Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creating A Nepali .po File for Sphinx

Arati Sharma is working with SchoolTool during the last 3 weeks of high school.

There are probably few places anywhere in which a greater number of languages are spoken than in Arlington, Virginia, so it didn't come as a total surprise that W-L High School had several Nepali speaking students in its computer science program.  Arati was one of these students, and now she will be spending 100 hours helping provide SchoolTool documentation for OLE Nepal.

After spending the 1st two days of her internship getting a whirlwind introduction to the Unix CLI, ReST, sphinx, launchpad, and bzr, she started today to work on translating the SchoolTool Book into Nepali.

That's not a task she will finish in 100 hours, so we want to focus on getting the process working well and making contributions to the technologies we are using to support continued work on the project later.

Top on the list of requirements is getting Nepali support into sphinx.  We will be using the information in this post from the sphinx-dev mailing list to get started.

Creating a Sphinx .pot File

Here is what I did (from a unix prompt on a Natty box):
  • sudo aptitude install python-virtualenv python-pip
  • sudo aptitude install python-sphinx mercurial
  • virtualenv --no-site-packages sphinx-nep
  • pip install -E sphinx-nep babel
  • pip install -E sphinx-nep jinja2 --upgrade
  • cd sphinx-nep
  • hg clone
  • cd sphinx
  • ../bin/python extract_messages
  • ../bin/python init_catalog -l ne_NP -i sphinx/locale/sphinx.pot -o sphinx/locale/ne_NP/sphinx.po
That's it!  We now give Arati the sphinx.po file and set her up with the latest sphinx, and she is ready to add Nepali support to sphinx.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting Ready for Scratch Day

Saturday is Scratch Day at GCTAA, so I'm getting the Ubuntu lab ready for our guests.  This means:
  1. install Scratch
  2. create a shortcut on the guest account to launch Scratch
  3. configure firefox to start at the Scratch website on the guest account
  4. lock the guest account using ofris, a cool deep-freeze like app for linux
To tackle each one of these tasks in turn, here's what I did:

Installing Scratch

We have 64 bit Ubuntu 11.04 ("Natty") systems, so before the Scratch debian package can be installed, we needed to make sure the 32 bit libraries were present.
  • sudo aptitude install ia32-libs
 After that, just download the ubuntu Scratch package from here, and force install it using
  • sudo dpkg --force-architecture -i ./scratch_1.4.0.1-0ubuntu5_i386.deb
Creating a shortcut on the Unity desktop involved clicking the search icon (+ with magnifying glass), typing Sc, grabbing the Scratch icon and dragging it to the launch panel.

Installing ofris

Start by adding the Personal Package Archive (PPA) to your apt repository list and updating the package database:
  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tldm217/
Packages for Natty aren't available yet, but the packages from Maverick (10.10) work fine, so I edited the apt sources list file
  • sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list.d/tldm217-tahutek_net-natty.list
changing natty to maverick with
  • :g/natty/s//maverick/g
  • :wq
Then I updated the package list and installed ofris-en
  • sudo aptitude update
  • sudo aptitude install ofris-en
After logging into the guest account (with user name student on the machines in our lab) the way I wanted it, I ran ofris to lock the account
  • sudo ofris-en
which brought up a dialog box that looks like this

    Dafturn Ofris Erdana - Locking your Systems
         By : Muhammad Faruq Nuruddinsyah

Your choice :
  1. Freeze the system for this User only
  2. Freeze the system for specified User
  3. Freeze the system for all Users
  4. Unfreeze the system
  5. View status
  6. Exit

Please insert your choice number :


I selected 2 to freeze the system for the guest user, typed in student, and hit enter.  After a reboot, the guest account was "frozen" and we were ready for our Scratch Day visitors.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

eduJAM! 2011

Last week, I represented the SchoolTool project at eduJAM! 2011, a free software developers meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, organized by ceibalJAM!

It was an amazing experience. The main topic of the summit was Sugar, its development and deployment experiences. As a SchoolTool developer, I was interested in doing some networking with the Sugar community, especially people from Latin America. I also wanted to share our experience collaborating with OLPC deployments, specifically with OLE Nepal, and to meet people I only knew through email or IRC.

And as a member of the Juan Chacón Free Software Project, I wanted to hear about other people experiences. I definitely learned a lot from this trip.

Here are my highlights from the trip (interesting people I met, talked and listened to):
  • I met Adam Holt, who helped us so much and clearly remembered all the trouble we faced in customs when we got the XOs for the Buena Vista community. Adam also showed me the olpcMAP, an initiative for Sugar projects and users to create a geosocial network and share information about their deployments around the world. We also fixed the Buena Vista community marker, putting it in the right coordinates! Thanks to him, I got subscribed to the OLPC Sur mailing list, an OLPC mailing list in Spanish.
  •  Nick Doiron who has worked in the Uguanda deployment and demonstrated a really cool way of using the Memorize activity for teaching maps using electric resistances.
  •  Walter Bender, who recommended that I learn about the Nicaraguan deployment experience and provided a great "Sugar Future" talk.
  •  Martin Langhoff, a core Moodle developer who works for OLPC, explained me how Moodle works. I told him about how Critical Links has been able to use SchoolTool to drive Moodle and LAMS.
  •  Rodolfo Arce, who works in the Autonomic University in Paraguay, told me about the inventory system they built for tracking their XOs and how they extended it to have basic SIS functionality.
  •  Christoph Derndorfer, who did an excellent work translating from English-Spanish and viceversa. I liked his remark about how we should focus on processes instead of tools.
  •  Carlos Rabassa, who visited El Salvador ("the land of volcanos") during the 70's and whose translation work in mailing lists is amazing.
  •  Pablo Flores and the ceibalJAM! team who organized a really great event.
  •  Uruguayan teachers who shared their experience in Plan Ceibal and asked questions about SchoolTool.
  •  The Butiá project for controlling robots using the XO and TurtleArt.
  •  lapix, a really cool tool for converting the XO into a pen + notebook.
  •  The sensors demonstration, using the XO to take a picture when you interrupted a light sensor or for detecting a tuning fork; everything coded in TurtleArt.
  •  The Tools for the community panel, where really shined and I realized maybe we shouldn't be so "close-minded" about technologies like Facebook...
  • and how I'd wish to have something like that in San Salvador.

I hope someday more Salvadorean people interested in Sugar, like Erick Rosales, are able to attend to this kind of event. It really inspires you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Waiting for Mr. Cerna's Return...

Douglas is in Uruguay, and while I wait with anticipation to hear about his trip to EduJam!, I've continued forging ahead - taking a look at the new offerings from Ubuntu (11.04, "Natty"), and Fedora (Fedora 15) to begin thinking how these new releases will fit into our activities for the coming Summer.

Fedora 15

The final release of Fedora 15 is only 2 1/2 weeks away, so I think an install now will smoothly 'yum update' into the final release.  I installed from the Live CD on a Dell Latitude 2100 Netbook computer. It installed without incident, and I ran 'yum update' and waited for the hundreds of packages to update (since the install was from the beta release disk).  Everything updated without incident.

I'll have to spend some time with Gnome 3 to decide how I feel about that, but what I really wanted to know was how easy it would be to get Sugar working on this system.  The answer, to my delight, was that is was easy!  It required only running the following command:

    # yum install @sugar-desktop --skip-broken sugar-emulator alacarte sugar-surf

After that I logout and choose Sugar when I logged back in.  I've only had a few minutes to explore, but what made me most excited is that everything seems to work.  When I started the Speak activity I was greeted with "Hello Jeffrey Elkner!  Type something!"  In earlier versions of Sugar sound had failed to work on these netbooks.

Sugar Labs, DC has two student interns who will be with us the last week of May and the 1st two weeks of June.  It looks like there is fun in store for them seeing what Sugar can do on our Dell netbooks.

Ubuntu Natty

I've been running Ubuntu 11.04 ("Natty") for over two months already on testing machines, and it is already installed on the machines in the CS / ICT lab at GCTAA.  What I wanted to see now is if I can use Lubuntu and RemasterSys to make a live USB image for use in our upcoming Summer 2011 Web Application Development program.

Here is what I did:

  1. I started with the mini install disk. I'm a huge fan of this little disk image since it provides tremendous flexibility and ease of use.  From this one disk you can install standard ubuntu, command-line only server, kubuntu, xubuntu, or lubuntu (and any other version with a "[distro name]-desktop" meta-package).  To have get this flexibility, select "Help" from the opening menu, press for boot options, type "cli" at the "boot:" prompt, and press enter.
  2. I installed using the "cli" option on a VirtualBox machine (running under my regular Natty desktop.  Starting the machine after the install, I needed to press ALT-F1 (or F2..F6) to get a console prompt.  We noticed this problem earlier on other machines using the cli install option from the mini disk. I don't know if this apparent bug has been reported.  I'll check with Matt next week and take appropriate action.  Anyway, after pressing ALT-F1 to get a login prompt, I logged in and ran:  sudo aptitude install lubuntu-desktop .  It is the ease of use of these metapackages that make the mini cd so useful.
  3. The ose (open source edition) of VirtualBox that comes with Natty works like a charm.  I didn't need to install the guest editions that used to be required to support the video driver.  It just worked.  Once the lubuntu desktop finished installing, I added: deb karmic/ to the apt sources list and installed remastersys.
  4. One small annoyance is that I needed to set a root password to get either the synaptic package manger or the remastersys-gui to run after launching them from the menu.  If I recall correctly, this doesn't happen if you install lubuntu from the lubuntu installation cd instead of using the lubuntu-desktop metapackage on a cli install from the mini cd.  (Note to self: confirm this and report the problem if appropriate).
  5. I made a bootable live usb stick from a netbook running lubuntu with remastersys installed.  That machine does not have the system tools authentication problem.  I was able to install on a virtualbox and to a usb stick with the image.
That's all for today.  I think today is Douglas's last day in Uruguay.  I'm looking forward to talking to him when he returns!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Python CGI and Jinaj2 Templates - Part I

I'm getting ready for the Summer 2011 Web Application Development program we will be offering at the Governor's Career and Technical Academy in Arlington.

I've long wanted to be able to use a simple template engine to create headers and footers on websites.  I've been using the PHP include statement for this purpose, but I would really like to use the Python Jinja2 engine instead.

It appears I may be able to work on my bluehost web hosting account.  Here is what I did:
  1. Edit the .bash_profile file and add the following:
        export PYTHONPATH
  2. Download the Jinja2 source tarball from here.
  3. Extract the source directory from the .tar.gz file and cd into the new directory.
  4. Run: python install --home=~ (see this for more on that ;-)
I was able to import jinja2 in a python shell, create a template and call render on it.  I will report back later as I progress from here...

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Guiding Principals

    Douglas, Paco and I have been discussing the need to lay out the guiding principals of the Juan Chacon Free Software Project in order to more effectively communicate what we are hoping to do.

    Using the guiding principals of an educational conference of which I am very fond as a starting point, we arrived at the following:

    Guiding Principals of the Juan Chacon Free Software Project
    1. Education should be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members of the educational community.
    2. Education must be about co-creating the 21st century citizen, prepared to play a participatory and protagonistic role in a democratic society.
    3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
    4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate.
    5. Learning can - and must - be networked, and educational software and digital resources must be free.
    Translated into Spanish, this reads:

    Directrices del Proyecto Juan Chacón de Software Libre
    1. La educación debería ser impulsada por la investigación, reflexiva y de empoderamiento para todos los miembros de la comunidad educativa.
    2. La educación debe ser sobre co-crear el ciudadano del siglo 21, dispuesto a desempeñar un papel participativo y protagónico en una sociedad democrática.
    3. La tecnología debe servir a la pedagogía, no a la inversa.
    4. La tecnología debe permitir a los estudiantes investigar, crear, comunicarse y colaborar.
    5. El aprendizaje puede - y debe - ser conectados en red y el software educativo y los recursos digitales deben ser libres.
    I hope this statement of guiding principals will help us locate the kindred spirits in El Salvador with whom we can build the community we seek.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Getting Ready for eduJAM!

    I'm still processing everything I learned in my annual pilgrimage to Pycon.  If time allows I'll make a separate post listing some of the highlights, but the coolest part of all was finding out that SchoolTool developer and Juan Chacon Free Software Project co-coordinator Douglas Cerna is heading to Uruguay for eduJAM!.

    eduJAM! 2011 is an educational free software community "summit" that will take place in Uruguay from May 5th to 7th.  So sum up why this is so darn cool:
    1. It is an example of the leadership role that the Sugar and OLPC communities are playing within the educational free software community.
    2. With Mr. Cerna going, it will provide an opportunity to continue to build relationships between the Sugar and SchoolTool communities, that already exist in the OLE Nepal project and in Sugar Labs, DC.
    3. For Sugar Labs, DC, it provides added impetus to move on our School Server project, as Douglas requested that we develop documentation on setting up a School Server with SchoolTool installed (from the Nepal rpms) before he makes the trip to Uruguay.
    We have already started setting up our redhatdev server so we can begin contributing to the process.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Setting Up a New LTSP Server

    Spring is coming, which is my favorite time of the school year.  Between now and late May is when most of the work gets done.  Students have spent the year thus far acquiring the skills they need to do exciting projects, and they haven't yet hit the "it's Summer" mode that kicks in around mid May and ends most productive learning.  So now is the time to make things happen.

    The first thing I want to do is get our infrastructure improved so we have the hardware and networking tools we need to support our projects.   This week there are two main goals:
    1. Getting a ticketing system in place.
    2. Setting up a new LTSP server to free up the machine on which it is currently running to use as a KVM server.
    Our new sys admin, Devin Kuhn, is working on the ticketing system.  He plans to use RT, and I'll let him blog about that project.

    I'm setting up the LTSP server using these instructions.  I ran into a problem with the install, where it asked me to insert the same CD I was using for the install in the middle of the installation.  The problem, and the solution - burning the image onto a DVD instead of a CD - is documented here.

    Installation proceeded without incident until the Building Thin Client System step, where it failed, and I got the evil looking red screen with error message.  I hit cancel and proceeded with the next step, installing grub, and the installation finished without any additional errors.

    Since we want fat clients, not thin clients anyway.  The failure to build the thin client system may not be a problem.  I plan to look at this documentation to install the fat client system, and will report on my progress in a later post.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    New Need for XMPP Server

    On Friday I promised my Advanced Placement Computer Science students that I would setup eclipse for them.  When Kevin Cole and I got together this morning for our weekly web application development study session, he told me about a plug-in for eclipse called Saros that supports collaborative editing on eclipse.

    It would be a great help to our aspiring Java programmers to have this capability, and since it uses XMPP for communication, it provides us with an additional use case, besides Sugar, for our ejabberd server.

    Looks like it's time to raise the priority level of the the ejabberd server project....

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Sugar Labs DC Plan for 2011

    At the monthly meeting of the OLPC Learning Club DC on Saturday, January 22nd, we had the chance to discuss goals for Sugar Labs DC for the coming year.  After considering available resources and our desire to build on work from last year, we decided on the following goals:
    1. Update the TurtleArt for Gnome package in time for the 11.04 ("Natty") release of Ubuntu and port it to Fedora.
    2. Port the physics activity  to gnome and get it into Debian and Fedora repositories.
    3. Create a social networking site for sharing physics worlds, using the same technology we used last year to create the TurtleArt site.
    4. Use Pyjamas to create a browser version of Guido van Robot.
    5. Setup, test, and document a CentOS based "School Server" with the
      following features:
      • an rpm for a working ejabberd server
      • turtleartsite and physicssite installation
    We decided to migrate our lab from Ubuntu to Fedora.  The Ubuntu Sugar Remix (USR) project is being abandoned for the time being, so sugar won't run on the next Ubuntu release.  We lack the resources to support USR ourselves, and since educational software is our focus, the move to Fedora makes sense for us.