Development Team/Jhbuild

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Sugar-jhbuild will automatically download the latest of Sugar's dependencies as well as Sugar itself directly from their source repositories, rather than relying on source packages that may have become stale. Below are generic instructions on how to use jhbuild to get up and running with Sugar.

Compatible platforms

Jhbuild is quite demanding with regard to the packages and setup for the host Linux distribution. As a result there are only a few Linux distributions which are known to work with it.

See the distribution-specific instructions for information about whether your distribution is currently supported. Other distros which have a recent-enough release (e.g. including the latest stable GNOME release) can be supported if someone is willing to maintain the dependencies for that distro release (in config/sysdeps).

Check distro-specific instructions

Many distributions have some quirks that need to be catered for and there are different package managing tools in use, so please check the page for your distribution before proceeding:

Distro packaging guidelines vary, so please don't worry if jhbuild requires twice/half the packages in one distro that it did on another.

Some general advice

Note: Like most other Unix applications, sugar-jhbuild should never be run as root. It may easily screw up your whole system and/or break in unexpected ways if you do. If you get any permissions error, there's something wrong with your installation that should be fixed.

If you're stuck or if you get strange errors, feel free to ask for help on the #sugar IRC channel or the sugar-devel mailing list. Don't waste too much time chasing strange problems: usually it's caused by some basic, easy to fix problem. You might also want to check the bug tracker to see if it's a known issue.


The sugar-jhbuild command is a Python script, so you need the Python interpreter.
To get the source code of sugar-jhbuild itself and many other Sugar packages you need the git command-line tool from the distributed version control system of the same name. In many distributions the minimal package you need to install is "git-core".
A few packages (as of January 2010, only squeak and part of etoys) do not use git, and you need the svn command-line tool from the Subversion version control system to get their source code.

These should be enough to run sugar-jhbuild itself on a typical Linux installation. Running sugar-jhbuild depscheck (see below) will probably list dozens of additional required packages.

Check out sugar-jhbuild

In a suitable directory (i.e. usually your user's home directory i.e. /home/yourusername/~), execute

git clone git:// sugar-jhbuild

You'll know if it worked if you get something like this:

localhost ~]$ git clone git:// sugar-jhbuild
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/denny/sugar-jhbuild/.git/
remote: Counting objects: 4688, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (1998/1998), done.
remote: Total 4688 (delta 2759), reused 4488 (delta 2638)
Receiving objects: 100% (4688/4688), 1.86 MiB | 197 KiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (2759/2759), done.

Build sugar base system and its dependencies

Go into the directory you created and start the build. It takes about 30 minutes on a 1.6ghz machine with a wireless G connection.

cd sugar-jhbuild
./sugar-jhbuild update
./sugar-jhbuild depscheck

Install everything depscheck complains about. Read the distro-specific instructions for how to do this. Now build all Sugar packages in sugar-jhbuild:

./sugar-jhbuild build
Here are videos of the process.

If everything worked out fine, you can now run Sugar. If it doesn't run or you have other problems read on.

Dealing with dependencies

sugar-jhbuild depscheck will print a list of required packages. They are part of the distribution you're using and should be installed using your favourite package manager (e.g. aptitude/synaptic for Debian, yum for Fedora).

If you notice that there's a package missing from the ./sugar-jhbuild depscheck output (i.e. it's required for Sugar to work properly and not installed, but depscheck does not mention it), please file a bug report (login required first, but currently no automatic redirection to login page) against the sugar-jhbuild Component in the Sugar Labs bug tracker.

Some tips

A useful sequence of commands for building Sugar, from the Sugar mailing list: (Note that build without -n will update first anyway, so run update separately if you want to see what changed more easily.)

./sugar-jhbuild update
./sugar-jhbuild build -n -a --clean
./sugar-jhbuild run sugar-emulator

The use of -a and --clean flags are needed when a file is removed so that is run. Note: Some packages, e.g., squeak and etoys, don't have a make clean. Just ignore the error.

If build breaks after an update

The packages in sugar-jhbuild are the latest development versions, so you not only get the latest features, but also the latest breakages. The dependencies may change often, too, so be sure to run

./sugar-jhbuild depscheck

regularly and install the missing packages.

If your problem persists for more than a day (and even though you installed all missing packages), please file a bug report.

Run Sugar

Note: if you have a non-US keyboard, please follow the instructions on running Sugar in a VNC session instead.

This command launches Sugar in a nested X session:

./sugar-jhbuild run sugar-emulator

To set debug variables, modify ~/.sugar/debug (this file will be created on first run of Sugar).

Note that due to a bug in Xephyr your keyboard might not work as expected. A partial workaround is to run setxkbmap <keymap name> by adding this command line to ~/.sugar/debug. Most "regular" keys should work fine after that, some "special keys" (e.g. cursor up/down) might still refuse to operate as intended. The "keymap name" usually is a two letter country code, e.g. "de" for german or "fr" for french.

Running sugar in a VNC session

Many users and developers have reported problems with running sugar-emulator because it uses Xephyr. As an alternative, you can run sugar in a VNC session. To accomplish this create a ~/.vnc/xstartup file containing the code below:

exec ~/sugar-jhbuild/sugar-jhbuild run dbus-launch --exit-with-session sugar

Note: The above code assumes that sugar-jhbuild is installed in the ~/sugar-jhbuild/ directory.

Now, you may run Sugar by creating a VNC session and accessing it using a VNC viewer. E.g.:

vncserver :1
vncviewer :1

Run an individual activity

Within sugar, e.g. in Terminal, this command launches an individual activity for testing:

sugar-launch bundle_name

You will see debug output appearing in Terminal.

Configure the mode and resolution of Xephyr

You can make Xephyr run fullscreen or specify a size (in pixels):

./sugar-jhbuild run sugar-emulator --fullscreen
./sugar-jhbuild run sugar-emulator --dimensions 1200x900
./sugar-jhbuild run sugar-emulator --dimensions 832x624

The default size of 800x600 is currently the minimum that should work without issues. I.e., activities should be tested to work in this mode (and in others as well). 832x624 approximates the display proportions of the XO laptops, closely matching the toolbar, for example.

Other commands

JHBuild has several other commands that can be useful for development. You can get an overview with:

./sugar-jhbuild --help-commands

From within Sugar

Once you have Sugar running, here are some useful commands (these are not specific to sugar-jhbuild or sugar-emulator, but work in all Sugar sessions):

  • Alt+Shift+F makes the frame appear and disappear
  • Ctrl-Q quits an activity
  • Alt+Shift+Q quits Sugar
  • Alt+Shift+O opens the search
  • Alt+Shift+R rotates the screen


To customize the build you can modify the configuration file named sugar.jhbuildrc or create a copy of it and pass --file /path/to/your/new/config to sugar-jhbuild.

Compiling using 2 or more CPU cores

Before running ./sugar-jhbuild build, append this to sugar.jhbuildrc:

os.environ["MAKEFLAGS"] = "-j4 -l4"

Adjust the numbers to be twice the number of CPU cores in your machine.

Using ccache to speed up rebuilds

To speed up full rebuilds of sugar-jhbuild (i.e. running ./sugar-jhbuild build after removing the source directory) you can use ccache. Install it and append the following to sugar.jhbuildrc:

os.environ["CCACHE_DIR"] = os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "ccache")
os.environ["PATH"] = "/usr/lib/ccache:"+os.environ["PATH"]

Adjust /usr/lib/ccache to the path used by your distribution and create the ccache directory (inside your sugar-jhbuild checkout).

Building specific version of Sugar

To build a specific version of Sugar do the following:

  • Open sugar.jhbuildrc and find line:
modulesets = 'sugar'
  • Set this to:
modulesets = 'sugar-0.84'

customizing the latter to your specific needs.

  • Copy sugar.jhbuildrc to ~/.jhbuildrc
  • ./sugar-jhbuild


  • Copy all your sugar-jhbuild to sugar-jhbuild-0.84 (for example) or check the repositories out again.
  • rm -r install source/
  • If you want to keep the source directory to save bandwidth, you need to be extra careful: delete all unpacked tarballs and cleanup all git repositories with git clean -d -a.
  • Don't forget to delete or modify .jhbuildrc after building the specific version of Sugar if you still want to receive the latest updates from the repositories, OR
  • Create another user.

Useful Internal Links

External links

Known issues

Known issue with hulahop

  • hulahop stopped building because I had installed a more recent version of xulrunner on my machine. The workaround was to rm -rf ~/sugar-jhbuild/source/hulahop and then run update and build again.

Dual-Booting F17 and F14

Install F17, using a LiveUSB. This would erase all the previous existing OSes (if any).

  • Start "Install to Hard Drive".
  • Choose "Use the entire space", with "Use LVM" UNCHECKED. Note that this is important, since using the LVM option prevents the drive to be partitioned later for the two Fedoras.
  • When asked for bootloader-installation position, choose "MBR in /dev/sda".
  • Installation should complete successfully.

Re-install F17, using a LiveUSB (but this time on a dedicated partition)

  • Start "Install to Hard Drive".
  • Choose "Create Custom Layout".
  • Delete "dev/sda4" (extended-partition-root). This should also automatially delete "/dev/sda5" (extended-partition-leaf).
  • Now, select on the "Free" chunk (mine was 500 GB).
    • Click "Edit".
    • Select "/" as the mount-point.
    • Choose an appropriate space (I chose 300 GB).
    • Click "OK".
    • This sould create "/dev/sda4" as the extended-partition-root, and "/dev/sda5" (worth 300 GB of space) as extended-partition-leaf.
  • Click "Next".
  • When asked for bootloader-installation position, choose "MBR in /dev/sda".
  • Installation should complete successfully.

Install F14, using a LiveUSB (on a dedicated partition)

  • Start "Install to Hard Drive".
  • Choose "Create Custom Layout".
  • Now, select on the "Free" chunk (mine was about 175 GB).
    • Click "Edit".
    • Select "/" as the mount-point.
    • Choose an appropriate space (I chose 175 GB).
    • Click "OK".
    • This sould create "/dev/sda6" as the extended-partition-leaf.
  • Click "Next".
  • When asked for bootloader-installation position, choose "First sector of /dev/sda6".
  • Installation should complete successfully.

Enabling dual-boot

  • At the moment, with all LiveUSBs removed, I was able to boot into F17 only. I could not see any option to boot into F14.
  • Boot into F17.
  • Mount F14 on a directory.
[ajay@localhost ~]$ su -

[root@localhost ~]# mkdir qq

[root@localhost ~]# mount -t ext4 /dev/sda6 qq

[root@localhost ~]# ls -l qq/boot
total 19064
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root   114968 Oct 18  2010 config-
drwxr-xr-x. 3 root root     4096 Oct 22  2010 efi
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root   166756 May 25  2010 elf-memtest86+-4.10
drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root     4096 Aug  5  2010 grub
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root 12562626 Jun 15 15:59 initramfs-
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root  1106254 Oct 22  2010 initrd-plymouth.img
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root   165080 May 25  2010 memtest86+-4.10
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root  1681526 Oct 18  2010
-rwxr-xr-x. 1 root root  3696448 Oct 18  2010 vmlinuz-
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