[IAEP] How many Activities?

Eben Eliason eben.eliason at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 06:39:22 CEST 2008

On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 11:51 PM, Bobby Powers <bobbypowers at gmail.com> wrote:
> Since we're talking personal preferences for what kids should have,
> let me put my 2 cents in
> On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 11:35 PM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> wrote:
>> It seems to me that much of the thinking around the XO and Sugar has
>> been based on the assumption that we should provide a small number of
>> Activities on which to build whole curricula. (Feel free to contradict
>> me if you know better, but that is the appearance.)

I disagree actually.  The intended model is closer to providing as
many "small" activities as possible - each of which does "one-thing"
really well - with the hope of providing a rich inter-activity
experience.  I don't think we've achieved this goal yet (the visual
clipboard is incomplete, copy/paste support in general is spotty, we
don't have good ways to pass data between activies, etc), but we're
certainly still aiming for it.

>> I don't see it that way. I want the children to have access to more
>> than 10,000 apps, like the rest of us. This just came up in my mind

Me too!

>> because a friend asked me to look into getting source code for a
>> genealogy program to port it to a different handheld. My family is
>> rather genealogy-minded, as you can see on my brother's site
>> http://home.earthlink.net/~cherlinfamily/, which traces not only our
>> family, but also every other Cherlin line and all known variants.
>> Anyway, genealogies are of great cultural importance, and also of
>> great value for historical and biomedical research, among other
>> things. So I would like to see a genealogy app for Sugar. I would like
>> to see it built on top of a general-purpose database engine that could
>> be used in a wide range of other Activities, including databases
>> compiled by students for whatever reason.
>> When I look at my computer, I notice a number of other things that I
>> do routinely that would be harder in Sugar.
>> * Stickies notes
> doesn't fit the ui nicely.  why not just a 'notes' instance of Write
> in the journal?

This is one option.  Another idea we've been playing with is an
extension of the Journal which allows one to create "actual" journal
entries -- simple in-line comments amidst the objects/actions which
track a child's history.  The addition of a "note" or "todo" checkbox
to such an entry could keep it at the top of the list and serve the
place of stickies as reminders.

>> * Calendar program with notifications
> sounds good, but probably not as needed by kids in developing worlds.

Agreed it might not be useful. I've given thought to this as well, in
a manner similar to the notes above.  Extending the notion of the
Journal as a timeline, we could support "future events" as well,
allowing calendar entries which include date/location/other info and
optionally trigger system notifications. We could also support delayed
invitations so that, for instance, I could invite you to play chess
with me after school.  When you accept, we could both get a calendar
entry in the Journal, scheduled for a future time, and then be
notified when the time arrives.  There are other possibilities for
extending the Journal as well.

That aside, we do now have (though they are in their infancy) system
notifications, which interact with the Frame to convey info
 In the future, we may extend this service in a manner similar to
Growl on OSX, so that activities can likewise generate notifications.

>> * Multimedia file management
> would be nice, certainly.


>> * System monitor

We have the Analyze activity at present. Right now this only exposes a
little bit of info, but it's certainly the right place to add other
system monitoring tools such as Memory, CPU, etc.

>> * Menu manager
> I don't understand what a menu manager would do.  how is this
> different from 'favorites' in the ring view that you manage in the
> list view?
>> * Keyboard and IME utilities
>> * Calendar converter
>> * Synaptic software database and package installer
> there needs to be some way to install more activities.  I see a
> 'sugar-activities' specific package manager as being a nicer option.
> a kid that wants software beyond sugar activities can install Yumex,
> or maybe even Synaptic (why make a sugary wrapper for something that
> will only be installing non-sugary stuff).

Yes, I've made several posts indicating my desire to create a "Get
more activities" function.  Actually, its even alluded to in the
designs on the wiki
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Designs/Activity_Management#03), but I
could also see it taking the form of an activity itself, or a button
in the toolbar.  Ideally it would provide a really simple way to find
new activities, as well as find versions (particularly new versions)
of installed activities.  Making them dead simple to obtain goes hand
in hand with the "lots of activities" goal.

>> * My personal favorite games

I don't think we'll have any game limitations on the XO, apart from
CPU/RAM of course.  The only real difference that developers should be
aware of is that game saves take a different form in Sugar:  Rather
than having an interface for saving/loading multiple games within the
activity, one can start a new game by instantiating a new instance of
the activity, or resume any of a number of saved games from the

>> * PDF editor
> certainly need an editor.  maybe Write can be extended to read and
> write ebook and pdf formats?

I certainly don't know the details involved there, though Write can
export to other formats.  Once we have printing support could we also
have a print to PDF option that could be used anywhere? I use that
option on my Mac all the time.

>> We are clearly going to have hundreds of activities quite soon. It is
>> not clear to me that Sugar will scale to having thousands available,
>> which will inevitably happen. But perhaps it is not a problem, because
>> by then we will have bigger computers.
> I think a repository of sugar activities and perhaps some UI
> improvements to the list view can handle much of this.  Maybe the list
> view can evolve into an integrated package manager.  Anyone interested
> in creating mockups?

Right, it's possible that the "get more activities" idea I mentioned
before gets wrapped up into the list view.  At the very least, I think
we can support deleting/updating from there.  Finding new ones *might*
belong someplace separate.  I intend to work on more mockups for list
view in the not-to-distant future.

That said, I would also note that activities are formatted as bundles
specifically so that they are self-contained, and easy to
transfer/delete/download.  Additionally, the goal of "many small
activities" supports the idea of collecting a set of activities that
suits any given child's needs, without taking up exceedingly large
amounts of space.  I think the activity list can be made to scale to
the extent that kids will need, for sure, if not adults.  I only have
90 applications on my Mac total, including the extensive list of
Developer Tools, and of those I haven't used at least 50% in the past
6 months, and have probably never used another 10%.  Making
downloading and deleting activities super simple also eases the

Thank you both for your well considered thoughts!

- Eben

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