[Server-devel] Lesotho project network server: obstacles & needs

jbalcomb at laptopstolesotho.org jbalcomb at laptopstolesotho.org
Fri Apr 27 18:17:11 EDT 2012

Hi David,

Sorry for my delayed reply.  Thanks for your comments and advice.  Please
do send me the specs for the EPC-AT270 you are using.

I tried downloading the XS operating system from the OLPC website onto a
dongle/flash drive and installing it from that onto the PC we have
designated as our server, but the installation failed.  Later, we had two
computer specialists reformat the PC and try the same thing without
success.  Each time, we got errors that said the XS files were incomplete.

Did you install your XS software from a dongle, or did you download it
directly onto your server?
If you installed from a dongle, do you have any suggestions on what we
might be doing wrong?
Do you know if there is information anywhere with very detailed,
step-by-step instructions for installing the XS from a dongle?

We are all total Linux and XS novices, and none of us have ever operated a
server before.  Since we haven’t been able to install the XS, I’m
unfamiliar with the XS features you mentioned (Moodle home page, /library,
class segregation etc.)


Janissa Balcomb
jbalcomb at laptopstolesotho.org

Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

Hi Janissa

Your programme sounds very worthwhile and I wish you all the best with it!

Maybe I was not clear, but my point is that for us, the XS (we are using
v0.6) installed on a low power e-box such as the EPC-AT270 (I can send you
the spec sheet, it is available in Australia not sure where you are) has
proven exactly what you seem to be looking for. Very low power, running at
15W or less on 12V DC solar power, with auto-power on enabled so even if
there is a power outage the locals don't need to intervene. At one site it
ran 18 months continuously and no problems. The access points all using
DC power via PoE too.

Our schools in PNG only theoretically have Internet access in some
locationsas the quality of service is insufficient. Even if it were, it's
only for the teachers due to cost. But the teachers do have some limited
options with 3G dongles if they wish to sign up to the OLPC-Australia
XO-Certification programme (extended to Pacific) laptop.moodle.com.au and
so we spent time training them to do so.

It is true one does need some initial "centralised" or outside expertise
to set the servers up but in our case we are all Linux novices really and we
get by. On site, as I said the servers are very useful, but as in your
case we have to just install and leave them and expect little maintenance
work although as time goes on various champions emerge. I am typing this
in the remotest place in PNG, and yet I am planning today to training one
teacher to be able to do some role assignment work on the XS Moodle in
schools we can't visit this time.

I guess this list can help you design a suitable configuration for the XS.
As I said in our case it is really basic, just using the Moodle home page
as a links page to folders of resources in the /library, and some upload
folders and the general news/forum. We don't use the class segregation as
yet because we are unable to assist when the students change class at the
new year, so the strategy is just to tell teachers try not to overload the
server, coordinate with each other etc. In the future we can improve on

David Leeming
Solomon Islands Rural Link
P.O.Box 652 Honiara, Solomon Islands
+677 7476396 (m) +677 24419 (h)


-----Original Message-----
From: server-devel-bounces at lists.laptop.org
[mailto:server-devel-bounces at lists.laptop.org] On Behalf Of
jbalcomb at laptopstolesotho.org
Sent: Monday, 16 April 2012 9:07 a.m.
To: server-devel at lists.laptop.org
Subject: [Server-devel] Lesotho project network server: obstacles & needs

I work with a non-OLPC-affiliated XO laptop project in Lesotho.  Our
project uses G1G1 XO-1 laptops we buy on the open market and refurbish

Like David Leeming in PNG (see Server-devel Digest, Vol 60, Issue 13,
Topic 1 -- Re:  Looking for new low power server hardware candidate), I
work with schools in a very remote area with rough terrain, difficult
access, limited resources, and poorly trained teachers.  Unlike David's
area, our schools do not have access to internet.

The teachers we work with have absolutely no computer experience coming
into our program.  They are all eager to receive training and use the
computers in their classrooms, but because of their own poor education,
they have trouble following general instructions and retaining the
computer skills we teach them.  We find that they need very detailed,
written, step-by-step instructions for everything.  Most of the time, they
are incapable of extrapolating what they've learned and applying it to a
slightly different situation or another activity.

Much of the teaching at the schools is done in English, despite the fact
that English is the teachers' second language.  Many of them have small
vocabularies with low language proficiency.

Those of us helping them are educators and administrators, not computer
technicians.  For us, most of the discussions and instructions in this
server-devel forum go way over our heads.  We have tried to get computer
specialists to help us set up a server, but this is nearly impossible
because it requires a commitment of days to reach and service our area.
Twice, computer volunteers have come to our first school to install the
server software from a CD onto a standard PC. But, both times the OLPC XS
software didn't work and/or was incomplete.  Without internet access, they
were unable to complete the process.  After two years, we still do not
have a functional server for the 86 laptops at that school.  We haven't
even tried to set up a server at our other school, which will have a total
50 XO laptops by the end of this year.

Our schools charge and operate all their computer equipment off solar
panels and batteries.  During rainy months, computer use is greatly
reduced because of reduced power output.

For all these reasons, we need a very simple, user-friendly, low-energy
network server that can be installed and maintained by non-specialist
people with limited computer skills and without any internet access.  A
plug-n-play style server would be the best solution for us.  Instructions
for installation, maintenance, and use need to be as detailed as possible,
in very simple English.  We need to be able to purchase 1-2 servers at a
time, and we need the server to be available for purchase outside the
official OLPC deployment framework.

Janissa Balcomb
jbalcomb at laptopstolesotho.org

Laptops to Lesotho Inc.

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