Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Open 1-to-1, "Maple Syrup," and customization.

Last Friday saw the conclusion of the FOSSed conference in Bethel, Maine. The conference was a hugely influential experience for the project and provided me with faces to go with three usergroups I've been designing for, Administrators, Students, and Teachers. I have quite a few thoughts I'd like to get on paper.

After my introduction to the Open One-to-One computing project running in Maine, Caroline and I have come to the conclusion that it may serve as an excellent platform to base the USR Bootable Flashdrive off of. With this in mind, I'm helping to evolve the O121 image development system using the LiveCD customization process used by the USR project to create a live O121 flash drive. Nicknamed "Maple Syrup," named after the popular sugar product of New England, this system will serve as a technological tool for K-12 education.

Right now, the Open 1-to-1 image is created manually, by modifying a fresh install of Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the target hardware. This approach produced a disk image implemented in several schools across Maine to great success. While making deployment quite easy, this approach makes virtualization and live-CD / live-USB creation nearly impossible.

To fix this, I found a means of converting the write-to-disk only image provided by O121 into a more useful form. The program Remastersys allows one to create a bootable ISO image from a running Ubuntu system. From a bootable CD ISO, I can use my existing ISO-USB script to create a persistent flash drive install.

As a refinement of the above procedure, I intend to use a few scripts written by David Farning to create a bootable and installable disk image entirely programatically, from scratch. Modifying his shell scripts  for use with the O121 & "Maple Syrup" project will greatly simplify the build process and expand the usability of the resultant image. Alternatively, there exist several alternate procedures to develop a bootable & installable disk image based on an existing LiveCD.

My next step is to flash the most recent O121 image to a spare netbook, install, configure, and run Remastersys, and debug / modify the resultant ISO.

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