Archive/Current Events/2009-06-10

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Sugar Digest

1. I am reminded of the power of IRC almost daily. Not only is it a place to ask a question, but it is a window into a wealth of discussion among domain experts trying to solve problems.

An analogy can be made to the "Engine Culture" described by David Cavallo in his PhD thesis: in rural Thailand, engineers would work on motorcycle engines en plein air, retrofitting them to solve the problem du jour—a rice mill, a water pump, etc.—while the village children would gather around, taking in everything. IRC provides a similar opportunity. Hanging out in #sugar presents a great opportunity to gather around and take in everything.

We should experiment with ways to broaden participation with this learning opportunity. Some thoughts:

In Sugar, we bundle an IRC Activity that defaults to #sugar.

  • Is there more we can do to encourage participation?
  • Should we be creating a more diverse set of channels populated by experts in other disciplines?
  • Perhaps even a channel per Activity?
  • Has anyone every written a bot to export an IRC channel to Twitter or Facebook? It might increase the reach of the discussion to a new audience.

2. Bruce Byfield wrote an article for "Activities and the move to context-oriented desktops" for LWN.net for which he interviewed Gary Martin. The article is subscriber-only, so I have extract a few quotes.

The concept of Activities originates in Sugar, the desktop designed for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. In Sugar, "Activities" is used as a synonym for "application." However, Gary C. Martin, one of the coordinators for Sugar's Activity Team, explains that the change is more than semantics or marketing. Because Activities run within the general collaborative frame of Sugar, using them is intended as a very different experience than running a standalone application on a traditional desktop.
For me, the key parts of Activities are that they combine concepts of document, executable, and collaboration state into a single, simple to use user interface. With the Activity state automatically kept in the Journal, it's easy to resume or reflect on past work, and, with realtime collaboration as a first class feature, peer sharing and group work is strongly encouraged.
In other words, Sugar's Activities are not just about running an application, or learning how to produce a spreadsheet or a presentation. Instead, they are conceived as part of the total learning experience that Sugar is designed to provide.

3. It is great to see some of the core ideas such as Activities that underly Sugar become more mainstream. This will help us to broaden our community and our reach. C. Scott Ananian blogged about Google Wave, a new collaboration model that has many goals in common with the Sugar collaboration model. Meanwhile, Benjamin Schwartz continues to make progress on his Google Summer of Code project, GroupThink, a completely decentralized, asynchronous text editing system.

4. Between interviews, Gary has been busy cranking out mock ups for a new Sugar splash screen.

5. All in a name: We have been having a discussion on the lists and in IRC about what to call the pending Sugar on a Stick release. The confusion lies in the gulf between the "stick", which will consist of Sugar Sucrose 0.84 and Fedora 11, both of which are essentially frozen, and the needs of a school to make a successful deployment, which includes requirements beyond the individual sticks themselves, e.g., a backup mechanism, documentation, etc. On the one hand, the developers have completed their work and are preparing to move on to the next phase: Sucrose 0.86 and Fedora 12. On the other hand, we don't want to set expectations that Sugar on a Stick is complete in regard to classroom settings, where we are only just beginning to do testing.

One proposed solution to this communications dichotomy is to use separate names for an individual stick and a collection of sticks used in a school setting. The best I've been able to come up with for the latter is Sugar Grove. Please share any thoughts you might have on naming with the SoaS and Marketing teams.

Help Wanted

6. My plea for help this week is in regard to orphaned activities. There is a list of activities with no active maintainer in the wiki. Adopting one or more of these activities would make a great summer project and be a practical way into Sugar development.

In the community

7. Sugar will be well represented at LinuxTag in Berlin at the end of June. There will be a Sugar Camp in Berlin following LinuxTag, so plan to stay in town for a few extra days. Details soon.

Tech Talk

8. David Van Assche reported over the weekend about the extraordinary progress made by the openSUSE team.

We've now managed to get pretty much every activity behaving, including the underlying journaling and collaboration. We've got more than 50 activities packaged and included in the live cd/usb/dvd/virtual appliance. By using the incredible flexibility and power that oBS gives us, with just 2 people working on this project, we've managed move forwards fast and efficiently. So we are proud to announce that you can download the latest releases here:

http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/Education/images/

9. Sebastian Dziallas continues to make great progress towards a Sugar on a Stick release at LinuxTag. There is another image to test, which includes, among other things, the updated gstreamer-plugins-espeak package (now on version 0.3.3).

10. Tony Forster has caught a new bug: screencasting. First, he got it to work from the command line:

./recordmydesktop

Press Ctrl-c to terminate.

copy-to-journal out.ogv -m video/ogg

Then he managed to patch the screencast activity such that it saves properly to the Journal (See Activities/Screencast).

11. Aleksey Lim has made an initial release of Library activity in order to get some feedback about UI and basic ideas of activity. Feedback welcome.

12. Mihai Sucan has a very detailed analysis of how to optimize the interactions between Gecko, CSS, and the OLPC-XO canvas, which uses a non-standard scaling algorithm. You can read about it here.

Sugar Labs

13. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see Image:2009-May-23-29-som.jpg).