Birds Like Wires

Feed the Birds

Hello, Joggler

An O2 Joggler displaying the native operating system.

My word. After a chat with a friend in a pub, I found out that I had missed the opportunity to buy a hackable 7” touchscreen computer with an Intel Atom chip for £50. I’d been looking for something cheap and touch-screeny for the kitchen, so it was time for a trip to eBay.

I managed to pick up a mint condition O2 Joggler for about £70 in the end, and it’s superb. There’s no branding on the front at all, so it looks rather swish and inconspicuous. It’s rather like an electronic picture frame, but the spec is much more impressive. Made by OpenPeak, there’s an Intel Atom Z520 running at 1.3GHz, 512MB RAM, 1GB internal flash, wifi and wired ethernet, audio out, lovely display… and a USB socket on the side. That becomes important in a minute.

Why Have I Not Heard Of This Before?

That’s what kept going through my mind as I tapped through the O2 setup screen. Having had a little time to play with it, I think O2 really missed a trick with this. I vaguely remember some adverts on TV about it and I was left completely disinterested. The Joggler was sold on it being a replacement for your kitchen calendar or “your new fridge door” as I saw it described. I don’t know about you, but my fridge door didn’t need replacing, and unless it syncs all my calendars together with my partner’s automatically, it’s not going to replace the non-fiddly calendar with nice pictures that lives on the wall. But what I did need was something small that would give me radio, access to my music, a bit of BBC iPlayer – oh, and maybe even show me some recipe ideas. Funnily enough, with some tweaking that’s exactly what you can achieve.

Hacking The Joggler

There are a few options here. First of all, you could just leave it as-is. Not very exciting, and with mention of it vanishing from the O2 website rather rapidly, I wonder if it’s fledgling app store will ever get more than a couple of little programs added to it. Your next option is to keep O2’s Joggler operating system and tweak it up a bit. Luckily, it seems that in only the past few months a very interested community has sprung up around this little device.

Joggler OS

The Joggler operating system is actually based on OpenPeak’s OpenFrame system, which is a Linux based OS that seems to be doing rather nicely. However, the O2 implementation doesn’t have access to all of OpenFrame’s apps, so we need to pay some attention to the Joggler’s USB socket. The Joggler has the useful habit of looking to the USB port for something to boot from before firing up from the internal flash memory, so it took about 5 minutes for people to get telnet and SSH working. Once you can SSH in, you can do pretty much anything you want.

The first thing I did was install Tarkan Akdam’s implementation of Squeezeplay, which you can see playing BBC Radio 6Music to me in the picture at the top. He’s used a skin created by 3guk to make the interface fit the Joggler perfectly, and it’s such a good implementation that I very nearly stopped right there. You have, in effect, got a complete Squeezebox in front of you with a really nice display – all you need to have is a machine running Squeezebox Server somewhere. However, I wanted a little more flexibility for the kitchen, so I dug around for something a bit more extreme.

Ubuntu on the Joggler

You can put pretty much anything on the Joggler if you try. There’s an Android image, a Mer image – some people have even given Mac OS X a go. These are all looking excellent, but the most feature-complete and familiar for me was Ubuntu. There are two prebuilt images available; one of Ubuntu Desktop from disca (forum) and the other of Ubuntu Netbook Remix from dysentry (forum). I ended up using the desktop version, simply because I have found the netbook-launcher for NetBook Remix a little flakey at times, but do take some time to find a flavour you like. To try one out, grab a 4GB (or greater) USB stick, download and decompress the image and then do this in Terminal if you’re on a Mac:

Find your USB stick:
diskutil list

If your stick was listed as /dev/disk1, do this:
sudo dd if=_imagefile_ of=/dev/disk1 bs=10m

Do be careful. Get that wrong and you’ll erase your hard drive. DBM.

Then pop the stick in the Joggler USB port, give it some power and watch as boots into Ubuntu quicker than it boots its own OS. I’ve been playing around with this for a little while now and I’m very pleased with it. To get it working as I would like it I’m definitely going to get my hands dirty on the command line, but hopefully I should be able to coax it into something useful. Stay tuned!

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