[Community-news] OLPC News (2006-09-23)

Walter Bender walter at media.mit.edu
Sat Sep 23 15:58:07 EDT 2006

1. The OLPC Board passed a resolution for the Luxembourg-based SES Global
to become its newest member. SES Astra and SES Americom will serve as
worldwide partners to provide satellite connectivity and smart ground
solutions for broadcasting, data, and Internet connections. SES Americom
CEO Ed Horowitz—a close collaborator for nearly 20 years ago—will represent
SES on the Board.

2. Nicholas spoke at AMD's Global Vision Conference, Agents of Change:
Driving the Power of Innovation in Pasadena. The meeting featured a
blue-ribbon cast of speakers and an audience that included many old friends
from the Media Lab, including Lego, Dreamworks, Sun, and many others.

3. Alan Kay, Kim Rose and the eToys team finished up a two-week visit to
the OLPC office in Cambridge. They made significant progress both in
porting their environment onto the Laptop and integrating the user
interface into the Sugar environment. They also provided valuable feedback
to the OLPC software team.

4. Display: LCD-B (with twice the reflectance of LCD-A) is still on track
for a 25 September demo. The reflective-mode resolution is 1200×900;
resolution in color mode (backlight on) may be higher than 800×600. A White
Paper is being written to discuss the resolution of color mode.

5. Software team: David Zeuthen will be leaving the Red Hat OLPC team. He's
going back to work for Red Hat's desktop team, focusing on ongoing HAL
work, which will eventually filter back and benefit One Laptop per Child.
He will be replaced by John Palmieri, who comes from the desktop team. John
is one of the upstream maintainers of the D-Bus program, one of the
fundamental components in the Laptop software. He will be focusing on
general distribution issues and assisting Dan Williams and Marco Gritti
with working on Sugar.

6. Audio: Csound—the core of the music system on the Laptop—is now part of
Fedora Extras. The latest image builds include Csound in the distribution.
There are still a few outstanding patches being prepared by Barry Vercoe
and Simon Schampijer to update to the latest Csound.

7. Security: Ivan Kristić attended the HITB 2006 Security and Hacking
conference in Malaysia to review the Laptop security model with the experts
convening there. Meanwhile, Simson Garfinkel has been doing interviews of
everyone involved in the project and based on that output (the first draft
of which has just now become available) we will be able to make the changes
required to the OS to support the recommendations. Chris Blizzard has also
been gathering expertise inside of Red Hat to help consult on Laptop

8. CAFE and DCON: David Woodhouse is preparing to test the CAFE FPGA
hardware. Once that is done and comments are made on the NAND driver, the
changes should be ready to push upstream into the kernel. David also made a
new mtd-utils (utilities for managing memory technology) release and put it
into Extras, which means we are able to report information about
compression savings during file-system creation. This feature will be very
important when we are ready to make our push to get the size of the OS
down, since we can know how much space we're saving with any particular
file or package. David has also been assisting Jordan Crouse of AMD
completing the kernel-level DCON code. The kernel changes required are
largely complete. It is an important first step.

9. Power management: Jordan has taken very preliminary power measurements
of the Laptop, with and without the DCON, with and without the color
display; it is a starting point for the power management work which is now
starting up. Measurement is particularly important, and we have been
exploring ways to make these measurements, which will be key to making
software progress and preventing regressions. Our power consumption has
started to be noticed in the Linux community:
http://kernelslacker.livejournal.com/tag/olpc. It will only improve from

10. Touchpad: Jim Gettys reports that the dual-mode touch pad is now
working properly on the Laptop. The pieces of the puzzle were put together
across the entire team and finally nailed by Vance Ke and and Ray Tseng at
Quanta, who identified some incorrectly set registers (used to enable the
PS/2 ports interrupts). This has highlighted the value of the PRS tools
(preferred register setting tools) of AMD, which we had not properly
appreciated to audit the internal register settings of the Geode. Mitch
Bradley is working his way through the settings to verify that the Geode's
internal registers are all properly set.

11. BIOS: LZMA compression was added to LinuxBIOS this week; this is a much
more efficient compression algorithm than we had been using and freed
significant flash space, which, of course, we can (and did) immediately
fill: Carl-Daniel Hailfinger added the Libertas wireless driver, its
firmware, and TCP/IPv4. We'd like to be able to use wireless for
installation in the field; whether all this can fit into the serial BIOS
ROM—the most robust solution—or will require additional space on NAND
flash, is still not known. Another issue with RAM timing was diagnosed and
fixed in LinuxBIOS this week; this one was was, ironically, observed only
when running the machine slower.

12. Diagnostics: Mitch has been working on a diagnostic framework for the
Laptop, both for hardware failures and as a framework for testing the
myriad of power domains (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Hardware_Power_Domains). Each and every domain
must be properly tested before we can commit the hardware to mass
production and this testing needs to be complete before we are likely to
have completed all the Linux work for power management. Mitch now has
drivers for NAND flash (both GX and CaFe), GX frame buffer, USB mass
storage, keyboard, and ethernet. The diagnostic can run in any
environment—from ROM as a LinuxBIOS payload, booted from USB via LinuxBIOS,
or booted from USB via Insyde BIOS.

13. UI: Walter Bender and Chris Blizzard meet with the Pentagram team about
the latest user-interface design. We discussed various issues including the
journal and how the touchpad might be interfaced.

14. Sugar update: Marco Gritti has implemented the basic grid design and
the zoom. In the Mesh View we are currently displaying only the activity
icons, but it's possible to join activities.  In the Friends View you can
add and remove friends and you can invite your friends to activities by
picking actions from the hovering menu. Dan has implemented the active
activity logic, propagation over the network and has partially hooked it up
on the friends view. Marco has also implemented the frame
activation/deactivation logic and has made a first pass at the animation
API. From the frame you can now launch new activities, share them on the
network through the application menu, and join activities from the
invitations that appears on the bottom of the Frame. On the right edge of
the Frame we display the XO icons of the buddies participating to the
activity. You can “make them friends” from a menu. Marco has done some
testing, bug fixing, performance enhancements, and code refactoring. He has
also integrated some of the icons designed by Pentagram.

15. In a related effort, Ivan has frozen Verison 1.0 of the document format
used in the Journal (and wiki). The general datastore, differential storage
engine, and indexing engine are also largely finished. A WYSIWYG (what you
see is what you get) editor in progress, as well as a reference identity
service/emergent public key infrastructure implementation.


Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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