Archive/Current Events/2017-09-12

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Sugar Digest

1. Marvin Minsky was fond of saying that there is nothing more dangerous than when a roomful of people all agree with each other. We don't have to worry about that in the Sugar community!!! Marvin also observed that "it's very important to have friends who can solve problems you can't." The diversity of our community is its strength.

Another Marvin quote relevant to our current quest to define ourselves as a community: "Our present culture may be largely shaped by this strange idea of isolating children's thought from adult thought. Perhaps the way our culture educates its children better explains why most of us come out as dumb as they do, than it explains how some of us come out as smart as they do." As Laura Vargas put it recently, Sugar Labs is a community "where you can learn how to design, develop and deploy high-quality Free Software." Within our community, children and adults are working together.

2. Sam Parkinson is our new release manager. Sam, a former GCI winner from Australia, has been responsible for many of the patches to the Sugar toolkit over the past few releases and has also been one of our most prelific code reviewers. Martin Abente, our release manager for the past four releases, has agreed to mentor Sam during the transition. Tip of the hat to Martin for all of his contributions and continued support.

3. Mariah Noelle Villarreal just got back from the Google Code-in reunion, where she represented Sugar Labs. She had a chance to meet Ezequiel and Piotr, our two winners, and spend time with members of the other participating projects. Mariah brought multiple copies of Sugar on a Stick to hand out and reports that there was a positive reception, especially among some of the parents in attendance. She also voiced some disappointment with the degree of awareness of Software Libre among attendees. FWIW, Devin Ulibarri and I are working on a new paper regarding the importance of Software Libre to education. Stay tuned.

4. I just got back from a trip to Santiago, Chile, where I was hosted by the education division of Fundación Chile. (Cecilia Rodriguez Alcala Garcia, formally of Educa Paraguay, was responsible for my invitation to run some workshops and give a keynote address at Creo Chile.) The theme of my workshops was programming as a vehicle for engaging in critical thinking. I introduced Turtle Blocks and Music Blocks first to a team of engineers from throughout the foundation, then to an executive group, then to a "hacker" group attending the Creo Chile event, and finally to a group of children and their parents. I was assisted by Andrea Vasquez Garcia, without whom I would have been lost. In addition, I participated in a workshop run by a local rap artist, Nelson Bobadilla Alvarado, and an educator, Francisca Petrovich Ursic. We did a collaborative, interactive Music Blocks program, whereby we could programmatically participate in the performance. A bit crude, but I learned a lot in the process. My keynote, which I have uploaded to File:FchBender2016.pdf, focused on Sugar and the role of Software Libre in education.

In the workshop for executives, I was challenged to write a Turtle program to calculate the expected value of the number of coin flips required to get three heads or three tails in a row. My response can be seen at [1].

One sub-goal of my trip was to seek advice regarding a reference machine for Sugar. Alas, I was not yet able to get a definitive answer, as the foundation does not directly distribute hardware and the ministry of education has a wide variance in the types of machines they distribute. But I hope to get some feedback on this topic in the coming weeks.

While I was in Santiago, Chile defeated Mexico in the Copa América. I credited the win to Sugar (and the Chilean futbol shirt I was wearing). Hopefully it will mean that Sugar will find a warn reception in Chile.

5. Google Summer of Code is well underway. Mentors are writing mid-term evaluations this week. Be sure to check out the great work being done by our interns, including [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], and [7].

6. On the flight back from Santiago, I wrote a Python script to convert glif files into Turtle Block projects. (Tip of the hat to Eli Heuer for providing me some sample glif files.) The results are quite fun (See [8]). Next up, a version where each knot and control point is represented by a turtle, and thus the glyph will be editable.

In the Community

7. Gary Stager has written a nice tribute to Cynthia Solomon in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Maker Movement.

8. Please join us every 1st Friday of the month at UTC 1900 on #sugar-meeting.

Tech Talk

9. Sam has announced the second release leading up to Sugar 0.110. Recent changes include:

  • James Cameron fixed Gtk 3.6 compatibility and an edge case with bundle erasure
  • Utkarsh Tiwari added a WiFi password visibility toggle
  • Abhijit Patel added a PopWindow api for sugar toolkit
  • Sebastian Silva fixed Broadway compatibility for `sugar-activity`
  • The smooth animations feature landed
  • Git submodules are now supported by the bundlebuilder
  • Improved Gtk 3.20 support
  • Misc bug/interface fixes

Sam has been busy updating the API documentation and is soliciting feedback. Also, Sam has updated Fedora COPR with the new versions of the Sugar packages. Tarballs for sugar, sugar-toolkit-gtk3 and sugar-artwork are in the usual places on the download server [9].

10. Tom Gilliard reports the availability of Sugar spins for Fedora24 (x86_64, i386).

Sugar Labs

11. Please visit our planet.