Archive/Current Events/2009-07-15

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Sugar Digest

1. It was great to catch up with some old friends at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit. John (J5) Palmieri and Chris Blizzard, both of whom were part of the original Sugar team, were there, along with major contributors to the GNOME and KDE communities. Collabora was well represented, as were the Cairo and Gstreamer communities.

This was the first time that GUADEC and Akademy combined their summits into one congress. It was clear there is much more in common between the two major GNU/Linux desktop communities than there are differences. While I largely talked about Sugar and the interdependency between FLOSS and learning, I also used my keynote as an opportunity to draw attention to the need for: better SVG support; a unified approach to collaboration on the desktop; a better and unified datastore architecture; and an amplification of our collective efforts in internationalization. I tried to make the distinction between simplifying complex things and using simple tools to reach to complexity, and suggested that the current trends of the desktop accomplish neither goal. The latter, "learning-centric" approach should be our goal, since we take pleasure in complex things. I didn't have time to dwell on "the cloud", but Richard Stallman (rms) touched on the topic of Internet services in his talk. He saw them as a threat to freedom since the end user essentially cedes total control to the service provider. My issue is more narrow: we tend to be users, not creators of services. Yet there are many services that can amplify our ability to be expressive and engage in a critical dialog about that expression, so they have a role.

As usual, I used Sugar (and Turtle Art) to give my presentation. While most people had heard of Sugar, it seemed that few had actually seen it in action. The overall reaction was positive and we will undoubted get some new contributors as a result of this renewed exposure to the desktop community. (We already have a volunteer to work on the touch-screen interface.)

My keynote was sandwiched between Robert Lefkowitz (r0ml) and rms, who have markedly different positions re Free Software. I was sitting between the two of them at a post-talk press conference, which was—for me—entertaining. In regard to Sugar, rms acknowledged the point that learning can play an important role in appreciating, hence sustaining freedom—it was nice to make that connection. One concern r0ml raised was that there are powerful intermediaries between the developer and the user that are the real power brokers. I argued that Sugar on a Stick was an example of disintermediation in the context of schools—the IT department need not be involved at all.

A related point that r0ml made is that most people cannot program, so Free Software is a limited use to them. In response, rms said that they are still free to use it and redistribute it and even hire someone to make modifications. I went further, saying that they are free to learn to program and that the next generation will learn to program, since computation is our most powerful tool of expression. We owe it to them to help them achieve literacy.

It was a pleasure feeling the heat as I walked the kilometer along the promenade between the hotel and the auditorium after all the rain and cold we have had this spring and summer in Boston. Thanks are due to my host David Neary, who introduced me to a great tapas restaurant—the sardines were really tasty.

In the community

2. Representatives from Sugar Labs Colombia will be at the Free Software area in Campus Party Colombia this week. (Campus Party is the largest technology event in Colombia.) On Wednesday night, they will introduce Sugar Labs and the Sugar Labs Colombia Foundation at an one-hour conference, "OLPC y Sugar en Colombia Construyendo software para aprender a aprender." They'll be demonstrating Sugar on a Stick, Sugar LiveCDs, Sugar on a variety of hardware platforms, including the OLPC XO-1, the Intel Classmate, etc. (See webcast).

3. Squeakfest will be held in Los Angeles 10–12 August and in Porto Alegre 23–25 Julho.

4. There will be a Sugar track at the Free Software Week in Bolzano, Italy, the week of 9 November 2009. We will likely start the Sugar Hackfest the weekend before in order to accommodate the restricted schedules of some of our community members, e.g., students. Free Software Week (and South Tyrol Free Software Conference 2009) is sponsored by TIS innovation park.

5. Bastien Guerry reports that James Clayson is organizing a conference about Constructionism at the American University of Paris in 16–20 August 2010. Sugar Labs should consider how it could participate.

Tech Talk

6. Roadmaps: There are two roadmap discussions underway: Sucrose 0.86 and Sugar on a Stick V2. Both are detailed in the wiki. Your timely input would be appreciated.

Sugar Labs

7. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM).