OLPC Lending Lab Project

We no longer have an OLPC Lending Lab but this page remains for posterity.

Friday, 31AUG12 - Showed an XO-1.75 at the BozemanLUG meeting last night. The XO-1.75 appears on the outside to be just like the 1 and 1.5 models but it is ARM CPU-based and very similiar in basic board design to the tablet/touch-based OLPC model currently in the works. Caryl Bigenho happens to be in the Bozeman area again for summer vacation and loaned the 1.75 to me. Thanks Caryl.

In related news, a few weeks back I happened to have applied for an OLPC XO-1.75 through the Fedora Project's Summer of Open Hardware and Fun contest... and was accepted. The new laptop should arrive in the mail in a few weeks and will be added to the lending library.

In yet ANOTHER piece of related news, the OLPC Project announced today the General Availability of an NEW release of the OLPC software - 12.1.0 with Sugar 0.96 based on Fedora 17. The new release is available for the XO-1, XO-1.5, and XO-1.75. I will be updating all of our laptops ASAP.

Saturday, 07JAN12 - I took the XO 1.5 home for the weekend so I could familiarize myself with it better. Carol had previously loaned me an XO 1.5 Highschool unit during the summer but I didn't have much time to devote to it then. Wow, the XO 1.5 is a *LOT FASTER* than the XO 1.0, that's for sure.

Since I'm a video buff I installed fuse-sshfs so I could easily mount my media from my home desktop computer. Having previously encoded most of my video files to webm and my audio files to ogg (because those are my favorite media types), I was able to easily play them with the Fedora 14-based Totem video player. They played fine... even full-screen. I'm not into high definition quality and most of my videos are 624x352. I had a few avi files also and to play them as a test I downloaded the somewhat self-contained binary package of mplayer2. With mplayer2 I was easily able to play the avi files... and the playback didn't put much stress on the XO 1.5 at all. Video playback is sort of a benchmark for me on lower resource machines.

If you look around on YouTube you can find a video of an XO 1.5 doing the 3D desktop thing as well as reasonable framerates with Quake III Arena. There is also a video of a prototype the ARM-based XO 1.75 playing Quake III Arena. It reminded me of the video I saw a while back of Quake III Arena on the Raspberry Pi. :)

Did some reading on the upcoming XO 3.0 and wrote a blog post about it for the site front page. I was surprised to find out that the OLPC folks are working on a new graphical environment named Nell. Obviously Sugar will still be around for a few more years because Nell is just in the basic design stages. Watched a video of Nicholas N. from the fairly recent Social Good Summit where he was addressing the prospect of educating the elementary aged kids around the world and dropping tablets from helicopters... and changing the model to be more interactive. So far Nell looks really strange but I'm sure it will start to take a more traditional shape as it progresses. I browsed to a few of the Nell-related demos that use WebGL to check them out. I think it is the first time I've actually used WebGL on Linux in Firefox (9.0.1). Interesting.

Oh, BTW... just noticed it was more than two years ago we got our batch of used OLPC XO 1.0 units. Boy time flys fast.

Friday, 06JAN12 - Noticed an OLPC XO 1.5 in my mailbox at work. This was a stray that the Big Sky Science Partnership had failed to give back previously. Carol Bigenho noted at the time that it was fine because it was different from the rest of the OLPCs (XO 1.0s) going to Arrowhead School and that if and when it showed up, I could add it to our lending library. I didn't notice it until late in the day but did find the time to update it to the latest stable software release - 11.3.0 released 01NOV2011.

Wednesday, 02NOV11 - Upgraded the single machine available in the library to the new stable release of the OLPC software. Upgrade went fine.

Thursday, 15SEP11 - I (Scott Dowdle) have needed to update this for a while now but I just got to it today. Caryl Bigenho and her husband visited the Bozeman area again this summer. She found out that the Big Sky Science Partnership really had NOT been using their OLPCs and that they had just been gathering dust. She got all of them back with the exception of the X0-1.5 unit... and has re-purposed them for a new startup project at the Arrowhead Elementary School in Pray, Montana. Caryl setup a blog for the project on wordpress.com - Arrowhead School XO Explorers. I hope to get the email addresses of the faculty at Arrowhead Elementary because I plan to be a support person for their project. Caryl should be adding me to their blog soon so I can contribute to it if the need/desire arises.

It is my understanding that their primary use for the OLPCs will be to help in a music class after much of their funding for it got cut. They will be using TAM TAM. I don't know much about TAM TAM but I'd like to learn. Middle School (grades 6,7,8) science teacher (Scott Romsos) plans to also use the XOs in his science classes.

I worked with Caryl some trying to figure out how we could utilize SDcards in the machines to save the internal storage which is quite limited. The idea was to use symbolic links in /home/olpc/Activities that point to where the activities are on the SDcard. That seems to work but the method of creating the links and making sure they work wasn't all worked out before Caryl had to hand the machines over and return to California so we will work on that via email and possibly Skype. Hopefully we'll get that worked out because it is a relatively simple solution that should do the job. If only everyone were a heavy CLI user like me. :)

Friday, 22JUL11 - Read about OLPC OS 11.2.0 for XO-1 and XO-1.5 and upgraded the units I have in the office. Sending out emails to those with loaners about the udpate.

Monday, 31JAN11 - Anish Babu Bharata checked out XO-1 #2. I have none left at the moment. He will be working some with Srinivas Prasad Gumdelli as they said they have some ideas for a new activity... although they haven't shared the details yet.

Thursday, 28OCT10 - Derek Hildreth borrowed XO-1 #1.

Wednesday, 08SEP10 - Srinivas Gumdelli checked out my remaining XO-1 laptop (LOANER4). He is interested in learning about Sugar Activity Development. I made him aware of the Sugar Activities Development book and he's going to check into it... and perhaps do a Masters Program Seminar on the topic.

Tuesday, 07SEP10 - Doug Williams brought by the two XO-1 laptops he was borrowing for me to update to os852. I'll get those done today.

I forgot to previously mention but Caryl Bigenho will be giving a presentation at the Sept. Unix Users Group meeting on campus on Sept. 16th. I hope to video record it and make it available ASAP after the presentation. It'll probably be in webm format.

Friday, 27AUG10 - Installed the developer key on all of the BSSP laptops. Disabled security on them. Installed the following science activities:

  1. Bridge
  2. ConstellationsFlashCards
  3. Model
  4. StarChart
  5. StopWatchActivity

I returned the laptops to Micki a little after noon.

Thursday, 26AUG10 - At the BozemanLUG meeting we upgraded 10 of the Big Sky Science Partnership's laptops (9 XO-1 laptops and 1 XO-1.5) to the latest release which is os852. I still need to add a few activities to them before I return them back to Micki at BSSP. I presented fairly detailed instructions on the process of installing both a signed OS and an unsigned OS, the process of requesting and retrieving a developer key, and how to unlock the machines. There were 8 people at the meeting and each person was able to upgrade a laptop.

Versions after update:

Build: 852
Sugar: 0.84.16
Firmware: Q2E45
Wireless Firmware: 5.110.22.p23

X0-1.5 os852
Build: 852
Sugar: 0.84.16
Firmware: Q3A48
Wireless Firmware: 9.70.7.p0

After all of the laptops were upgraded we spent some time playing with both Sugar and GNOME as well as comparing the hardware differences between the XO-1 and the XO-1.5

It seems the most common way to install activities is to get each OLPC connected to the Internet, browse the Activities page on the laptop.org website, and click on the ones you want to install. An activity package is an .xo file which is really just a .zip file. I was hoping just to download all of the activity .xo files and install them on each laptop from the command line but I ran into a snag. I believe one can just take a .xo file and extract it to the Activities directory in the OLPC user's home directory but there appears to be some sort of activity registry that needs to be updated whenever an Activity is added or removed and I'm not sure how to do that yet.

The OLPCs seem to hate the wireless offered by MSU-Bozeman so it is a pain to get each OLPC on the Internet. The way I'm doing it is to use a USB-to-wired-ethernet adaptor and do one machine at a time. It works fine but it is a little time consuming.

Friday, 06AUG10 - Talked to Caryl Bigenho on the phone about returning the X0-1.5 she loaned me. Caryl suggested I apply for some X0-1.5 units for the MontanaLinux.org Lending Library.

I'm going on vacation to Memphis,TN starting tomorrow and will be taking an X0-1 with me to show to GOLUM (Group of Linux Users Memphis) as well as the CS SysAdmin at University of Memphis.

I've also been communicating with my buddy Joe Mirando and got him to upgrade the X0-1 he is borrowing to the os304 release.

Monday, 19JUL2010 - Scott Wahl brought the laptop he had out on loan (LOANER-FIVE) for me to upgrade to os301. I got it upgraded on Saturday... and he should pick it up today.

Saturday, 17JUL10 - Mailed a laptop to a friend of mine named Joe Mirando in Plainville, CT. Joe is a hobby technical writer and long time Atari / Computer Enthusiast... and I thought it would be a good idea for him to have an OLPC hands on for a couple of weeks. He promised to write about it for the weekly A-ONE publication he does a column for... and I plan to cross-post it on MontanaLinux.org. It beat having an unused OLPC sitting on my shelf.

Wednesday, 08JUL10 - Updated one of the OLPC units to the OS16 devel release. For more info, see this blog post on the subject. I hope to get the other laptops in the lab updated ASAP.

I emailed Doug Williams and Scott Wahl telling them about the software upgrade to ask if they'd like me to upgrade the XO-1 units they have borrowed.

Tuesday, 29JUN10 - Just got an email from Adam Holt from the OLPC project on the contributor mailing list saying that he had just shipped 10 OLPC XO-1.0 laptops as well as 1 OLPC XO-1.5 laptop for the Big Sky Science Partnership pilot project. He said they would probably arrive on Friday. Will post when they have arrived.

Once they arrive I’ll need to refresh my memory on how to check software versions, make sure everything is up-to-date... as well as learn how to install additional Activities. I have to admit I’m a bit rusty but I’ll get it figured out.

Tuesday, 29JUN10 - Learned that Caryl met with Elisabeth from the Big Sky Science Partnership and gave her a demo of SUGAR and several SUGAR activities that relate to science. Got an email from Micki asking me to create a blogging account for the project so that the BSSP folks may blog on their OLPC related activities. The site is: bigskysciencepartnership.wordpress.com. So far there aren't any blog postings there but I shared the account info with Micki so hopefully in the next few days one or more blog entries will appear. I believe this was the last detail needed to get the laptops shipped to from the OLPC contributor program.

Wednesday, 23JUN10 - Continue to work on OLPC project with the Big Sky Science Partnership. Hope to get the 10 OLPC laptops that have been approved within the next week to two weeks. Am setting up a demo / presentation with Caryl Bigenho for the BSSP staff to be held at the end of June / Beginning of July. Hope to have a firm date soon.

Thursday, 03JUN10 - Had lunch with Caryl Bigenho and her husband. She loaned me an OLPC X0-1.5 for two weeks so I could learn about it.

Monday, 22MAR10 - Just found out today that the Education Dept. at MSU-Bozeman (Elisabeth Swanson) submitted a proposal to the OLPC Contributors program to get 10 OLPC XO-1.0 laptops for use in a pilot program... AND GOT ACCEPTED.

Friday, 26FEB10 - Later in the day I got a phone call from Elisabeth Swanson who is a faculty member in the Dept. of Education at MSU-Bozeman asking how to buy 10 OLPCs for a pilot project on the Crow Reservation. I emailed Caryl Bigenho to see if she had a clue who to talk to see if that would be possible. She said that the pilot project could have the potential to grow to 32 elementary schools on two reservations. Wow, I hope this works out!

Friday, 26FEB10 - Did a presentation / discussion with the several members of the MSU-Bozeman Education Dept. over lunch. They seemed interested in the OLPC and possibly getting a pilot project together with a Crow Agency school. We'll see how that pans out over the coming months.

Thursday, 11FEB10 - Got an email from Betsy Palmer, who is in the Education Dept. at MSU-Bozeman, about scheduling a presentation she and I would do together for her department in an effort to see who might be interested in getting involved. Will report back when a date is set. Right now it looks like Feb. 26th.

Thursday, 28JAN10 - Loaned out OLPC #2 to Douglas Williams who is a Graduate Masters in Computer Science at MSU-Bozeman. A few days later, also loaned Doug OPLC #1 so he could have two of them to try out some of the networking and collaboration features provided by the Sugar environment and the activities.

Wednesday, 27JAN10 - Loaned out OLPC #5 to Scott Wahl who is a Graduate Doctoral student in Computer Science at MSU-Bozeman.

Friday, 15JAN10 - Not a whole lot going on. I was told by the Education Department at MSU-B last semester that they were in the middle of an accreditation review and wouldn't be available to talk about OLPC stuff until this semester... which just started back this week. I hope there will be some additional action soon.

Monday, 02NOV09 - I did a seminar presentation for the CS Department at MSU-Bozeman on the OLPC Project and showed off three of the OLPCs.

Thursday, 29OCT09 - It just so happened that my wife Shelly was going to Billings for a doctor appointment so I had her take 5 of the OLPCs with her and drop them off with Andrew at RMC... so now Billings has 5 laptops to lend out.

Tuesday, 13OCT09 - Two boxes (5 OLPCs each) arrived via FedEx. I've only had time to open one OLPC and it appeared to be in new condition. I'm not sure if all of them are in the same condition or not. The software on it was quite outdated so I checked out the OLPC wiki and got both the firmware updated as well as the activities. I got it connected to my local wifi. Seems to be working well. Will have time to open the rest when I get back from vacation. I'll probably not update them all in order to save the learning experience for the other LUG members who will be responsible for some of them.

Sunday, 04OCT09 - The project proposal has gotten approved by the OLPC folks... and we should shortly receive 10 semi-refurbished XO Laptops for lending out in the state of Montana. In the coming week, the Montana LUG leaders will be discussing how to best distribute the laptops among the LUGs and come up with a plan for outreach to the community in the promotion of the OLPC project over the next 36 months with the end goal of getting one or more pilot projects started for rural Montana grade schools.

As the situation unfolds this page will be updated and expanded to provide a running report on the success of the project. Stay tuned.

The Past - Learning about the OLPC Project

On June 25th, 2009 OLPC community member Caryl Bigenho gave a presentation about the OLPC project to the BozemanLUG. There were approximately 20 people in attendance (which is pretty good during summer in Montana). The presentation was video taped and made available online as were a number of pictures from the event and Caryl's slidestack.

Caryl then lent out 5 OLPC units to BozemanLUG members for approximately 1 month. At the end of that month, the OLPCs were shipped to the BillingsLUG and a LUG member gave a presentation to the BillingsLUG group. BillingsLUG members would have liked to be able to borrow the OLPC units but they needed to be returned to Caryl.

The Present - Applying to become an OLPC Lending Lab

Upon further discussion with Caryl and the leaders of the various LUGs in Montana about how we could get involved in the OLPC effort, it was determined that we would like to start an OLPC Lending Lab project to spread the word about the OLPC in Montana and to grow interest in and facilitate the creation of one or more OLPC pilot projects at rural schools in the state.

As a result we have applied to become an OLPC Lending Lab.

The Future

LUG members would volunteer their time to maintain the OLPC Lending Lab, keep the machines updated, loan them out to interested education institutions, and give presentations about the OLPC project and Sugar on a Stick.

MontanaLinux.org is the primary website / online community that coordinates activities among Montana area Linux user groups. Members also attend and present at various regional Linux conferences (Linuxfest Northwest and the Utah Open Source Conference for example) so it seemed natural that MontanaLinux.org could lead the way in coordination of any OLPC Lending Lab Project.

BozemanLUG member Scott Dowdle works as the computer system administrator fo the Computer Science Department at MSU-Bozeman. BillingsLUG member Andrew Niemantsverdriet works as a computer systems administrator for Rocky Mountain College in Billings. Scott is a frequent presenter at the Unix Users Group on the MSU-B campus. It is hoped that the work connections of these two members could be leveraged and spread to the education departments at their respective institutions.

MontanaLUG leaders would make the OLPC Lending Library an agenda item for their monthly LUG meetings and discuss the progress of the project every three months.