OLPC deployments – a global approach

Cross-posted from OLPC Friends.

I’ve been involved with a couple of OLPC XO deployments now, and the experiences have been extremely fun and satisfying. One of the issues I have faced was simply trying to connect with other deployments to share with and learn from for peer support. Late last year I suggested to some of the OLPC Boston community people that a weekly online get together of people doing deployments would be very useful. In typical community fashion it was suggested I start running the meetings πŸ™‚

So, we’ve been running a weekly deployment meetup for the last 4 weeks, with excellent results! We’ve had people from deployments all around the world, from Peru, Oceania, Austria, Birmingham, Nepal, Boston, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Paraguay, Colombia, India and more! We also have people from Sugar Labs, OLPC Boston, Fedora, Ubuntu and other projects coming along. Every meeting thus far has had about 30-50 people, and we have tweaked the agenda such that each meeting will now feature a short “talk” by someone on their project or experiences. Then we do a general catch up on everyone’s projects before getting into general Q&A. All the IRC logs are publicly available, and we are trying to ensure we summarise and move information from the logs into the documentation below to make it helpful to others.

I think this format is perfect for community development around XO deployments, but I also think there are three four outcomes that will result from these meetings.

  1. Documentation improvements to the Deployment Guide and the establishment of a Deployment FAQ where we can make it easier for deployers to find information and plan successful projects. Currently we also have a Deployment Resources page, however that will likely be folded into the Deployment Guide.
  2. The creation of a Deployment Wishlist of features and projects that would really help us with actually putting XO’s in the field. Hopefully this wishlist will help inform the developer community about what we actually need in practise πŸ™‚
  3. Knowledge sharing leading to the establishment of best practices and peer support. Perhaps even the establishment of a normal practice of participating in and leveraging the Support Gang infrastructure and knowledge-base for deployment support.
  4. The beginnings of a self-directed project-centric community coming together independent of but in collaboration with the various organisations (Sugar Labs, OLPC Boston, etc, etc).

Ultimately I see this as the beginning of an independent community-run project that will coordinate with all the organisations involved, including Sugar Labs, OLPC Boston, and the many smaller organisations popping up around the world. More information on that soon! πŸ™‚

I’m a firm believer that getting educators involved in the vision is vital, however the deployment meetings are primarily for the people actually coordinating and supporting rollouts, and we discuss everything related to the implementation of an XO deployment including imaging, repairs, XO customisation (timezones, Activities, etc), the schoolserver (XS), logistics, networking, activation strategies, training, etc.

I think teachers and educators interested in pedagogy and such should be encouraged to participate in Sugar Labs, where their input will directly influence and improve Sugar, which is at the heart of the educational outcomes for children.

The weekly meetings are on every Tuesday at 1500 Boston time (Tuesday 2000 UTC time), on #olpc-deployment on Freenode (IRC). If you aren’t a regular IRC user, there are full instructions available for how to join the meeting through any normal web browser. I will try to blog/email a basic summary of each meeting for everyone’s interest. Please ensure you either follow the OLPC Friends blog or that you are subscribed to the OLPC Grassroots mailing list.

We will also be running a monthly FAQ-hack to get items from the minutes into the FAQ and Deployment Guide. This will be for a couple of hours after the first meeting in every month. Again, details are on the deployment meetup page.

So come along, share your experiences, spread the word to other deployments and we can create a strong deployment community so we can all better get opportunities for education out to children all over the world!

Quick thanks

A quick thank you to Michael Stone, a fantastic OLPC community guy and experienced consultant who has helped me push this forward and who has largely done the minutes and summaries to date. Thanks Michael! A big thankyou also to:

  • Chris Ball (cjb) for his hard work in slowly moving the XO release management into a more community-based model. The deployment community owes him for the 8.2.1 release, which totally rocks
  • Mel Chua (mchua) whose enthusiasm and drive has been awesome
  • Adam Holt (CanoeBerry) who has done such a great job establishing the amazing Support Gang, and whose knowledge and experience will really help with deployment community development
  • Samuel Klein (sj) who is doing great work trying to drive OLPC community development and better communications, and who has been a great sounding board
  • Walter Bender (walterbender) who is doing such amazing work with Sugar Labs, and is a constant voice of wisdom when it comes to actually getting things done, and in a community way
  • Seth Woodworth (isforinsects) – he has been constantly optimistic and collaborative, and has been a great participant in discussions. He’s also been a great sounding board
  • Ian Thomson and David Leeming – who are working so hard on Oceania XO deployments, and who are the inspiration to me suggesting a regular deployment meeting. Hopefully this will help more people like themΒ  (and me) who are at the frontline trying to implement the vision of OLPC
  • James Cameron, John Ferlito, Stephen Thorne and of course Jeff – for all providing me with the support I’ve need in the trials I’ve worked in myself πŸ™‚
  • All the people who have participated in the meetings to date, especially mstone, cjb, cjl, walterbender,Β  yamaplos, marcopg, NealS, dsd, aa, kevix, icarito, nubae, CanoeBerry, wadeb, hpachas-PE, anna-bham, tonya37 and everyone!

Anyway, I could thank people all day when it comes to amazing OLPC/Sugar related stuff, but these people have specifically helped with input to and assistance in deployments and in setting up the deployment meetings. Thanks all!

Hooray! Videochat is working!

So after loads of work and testing, we now have a VideoChat app for OLPC that really works πŸ™‚ Check it out! It is a core part of a trial I’m working on, which isn’t quite yet public news, but more on that soon.

Many thanks to Stephen Thorne for his wonderful efforts and the enormous amount of time he’s put into making it work. Also thanks of course to the Collabora guys who made it in the first place. VideoChat could do with more work, more UI hacking, work on the “whiteboard” functionality idea, and potentially a way to create multi-conferencing, so if you want to hack, get hacking on VideoChat. More details and the download are on the OLPC VideoChat page.

Please note, this app currently only does basic videoconferencing (between 2 laptops only atm) and not the wonderful but still in planning whiteboard functionality on the Videochat webpage.

VideoChat – OLPC Activity

I am working on a really interesting OLPC XO/XS trial (all to be revealed soon!) where the main lynchpin demonstration is the VideoChat activity. We are certainly looking at the educational benefits, the interesting impact on truancy, and opportunities for disadvantaged kids, etc. However, the VideoChat offers a great way to provide support to remote kids including speech therapy, behavioural therapy, counselling, health services and of course distance education. So we have been working hard to get the VideoChat activity working. It now works online, but not with an XS (unless you disable Squid and have no firewall), so more work to go.

Anyway, I temporarily uploaded the xo to my website knowing I wanted to have it hosted elsewhere fairly quickly. Luckily one of the wonderful Telepathy guys (hi Cassidy!) offered to host it, so it’s all good. Thing is, in the 3 days I was hosting the 8mb file, I had 534 downloads. Woohoo! That is a lot of bandwidth in a very short time πŸ™‚ I guess it is of interest to a lot of folk out there.

Check out VideoChat. It is very cool but it still needs a lot of work including some prettying up!

Anyway, this is a short one. I have several blogs to catch up on, so sorry everyone!