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.

The New Face of E-Pustakalaya

The E-Pustakalaya development team has changed the overall layout and design of the E-Pustakalaya website to make it more user friendly. The landing page now, is more dynamic and displays featured books based on popularity and other variables which can be changed periodically. It also displays recently added books which helps user stay updated regarding the additions. The book cover preview makes the user easier of notice and identify books. Listed below are details of other new features added on the website:

E-Pustakalaya New Interface

Videos:
All the videos have been sorted into different categories based on the content and, displayed with a preview image and a title. For videos that cover two or more categories are placed in all the categories. A short preface about the videos tell users what the video is about and the view counts help reflect its popularity among the users.

Videos with title and picture preview. Left panel shows different video categories.

Authors:
Author page allows to view a list of all the authors, their biographies (if available), and links to their books. We are in the process of finding biographies of all the authors.

Book Review:
Other important features in the books section include bookshelf and book review. Users can use bookshelf functionality to prioritize books to read, identify books for future reference or reading, share the book list among friends and other users. Book review feature on the other hand helps users write their views on the book and rate them (by iracema). Users can use the login feature with their google, facebook or twitter accounts.

Audio Books:
Rato Bangala Foundation has created audio tapes of the English course books used in public schools throughout the country. These audio tapes are highly popular in Dailekh where most primary English teachers have received trainings on how to incorporate these audio tapes into their daily classroom lessons. Through OLE Nepal’s partnership with the foundation, these tapes will be made available in E-Pustakalaya’s portal.

E-Pustakalaya Installation at Moti Community Library, Phalebas, Parbat

OLE Nepal’s team met Mr. Bhola Nath Sharma during a visit to install E-Pustakalaya at Moti Community Library in Phalebas, Parbat district, and were immediately impressed by his dedication to help uplift his community. People of Phalebas have great respect for Mr. Sharma and for his contributions towards community development. Moti Community Library, Radio Parbat, Helping Hands Health Clinic and Bhawani Bidyapith H.S. School are some of the institutions he currently heads. He is in his seventies, but that has not stopped him from working day and night on community development. During our two days’ stay at Phalebas, we found him to be busy with meetings and events all day long. We often found him suggesting villagers the different ways to make Moti Community Library a self sustainable one.

Moti Community Library Building

 

Mr. Bhola Nath Sharma discussing library issues with community

This time, Bhola Jee has initiated to establish a digital library within Moti Community Library Building. Nepal Library Foundation helped in provisioning server, desktop computers and network equipments while OLE Nepal provided the E-Pustakalaya (digital library system) replete with thousands of books, educational videos, learning software, and reference materials such as the wikipedia and dictionary. OLE Nepal’s technical team of Mr. Ram Singh and Mr. Basanta Shrestha installed the digital library and gave orientation to local teachers and users on how to use this repository.

The  team reached Phalebas after a ten-hour bus ride from Kathmandu. Moti Community Library is housed in a three-storeyed, well furnished building that stood just a few meters away from a small village house which used to be old Moti Community Library. Radio Parbat, the Health Clinic and Bhawani Bidyapith School were all within 150 meters area of the Library. The Library rents out few rooms for commercial purpose to help cover the operational costs of the Library. The building also has a Bal Bikas Room for early childhood development purposes. This room has a huge collection of toys and books, and it gives a glimpse of an expensive “montessori based” schools of Kathmandu (by padilla). Books and materials in the library and “Bal Bikas” were contributed by Read Nepal and Room to Read.

The Library does not have a lot of books. But it is big, spacious and very well organized. The team installed the E-Pustakalaya server in the adjoining smaller office room. But before installing the software in the newly purchased computers, the team had to assemble tables that were still in the boxes that were shipped from Kathmandu. Assembling table was something the team was not prepared for, and it took quite a bit of effort, but we had fun doing it.

E-Pustakalaya being accessed from Linux workstations. Server and WiFi routers are also seen in the picture.

 

Mr. Basanta Shrestha showing educational videos during orientation

After completing the installation of the digital library, the team conducted an orientation program to local people. Nearly 20 people gathered in the E-Pustakalaya room for the event. Participants included librarians, school teachers and students. One distinguished participant was a famous village boy with a voracious reading habit who was known for reading 610 books from the Library in one month. The orientation briefed about the E-Pustakalaya System, followed by detailed demonstration of several sections of E-Pustakalaya. Participants were also given brief introduction of Ubuntu/Linux System and its basic operation. E-Pustakalaya server and all the workstations were installed with Linux System. Linux System are free, stable and very less prone to computer viruses.

Mr. Ram Singh posing with the famous village boy who read 610 books from the Library in one month.

One of the teachers from a nearby village got really impressed by variety of contents of E-Pustakalaya and asked how much would it cost if he wanted to do the whole setup at his school. Later, Bhola Jee pointed out the benifits of digital library to the participants. He further asked us to share the success stories of digital library in other program districts. We then gave example of Pancha School in Kapilvastu about how they are taking maximum benefit of E-Pustakalaya not only to educate students but also to promote literacy amongst mothers of the children and the whole community.

Earthing and other measures to protect for network devices

OLE Nepal’s team of network engineers have been putting a lot of effort into connecting all 26 program schools in six districts to a school intranet. Amongst many advantages of such a network are the facility to monitor and update school servers remotely from OLE Nepal office and the ability to establish free and direct communication link between the schools and OLE Nepal.

Since most part of the country does not have any communication link to the outside world, we have had to design and install network connections from scratch. In most of the hilly regions, wireless technology is the preferred medium due to its low initial cost of installation and ease of maintenance. Furthermore, using hilltops we can eliminate the need for building tall towers to get a clear line of sight between two network nodes. We have used mostly Mikrotik devices for long range wireless connections, and we had been quite satisfied by its performance. However, recently we were a bit concerned when few devices suddenly started malfunctioning in Makwanpur, Dadeldhura, and Kapilvastu districts. Our investigation revealed that the devices were damaged by lightning strikes.

We then set out to protect the devices against lightning strikes. First, we placed spike suppressors at all the schools and relay points. Spike suppressor is typically used in between the main power supply and the UPS System. When there is an voltage spike, the circuit automatically breaks and saves the electronic equipment from being damaged. We also implemented a multi-level earthing system at the relay points so that the exposed conductive surfaces are at the same electrical potential as the surface of the earth.

Makwanpur: Ram Singh, OLE Nepal Engineer, preparing to fix Copper plate for Earthing.


Deciding the location for the tower

 

Tikkari Relay (Argakhanchi): Relay point used to connect three schools in adjoining Kapilvastu district. The Lightning arrester stays 40 feet above the ground on the tower

 

Tower expert Krishna Ji joining 10 ft. long pieces together

 

Teachers from Pancha School pay a visit after tower had been erected and earthing done.

Why Earthing?
One of the major tasks of earthing is to ensure safety of persons during fault condition. Earthing creates the path of least impedance from system components to the earth so that any surge that occurs is dissipated quickly. It allows the lightning strike energy to be safely dissipated thereby minimizing the danger caused by the lightning. Earthing is the key to safety, i.e. protection of personnel, equipment and facilities. Another advantage of earthing in communication tower is to reduce electromagnetic interference.

Weather experts report that lightening strikes the earth 100 times each second around the world. The region most prone to the lightning are those where moist and unstable air masses move. Since communication antenna/towers are placed at the top of the hills or at the highest point, they are more susceptible to lightning strikes.

In the past we were having problem with many antenna specially in remote hilly region with motherboards getting burned out. The reason behind this was insufficient protection circuitry. In order to avoid this problem repeating itself and to protect expensive antenna from lightning, we decided to provide earthing. And we started it from Manakamana Danda [hill] in Makawanpur.

PROCEDURE FOLLOWED WHILE INSTALLING COPPER PLATE EARTHING AT MANAKAMANA DANDA.
1. Excavated the earth of 1.00 Mtr in diameter and 3.00 Mtr depth. Digging the earth in circle made digging job easier.
2. From 3.00 mtr depth, excavated earth of 90 cm x 30 cm x 90 cm depth.
3. Water was sprinkled in the bottom and surround wall to make it wet.
4. Bottom layer of the pit was filled with charcoal and salt upto 15 cm height from bottom.
5. Whole length of earthing cable was placed inside the PVC pipe to protect cable from mechanical damage.
6. Earthing cable with the cable shoe was fitted tightly to the copper plate [60 cm x 60 cm x 3 mm] electrode by nuts, bolts and spring washer. Connection was checked to make sure that it is strong and stable.
7. We took a PVC pipe  of 40 mm diameter, 3 m length and made a continuous hole of 12 mm diameter in zig zag manner at a spacing of 15 cm from bottom of pipe to 2 meter height. GI pipe would work great. This pipe was fitted vertically into earth fit. This pipe was to be used for proper watering of the earthing.
8. Copper plate was placed inside the pit on top of the charcoal and salt layer with its face vertical.
9. After putting copper plate electrode in place, pit was filled with charcoal and salt[120 kg each] in alternative layer, each with thickness of 15 cm till it completely buried the copper plate.
10. Earthing cable with PVC cover was laid properly and the pit refilled with soil.
11. The pit was sprinkled with water to make it wet while refilling.
12. A plastic bucket with a covering was used for watering the pit which helps in recharging the earthing. The best option for watering system would be brick/cement masonry of size not less than 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm, with cast iron cover having locking system. We didn’t have materials in hand so we adopted for plastic bucket with cover. The arrangement for the watering system is shown in the diagram below.
13. A lightning rod was mounted on the top of the antenna tower. The free end of the earthing cable was clamped tightly to the lightning rod by nuts, bolts and spring washer.

14.Finally earthing cable was laid under ground and tied tightly against the pole with cable tie.