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Kicking off a gen-1.5 development process: Updating the XO hardware

XO + Tinkertoys(Box and Tinker) = Directional Cantenna OLPC is excited to announce that a refresh of the XO-1 laptop is in progress. In our continued effort to maintain a low price point, OLPC is refreshing the hardware to take advantage of the latest component technologies. This refresh (Gen 1.5) is separate from the Gen 2.0 project, and will continue using the same industrial design and batteries as Gen 1. The design goal is to provide an overall update of the system within the same ID and external appearance. In order to maximize compatibility with existing software, this refresh will continue with an x86 processor, using a chipset from VIA. The memory will be increased to 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM, and the built-in storage will be 4 GB of NAND Flash with an option for 8 GB (installed at manufacture). The processor will be a VIA C7-M [1], with plans on using one whose clock ranges from 400 MHz (1.5 W) to 1GHz (5 W). The clock may be throttled back automatically if necessary to meet thermal constraints. The enabling chipset is hot off the fab line, the VX855 [2]. This single chip provides the memory interface, a 3D graphics engine, an HD video decoder, USB, SDIO, and other system interface and management functions, in a low power and small footprint package. One change induced by the chipset change is a move from AC'97 to HD Audio. This brings higher sampling rates and allows an upgrade to a stereo external microphone (and DC sensor) input. The CaFE chip is being retired, and replaced with an external Flash management controller, possibly one of the low cost SSD controllers currently being tested. The camera will now be tied directly to the VX855's video capture port. The network interface will be upgraded to an 88W8686, which will halve its power dissipation and move it to  an SDIO interface (further dropping the power consumption). The current goal is to locate it in a removable module, allowing its replacement for repair. It will remain powered while the laptop suspends, waking the laptop if a packet addressed to it arrives. It is likely that early production models will not directly support 802.11s (i.e. forwarding mesh packets while the interface is asleep), but we are working with Marvell on several different 802.11s solutions. Gen 1.5 will continue with the existing display, although OLPC is working with PixelQi to try to improve the brightness and efficiency of the screen. The DCON is retained (even though the VX855 includes much of its functionality) as it provides the low power interface and the timing controller functions for the existing display. Overall, the target is to match the Gen 1 XO-1 in power consumption while making aggressive suspend easier, and in price (while changing to components which are more likely to decrease in price). It is likely that both goals can be met. We also expect the Gen 1.5 machines to ship with an OLPC 8.2.x software release, modified to support Gen 1.5's new hardware but otherwise unchanged from the current production software release and compatible with our current software in the field. Gen 1.5 machines will be deployed in environments already populated by Gen 1 machines, so seamless software interoperability is an important goal. Early versions of the hardware (bare board) should be available for driver development at the end of May. A larger number of prototype laptops (several hundred) for software development and testing will become available around the end of August. The OLPC contributors program will be the preferred way of requesting a Gen 1.5 machine for testing your software for compatibility or development. We hope to use the contributors program to ensure Gen 1.5 support for the wide variety of application and OS solutions created for Gen 1.0. We're excited to be finally able to make this news public. While members of the technical team have been working on this for several months, it was not until last week that we could with any certainty say that we were going to refresh the hardware and what that refresh was likely to be. We're now committed to this project and look forward to working with you to make it happen. --- John, Ed, and the OLPC Tech team. ======== [1] [2]


Julien (not verified) says: This is great news. Hopefully it will dissipate a little the constant FUD. April 17, 2009 at 8 pm

Julien (not verified) says: I just hope people don't confuse 1.5 with v.2 (and don't shout "vaporware" here and there) April 17, 2009 at 8 pm

Julien (not verified) says: I had the occasion to visit the boston office early this year, and that was really great to see all those dozens of XOs (instead of just one in conference / demo) !! April 17, 2009 at 8 pm

el.x.jtr0 (not verified) says: I use the Quanta IL1 (aka: A110 ) and I like it pretty much.. now. April 21, 2009 at 11 am

el.x.jtr0 (not verified) says: As far as I know the IL1 was a OLPC Candidate. I have this Device about one year and run Linux exclusiv. There have been a lot of Problems! The Modem still doesn't work. April 21, 2009 at 11 am

el.x.jtr0 (not verified) says: The biggest Problem now, is the lack of a good graphic support. There is a more or less broken binary driver and a openchrome driver full of errors and thats for the VX800U. I don't have much hope for newer chipsets. April 21, 2009 at 11 am

el.x.jtr0 (not verified) says: Don't get me wrong. In the last year VIA did very much to open up their drivers and I am gratefull, but it would be very bad if the OLPC is ready to roll on VIA-Chips but there are no drivers.... April 21, 2009 at 11 am

el.x.jtr0 (not verified) says: Sorry, I had to wait about a year to get the Cardreader working... that leaves scars. April 21, 2009 at 11 am

Saskboy (not verified) says: This is good to hear, I think. So long as reimaging isn't different no matter what version of 1 or 1.5 you have, then I'm in favour of doing this. I think the same case should be used for as long as possible. April 25, 2009 at 1 am

Saskboy (not verified) says: Someone, a student, today pointed out that bluetooth would add a lot to this device, since projectors might support that for video output, thus adding an external monitor or classroom projector option. Is power use a concern? April 25, 2009 at 1 am

mosamjc (not verified) says: Depending on the out-of-the-box experience, with the 1.5, I may consider picking one up as an ebook reader until Jepson's newer screen technology filters its way into newer devices. I've always been impressed by the XO's ebook mode, but I have never been able to justify buying an x86 processor slower than anything I've owned over the last 9 years. With this I may finally have a solution to shed some bulky university textbooks and, depending on how well it browses and word processes, my laptop April 28, 2009 at 10 am

Ben (not verified) says: When Gen 1.5 goes in to production, will it be possible to purchase a new board to upgrade existing Gen 1 XOs? May 5, 2009 at 10 pm

Jerry (not verified) says: I would like the 1.5 release to be able to support running the OpenOffice
suite. I know AbiWord is the base for Sugar Write but adults use the machines
too and older kids might need compatibility (in the states and elsewhere) with
commonly available formats... June 12, 2009 at 6 am

Jerry (not verified) says: Also, the XO is painfully slow starting.
Fedora (upon which the default distro is based) has a 20 second boot plan goal.
OpenFirmware apps are nice and fast by comparison. Don't make me figure out microemacs saving to nand or usb just to make some notes on this hardware... Please, pretty please... '=/ June 12, 2009 at 6 am

Jerry (not verified) says: Getting online quickly would be good too.
If not in a school environment, would it be possible to stop looking for school servers and mesh? This has been slowing down the connect so much, as it cycles...
An easy config option? June 12, 2009 at 6 am

Jerry (not verified) says: A touchscreen would really help too. Having a 5 yo and most people want to just point at stuff... Realize this may be a 2.0 goal thing, but had to push. It would be good to have as an option for people in 1.5 land to start thinking and developing for that goal target, like backporting...
Keyboard size is an issue with the existing package.and hopefully the touchscreen could be a way of trying typing too... adjusting the size to age/ disability/ handedness, etc... June 12, 2009 at 6 am

Jerry (not verified) says: Projector support. Don't care if it's a dongle/ extra accessory/ option, but for those trying to push the project locally, showing it onscreen in demos would really help. Don't think the USBVGA adapter has flown, but might have missed something... June 12, 2009 at 6 am

Jim (not verified) says: Does this mean that I will be able to play video content on my current XO?
Wish that was available.
I'm a bit slow on these concepts,perhaps someone can tell me.
Will I be able download the upgrade to this G 1.5 version? July 4, 2009 at 12 pm

sj (not verified) says: You can already play video content on your current XO. If you visit Dailymotion (for instance or any other site that streams the ogg video format, you can play it from your browser. If you want to play youtube videos, you'll first need to install Adobe Flash ( . July 9, 2009 at 11 am

ed (not verified) says: Jim, although there is a major software update to go with it, the 1.5 project is primarily a hardware (motherboard) upgrade. So while there will still be new software available for the XO-1, you can't download something that will turn an XO-1 into an XO-1.5 because the XO-1.5 has a substantially different motherboard. July 9, 2009 at 11 am

ed (not verified) says: It is mechanically and electrically feasible to consider installing a 1.5 motherboard into a 1.0 machine, and we're investigating the possibility of offering an upgrade motherboard. We're not yet sure we'll be able to do that, but we do know that people are interested in it. July 9, 2009 at 11 am

rp (not verified) says: Put me down as interested in a 1.5 upgrade mobo if its available.
I'd love to upgrade my existing XO - I like the unit and its on loan to a friend with a small child - as she grows, it might be nice for her to be able to grow with the unit.
I think it would be better to upgrade it rather than buy a new one - less waste maybe? August 13, 2009 at 12 pm

rp (not verified) says: RP in Ottawa, Canada August 13, 2009 at 12 pm

JH (not verified) says: If the XO-1.5 turns into a real product by the end of the year, I'm ready to order a few - the updates seem awesome! Hugs to the developers! August 24, 2009 at 2 pm

Shail (not verified) says: Great tips in your blog to solve the problem of the Laptops.
Thanks September 23, 2009 at 12 am

Jim (not verified) says: I would love to install anything into my current XO that would allow me to watch streaming video.
I hope this motherboard is easy to install.
In the past I have tried to download a flash player but never understood EXACTLY how to do it.
I love my olpc and hope I don't have to give it up. October 22, 2009 at 4 pm

Jim (not verified) says: Be well all. October 22, 2009 at 4 pm

XO roadmap updates: XO 1.5, 1.75, and 3 | One Laptop per Chi (not verified) says: [...] we announced our coming hardware lineup, the pending production of the XO 1.5, and published the first concept photos and timeline for the XO-3 tablet.  Here’s the press [...] December 29, 2009 at 7 am

Ds karte (not verified) says: Bill gates once said the same thing, but do all our children really needs a laptop, everyone? December 31, 2009 at 4 am

curts (not verified) says: I too would be interested in a 1.5 motherboard update. I've figured out how to install Firefox 3.6b5, Thunderbird 3, and OpenOffice 3.x, but it requires patience (and swap space on my SD card) to run these apps. at 400 MHz. The expanded RAM and 1 GHz CPU would make a huge difference. January 19, 2010 at 4 pm

curts (not verified) says: I still love to show off my XO-1 to folks that have never seen one "in the flesh" before. January 19, 2010 at 4 pm

XO-3 concept design is here! | One Laptop per Child (not verified) says: [...] arrived!  As announced in Tuesday’s  press release, after our upcoming releases of our 1.5 and 1.75 models next year, we are looking at the XO-3, a thin touchscreen tablet.  Here are the [...] January 27, 2010 at 1 am

Robert Braxton (not verified) says: Our organization is very interested in the 1.5 when it is available. We obtained day one (day zero) G1 G1 units in November, 2007 (six units) which we now use in after-school tutoring for mostly immigrant youngsters in Virginia near Washington, D.C. plus a hundred delivered July 2009 in Kibwezi, Kenya. March 29, 2010 at 1 pm