Hacking a VGA Adapter on a XO Laptop


Do you look at the amazing dual mode XO screen and think to yourself "that's too small to show a classroom the joys of learning learning"? Might you want a VGA port to attach external viewing hardware? If so, you would not be alone. From Christoph we learn that:

The teachers at the Austrian pilot have been asking for such a solution to project their XO via the classroom's beamer. At the moment they're using VNC on the XO which they display from the regular class PC or Sugar-on-a-Stick which still doesn't work as well as it should.

The vestigial VGA port

Mary Lou Jepsen says that OLPC took the VGA port off the XO, over the strong objections of Alan Kay, because it drew one Watt. Yet its basics are still there. It is possible to hack a VGA port onto a XO laptop, giving you the ability to display the XO screen via a projector or just a larger display. But don't think this hack is an easy one. From Seth we learn that there is a vetiagal post still there:

Do you see those copper holes at the bottom of the circuit board? It's labeled CN12, and it's an unpopulated VGA port, the kind used for desktop computer monitors, and projectors. This isn't plug and play by any means. There is a jumper (CN18) *somewhere* on this board that switches between the LCD and this VGA port.

An XO laptop VGA adapter

So the VGA port basics do exist. Now how would one go about getting to the motherboard to attach the VGA port? From the OLPC wiki we learn that:

While on Gen1 XO laptops (the B1/B2/B3/C1/MP builds) it will continue to be possible to attach a VGA connector to the XO motherboard, making use of it requires soldering a jumper (pins 1 and 3 of CN18) and cutting the laptop case to make room for it. In B3/C1/MP versions, additional required passive components will not be populated on the motherboard (but are easier to obtain than the required VGA connector!)

Still, a hacked kernel and USB-VGA adapter approach might be less hassle overall.

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I've had a fair bit of luck getting a ~$70 USB to SVGA adapter to work with an XO running 8.2, the missing link is an Xorg configuration file that mirrors the XO screen on the SVGA monitor (it currently only shows up on the SVGA monitor).

See the thread on devel@ about the issue, pointers and .conf files greatly appreciated :)

Interesting stuff!

However I think we'll probably see SoaS run reliably on laptops and netbooks before the USB-2-VGA option becomes really viable...

Oh hey guys, I never got the redirects right on my old whyxo blog, but I've since moved that post here:


Thanks for the heads-up, I've updated the link accordingly.

Thinkpads have always been the best quality laptops in my opinion. I noticed you didn't compare the XO Laptop to these. I have had a great experience for several months now running Ubuntu minus Gnome, with Stumpwm window manager. Wireless works great, and it boots/runs fast (it's fast with the current setup, but really slow in the default Fedora/Sugar setup). The one flaw is the touchy trackpad, but Stumpwm allows me to do more with the keyboard.