Category Archives: music

Music

Bossa Nova in Banaras

In my previous post, I had written about unencumbered codecs that ship on the OLPC XO, versus the popular demand for video in MP4 container (usually H.264 video). This post has a strange twist with another container: WebM.

WebM is a container put forth by Google. They also proceeded to embed the codec support within Chromium/Chrome. Firefox supports it natively as well. So, videos in WebM will play in Chromium/Chrome and Firefox without a plug-in.

When I travel, I download my favorite tunes from YouTube by using the “FlashGot” plugin. I prefer to download these in WebM (the irony!). Perhaps I am violating some “Terms of Service” somewhere, but that’s a rant for another day.

After my Bhagmalpur visit in Jan 2015, I headed back to Hyderabad. I took a train from Shahganj to Varanasi (aka Banaras) and then after a short stop, I was scheduled to take a flight out of the Varanasi airport in Babatpur (rural Banaras). As fate would have it, or rather as Indigo airlines would have it, their pilot wasn’t experienced enough to land the aircraft in the fog, and so, we had no return aircraft. I was stranded at Varanasi airport with no way to take another flight. Long story short, I ended up spending the night at the airport (usually a No No, but we had special permission!) along with two other travelers. They turned out to be visitors from Brazil and Italy. We had a great conversation that evening and the next day, hanging out at a small airport, eating stale cheese sandwiches. I got reminded of the Langoliers!

Waiting for the Langoliers at Varanasi airport!

Waiting for the Langoliers at Varanasi airport!

Towards the afternoon, I recalled that I had a copy of some “Bossa Nova” tunes downloaded in WebM format. What luck! Here were two people who spoke [Brazilian] Portuguese, stranded in the thick of rural India, and I had “Desafinado” and “Girl from Ipanema” on my laptop! We sat down and listened to a somewhat strange rendition of “Desafinado” by

1) Nova Music LA and

2)  an interesting version of Girl (actually Boy) from Ipanema by Dionne Warwick and Sacha Distel

(with appropriate apologies to Vinícius de Moraes, Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto).

Such great coincidence, or perhaps I’m just cool like that 🙂 Shortly after that, we thankfully got onto our respective flights and headed our different ways. After keeping in touch with my new friends, it turns out they are biodiversity researchers. I hope they’ll come visit us in California to see the Redwoods for themselves! I hope the Langoliers will enjoy the Bossa Nova when they get to the Varanasi airport 😉

 

 

Desafinado on the OLPC XO-4 in HTML5

Desafinado on the OLPC XO-4 playing natively on YouTube in HTML5

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Filed under general, music

Jugaad. The Indian way.

Jugaad (जुगाड़) is the Hindi word for figuring things out. It’s been the Indian way for a long time now. Lack of resources push people to figure things out. I remember, when I was in high school, I used to ride three different buses for over two hours, so I could go to an electronics repair shop and get my hands on a broken motor.  All for the love of science experiments, of course, unsanctioned by my parents! Now, I live a short walk from Radio Shack, but it’s not the same. Hack, make, fix. It’s all jugaad.

I just got off the phone with folks in Bhagmalpur, and they were all beaming. The kids had figured out something. While visiting Bhagmalpur in January, I had copied a whole bunch of music for them. Some of these were in MP3 format. I know the XO is not geared to play MP3 out of the box, but I had little time, and I figured they’d skip it and move on to the Ogg ones. Guess what? They sure did play the Ogg files, but for the MP3 ones, they got a microSD card reader, copied the files onto the microSD card, moved the microSD card to someone’s mobile phone, and got to play it there! Did I teach them about copying files? No. Did I show them how to copy files from the Journal to an external card? No. They figured it out on their own!

Next, they’ve gotten onto Facebook, but the XO-1 is slow to load, and Facebook can make the network connection slow. They spotted on some visitor’s mobile phone that if you tack on a “m.” in front of facebook.com it loads faster. Now, everyone is browsing Facebook using the m.facebook.com address!

Give the kids an inch, and they’ll take a mile. I hope they go far! Welcome to the new jugaad. Same as the old jugaad, only better 🙂

m dot

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Filed under children, music, network, software

The constraints of time and temperature

I had a short visit to Bhagmalpur a few weeks ago. I got to the village on January 7, 2013 in the evening, and left on the morning of Jan 13, 2013. Much had to be done in this duration.

I had to unlock the XOs so I could use a Dextrose image from Activity Central. The main reason for choosing this image was the Hindi language support. After getting the keys through the collection stick process, and many thanks to guys at OLPC, I got the machine unlocked. Next, I had to flash all the 26 XO-1 laptops there. NANDBlaster gave me all sorts of errors, so I had to do it by hand.

I had to reconfigure the XS school server to use an Access Point instead of a Mesh antenna (Bhagmalpur might have been the only OLPC deployment that still used a mesh antenna…but no more!). The network interfaces had to be fudged with. Thankfully xs-swapnics worked nicely. I had to show them how to use the Wireless Graph activity to do a site survey and determine the bounds of their Wi-Fi bubble. I had to do the wiring for the XS so it could run off a 12V battery. I had to install the APs in a high location and load balance with a repeater in WDS mode, at someone else’s house, so we could extend the Wi-Fi bubble.

I had to add oodles of content – 1,368 TED videos, music, books, activities, and build a simple HTML page for navigation. I had to show the kids a few neat tricks with the Tuk lens kit. I had to show the kids how to repair XOs.  I had to repair damaged screens, keyboards, chargers (a mouse chewed through one), backup all the journals to the XS and then make a copy.

Oh, and this being my family’s house, I had to also be social, chat with visitors, eat the good stuff, walk the cane fields and take loads of photos.

To add to all this, I had to contend with two constraints. The state of Uttar Pradesh is terrible at several things. One of those is electricity. The AC grid comes alive at 11AM, and goes away at 1PM. Then maybe another hour or so in the evening, and then it’s back at 1AM for a couple more hours. Bulk of the work had to be done when the electrical juice went live. The timings are approximate, with no guarantees. So, I found myself sitting up at midnight, reflashing a stack of laptops.

The other constraint (and the UP government has no control over this one) was that the temperatures dropped to -1 C. With no electrical heat, and uninsulated walls, I had to sit by the fire, warm my bones, and then run off to work the laptops for 10 minutes or so, until I started to shake, and then it was back to bone-warming 🙂

Of course, my family was not quite sure why I’d give up the warmth of the fire and run off to the cold to work on laptops. To them, it didn’t seem like such a big deal if the work didn’t get done. To me, the show had to go on, no matter what.

Thankfully, I got it all done 🙂 I’ll post some details soon, but in the mean time, here are the pics.

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Filed under books, children, education, hardware, music, network, outreach, software, tech, video

So, what’s working?

We went through an interview marathon with the children in Bhagmalpur yesterday. The interviews were done over the phone with plenty of help from my mother who translated and asked questions in Hindi. At this point, the children have had their OLPC XO-1 laptop for six-to-eight weeks. While we are still busy documenting all that was gleaned from these calls, here are some interesting observations:

  • Of all the children who have registered for a “computer” course at school, none have actually ever used a computer because they have been told that the computer is broken, and so the teacher cannot teach anything. Reminds me of the “Computer Club” at August Town Primary School in Jamaica.
  • Many children like to learn about elements such as Hydrogen and Nitrogen because they have started to learn about elements in their school. Note that nobody has ever told them about chemistry or elements on the XO. None whatsoever. They have discovered these on their own.
  • Many children like to use the calculator. They use it to get assistance in their math lessons. They use the Calculate activity to check their answers.
  • TamTamMini seems to be another favorite.
  • Most have asked about Internet or Browse Activity (they all call it “activity”, again something they have gleaned on their own) but none of them have ever used the Internet or even know what Browse is. We still don’t have good connectivity in Bhagmalpur.
  • We are using a “One Laptop per Child per Family” model, and in all cases, a sibling (older or younger) uses the XO laptop as well. However, in none of the cases do any of the parents use the XO. In some cases the parents actually think their child “wastes time” on the XO. They don’t see a reason why the kid should do anything but “study for school” on the computer. The parents want digital copies of textbooks on the XO. Interestingly, none of the children asked for textbooks on the XO.

While we’ll get more results in the next few months, these are some anecdotal observations that stand out. More to come soon.

Offline Wikipedia page on Hydrogen

Offline Wikipedia page on Hydrogen prepackaged on OLPC XO laptops. No Internet access required.

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Filed under children, education, family, music, school