Paraguay: cutting edge OLPC deployment

A couple of things have surprised me during my time so far in AsunciĆ³n, technology-wise. For example, the ability to buy various items from shops/restaurants using credit from your phone, and drive-through ATMs (what an Americanism…).

Me and the others at ParaguayEduca have been working to make our OLPC deployment pretty high-tech too. Here are some of our projects and achievements:

  1. NANDblaster. We didn’t finalize our software image until very recently, several months after the laptops were manufactured, so we have to install software on 4000 laptops here in the warehouse. USB keys are so yesterday, so we’re transmitting the software wirelessly (multicast) using the brand new NANDblaster, developed and integrated into the OLPC firmware by Mitch Bradley. (well, as this firmware is brand new, we still have to plug a USB key into every machine to upgrade to a NANDblaster-capable firmware, but this is quick). More on this incredible technology another time…
  2. Deployment security keys. OLPC are handing off security-related support tasks to deployments themselves, and have produced a secure mechanism to allow for this delegation without revealing OLPC’s private security key. When I said that we are flashing a NANDblaster-capable firmware, we’re actually flashing a NANDblaster-capable keyjector-equipped firmware, which injects our special Paraguayan public security keys into the manufacturing data of each laptop. This means that Paraguay can now sign their own OS images, and produce their own activation leases, without relying on OLPC or having to disable the XO’s security features.
  3. Deploying the XS school server. Despite some attempts, I’ve not really managed to find any significant deployments that deploy school servers at each school. I believe we’re the one of the first large-scale deployments to put the XS into action across the board.
  4. Activation over 802.11 infrastructure networks. We’ve modified OLPCs security client in the initramfs to request activation leases from the school server over an AP-hosted wireless network (previously the only options were USB, SD card, and mesh, none of which scale very well).
  5. WiMaX. We are providing internet access to all 10 schools, over WiMaX. I haven’t heard of other deployments that use this technology. It is remarkably scalable; internet access is provided to all 10 schools using only a single WiMaX tower.

2 thoughts on “Paraguay: cutting edge OLPC deployment

  1. Sameer Verma

    This sounds very interesting. I’d be very curious to hear more about your experiences with NANDBlaster. We (OLPC-SF) tried NANDBlaster across 4 XOs and were very impressed NANDBlasting 4000 XOs would be terrific! Don’t forget to film it! Kudos on the activation over 802.11 as well.

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