Archive for the ‘tech support’ Category

Based on the KAPPA IV pilot, Teaching Matters recently helped launch roll-outs of XO’s at two public schools in NYC.  Each school received 600 devices – and are still in the process of integration – but I thought the information we have summarized below would still be useful to those out there.  Please keep in mind that this all happened in June (yes, 3 weeks before the end of school). 

Describe the process for deploying OLPC at the pilot schools.

Key dates:
5/21/08 – Teacher training at PS20 (with TMI XO laptops)
5/28/08 – Laptops arrive at PS5 and PS20
6/03/08 – Tech team workshop at PS20 and PS5. 
6/07/08 – Teacher training at PS5

Student Tech Team Workshops

After the laptops arrived at the schools, Teaching Matters held a “Student Tech Team Workshop.” At these workshops we focused three things:  exploring the XO and becoming experts on its use, learning how to install software and configure wireless, and learning how to take apart and repair the screen.  These workshops were a huge success in that the students were very excited about the machines, were prepared to be leaders in the deployment, and were prepared to image the systems.  We also met with the Tech Coordinator to discuss some of the technical considerations associated with the OLPC project.

Teacher Workshops

Although the teacher training workshop at PS20 was held before the Tech Team workshop, the Teacher workshop was designed to occur after the Tech Team Workshop so that updated machines were available for teachers to use.  The teacher workshops introduced the teachers to the XO and various applications, and gave the teachers a chance to brainstorm how they will use the computers in their classrooms.  These workshops were also very well received. 

Imaging Devices

After the Tech Team workshops, the Tech Coordinator, Student Tech Team, and Teaching Matters  Professional Developers worked on imaging the devices.  There were a number of issues that came up in the process of imaging the devices:

  • Releasing students from their normal classes to spend time imaging devices.  Due to the time of year that this was happening (June), the students were caught up in end-of-year events such as graduation, field trips, etc.
  • Editing the wireless scripts from a windows machine alters the encoding and end of line delimiters.  We resolved this problem by working with DIIT and subsequently editing the scripts only on a Linux image.
  • Approximately one in thirty computers did not connect to the internet.  There seemed to be more connectivity issues at PS5 than PS20. 
  • In the end, the tech coach and Teaching Matters staff ended up imaging the majority of the devices.

How long did it take to load the XO software on the machines?

7-10 minutes for updating the operating system.  3-5 minutes for a student to run the wireless script. 

What problems did students and/or teachers encounter with the XOs?

There were issues with collaboration and wireless connectivity. 

  • PS5 Connectivity Issues:
    • Computers that never connected to the wireless internet:  Out of a set of 30 computers, 5 never connected (no matter what they tried). 
    • Computers that did could not share via school server:  Here’s the scenario:  Jelbin would image 10 computers with 10 USB drives.  They all successfully connected to the Internet.  Then, he would take those same 10 USB drives and image 10 more computers.  Approximately 8 out of those 10 would fail.  Then, he ran the doeinstall script, which usually fixed the 8 computers that would not connect.  However, when these 8 computers would be brought into a classroom, they could connect to the Internet, but could not share through the school server. 
    • Most classrooms had working “collaboration”, while one classroom did not.  The students in this one classroom could not see others in the neighborhood view.
  • PS20 Connectivity Issues:
    • About one in 40 computers would not connect to the Internet at PS20.  Once the computers were in the classrooms, out of a set of 25 machines approximately 5 would not connect to the internet.  After a reboot 4 would be able to connect, but one wouldn’t.  There were no complaints about the speed of the internet.  Sharing activities was not tested at PS020.

How were these problems handled?

Teaching Matters provided technical support, went out to the schools to troubleshoot problems with the USB drives, and assist with imaging devices. 

Did you ever have to re-install software or replace hardware to fix a problem?

No, not yet.

Looking back on the pilot, what changes would you make to your process?

  • Ideally, the devices would be imaged with the latest versions of the OS and the software that NYC has approved before they get to the schools.  Also, the appropriate scripts would be on the device already so an integrator only had to enter in the SSID(s) and key
  • The school server has the ability to update the devices remotely.  This is something to look into as a potential solution.
  • Make sure that the principal and tech coordinator are aware of the time it will take to configure the machines and understand exactly how long they should expect to allow for students to be released to help. 
  • Increasing the vlans and/or IP addresses for “350 wireless” schools to accommodate 500+ devices for next year would be ideal.  “350” schools will have issues as more devices are integrated. 
  • The asset-tagging process going through Dell was a point of slow-down and extra cost.  Improving on this process would be a big help. 
  • We feel more testing should be done w/ the school server and the wireless connectivity of the devices to scale; meaning, how the network and server react when 30 – 150 devices are online at once. 

What lessons can we learn for future deployments?

  • Many elements of the deployment went well, and should be noted:
    • Delivery of XOs ran smoothly. 
    • Storage of XOs in the classroom worked well.
    • Tech team trainings went well.  Students were very excited about the project and were willing to take on a leadership role in maintaining the machines. 
  • The school leadership should meet first to fully understand the scope of undertaking a 1:1 environment to understand fully what is required in terms of hardware, integration, training and long-term sustainability of their 1:1 infrastructure.
  • In a truly “support-free” environment, more technical training for the technology coaches might be necessary
  • Follow up is needed to resolve issues with wireless connectivity and collaboration. 

What enhancements to the XO would you most like to see?

  • Ideally, the computers would arrive at the school with the newest build, and there would just be one place to enter the ESSID and key.  This would significantly improve the time it takes for the computers to get into the classrooms. 
  • Enhancements to the network manager to work smoothly with the NYC wireless infrastructure
  • A built-in NIC card
  • More memory (at least 512.  1GB would be ideal)
  • A VGA-out port
  • Easier interface for sharing of activities
  • Printing
  • A full-featured web browser w/ flash, java all running (and tested to work w/ Acuity…Scantron…Aris)
  • Easier interface for inserting images into write documents. 

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It seems sites that use lots of java also like to detect the kind of browser you are using and then limit their site only to the browsers they know work.  So, while getting java working on the Opera activity was a step in the right direction, it still wasn’t solving the problem of not being able to get onto the Scantron site or the ARIS website. 

So I thought I would see if someone has done any more work on Firefox for the OLPC – and of course someone has: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Firefox2.  The instructions work well for setting it up.  Before you do though, make sure to look at the “Known Problems” – the biggest one on there in terms of a classroom implementation is “It can’t be sugarized” meaning students will always have to open up the terminal activity and type in “./firefox/firefox” to launch the browser.  They won’t have a nice icon to click and launch it.  Not good.

BUT – it does take java and it does work on all sites that I’ve tested (including ARIS and Scantron).  To link up java after you have installed firefox, follow the installation instructions here: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/RestrictedFormats#Sun_Java and instead of:

su –
cd /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins
ln -s /usr/java/jre1.5.0_13/plugin/i386/ns7/libjavaplugin_oji.so

use the firefox plugin directory – like this:

su –
cd /home/olpc/firefox/plugins
ln -s /usr/java/jre1.5.0_13/plugin/i386/ns7/libjavaplugin_oji.so

That should do it.  I also asked some heads over at OLPC what the plan for Java was.  They said they are definitely working on it and will integrate it into the standard browse activity as soon as they can.  Opensource is a key for them, so they are working on solutions.

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Java on the OLPC

Today I’ve been hammering away trying to get java to work on the OLPC.  Why you ask?  Well there are two systems in NYC that students and teachers use:

  1. The Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS).  This is a major information system that will allow teachers / schools / parents / students access to assessment data.  And it uses java
  2. The scantron system, that tried and true testing system….also uses java

This is turning out to be quite the pit-fall.  At this point none of the java (JRE) releases work with the browse activity.  There are issues with pop-ups and a few other things.  It is well documented, and seems to be an issue with the OLPC at this point.  I’ll outline what I have tried, and has / hasn’t worked:

Using build 656:

So the answer is use Opera w/ Java 1.5 right?  No.  ARIS still doesn’t load – now I am suspicious it is an issue with browser detection on the site.  So – back to trying to get Java to run in the Browse activity (which runs on Mozilla…and should be detected as firefox)….more to come if we get something that works.

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