Low-Power Computing

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This page is a draft. Please feel free to edit and change it in any way you think is necessary. Part of it should be probably moved to the newly created page Basic Language Software Appliance. This page then would be considered to flesh out technical aspects of Basic Language Software Appliance.


A good number of low-cost, low-wattage computers are entering the market, OLPC being the most notable.

These machines may help to satisfy the need for a platform for translators in remote areas ("village computing" **) to use for Scripture drafting, dictionary building and other language-related tasks.

  • Not only in villages but in many major cities in sub-saharan Africa power supply is weak and there is the need for expensive protection and power generation equipment.

Application software

File formats: LIFT http://code.google.com/p/lift-standard/

Factors to take into account

However, a number of factors need to be taken into account when deciding whether and how to deploy a given model of computer in a particular country or region. These factors include:

Application context

  • Workflow
    • from the user point of view
    • technically
  • Internet connection options (GPRS?)
  • Institutional environment?
  • Community involvement / Marketing (i.e. promoting the use)

Ergonomic factors

  • Keyboard size
  • Keyboard usability
  • Screen size
  • Screen legibility in sunlight


Availability of support and maintenance, including:

  • Ease of repair by the user or another local person
  • Professional repair facilities
  • Knowledge and information about the software


  • Hardware robustness and reliability (dust, heat, moisture, protection against shocks)
  • Power consumption (TODO add typical figures for OLPC, netbook, traditional laptop)
  • Power generation options (TODO add more about Solar panels....)


Brief summary of what solar panels work for different computer types:

1. Normal laptop-- avg power consumption at least 30-40 watts (60 or more when charging). Needs 100-120 watts "worth" of solar panels to run.

2. Netbook w/ 10" screen-- An Eee 1000HE runs at around 20W or sometimes less; takes 30W when charging. You'll need at least 60W of solar panels.

3. Netbook w/ 9" screen-- An Eee 901 runs around 12-15W, still up to 30W when charging like the 1000 (but it charges 40% faster and still gives you 5 hours of runtime on a battery charge). You'll need around 45W of solar panels; TWO of the $54 (when buying 100 at a time) panels should just about cover it if you're careful.

4. OLPC-- Runs at around 7W. ONE $54 panel will run the thing all day for you. These extremely cheap 20W, US$54 solar panels cost around 1/4-1/3 of what most other solar panels cost.

Operating System

  • Fedora in the case of the OLPC
  • Ubuntu for the EEE PC and for BALSA on a stick

Data storage

.... (directory structure) .... .... versioning .....

Backup concept


Question: What is the strategy to cope with malware and viruses? Answer: .....


  • around 200-300USD for the machine and software, plus 200-350USD for power generation, 80USD for backup devices and replacement software cartridges. Total 500..730USD for OLPCs and netbooks.

125USD for old hardware (assuming the hardware e.g. a 8 year old P4 computer is already available, the cost of 100USD is for an UPS which serves at the same time as a surge protector; 25USD for the memory upgrade to 384MB RAM).


Milestone 1 - OLPC

Am SD card configured for the OLPC, ready to insert and run. Backup facilities on external USB pen drives. Easy way to move all the data from one machine to another one. Applications at least WeSay, AdaptIt and a scripture editor.

Milestone 2 - EEE PC release

The same as milestone 1 but configured for the EEE PC

Milestone 3 - Other hardware

This is no longer actually low-power computing but rather low-cost computing, i.e. the software is run on existing available hardware, in particular old computers with modest specs. In terms of software it is the same.

"BALSA on a stick" (using the SoaS idea)

from: http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick

This small USB device can boot into the Sugar learning platform on different computers at home, at school, or at an after-school program, bypassing the software on the those computers. In fact, Sugar on a Stick will work even if the computer does not have a hard-drive.

More see: http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=Soas+Sugar+on+a+stick&ei=UTF-8&fr=ubuntu

In particular for example: http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/22919/

The open-source education software developed for the "$100 laptop" can now be loaded onto a $5 USB stick to run aging PCs and Macs with a new interface and custom educational software.

"What we are doing is taking a bunch of old machines that barely run Windows 2000, and turning them into something interesting and useful for essentially zero cost," says Walter Bender, former president of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. "It becomes a whole new computer running off the USB key; we can breathe new life into millions of decrepit old machines."


Within SIL there are various software projects in progress for low power computers, including:

Outside SIL there is


This is the home page for general information about low-power computing on this wiki.


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