Debian on OLPC, take two

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

It’s nice to see that the method for installing Debian as an alternative operating system on OLPC machines has gotten easier. You can now install Debian or Ubuntu (or Edubuntu, apparently) through the olpc-update tool, as described here.

The old method worked well for me, but required a little effort to get all the pieces in place. I decided to try the new way after I updated my system software to Build 711, and it worked as promised.

After that, I recreated my Arch OLPC desktop, which uses IceWM and GTK1.2-ish applications to fake a Windows 2000 desktop. The results were … acceptable.

I had to swap out some programs, since Debian unstable doesn’t have a few things that are available in Arch — things like XMMS or the entire Xfe suite (Xfi, Xfw, etc.). And the addition of GTK2 software slows things down considerably. But for the most part, it’s working fine. Slowly, but fine.

P.S.: No, the system update did not magically cure my stuck keys issue.


10 thoughts on “Debian on OLPC, take two

  1. Mark

    How on earth did you get all that on the tiny OLPC screen? πŸ˜•

    You’ve made it look like it has a much bigger monitor

  2. Alan Doyle

    Wow this beats the pants off the whole monkey to elephant trick πŸ™‚

    Could you post your IceWM config as I’ve never been able to get the “Quick launch” area to look so much like 2k! I’m not usually a big fan of the Windows UI but I’m intrigued to see how you did it.

  3. devnet

    Since debian works…I wonder how eLive would work on that puppy…I’m using elive on an older Inspiron lappy with 256MB of RAM. I’ve found it to be quite fast…

  4. laptopugilist

    It’s funny that you’re using IceWM and Debian on your OLPC, since this blog and urukuama’s are what got me using OpenBox on the base fedora install (minus sugar, of course) on my XO.

  5. K.Mandla Post author

    Oh, that’s really only because GTK1.2 applications are so much faster for me on the XO, and if I want a window manager that looks a little better (to me) at GTK1.2, I go with IceWM, and if I use IceWM in its natural shape I get a taskbar, and if I have a taskbar it might as well look like Windows … and so there it is.

  6. laptopugilist

    I guess after I went through the whole “I guess it really ISN’T a full featured laptop!” thing I decided that a normal interface wasn’t what I wanted either. I saw the tabbed desktop (link below) and thought that a simple two-color system (because the only thing I missed about sugar was how good it looked in black and white) with all maximized windows was what I wanted. Well, that and it was an excuse to blow a weekend learning OpenBox. It’s so much less fun now that everything works.

  7. Alan Doyle

    K.Mandla:Worked a treat. Built a test XRDP server and users login to a familiar Win style environment thats light on server resources. πŸ™‚ Many thanks.

  8. zenfunk

    Sorry for bothering you about the old news- but your gtk 1.2 looks so much better than mine. The main difference might well only be the little arrows above and under the scroll bar but yours look almost GTK- 2.0-ish. Mine look more motif- like. Is this something that could be turned on somewhere, is it a special gtk 1.2 theme you are using?

    Thanks in advance,


    BTW: The gtk 1.2 firefox from rocks. thanks for the tip back then. It’s my favorite browser on the 300 MHz PII Thinkpad of mine.


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