OLPCorps 100 XO Deployment: What Should We Take?


I'm part of the OLPCorps Ampitso team. We'll be deploying 100 laptops at a school in Ambatoharanana, Madagascar, a rural village northwest of Antananarivo, the capital. We're incredibly excited, but have a lot to do before we leave.

XO in rwanda
What's needed to achieve this?

Next Friday, June 5th, we depart for Kigali for 10 days of training, where we'll meet with the other OLPCorps teams as well as OLPC staff. After that, we leave for Madagascar, where we'll be doing teacher training, infrastructure development, and working with students. The XOs will be charging off solar power, though there's an off-chance the school might be hooked up to the grid when we get there.

We're working on compiling a list of things we need for this kind of deployment - small scale, solar, and in a rural area. We already have XOs, an XS (server), a few access points. We plan on getting a terminal for the server and the appropriate power strips in-country (so we don't have to carry them).

Things we're still missing that we need:

  1. Voltmeter (to check chargers, outlets, etc)
  2. Light meter (used in photography, but something we can use to figure out solar panel issues)
  3. 100+ USB drives (just your basic thumb drive)
  4. Repair equipment (screwdrivers, pliers, etc)

But what's not on our list?

We need your suggestions and comments. OLPC News readers have been working with XO laptops for a year and a half - what are your key accessories that we shouldn't leave home without?

We're on a very tight budget and schedule. Any information or expertise, or spare equipment, you can offer are hugely appreciated. Again, we're leaving the DC area on Friday, June 5, so be quick.


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It was great meeting y'all last night - best of luck!

Here are some other things I thought of for your list:

If you have a CD/DVD burner on your "normal" laptop; take a few blank CD-RWs and/or DVDs - back up your photos, burn material for the XS (if it has a CD drive), etc.

On the USB keys you're taking, install a selection of:
*teapot's ubuntu for the XO (and frontlineSMS) - links and some tips here: http://joncamfield.com/blog/2009/03/a_revolution_you_can_run_with_.html
*PortableApps (for use at random cybercafes with Windows) http://portableapps.com/
*TorBrowser https://www.torproject.org/torbrowser/ - in case Madagascar or your ISP has some censorware
*local copies of the install files for all your favorite software (thunderbird, firefox, opera (great browser for slow connections), firefox extensions, etc.)
*Install packages for OpenOffice for various platforms (Windows, Linux) Even if you only need this ONCE, it will be worth it (huge download)
*Install packages for Java (same deal)
*DamnSmallLinux (bootable from USB)
*A full Knoppix-on-a-stick (more powerful than DSL)
*Windows computer toolkit - Somewhere, you will encounter a windows computer. It will probably be full of spyware. Having Spybot, Malware Bytes, and AVG Anti-Virus will save you a LOT of hassle. BartPE (bootable Windows-from-CD) might be overkill, but is a great tool to save virus-ridden windows computers). You can see a now-outdated list of everything I used to carry around with me on a CD with an html interface in Jamaica at http://joncamfield.com/oss/schooltools/

Jon, thanks so much - that list is indispensible. Do we need Sugar on a Stick if all the XOs will have it? I guess the compelling argument would be to run it on other computers in the village if there happen to be any.

I mentioned SOAS just to have as an extra option - especially if you end up working with the nearby theological school on anything (it might be valuable to get them interested and engaged as extra local partners with existing net and grid access; I think there's even some bible-verse activity for the XO if they're xtian?)

Some groups you connect with may have a computer lab available, but don't want to change OS or install software, so SOAS could extend Sugar's in-country usage without stepping on many toes. Also makes a good "gift"/take-away to interested educators/officials who might visit your project for the same reasons.

Also: a copy of the latest Sugar install images, (which I think you already have), for re-imaging XOs

I am terribly excited to see how this goes!

I second all the advice above, and also encourage you to get at least one mobile internet card for you laptops.

I worked with OLPC in Mongolia last summer, and these were critical for us to get information and files we needed offline. I am betting the local cell phone companies will have mobile internet cards available, but make sure that the network you choose is available in the city you are working in. We found out the hard way that though the map showed complete coverage, there were many, many areas we weren't covered.

Thanks, Cris. That's a great idea, especially as we're working with very limited access.

Alternatively, check to see if your phone has a data modem embedded and get an USB cable connector for it.


Such an honor to meet you and Mike last night!

Since it might be tricky to find in stores locally, I went ahead and ordered a basic digital light level meter for your team's kit. It will arrive tomorrow and we'll figure out to get it to one of you before you leave town.

Also, here are a few photos from the meetup:



Mike, it was wonderful meeting you last night. We appreciate the light meter so much - that's so kind of you. (No comment on my face in the pictures, though!)

you've signed up to the Malgache list, haven't you? Just in case

While I am positive *you* would not have overlooked that, it is amazing how many people and projects do not connect with the locals, who might know better than many what is actually needed there, and/or for visitors, since the list connects with supporters worldwide.

best to y'all


That we have, Yama. The list has been a great resource. Thanks!

Get the USB drives!! They are the best for individual ownership and sharing of data.

One good place to get them is your nearest FedEx/Kinkos store. They often have a box full and if you ask a manager nicely, they will sometimes give them to you.

I'll look around for a few here - where can I ship them?

ZoWii USB's are also a good buy as you'll often need to work on XO's that are not connecting right, but need to download drivers & the like.

I hesitate to bring this up again, but I don't see how it could hurt if you bring at least a few cheap USB mice (not the more expensive, less reliable wireless kind). I have a 2007 G1G1 XO laptop. It works, but it's so much nicer with a mouse. I've heard the newer XO laptops' track-pads have improved, but I am skeptical.

I've no idea if it's easier to buy these in the US or once you get there.