Revisit to Silar’s Orphanage 6 Months after School Server Install

wtstelzer-IMG_0039This picture shows Adam, and me working together on the installation of the XO4 as the new school server.  I was in New York city, and talking to Adam via skype on his laptop. And I was also connected remotely to the server itself by way of the USB 3G modem (white USB on right side of screen), and openvpn.

My visit to Silar’s Orphanage, was a hurried, 4 hour affair. But I had a lot of reactions, positive and negative.

  • Some of the kids have done some amazing work.
  • It’s a problem to try to introduce a new feature like Internet In A Box without testing it on the OS and hardware that is already in the field.
  • The batteries we installed in March are not being charged enough, or they are being used too much, and we can expect premature failure. (I was not able to determine if they are failing already).

map The original objective was to replace the XO1.75 hardware with a XO4 running more recent XSCE software, and to add the Internet In A Box (IIAB).  Adam discovered, when he arrived at Silar’s earlier in the week, that the version of the Operating System (11.3.1) did not display IIAB maps, and handled the 34 PDF creole language books we added to the web server very poorly. IIAB, shown here, works perfectly on my Macbook Pro!

So we wanted to upgrade the OS to 12.1.0. But we were very reluctant to just wipe out the kids work. So we did the first part of the upgrade. We got developer keys for all the machines, and permanently disabled security for each of them.  (This was necessary because the new Tiny Core linux customization process does not work when security is enabled).

A number of students were eager to upgrade their machines.  We tried to explain that they needed to save their most valuable work to a USB key, so that it could be restored, once the OS upgrade had occurred. We saw some fantastic stuff.

We demonstrated the upgrade process. The kids pushed forward, wanting to upgrade their own laptops. Unfortunately the files on the gnome side, which the more advanced kids seemed to prefer, did not get transferred to the USB stick successfully.

The plus side is that some stuff was saved. See  And we didn’t come in and wipe stuff out, without some preparation, and warning. The down side is that some valuable work was lost.  The architectural-quality drawings on the Gnome side were sadly lost in the kids’ (largely self-imposed, but still foolish) rush to upgrade

In the end, only 5 of the 20 laptops were upgraded.  With the additional three we brought, only 8 of 23 will work well with the new server capabilities. We hope that Junior, the local teacher, can help the other students save their work more successfully, before those laptops are upgraded.

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About George Hunt

Retired electrical engineer and programmer, enthusiastic about OLPC as a vehicle for gathering together volunteerism, mine and so many others', for helping education in developing countries.
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One Response to Revisit to Silar’s Orphanage 6 Months after School Server Install

  1. Edmund Resor says:

    It’s great to see servers getting set up. It may not be politically correct to do this, but I would suggest trying running a Rachel Pi server on a parallel and unconnected WiFi network. Even though people would manually need to change networks and even though the RACHEL content is only in English (or Spanish). I suggest this so you can get some grassroots feedback if the RACHEL content includes some materials that people (students and/or staff) would actually use and benefit from. You could later run the parts of the RACHEL content that helped people on your own server.

    The HTML 5 versions of the Khan Academy lectures run great as long as the browser can be upgraded to use HTML 5 videos. The Raspberry Pi uses about 10 watts maximum even when it also acts as a WiFi access point. I think you could add most of the Hesperian Health manuals in French. If you let the server run all night, staff might be able to access it in their free time, with OLPC laptops or smart phones or tablets. If you want to e-mail me, I’m at

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