Saturday, November 30, 2013

Unbricking the OLPC XO-1.75 B1

A really long time ago I went to the X.Org conference in Chicago. It was actually the first tech conference I went to. At one point I nervously poured cream into the coffee tray instead of my cup; at a different point I signed up for a list to receive a developer version of the XO 1.75. The OLPC did actually send me one, but it was bricked...and having just started with Linux I was pretty intimidated by the idea of disassembling a laptop and using a terminal emulator to fix the firmware.

It's the holiday weekend in Chicago and I needed some distraction from studying for finals, so I decided to see if I could finally follow through and unbrick the XO. Somehow I always manage to misplace all of my Phillips-head screwdrivers, but after a while I found one \o/ (it was in the pencil holder :/). Soon the laptop looked like this:
disassembled XO

I connected the serial adapter to the XO. The directions said to use a USB type A to type B connector to connect the serial adapter to the host computer. Unfortunately that was vague. I spent some time Googling and looking at pictures before I gave up, wandered over to my desktop computer, and started unplugging anything that looked promising. It turned out that the printer to USB cable was the right one.

The XO 1.75 booting linux

I installed the Screen package on Fedora, changed some permissions so Screen could access the new firmware that I had on a USB drive, installed the new firmware via the terminal emulator, and then I was done :)

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