Archive/Current Events/2008-10-13

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Sugar Digest

1. Peer-to-peer editing: After my call last week for a social-networking site for peer-to-peer editing, I was directed by Joshua Pritikin to the Peer Editing Exchange.

I tried it out and got good and timely feedback regarding my copy (a Letter to the Editor):

What would Josh Billings say about Gov. Palin?
The great American humorist Josh Billings once said: "The problem
ain't what you don't know, it's what you know that just ain't
so." Governor Palin has Billings's Billings' folksy charm. But charm, but gosh darnit, darn it,
her problems include both what she don't know and what she knows
that ain't so. McCain has shown reckless judgment in choosing her as a
VP candidate. It may get him elected, but since we will live with
this decision long after the election, it weighs ominously on the
prospects of a McCain administration.

Alas, the Globe didn't publish my letter. (My apologies to those who were offended by the example that I used from the Peer Editing Exchange. In retrospect, I should not have mixed politics with my Sugar Digest postings. Please note that all of the opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Sugar Labs, as far as I know, has no official position on the US elections and is not affiliated with any particular party. Whatever the outcome of the US election this November, let’s hope that the new president makes learning and freedom priorities. --Walter 20:04, 6 October 2008 (UTC))

The workflow is reasonable, but ideally, it would be integrated into a blog tool chain where the "Publish" button us replaced with a "Send to Editor" button. What is the best free software blog tool?

2. Narrative: Bryan Barry and Michael Stone have initiated a discussion about inadequacies in the Sugar tool chain (See [1] and [2]).

Sugar offers an excellent mode for discovery but no excellent way to
manipulate narratives. Both discovery and narrative are essential for
learning.—Bryan Barry
This statement seems to me both indisputable and damning; if true, it
strikes to the core of the claim that Sugar is appropriate for learning.
—Michael Stone

I questioned the dichotomy between manipulating narratives and modes for discovery. When I think about Sugar, I think about its providing a scaffolding for discovering, expressing, critiquing, and reflecting. Manipulating narrative seems to cut across all of these area (as does collaboration). We don't yet support (natively) much in the way of organizing data to make an analysis or argument. But it seems overstated to say that these deficiencies mean Sugar is not appropriate for learning. There is certainly a paucity of lesson plans developed around Sugar to help teachers answer the question of how one best leverages the Sugar toolkit for learning. And undoubtedly, there is a dearth of readily packaged and categorized content. But I don't see these as fundamental flaws in Sugar as much as a place where more effort needs to be invested; Sugar is reaching a point of maturity where such investments make sense. Sugar is an appropriate component of what needs to be a larger learning ecosystem.

3. Trying Sugar at school: Caroline Meeks and I went to a computer lab at a Boston public school to see what constraints we might encounter in using some of the various LiveCD and LiveUSB efforts underway. Our goal of is to make it easy for teachers to try Sugar in situations where the school computers are locked down or cannot be reimaged. Another use case is for children to use Sugar at school and at home using a LiveUSB in cases where 1-to-1 solutions are not available: the USB key "becomes the Sugar computer".

They school had a room full of Compaq Pentium 4 "EVO" desktops with 256M of DRAM. We tried a variety of LiveCDs (with and without Sugar). Bottom line: we have a ways to go before we have a turnkey solution. We had trouble running most of the distributions we tried (with and without Sugar). Puppy Linux was the most promising in that it boot consistently and seemed stable running as a LiveCD.

Sebastian Dziallas has built a slimmer version of the Fedora/Sugar Live spin and is working on getting it integrated into a Windows-based installer. We look forward to trying it.

4. Nepal evaluation: A summary of a formative evaluation of OLPC Project Nepal is online. Uttam Sharma, a doctoral student at at the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota carried out the evaluation, which has suggestions for how to improve the Sugar/one-to-one laptop deployment process (See a self-organizing map of the report).

5. Pythagoras: There is a nice summary of the various approaches to exploring the Pythagorean theorem in TurtleArt, Etoys, and Dr Geo.

6. Sugar logo: I've updated the wiki with the new logo (thanks to Christian Schmidt). We had asked by OLPC to stop using the XO logo—a request we have complied with.

Community jams, meet ups, and meetings

7. Meeting schedule: I've set up a public Google calendar for scheduling Sugar meetings. Please see Meetings for links to the XML, iCal, and HTML versions of the calendar, or search for "Sugar Labs meetings" from the Google calendar interface. If you'd like write permission on the calendar, please send me an email.

8. Spanish book sprint: We'll be holding a translation sprint for the Sugar FLOSS Manual in Lima, Perú on 20, 21 October at the Universidad San Martin, Faculta de Ingeniería. (Av. La Fontana - Urbanización Santa Patricia - Distrito: La Molina) Please contact Rafael Enrique Ortiz Guerrero <dirakx AT gmail.com> for more details.

9. Traduction de la documentation: Samy Boutayeb reports that OLPC France has launched a French localize project.

Tech Talk

10. Gconf: Simon Schampijer has been working to moving to gconf to store the Sugar settings. Memory consumption looks good from a first glance. The old profile will be converted on update and the old profile API will be kept around during the transition phase.

11. Activity updates: There are updates available for:

Jukebox-2.xo
ImageViewer-2.xo

Sugar Labs

12. Self-organizing map (SOM): Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see Image:2008-Sept-27-Oct-3-som.jpg).