[Sugar-news] Sugar Digest 2008-12-01

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Mon Dec 1 17:00:46 EST 2008

=== Sugar Digest ===

1. Bonjour: I gave the keynote at the first Netbook World Summit in
Paris (See [[Presentations]]). The opening welcome was delivered by
Hervé Yahi, CEO of Mandriva, and indeed Mandriva was well represented
at the congress. Yahi asked, "How big will the netbook market become?"
He (and almost every subsequent speaker) broke the market down into
two categories: a primary tool in the emerging market and a second
device in the developed world. In my talk, I suggested that the
netbook was at the forefront of the emerging cultural and
technological battle between telephony and computing—i.e., the culture
of service and the culture of creation. Inviting children into the
community of learners and problem-solvers is ''the'' opportunity
afforded by giving them access to computation and "learning as a

OLPC's Bastien Guéry (of Haiti-deployment fame; soon moving to
Lebanon) and Patrick Ferran, director of a educational netbook
company, Gdium.com (a MIPS platform running Mandriva), held a panel
discussion on education. Collaboration was the hot topic—the Sugar
model is attractive even in the developed world. And, as always, how
to change the culture of learning in schools remains a conundrum.

The netbook hardware session featured a panel with representatives
from ASUS, Samsung, Qualcomm, Lenovo, and MSI. ASUS is interested in
offering a network bundle with web storage and Linux application
bundles. Their original idea was the laptop as a second PC, but now
they are also targeted to the first PC market. Samsung has entered the
netbook market recently and has big, but ambiguous plans. They are
also thinking hard about connectivity. (It is ironic that roughly
15-years ago, when I was on the IBM mobile computing advisory board, I
tried to convince them to make connectivity a product differentiator.
Their response was to sell off their Global connectivity business.
Sigh.) Qualcomm, which has 30% of the handset market, announced a new
chipset to compete in the netbook space. Their chips provide
connectivity and the multimedia functionality in phones. The always
connect/always on nature of a phone is the kind of experience that
they are trying to bring to the netbook market. Its focus is a mobile
device—moving towards phone-like experience. Lenovo is game—they are
thinking in terms of corporate buyers for a variety of categories,
including education. MSI is a French OEM that makes the Wind product.
They are explicitly targeting education in the emerging market. Their
Wind Box is a fanless, screenless brick, which may have potential for
a low-end school server.

The moderator asked what are the criteria for choosing for the OS on
these devices: Lenovo sees predominately new users to date. (Although
the world-wide economic slowdown is playing a role as well.) Their
education customers are Linux-focused; consumers are asking for both.
Qualcomm sees this as a new market—the best of the wireless world and
the best of the laptop world—a new device. Samsung thinks the user
wants something simple for the second PC—web browsing. The first-PC
market is looking for "standard" systems (XP).  ASUS is also splitting
their strategy between emerging and mature markets. Everyone agreed
that netbooks are not cannibalizing the traditional notebook market
(but they are having an impact on price). But also everyone seems to
be drifting towards larger screens, a hard disk, and Windows—along
with a higher price. "10 inches is where the market is going." The
retail market is asking for XP, but the professional and vertical
markets, e.g., education are asking for Linux.

The follow-on panel was pretty depressing: Are netbooks mobile device
or PC replacements. Mozilla opined always-on connectivity is
essential, the browser is ''the'' application and nothing else is
important, e.g., the OS doesn't matter and running non-web-based
applications is "old think". In contradiction to this, "Linux has
momentum and it is a place for innovation; you innovate because you
can." [http://www.thinkgos.com/ gOS], who makes "Cloud", a Linux
distribution that focuses on a browser, with an application "doc" in
the browser. It is a "dual boot" machine, but the Linux distribution
is instant on to a browser. Xandros argued that "Economics drives
adoption of Linux from the OEM perspective"; but now there is a race
in the application space. There is a 20-Euro difference in the OEM
price between XP and Linux, but that is not enough to convince an OEM
to switch away from the mainstream. The netbook started as a new type
of device, but now it is marketed as a mini-laptop, which is why
Windows is getting a larger market share: the consumer as consumer.

The final panel featured service providers. SFR (www.sfr.com) has its
base of customers using their services for web access from mobile
phones; they have recently expanded into the netbook (specifically,
the eeePC market) by offering 3G connectivity. Comwax (www.comwax.com)
offers a touch-based ("iPhone on a notebook") user
experience—"always-on social networks" being the buzz phrase most
often heard at the meeting. They tout lots of Sugar-like features: 1
click; unified contact list; and the seemingly ubiquitous application
store. They'll be marketing through mobile carriers. gloBull
(www.myglobull.com) focused their presentation on mobility and
security. They have a secure boot that then launches a signed virtual
environment—Windows or XP. (Sound familiar?)

A concluding presentation was given by IDC, a market research company,
entitled "Netbook market opportunity: Hype or hope?" IDC believe that
netbooks represent a big opportunity: 30 million units by 2012 (35%
annual growth per year). (OLPC is only a very small consideration in
their market projections. I guess they are playing wait and see if his
prediction of 200 million XOs in 2009 running Windows will be
realized.) Price and ease of use are considered the key contributions
to the market share. (What does ease of use mean when we are talking
about vanilla XP?) Intel and Microsoft have been very aggressive in
marketing in EMEA (l'Europe, le Moyen-Orient (Middle East) et
l'Afrique). In EMEA, the OS is rapidly switching to XP with big push
in retail channels by Microsoft and 80% of shipments are to consumers
as second laptops with laptop expectations for their netbooks.
However, IDC sees one-to-one computing in education as a big
opportunity—50% of all portable PCs sold to education by 2012 (but a
small percentage of the overall netbook market). Telcos are beginning
to enter the netbook market—in an effort to push mobile broadband. The
netbook fits that role, with the added benefit that they pay a smaller
subsidy per consumer. All of this is putting pricing pressure on
traditional notebooks. The big surprise to me is the extent to which
Europe is dominating the netbook market—I always thought they were a
mobile phone culture.

The reception was held at the Paris Museum of Modern Art (MAM) where
we had a private viewing of a Dufy retrospective and cocktails in the
Matisse Room (See
[http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3253/3075519670_5a008de2cb_b.jpg Dufy]
and [http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3041/3075519684_b5940e9c23_b.jpg

2. Threads: There have been a number of interesting discussions on the
lists this week:

* Luis Michelena and Daniel Ajoy have been in a dynamic discussion of
new Turtle Art features driven by pedagogical features being voiced by
teachers ([http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/olpc-sur/2008-November/001359.html]
and [http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/olpc-sur/2008-November/001455.html])
* Tomeu Vizoso has blogged about his experience walking the teachers
in Uruguay through the process of building a "mind map" activity
* Martin Langhoff has started a thread in the laptop.org wiki
regarding the school server Moodle design
([http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XS_Moodle_design XS Moodle design]).

3. Looking for a project?: Tomeu has posted notes from the Sugar Camp
brainstorming session regarding collaboration features for Sugar
Activities. Lots of opportunities to get your start developing in
Sugar ([[Sugarcamp/Minutes#Items_from_the_roadmap_brainstorm|Roadmap

4. Ouch: A harsh criticism of Sugar from a blogger can be found at
My experience with OLPC in Tuvalu]. I've extracted it in part below
with some acknowledgements and rebuttals.

: List of things wrong with OLPCs Operating System:

: 1. The connectivity metaphor on start up is inappropriate for people
in areas where connectivity is a long way away. The OLPC is more
useful to people in Tuvalu as a device for games, media and typing
before it is for connecting to the Internet, so the connectivity
interface should not be the main focus at start up.

Why is the community metaphor inappropriate? It is available
regardless of Internet connectivity—95% of the schools in Peru are off
the Internet, and yet the children and their teachers can use Sugar to
collaborate within the community. It makes a very efficient use of
whatever Internet resources are available.

: 2. That said, we were using wireless connectivity in the Government
building, but the OLPCs holding that connection was flaky. We had no
trouble keeping a connection to the network on the Windows machines,
but the OLPCs kept dropping. Placing a Wireless modem in the room with
us seemed to help the situation. Another problem relating to
connectivity was the amount of time some of the OLPCs took to connect.
Some didn't at all. All of them need clearer indication of progress in

Improved wireless stability remains a goal, but the situation is much
improved from Sugar 0.71, which seems to be the version of Sugar being
tested (See #4 below).

: 3. The pop up menu for the operating system is very frustrating and
seems to be affected by processing. Sometimes it is slow to initiate
and even slower to disappear. I think its better to use the key on the
keyboard instead, and turn off the mouse over feature.

I will conject that this comment is in regard to the hover menus. They
come up instantly from a right-mouse click. But this seemed not be
discoverable in the first three hours of use. A keyboard shortcut may
also be a good addition.

: 4. Need better preloaders for the software. When we clicked an icon
the software takes a while to load. Sometimes the loader dialog that
says "starting" would take too long to appear. The icon does appear in
the pie chart indicating active applications, perhaps something in
that graphic could more effectively illustrate it as loading.

The "pie chart" comment suggests that the evaluation was done on a
very old version of Sugar—pre 0.82—which makes it somewhat irrelevant.
Launch time is better, but we have a ways to go.

: 5. The browser must have tabbed browsing! If I missed where it was,
then it is too hard to find. There was no right click option on any of
the OLPC we were using, and I don't know if there is meant to be. If
the tabbed browsing relies on a right click then we were thwarted.
Also, I think the browser needs work on its layout and features. The
address bar takes up too much room and for some unknown reason wants
to display the page name instead of the URL. The URL is for more
useful in terms of information, and having to click into the address
bar just to check the URL is just silly. The scroll bars are too
small, and especially noticeable when managing a website with a
scrolling window inside it, like the edit view of a wiki. We didn't
try any ajax, java or flash – but I hope they are good to go!

Tabs in the Browse Activity are still on the wish list. The full
address is revealed if you click in the address bar—again, apparently
not readily discoverable in the first 3 hours. Java and Flash are
compatible with Sugar, but there may well be performance issues on the

: 6. I couldn't work out how to manage files. I could download PDFs
ok, but it was a bit of a fumble to display them, and I have no idea
how to save them. I tried plugging in a USB but as far as I could
tell, no new icon appeared offering me access, and nowhere in the
browser of the PDF display could I find how to save the file to the

The Browse Activity offers to open the Journal (where downloaded files
are stored), but perhaps not in the older builds. The USB shows up in
the Journal, but perhaps it should show up in the Frame as well, as a
notification when it is inserted?

: 7. I wonder about the touch pad. I am used to using them and use the
one on this Asus all the time, but seeing as the OLPCs are so ready to
think outside the square, lets rethink the touch pad. If you didn't
have the touch pad, you could have so much more room for keys! Apart
from supplying a small mouse (which is infinitely more easy to use) I
wonder if the game controllers in the screen could substitute a mouse,
as could smart use of the tab key. That little blue dial that IBM used
in the middle of their keyboard had potential I thought.

We have more work to do on keyboard shortcuts, especially on non-OLPC
hardware. As regards the OLPC-XO tablet, 'nough said.

: 8. I reckon the operating system and software should completely
change, and I'd suggest something like what Asus has done. I can
certainly appreciate the innovations that I've found so far, but the
extreme difference between the OLPC and other OS is too great, and
will affect the usefulness of the laptops… think of it like Vista..
you are causing stress and lock in by being so different. The OLPC is
not the place to experiment if your primary objective is to offer
people in poorer economies to access and exploit opportunities. Of
course there is the new opportunity of servicing and administering the
OLPCs themselves, but that's hardly sustainable and I hope it wasn't
planned for!

Growing community and jobs around Sugar is an important part of the
roadmap. But also providing a platform that enhances learning is our
primary concern. We've not proved our case yet, but there is plenty of
evidence that a vanilla XP-approach is not having a positve impact on
learning and hence is truly not a wise investment—"unlimited
potential", indeed.

=== Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings ===

5. FUDCon will be held at MIT (Cambridge, MA) 9–11 January. If you can
attend, please *SIGN UP* on the wiki page:
[http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FUDCon/FUDConF11 FUDConF11] and please
recommend topics for the hackfest. [http://paul.frields.org/ Paul
Frields] is available to answer any questions you may have.

6. Kevin Cole reports that video from the last OLPC Learning Club DC
is available at
xolaptop bee].

7. There will be a Skolelinux/Debian-Edu developer gathering in
Trondheim, Norway 23–25 January 2009 (See
[http://friprogramvareiskolen.no/Gathering/2009-01-Trondheim 2009-01

8. There will be a Python for Teachers workshop at [http://pycon.org
Pycon] in Chicago in late March, 2009.

=== Tech Talk ===

9. SOAS: Simon Peter reports that he has updated Sbuntu (Sugar for
Ubuntu Live USB) to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex). This should resolve
many issues that were present in the earlier version.
([http://dev.laptop.org/~probono/sbuntu/ Sbuntu]). Please report
Sbuntu issues to Peter and issues related to usb-creator to
[https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/usb-creator USB creator].

Morgan Collett has put some updated Sugar packages in the Ubuntu Sugar
Team's PPA: [https://launchpad.net/~sugarteam/+archive Sugar archive].
He is updating them to include support for Network Manager 0.7, so
that Neighborhood View will support connecting to access points again.

=== Sugar Labs ===

10. Self-organizing map (SOM): Gary Martin has generated another SOM
from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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