[Server-devel] [support-gang] XSCE Sprint

George Hunt georgejhunt at gmail.com
Tue Jul 9 12:47:11 EDT 2013

Thank you Tony for you perspective. So can we begin to look at
implementation details?

Perhaps discussions about how to implement new features belong on
server-devel rather than support gang.  My apologies if so. But if XSCE
begins to offer features that are really used and needed in the classroom,
then the meaning of "support" will start changing.


On Tue, Jul 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM, Tony Anderson <tony at olenepal.org> wrote:

> Hi, All
> I am sure this is a broken record by now, but I keep hoping that there
> will be focus on content. I am not immediately concerned about power
> issues. The move from 386ISA to Arm has good potential, but the stability
> and functionality of XS-0.7 makes it still the software of choice. By
> mid-2014, the new generation of Atom may provide even lower power
> consumption.
> The IIAB (internet In a Box) now mandates a TB+ hard drive. This is viable
> for Atom based systems. It is also viable on the Trim-Slice H. My concern
> with the Trim-Slice is the 1GB memory. A server for a school of 100+
> laptops probably needs more. 2GB is good, 4GB is better.
There have been recent conversations with the Trimslice manufacturer, to
get a version which has 2-4GB memory, quad core processor, and 2 ethernet

> My urgent concerns are:
> 1 - An effective way to organize the digital library so that kids are
> attracted to find items they would like to download.

We hope that we can evolve, and incorporate Pathagar for this in the short
term.  I've asked if there are other  open source alternatives, and not
gotten any viable suggestions. Seth insists that Pathagar is only going to
work for books. I'd like a multimedia warehouse.

> 2 - Provide for a shared printer attached to the server which serv- es all
> of the XOs but gives the teachers and administrators control over the use
> of expean andible resources.

Just looking at low hanging fruit --  What do you think of a PHP file on
the XSCE web server to initiate a file upload, and using Browse Activity to
extract Journal entries? We could have these uploaded files dropped into a
directory where the teacher could trigger a print job.  There may be  a
client/server interface in CUPS which lets the teacher administer, and
trigger print jobs, from her own laptop.

> 3 - an implementation of Puppet or similar technology to allow update of
> the XOs - supporting mix of XO-1 to XO-4, providing for reflash as well as
> updates (something like Nandblaster). This should work equally well for
> locked and unlocked XOs.

I'm not sure how to achieve these objectives. We have been exploring
another package very similar to puppet, ansible, might be able to achieve
the same outcomes, and be simpler to administer.  Reflashing seems very
different from in-place upgrading.

Both puppet, and ansible, require root access permissions, and a
functioning operating system.  If the target machine has broken software, I
don't see an easy alternative than to reflash with a signed image, just to
verify the hardware.

> 4 - some way for the school server to support email, proabably a
> light-weight client Sugar activity and postfix or similar on the server.
> There needs to be a mechanism to offload pending email for the outside
> world to a usb drive which can be sent at a cyber cafe as well as a way to
> receive email at a cyber cafe for insertion into the school server queue.
> It would be nice if the kids could have a school-based email address but
> this means setting up an internet domain somewhere. Gmail would work, but I
> am not sure how that can be done on the LAN when not connected to the
> internet.

This need is not in my area of expertise. Sendmail is often installed by
default, but is complex to configure. Does anyone have recommendations on
how best to achieve this objective?

> 5 - upgrade to Moodle 2 along with some strategy on how it could be used
> in the local school environment. My approach is to use it for a 'teacher's
> lounge', a place for teachers to find lesson plans, training materials, and
> a method to communicate with each other. In reality, teachers do not have
> time to take advantage of this. Sadly, even though Moodle is open source,
> there is very little open source courseware available for Moodle (one good
> digital photography course). Naturally, Moodle has the additional
> disadvantage that courseware can not be downlaoded to the XO so that
> students can work at home. Moodle assumes the student is online.

We spent a little time looking at the resources required, server
horsepower, etc. and decided that moving to a more recent moodle was not
 an easy choice to make

> 6 - support for GSM modems and wifi dongles on the school server. This is
> minor, but network configuration for this has to be done at the command
> line (no gui network manager). More important is a model for 'ET call home'
> for the school server. I believe in our deployments, the internet model is
> going to be more 'batch' jobs than online surfing. We all have experienced
> what happens when 100 users try to share a single DSL line. The school
> server will most often be using a DHCP lease from the ISP.

The "ET call home" need is pretty well covered by openvpn, which has been
used in India, and Haiti, for remote monitoring and support.  The
configuration of GSM modems seems problematic, because each country, and
often each provider within a country, requires different "wvdial" (the
command line auto-dialer) settings. But we can provide better
documentation, and simple scripts to run every hour to keep the 3g
connection open, and restart the vpn (virtual Private Network) tunnel when
it goes down.

> 7 - default configuration of the second network port with a fixed IP
> address would be very handy for support. The idea would to enable an XO to
> connect via a ethernet cable (USB to ethernet at the XO and possibly also
> at the server) to do ssh for rescue. Currently, if the server cannot be
> accessed via the router because of DHCP problems, you have to find a
> monitor and keyboard to login.

The XSCE attempts to make sure that very early in the install process the
lan adapter is set to the ip address, and the default admin
user is available for ssh (secure shell remote connection) , to address
this issue.

> Frankly, the server software has been quite functional and stable since
> XO-0.4. Daniel Drake solved the urgent problem of being dependent on
> unsupported software with the move to CentOs in XS-0.7.
My hope is that XSCE can approach the stability you speak of in earlier
versions, (we're not there yet), but be able to combine the contributions
of many minds, and many people's efforts.

> Yours,
> Tony
> On 07/09/2013 03:27 PM, support-gang-request at lists.**laptop.org<support-gang-request at lists.laptop.org>wrote:
>> Message: 1
>> Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2013 07:43:34 -0500
>> From: David Farning<dfarning@**activitycentral.com<dfarning at activitycentral.com>
>> >
>> To: server-devel<server-devel@**lists.laptop.org<server-devel at lists.laptop.org>>,
>>        "Community Support
>>         Volunteers -- who help respond to help AT       laptop.org"
>>         <support-gang at lists.laptop.org**>
>> Subject: [support-gang] XSCE sprint update day 0 and day 1
>> Message-ID:
>>         <CAOGko=93csNu2__**8HS9s3fAtRqwUKctcpbiYNEE3OzVn8**
>> ELo_g at mail.gmail.com<93csNu2__8HS9s3fAtRqwUKctcpbiYNEE3OzVn8ELo_g at mail.gmail.com>
>> >
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
>> We are safely locked away in cabin in Gimli, Manitoba (
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/**Gimli,_Manitoba<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli,_Manitoba> )
>> We have been going through a couple days of reflection. Sometimes
>> painful, but always useful. It feels like many of the big technical
>> pieces are coming together. Now, we are in that awkward adolescence
>> phase, more than an idea... by less than a product. We are 80% done...
>> with 80% left to go:)
>> We are talking about where we should go and what we need to do.
>> Navigating the fog of uncertainty.
>> Through all this I am still pretty confident:
>> 1. George is advocating for what he needs in Haiti. - A full turnkey
>> system from power to wireless. A typical micro-deployment.
>> 2. Jerry is advocating for what he needs in Australia. - Thousands of
>> laptops in 100s of schools which are 1000s of kilometers apart.
>> 3. I am advocating for I think the ecosystem needs in a server
>> appliance. Inexpensive, low power, easily maintainable, sane defaults
>> yet configurable.
>> 4. Adam is advocating for the big picture needs of olpc....
>> Please join us on this mailing list or IRC #schoolserver to advocate
>> for your deployment or use case. If it feels like your voice is not
>> being heard, patches and clearly define customers specification will
>> have greater effect than all caps:)
>> --
>> David Farning
>> Activity Central:http://www.**activitycentral.com<http://www.activitycentral.com>
> ______________________________**_________________
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