Archive/Current Events/2009-01-19

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Sugar Digest

1. The announcement of changes at One Laptop per Child (OLPC) this week dominated the discussions on the lists, IRC, and in the hallway conversations at FUDCon and XO Camp. While it came as no surprise that OLPC was going to focus its efforts on deployments, largely leaving engineering, including software development, to third parties, the abruptness of the transition and its direct impact on so many talented and dedicated people was a surprise, even within the context of global economic upheaval.

I'd like to take this opportunity to extend say thank you to the engineers who have worked so tirelessly on the project for their leadership, both those whom I had the pleasure of working with when I was at OLPC—Eben Eliason, Jim Gettys, Scott Anahain, Michael Stone, and Henry Hardy—as well as many others—those who joined OLPC after I left—whom I learned to respect through my interactions with them while wearing my Sugar Labs hat. Having spoken with many of you, I know you will remain active in the Sugar community, even as you seek new opportunities.

One of the reasons we started Sugar Labs nine months ago was that we anticipated these changes at OLPC. It was clear to many of us at the time that the Sugar learning platform could and should be made more widely available and that in order for Sugar to grow, it would have to become a community project, without extensive ties or dependencies on any single company or organization. The Sugar Labs community is expanding. The downsizing of OLPC's engineering efforts, while significant to OLPC deployments in the short term, is actually a catalyst for a needed change. It compels the deployments to be more self-sufficient and more interconnected. Indeed, one direct consequence of the events of last week is the acceleration of plans for local Sugar Labs around the world. A decentralize approach, where engineering investments in support of Sugar and learning are made locally, is one of our great strengths.

Short-term contingency plans for supporting the current OLPC deployments were discussed at FUDCon and are a topic of discussion at XO Camp. While not all of the details of how the OLPC 9.1 release will be managed, the overall direction that is being taken is one that relies more directly on the upstream Fedora community. There remains at OLPC a core engineering team that will be able to liaise with Fedora (and Sugar Labs) to make sure that an OLPC-XO-1-specific dependencies are met.

Long term, OLPC will undoubtedly directly leverage the efforts of the Sugar community as it continues down the path of integration with the various upstream GNU/Linux distributions. Having Sugar run everywhere only enhances their position.

2. Meanwhile, we've all been busy this week, using FUDCon and XO Camp as an opportunity to meet face to face with many of of colleagues. Feature freeze Sugar 0.84 is at the end of this week and we have already begun discussion about our goals for 0.86. The various Sugar Labs community teams have been active. Christian Marc Schmidt continues to make great progress on a new landing site for Greg Dekoenigsberg is taking a lead role in the Sugar Labs Engineering Community (Caroline Meeks, David Farning, and I are reaching out to a number of potential partners to fill Greg's shoes on the Marketing Team.

Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings

3. There are numerous posting on the FUDConF11 site regarding what we accomplished at FUDCon this past weekend.

4. You can follow along with the events of XO Camp here.

5. We are still looking for someone to represent Sugar Labs at SCALE in LA in February.

6. I will be a Sugar Labs representation at LCA next week. Mel Chua will also be traveling from Boston to Tasmania for the conference. We are looking forward to seeing our colleagues in Hobart.

7. OLPC Learning CLub DC will be holding a Family XO Mesh Meet up on Saturday, January 17th, 2009 (See [1]).

Help Wanted

8. Wade Brainerd had started a Sugar Labs Activity Team to develop and maintain the activities available for Sugar. The team encourages independent developers to write activities and will support them in those efforts.

Our goal is to ensure that Sugar provides a complete set of high-quality educational, collaborative, constructivist activities.

9. We are still seeking help in regard to copy and illustrations for the new site. One project we have in mind is a comicbook-like narrative about Sugar to be featured on the static site. Also, we'd love stories from the field—from teachers, parents, and students, about their experiences and perspectives on Sugar. It is important that we communicate our message more widely and in language that is more approachable to the non-technical community.

Tech Talk

10. .xo vs .rpm: One interesting discussion at FUDCon was in regard to the format for Sugar Activities. You can follow the discussion in detail here.

11. Tomeu Vizoso has an illustrated blog (also in the planet) about all that he has been up to in the past weeks:

  • reviewed and pushed Ryan Kabir's work on moving most of the actions from the palette of the Home View XO icon onto the Frame so that they are always accessible, regardless of which view you are in.
  • worked on the file transfer UI
  • added a utility class (util.TempFilePath) that hopefully will remove the temp file leaks we have been suffering in past releases
  • worked on removable devices in the Journal (They no longer use an index or write to the device without user action)
  • changed the Home View to display the last entries for every activity and resume by default when the icon is clicked.

12. I've released Verison 1.0 of a portfolio tool for Sugar TAPortfolio-1.xo. Preliminary documentation can be found on Activities/TAExperimental. TAPortfolio is a presentation Activity that lets you create multimedia slide shows from material retrieved from your Journal. The basic idea is to import objects from your Journal, along with descriptions and preview images, into slide templates, not unlike Powerpoint, and then show a presentation by stepping through them. TA Portfolio includes the typical major functions of presentation software: an editor that allows text to be inserted and formatted (this is largely incomplete), a method for inserting images (from the Journal), and a slide-show system to display the content. What makes it a bit different than tools such as Powerpoint is that you can program your slides using TurtleArt blocks. TAPortfolio also has an export-to-HTML function so that presentations can be viewed outside of the Sugar environment. Feedback appreciated. (Version 2.0 should be available shortly.)

13. Wolfgang Rohrmoser reports that Version 090110 of the XO-LiveCD is available for download from:

This release is still based on the stable 8.2 build:

but has significant improvements for the Live-System runtime environment:

  • A new Content/ directory tree improves the selection of activities, content collections and language packs as well as selection of additional RPM packages
  • There is a new pre-configured home/olpc directory tree packed as squashfs-image. The current version contains more than 50 activities.
  • Improved hardware detection and additional boot options especially to get more graphic cards working
  • Updated documentation, the topics "how to create a bootable USB Pen" and "how to install the Live-System on hard disc" have been improved

Further information is available in the PDF document:

For discussion and feedback Wolfgang invites you to join the mailing list:

Kurt Gramlich reports that if Wolfgang's server is overloaded, you will find a copy of the LiveCD here:

14. Hilaire Fernandes announced an alpha bundle of for Sugar. ( is a research project to build a platform for interactive teaching and monitoring the Internet. It is free and cross-licensed MIT.) There are about 40 "etayages" (a type of scaffolding) and all in all more than 150 exercises.

The bundle can be downloaded directly from:

Sugar Labs

15. Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see [[:Image:2009-January-3-9-som.jpg |SOM]]).