Book Server 0.01: Pathagar + Sheeva Plug for offline reading

Sameer Verma of OLPC-SF, as he mentiond at last week’s amazing community summit, is putting together a book server for use in rural India, with 20,000 books and audio files on it for students and teachers to use locally. He is going to deploy it at a school pilot near his familial hometown.

This is a Pathagar server implementing the OPDS bookserver standard, running on a tiny Sheeva Plug device, accessible over a local network to XOs in the neighborhood.  The Sheeva Plug is low power and has USB and SD ports that make it easy to expand such an offline library.  Here it is plugged in and in use, drawing a total of 4 Watts:

Sayamindu Dasgupta, who contributed to the design of the OPDS specification, developed the Pathagar server to implement the spec; Manuel Quiñones created the version of the server used here.  Book and audio suggestions are welcome for this particular build, and a web-based form for linking to OPDS archives suitable for inclusion in the image will be up shortly.  If you have your own Sheeva Plug, you can torrent the original disk image of this installation.

The setup was load-tested last night, using a simple build: a stock Sheeva Plug and 16GB USB key (total cost: $100). Quick statistics:

  • Power draw: 4W
  • Simultaneous downolads: 500
  • Library size: 10,000 – 50,000 books

For details, images, and a mailing list for discussion, see the bookserver project page.

Community Summit, Day 2

We have had an incredible 1.5 days thus far at the OLPC San Francisco Community Summit 2010. Mayor Gavin Newsom declared October 23, 2010 as One Laptop per Child Day in San Francisco!

There are some lovely photos online from the events and sessions, thanks to Mike Lee and
TuxWingsGroup.

You can join us online today at 11:30AM and 13:45pm Pacific online with our live ustream video stream, and the notes from all sessions are now online on the wiki schedule.

San Francisco declares October 23 “One Laptop per Child Day”

Mayor Gavin Newsom has declared tomorrow, October 23, “One Laptop per Child Day” in San Francisco, in recognition of OLPC’s service to communities around the world — and in honor of the upcoming community summit. Special thanks are due to Carol Ruth Silver and Sameer Verma for their work with the city to make this, and the weekend’s events, possible.

San Francisco has been a nexus of creative energy and support for the olpc movement since the early days of the project, when fuseproject took on our industrial design. It’s fitting that the city is hosting the international summit this weekend, and an honor to have the mayor name a day after the project — or really, if you read the text of the proclamation (and I woinder: who writes these things?), naming one after our global network. Thank you to everyone who is helping to carry the message of universal education and connectivity forward, around the world.

If you are coming to the summit this weekend, please remember to register online — we have about a dozen spaces left.

And don’t forget: we are opening with a reception tonight at 5pm. I look forward to seeing everyone soon!

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!

Community Summit 2010 : October 23-24

Our movement continues on thin budgets and a go-getter attitude. Some of it is ego, some reputation, but a lot of it is the drive to make a difference. Every time I listen to “Imagine” (…imagine there’s no countries…) I wonder – if you erase those lines in the sand, all those problems around the world indeed become yours as well. So should the solutions. Help solve it, and things will get better for everyone. “…and the world will live as one“.

I have had the good fortune of working with a team of learning/curriculum experts at the University of the West Indies, and 115 XOs that we have acquired. We are working with other deployments to seed far greater things for OLPC in Jamaica, with our community learning portfolio at the ready. I am fortunate that my colleagues in Jamaica are go-getters, who have plugged away since 2007 to make this a reality.

Remember the Realness summit — May’s event in the US Virgin Islands, where dozens of volunteers flew in to exchange notes, talk turkey, compile failures, and build rigorous community infrastructure? In this tradition, we are hosting OLPC’s biggest ever grassroots/community summit in three weeks.

Thanks are due to our amazing set of volunteers and our hosts (and my employer), San Francisco State’s College of Business.

Community Summit 2010 will bring together over 100 community members from around the world, to share the enthusiasm of grassroots OLPC deployments on every continent (We’re still working on Antarctica. Anyone want to start a project with E-Base?), and to discuss ways to connect successful pilots to improve long-term sustainability.

Who’s coming? Take a look. Leading OLPC communities worldwide into spare parts logistics (iLoveMyXO.com), learning content (tinygames), direct Sugar/Gnome School Server applicability, highly progressive health activities, and even a peripherals/solar/energy innovation team (XOdock).

Individuals such as reactivated Daniel Drake, who literally paved the way for some of the world’s largest OLPC deployments, collecting airfare donations in $10 chunks. And Tabitha Roder, who fostered OLPC’s testing for years with the force of her personality in cafes across New Zealand.

Additionally, we have preliminary RSVP’s from Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Nicaragua, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Philippines, The Gambia, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, France, UK, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Canada, Jamaica, Haiti, Birmingham and beyond.
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My journey with OLPC and Sugar

I’ve lost count of how many times the demise and resurrection of OLPC and Sugar have been proclaimed and celebrated. What makes these projects tick?  Grow?  I ask myself this question whenever I start feeling burned out, wondering why I remain attached to the project and this green machine.

Sameer Verma behind his XO

Sameer Verma with XO

My own journey with OLPC, Sugar and all things related, has been underway for years. I’m a techie at heart, a “thinly-disguised” business school professor, teaching IT strategy and researching business models and consumer behavior. Every once in a while, I’ll sit down and compile a kernel, or run a packet sniffer.  (What can I say? It’s instant gratification and a lot more fun :-)

I think of the tech as the supply side of my interest: The XO makes for a great technology platform. The mesh (whether 802.11s or ad-hoc), suspend with the screen lit, robustness, low power, etc. is all very cool. Cool enough for a grown man to walk around with a funny-looking green machine slung around his shoulder.  The software stack too is amazing, flexible, free. The content is rich. Wikipedia in a box? Awesome! The tech definitely keeps me tethered.

Then there’s the demand side: a part of my family lives in rural India, in Bhagmalpur. A village where I have seen the simple life. Clean air, good food, quiet living. Its also stricken with poverty, sanitation issues, water shortages, and seriously untapped ingenuity.

Maggu at home

Maggu at home

As a kid, I used to hang around Maggu, while he milked a water buffalo, or Bahadur, while he made gold jewelry on a block of coal. Today I wonder what Maggu would do if he could learn about the rest of the world and its dairy achievements. How Bahadur’s family could save the lost art of rural goldsmiths. Would they benefit from a peek into that Wikipedia in a box? You bet. In my mind, I can savor the possibilities of the supply, and imagine what it can do for the demand. I speak with my friend Javier Cardona about IEEE 802.11s, with Maggu on my mind. These worlds must meet.

Finally, there’s the catalyst: my daughter Mira, now age five. She could open the XO, power it on, and turn it around into tablet mode when she was two. At three, she could play Implode on the XO with a finesse that amazed me. Children are like sponges; they soak up everything, and have incredibly simple solutions in their heads.  I cherish Mira’s curiosity and ingenuity, and she has been my catalyst for inspiration.

So that is my supply, my demand, and my catalyst. My story and my guide.

Mira hard at work

Mira hard at work


Every volunteer has her own story. Many come and go, some stay, but all leave a mark on the overall process. They all help us steer projects in new and meaningful ways. For instance, a little over two years ago in Austin the XO manual was written by volunteers to pave the way for a new kind of global user.  Sugar hackers and tech writers of all flavors funded their own way to Austin, to gather and create a resource that is used everywhere today.

A year later, volunteers ganged up in Washington, DC (again on their own dime) to create 30+ OLPC community deployment success stories, compiled into the “Class Acts” repository of tips & tricks.  I’ve dipped into this pool myself, asking my students to convert some of these into one-pagers. If you need a handout for a neighbor or school principal, grab this and print it!

And now we’re preparing for a larger community event, with volunteers from all parts of the movement and from around the world, at the OLPCSF Community Summit. Stay tuned for details and a summit update tomorrow.

Sameer Verma behind his XO

Sameer Verma is the chief organizer of the OLPC SF community. He is also Associate Professor of Information Systems in the College of Business at San Francisco State University.