Getting Ready for XO-4 Touch.

Although it may be difficult to give a black and white picture of the impact of OLPC laptops on school children, one thing is very evident – children love to play with laptops, utterly. And this, I think, is the  idea of the program – engaging young minds with a device filled with educational materials.

Software and contents always grow bigger over time. Computer memory always tends to be insufficient. In the remote villages of Nepal, XO1 has proved itself to be a rugged and durable learning machine. Now it is time to give way to the newer verion -XO-4.  There are several major advancement over XO-1, for example, efficient processor architecture, increased processing speed, bigger disk space and bigger memory. But introduction of touchscreen is the most exciting and remarkable difference.

The first fortunate ones to get this new XO-4 laptops will be the students from Far Western region of Nepal, Bajhang. Details at http://www.olenepal.org/donate/.

At OLE Nepal, our team is making preparation to get the contents ready for it, especially EPaath.

Preparations: 

We have completed the most important parts of preparation. The most time consuming part so far has been setting up of build environment to prepare Operating System image for XO1.75. Right now XO 1.75 is what we’ve got and we are trying out everything under it. We hope doing things for XO4 will not be much diffirent as they both have same architecture. XO-4 specification can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO-4_Touch. We have set up an ARM environment through software virtualization on x86 machine for preparing the OS image. Visit following links for detail

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_Builder
https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Architectures/ARM
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Architectures/ARM/Versatile_Express

The whole build process is very time consuming. Generating a set of OS images takes over 6 hours. So far we have successfully built OS release 12.1.0 on Fedora 17 (Fedora-17-armhfp-vexpress). We shall be working on release 13.1.0 on Fedora 18 for XO-4. There are strict rules to which platform to choose for a particular release. Visit http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_Builder for details.

We are also trying to get an ARM based system in order to speed up the build process. Building on virtualized environment is very very slow as already stated. “Wandboard quad” and “Utitile” devices are good candidates for this purpose. Due to huge demand, Utilites are low on stock as of this writing and can not be purchased. Paul Fox from OLPC informs that they had been using mother board from Marvell for this purpose. If nothing works for you, you can always build image on your XO, XO4 that is. Visit http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OS_Builder/Run_on_XO_hardware. It can be little faster then building on virtualized environment. Just that you need to have one extra XO for testing and one big usb disk.

Porting EPaath: 
Porting our interactive digital learning material “EPaath” has been the most challenging and interesting part for me. It involved creating local repository for Firefox and installing vmeta packages through scripts to enable flash and media codecs. Thanks to oob configuration files ( e.g olpc-os-12.1.0-xo1.75.ini). They are very comprehensive and they work great. Thanks to all the help I got from mailing list and IRC at ARM Fedora, Sugarlabs and Sugar Devel. People at mailing list are sometimes rude, sometimes quite but most of the times helpful.

Work in Progress: 

Now some of the most important things we should immediately look into are the translation of sugar and other activities and nepali keyboard driver. We should be targeting sugar version 0.98. 0.98 has added/deleated strings suitable for touch screens. Newer build comes with a lot of new activities. New translation may be required for new activities like Wikipedia and getbooks etc.

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