My OLPC Activities Web Site

Helping you choose and use activities for your XO laptop!

Preinstalled Activities
Optional Activities

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I've owned two XOs (actually my kids have owned them) since early January, 2008.  My biggest issue with the OLPC program is that the activities aren't ready for prime time.  Fundamental to being ready is reasonable documentation.  Most XO activities have just a couple of paragraphs describing their purpose and how to use them.  That leaves most people guessing at how to do things.

I started this site to record what I've learned about installing and using XO activities.  Partly so that I can go back and do it again later (since upgrading the XO operating system can end up destroying previously installed activities) and to share my learnings with others.  Finally, there are lots of optional activities out there and some are much better than others.  I've provided my personal ratings for those activities that I've looked at.

My ratings and their meaning:

Don't waste your time - yet.  This activity is broken or is missing critical functionality required to make it usable.
This activity "works" but may have a few bugs.  Mostly, it may be mildly interesting the first time you do it but your interest will fade fast and you will quickly be removing it from your laptop.  Often the concept for the activity is seriously flawed or limited.
Everything important works and the idea of the activity is sound but the "fun factor" is limited.  May be interesting to a few kids but that number will be small.
This activity is fundamentally sound and will be entertaining or at least a learning experience for a while.  Fortunately there are many of these activities so you will have many choices of this type to move on to when this activity is no longer interesting or challenging.  This might also be an activity that could qualify for four stars if a bit more work had been put into its preparation.
This is a uniquely interesting or useful activity.  It will also challenge you repeatedly in a creative way.  Many of the old classic games like tangram fall into this category.
I haven't seen one of these yet.  A well designed, well implemented, can't live without it, fresh, new activity would warrant five stars.

I've included version numbers so that you can determine if a later, and possibly better version is available at the OLPC Activities site.  There's no easy way, at this time, to determine the version that you have on your laptop.  You have to use the Terminal activity.  Here's a description of how to figure it out.

I make no guarantee that what I've written is correct and welcome corrections - and enhancements - to the content of this site.  If you see something that is flat our wrong or could be said better, send email to

Now for the activities themselves...

Preinstalled Activities - these are the activities that come installed as part of the XO operating system.  On these pages, I've tried to document how these activities are used, where they fall short, where they are confusing, how to request a fix, and how to uninstall them.

Optional Activities - the activities on these pages represent the meat of this site.  The best activities of all don't come installed as part of the basic XO.  But that doesn't change the fact that these activities are usually badly documented as well.  Here are my picks for the best add-on activities, how to get them and how to use them.

If you decide to download and install an activity, use the Browse preinstalled activity to do it.  The Browse activity has functionality built-in to download, unpackage and install XO activities.

Managing your activities:

XO Get - is an activity devoted to managing your activities.  It's not yet really effective but it's got a lot of promise.  At this point, it looks for activities that are listed on the OLPC Wiki and compares them to what you have on your XO.

v. -

Other OLPC Activity and Game Sites:

Note that I've already stolen every activity/project I thought was of any value from these sites and posted them here but you may be interested in other information you can find there.


Other Notes:

  • If you download an activity but it doesn't appear in the activity bar, go to the journal, click on the download entry for that activity, select the resume option.
  • If you hate it when the black frame appears every time the mouse cursor gets near one of the corners, click here to find out how to stop that from happening.
  • If you confused about how to share an activity, click here.
  • For instructions on how to install an activity from a USB drive, click here.
  • Click here for instructions on how to tell how much memory is still available on your XO.
  • Click here for ideas on how to free up more memory on your XO.
  • Click here for symptoms of a system that has run out of memory - like mine did!!!
  • Click here to determine what OS and firmware versions are running on your XO.
  • Click here to download and install the latest OS and firmware versions to your XO.

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Page last changed: 12/27/2009