Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Behind the Pilot

Caffeinated eyes, fatigued body and loads of work is not only recollection from our first ever XO deployment. The best part is how we enjoyed every moment, I just never want to forget all the moment we shared, those jokes, pranks, lighter moments and joy. I am trying to remember as much moments as I can from this marvelous event we orchestrated together.

Who's Hungry:
On the event night, Shankar wanted to have fruits only for dinner, Prakash wanted rice badly and I was starving for heavy dinner, jwalanta and Nirmal were searching food for us desperately and at 11pm night we couldn't find any fastfood or restaurant to have something, my patience was about to break when jwalanta called me and informed one kitchen was open, even though we have to pay twice or thrice the normal price we were happy to see the face of food at midnight.

This is where you start sharing

Go...od morning sir!
"We have learned everything, and our battery is already drained" was the first thing we heard from the children next morning, they were showing us painting they have done and pictures they took, almost all of the village was snapshot by XOs when we examined few of the journal :). We listened their poems about XO "mero sanu sathi", stories and jokes. They were enthusiastic like never before. When we show them their photo on national newspaper , they were excited and said "thank U sir".
Returning From the day's trip

Hackers on hood:
That day, we returned on hood of local bus from our pilot site. Wind gushing at about 60-70 kmph on our face couldn't stop us from making jokes about different political leaders and caricaturing how they will push OLPC agenda on the verge of upcoming election, we even shouted "vote for laptop".

Happy on the Hood

Lets hope this spirit will always go on and long live our geekism !! Please add more moments on Comments hai.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunrise has happened & we got our lab localised too, साँच्चै भन्या :)

The pilot has definitely landed well, the training (that lasted until yesterday) is almost over. The air is pretty good and all of us are happily green.
Getting a high out all of this, we also managed to localize our lab and have decided to begun calling it as "गुँड" literally meaning "nest". ( Anybody finding this unpleasant is asked to present his/her ideas to the community, while we're still going to nest-ify our lab :D )

Talking more about the pilot, kids back at Janjyoti are happy(actually crazy) and are beginning to sharpen their photographic(Record/Camera) , Communication(Chat) and Musicianship(TamTam) skills AND it's only been 3 days.

For everyone's information TamTam has got the highest hits until now. "Hey Pal, what does this knob do ?"

And trust me, we definitely will have a lot more to share in upcoming days.

Hmm... the "गुँड" , well what to say about it ? It was all green when it happened. Kavre was definitely green. Our XO jerseys were green, the bus that we had a ride back to Ktm ( but dropped at Jadibuti ) was green, the seat covers were green, few ladies down the street we're clad green(ahem). Man it was a green green day.

So we pumped up some young blood and decided the "office" version of the lab was definitely uncool, after going through some insanity like "विकासे" and "दुलो" and blah blah blah... we were finally hit by "गुँड" , thanks to our respected green-lord of the day.

And then we caught another bus back to the "गुँड" ! Couldn't spend time messin' around.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Yesterday, 27th of March, 2008 was the BIG day for us. In coordination with Department of Education, Ministry of Education, we distributed Mero Sanu Sathi, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Laptop, to the students of 4th graders of Janajyoti Ni Ma Vi, Ugratara-8, Janagal, Kavre as a part of first ever pilot distribution of the laptop in Nepal, codenamed “Sunrise”. The laptops were distributed amidst a program chaired by Purna Bahadur Khatri, Chairman of School Management Committee. The officials from Department of Education, Nepal Government were also present in the distribution ceremony.

Sunrise of the day as seen from OLPC Development Lab, Kathmandu.

OLPC Nepal core volunteers.
Not in photo: Team from IOE, Pulchowk Campus and Kathmandu University

Along with the laptop, the school also received a School Server which contains extra books and contents that can be accessed on the laptop through wireless connection.

Distribution Ceremony

Director of Department of Education, Mr. Janardan Nepal distributing laptops

Kids get the laptop!

The school also has formed a committee for monitoring and safeguarding the laptops. This committee consists of 9 members from School Management Committee, Parents, Teachers and members of OLPC Nepal.

Committee formed to safeguard the laptop having a meeting

As the children start using the laptops, OLPC Nepal Community will be closely monitoring the performance and influence of laptop on the children along with its usage by them. Our real work has just begun..

Sunset of the day as seen from Janajyoti School, Kavre

Thursday, March 27, 2008

OLPC Pilot: Preparations

Janajyoti Lower Secondary School, Ugratara-8, Janagal, Kavre - the Department of Education, Ministry of Education had already provided us the name of school where it'd be best to do a pilot. But the real work began as we received 25 B4 XOs sent in by OLPC International. It was almost at the beginning of the month, but we decided to keep the news little low. Afterall it was just a pilot and not a major distribution. All we wanted was to make it work rather than have big publicity. However, all the active volunteers knew about this and we had the news quite goin in our IRC too.

School's Principal Narayan Prasad Mahaju

School Complex

Power supply for the laptops

As the project started to heat up, we started getting help from everybody. Department of Education provided us the computer for School Server. Sastra Net helped us with wireless AP. Our community volunteers were excited more than ever. Our Development Lab became home. IRC channel was busier than ever.

We approached Curriculum Development Center (CDC), and they agreed to provide us books in digital format too, but due to upcoming election, the person in charge wasn't available. However they provided us with hard copies of the books, which volunteers from Kathmandu University did a great job of scanning and converting them into pdf books. We're getting the digital copies of the book immediately after election is over.

Similarly we also received a lot of help from Help Nepal Network LTSP eLibrary guys. They provided us all the contents they have been using for their eLibrary to put in our school server. This contained a cache of Wikipedia, HowStuffWorks website, Doctor Na Bhayema Website and lots of other stuffs. The collection of content was simply incredible.

Getting the XO and School Server ready

Volunteers from Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus did a incredible job of arranging all these contents into one place and making a nice searchable web interface to access them on XO via wireless connection.

Even the volunteers not physically available but have been close to the community via IRC did a great job preparing the questionnaires and preparing lots of other documents.

The build we put on the XO was Joyride 1774. There was a huge discussion among us for using this instead of the current stable build, but in all our tests the Joyride build turned out to be stable enough. We did the following customization to the build:
  • Firmware: Q2D14
  • Build: Joyride 1774
  • Localization: ne_NP.UTF-8
  • Keyboard layout: Romanized Nepali (Fixed version. The standard Romanized keyboard distributed with any linux distribution is broken)
  • Little hack to olpc.fth file to display the rotating XO sign at startup
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Increased Font Size. We seriously felt that the font size is too small, especially when Nepali glyphs are displayed.
  • School Server: OLPC_XS_160
  • Translation of XO Guide in Nepali
  • All books of Grade 5
  • Bal Gyankosh (Children mini-encyclopedia in Nepali)
  • Wikipedia Mini
  • HowStuffWorks Cache
  • Doctor Nabhayema
The standard Marvel wireless chipset created a lot of trouble during our test. So we used wireless AP provided by Sastra Net. For web server, we used LAMPP.

Community Volunteers

Staying overnight, OLPC Dev. Lap

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Scratch in Nepali

Scratch, which is also being developed to run on XO has been Nepali Localized. Thanx to Evelyn Eastmond of MIT Media Lab for the screenshot.

Scratch for Windows and Mac can be downloaded from here. OLPC version is here.

Yaay.. translation's over!

Yup, translation's over and we did it faster than we'd expected - all strings done by morning!

Altogether 12 developers burned the midnight oil for Translation Nite-out and all the XO strings (except that of EToys) have been localized to Nepali. More of this here. All the translated strings were rechecked and proof-read by Shankar Pokharel, our in-house Nepali expert.

The following packages were translated:

  • XO Core
  • XO Bundle
  • Terminology
  • Packaging
  • Activation Server
  • Pootle
  • Scratch
Statistics on translation are in our wiki.

Great work guys. Afterall what's community for? And finally, cheers to all the caffeine we consumed!

Translation Nite-out: Midnight Update

1:14 AM

Translation Nite-out is going strong! Guys are going crazy. And our IRC (#olpcnepal@irc.freenode.net) had never been this busy.. We have been getting around 5 messages per second on average!

Here's the participation:

Working from OLPC Dev Lab:

  1. Ankur Sharma
  2. Jwalanta Shrestha
  3. Nirmal Adhikari
  4. Shankar Pokharel
  5. Ujjwal Shrestha

Working at OLPC Nepal Dev Lab

Working from home:
  1. Suvash Thapaliya (Ktm)
  2. Bipin Gautam (Kantipur Engineering College, Ktm)
  3. Bibek Paudel (NIT Durgapur, India)
  4. Biswash Parajuli (NIT Durgapur, India)
  5. Sushil Pandey (NIT Durgapur, India)
  6. Prasanna Gautam (Trinity College, Hartford, USA)
  7. Bikal KC (Nepbabu) (Australia)

Seems like we're gonna meet our goals pretty fast and easily. EToys (with 23K+ strings) is our real headache but that doesn't come under our prime priority for this localization attempt. Apart from the strings mentioned in Pootle server, we're also translating Scratch; lots of thanx to Evelyn Eastmond of MIT Scratch Team for this.

The translation madness will last till 8pm tomorrow. We're expecting more volunteers to join us, especially from Pulchowk Campus and Kathmandu University.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holi @ OLPC Nepal Dev Lab

Holi, the festival of colors, also made its mark at OLPC Nepal. Actually we were at office for the Translation Nite-out preparation, but ended up playing little bit of holi too.

We were Ankur, Jwalanta and Prakash first. Nirmal joined meanwhile. Ujjwal and Manoj joined later. We're still waiting for Shankar to come.. He's sure gonna be busted!

Shankar arrived in the evening. We had some more fun..

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Donation Vs Generation

"It is good to get OLPC Laptop deployed in country, it is even better if we get it for free" But wait! Is it really as good if we get it for free? I don't think so. I feel there must be some paying mechanism, either pre-paid or post-paid. The essence of OLPC implementation in country like ours should be as a system rather than as a product or tool.

Papa will you buy it for me?

The demand should be from the community themselves, but awareness is necessary to create that demand. We focused on same thing and got overwhelming response at CAN info tech '08. I bet we could have easily sell couple thousands of XOs there. Situation is definitely different at remote places. With fewer way to reach them, and aware them. I wonder what will be the consequence of distributing laptops to kids without proper community awareness and with zero liabilities to community.

schemes like G1G1 might not be as suitable for our economy but selling laptops in bulk to urban private school won't hurt either. Since government is keen on moving the OLPC concept forward they should atleast play the role of implementer and leader with large community base supporting them at back. OLPC could be integrated in current government plan to mobilize graduate student to villages in order to facilitate education. Thousand of students graduating in technical discipline per year, if can be mobilized on little fraction to volunteer in OLPC will surely become large technical support base on long run. These schemes could fundamentally save deployment and development cost off the project.

We are waiting!!

Coming to the point I started first, what I think will be best is have three mechanism for XO distribution from Government perspective. SELL, SUBSIDY or SERVICE. In Subsidy version of distribution mechanism government could get the payment of laptops in term basis or provide loan from micro finance. In service model government get eventually paid by asking guardians to do social service or help certain aspect of project for certain period. In this way government and community will benefit on long run and there will be less financial burden to both government as well as community. This mechanism could also help sustainability of project.

These are all my calculation which may or may not coincide with all, but local level fund generation will certainly be effective then 100% donated laptop, atleast from ownership and sustainability point of view.