OLPC in Niue

In late July I was very privileged to help roll out the world’s first 100% saturation of OLPC XOs to the country of Niue, in the Pacific near New Zealand. There are around 400 students, and every single one got a laptop! I was in charge of the server/wireless infrastructure, and the imaging of the laptops as well as technical training for the people there on the ground. I worked closely with Ian Thomson who coordinated it (from SPC) and Grisel Carriera, a education specialist from Australia. Grisel and I were volunteers for the project, and Ian/Grisel between them basically coordinated the teacher training.

I thought I’d write up a few notes about the project, although most of the details are on the OLPC Niue wiki page. Basically I spent a week setting up the (currently) fairly beta XS software on the server, setting up a WDS wireless network (to get network connectivity for the XOs throughout the entire two schools without an extensive wired LAN) and a few additions to the XS software such as Moodle (which will soon be integrated) and some great locally relevant education resources pulled together by David Leeming who is working with Ian in the Pacific OLPC deployments. I used the XO 703 image with about 30 applications including Speak, Cartoon Builder, Flipsticks, Colors, Scratch, Ruler, Stopwatch, Wikibrowse (v9 as v10 is all Spanish!) and Sudoku, as well as all the default applications in the activity pack. They worked really well!

Check out some photos below! One of the schools was a primary school, and one a high school, and I believe the primary school will gain the most benefit, but it will be an interesting experiment how the high school goes with them. Ultimately in Australia we will only be looking at primary schools, because they aren’t really made for high schools.

Useful references:

If anyone wants to volunteer for these kinds of projects specifically in the next month or two, please drop me an email at pia dot waugh at olpc dot org dot au with when you are available, your interests and skills, as Ian and David need more volunteers for Pacific based projects 🙂 For people able to volunteer in the medium to long term, there will soon be a rego system available.

The worlds oldest XO user (we think) :) Shes 70yo
The world's oldest XO user (we think) 🙂 She's 70yo
Grisel and Ian, holding up mountains!
Grisel and Ian, holding up mountains!
Students using the XO
Students using the XO

TechFest, TechGirls, GeekGirls and Software Freedom

The last couple of weeks have been CRAZY! After getting back from my incredible Gung Fu week away, It was straight into everything. I flew back Saturday night, Sunday morning Jeff and I ran an OLPC TechFest in Sydney which had some amazing people come along, get talks about the OLPC server and XO projects, and then have some useful hacking time. In the middle of that I ran away to a wedding which was a big and wonderful Italian wedding, so Jeff was left holding the fort at the TechFest. There will be a more full report about the TechFest soon but there is a great write up by Sarah Maddox, so thanks Sarah! Awesome work by Martin Langhoff and Joel Stanley, who both totally rock!

A couple of days ago I spoke at a TechGirls event up at the Central Coast. I was the keynote speaker to about 200 girls aged 11-16 from the area, and it was fantastic! I got some excellent feedback (from girls and teachers alike) and I received this email which made it so incredibly worth it!

I thought you spoke extremely well and you have inspired me and my friends a lot. I aim to be a Graphic Designer sometime in the near future and you have encouraged me to follow my dreams. Up until today i was undecided if that was the career i wanted to pursue but after your speech today it has made my mind up. Thankyou very much for attending and sharing your views today. You have helped me choose my career.

Yes! I got a few other awesome emails and it was so exciting to have so many girls keen to get into IT.

Tonight was the third GeekGirl dinner in Sydney, which was awesome. Over 110 people (about 85% women) all getting together for an awesome evening of food, wine and talks. We had Claudia and another girl from Yahoo, and then Sara Falamaki, and all the talks were awesome. Then we played Guitar Hero for a while and it was a late night home. An awesome night and a major thanks to Damana, all the other organisers and to Yahoo for putting on such a great night 🙂

I’m currently (and have been for a couple of years) President of Software Freedom International, the body behind Software Freedom Day which is coming up in September. This is an awesome day and we had over 330 teams from over 90 countries last year all taking the concepts of freedom, democratic software, and of course FOSS to the mainstream. All the teams generally do events that are locally relevant and you’ll see some teams have an entire village do a march, or a music festival, or, as Nepal did last year, a candle lighting ceremony 🙂 It is a fascinating and exciting event and I’m so proud to be able to help make it happen. Anyway, we opened registrations for teams almost 2 weeks ago and we already have over 160 teams registered for this year! We are expecting around 500 teams. Check out the easy to browse map for teams near you, and register your event today! Only the first 300 teams get a team pack with shirts, stickers, badges, some CDs and more 🙂


Lastly, one of my best friends Sue recently posted a whole schwag of photos on Facebook from our trip to China in 1999. It was one of the best trips of my life. I learnt a lot there and it reminded me how much I want to return! Below is a (kind of crappy) scan of one of my favourite photos!

Horseriding along the Yellow River (Huang He) in China

Yes, that is me with short, red hair and riding a young and very fast horse. The locals thought I was lost control but I galloped to the group in the distance and back again. It is one of my best memories 🙂 There are also some photos of us at Shaolin Temple and more, but you’ll have to find me on Facebook 🙂

Get involved at the first OLPC Australia TechFest

The first OLPC Australia TechFest will be held on June 1st in Sydney. It will include demonstrations, workshops about the OLPC hardware and software, developer tutorials and more! Everyone is welcome, though the event is mainly designed to help potential technical contributors get involved.

The TechFest will be led by Pia Waugh (OLPC Australia), Joel Stanley (OLPC “XO” laptop guru) and Martin Langhoff (OLPC “XS” server project lead). Thanks very much to Joel and Martin for providing their insights into the project and volunteering their time for us!

Details on the OLPC Australia TechFest webpage, including full agenda and RSVP.

Barry Vercoe on OLPC – 16th May talk

One Laptop per Child – Empowering children and communities

Barry Vercoe from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project will be giving a talk about the project on Friday the 16th May. Barry will talk about projects he has been involved in, successes around the world and some of the plans for the region. There will be OLPC laptops on display for demonstration and some information on how you can get involved in the project locally. Barry is also a board member of the newly formed OLPC Australia which will be focusing on the needs of children in Australia and the region, including the Pacific Islands.

Date: Friday the 16th May
Place: Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney
Time: 6.00pm – 7.00pm
Cost: Free

Please RSVP to pia.waugh@olpc.org.au for catering purposes. Some refreshments will be available.