[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2008-09-30

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 10:48:00 EDT 2008

=== Sugar Digest ===

First, an aside: I introduced the concept of peer editing in the Floss
Manual on the Write Activity by referencing the late Don Murray, who
taught generations of journalists how to write. He had three simple
rules for great writing:

   1. revise
   2. revise
   3. revise

Revision is an essential part of the writing process and one of the
easiest and most effective ways to revise is to share the burden of
editing among your friends. Hand your writing to a friend, who will
read it and make comments and suggestions. You return the favor by
doing the same for your friend's writing.

While riding my bike into Cambridge yesterday, it occurred to me that
a simple peer-editing exchange for bloggers would be easy to set up;
it could make a world of difference in the quality of the writing,
while not in any way impinging upon the freedom and spontaneity that
characterizes the blogshpere. In deed, I am of the opinion that one of
the biggest differences between blogging and the mainstream media is
the strong editorial tradition of the latter.

So why doesn't someone set up a social-networking site—ideally
integrated with the popular tools such as Word Press—to enable
bloggers to find a willing peer to suggest revisions before the
publish button is pressed (a "Send to editor" button)? Such an
exchange need not be symmetric—some people prefer the role of critic
to creator; it would be a simple, powerful enhancement to the
blogsphere. (Or does such a site already exist?)

1. Open Minds: David Farning and I had the opportunity to attend the
Open Minds conference in Indianapolis this past weekend. It was
refreshing to spend time with so many teachers passionate for learning
and creating opportunities for their students. I tried to tune into
dicsussions about the various roadblocks that inhibit the introduction
of technology into schools and into classrooms. The list is pretty
long and some of the items are formidable, but nonetheless, there are
obvious needs and teachers and administrators who are fighting for
change. There was lots of interest in Sugar—teachers and
administrators are looking for an easy (and inexpensive) way to try it
in their classrooms.

A few specific outcomes from the conference: Nate Ridderman will be
helping set up a Sugar classroom in an elementary school in
Indianapolis that is doing a one-to-one laptop experiment; David and I
will be helping set up a Sugar classroom in a Boston public school
that trying to make use of some old Pentium IV desktop machines; we
also discussed making Sugar available as part of the offerings from
some hardware OEMs who focus on the education market, including
Retronics (2goPC) and Resara (who offer a thin-client solution).

2. LiveUSB: It seems that a LiveUSB offers the most simple way to
experience Sugar on a preexisting hardware base, such as a school
computer lab. (One advantage of a LiveUSB approach—where user data is
stored in a disk partition—is that the same key can be used at school
and at home, emulating the experience of a one-to-one laptop program,
where the laptops go home with the children. The Fedora team has made
progress on a LiveUSB this week (See Item 11 below) and we are also
working to get "fresher" Sugar bits into the Ubuntu LiveUSB. However,
there remains a problem in that many computers do not have
boot-from-USB enabled in the BIOS. Steve Pomeroy suggested we look
into U3, a proprietary method of launching applications from a USB
key. This would provide a work-around for running Sugar on machines
that are running Windows (alas, this accounts for the majority of
hardware found in schools). Ben Schwartz pointed out that we could do
the same thing using autorun.inf (See
launching an instance of Sugar in QEMU. Running Sugar in emulation
requires a reasonably fast machine in order to give an acceptable
experience. We need to do more testing in this arena, as it is a path
of least resistance for teachers and parents who are interested in
trying Sugar.

3. Teachers/developers: There was a productive discussion on the IAEP
list this week about how to better engage teachers in the Sugar
developer community. Rob Costello pointed out that only a small
percentage of teachers would participate in the actual development
process, building bridges to even that small group would be
worthwhile. It was pointed out that the
http://sugarlabs.org/go/Patching_Turtle_Art (which is still
incomplete) is far from meeting the needs of a teacher (or anyone else
new to the community). Bill Kerr wrote up some questions that I tried
to answer in the wiki (See

* Where do you find things (Python files, source code)
* Which things do what? How does one know which Python files have to be tweaked?
* Who do you communicate with? (Who are the maintainers and how do you
content them?)
* How do you program more advanced stuff in Python, e.g., using lambda?
* What is FOSS etiquette, how do you go about learning to be a member
of this community?

My answer to Bill's last question I'll repeat here:

"Start by asking questions... welcome to the community!"

Bill also wrote more generally about what it means to join a
community, summarizing James Gee from his book <em>What Video Games
Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy</em> (2003), drawing a
distinction between knowledge and being part of a community of

   1. we learn to experience the world in a new way: see, feel and operate on;
   2. we gain the potential to join a new social group, a new club;
   3. we gain the resources that prepare us for future learning and
problem solving in a new domain and perhaps related domains.

=== Community jams, meetups, and meetings ===

6. Sugar meetings: The deployment team will be meeting on Wednesday at
14 UTC (10 EST) on irc.freenode.net (channel: #sugar-meeting). The
oversight board will be meeting on Friday at 14 UTC (10 EST), also on

=== Tech Talk ===

7. Release candidate: For those of you with OLPC-XOs, Michael Stone
has released a candidate build (766) that incorporates Sugar .082. It
is well worth the hassle of updating from 652 or 711.

8. Tricks: Michael also posted a list of "idioms" that he relies on in
order to make his software-development efforts more predicable and
robust (See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User:Mstone/Tricks).

9. Sugar control panel: Simon Schampijer speed up control panel start
up in 0.84. The next issues he want to tackle are better localizations
in the panel for the available languages and switching to gconf (if
tests show it is worth it).

10. Bugsquad: Simon had also setup the Sugarlabs Bugsquad, the quality
assurance (QA) team for Sugar. The squad will triage bugs, set
priorities, verify usability and test cases.  Furthermore it does
coordinate testing, does testing itself and help setting up bug
infrastructure, i.e., trac components (See

11. Sugar Live CDs: Greg Dekoenigsberg reports progress on a Fedora
Live CD/USB  based on rawhide/F10. He has a LiveCD for Fedora 10 devel
(Rawhide) that allows a Sugar 0.82 boot option via GDM. Activiites are
still missing, but Greg says that we will close this gap quickly.
There is also a kickstart file that can be used by any Fedora user to
generate such an
image trivially (See
for some background on Fedora kickstarts). Also, see
https://fedorahosted.org/liveusb-creator for help on making a
Windows-bootable LiveUSB for Fedora.

Bryan Kearney built a virtual image for the Sugar rawhide package. To
use it: (1) download http://sugar.s3.amazonaws.com/sugar-rawhide.tgz ;
(2) uncompress the .tgz file; and (3) run "virt-image

12. Telepathy goes upstream: In their newest release (2.24), GNOME
announced "the inclusion of an instant messaging client based off the
Telepathy communications framework." Whereas Sugar uses Telepathy,
this means that there will likely be many non-Sugar users, adding to
the community of support for the project. This is a big step towards
longer-term stability, support, and general acceptance of all of our
efforts. Congratulations!

13. Activity updates: There are updates available for:

14. ImageViewer: Sayamindu Dasgupta wrote a new Activity to let you
view images from the Journal. It supports zoom and rotation as well.
Download it from
; the source is in git

15. DrGeoII: Hilaire Fernandes announced a new DrGeoII release with
macro-construction and Smalltalk scripting, plus tons of bugs fixes.
The new DrGeoII distribution is based on an universal one-clic
distribution for GNU/Linux, Windows and Mac OSX (Please visit DrGeo
web page to know more http://wiki.laptop.org/go/DrGeo). Hilaire is
also discussing with the Etoys team the possibility of adding DrGeoII
to the standard toolbox.

16. Etoys project sharing: Daniel Ajoy inquired about uploading Etoys
projects to the Internet. While the "core" Etoys team doesn't have a
world-writable project-sharing site, they do recommend tools for
setting up regional sites. To set up your own server, the simplest
thing is to set up the "SuperSwiki2" server (The server is available
at http://swikis.ddo.jp/SuperSwiki2/3).

17. Debian jhbuild: The Debian team has done a thorough job of
documenting the process of building a Sugar environment on a Debian
GNU/Linux distribution (See

=== Sugar Labs ===

18. 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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