Archive/Current Events/2009-11-23

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Sugar Digest

1. I am writing this update today while waiting to see if I will called to jury duty. I was originally supposed to report last week, but a deferment was granted since I was in Bolzano. I am not sure why I had never been called before—both my wife and children have served several times. But unlike the airport in Rome, there is at least a place to sit and plug in my laptop and get on-line while I wait, so here it goes.

I was in Rome overnight in transit from Bolzano, where we held a week-long Sugar Camp. Bolzano is in South Tyrol, in the Italian Alps. The autonomous regional government is a user of free software and is exploring ways in which they can engage the FOSS community more deeply. They have a regional development organization, TIS, that fosters FOSS projects in the region, provides infrastructure and support, and an annual Free Software Week. It was in the context of Free Software Week that we came to Bolzano.

Rather than meet at TIS, we (Simon Schampijer, Tomeu Vizoso, Dave Farning, Sean Daly, Stefan Unterhauser (Dogi), Carlo Falciola, Adam Holt, Christian Vanizette, and I) spent the week at CTS Luigi Einaudi, a technical school a short walk from the city center. We were given a comfortable room with Internet access, just upstairs from the school's coffee bar and next door to where the Gnome Zeitgeist team was meeting. Over the course of the week, we interacted with teachers, students, developers, and a variety of people in the region who have an interest in Sugar.

We had a busy week. My typical day was to get up at 6:00, go down stairs for an early breakfast with David, who would have already been up for at least an hour, take a 20-minute walk to the school, arriving at 8:00, in time for the first espresso of the day. We'd write code, discuss ideas, brainstorm, and write more code until 20:00, at which point we'd make a plan for dinner—usually a pizza or some knudel and the local weizenbier or a glass of Lagrein. Somehow or other, we would never manage to get back to the hostel until after midnight. Pizza, Python, and friends, surrounded by the Dolomites—not a bad way to spend the week.

We made progress on the roadmap for 0.88, having File:Ideas 0.88 0.90.pdf. The themes that rose to the top were: a simplified collaboration model; resolution of some outstanding issues regarding the Home View, e.g., how to best launch new versus resume activities; and some changes to the Journal—possibly the incorporation of versions and a better integration of the Journal into the activity workflow, e.g., making it possible to modify the description field while the activity is open. Other themes include accessibility and testing.

Simon organized the discussions through the week. He kept us focused and productive. He also got some hacking in, spending time working through many of the issues associated with providing global support for spell-check. In doing this, he'll have laid out the framework for providing other global services.

Tomeu spend most of his week being interrupted by people asking him questions. (Five minutes of Tomeu time usually was enough to keep me busy for a few hours.) But he did manage to make progress on his work on Python introspection. This work will lead to a much more efficient use of Python modules in Sugar.

David and Dogi (working with Bernie and Aleksey from afar) did an overhaul of some of our back-end systems, which had been becoming stressed as more and more people are using Sugar. (For example, we've already surpassed 1.5-million downloads from It was just a few weeks ago that we reached the 1-million milestone.) They have also stream-lined the process for setting up local mirrors. We encourage you to set up a mirror in your region. (Argentina and Paraguay have recently set up mirrors.)

Carlo helped us in drafting a set of guidelines by which third parties might work with Sugar Labs in establishing various value-added services to the Sugar user community. We will be discussing these guidelines over the next few weeks. We also spent time with Patrick Ohnewein from TIS to discuss opportunities specific to South Tyrol.

Sean and Christian discussed a number of different opportunities regarding marketing. One idea that emerged is The Sugar Journal, along the lines of The Perl Journal, which would include articles written by teachers, developers, and other community members.

For my part, I spent most of the week sketching out some ideas. I coded up a color selector for both the control panel (it has changed a bit since I made the screencast) and the initial start screen and started coding up an activity toolbar widget for accessing the journal detail view from within an activity (as opposed to as you exit an activity), and I learned a bit more about Cairo (it uses a display list) from Tomeu in my efforts to refactor the turtle graphics within Turtle Art.

We had a series of really good discussions with the Zeitgeist team. Their work definitely has long-term implications for the Journal and they expressed interest in making their work relevant to our needs.

We also got some help on the Record activity from Daniel Siegel, the author of Cheese diagnosed the problems we are having with Blueberry (apparently there is a Cairo bug in Fedora 12) and on the OLPC XO 1.5 hardware (there is a missing driver).

2. Before heading to Bolzano, I made a quick trip to the West Coast to give a keynote that the QT Developers Day conference. Lots of enthusiasm for Sugar and lots of work being put into Qt on small-footprint devices.

3. Eric Bachard has announced the availability of the Sugar port of OOo4Kids (Open Office for Kids). A .xo bundle should be available for download from soon.

4. We had a Sugar Labs oversight board meeting last Friday in which we discussed mailing list policies. The meeting log is available in the wiki. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, 20 November 2009 at 15:00 UTC (10:00 EST).

5. The Spanish-language version of Sdenka Z. Salas Pilco's guide to using Sugar in the classroom is available on the wiki (Please see File:La Laptop XO en el Aula.pdf).

In the community

6. OLPC Germany will meet in Hamburg on November 22. Please see Mitgliederversammlung 2009. Everyone interested in OLPC and Sugar is invited!

7. OLPC-San Francisco and OLPC NYC are planning community summits on November 21. Please see OLPC SF Community Summit 2009.

Tech Talk

8. Sebastian Dziallas announced that after considering input from the various teams involved in Sugar Labs and the Sugar on a Stick creation, we're shifting the release schedule as follows:

2009-11-17 Fedora 12 Final Release
2009-11-29 Image Gold Master Creation & Upload
2009-12-08 Sugar on a Stick (Blueberry) Public Release

Please consider Sugar on a Stick V2 to be in freeze.

Sugar Labs

9. Gary Martin has generated SOMs from the past two weeks of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM and SOM).