GaiaBB and OLPC

Peter Quodling. an old friend, e-mailed out of the blue last week. I have a lot of time for Peter as he’s one of the few Australian IT architects that really knows his stuff, plus he’s a really nice guy. He is involved in OLPC in the PNG region. Last Christmas, I nearly bought an XO under the Buy One, Give One program so Mackenzie could have a cool first laptop … and somewhat more honestly, so I could play with the OLPC until she’s old enough to type let alone talk. However, circumstances prevented toy purchases of that magnitude, and I forgot all about the XO until this week.

I thought through my various abandoned projects (for I have many), trying to work out which would help the OLPC project and kids all over the world. I’ve had an itch for a while to do something for the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC), but never really had a substantial idea that would help transform kids’ lives rather than my own. But now I think I have just the project.

So I put in a proposal for two laptops to help develop GaiaBB (which is UltimaBB++ (sic gloria transit), which is XMB++, which is awful) into a OLPC specific product.

My current plans are:

  • Get GaiaBB.com back up and make it OLPC centric. Revitalize the Sourceforge project.
  • Finish OWASP ESAPI for PHP. I need it for this project.
  • Port GaiaBB to the OLPC, porting the database to sql lite, and probably using LightHTTPd. I could use Apache + MySQL as per now, but these are huge compared to SQL Lite and LightHTTPd, and on a device with limited NAND memory, every byte counts.
  • Ensure GaiaBB works properly with Browse, the XO browser. I might need to turn the nested tables into CSS templates a bit sooner than I intended
  • Beg, borrow or steal a graphic designer to come up with a GaiaBB theme that works well with the dual color display (it’s both black and white and color and more wide than tall), and possibly work out how to detect the XO’s current screen state from the web page so I can dynamically choose a grey scale or a color theme.
  • Simplify the product so that it’s more manageable by young ‘uns without dumbing down too much or removing some of the depth and surprise features of the product
  • Write an installer that makes it easy to install on the OLPC. I want kids to be able to create their own social communities and for them to easily share their forums with their friends.
  • And this is where it gets fancy… write a web service that allows authorized folks to replicate their version of the forum with other versions of the forum … without causing major security issues. That way when you’re at home and have no Internet service, you can still read the forum and write new posts and then sync when you’re at school. This is where I will have to significantly change the way GaiaBB works as right now, it’s a single database deal and assumes that there are trusted administrators.
  • Go through the code with a fine tooth comb, replacing all the crappy security bits with ESAPI for PHP. Some parts are truly ancient (circa 2000) and need refactoring. As part of this, I will ensure the code is easily modifiable. I learnt how to code by changing other folks’ code and then starting to write my own, and I want kids to modify the heck out of this forum so as to create a new generation of coders excited about programming and IT in general.
  • Lastly, possibly write a OLPC School Server centralized GaiaBB hub for schools to run “their” forum which students can sync with in a safe fashion.

The proposal has been approved, and the laptops are on their way. They are sending me three XO’s! Awesome. Better get cracking!

Published by vanderaj

Just another security geek

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