The World's Largest Mobile Phone: Skype on the XO Laptop


Do you have an XO laptop? Do you hunger to make free-to-cheap phone calls? Then let me introduce you to the world's largest mobile phone: Skype on the XO laptop.

skype olpc
Skype on the XO laptop

That's right, you too can have a little piece of software on your XO that makes communicating with people around the world easy and fun. And One Laptop Per Child made the XO laptop a winner for third-world Skyping for Holden Bonwit:

In fact, if the conditions are perfect, don't even add the headset to the OLPC, just use the Built in microphone, speakers, and webcam!

For the audiophiles out there, it turns out that the XO laptop gives way better filtering of background noise (I'm in a 20' x 30' concrete room)! Way to go OLPC team! I would have thought it would be standard due to both computers running Skype brand software, but there is a repeatable difference!

Now if you want Skype on your XO laptop, be sure to start with the Wiki instructions, which sound simple, but can be confusing for Linux newbies:
  1. Check that your PC has the needed pre-requisites installed
  2. Download the correct version of Skype package and uncompress it
  3. Install Skype
  4. Tweak the sound defaults of your PC
  5. (Optional) Redirect laptop camera into skype for video-out
If you run into trouble adding Skype to your XO, you can always check the ever-expanding Installing Skype on the XO guide on the OLPC News Forum. Or you can get crazy and try Skype with Ubuntu and Xfce.

Either way, you'll be on your way to one to one video conferencing per child.

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Regarding 2-way video.
I can only get it to work one-way, either from XO (using gstfakevideo) or to the XO.
Simultaneously does not work (at least for me). It seems Skype requires at least 2 Xv ports and the X-server of the XO only provides one. As soon as Skype tries to open
the 2nd one it crashes.
See the Skype forums for some details.
Is there anybody who has 2-way video working with Skype 2.0 on the XO?

Offtopic: Please fix your date:

Posted on May 20, 2008 by Wayan Vota in Software: Applications

Ontopic: is using XO as a Skype-booth educational? ;-)

Kind regards,

Honestly I feel that skype has no place on the XO, it is a proprietary app using a proprietary protocol. We should be supporting open source and standards. Skype makes it impossible for the student to learn how Voice and Video and network communications work. granted its not easy for someone to understand h323 or sip either. but at least they have the option.

The only reason I haven't tried to install Skype (though I've been sorely tempted) was after reading it uses a PTP protocol. I don't want the little XO to be trying to relay all those packets!


I have not downloaded Skype, since I use a much cheaper Voip based software and they do not have a Linux version yet. Sure, calling another computer to another computer is nice, but my XP Desktop does that already. I call so many countries for FREE for 4 months, and even get to call Colombia for 3 months free after giving them 10 Euros. We are talking LANDLINE and CELL PHONES! Sure beats Skype rates! The balance is available to be used to call after my 3 or 4 months period has expired!

Sorry, I guess spending little on my phone calls is better than playing with Skype on my XO! Anyone see their rates from a computer to a landline?

Greg, out of curiousity, I looked up the Colombian rates for skype calls to landlines and mobiles from skype: € 0.089. I agree that there are other ways to call, I was just surprised that my sound quality was BETTER on a much slower processor. YMMV, but this has been repeatably better for me! Surprising!

Lech, the more that I learn about my XO, the better tool it can be for education. Having used the XOs in a third world educational capacity, I can see the origin of your point. I agree that there are issues with it (not open protocol, debatable pedagogic value, etc.), but I don't think they're greater than my curiousity and need to learn about the computer. Thanks for raising the point!



I pay 10 Euros and can talk for 3 months to land lines in Colombia at 5 hours a week. Beyond 5 hours a week, I am charged .02 Euros a minute. After calling for less than 2 hours in skype costs more than 10 Euros. The rate to call cell phones in Colombia are just .07 Euros with my provider.

By NOT using skype, I save about 100 Euros compared to my Voip provider over 3 months.

While it is perfectly ok to try Skype, it comes with one big drawback for the OLPC focus group: Skype uses you as a router for someone elses calls. So in areas with no flat fee internet access it could prove more expensive then the omnipresent cellphone.

Anyway, why not give Linphone a try instead/besides of Skype. It has a small footprint,is stable, has video/presence/voice while it adheres to established standards (SIP).

If the X0 runs Skype, it might run Ekiga as well - one should give it a try as well.

Using/Learning SIP would folks allow to experiment with really cool things like Asterisk etc. which would make a difference, not only in markets where you can't just call Siemens to install on of their top notch HiPath systems into your small but distributed business.

That would give you a nice advantage/business case - probably not a a child but at some later stage of your geek's live.

Check this out:


I would like to know if the XO skype service requires connection back to the skype server, or if the Skype service can work in a isolated XO communities meshed network.

It would be good if the XO had a Voip/Video Communication program, but it should be able to work in isolated communities that might not have a link back to the www all the time.

Conrad, awesome comment, thanks for suggesting this. I really wasn't even aware of those two alternatives (Ekiga and Linphone)!

You (or someone?) should post that on the Skype page so that people are aware of the SIP compliant alternatives!

Does skype on XO run within the sugar environment?