[Server-devel] Is a Community Edition of XS happening? or should it?

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Sun Jul 29 22:24:48 EDT 2012

On Sun, Jul 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM, George Hunt <georgejhunt at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I just got the included message from Adam Holt, after his on the ground
> experiences installing a school server in Madagascar, and apparently
> struggling to get ejabberd working.  It points up a situation which I think
> we should think about.
> A lot of people I've talked to, think the School Server status quo is not
> good enough. It is not meeting the needs of schools, teachers, and students.
> Many are beginning to go their own way. The centrifugal force is building:
> OLPC Australia is looking to simplify the XS, to include just ejabberd for
> collaboration and have it run on the XO-1.75. Eliminate dhcp in favor of
> avahi, eliminate Moodle, Squid, Named. Sridhar Dhanapalan wants to get to
> the point where the individual teacher in the classroom can set it up. Jerry
> Vonau has been hired to muscle up support for the upcoming deployment of
> 50,000 XO's with one XS in each classroom.
> In the Philippines, through bad advice, the local technicians started trying
> to use the Australia version of the XS.  They didn't have the local sysadmin
> skills to add back in named and dhcpd, which had been removed for Australian
> deployment. They're looking for a better solution.

Part of the problem here is that such decisions happen in a bubble,
over a Skype call or private e-mail. We had some conversations with
Cherry Withers about XS 0.6 back then, but then the e-mails never came
through the list. Even though the needs for all these deployments are
different (and may not be serviceable via one image) the conversations
need to happen on this list as much as possible.

> Adam Holt has been soliciting ideas from the support gang for finding a XS
> solution that just works.
> Jamaca is making Moodle central to its deployment strategy, but it needs
> some predictability in terms of school server depoyment.

For Jamaica, we are definitely leaning towards Moodle because of the
experience we have in house for Moodle. However, for a deployment that
does not have that expertise, Moodle may not be desireable. It should
be yet another check box on a list of things to install or remove.
Most deployments that say they use Moodle actually only use the XS
admin side of things that are now built into the XS version of Moodle.
Most deployments have no clue how Moodle works, let alone take
advantage of its capabilities.

> Tony Anderson and Abhishek Singh,in the Nepal deployment, have their own XS
> image tailored to their own needs.

Again, "own needs" are ok, because those are central for a deployment,
but without a loop in this forum, that's all unknown to the rest of

> But I also think that the support that Boston has given to the XS has been
> essential. Daniel Drake's XS-0.7 brought together many of the improvements
> that have accumulated over the last few years.
> Maybe we're at the point where Red Hat was, when it split the Enterprise
> Linux from Fedora Core. EL would have a slower release cycle, and pick up
> the features that had been well tested via the six month Fedora release
> cycle.
> Sridhar seems to have the energy, resources, and management skills to make
> the stripped down XO-XS happen.  Tony Anderson, Sameer Verma, Abhishek Singh
> have all expressed to me their willingness to contribute to some joint
> effort.

We can definitely contribute in: 1) load testing any new builds and 2)
provide feedback from the field by actually using the XS and
collecting data.

> From my point of view, the challenge is to keep it simple, and to start
> working towards a structure where all of us can take a small piece, work on
> it, and contribute it back to the common effort.

I see it as a spectrum, where there is the XS design with all
components prepackaged and ready to go, but the downside is that you
have to use it as is with all the pieces. That's one end of the
spectrum. On the other end, if you want to use a server per classroom,
like what AU wants to do, or you have a deployment where curricular
model does not make sense (my India project -
http://bhagmalpur.wordpress.com/ - lives outside of the
classroom/teacher structure) one needs to be able to pick services
from a menu - Moodle, Pathagar, ejabberd, dhcpd, dns, etc and prune
the XS stack accordingly. Keep in mind that the current XS design is
based on what OLPC needs (and needed) in the field with its
deployments. The design may or may not address specific needs of other

As for running the XS on a 1.5 or 1.75 the hardware makes sense, if
the size of the bubble is small enough. After all, the XO has a
screen, a keyboard, built-in battery, and power charge controller!
Piggyback a USB drive for storage, and you have a compact platform for
running services. Heck, most deployments have a couple of XOs all beat
up and cracked - perfect server candidates :-)

How small/large a bubble? We can help run the numbers and let you know
once we have a box up and running.

Whether the XS should be a serial component, sitting between the XOs
and the as a gatekeeper to the Internet (as it does now) or it should
be a service stack, running alongside other XOs (as a special peer) is
an interesting change. Let's see where this goes.


> George
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Adam Holt <holt at laptop.org>
> Date: Sun, Jul 29, 2012 at 8:03 AM
> Subject: fix at last? changing XS hostname dilemmas
> To: Mitchell Seaton <meaton.2v at gmail.com>, "Craig A. Perue"
> <craig.perue at gmail.com>, Sameer Verma <SVerma at sfsu.edu>, George Hunt
> <georgejhunt at gmail.com>, Xavier Carcelle <xavier.carcelle at gmail.com>
> Cc: Alex Kleider <akleider at sonic.net>, Jerry Vonau <jvonau at shaw.ca>
> Skype excerpt :)
> [7:39:35 AM] Jerry Vonau: Sorry I haven't gotten back to you earlier, think
> I know what the issue is with ejabberd if you change the hostname.
> [7:40:01 AM] Canoe Berry: Really??
> [7:40:49 AM] Jerry Vonau: ejabberd creates a pem.cert based on the hostname
> when first installed, change the hostname and it becomes invalid
> [7:42:54 AM] Jerry Vonau: quick fix is to delete /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.pem
> and re-install ejabberd.
> [7:43:40 AM] Jerry Vonau: or create your own cert and alter the config file
> to use the new one instead.
> [7:45:40 AM] Jerry Vonau: by the way I have ejabberd running on XO-1.75.
> [7:48:54 AM] Canoe Berry: Sweet, can I forward to Craig/Sameer for Jamaica?
> [7:49:15 AM] Jerry Vonau: as for the dns issue, think the model used is
> flawed, you need full control over the dns, think we should be using avahi
> on the XS and XO and use .local for the domain.
> [7:49:37 AM] Jerry Vonau: have that working too
> [7:50:02 AM] Canoe Berry: Are you suggesting Madagascar/Nosy Komba/OLPC
> France's use of dsnmasq is doomed, as Mitch Seaton suspected?
> [7:51:47 AM] Jerry Vonau: sort of, with the push to ip6 the clients use ipv6
> first to resolve the names and that is where the delay is introduced.
> [7:52:11 AM | Edited 7:52:56 AM] Jerry Vonau: when registering
> If someone can clean this up and post to server-devel at l.o that's be awesome!
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