On Kindles and the importance of fixable machines

Kyle Wiens of the Fixers project is tracking how electronics and other gear is used and fixed across Africa — and which things are destined to be landfill. He writes in the Atlantic this month about the challenges of maintaining computers in rural schools.

He looks at a popular Kindle-as-bookreader program, noting how predictable their high levels of breakage were, and how useful it would have been to be able to repair them in the field.

He cites OLPC’s design, public repair guides, and comprehensive list of parts as models for others to follow. And he kindly offers to help projects like Worldreader and others write a good repair manual if they would only do so and ship it with their devices. Take him up on that — he writes well!

Introducing children to programming

A recent CSM article about getting young people involved in programming and hacking (noting both OLPC and Raspberry Pi) quotes Rodrigo on students’ accomplishments in Uruguay:

Debugging a program is the most perfect way of learning… We have already 12-year-old children in Uruguay that are proficient programmers. You cannot imagine the stuff we are beginning to see in these young kids.

 

Stick computing: GHz USB devices?

Game developer David Braben and colleagues are working on a tiny circuit board suitable for game development, with a few hacker-friendly ports, which will fit into a gumstix-sized package. They are calling the device Raspberry Pi.

Their stated goal is a device with a 700MHz ARM processor, 128MB of SDRAM, a USB (out) port, an HDMI connection, and an SD card slot… relying on the USB input for power.

Unlike Gumstix, which found a corporate and DIY niche for its boards, Braben is focused on minimizing the device’s cost, making sticks ‘cheap enough to give to a child to do whatever they want with it’ and to make learning computing fun. An admirable goal. The project already has its naysayers, however, as it is hard to hack without many peripherals as well. What would you do with one or a few of these?

eduJAM! planned in Montevideo, May 5-7

This week a team led by Uruguay’s ceibalJAM! (including Gabriel Eirea, Pablo Flores, Gonzalo Odiard, Fernando Sansberro, and Andrés Ambrois) and including Walter, Adam, Christoph, and David Farning, made progress in organizing an education hacking summit in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The name of the event will be eduJAM! 2011 and will take place from Thu May 5 to Sat May 7. Please include the eduJAM! and ceibalJAM! logos below if blogging or writing about the event.

The main objective of the summit is to strengthen the free educational software developer community, with a focus on Latin America and the Sugar + olpc communities. The event will feature discussions around future directions and strategy, hacking on specific projects, and exchange of experiences among different deployments.  The event is being planned in more detail on the sugarlabs wiki.



Registration is not yet open.  Alongside the eduJAM! a couple of extra activities are being planned to make the most of the attendees gathering for the summit (we already know of people from 10 countries who will be there):

A “Conozco Uruguay Tour” is being organized by members of volunteer group RAP Ceibal and the OLPC community, between Sat April 30 and Thu May 5.

There will also be a Sugar code sprint starting Sunday May 8, right after the summit, expected to continue to Monday May 9 if not beyond!



Sponsors are welcome; Activity Central has already offered to be a sponsor, and the organizers are looking for other sponsors both at the national and international level.  We hope you can join us and are looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

Reminder: OLPC Community Summit this weekend @ SFSU

Sameer Verma and OLPC-SF are putting the finishing touches on what’s going to be an amazing community event at SFSU this weekend — an international Community Summit for OLPC hackers, implementers, and researchers from dozens of countries and projects. We’ll kick off with an evening party tonight and then with a full agenda from tomorrow morning through Sunday night.

Mike Lee, Andreas Gros, Tim Falconer, Tabitha Roder, Marina Zdobnova and others have been taking part in the Books in Browsers event, so I can confirm that people from a few different countries have already arrived. And we will have some nice surprises for attendees tonight and tomorrow morning… so please join us early!

Dextrose released for the XO

Paraguay’s national deployment, run by Paraguay Educa, has been developing its own build of a Sugar operating system for its students, with help from Sugarlabs. They are calling it Dextrose. The newly-formed Activity Central group, a Sugar-development consultancy, is helping with this work, and supporting some local developers in Paraguay.

Dextrose is a spin of the core Sugar build that will focus on teacher tools and content in Spanish.
While initially developed with feedback from classrooms in Paraguay, this will hopefully become a platform that other deployments in Latin America can use. While Peru has been shy about frequent software upgrades, preferring to have something stable for years at a time, Uruguay and other smaller deployments are good candidates to start using Dextrose as well.