[Community-news] OLPC News (2008-12-22)

Jim Gettys jg at laptop.org
Mon Dec 22 10:23:00 EST 2008

A weekly update of One Laptop per Child December 22, 2008

(Picture of Taxi Cab in PDF).


Brussels: Thanks to the packing, repacking, upgrading and labeling team
led by Adam Holt (and including Niklaus Giger), almost 300 kids all over
Europe already are enjoying their holiday XOs. Some even had their
machines personally prepared by Nicholas, who lent his welcome help to
the effort. The UK orders were complicated because the CE marks
inadvertently were left off the chargers, and needed to be affixed. The
UK laptops are just arriving in country now and will be shipped by the
end of the month.


Cambridge: A group from Ghana came to 1CC for a week-long workshop to
prepare for their national laptop initiative. There already are 1100
laptops in country, where work has begun in two schools. The delegation
was led by a finance ministry official, who is also a key member of the
Baah-Wiredu foundation that will direct the laptop initiative. 

(Scenes from the Ghana workshop in PDF)

The goal of the workshop was to continue to develop the Ghanaian core
team’s overall understanding of laptops and learning, with particular
focus on the 1:1 approach to learning in schools and in communities. The
workshop also covered technology and the logistics of successful

The delegation was very enthusiastic about the program. In addition to
talks and discussions, the group participated in an XO storytelling
exercise led by Barbara Barry; learned about the details of other OLPC
initiatives from Juliano Bittencourt and Robert Fadel; reviewed the
deployment workbook with Reuben Caron; planned for content development
with Claudia Urrea; took apart and re-assembled their laptops with
Reuben and Brian Jordan; visited the South End Technology Center and the
Learn to Teach: Teach to Learn program led by Ed Baafi and Mel King;
finished planning for 2009; carried on a lively Q&A with Nicholas and,
finally, were wowed by a huge snowstorm, a novel experience for most of

Julia Reynolds organized the event and recruited the children. Barbara
led groups of children in an XO and storytelling activity in preparation
for introducing it to other countries. Edith Ackermann collaborated with
Barbara and observed the interactions as part of the new assessment work
on “Making Learning Visible.” As always, the children surprised everyone
by creatively taking activities in new directions.

Claudia worked with John to incorporate a simple magnetic sensor in the
XO for use in community mapping exercises. This is part of work by
Claudia, Barbara, Cynthia Solomon and others to provide a greater number
of rich laptop learning activities for children.

Dale Joachim’s demonstration of his work on environmental projects was
another highlight of the Ghanaians’ visit. We will work with Dale, who
is at the Media Lab, to make these types of projects available in all
our deployments.



1. The QA team prepared to test the upcoming 8.2.1 release. Joe
Feinstein worked on NANDblast and improved connectivity with WPA-secured
access points. Mel Chua has created test cases and stubs for the test
plan and will hold a test meeting focused on 8.2.1, with an emphasis on
the RF/wireless testing. 

Battled wiki spam, as Henry mentioned - volunteers Chris Leonard and
Joachim Pedersen were real heroes on this one, and should be recognized.

2. Oceania is taking off with community testing in a wonderful way.
Along with the Wellington testers in NZ, Pia Waugh, Donna Benjamin, and
Joel Stanley are running Activity test sprints in Sydney, Melbourne, and
Adelaide this weekend. These sprints would not be possible without the
infrastructure work done by Carl Klitscher, Tabitha Roder, Alastair
Munro, Skierpage, and many others. Photos of the Wellington testers:

Brian Pepple from the Fedora-on-XO test group has stepped up to run the
http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/Friends_in_Testing initiative for 8.2.1
candidate builds, the first time this has been run by a community

3. This is an open meeting for technical design review of 9.1.0
features. See the agenda and sign up to participate here:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XOCamp_2. Thanks to Skierpage, all well
defined feature requests are now tracked in a single queryable table:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Feature_roadmap#All_features. Target features
are here: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/9.1.0_requirements#Top_Priority


4. Volunteers and OLPC employees joined to revert and block an unusual
spike in OLPC wiki vandalism that peaked December 17th. Many thanks to
Mel, SJ Klein, Michael Stone and others who helped with this late night
effort. Especial thanks to volunteers cjl, joachimp and others who
assisted. Henry Edward Hardy closed his 1100th successfully resolved
sysadmin help ticket on December 18th.

Community and Support:

5. Skierpage (S) built query-able and sortable pages using Semantic wiki
for Activities, Tests, Releases, and now Features. He also documented it
and created "to do” lists so that other people can make their own pages
or extend his work. This was first class software engineering:

Open Firmware:

6. In preparation for submitting OFW + XP to bSquare for certification
testing, Mitch Bradley fixed a few low-level aspects of the open
firmware support for Windows XP, mostly in the area of installation from
USB keys and USB CD-ROMs. 

7. One outstanding bug in release 8.2 has been a screen glitch on resume
(#8893). Mitch looked into doing a "screen deglitching on resume" in
OFW, which has code for that from OLPC’s pre-Cambrian era, but it is
bit-rotten. It shouldn't take too long to make that work again, instead
of relying on X.

Future Hardware:

8. Gen 2 advanced this week, with plans for early software development
prototypes in Q2 of 2009, though still not in a dual screen
configuration. One challenge with Gen 2 has been to obtain the desired
system on a chip, while at the same time avoiding an exclusive
arrangement with a single processor vendor. We hope soon to announce
progress in this area.

9. Testing of possible non-volatile storage devices for future hardware
continues. At this point, five of Toshiba's LBA-NAND devices have
failed, three of them catastrophically; that is, the laptop motherboard
would have to be replaced. All data on the laptop would be lost after
about two TB were written to each. They have been sent back to Toshiba
for failure analysis. UBIFS is now being tested on three laptops, and SD
cards from a second manufacturer on three other machines. Over the next
week, John Watlington hopes to add a power cycle test (randomly
interrupting power to the device while writing) to the test bed. This is
an area where JFFS2 has performed well, but OLPC has little data on its
possible successors. Marvell will be sending some of their SSD
controllers to add to the test bed. Recent test results are logged at


10. Ricardo tested the Libertas firmware 22.p23, which passed regular
test. He also fixed a wol signature based filter issue. It is now
possible to set wake on arp requests (#3732) and also wake on dhcp
requests targeted at the XO (and hence enable the gateway – mpp-
functionality in a suspended XO).

He worked with the team at UFF on the sparse wireless test bed,
investigating the effects of increasing the tx power (with test kernel)
in order to improve throughput and decrease frame loss. Results will be
added to the wiki soon. He dedicated a lot of time trainning the
students at UFF in all aspects related to wireless tests with the XO.
The 30 laptops donated by OLPC are finally green-lighted by customs and
should reach the lab next week. 

Finally, Ricardo was awarded a grant from the Institute for Systems and
Computer Engineering of Porto to work on mesh networking and p2p
applications. Ricardo will be moving with his wife to Portugal. We
congratulate him and wish him the best!


11.C. Scott tackled 8.2.1 bugs this week, starting with the ones related
to sugar-update-control (thanks to a good start in patches by dsd and
saymindu) and moving on to olpcrd (pioneering work here by mstone). aHe
also set up a 'staging' branch on xs-dev for testing 8.2.1-series
builds, based on the 8.2 stable repositories. Other work included
dusting off the partition support in olpcrd and olpc-update (trac #616,
4156, 3581, 6246, 8111, 8919). He also implemented a inotify-based
indexing frontend for journal2 work, learning too much about
kernel/userland race conditions in the process and forwarding those
concerns upstream to the linux-kernel mailing list.

12. Erik Garrison published rpmXO [1], a small build system in the style
of DebXO which rests on the work of Steve Kemp on the rinse [2] rpm
build system. The work is not yet complete, but can be used to make
lightweight RPM-based XO-bootable images from Fedora 10 repositories. He
provided patches to Steve Kemp to add Fedora 10 package lists to rinse.

Erik published a small script, the OLPC Image Digestor [3], which can be
used to create the placement control files used by OFW during the
reflash process. These files are the only requirement which OLPC must
place on deployments to provide the signature files required to unlock
the Bitfrost secure reflash lock. In the past the size of images and the
poor upstream connectivity common in most deployment offices have
frustrated the process of producing these signature files. He translated
the documentation [4] to Spanish to encourage use of the system by
interested deployments in South America.

Erik discussed the porting of Socialcalc [5] to the XO with Dan
Brinklin. He is excited by the web-service-as-application model which
the software suggests, and hopes the OLPC community investigates it

Erik also met (along with Richard Smith, Paul Fox, and C. Scott Ananian)
with Dulmandakh Sukhbaatar, the new technical lead of the Mongolian
deployment. He ran a demo of the multicast NANDBlaster [6] for Duluu so
that he would be more prepared to use it on return to Mongolia.

Erik also continued work with the customization of XFCE for the XO and
started investigations into the use of a NAND partition as swap to help
relieve memory pressure on the system.

[1] http://dev.laptop.org/git?p=users/erik/rpmxo;a=summary
[2] http://www.xen-tools.org/software/rinse/
[3] http://dev.laptop.org/git/users/erik/image-digestor
[4] http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_Image_Digestor/lang-es
[5] http://www.socialcalc.org/
[6] http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Multicast_NAND_FLASH_Update

13. Simon Schampijer landed wired interface support for NM. While doing
that he reviewed and reworked the device appears logic with Eben. He
also fixed a bug which could cause the wireless dialog to not appear.

He also did help to get the Sucrose 0.83.3 out of the door. More
information can be found at
and in the upcoming Release announcement.

14. Eben worked on a hodgepodge of small projects this week. Among them:
Reviewing, tidying, and putting out a call for suggestions and
assistance in updating the HIG; creating an icon for wired connections;
creating an icon set for object transfers; digging up some logos for
trademark purposes; working on designs for activity overlay-chat;
reviewing the feature roadmap and my trac tickets; discussing process
for future laptop.org updates readying some small changes to the site;
and finally discussing details of the devices tray with Simon and the
object transfer spec with Tomeu.

15. Sayamindu Dasgupta worked on making SCIM work with the latest
Joyride builds. He also fixed a critical issue in Pootle with respect to
commit support and pushed a large number of new translations into the
Git. He also worked with the Sugar team and the Activity authors to
ensure that the Pootle-side repositories were properly updated during
the migration to git.sugarlabs.org.

16. Paul Fox spent time finishing a prototype of the power button menu,
and updating the spec. He met with Dulmandakh Sukhbaatar and Elana
Langer and other developers from 1CC. Dulmandakh is the new technical
lead for the Mongolian deployment – topics ranged from how to
effectively communicate bug and feature requests to how to do specific
kinds of machine upgrades. Paul also further assisted with OLPC's email
outreach campaigns.

17. Jim Gettys finally have a two way conversation with N-Trig on the
touchscreen; it is clear generic parts of the USB HID implementation of
Linux need some extensions to support these devices. Microsoft does not
seem to be good (so far) about working with the USB organization, though
to give them some credit, a document has appeared on Microsoft's web
site describing these extensions in November.

18. Morgan Collett added a "Reconnect collaboration server" button to
the Sugar control panel to enable switching jabber servers on the fly,
without restarting Sugar. He also assisted with the sucrose git
migration to git.sugarlabs.org and the evince rebase to 2.24.

19. Walter Bender's recent Sugar digest can be found at:

School Server

20. Work on ejabberd+Moodle is progressing slowly.A minor XS-0.5.1
release is taking shape, and will probably be available after the
weekend. Anna Schoolfield and others have been playing with an XS
install on an XO, and seems to be working.


Colombia:Todos @1 Computador, a government plan to equip all 65,000
primary school children in the department of Caldas with personal XOs,
took a significant step forward last week with the deployment of 270
machines at two very different schools. 

As Nicholas Bueno Davis, an advisor to Governor Mario Aristizábal Muñoz,
explains, Caldas is an economically and culturally diverse department,
and this is reflected in their choice of sites. The first was Escuela
Rural Mixta Simon Bolivar, in the San Lorenzo Reserve. Davis discovered
on an early scouting mission that “San Lorenzo Reserve is a small town
with high levels of poverty and civil unrest, where the police station
looks like a bunker, and there is so much malnutrition that even the
dogs are only about half their normal size.” 

San Lorenzo: Some of the children wore traditional garb for the big
event. Others displayed their old “computers.”

The closest thing Davis found to a computer in town was “boxes, cartons,
beads and string put together in the form of a computer, which comprised
their ‘computing’ class…There was no significant possibility for
socioeconomic mobility.” The only source of information in the community
was a 50-book library, kept in a closet.

Because of Todos at 1 Computador, San Lorenzo now has electricity, Vsat
with a 1MB connection, a server running Debian “at the moment,” network
coverage to the children’s houses and an XO charging rack capable of
handling 80 machines at once. The community’s entire 180-child primary
school population owns personal XOs.

(Riosucio’s kids inspect their XOs pictures in the PDF)

The story’s a bit different in Riosucio, an urban center where 90
machines were distributed to third-graders at the Catholic Escuela
Normal Superior Sagrado Corazon, a comparatively large and well-equipped
school with an enrollment of 800 or so students, that was already

The point of choosing such different schools, says Davis, was to
underscore the department’s diversity, as well as the broad
inclusiveness of Todos @1 Computator. “Eventually,” he says, “all will
be touched by this project, as the idea is to erase the many barriers
that divide the population, not just internally but also from the
outside world.” Davis also notes that a majority of the members of the
departmental legislature, which most vote the funds for the deployment,
attended the Lorenzo Reserve ceremony and came away deeply impressed
with what they witnessed.

And in other news… 

1. Check out this wonderful video from

2. The magazine Revista Don Juan de Colombia, citing Rodrigo Arboleda’s
work on behalf of OLPC, has named him one of the country’s 100 most
important people for 2008. Congratulations, Rodrigo, and happy holidays
to all!

3. Greg's user links of the week: Update on pilot in Nicaragua and links
to two beautiful videos by the great team at Waveplace:

4. New blog for XO deployment in Colombia:

Jim Gettys <jg at laptop.org>
One Laptop Per Child
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