Archive for September, 2010

olpc Community Summit – San Francisco

29/09/2010 1 comment

A massive thank you to Internet NZ for funding me to go to the olpc Community Summit that will be held in San Francisco from 22-24 October 2010. Information about this event can be found here:

I am particularly looking forward to meeting some of the people I have spoken to so regularly online and getting to hear face to face about some of the great work that people are doing for olpc. The sharing of ideas and planning for the future will be fantastic.

You can see the Summit topics taking shape on the wiki. The same week there is also Books in Browsers with the Internet Archive so it is a pretty exciting time to be in San Francisco.


Adora Svitak

23/09/2010 Leave a comment

My ten year old niece loves reading books, chapter books apparently. She also has been considering journalism as a career. I told her about Adora Svitak writing her first book at age seven and showed her Adora Svitak presenting on TED Talks and she promptly began her investigations into the life of Adora.

For those not familiar with Adora Svitak, she was born in 1997 and she began her writing career with her first publication of a book “Flying Fingers” and writes a public blog. You can learn more about her on wikipedia. You might also want to look at Adora’s website.

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Broken into while preparing for Pecha Kucha night

23/09/2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday afternoon while working on Pecha Kucha slides with Fabiana my car got broken into. I had made the mistake of leaving the GPS on its stand attached to the windscreen and some nasty person passing by decided to smash the window and grab the GPS. Pecha Kucha is on Tuesday 28 September at Juice Bar, 144 Parnell Road. Entry is $9 and it starts at 8:15pm. We are talking on one laptop per child. Read about it here or here.

From Drop Box

Anyway, back to the point of my blog post. The theft happened in Parnell between 4pm and 6pm. I have a car alarm but we didn’t hear it from the apartment. The thief did not look for anything else in the car so luckily they didn’t take my wallet (it was not in plain sight but in the centre console).

We had an olpc XO with us but we had taken that into the apartment (again, XOs don’t get left in plain sight, if it is left in the car it is in the boot and hidden by the parcel tray).

The whole event freaked out my ten year old niece who was hanging out with us.

broken window
From Drop Box

It is also quite annoying to have the job of cleaning up after a break-in and all that time lost when you have other things to do with your time. The car insurance company said the replacement of the glass is covered by my insurance with no charges but you then have to take time out of work to get the glass replaced (thanks Elaine for lending us a car for a couple of days). If we want to claim insurance on the GPS then we have to pay the insurance excess, which is not much less than what the GPS is worth so doesn’t seem worth the headache with the insurance company. Our alternative navigation method is already being discussed and we are likely to just use the Android phone instead of getting another GPS.

Lesson learned – don’t leave the GPS in plain sight, even in the day time, no matter where you park.

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olpc in school disability units

21/09/2010 Leave a comment

Today Nevyn and I went to visit a school disability unit. They have a mix of students who are in mainstream classrooms full time, part time, through to students who are in the unit full time.
They invited some neighbouring schools teachers and we all played with some XO-1.5s. Nevyn and I explained olpc and Sugar then helped the teachers experiment with Sugar activities.
Tam tam mini was a big hit. We also played with Write, Memorize, Measure, and Physics. Oh and Turtleart and Scratch too.
They liked the membrane keyboard and the robustness of the laptop. There were interesting questions around using USB devices such as special mice, can you get braille membrane keyboard, and also about special assistance software.
Everyone looked to enjoy the session and it will be interesting to see where to from here.
One of the teachers had downloaded a Sugar .iso to run in a virtual machine on her Mac. She uses parallels which I have not used before (I use Virtualbox) so we will be learning with her about how to get Sugar working with parallels (if possible). I showed her Virtualbox with Sugar in it, so she can see Sugar works on a Mac, and we can fallback to Virtualbox if we can’t figure out parallels.

Software Freedom Day – Orion Cafe 2010

19/09/2010 1 comment

Thanks to everyone who helped out with Software Freedom Day this year around the world, and thanks to all those that attended one of these events. Here in Auckland we had a great weekend with Albany on Friday followed by the Mt Eden event on Saturday at Orion Cafe.

There were about twenty or so people at Albany Senior High on Friday. There was gaming (shoot ’em up styles), a demo by Mark of Open Shot (video editing software) and Nted (create sheet music), fun with magnets (thanks Dave), one laptop per child playing and Sugar giveaways, Ubuntu CD giveaways and demo of running live CD on a Mac, and lots of chatting. It was great to see some teachers there from another school.

503_0053.jpgLooking at my photos and trying to recall who I spoke to, I think there were around seventy or so people at Orion Cafe on Saturday. Conversations ranged from Asterisk phones, to electric cars, to one laptop per child, to what is freedom, and more. There were people cutting out penguins and gluing them together, people playing Physics in Sugar on the XO laptops, and people chatting and drinking coffee. Fabiana was working on an open source project with two of the attendees at one point, and I am sure new recruits were found for LUG and olpc.

It was unfortunate that one of the attractions, the reprap 3d printer, could not make it. We haven’t yet heard what the problem was there, but there is speculation that it relates to the horrific weather the night before and the fact that Vik (owner of the printer) is a volunteer with the fire brigade.

503_0081.jpgThe ebb and flow effect of people arriving and leaving throughout the day meant there were two “proper talks” and the rest of the day was very informal. The first talk was UALUG on Linux 101 and the second was Peter and Dave leading a talk on what is freedom.

A big thanks to Orion for sponsoring the event and opening the cafe on a Saturday, and thanks to Chris for feeding us, filling us with coffee (love the chocolate you use and the biscotti on the side was tasty) and smiling all day long while you ran the place on your own. We really appreciated the great environment and plan on asking if we can come back again next year. In case anyone is wondering, you can book Orion Cafe for evening functions and it makes a great venue for birthday parties.503_0068.jpg

It seems the electric car was a hit with all the attendees this year, with Tom giving multiple talks about how it works and talking about the open source battery management system. Phil was also at Software freedom day with his test kit showing people the open source electric motor controller (for those of you who missed it, Phil owns the Greenstage electric saker; Tom owns the Carrott Electric mini;  Tom, Phil and others work on something called the Tumanako project which is building open source electric car hardware and software).

503_0109.jpgHopefully the success of the two events are early signs of big things to come for free software in schools and in our communities and that we will see this event grow each year in Auckland and around the world. Once again, a big thanks to all those involved in Software Freedom Day here in Auckland, and all those who celebrated the day around the world. I look forward to celebrating again next year with all of you and all the new people you bring along with you next year.


Software Freedom Day 2010 – Albany Senior High School

16/09/2010 Leave a comment

The first Auckland event for Software Freedom Day 2010 was held at Albany Senior High School this afternoon. Attendees were a mix of students from the school, some teachers from another school who were in the area, interested people, and some open source enthusiasts.

There was gaming, demonstrations of software and fun with magnets, the olpc laptops, and general conversations. Ubuntu CDs were handed out and a few Sugar on a Stick USBs.

A great time!


Testing by desire

14/09/2010 Leave a comment

This morning I helped a lecturer with his class mid semester test. Earlier in the course the lecturer and students discussed assessment and decided together how they would be assessed. The assessment is made up of two tests, portfolio and practical. Last year the course had a test at the end, but these students asked for an assessment mid semester.

The lecturer and his colleague have made the mid semester test using Moodle quiz. They had asked my assistance part way through their design and were working well towards completing the preparation last time I saw them. They asked me to be available “just in case” on the day, so I popped along to the classroom. The plan is half the students at 9.30am and half at 10.30am.

I walked into the classroom to find students sitting at computers logging into Moodle and only one asked me what his password might be, which I am pretty happy about. The test was set to automatically open at 9.30am. They all have pen paper and calculator handy for working out each answer. Some of the students have the electrical standards with them, though they shouldn’t need it for the test. They have an hour to complete.

We struck one small issue. One of the questions has a bit of random html in it that makes it appear to the students that there should be a picture but there is not. We discussed it with them as they reached that question and they all seemed okay to carry on. I will fix the code in that question when they finish, and just before the second group start.

I am trying to decide what I think about students asking for more tests. I can understand them wanting to spread the assessment values out; having more than half your course grade based on one assessment item can be highly stressful. They have decided this weighting: 20% mid semester theory test, 25% end semester theory test, 10% portfolio, 45% practical.

Well, with the first students nearly complete the test results are coming in fast and all seems to be well. Their feedback is positive and they all seem to be happy with the assessment method, though some students said they had questions that looked almost the same with just a few different variables (which we will investigate).

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