[sugar] Sugar Digest 2008-10-27

Walter Bender walter.bender
Mon Oct 27 20:12:37 EDT 2008

=== Sugar Digest ===

1. Lima: Sugar was well represented in Peru this past week. Rafael
Ortiz and Sebastian Silva orgainzed a translation sprint at the
University San Martin de Porres. SJ Klein and C. Scott Ananian then
joined  them to run a Game Jam. The week culminated with a Freedom and
Open Source Day, in which we were joined by many members of the
Peruvian Free Software community, including Nicolas Valc?rcel from the
Ubuntu community. My talk at the conference was titled "What the
learning community can learn from Free Software." One of my slides
made the point that sostenibilidad ? sustentabilidad. Both words
translate into "sustainability" in English, but Dr. Arq. Guillermo E.
Gonzolo from CEEMA in Argentina pointed out the subtle distinction to
me?one that I find quite interesting: sostenibilidad is static;
sustenabilidad is dynamic. Putting XP on laptops is about maintaining
the status quo (sostenibilidad), while Linux, which is at the
beginning rather than end of its life cycle is where the true
"unlimited potential" can be found (sustenabildad). I'll post my
slides on the wiki when I get a chance.

2. What would creating a Sugar Activity require from me and what
benefits would it bring?
I was asked this two-part question from a software developer. The
Sugar Almanac is a good starting point for answering the first part
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_Almanac). The second part is complex
and rather than giving a glib answer, I want to take some time to give
it some thought. The obvious answer, the chance to touch the lives of
hundreds of thousands of children, is OK, but I think we need to
develop more of a case.

3. Deployment roadmap: David Farning is developing a deployment
roadmap with the goal to make Sugar and Sugar Activities "freely and
readily available to learners everywhere." Sounds good to me. (See

4. Sugar on a stick: Caroline Meeks has been maintaining a page in the
wiki tracking our progress with developing a turnkey USB key solution
for schools (See http://sugarlabs.org/go/DeploymentTeam/School_Key

5. Printing
: Printing was hotly debated on the Sugar list
There were two discussions: Should Sugar support printing and How
should Sugar support printing. It seems that there is not consensus on
the first question?it isn't clear that there needs to be. (Printing is
not a realistic option in the Peru deployment, but that shouldn't
preclude its use in other places, necessarily. To me, the most
compelling argument in favor of printing that was put forth is it lets
you put the work of the students on display.) As to how to do it,
there is the question of what  affordances we should be providing (in
which Activities) and whether or not we should be supporting network
printing vs the installation of print drivers. The latter question is
more of a distribution question than one for Sugar to resolve.

6. Feedback from Peruvian Ministry of Education: C. Scott Ananian and
I made multiple visits to the MEC office in Lima to discuss Sugar 0.82
and the OLPC XO deployment. We got some great feedback, including a
healthy list of bugs, one of the most pressing being that audio files
are seemingly not importing properly when trying to create a new game
in the Memorize Activity. The reason this is important is that
Memorize is a nice tool introducing letter and word sounds to new
readers. Another bug?or point of confusion?was in regard to how the
Record Activity is saved to the Journal. Record sessions and photos
created by Record both show up when doing an image search in the
Journal. This is fine when in browsing within the Journal itself, but
caused confusion when trying to import an image into Write. If you
tried to import a session instead of a photo, the import failed.

It was nice to hear that was there was a distinct impression (from the
user perspective) that "it is faster!!" In general the new Home View
was well received: One simple idea we explored together was the use of
the list view "star" option to restrict the number of Activity icons
appearing on the Home View. This lets a teacher focus the class on a
small set of Activities related to the goals being set for the
students. It may be possible to have different collections of
Activities tagged in the Journal for easy maintenance of such a

The pedagogical team at the ministry has been developing some
beautiful curricula guides for Sugar. They describe projects that
encompass multiple activities towards a common goal, such as creating
a newspaper or a story about your community. The guides are targeting
different skill levels and they beautifully illustrate pedagogical
goals without being overly prescriptive. The multi-page guides are
intended for teachers. Single-page instructions are also being created
for students. As they complete a few more, they will make them
available for downloading.

7. ?Qu?? ?C?mo? ?Por qu?? ?Para qui?: We also discussed the role that
a portfolio might play in Sugar. What? How? Why? For who? are
questions that are part of the teacher/student discourse in Peru. They
are also questions that are important to the "select-reflect-perform"
cycle of portfolio assessment. Scott, Rafael, Sebastian and I spend
quite a bit of time discussion possible approaches to building a
Portfolio Activity (we agreed that it makes sense to make it a
separate Activity from the Journal for the time being). My
hair-brained idea is to make a Turtle-Art-like snap-together
programing Activity to create narrative presentations from items
selected from the Journal. I'll make some sketches in the coming days
and post them to the wiki. The team at the ministry was very upbeat
about portfolio tools, regardless of the implementation details.

8. Thin and fat clients: Brendan R. Powers
 from  Resara has taken an interest in Sugar. Resara deploys Linux
desktop solutions in schools in the United States. Brendon believes
that Sugar's collaboration tools, Journal and other features "could be
very appealing to younger grade (elementary and middle school)
students and teachers." We'll be exploring how to use Sugar on some of
the classrooms already on their thin client desktops.

9. On collaboration
: Juliano Bittencourt has stirred the pot regard the Sugar
collaboration model. In a discussion on the developers mailing list
(http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-October/020588.html) he
raises the issue of synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration, arguing
that too much emphasis has been given over to the former, when the
latter is generally more useful in a school setting.  I agree with him
to a great extent. There are not too many learning scenarios that I am
aware of where a tightly coupled synchronous interaction is critical.
Exceptions of course include Chat?which can be used as a group
storytelling medium and an medium through which other collaborations
are staged and organized?and include some of the activities around
real-time picture sharing and other data-gathering exercises, such as
the use of Measure or Distance. Etoys also has a number synchronous
modes that are rich, including the ability to share both objects and a
workspace. The peer-to-peer editing in the Write Activity may not
require synchrony: children could trade documents, edit, and then pass
them back. But the feature has been used creatively for other
narrative purposes. And of course, there are lots of great games that
require some level of synchrony, so the effort that has gone into this
layer of the infrastructure will continue to be of value.

To some extent, Juliano's point was less in regard to synchrony and
more in regard to the lack of any means within Sugar to maintain
persistence of a collaboration over a longer time frame than a single
interactive session. This omission is will in part be filled by
services external to Sugar, such as Moodle or AMADIS. However, some
aspects of the yet-to-be-implemented Bulletin Board would also meet
these needs. (Better versioning in the Journal/Datastore?in the
roadmap for 0.84?will play a role as well.) The Bulletin Board is
designed to be a place for the persistent sharing of objects and
actions between a group of collaborators. In some sense, one could
think of it as a share, persistent clipboard. Bulletin Boards would be
created in support of group projects that involve multiple activities
and multiple sessions. We should develop a requirements document and
architectural description of what is needed in order to both best
leverage existing tools and set realistic goals for any Sugar

10. PlayGo: Paul Barchilon provided some very thoughtful feedback on
the PlayGo Activity. What struck me was that he kept returning to how
various design decisions impact the opportunity for children to engage
in learning (See

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

11. Lima translation sprint: We gathered at the University of San
Martin de Porres for two intense days. Through the courtesy of the
OLPC foundation, Sugar Labs, and USMP, we had the opportunity to meet
for a few days of translation work. Rafael Ortiz and Sebastian Silva
provided the logistical support. We worked shoulder to shoulder
alongside community volunteers, as well as a team distributed
collaborators who made their contributions both at headquarters at the
university and via the Internet from different parts of Peru.

The distance work was made possible by our infrastructure
collaboration, IRC, mailing lists, and especially the parallel
translation tool available in FLOSS Manuals, which allows you to drag
and drop text and images between documents. One challenge we had was
to regenerate many of the screenshots of Sugar containing text in
English. (There is more work to do.)

The team would like to take this opportunity to thank Sr. Hernan
Pachas and Engineer Waldy Grandez of University San Martin de Porres
for all their help in organizing the event, publicity, support, snacks
and Peruvian entertainment. See our work in
http://translate.flossmanuals.net/bin/view/Sugar_es and please lend a
hand in completing the work.

=== Tech Talk ===

12. NetworkManager 0.7: Marco Pesenti Gritti and Simon Schampijer
worked on porting Sugar to NetworkManager 0.7. They made lots of
progress and now have something "sort of" functional. They still need
to get security handling in shape (e.g., WEP), implement settings
persistence and reimplement frame devices. (Someone also need to port
our mesh patches to 0.7 before we can add UI for them.)

13. Developer tools: Marco started writing some release automation
scripts and wrote a script to a mock build of sugar-jhbuild for easier
testing on the OLPC XO-1 laptop.
He switched jhbuild and buildbot away from Fedora 8 and Ubuntu 7.04 as
the glib they provide is now too old. And he managed to get new SLiM
(a simple login manager) into Fedora Rawhide. We need to build a new
LiveCD with selinux enabled.
Next week Marco plans to mark existing public API as
stable/unstable/deprecated, get activities rpms reviewed, and create a
new LiveCD.

14. Sugar improvements: Marco investigated Browse/Firefox memory
issues and posted a summary on the mailing lists. Kernel hackers help
He also finished up a zoom-levels refactoring: He got rid of the
annoying flickering.
He and Tomeu Vizoso have been looking into drawing performance. They
plan to start seriously working on performance next week. Marco also
did some shell code refactoring.

15. XOCamp: Marco has written three proposals for the November XOCamp.
(I am working on one for the Portfolio as well.)  There are many more
being posted on the Sugar and Devel lists.

16. Gentoo: Aleksey Lim has posted instructions for building Sugar on
Gentoo (See http://sugarlabs.org/go/Community/Distributions/Gentoo

17. Ejabberd: Jonas Smedegaard
 reports that Ejabberd has had the patches applied for some time now
on Debian. In
 other words, "the next stable release of Debian will support Sugar out of the
 box." So will the next release of Ubuntu (Intrepid) due to release
this week, as they borrow
 these patches from Debian (Morgan Collett
 has written up the much simpler process of getting ejabberd up and
 running at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Installing_ejabberd/deb).

18. Gnash: Rob Savoye has new rpms for Gnash available for testing
("for the brave at heart").


# install livna

sudo yum http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release-9.rpm

# install ffmpeg from livna

sudo yum install -y ffmpeg

# get rid of the old build of 0.8.3

sudo rpm -ev gnash gnash-plugin

# install gnash

sudo rpm -iv \


# install the plugin

sudo rpm -iv \


19.  Other software releases this week include:

    * TurtleArt-13.xo

    * HablarConSara-1.xo

=== Sugar Labs ===

20. 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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