Debian on OLPC XO-1

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I updated the software on my OLPC yesterday, and by some curious circumstance found myself on this page, installing Debian as an additional software version.

It was partly because the newest versions of Sugar, the XO’s default operating system, come as stripped down as you can get — the basic installation leaves out all the packages, and you install the ones you want manually. I kind of like that, since some of the default G1G1 packages were a bit esoteric. I’m all for building up from nothing, so installing nothing and adding on is ideal to me.

And there’s quite a bit more space left on the NAND without the excess packages, I decided to try that Debian-as-upgrade trick, and it worked pretty well for me.

The script does all the hard work, although I did have to mangle the /etc/apt/sources.list to find the software I wanted. And while the etch repos were acceptable, I ended up adding testing and unstable, just to get a few software versions I wanted (most notably, Kazehakase).

In the end, my repo list looked like this.

# deb http://debian.lcs.mit.edu/debian unstable main

deb ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free
deb ftp://ftp.jp.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free
deb ftp://ftp2.jp.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free

deb http://security.debian.org testing/updates main contrib non-free
# deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org unstable main
# deb http://ftp.debian-unofficial.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free restricted

deb http://layer-acht.org/debian etch olpc xorg

The layer-acht repo holds backported drivers for the video system — I couldn’t get a graphical environment without them. There’s more about that here, on the Ubuntu side of the house.

Overall, performance is … acceptable. Debian does a good job keeping the environment light and fluffy, but I think I prefer my Arch USB system. I know, XFCE isn’t ideal really, and I could install the same software here as I have in Arch for a proper comparison, but XFCE seems so much more … huggy-bunny-cute than my pretend Windows 2000 IceWM setup. :mrgreen:

Anyways. This will keep me entertained for a little while. :)

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3 Responses to “Debian on OLPC XO-1”


  1. 1 Andy 2008/06/20 at 11:16 AM

    How does Debian compare to Arch for speed? I have an old machine 500MHz 128MB RAM that I am messing with. I have Arch on it and it is fast but difficult for me to maintain. I haven’t updated for 1 year and I bet things break if I try.

    I typically use Ubuntu and tried to Ubuntu Lite 0.8 but I would like something even lighter if possible. If I do all your speed tricks with Ubuntu do you think it will be as fast as Arch? Thanks for the blog. I really enjoy reading it.

  2. 2 K.Mandla 2008/06/21 at 4:53 PM

    To be honest, Debian Sarge impresses me quite a bit — I find it to be a fuller alternative to Arch, even if it’s just not as quick. If you want something that’s reasonably fast and doesn’t require a lot of setup, I would go with that. (And the fact that the software is out of date probably won’t bother you. ;) )

    I’m not as enthusiastic about later versions of Debian — there’s a lot of weight that seems to have been added after Sarge was finished. You can see the mishmosh of releases in that photo by looking at the repo list; it’s a bunch of stuff with XFCE over top, and it’s acceptably fast.

    It doesn’t compare to Arch though. I know it takes more work to set up, but if you want to keep that machine fully usable — and completely up to date — stick with Arch. Take the chance that the updates will confuse it, because there’s still no better option short of a compile-it-yourself distro than Arch. Worse comes to worst, you start over from scratch, and don’t have to set it up again for another year. ;)


  1. 1 Debian on OLPC, take two « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/09/25 at 1:00 PM

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