Connecting an OLPC XO to Airport Extreme WEP

I got my XO laptop from One Laptop per Child yesterday. It’s really cute. Unfortunately, it takes a little work to connect to an Airport network, and the instructions on The Getting Started page aren’t great. Until they get improved, here’s what I did.

After opening the laptop (you need to turn the antenna pretty far around to get space to open the case), go to the neighborhood screen. It’s the one with a circle of eight circles; you can push the button on the top row of the keyboard. If you have an open network. Just find your network, click on the circle, and wait 10-15 seconds until the outside ring turns white.

Assuming you have security, the ring will not turn white; you’ll have to enter your passcode first. You need to know the type of security. Airport networks can have WEP or WPA. If you don’t know, there are lots of ways to check. I use the widget Air Traffic Control, which is also good to find networks on a Mac. If you have WEP, you’ll need to enter the hex code. There are two options to get the hex code. If you have AirPort Utility and the password for the base station, you can start AirPort Utility. Then, select your base station and click on Manual Setup. Then, on the Base Station Menu, select “Equivalent Network Password”. If you just have the password, go to Core Coding’s page to enter the password and get the hex code. This is a DIFFERENT link than the one on’s page; their link is for WPA. Core Coding will give you two possible keys, one for non apple computers and one for apple computers. You, of course, want the Apple password.

[This section was expanded on 21 December. Hopefully it’s a little clearer.]

Once you get the password, you’ll have to enter the password each time you start the XO and connect. The XO does not save the password. When the password box appears, if you have WEP, the top drop down box will be called “Key Type”, and the option “Passphrase (128-bit)” will be selected. For Key Type, choose “Hex (40/128 bit)”. The bottom box, below the white space to enter digits, is called “Authentication Type”. Instead of “Open System”, which is there, Choose “Shared Key.” If you have different options in the drop down boxes, you have WPA, not WEP. These instructions won’t work.

In the white space, enter all the numbers and letters, then click OK. You should have either 10 or 26 characters, because your WEP password should be either 5 or 13 characters. The OK button will not light up unless you have 10 or 26 entered. The inner circle will blink three to five times, then the inner circle will become solid and the outer circle white. You’re connected!

Also, you may have an extra level of security called a MAC address. If you do, go to OLPC’s question page and search for “airport”. The information is near the bottom of the page. WPA appears more difficult, because as the page states, the connection is not automatic. If I get that going, or find a good set of directions, I’ll post again.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network:
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8 Responses to Connecting an OLPC XO to Airport Extreme WEP

  1. Jason says:

    The link to the “Gettting Started” page for is broken. The actual address is:

  2. Adam says:

    Thanks for the information. I thought I had just cut and pasted that link. I guess not. It’s fixed now.

  3. Vicki Brown says:

    Thanks for the help but… I’m still confused. My xo laptop doesn’t have a “hex” dropdown nor does it have a place to choose “shared key”.

    wondering where you see those choices…

  4. Adam says:

    The options appear once you click in the password box. You should go to Neighborhood, find the circle corresponding to your network, then click on that circle.

    If you have WEP security, you will get a box titled “Wireless Key Required.” From top to bottom, there will be a option called “Key Type”, a space to type things in, then an option called “Authentication Type”. You want “Hex” for Key Type, and “Shared Key”, not “Open System”, for Authentication Type.

    If you have different options that what I described, you most likely have WPA security, not WEP. These instructions don’t work for that.

  5. John V says:

    Thanks for the article, just to note, according to the OLPC site, they won’t be supporting WPA connections until early 2008, which hopefully will be in a month or two. Until then, mooch off a neighbor’s open Wi-Fi connection… Thanks for the page!

  6. Eugene Worley says:

    Thanks for your info. Good information. But I don’t have the ‘hex’ drop down or the option of a ‘shared key’. I used to have WPA but I converted to WEP. I just confirmed that with my Airport Utility. To you have any help or suggestions for me. I would surely appreciate any help that you can give.
    Thanks for your time

  7. Josh says:

    I agree with Eugene. I don’t have the option of “shared key” or anything. I’m able to type in the Hex code but after clicking ok, nothing happens (no connection). Very frustrating and after having this for 2 weeks I’m almost ready to return it.

    I’m concerned that it’s so hard to connect to the internet with this laptop. If we’re having such issues, imagine elsewhere in the world.

    OLPC needs to make getting connected a priority for all!!

  8. JD Lasica says:

    Well, it’s almost May 2008 and our WEP 128-bit password did not work with the XO.

    So to get it working on our home network, after 2 days of trying, we had to completely remove the encryption from our LAN.

    Sorry to say, but the XO is definitely not ready for the US marketplace.

Replies are Welcome.