Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emulating the latest stable OLPC XO software

Even with XO laptops readily available now there are quite a lot of reasons why one would want to emulate it on another machine. One being to hook up a projector. Unfortunately there are quite a number of hoops (*) one has to jump through to make it work.

Anyway, I made a virtual machine that allows me to emulate the XO in VMWare on my Mac, running Sugar in the XO's native 1200x900 resolution, scaled down to a nice physical size in a window on my regular screen (fullscreen works, too). Sound works (even Tam Tam), Browse works (so networking is good), and after setting a working Jabber server I do see other XOs in the neighborhood view (Chat worked fine). Camera and mic are half working (Measure crashes, Record shows blank picture, but reportedly does record video), and a "Sugar restart" does not actually restart Sugar, but apart from that it seems fully functional, and much nicer than the emulations I had used to date.

Click to see actual screenshots (calibrated to match the XO's physical extent using the Ruler activity on my MBP's 110 ppi screen):

And here you can get that virtual machine (665 MB, 2 GB unzipped):

I made this using VMWare Fusion, which I found to be much better at running Linux clients than Parallels Desktop (I had been using that for 2 years). Give it a try, it's free as in beer for 30 days. No, I don't get paid if you buy it.

Update: Reportedly it does work in VMWare Player on Windows and Linux, too (see comments). And maybe someone can make an appliance for even easier use?

(*) Now to the hoops:
  • I started with the 767/ext3 image from
  • extended to 2 GB by appending /dev/zero
    (jffs2 compression gives roughly 2 GB too)
  • enlarged the partition to full 2 GB
    (using fdisk and ext2resize)
  • mounted that in a Fedora 10 virtual machine
  • copied over the F10 kernel, initrd, and modules
    (olpc kernel wanted AMD instructions)
  • edited grub.conf to use that kernel
  • and appended a root=/dev/sda1 kernel arg
    (the fedora kernel wants to use LVM otherwise)
  • unmounted
  • created new virtual machine
    (that disk, 1 CPU, 256 MB RAM, NAT networking)
  • booted into that new system
  • installed Perl
    (for vmware tools installer)
  • installed vmware tools
    (to get the X driver)
    (but none of the kernel modules, would need make/gcc/etc.)
  • deleted Perl
    (to restore the default sw environment)
  • copied the existing xorg-vmware.conf to xorg.conf
    (to get 1200x900 resolution w/ 200 dpi)
  • booted into Sugar
    (looks really nice so scaled down)
  • installed activities
    (took a long time, maybe it's my DSL)
  • tested a bit
  • rm -r ~olpc/.sugar
    (to remove my personal data)
  • should have deleted sshd host keys, too, but didn't
  • shut down
  • zip
  • upload
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • still no profit? ;)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this.

It runs perfectly in VMware Player on Windows. Simply download, unzip, double-click the .vmx file

Andy Tween

Vanessa said...

Thanks Andy, I've updated the post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Dr. Freudenberg.

Great work.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

Were you able to get screen resizing working in VMWare on Windows?

Brian Jordan

Anonymous said...

How do i resize it in Windows?thx

Vanessa said...

Apparently, the window scaling/resizing only works on the Mac.
In other news, this image has been confirmed to work in VMWare Server and Player for Linux (see Emulating the XO).

Miles Berry said...

Many thanks for creating this; glad to be able to try Sugar out properly at last.

Abel Cheung said...

The problem that Sugar fail to shutdown or restart can be circumvented. While it looks stuck in console mode after clicking shutdown/restart, press Ctrl-Alt-F2 at that time and shutdown sequence would go on normally. Don't know why. :)

Besides, another confirmation that your VM works fine with VMware server 2.0 on Windows.

Davide Zerrilli said...

Hi Dr. Bert I'm an italian student.
Thanks for your work.
I have one question:
In this days I'm testing your image on my two laptop with VMware Player. The image works fine and with my WiFi Router setted to an open network without protection I see each laptop.
With one laptop I can invite a second to an activity, but the condivision of the activity don't works, do you know why?

Vanessa said...

Davide, it should work. Please ask for help on IRC or the forums.

Kashi said...

Bert! Bert! Could you do it again for the 802 XO-1 OS release pretty please? I'm trying to use your 767 image on VMware Fusion 3.01, but it isn't too happy, it's telling me that the VMware tools are out of date so it won't have anything to do with the network. I wouldn't know how to go about installing perl etc. and it would be pretty much going back to the beginning anyway, so it seems to make more sense to just start again with the 802 release...

Vanessa said...

Kashi, I don't think I will have time to do this again for 802. If you want to run Sugar on a non-XO machine, you should use Sugar on a Stick. You can get help on the Sugar mailing list.

HuskyDev said...

Thanks a lot for posting these instructions and making your image available. It definitely would be great to have this for 802. Maybe I'll take a stab at it and upload the result if I'm successful.

Did you ever try using the directions on the OLPC wiki? (

Vanessa said...

HuskyDev, I did not try those instructions but they do look reasonable - provided that the kernel does work in VMWare (old ones did not). Also, they don't install the VMWare tools so you won't get the 1200x900 resolution (which may be fine depending on your intentions).

HuskyDev said...

Yep, the BIOS can't find the OS on the vmdk virtual disk that I made from the 802 image. So why did you use the FC10 kernel? Did you just need a newer one than what came on the OLPC image? Feel free to email me if you get a spare moment: slipstick86(at) Thanks!