RACHEL on MP2
Author: T Gillett
VT-RACHEL is a version of the VT SECN firmware designed to provide RACHEL and other static web content via simple routers such as the MP2 and similar devices. These devices are typically used to provide classroom based digital libraries independent of an Internet connection.
The World Possible RACHEL Project and the Solar SPELL Project have assembled a large body of Internet content which can be freely used on local web servers.
The World Possible and RACHEL Project websites are here:
You can preview the RACHEL library content here:
The Wikipedia for Schools (English) content located here:
We also have translations of Wikipedia for Schools into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Khmer and Malay.
Similar content with a focus on the needs of Pacific Islands has been assembled by the Solar SPELL Project from the Arizona State University. The project and content websites can be seen here:
The content you see at these sites can typically be served from a suitable router using a 32 or 64GB GB memory device.
There are several ways to deploy the RACHEL and SPELL systems, including using a RPi or PC as a server, or directly on the hard disc of an individual PC.
However the VT-RACHEL firmware uses the MP2 router (or some TP-Link routers) as a web server for the static content of the libraries in order to provide a simple, low cost and robust solution for typical classroom use in remote areas where technical support is limited.
The basic idea is that you can plug a flash memory device (SD card or USB stick) containing the library content into the VT-RACHEL MP2, and the MP2 will serve the content to laptops and other devices connected by WiFi or Ethernet.
This will provide a stand alone facility that gives access to a wide range of material that has been assembled, including Wikipedia for Schools, Khan Academy, Medline and Hesperian health databases, Gutenberg book collection, CK-12 Textbooks, UNESCO IICBA teaching resource etc.
VT-RACHEL devices are configured to support up to 35 client devices concurrently connected by WiFi. So one wifi router device can support a typical classroom of students.
You can use a 32GB SD card provided with the MP2 from the VT Online Shop, or you can assemble your own, including whatever content you wish. For example, a card with just the Wikipedia for Schools content in four languages needs to be only 8GB in size. Khan Academy in English requires 16GB.
If you have an Internet connection, you can connect it to the MP2 and the MP2 will share the connection to connected devices along with the locally srored material.
1. Flash the MP2 (or other device) with the VT-RACHEL firmware in the normal way. Firmware is available here:
Firmware is available for MP2, MR3020, MR3040, WD842, WDR3500/4300 devices.
WARNING: The use of TP Link devices has become somewhat problematic since the manufacturer has begun locking the devices to prevent installation of alternate firmware on devices sold since early 2016. Before purchasing devices in bulk, check that you can actually load third party firmware.
2. After restarting, the MP2 will appear as a WiFi Access Point called 'VT-RACHEL-1' with a default password of 'password'
3. Connect your laptop or other device to the Access Point.
4. Point your web browser to "http://vtrachel" and you should see the RACHEL table of contents. (Note: The device uses a default IP address of 10.130.1.254 in case the URL can not be resolved).
5. In later versions of the firmware there is a secondary AP called Public-VT-RACHEL' with a default password of 'password2'. Connecting to this AP will allow access to the local content, but not to the upstream Internet connection (if it is present).
6. To access the device administration web page point your web browser to "http://vtrachel/admin" and log in with administrator credentials of 'admin' / 'rachel' or root credentials 'root' / 'vtrachel'.
Setting up the RACHEL Content
The RACHEL content is stored on a memory device such as a SD card or a USB memory stick. Depending on how much content you want to provide, you may wish to use 8, 16, 32 or 64GB devices.
Note that the performance and compatibility of these memory devices varies widely, particularly in the larger sizes. Be careful to test and qualify devices before committing to purchase of multiple devices.
For memory sizes greater than 8GB, for fast and reliable operation, the early model MP2 requires the use of an SD card (eg SDHC such as SanDisk Ultra or Samsung EVO) in a USB adapter. Note that not all USB adapters will operate correctly, and you may need to test and qualify the devices.
For later model MP2 and TP Link router devices we have found that USB devices such as the SanDisk Cruzer Fit will operate satisfactorily as well as the SD card option.
There are several options for providing local content as follows:
Option 1. Obtain a VT-RACHEL device from VT Online Shop
On the VT Shop page you can purchase a VT-RACHEL device based on the MP02 hardware. This will include a 32GB USB/SD memory device that contains all the standard content.
You may copy the content files from the supplied memory device onto another memory device by simply plugging the supplied memory device into your PC and copying in the usual manner. Using rsync on a Linux PC is a good way to copy the large number of files as it is relatively fast and can handle interruptions and restarts.
You can choose to copy only those modules that you require, and thus possibly use a smaller memory device.
The VT -RACHEL memory devices contain some additional content including Wikipedia for Schools in languages other than English, and MoToLi.
Option 2. Create a SD Card / USB to contain the RACHEL or SPELL library content
On the VT Download page, along with the VT RACHEL firmware is a file called 'vt-rachel.zip'
Download this file, unzip it and copy all the files and directories on to a formatted SD card which has been given a suitable label e.g "VT_RACHEL"
This will give you the English language home page including the table of contents for the default library content. To set up your own version of the library you can edit the "index.html" home page to support navigation around your own library module content which by default is stored in the "modules" directory.
To add content modules, download or copy the required content directories and place them into the 'modules' directory on the USB drive.
You can download individual modules using rsync or ftp from the RACHEL project repo as described here:
http://http://oer2go.org/ http://dev.worldpossible.org/cgi/rachelmods.pl ftp://ftp.worldpossible.org/zipped-modules/
For the SPELL library content you will need to download the relevant parts of the content website using wget or a similar utility. At the time of this writing there is no specific download site for the SPELL library modules. The SPELL content web site is located here:
Once you have downloaded a module, you should have a directory containing the content for the particular module. Each of these directories should contain an "index.html" file supports navigation around the module content.
Copy the downloaded module directory to the 'modules' directory on the SD card. Then from the VT-RACHEL home page you will be able to access the content in the module you have added.
There are more modules on the RACHEL project download page than are used in the default VT-RACHEL set up. The VT-RACHEL device serves only static content, and so not all available modules can be used. For example the Khan Academy content is available in two forms - KA Lite and Khan Academy on a Stick (KAOS). The latter version is static content and can be used with VT-RACHEL devices.
The KAOS content can be viewed and downloaded in various languages using rsync from Jonathan Field's website here:
The content of the various libraries does change over time, so you may need to edit the top level index.html file to make sure the links to module content are correct. In general, each module directory contains an index.html file that provides access to the content.
The default home page contains a table of contents primarily for the English language modules. If you are using modules other than the standard English language ones, you may have to edit the home page to create links for these modules.
You can also add additional content by copying the appropriate files into the 'local' directory on the SD card.
You can load a range of files types that can be handled by your web browser, including HTML, PDF, TXT, JPG, OGG, MP3, MP4, MOV etc.
Option 3. Obtain RACHEL Project SD/USB memory
The RACHEL Project can supply 32GB USB memory devices pre-loaded with the content.
NOTE: The RACHEL project may change the content and file layout of their devices over time, so you may have to copy the module files from the supplied memory device to another device which has been set up as in Option 2 above.
You can get one memory device and copy the content on to additional devices to avoid having to download the large content files. The content licences allow you to freely copy.
The RACHEL Project store site is here:
1. The content on the 64GB devices offered by the RACHEL project is not suitable for use directly with the MP2. These devices are intended for use with the RPi.
2. You can see which modules are offered in the different languages, and preview the content here:
You can download the modules from this page using rsync.
3. The Khan Academy content is offered in two versions KA Lite and Khan Academy On a Stick (KAOS). The "KA Lite" version (as supplied on the 64GB memory devices) will not work on the MP2 directly - it requires the use of the RPi or similar device.
The KAOS static content available on the RACHEL 32GB SD cards and on the download page (http://dev.worldpossible.org/cgi/rachelmods.pl) will work directly on the MP2.
4. The RACHEL project SD card contains the operating system for an RPi in a second partition. This software is not used on the MP2 - only the static content in the "modules" directory is used.
Accessing the Internet
If you have an Internet service, you can use the MP2 to share it with connected devices, as well as serving the RACHEL content. In this way you can reduce the amount of data that has to be downloaded from the Internet connection as the RACHEL content is served locally.
To share an Internet connection, just connect the WAN port on the MP2 to an upstream modem/router/Internet connection with an Ethernet cable. The MP2 will obtain an IP address etc using DHCP from the upstream device.
Client devices connected to the MP2 will then be able to access the Internet via the upstream device.
There is a simplified administration web page available on the MP2.
You will not normally have to change any configuration unless you are operating in a complex environment with multiple devices in use.
To access the Admin page, point your browser to 'http://vtrachel/admin' and you will be prompted for a Username (admin) and password (rachel).
VT RACHEL Settings
This section allows you to set up an individual identity for the MP2 in case you are using multiple devices at the same site.
Simply set the VT RACHEL Number to a value between 1 and 99.
This number is automatically included in the SSID for the wifi access point so that clients can connect to individual MP2 devices. It also changes the IP address range and the wifi channel used. Only the three non-overlapping wifi channels (1, 6 and 11) are used.
You can also change the main part of the wifi SSID name and the wifi password.
When you have made the changes, click on the Save button at the bottom of the page.
When the screen refreshes, check that the settings are correct and click on the Reboot button, or power cycle the device and it will restart with the new settings.
In this section you can change the 'admin' account password by entering the new password twice and clicking on the Save Password button.
You can set the maximum number of Access Point connections that the MP2 will accept. This is used to prevent overloading on the system. The default setting is 35 which should allow the MP2 to work well in a classroom.
The MP2 will automatically set its internal clock from an upstream network with Internet access, and you set the local Timezone here.
The WAN Port setting is Ethernet by default, which sets up the WAN port on the MP2 ready to connect to an upstream network eg for Internet access.
Changing the setting to SECN Custom allows for manually setting up the router functions in the SECN configuration interface if required for advanced network arrangements.
There are links to the Firmware Upgrade page and to the SECN Configuration page which may be used if required.
Note: Advanced settings can be viewed on the SECN Configuration pages, but (in the default set up) any changes will not be saved.
This is intended to help prevent mis-configuration of the device in the field. The default configuration is appropriate for most simple classroom applications.
In order to be able to make advanced changes to the system configuration and save them, it is necessary to set the WAN Port setting to SECN Custom in the System Settings on the Admin page.
After making this change, click on Save and wait for the page to refresh, then click on the link for SECN Configuration which will show the full configuration pages.