Thursday, July 30, 2009

Server Work

This week I spent almost every hour of our student training in the other room working on our server. We realized that we need to setup the Moodle installation (digital classroom for testing, turning in assignments, etc.) to display Portuguese. We also came up with the idea of creating a student created school Wikipedia. Both of these tasks were above what I knew how to do but I am powering through.

The biggest problem this week has been dealing with the slow internet; at the school we have the fastest connection I’ve seen on island, but even then we average 6KB/s downloads. To put that in perspective, Comcast will get downloads around 300+KB/s; 50x faster. Whenever I wanted to Google something I would need to wait a while just to let the page load and realize it isn’t what I need/want. The second biggest problem is that the power will go out and the worst moments. Some of the download managers I was using were able to save partial downloads and continue later but others weren’t as fortunate and after a 30 minute power outage I would start over.

Moodle needed to be addressed first and all of the manuals I would read online would tell me to click on this one item in the administration panel that I didn’t see. I thought I must have a different version of Moodle and kept reading post after post about how to set the global language to Portuguese. After hours of frustration I finally gave up and decided that the “admin” account on the XS (XO Server) is a crippled account which only allows limited access. Reuben, the technical guy from OLPC, replied to my email, with directions on how to activate the true admin account. Once I set the global language I realized there was another problem…

When we first setup the XO computers we register them to the server so that they are enrolled as students in Moodle and the server begins automatically backing up their files. When they were enrolled in Moodle’s database it set their default language preference to the only available language at the time: English. I searched for a “Bulk User Language Change” command but found none. I thought, how bad could it be changing each individually, there are only 85 accounts. When I went to edit the first user I realized that the registration automatically set their language but did not select a country, city, surname and two other fields, all are necessary to be able to save a language change. The time required was starting to add up and I put this job on hold.

Getting the Wikipedia server setup on our XS was one of the most confusing processes I have ever been through. Not knowing where to begin I tried downloading the 10MB file from Mediawiki which includes the Wikipedia server. Unfortunately I found out I needed several other packages to be able to make the Wikipedia site visible to users. I told the server to download Mediawiki and all the necessary dependencies for the server and after hours and hours (maybe 15 hours of actual download time, 36 real life hours) I thought I finally had everything I needed. When it didn’t work I tried to determine the problem and found out that it didn’t install everything it needed like it should have. I installed a database server and still it didn’t work. Despite downloading and installing the database server, I needed to run an install script which installed what I just installed >:-O !!!

After four days of work I am left without the site switched entirely to Portuguese and a Wikipedia page which has no template and is in the most unusable layout. This weekend is going to be kinda lame as I work on fixing these problems.

-XO Mike


  1. Oh geez.... Hey, if there's something you need someone here (like me if I can, someone else if I can't) to research/find w/ a fast Internet connection or w/ the power of Illinois IT folks, let me know. I can email you the fruitful results Just read in the BBC news today that Internet was knocked out in a lot of W Africa cuz an underwater cable broke....

  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.