[Community-news] OLPC News (2008-07-06)

Jim Gettys jg at laptop.org
Mon Jul 7 12:02:20 EDT 2008

PDF (with pictures) attached.

Community News

A weekly update of One Laptop per Child Vol. 4 No. 27 July 6, 2008

Rollout Update: Since November 2007, OLPC has shipped nearly 400,000
laptops. Better than a quarter of those machines went to donors who
participated in the G1G1 program. Simultaneously, OLPC has been working
with countries to prepare for their donee XOs, many of which already
have been received. The two largest rollouts, Peru and Uruguay, account
for nearly half of all units shipped to date, but have yet to receive
the bulk of their orders. 

Papua New Guinea: From June 16tht hrough the 20th, OLPC Oceania made its
second PNG deployment (Weekend, June 15) of 47 XOs at the Dreikikir
Elementary School in East Sepik Province. Dreikikir is about a four-hour
drive inland from Wewak, the provincial capital. The machines were all
updated to build 703/G1G1 activity pack with Speak and Flash added
before the deployment to the school’s first graders.

Tony Aimo, PNG’s acting minister of education, attended the official
launch ceremonies, and repeated the government’s support for the XO
program. Aimo announced the government’s commitment to a full saturation
deployment of XOs at the school, which has about 500 students.

Acting Minister Aimo arrives for the launch ceremony

David Leeming and his team spent a day in teacher training. He reports
that videos from the deployments in Peru and the Solomon Islands were
very helpful. Each teacher who took part in training also received a
signed certificate.

Teacher training

 Then two more days were devoted to working with the teachers to
acquaint the children with the laptops. Leeming says an early version of
the standard training plan (see OLPC Oceania page) was followed for the
student orientation. Some early observations:

      * The second session was conducted outside in small groups, which
        helped to promote sharing and dynamics. 
      * As with the teacher training, the time allocated was less than
        desirable, although sufficient. 
      * It was noticed that many students were quicker at learning than
        were the teachers, and were seen to help the slower ones. 
      * Older students joined in with the freer group session. This was
        seen to be beneficial and also raises awareness in the wider

Reliable evaluation of the deployment will be critical. Leeming notes:
“The following approaches were decided by teachers, and agreed upon by
the education officials present: 

      * Teachers will keep a log book/diary and update it with any
        feedback on how the laptops are being used, new ideas on
        classroom integration as they develop, and feedback on students’
        uses. Also feedback of problems and issues. 
      * Every morning, the first lesson is an “oral session” where
        teachers can discuss the laptops with the children. This session
        will be used to get daily feedback. 
      * Parents and staff meetings will also be used to get feedback and
        share ideas. 
      * The district school standards officer and education advisor have
        been trained and fully participated in the deployment. This is
        very important, as they are available “on the ground” to make
        evaluations and carry reports from the school to the province
        and department. 
      * A volunteer will be based at Dreikikir for two weeks to provide
        additional evaluations on behalf of OLPC Oceania. Guidance on
        this from Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will be

 Although Dreikikir has a local power grid, it is only used in the
evenings and the school has no connection. More than half of students do
not have electricity at home. The EU-funded Improvement of Rural Primary
Education Facilities project (IRPEF), which is hosting the deployment,
may help the school establish a power connection. An unsatisfactory
temporary solution is the use of PNG-procured 3-pin adapters and
multiple powerboards. Students now have to charge their XOs at home or
at a nearby teacher’s house. A school server, access point and
school-based charging solution would require installation of a solar
power supply at the school.The insolation conditions are suitable for
solar power.

There is no Internet access as of now. Regional cellphone access is
provided by B-Mobile. Digicel is building towers along the road from
Wewak and will have a presence in the near future. 



1. Touchpad Changes: The combination resistive/capacitive touchpad
currently used on the XO was designed and built specifically for OLPC by
a single supplier. Unfortunately, this supplier is unhappy with our
manufacturing volumes and is forcing us to move to a more conventional
(capacitive-only) touchpad. We are beginning the selection process for
such an off-the-shelf replacement. This will require changing the
tooling of the keyboard "bezel", and will take several months to move
into production.

2. Touchpad Debugging: Richard continued his EC code rework to speed up
touchpad processing. It turns out that the largest part of the EC delay
in dealing with touchpad data was not waiting for the EC to roll around
to processing the data, but actually in the data processing routines.
The design of the touch pad data handling is such that even minor
changes break things. The problem is complicated by many, many years of
legacy desktop BIOS support that Richard does not yet fully understand.

Just as he was about to announce that this would be a protracted process
(meaning he’d probably miss the 8.2 release), an opportunity for a
totally different solution presented itself. By switching touchpad
operation modes we are able to cut the amount of data that needs to be
transmitted by half. (six-byte to three- byte packets). This puts the
update rate back into the 12ms window and also has some additional
properties that make it much easier to detect when the touchpad is out
of whack. The drawback of this new mode (called "mouse mode") is that
the resistive feature of the touchpad is disabled. This still leaves the
miscalibration issues. However, in mouse mode detecting miscalibrates is

3. Keyboard Testing: OLPC received a small number of keyboards made with
additives and thicker rubber, to test as a fix for the "tearing keys"
problem. These are being evaluated, and we hope to select the new
thickness next week.

4. Battery Problems: BYD has submitted a change request for increasing
the over voltage protection cutoff level of the BYD LiFePO4 batteries.
They claim that this will allow the 7.5V charging voltage to re-balance
the unbalanced cells rather than just shut off as it does now. OLPC has
rejected this request because we feel that it will just mask the
problem. Plus we don't know what that will do to the charging time when
the cells drift out of balance. OLPC has requested more information from
BYD on the root cause of the cell imbalance. BYD has offered to replace
batteries that fail in this manner.

5. Multi-Battery Charger: RCAL has committed to ship 50 multi-battery
charger units by Aug 15th, pending availability of the power supplies
from Flextronics. Some of these units will be shipped to OLPC for final
testing and firmware changes. Then they will be ready to send to
customers who want to try them. Richard thinks we should be able to have
units ready for customers by early September.


6. Michail Bletsas visited Google in Mountain View to discuss with their
XMPP team the possible ways to utilize their XMPP servers in OLPC

Pass-Through XMPP federation, libjingle and the Google NAT/firewall
relay servers were identified as items for follow-up investigation. 

7. Michail, Javier and Deepak then visited Marvell in Santa Clara. The
main theme of the day was planning for the transition to the new WiFi
chip, the 8682, which will occur when the existing stock of 8388 (the
current chip) is exhausted. 

There are many benefits that make this transition extremely desirable: 

      * Fifty percent (at least) power reduction due to the 90nm process
        and the fact that the 8682 is a single chip (vs 2 for the
        current 8388 + 8015 ) 
      * Support for dual band operation (2.4Ghz + 5Ghz) 
      * Ability to control transmit power on a per frame basis 
      * More on-chip RAM 
      * Firmware SDK 

The ramifications of the last item are extremely important. It will
allow the source code of our mesh stack to be publicly available (and
modifiable by everybody with ARM toolchain experience). 

8. Michail next visited Belkin in Los Angeles to meet with Hanoz Ghandi
and Nandan Kalle, who is responsible for Belkin's WiFi products. The
main item on the agenda was WiFi access points for school deployments
consistent with OLPC's recommendation for schools to avoid deploying
multiple WiFi APs based 

on Broadcom radios, because of the side effects of multicast traffic on
those radios. Belkin will be sending us their non-Broadcom gear for
testing. The goal is for them to ship OLPC-qualified units,
pre-configured for school deployment so that the demands on the
deployment personel are minimized. 

Josh Seal joined the discussion over the phone from England and
presented the latest XOcto plug design. 

Software Development

9. Greg Smith and Michael Stone continued improvements and gathered
feedback on the development
process:http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Release_Process_Home. Greg organized a
release 8.2.0 meeting, and created a list of main new features in that
release: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/8.2.0 and

10. Daniel Drake addressed issues associated with the Fedora 9 rebase.
He published some code which brings the Record activity back into a
somewhat usable state.

11. Paul Fox succeeded in running the SDCC-built EC image in an 8051
emulator, which led to some new ideas about why it hasn't yet run
successfully on the laptop. He also finished packaging RoadMap (a Linux
map-rendering and navigation program that Paul maintains) as an XO
activity, just in time to give a copy to Adam Holt to take on his road
trip to visit family and support-gang members.

More Software Development:

12. Food Force Project: Deepank Gupta is working with a team on the
FoodForce II Project. They have received images for all but one or two
objects, such as people or farms. The game has a display panel and
buttons for interaction, but the main screen is yet to be filled with
the artwork.

Manu, Silke Buhr from the World Food Program, Deepank Gupta and Mohit
Taneja held a conference call to discuss the development and design
issues faced by the Food Force team. A number of issues were solved.
Deepank and Silke also developed a timeline for the first release of

13. Education Toolkit: Manu continues to make progress with Deepank
Gupta, Ross Light and Ankuj Gupta. Ross has created classes for the
results and answers list, which helps to keep track of a student’s name.
He also added get_Sugar_name() that helps identify the student who would
have sent the 

questions/answers file in classroom
Ankuj released the .xo package for the education toolkit. It will be
tested during this weekend to be made available to the community by the
coming week. Special thanks to Stefania YW, Maryam Funicelli, Federico
and Davide, the artists from Yellowhale who are designing the art-work
for this project. The localization group at the Unicenp 

(Positivo Centre) University in Brazil has expressed interest in
localizing the game in Portuguese.

14. Spreadsheet Activity: K.S. Preeti started work on meeting the
Sugar-based UI guidelines. Luke Closs released SocialCalc 0.7.6 bundled
as an activity:


15. Brian Jordan fleshed out the Physics activity user interface and
worked with his brother, Eric, on the common Physics activity XML file
format. This activity is based on Box2D: http://jbox2d.org. He is also
working on ideas for using the valuable resource of the world’s K-12
classrooms already equipped with computers to improve our resource

16. Ankur Verma has been working on modem connectivity. He has added
information about providing connectivity to server here:
XS_Connectivity. He has also been working on an application which is
accessible over the network and can be used for text messaging. 

17. Bobby Powers attended the "Systems Thinking and Dynamic Modeling for
K-12 Education" conference in Wellesley, where he talked to educators
about his activity, Model, and OLPC, with very good responses. He also
converted his C++ classes to derive from Glib:Object to take advantage
of messaging, and dealt with the mess of using them in Python via SWIG.
Finally, Bobby got his activity loading and saving to and from the

Sugar Development

18. Marco Pesenti Gritti participated to the first Sugar Labs meeting in
Milan. Notes are available
He reviewed several patches and made a few fixes to the Sugar release
scripts. Finally he worked around the problem which was causing the DCON
to freeze at startup, a proper fix will come in a bit.

Support / Sysadmin

19. Dennis Gilmore and Henry Hardy are setting up a new server intended
for internal builds: weka.laptop.org.

20. Sean Hooley and Frances Hopkins began to collect statistics on voice
mails, donor services questions, refunds, replacements and reshipments.

And in other news…

1. Earlier this spring, Professor Jordi Garcia (pictured next page) from
the University of Catalonia in Barcelona, struck out with a colleague
from Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, on a 3000-kilometer expedition to
the Central African country’s hinterlands, where Garcia visited a pygmy
village and familiarized its inhabitatants with the XO laptop’s

It was an arduous trek, undertaken in part via dugout canoe across some
extremely remote waterways, but absolutely worth the while, according to
Garcia Unfamiliar as the tribe is with the outside world and modern
technology, he reports that OLPC’s machines fascinated them. After some
very basic instructions, villagers soon were adept at picture taking and
draw applications.

Garcia is a joint holder of the UNESCO chair at the University of
Catalonia, and is a member of a group of European professors (March 30
Weekend) who are organizing OLPC projects in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, the
Dominican Republic 

and Guatemala. Working with the Cameroonian government, Garcia hopes to
distribute 5,000 XOs to settlements far-flung as this one by the end of
the year.

2. NPR’s Larry Abramson filed an interesting two-part series on XOs
being deployed in a pilot study among the children of migrant workers,
as well as local schoolkids, in Immokalee, Florida. The laptops are
finding fans wherever they

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