¿Es esta Tlaxiaco? – Rebuilding CAM 27

A group of us spent a week in Mexico in June 2015 installing and upgrading computer labs for kids in Oaxaca. This post is about one day during that trip.

For this Kids on Computers Mexico trip, we brought 21 laptops and 2 Mac Minis into Mexico from the US. We used 15 of the laptops for our new lab at the primary school, Emiliano Zapata, in Oaxaca City.


The CAM 27 schoolhouse

We had six laptops left and decided to use them for a school we had set up many years ago (~2009) – CAM 27. CAM 27 is a school for disabled kids in the town of Tlaxiaco. The school had changed locations and only had 2-3 working computers left.

Tuesday of the week we were there, I took the van from Huajuapan to Tlaxiaco to visit CAM 27 for the first time. This was my first trip alone within Mexico and I was a bit nervous as I am not a fluent Spanish speaker. My nervousness stemmed from making sure I got on the right van and got off at the right place! On Monday night, Young and a UTM professor had accompanied me to the van stand so I would know where to catch the van.  While on the van, I asked different passengers “¿Es esta Tlaxiaco?” at each stop.  After a while, someone explained to me Tlaxiaco was the last stop so I didn’t need to worry. :-)


Hermes, Fernando, and Laura came from Oaxaca City to Tliaxco and met me at the school. Tlaxiaco is ~3 hours away by van from both Haujuapan and Oaxaca. The principal, a teacher who is a colleague of Laura’s, and the school custodian were also there.  This adventure highlighted how much one needs to learn the native language of a location in order to function. After the trip, I began rigorous Duolingo training.








I had given my big bag containing 6 laptops and 1 mac mini to Hermes on Sunday so I didn’t have to carry them from Huajuapan when traveling by myself. Hermes had also bought a wireless router to allow the laptops to connect to the RACHEL content server housed on the Mac Mini.


The school is a one-room school house. They had a partition between the computer area and the classroom area. The one thing that struck me about the school is how much they care about each kid. Each kid’s photo and life story starting from pre-birth was on the wall. They had pictures of their moms during pregnancy as well. This is a very small school serving about 30 or so disabled kids with about 10 teachers.

The lab installation was straightforward. We had Ubermix installed already on the laptops and the Mac Mini ready thanks to the hard work of Javier, Randy, and others on the trip. All we had to do was configure the layout of the lab, connect the computers to the router and start them. We then begin the training portion. For about two hours, Hermes taught the 3 adults who were there that day basic computer functions, using GCompris, the TuxSuite, offline Wikipedia and Khan Academy, and much more.  Fernando and I provided assistance one-on-one as the ‘students’ were going through the applications and content. Hermes did a fantastic job teaching them. To watch him in action was a real treat. Everyone was extremely appreciative of everything they learned.



We took a van back to Oaxaca City and went to Campos late at night for dinner. Yum!

It is great to have CAM 27 up and running again. I am hopeful these computers will last the school for 4-5 years if not longer. It was also great to hang out with the Oaxaca branch of KOC for the day and learn to travel on my own in-country. KOC is an adventure of a lifetime and I am very grateful to be a volunteer.

Interested in being a part of this amazing group? Volunteer here.

Categorized in equipment, installing, mexico, school, setup, Trips, Ubermix, volunteers.

How to smuggle laptops out of Cabo

During my last family vacation, I decided that all 7 of us could carry a laptop into Mexico (Brilliant Idea #1) and that’s where the adventure started because nothing dealing with getting computers to Mexico is ever as easy as it sounds.

One of Kids on Computers’ main problems is getting used equipment to the schools. Most countries like Mexico charge expensive import taxes on equipment and often much of the equipment goes missing in the mail. However, each traveler to Mexico can carry one laptop in. So the best solution we’ve found is to send a laptop per person. So when my family planned a vacation to Cabo, Mexico, I had the great idea that all 7 of us on the trip should carry a laptop with us. I even checked ahead and found a FedEx store about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying and using the online calculator, figured out that it would be about $45 to ship all 7 laptops to Oaxaca where our new school is going in. What an awesome way to get 7 donated laptops to the our new school!

So we packed for our vacation and added 7 laptops wrapped in bubble wrap to our bags. We had no problem getting into Mexico with them.

Suitcases with laptops

Suitcases with laptops

Take #1: The guys

The second day in Mexico, the guys decided to run to town to get fishing poles. (We discovered we could fish from the beach near our house.) At my insistence, they reluctantly took the laptops with them.

Problem #1: Where is FedEx?

When the guys came home 4-5 hours later, they insisted there was no FedEx where Google Maps showed it. I asked if they’d asked anyone and they said yes, they’d asked at the hotel at the site where Google Maps claimed it was and nobody knew anything about it.

I called the FedEx in San Jose de Cabo and nobody answered. I called the FedEx 1-800 number and they confirmed the office and address.

Take #2: Kim & Stormy

So the next day Kim and I set out. Here’s a picture of the road between our house and town. This is not the worst stretch, just one where I was comfortable stopping to take a picture.

The road from our house to San Jose

The road from our house to San Jose

We arrived at the FedEx address, and sure enough, no FedEx. I tried calling again and no answer. The next closest FedEx was 30 minutes down the road in Cabo San Lucas. We were debating driving there when Kim suggested calling it. Brilliant idea #2! They gave us much more useful directions to the San Jose office. Across the street from the Walmart and Nissan dealership in the Las Palmas shopping center. Turns out Walmart is also not in the right place on Google maps but Walmart is a big enough building with good enough branding that we found it.

2015-05-25 10.55.20

FedEx office in San Jose del Cabo

Problem #2: No customs approval

The FedEx guy informed us that Cabo is a border state and that to ship anything anywhere in Mexico, we would need to go to customs at the airport first and get our package taped. Another 30 minutes up the road. He told us we’d also need a receipt. He was pretty insistent that we’d need a receipt. He said we’d pay import taxes of 5% of the value. Several customers walking in with boxes covered in customs tape verified this.

The FedEx guy also suggested we talk to the Mailbox store next store. The Mailbox guys confirmed we must have a receipt. Once we had a receipt, they said they’d be willing to take the laptops to customs for us and that import tax was 16%.

Mistake #1: Not getting a box

At this point, we were hauling the laptops around in a cooler (each wrapped in bubble wrap) and I asked if the FedEx guy if he’d sell me a box. There were some with price tags in the front. He brought out a non-FedEx box but said I should buy one at customs. He was rather reluctant to sell me the one he had. I should have insisted. In retrospect, I don’t think he had any boxes. Everything he ships comes packed up and taped up with customs tape, so I doubt he sells any boxes.

Brilliant Idea #3: Getting help from someone with a computer and internet

So at this point, Kim and I take all the laptops outside to the shady sidewalk, unpack each one and write down the serial numbers. I hadn’t brought my computer with me, thinking I was just sending a FedEx package, so I sent the list to Avni and asked if she could write a letter for us. Avni wrote us a great letter explaining who Kids on Computers is and the estimated value of the laptops.

Mistake #2: You need a receipt

In retrospect, we should have made up a receipt, not a valuation letter. More on that later.

Kim and I went to lunch (it was 4pm at this point) while Avni wrote the letter. We had some back and forth via phone from Mexico to the States to get the numbers right.

We went back to the FedEx store to print the letter and realized the numbers weren’t right. (Not all laptops have clear serial numbers and we’d done some wrong.) At that point, I wasn’t going to drag Kim to customs and I wasn’t sure how late they’d be open, so I said I’d try again Monday.

Over the weekend, Avni and I tweaked the letter. It was additionally complicated by the fact that I had 2 factor Dropbox authentication set up and I had no place where I could get both wifi and cell service.

Take #3: Stormy & Frank with kids in tow

On Monday, my family and I went to FedEx. My kids very reluctantly.

Kids along for the adventure

Kids along for the adventure

At FedEx, I tried to email the letter to the FedEx guy so that he could print it but my cell service wasn’t good enough. (Learning #5,129,398: Verizon international data roaming works better than Tmobile’s.) I tried to get him to go to the Dropbox page but when he very reluctantly tried to open the page, when it didn’t open immediately, he quit. I tried getting the hotel next door to give me wifi access but they wouldn’t. When I asked them to print the letter, they said they were out of toner. At this point, Avni emailed the letter to the FedEx guy. (Learning #5,129,399: Have an awesome partner with good internet access available via text.)

The FedEx guy printed the letter and I triumphantly returned to the car.

Waypoint #2: Customs

We drove out to the airport and arrived at customs to discover they had no boxes and the closest store was many miles down the road. In the meantime, they looked at my letter and the laptops. They unwrapped each laptop to write down the make and model. They didn’t care about the serial numbers at all. They then valued them (using some process inside that I couldn’t observe) and told me that they were 15,000 pesos, around $1,000 USD and that I would need to pay 16% tax. I tried bartering with them but it did not seem to be negotiable. I also asked where I could sell them for that price and they just shrugged.

Customs is a counter outside, so during this whole process we stood outside in the sun.


Waiting outside for customs

Oh, and by the way, anything you mail out of Cabo, has to go through customs at the airport. We saw people with letters, with boxes of gifts for kids, with bags of dirty clothes to mail, … all of it got checked and taped.

Dumpster Diving

So mistake #1 came back to bite us. Customs did not sell nor even have boxes. Several other customers tried to help us and we ended up with a variety of heavy duty bags but a trash bag wasn’t going to protect the laptops.

All the gas stations around the airport said they sold only candy and beer, so no sizable boxes. The hotel was very helpful but said the trash got picked up at 6am. They sent us to City Club which is like a Costco. We decided to go dumpster diving instead. There were several big warehouse looking buildings with brands like Bimbo and Corona painted on the sides.

Dumpster diving for a box

Dumpster diving for a box

Frank found us a great box. And then somehow as I was packing the laptops into it, I made mistake #2.

Mistake #2, the colossal mistake

Mistake #2 was a colossal mistake. (Although not as time consuming as Mistake #1.) After loading the box into the trunk, I could not find the keys anywhere and the only place where they could have gone was inside the locked trunk. I had locked the keys in the trunk.

At this point, Avni suggested it might be easier and perhaps cheaper to have one of our Oaxaca volunteers fly to Cabo to get the laptops. The customs officials had told me I could carry them on any domestic flight without trouble. They started researching flights.

While Frank walked to the nearest gas station to get refreshments, I called National and once I explained to them that I was at the Bimbo factory, they sent a car immediately. The driver seemed to find nothing strange about an American family dumpster diving. He even helped me search the trunk and suggested we unpack the box of laptops. Sure enough, the keys were nestled between 2 bubble wrapped laptops!

We made a pit stop for cash at the airport terminal and returned to customs. They took my money and passport and 10 minutes later returned with a receipt and taped up our box. Yeah! Frank pointed out anyone with a roll of that tape would be very popular.

Box with official customs tape

Box with official customs tape

Back to where it all started

I was really afraid to get my hopes up, but I really thought we had it at this point.

We returned to FedEx (another half an hour drive) with the custom taped box. Then we started the process of mailing it. It took half an hour to do all the paperwork (at some point I stopped talking to the FedEx guy thinking maybe I was slowing the process down) but turns out everything was really in order this time and he gave me a receipt, tracking number and took the box.

Actually mailing the package!

Actually mailing the package!

I didn’t know if I was relieved that the laptops were shipped or a bit worried that I was leaving them to do the next part of the journey on their own.

Celebrating with a margarita

Celebrating with a margarita

Waiting to hear about their (legal :)) arrival in Oaxaca …

Categorized in equipment, mexico, shipping.

Kids on Computers Lab Set up in Ouled Moussa

This is a guest post from Jake Stern, current Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ouled Moussa, Beni Mellal, Morocco where we set up one lab during our Morocco October 2014 trip. His post describes our time at Ouled Moussa including our final day at the lab where we setup networking and taught a class. His original post is here

These past couple of days have been the most busy days of my Peace Corps service thus far. Beginning last Sunday, I have consistently gotten up at 8am and been finished with work at 8pm with only a lunch break in between. Now this may sound trivial to the average American schedule but in PCV and Moroccan terms this is intense.


(Here we are working on the set up of the Lab)


Categorized in equipment, Morocco, setup, Trips, volunteers.

Dispatches From Morocco: Avni Khatri

During the Mexico trip, Corey, (volunteer and VP of Operations) shared her experiences and photos from her experience on the ground.

We want to continue that new tradition and share live-as-possible volunteer stories during our Morocco trip! For the first installment, let’s join Avni, the President of Kids on Computers!


Categorized in equipment, Morocco, Trips, volunteers.

Highlights from Assam

Our trip to Assam ended a week ago. A few times a day, my mind still wanders to our experience there and how amazing it was. Every time we reached the schools, it felt like time stopped and we had been transported to another world. I feel like we made a huge impact in the community and I wanted to share a few notes and thoughts.

  • We installed two computer labs with 20 computers total. 12 desktops and 2 laptops at Morigaon Jatyiya Vidyalaya and 6 desktops at Jatiya Vidyala Chariabahi. (Thank you Yahoo! Employee Foundation (YEF) for making these labs possible!)
  • Because we had scheduled two full weeks in India, we had enough time to do training sessions. During our past trips to Mexico, we have time to do the installation and then one training session with the teachers, but we rarely get time to do sessions with the students. Here, we did 3 official training sessions at the first school (2 with teachers and 1 with students) and 2 at the second school (1 teacher and 1 student) and many unofficial ad-hoc sessions.
  • While doing the training sessions, it became obvious how much both schools need a projector.
  • Our strength from the eyes of the schools is the content we provide with the OS. For these computers, in addition to Lubuntu 13.04, we installed the Tux Suite, GCompris, Suite of K* games, and the RACHEL content server (Khan Academy videos, Wikipedia content, MedLine content, textbooks, and more)
  • Two people – one of the computer teachers and the younger brother of a teacher (he’s in college) brought in their laptops and asked us to install Lubuntu and all of the software on the computers. Another teacher took a USB filled with content from RACHEL.
  • We were impressed with the seriousness with which the teachers begin learning how to use computers. Many would sit down through out the day and begin using Tux Type to learn how to type. At the second school, we did a contest where we asked the teachers to draw a tree using Tux Paint. The teacher with the best tree (very subjective) would get a pen. The teachers had a lot of fun kidding with each other and quickly pointed out that the tree with the most detail was done by the art teacher.
  • As always, many of the kids sat down at the computers and begin using them immediately without hesitation. They opened up Potato Guy, Tux Type, and Tux Math and begin playing.
  • One student, who was really good at geography, begin playing KGeography as a teacher looked on. He knew every state in India. He then moved onto the US and knew where many of the states were. You could see the pride in the teacher’s eyes.
  • On the other hand, some of the students had never seen a computer. Thomas, one of our volunteers, rightly pointed out during one of our sessions where we were moving onto teaching Tux Type, that some of the students didn’t even know how a mouse worked. This made me realize how much we take for granted here.
  • Localization is key. One of the challenges Kids on Computers faces by creating labs around the world is that we must also work with the various languages used in these areas. We initially installed an English distribution for these schools, but it was obvious to us that everyone at the school was way more comfortable in Assamese. Praveen, a KOC volunteer from Kerala, led the effort to install the Assamese language packs and do the keyboard mapping for the Assamese characters. The teachers still prefer to have the OS boot in English as they felt that it would benefit the students in the long run, but they found the keyboard mapping useful for writing papers or letters.
  • Vedanta, our KOC volunteer who introduced us to these schools, installed an anacron script on each computer at the first school to send us its status via email. The first school had internet by the time we left.
  • As much as we had prepared, there was still quite a bit of work to do when we got there. The OS install, software packages, and RACHEL install went smoothly. But we had to install additional packages for getting mp4 files to play on Chromium, for Flash, and for the language packs. Doing it for one computer is not so bad, but doing it for 20 is time consuming. A Kids on Computers iso would help us deploy more efficiently. We would need an iso for each language we support and they would need to be updated as new content becomes available. Let us know if you want to help by emailing volunteer@kidsoncomputers.org
  • Time moves much more slowly in India. When someone says they’ll come around noon, anytime between 12 and 2pm is acceptable. :-)
  • A big thank you goes to everyone who made this trip possible – from applying for the YEF grant, helping with determining travel logistics in India, working with the vendor, preparing software for the computers and traveling to Assam to do the actual installs. Thanks everyone so much. We are changing lives.
  • Assam is a beautiful place with amazing people. I am excited to see what this community will do with the computers and I can’t wait to go back.

You can see photos from our trip here.

Categorized in equipment, India, installing, organization, school, setup, volunteers.

India: t = 0

Kids on Computers received a Yahoo! Employee Foundation grant to set up computer labs in Assam, India. We have a local volunteer, Vedanta Barooah, who is from this area and found two schools in the Morigaon region for us to work with. Three of us are in India now and working on setting up these labs. This is the first in a series of blog posts about getting ready for the trip and our time here.

KOC team

Getting ready for an installation trip takes considerable planning and time. There are two main components to getting ready for a trip – the logistics portion and the technical portion.

Vedanta and his family managed the logistics portion for us – they found local contacts for us to work with in India, figured out where we were going to stay, and how we were going to travel from the city of Guwahati to Morigaon, where the schools are.

Our India labs presented us with a new use-case on the technical side.  Our nine other labs have been built with donated, used equipment we collect from individuals, schools, and companies. We then do software installations before we transport them and then send them get them to the country we are going to via our own volunteers or local community members who are visiting the US and traveling back.

For India, the grant allowed us to buy new computers directly in India – alleviating the problem of transporting the computers and going through customs. Vedanta helped us find a vendor in India, went through several iterations of computer configurations and made the final purchase of eighteen AMD desktops with 15″ inch monitors for two labs.

The next step was software preparation. We struggle with getting the right free and open source software ready for our computers (KOC uses and promotes FOSS). We select a specific set of apps and educational games that the kids use. Because our setup usually consists of reusing donated equipment, we never really know what computer configuration our labs will have. One computer lab can have a multiple computer configurations (though we have been moving towards making sure each lab receives the same type of laptop / computer, this is not always possible) leading to several distinct requirements for installation. One set of software is not going work for all of the computers and makes it hard to plan in advance. Additionally, we want to take advantage of the features offered by the latest software releases and new content that has been released (see Khan Academy videos, offline Wikipedia, and the Rachel offline educational content server). We scramble before every trip to get a set of install media ready for the computers as the internet is not always reliable in the regions we go to. For Assam, we put together:


  • 5 USB sticks with Lubuntu 13.04
  • 2 CDs with Lubuntu 13.04
  • 5  USB sticks with Educational Software Packages consisting of Open Office, GCompris, Tux Games, Hindi Language Packs, and more
  • 2 USB sticks for the RACHEL content server


We also like to have a good test-bed for trying out the software beforehand to make sure we’ve covered all of our use cases for a trip. But for this trip, since the computers were in India, we did the install on a Virtual Machine and are hoping it will work on the AMD computers. We’re heading up to Morigaon tomorrow to help with the physical installation of the computers and will try out the software then. Wish us luck!

monitor   computer

Categorized in equipment, India, installing, Khan Academy, lubuntu, organization, school, setup, volunteers, Wikipedia.

Kids on Computers Installfest – March 16th

We are having a Kids on Computers Installfest on Saturday, March 16th in Sherman Oaks, CA from 11AM – 6PM. A local high school in Topanga, California donated 80 laptops they were no longer using to Kids on Computers. We have shipped 20 of these laptops to Colegio Britanico, a school in Puebla, Mexico.  During this installfest, we are hoping to get 15-20 more of these laptops upgraded with additional RAM and installed with Free and Open Source software so they can be shipped to a lab in the city of Molcaxac also in Puebla. We will install Lubuntu along with offline Khan Academy videos and offline Wikipedia pages. Most of the kids we work with wouldn’t otherwise have access to technology.  The computer labs we build  help kids around the world get this access and we would love your help to make this happen.  Anyone can help and we are more than happy to teach you any needed skills.

Join us for a day of fun, learning, and making a difference for a great cause. You can sign up here: LA Installfest Info

Thank you!


Categorized in donations, equipment, installing, Khan Academy, lubuntu, mexico, setup, Uncategorized, volunteers.

Back to Huajuapan de León

A small group of volunteers from Kids on Computers returned to Huajuapan de León in October 2012 to update existing school labs, open a new lab, and train teachers. We had great support from the school administrators, teachers, parents, and local volunteers.


After spending a few days visiting schools and assessing needs, we went to the following schools to do updates and installations:

18 de Marzo
This school is the largest lab of donated KoC computers. There are about 30 desktops and laptops here. We updated them with Lubuntu, educational packages, Khan Academy videos, and offline Wikipedia. A few machines didn’t have working USB, so we left them with older (10.x) versions of Edubuntu. Although there is no Internet access available at this school, there is a local area network and wireless access point. We added 2 desktop computers with large hard drives, and had hoped to be able to turn these into local HTTP servers for the lab. But, we found that the switches/hubs were faulty and we couldn’t get reliable IP networking to work.

HP Touchpad Demo at 18 de Marzo

HP Touchpad Demo at 18 de Marzo


Antonio de León
This is a new school for KoC, located in Guadalupe de Ramírez, about a 2 hour drive from Huajuapan de León. The school director met with Thomas, Avni, Bill, and Gaby in Huajuapan de León and got a preview of KoC computers using Lubuntu. Their previous experience was with about 8 Windows computers, several of which had become infected with viruses. They asked that we add a few computers to their lab, and standardize them all on Lubuntu. It was a long day, but we got the lab up and running with a total of 17 machines running Lubuntu.

Antonio de Leon

Antonio de Leon

Antonio de Leon - Edubuntu Mr. Potato Head

Antonio de Leon – Edubuntu Mr. Potato Head


This lab has been part of KoC for several years. Since many of the computers here were donated by a Mexican bank, they do not have hard drives. So they boot from an LTSP server. We added offline Wikipedia to the computers that had a disk, plus left an additional laptop with both offline Wikipedia and Khan Academy videos. Saucitlan now has 11 computers total. Members of the school board presented us with letters signed by community leaders requesting additional computers from KoC for a library as well as the secondary school down the street. As resources become available, we’d like to be able to help.

Saucitlan - LTSP Networked Edubuntu

Saucitlan – LTSP Networked Edubuntu


San Marcos
When KoC previously setup a lab in San Marcos, it included an Internet connection, strung across the street from City Hall via Cat5. Since then, the City Hall buildings have been demolished and are being rebuilt. As a result, they no longer have Internet access. We updated ___ computers with Lubuntu, educational packages, offline Wikipedia, and Khan Academy videos.

San Marcos

San Marcos

San Marcos Kids watching Khan Academy Videos

San Marcos Kids watching Khan Academy Videos


This is a small school with just 6 laptops. When we visited, we discovered that they have had problems with theft, so the teachers typically take the KoC computers home when not in use. They bring the laptops back to school once per week for use in class. The laptops were not in the school when we visited, so we were unable to do any updates.

Local Support

We are very fortunate to work with Carlos (Cams) in Huajuapan de León as our local expert. He provides great support for the school labs, plus he was also able to conduct a 2 hour training session for the teachers in the area at 18 de Marzo.

Also, we were introduced to another Computer Science graduate from UTM – Eliud. He’s a computer support guru and Linux specialist in Huajuapan de León. We met him at San Marcos, and invited him to help with the KoC labs as he has time. He accepted our request and came to the teacher training session. Thanks Eliud!

In addition to these technical experts, we met (and re-met) several dedicated teachers, parents, and volunteers in the area that are engaged in helping us make technology available to underprivileged kids using open source software.

Cams training teachers at 18 de Marzo

Cams training teachers on Lubuntu, Edubuntu packages, Khan Academy Videos, and offline Wikipedia at 18 de Marzo

Categorized in equipment, Huajuapan de León, installing, lubuntu, mexico, school, setup, volunteers.

KoC Lab Installation

On our recent trip to Huajuapan de León, KoC wanted to update and standardize the installation procedure where possible. About 80 desktops and laptops needed to be installed and/or updated to have usable educational packages, plus some offline content. Here’s what we came up with.

Software Updates

Many of the donated desktops and laptops in our schools in Huajuapan de León have only 256MB or 512MB or memory. Older versions of Edubuntu run OK with this much memory, but Edubuntu 11.04 and later seems to take too many resources to run smoothly.

Because of this, we decided to try Lubuntu 12.04 i386 on as many computers as possible. With the LXDE desktop, these machines boot quickly and the desktop runs smoothly without hogging resources.

With Lubuntu installed, we added Edubuntu‘s educational packages, the LibreOffice suite, and security updates including the most current Linux kernel. This collection of updates was about 800MB, so we added them via USB. We also had several machines that didn’t have working USB, so we needed to make 2 CDs to get the packages completely transferred to the target machine for updating.

In addition to the educational games and software packages from Edubuntu, and the office suite from LibreOffice, we also wanted to add some more content for the kids (and parents) to use as needed. Since most of the labs have no Internet access, but a little extra disk space (most of the computers had at least 15GB of free disk), we were prepared to install some offline content:

Khan Academy Videos in Spanish
Using a pre-packaged collection from the Khan Academy on a Stick project, we added 873 Spanish language videos to the local disk of computers that had sufficient space. This collection of static .html files and .flv videos took about 15GB of space! Loading with USB was slow, but successful on all computers that had working USB. Thanks to Khan Academy and Mujica Norberto for this great package.

Offline Wikipedia in Spanish
Finding a usable subset of the vast collection of Wikipedia content can be challenging. Fortunately, we found the Kiwix project, which offers a light-weight HTTP server (kiwix-serve) which will deliver content from highly compressed Wikipedia data files. We added this content (another 15GB of disk) to machines that had space, and started up the kiwix-serve process locally. Kiwix and a compressed Spanish Wikipedia file gives these disconnected machines 1,070,530 articles and 666,304 media files for the kids, teachers, and parents to learn from!

With this additional content loaded, we added bookmarks to Chromium to kids could easily get to the locally stored content.

Cams Training – Chromium Bookmarks

Watching offline Khan Academy Videos in Chromium

Offline Wikipedia (Spanish), running on local port 4200.

Categorized in equipment, Huajuapan de León, installing, Khan Academy, lubuntu.

Can mobile devices change the way we bring technology to kids?

At Kids on Computers,we bring computers to kids that have no access to technology. We’ve frequently debated the benefits of laptops vs tablets vs computers. I think the new devices coming out will soon lead us to phones … and they’ll change the world for kids in developing countries.

Here are some of the new devices:

Small devices like this would help us solve some of the problems we have:

  • Shipping. It’s really expensive to get computers to some of the rural places where we are trying to bring technology. Shipping full size desktops to rural Mexico or Zambia can be challenging from a cost perspective. (It’s also challenging for customs reasons, but that’s a different topic!)
  • Power. Most of the places we’ve set up schools don’t have strong power infrastructures. (Most of them don’t even have telephones.) Not only have we blown power to an entire school trying to turn on just a couple of computers, but we’ve often had to stop our work while we waited for power to come back on. All of the schools we’ve set up are in places with frequent power surges and as a standard practice, they cut power to the whole room whenever they are not using the computers to help protect them. (This has also led to problems. In one school they didn’t realize the importance of shutting down the computers first and they were shutting them down by flipping the power switch to the room …)
  • Cooling. Most of the schools we have helped so far are in warm locations (Zambia, India, Mexico) and keeping a room full of computers cool is tough. Especially when power is not reliable.

So the new devices which would be relatively inexpensive and accessible for people living in areas with less infrastructure, would be terrific. My cell phone has worked in all the places we’ve been so far … being able to give a cell phone with all the capabilities of the web to these children would be a wonderful experience to watch.

Disclaimer: I work at Mozilla.

Categorized in equipment.