Using an OLPC XO-1 laptop as a remote display

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The sadly failed OLPC project created a bunch of interesting hardware and many still have old models like the XO-1 laptop lying around their homes. Too interesting to throw away but too slow and tiny to be of much use today. They have one feature that is still rare: In direct sunlight the display becomes a reflective black and white display. Very useful in the California sun.

I decided to use these old laptops as little informational displays mounted on the outside of our hackerspace. They idea being that they'd list upcoming events for the day.

This guide will show you how to set up remote X access for the OLPC and display a modern web browser in kiosk mode. You won't have to jailbreak the laptop nor update the operating system.

These instructions are based on OLPC XO-1 operating system build 802, meaning that it was one of the early XO-1 laptops that has never been updated. Newer versions may be different but they're all fedora based so you should be able to find the documentation without too much difficulty.

To get a root shell press ctrl-alt-f2 (f2 is the button at the top with the round symbol with three dots).

Install lxde and xterm:

yum install lxde-common xterm

Set a password for the olpc user:

passwd olpc

create /home/olpc/.xsession

xhost + exec ck-xinit-session startlxde

Change to the IP of the server you want to allow remote X access for. This does not seem to work for hostnames, only IPs.

Change hostname in /etc/avahi-daemon.conf to e.g. olpc so you can access the laptop remotely using olpc.local

Disable network manager and enable normal network services:

chkconfig --level 2345 NetworkManager off chkconfig --level 2345 network on

Plug in usb ethernet adapter which should come up as eth2.

Create file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth2


From the remote machine (space.local) run:

DISPLAY=olpc.local:0 chromium-browser --kiosk ""

You should make this run on startup.

Now make a nice web-page that shows what you want to show and which has javascript to auto-reload every so often.