[IAEP] Gnome vs Sugar -- The judgement day

Bernie Innocenti bernie at codewiz.org
Fri Jun 25 19:16:06 EDT 2010

This morning we had a meeting with 15 formadores (teacher trainers) of

After the initial excitement for a colorful and familiar desktop, the
controversy around Gnome has been growing and growing. Many users and
teachers love it and use it as their primary work environment, many
others hate it wholeheartedly for the new problems it brings to the
classroom (see the thread "GNOME and protecting Sugar" on sugar-devel@
for the full details).

There's consensus among the formadores that Gnome isn't designed for
little children, and many think that it's just a distraction from the
pedagogical goals of the project.

So I called for a motion: who wants to disable GNOME in the next

  Disable Gnome: 8 votes
  Keep Gnome:    7 votes

So Gnome will go, but there's hardly a general consensus about it. In
fact, I fear the day in which we have to impose this decision on all
users. Even those who think that Gnome should be disabled for others,
would like to keep it for themselves.

During the debate, a lot of people asked if it would be possible to hide
gnome instead of removing it. Sure, that would be easy... but if we
instruct our techies a secret command to re-enable it, within days it
will spread among all children. Security by obscurity never works.

Other suggestions to lock down the desktop were also knocked down:
children become extremely clever when it comes to make room for mp3s and

Someone correctly pointed out that children where perfectly capable to
fill up their filesystem with questionable materials even with Sugar
0.82, but at this point Gnome had become too much the root of all evils
for anyone to consider the possibility that ditching it wouldn't really
solve the issue at its root.

Other proposals to instruct the students on how to correctly manage free
space where similarly rejected. Teachers demand a technological mean to
solve a problem of discipline and computer literacy.

Many asked if we could enable Gnome only for teachers and perhaps 4th
graders. I initially said no, because issuing two separate images with
and without Gnome would be overkill for us. But is it true? I'm already
brewing two separate builds for the XO-1 and XO-1.5... Building four
images at release time is actually not a big deal.

So this is probably what we're going to do, in the end. You can bet that
many young children will figure out ways to obtain the forbidden
software anyway... but at least the blame for it will no longer fall on
us :-)

   // Bernie Innocenti - http://codewiz.org/
 \X/  Sugar Labs       - http://sugarlabs.org/

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