhz machine with a TV card in it. So I’m kinda used to the restrictions. Basically you’ll want to drop the video resolution and frame rate. 320×240 ish (for 4:3 video) and a frame rate around 15 frames per second will play nicely. I have a script running on my main laptop that pulls down the local news from a website, and ever since I received the XO I have been happily watching the news on my XO at night. (sitting the XO on my chest while I’m laying in bed is great for watching the evening news.)

If you have a video that you need to down convert (drop the resolution/framerate on) I’d strongly suggest AviDemux. It’s free it works on Windows and Linux and it is easy to use. Sadly AviDemux doesn’t support Theora Video as an output choice so you’d still need to run the output from it through OggConvert. If you are using Linux and are comfortable dealing with scripts you can use VLC and a script. I can’t get the VLC command to stay all on one line here but the command to use in the script would look like:

vlc -vv “$1″ –sout ‘#transcode{ height=320,width=240,fps=15,vcodec=theo,vb=800,scale=1,acodec=vorb,ab=128,channels=2} :duplicate{dst=std{access=file,mux=ogg,dst=”XO_Vid.ogv”}}’

With the above all being on a single line. This will resize the video to 320×240. Drop the frame rate to 15fps, and convert it into Theora/vorbis/ogg format for the XO. The “$1″ should be replaced with the name of the file to convert. I left it as “$1″ so you could just drop the line into a shell script that took the name of the file to convert as the first argument. (N.b. this is the Linux version of the command, the Windows version may differ slightly I haven’t had time to look into that yet)

once you have your .ogg (sound) and/or .ogv files ready. Move them to an SD card or Thumbdrive and plug it into the XO. The XO will recognize the files, and play them in the browse activity by default. This works well enough, but if you want a slightly more media player looking interface you can go into the Terminal activity and type:

totem <name of file>

so something like

totem /media/disk/XO_Vid.ogv

I hope this helps people get started using their XO for media.

Questions and comments are welcome.

XO Blog. First thoughts and impressions

December 12, 2008 at 13:39 | Posted in Cool, Tech | 1 Comment
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Hello Everyone,

I haven’t blog in a bit,  that was due to the fact that I got a G1G1 XO for my birthday and have been having a wonderful time playing with it ever since. But now that I’ve explored and poked, and configured enough to drag myself away from it I am going to start writing about it.

One thing I’d like to stress is that I knew exactly what I was getting into with an XO. I didn’t expect it to be running Windows. I didn’t expect it to be a full powered multimedia capable netbook. I knew it was a purpose built machine, with purpose built software. I am saying this because I have seen several posts from people that clearly didn’t understand this and consequentially ended up being disappointed when they couldn’t do content rich web 2.0 stuff with their XO.

To help clear things up for the non-technical readers I’d like to make a quick can/cant do list. Bear in mind that several things I’m putting in the can’t pile really translate to “can, but not is a way that would be satisfactory to the average windows user”.

Can

  • Gmail
  • Yahoo mail (classic interface)
  • other web mail
  • Google Calendar/Reader/Docs
  • wikipedia
  • meebo.com (Instant messaging)
  • Read ebooks
  • read .PDF’s

Can’t

  • Watch Streaming Video
  • flash Video (youtube, ustream.tv, dailymotion, blip.tv, revver.com, etc)
  • use windows applications/games
  • work with Microsoft Office Files (Word, Powerpoint XL)

That is a short list for both the can and can’t but I just wanted to give a general idea. Now that I’ve done my part to be clear I feel it’s time to rave about the XO because it really is the neatest bit of tech “kit” to come out in years (both hardware and software).

My first impressions of the XO were how small, light, and well designed it was. It is also one of the cutest computers I have ever seen.

It connected to my home network no problem at all and I was soon busily tinkering seeing what it could do. Some of the concepts behind the UI (User Interface, “desktop” for the lay folks) are very innovative and I would definitely like to see them move out of the XO world to the larger computer market. In particular I find the thinking behind the “Journal” to be a big step in a good direction. How nice it would be is my main laptop saved it’s information in the same way. Also the idea of all “Activities” (programs) being collaborative by  design is fantastic. Even the way that I can see all the other XO users on the presence server I’m hooked to is great. What a wonderful way to promote community.

I am going to keep Sugar firmly entrenched on the XO and although I may make myself a dual boot Xubuntu or Fedora SD card, it’d be purely for the techieness of doing so not to migrate away from Sugar. Not only would such a migration loose those wonderful innovations mentioned above it would also lose some of the unique capabilities of the XO such as “Mesh Networking” (no there aren’t many other XO’s around.. but when 802.11s hist main stream the XO will be ready.)

I’ll stop there for today. But I do plan further blog entries on:

  • Sugar
  • Video  on the XO without installing anything
  • Sound on the XO without installing anything
  • Getting into the XO for what it is
  • Getting the most out of the XO
  • Tweaks and hacks
  • etc.

First XO blog

December 5, 2008 at 17:18 | Posted in Cool, Life, Tech | Comments Off
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This is my first Blog from my new G1G1 XO laptop. I am just going to make this a short one. (Mostly because I’m still in the spending too much time in the “playing with the XO” phase). I’ll write detailed review of the XO once I’ve played more

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