XS Community Edition/FAQ
How does XS Community Edition (XSCE) help?
Read about Internet-in-a-Box (generally included with XSCE) and build up your school's very own E-book library below. Bring the power of a free Digital Library of Alexandria into the hands of any school worldwide!
Where is XSCE used?
As of 2015, XS Community Edition is used in more than 10 countries, from smaller communities to large-scale deployments.
Examples include several orphanages and schools in Haiti to a youth community in Malaysia, to villages in Northern India, to a girls science school in Rwanda, to rural communities across southwest Ghana -- and more broad Central American deployments like Nicaragua, Costa Rica and 6 schools in the Dominican Republic beginning late 2015.
Of course, many contributors are using XSCE for other personal/community purposes as well, helping refine our community product for diverse/larger impact.
What can I do with E-books and Internet-in-a-Box ?
Purchase a packed hard-drive full of the incredible Wikipedia + Maps + Literature + Khan Academy resources of http://internet-in-a-box.org.
This permits entirely new opportunities for semi-connected schools and offline libraries worldwide, for the 1st time ever starting in 2013.
We'd like educators' suggestions especially -- how should kids best take advantage of these crown jewels of learning? Perhaps starting with OLPC/Sugar's laptop browser in places like:
http://schoolserver/maps http://schoolserver/books http://schoolserver/library http://schoolserver/khanacademy
What hardware should I use?
XSCE (XS Community Edition) is free software that runs on many different hardware platforms, listed below.
- Deployment Managers: an all-inclusive, tough and lower-power unit (great for developing world) often uses the Intel NUC and similar in 2015, generally beefier than the resilient TrimSlice / Utilite and Cubox by SolidRun devices. Check back as many more global deployments' experiences accumulate, and rugged low-end hardware hopefully emerges eventually!
- Technical/DIY Implementers: roll your own on XO-1.5, XO-1.75 (ARM), XO-4 (ARM), x86 and x64 -- with experimental support for XO-1, Raspberry Pi 2 and Cubox. For an early discussion of possible external USB hard disks and their risks, see: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/server-devel/2013-June/thread.html#6490
What OS should I use?
Larger deployments often prefer the 10-year-support (security updates, etc) provided by CentOS to minimize upgrade/maintenance costs.
Both above are free and open software systems supported by enterprise Linux corp Red Hat, Inc founded in 1993.
Other OS/distribution support for this global community project would be most welcome in future!
Is a quick installation possible?
Yes, please try our XSCE 6.0 RC1 offline installer (1.8GB, centos7_xsce.6.rc1.img) which works on 64-bit Intel NUC x86 PC's, and likely many others? It includes CentOS 7.1 (1503) as the base OS. While of course experimental, complete installation instructions are here. New users please see Tim Moody's DRAFT XSCE 6.0 Release Notes. Advanced users may also learn from Tom Gilliard's Installation Notes.
After installation, please explore learning materials within http://schoolserver.lan -- and also get to know the Admin Console at http://schoolserver.lan/admin which permits you to (1) configure your school server and (2) download new content. Example screenshots:
We're hopeful that offline installers will appear for many of the most common hardware platforms, like Raspberry Pi 2, in the near-future. George Hunt especially has worked extremely hard on these, and greatly appreciates all your "fieldback" !
How do I provide Solar Power to my school, library or orphanage?
This is a very hard question depending on the growth path of your electrical needs, maintenance options within the country in question, price, theft, etc. Some experienced deployment voices provide concrete examples, typically involving a standard 12-volt deep-cycle battery. Please don't wait to get your feet wet today however! That means investing in the hard work of research, getting this right for your own community:
Thanks for taking solar engineering seriously, as we do wherever possible! Engineers definitely subscribe to Richard Smith's "power" discussion list if you can.
How do I provide Wi-Fi (wireless) to all my kids?
We encourage all to share specific recommendations no matter how large or small your school. This is a vital engineering piece for schools, libraries and orphanages even when offline (build a repertoire of devices that work best) so kids can take advantage of the amazing free "digital libraries" of http://internet-in-a-box.org and Pathagar E-books.
Please join the email@example.com mailing list to ask us all for the latest tips about high-performance Wi-Fi access points, depending on your coverage needs. This is a great place to ask about various schools' filtering recommendations for different age groups, whether you school is online or offline!
How do I change the wireless network name?
The wireless network name is how people connect to your school server when they are using a Wi-Fi device. This name is also known as an SSID.
How to change it depends on whether your wireless access point is fully-external (such as a wireless router) or rather under direct OS control (e.g. internal, or a tiny USB-connected wireless adapter) :
- If it's fully-external, change its SSID (name) using the documentation that came with the router.
- If it's under direct OS control, then the school server is the wireless access point. So open its Admin Console http://schoolserver.lan/admin by logging in as xsce-admin per usual, then change the SSID (name).
What networking tips exist?
If you use a USB-to-Ethernet dongle (for upstream Internet, generally) use a permanent marker on the server's correct USB port, so that it's not accidentally moved to another USB port!
Also, do not swap the dongle for another, as each dongle has a fixed/unique MAC address. Worst case if your dongle is lost or broken, you will later (after the new dongle is inserted) need to rerun "./runansible" from directory /opt/schoolserver/xsce when your Internet connection is live.
A high-level networking summary is here: https://github.com/XSCE/xsce/blob/master/docs/NETWORKING.rst
More advanced networking insights will follow from the stock instructions for setting up upstream and downsteam routers attached to Intel NUC hardware, just as an example.
Classrooms within 100 meters of your school server can easily be connected using standard Ethernet wiring, or using Wi-Fi repeaters. Outdoor wiring is possible (preferably below ground) but check with experts to avoid problems with lightning. Beyond 100 meters, a more deliberate tree and branch solution may be needed.
Please ask questions about your specific school's networking/wiring challenges on mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org !
Where security tips exist?
Whether running your school server online or offline, please see XS Community Edition/Security and help us contribute to this evolving knowledge of 21st century hygiene, thanks to professional volunteers from many backgrounds.
How do I customize my school server's start page?
If you want to showcase your school or community logo/colors on the portal/start page (what people see at http://schoolserver.lan), you can customize /var/www/html/xs-portal/index.en.php, where most standard HTML tags should work. Please create a backup copy of index.en.php first!
If you want to create your own look and feel, create a standard HTML file /var/www/html/xs-portal/index.html alongside, which takes precedence over the above index.en.php when users visit http://schoolserver.lan
To redirect the home page you can edit /etc/httpd/conf.d/xsce-home-page.conf. If you choose to hide the server's standard portal/start page, remember that your school server's Admin Console should always be available at http://schoolserver.lan/admin for general administration and maintenance.
Increasingly, many educators also prefer to personalize their school server's portal beyond their logo, using WYSIWYG tools like DokuWiki, WordPress, or Moodle. For example, adding gems from indigenous languages and unique local content -- if you need customization suggestions, don't hesitate to write to: https://groups.google.com/group/unleashkids
Finally, technical tips are contained in the Portal README.
Can my XO-based server boot with a unique startup sound?
Yes, when using an XO as a server, it is easy to mistake it for a child's laptop, when it has been detached from storage and networking components.
Here are instructions for adding a unique startup sound.
How do I get Internet-in-a-Box updates every few months or semester?
Great question: the magicians behind http://internet-in-a-box.org anticipate this will be critical. Several people are working on streamlining this process, ideally with an on-demand mail-order service available on different continents, to wipe your terabyte/external hard drive clean with the latest free maps/encyclopedia/books/video lessons, for a extremely low shipping/service fee. Keep in touch!
PREVIEW: In 2014/2015, Internet-in-a-Box improved its Wikipedia full-text-search, which remains compatible with XSCE 0.4, 5.x and 6.0.
CONTACT: Please make contact with http://unleashkids.org if you would like to order a copy of Internet-in-a-Box from these volunteers' emerging community store.
How do I know what version of XSCE I'm running?
Log into your school server's Admin Console (typically http://schoolserver.lan/admin or http://schoolserver/admin), then click on tab "Utilities", then click on "Display XSCE.INI File". Look for a 40-character long string that corresponds to githash's listed at https://github.com/XSCE/xsce/commits/stable, or for pre-releases https://github.com/XSCE/xsce/commits/master.
What technical documentation exists?
Please see the "Installing" and "Configuring" sections in the latest release, off of http://schoolserver.org, noting that XSCE 5.x docs are evolving here: https://github.com/XSCE/xsce/tree/master/docs
The 13-page XSCE/IIAB Installation doc for Intel NUC hardware can also be incredibly useful.
Also: Add a Service to School Server by Creating a Plugin (for XSCE 0.3 and 0.4, original written April 2013) and others by George Hunt at http://schoolserver.wordpress.com
Finally, Anish Mangal hopes to formally write up his deployment recommendations based on his experience setting up XSCE in Northern India, while http://unleashkids.org documents the human experiences around a growing number of Haiti deployments.
Please suggest improvements to this FAQ where you can, and check back to reread at a later date, Thank You!
How can I help?
Schools greatly benefit from testing on diverse hardware if you can help! Online contribution are strongly welcome, with in-person human interaction at our quasi-quarterly face-to-face meetups advancing our education efforts faster yet.
Where can older versions of XSCE be found?
Older RPM builds from 2013, at your own risk, may be available from: http://xsce.activitycentral.com/repos/xsce/devel.
Or consider main repo definition: http://xsce.activitycentral.com/repos/xsce-devel.repo
How did XSCE's design evolve?
Here's our brief-but-growing participatory design archive / lineage:
Original OLPC XS design and implementation is available here.
Community history is vital to all seeking to avoid reinventing mistakes of the past, thanks to Everyone's thoughtful input past & present!