[Community-news] OLPC News 2007-08-04

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sat Aug 4 13:20:02 EDT 2007

1. Walter Bender met with Carole Wacey of Mouse.org. Mouse works with
youth on technology mentoring programs. Children at Mouse.org are
already actively engaged in authoring tutorials and videos about the
XO and the older children (middle and high school) are interested in
mentoring the elementary-school children who would be getting the XOs.

2. New York: A team from OLPC and Red Hat spent two days at Pentagram
working through the outstanding design issues for the first release
software on the XO. Together, we made significant progress on the
Journal and sharing among groups. Simplicity was our mantra: look
forward to more clarity to user interface.

3. Villa Cardal: While anyone can watch videos on YouTube, children
with XOs are posting videos. A video shot on an XO, "parto de una vaca
(birth of a calf)," was posted by a 10-year-old child who is
participating in the Villa Cardal trial in Uruguay (Please see

4. Texture and color:  Quanta, Foxconn, ZYE, and Fuse Project worked
around the clock and through the weekend in order to complete the
color and finish review of all parts of the XO. Clear finish
guidelines have been established and the color has been tuned to our
specification. Not all texture changes are completed, but established
parts have been created to serve as reference for both Foxconn and
ZYE; both companies are confident that they will be able to match the
referenced samples.  Two complete sets of C-build mechanicals are en
route to OLPC for final approval for the mass production (MP) build.

5. $1 video microscope: A video of Mary Lou's prototype microscope
attachment for the XO video camera is posted on the web (Please see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI28-IS9AII). In the video, she
compares various LCD screens. The microscope, which has ~ 100×
magnification, could be useful to analyzing water quality, among other

6. Schedules: We have declared Trial-2 software to be Build 542, which
we released to Quanta for the C-build on Thursday evening. This is
alpha-level software and it becomes the new stable branch. Critical
issues that may still need to be addressed will be back ported to
Build 542, but this will allow development to continue toward Trial-3.
Please note that we haven't completed our optimization of memory usage
in Build 542; if you are running on B2-1 hardware—which only has 128MB
of DRAM—you are advised to hold off on upgrading.

7. Trial-2 build: Most of our vision for the first generation OLPC
software is now present; Build 542 shows off many important
collaboration, connectivity, and Journal features, including:
real-time collaboration in many activities (Write, Read, Chat, Record,
Etoys, TamTam, Memorize, Connect4, etc.); support for automatic
configuration of mesh portal points (MPP) and automatic configuration
of ad-hoc meshes (allowing collaboration without any dependency on
infrastructure or Internet access); anti-theft activation on
installation; and registration with and backup to a school server.

A draft of the Software Release Notes can be found in the OLPC wiki
(See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Trial-2_Software_Release_Notes).
The B4 Hardware Release Notes are also found in the wiki (Please see

As noted above, Build 542 is not suitable for B2-1 systems: memory
usage is higher than desired, due to surprises such as a 20MB DHCPD
server that we will be replacing (there are several smaller ones to
choose from). Also note that the mesh wire packet protocol has
changed, so mixtures of builds before 438 and current builds cannot
use the same mesh.

8. Autoreinstallation and upgrade: Scott Ananian continues to work on
the autoreinstallation image. Scott and Chris Ball wrote an upgrade
script that preserves the user's home directory, which Kim Quirk has
been testing this week. Mitch Bradley, Richard Smith, John Palmieri,
and Jim Gettys found a FAT32 corruption bug in the current firmware
which ate USB keys. Mitch fixed this bug in q2c20d (and later).

Scott also continued work on activation and the initial ramdisk, into
which the XO boots. Scott also implemented Eben Eliason's design for
an activation GUI (trac #1328), which should appear in Trial-3 builds.
Scott also did some more work on network activation from the School
Server, with help from Dan Williams and the Cozybit team.

9. Firmware and embedded controller (EC): Richard spent the entire
week dealing with a few critical EC problems; He and Andres Salomon
made progress was made on "wakeup event is repeated continuously" bug
(trac #2401), when they discovered a deadlock in the EC code.
Unfortunately, it's not trivial to fix, but they are testing possible

Chris wrote a kernel patch to set the EC wakeup event mask such that
1% battery charge changes don't bring us back out of suspend. If we
suspend with Build 542, we should stay suspended until we get the
"battery low" signal to wake us up.

Richard received PQ2C20 from Quanta and integrated it into the new
firmware releases. We released PQ2C20, 21 and 22 this week. C20
contained the bulk of the EC fixes. C21 and C22 were needed to repair
some new OFW bugs that surfaced, most notably the FAT32 corruption
bug, which had been responsible for upgrade failures.

Mitch Bradley released firmware for C-build. He also worked on
activation and security support for the firmware, and integrated
Lilian Walter's IPv6 firmware support; he hopes to test it in
Cambridge next week.

Lilian finally made one of Linux boxes into an IPv6 router tunneling
to the IPv6 internet. Other Linux boxes with IPv6 enabled can get on
to the IPv6 internet also. Next, she will work on implementing the
router advertisement/notification and global address/prefix in OFW so
that it can get on the IPv6 internet also.

We thank Zephaniah Hull for providing us patches to perform touchpad
and keyboard resets on ESD events.

Joel Stanley worked on tool chain for OpenEC. He submitted patch to
srecord after fixing a bug in their build system. And he reworked
script for power instrumentation so it can be included in Chris Ball's
tinderbox regression-testing system.

Chris resurrected the tinderbox on our power-measurement XO and added
suspend/resume testing with measurements for power use, memory use,
and number of software wakeups.  We have lost a lot of memory to the
base OS during the Trial-2 buildup; having memory tracked per-build
from now on will help better contain these problems.

10. School server: John Watlington continued to work on building a
usable, repeatable school-server image. We are very close; the effort
now going into a script that finalizes the configuration after the image
is installed onto a disk. Stable and testing repositories for the
software packages going onto the school server have been established.

11. Security: Joel Stanley worked with refining Rainbow for
integration into Trail 3. He fixed general bugs and worked with
Michael Stone to refactor code for maintainability. He implemented the
persistent scratch space, allowing Sugar activities to save to "/data"
any files they wish to (e.g., TamTam audio samples); these files are
restored on next run of the activity. This allows us to have all other
aspects of the filesystem mounted read-only. Finally, he investigated
sound support inside containers to implement P_DSP_BG, the Bitfrost
permission to allow background activities to continue to play sound.
Scott Ananian and Ivan Krstić worked out the details of the anti-theft
client and server; Scott and Michael worked on early boot and upgrade
integration with the Rainbow security service.

12. Etoys: The SqueakFest 2007 conference was held at Columbia College
in Chicago. One of the major themes of the conference this year was
OLPC; there were ~100 participants (from various countries including
Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Colombia, Nepal, and the
US), many of them are involved in the OLPC pilot programs. Yoshiki
Ohshima gave a talk on the OLPC project and the Etoys activity. Scott
Wallace conducted a tutorial of advanced use of Etoys, Takashi
Yamamiya explained the GetText interoperability feature at
birds-of-a-feather gathering. Alan Kay gave a talk titled, "A Call for
Content." Unlike typical technology conferences, SqueakFest is focused
on education; there were a lot of good discussion about learning in
and between sessions.

13. Measure: Arjun Sarwal reports that the Measure Activity now
features a frequency-domain representation in addition to a
time-domain representation. Journal integration is complete. He also
built a $1 temperature-sensing peripheral and a $1.50 intrusion alarm
system; both have been tested using the measure activity. "The great
thing about the XOs is that they are inherently networked, so by
simply connecting a sensor to each XO, and using a combination of such
sensors and the cameras, a highly powerful, flexible and robust sensor
network for surveillance can be built."

Arjun also had a very positive meeting with the Scratch team who are
working on an XO port. He demonstrated the use of low-cost sensors
around the measure activity. The demonstration, which utilizes the
microphone port built into the XO rivaled the $25 board that is
included with the PC version of Scratch. I would be helping them
develop the analog input modules within Scratch.

14. Environmental testing: Four XOs have been running in an oven at
temperatures above 45C for a continuous period of 6 days; they are
running perfectly. This test is more extreme than real-life
conditions, where at night the temperature generally goes down. A room
humidifier has been placed in the oven, where is has been running
continuously. None of the XOs show any problem.

15. OurStories: Stephen Cho, Google, reports that the OurStories
engineering team has been through several iterations of potential
solutions, and we have settled on what we hope to be a workable model
for the first version of a story-collection website. The site will
have the StoryCorps U.S. stories mapped on a Google Map, with the
ability for users to find by location and download those stories.
These are the roughly 3-minute edited versions of the stories that are
on NPR on Fridays (roughly 300 stories for the U.S.). Stephen will
over time work through the distribution rights issues to get all of
the 12,000+ StoryCorps stories on the map. In addition, he is
expecting 50 stories from Uganda and 50 stories from Pakistan through
the UNICEF team. Uruguay is also looking to participate. The Museum of
the Person project in Brazil also has several thousand audio stories.

The team has developed a client application with which children will
record stories on their XO laptops; these will be backed up to the
OLPC school server.  From there, stories can be uploaded and mapped.
The enables children to record a story, play a story, share a story,
and find a story. Plans are underway for testing the system at the
school trial in Nigeria.

16. Library: Library-creation scripts for making library bundles are
now in git under "content-bundler"; a step towards automated builds of
content images. A number of content publishers and platforms—Curriki
(curriki.org), Connexions (cnx.org), CK12, and Jamendo
(jamendo.org)—have committed to setting up simplified portals for
creators who want to make OLPC material, and to adding an option to
export books, music, or other collections as XO content bundles. CK12
and Connexions have full sets of books and modules available; Curriki
is involved in the discussion of how to fill available gaps with wiki
materials, and Jamendo has music across all continents and genres
which its community are organizing into playlist-bundles. Sylvain
Zimmer of Jamendo has developed bundling scripts for music, and Zdenek
Broz has done the same for web sites, to simplify culling the pages
from a directory of links into a usable content bundle. These will
help curators with their own collections, and site-scrapers for
dealing with open sites that do not have active curators.

17. Licensing: Scott Shawcroft and Jason Kivlighn are looking into
"Sugarizing" the Creative Commons (CC) liblicense chooser, as a first
step in integrating it with creative applications on the XO. They have
a working Sugar patch, but are revising it to make it less

18. Language: Andrew Lee has been working on a SCIM-based input widget
for Sugar; SCIM is used for Chinese and other stroke-based input
(Please see http://wiki.tossug.org/OLPCinChinese).

19. Wikis: Shoichi Chou has been working on a standalone browser for
wiki-snapshots called Ksana (ksana.tw), which supports Unicode and RTL
displays, fast on-the-fly indexing of any Mediawiki dump, and
link-cleaning. It is more general than other available engines, and
has a facility for loading dumps as modules. A French reader/browser,
Moulin, is another option; it remains to compare how much CPU and RAM
they use while reading a large snapshot.

Mako Hill's MikMik, the wiki client being considered for use on the
laptops, received a face-lift this week; a suitable gateway service
for merging offline edits with a global Wikipedia is being
discussed—an editing API needed to support this kind of editing
without visiting a web page is being developed by Yuri Astrakhan with
support from Vodafone. Denny Vrandecic, one of the creators of
Semantic Mediawiki wants to work on offline merging; his lab at the
University of Karlsruhe is doing related software development.

20. Annotation: Alec Thomas and Alan Green, working on generalized
content stamping at Google, confirmed that their work can be open
sourced and are in active discussion about merging their work with
existing work for OLPC (Please see
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Annotation ;
Original_Annotation_API_Proposal ; and

21. Jams: ccTaiwan helped organize a curriculum jam with a number of
Taiwanese student and CC groups in Taipei. In the US, the Columbia
Journalism School and Columbia Prep confirmed that they will run a NYC
jam in October.

22. Summer of Content: The trial of the Summer of Content was broadly
discussed this weekend (at Wikimania), with a number of brainstorming
sessions about project ideas and mentors; it will run for 6 weeks
starting August 17.  The southern summer starting in early December
will be the true launch of the project, with a target of 500
internships and 50 mentor organizations.

23. Games: Lincoln Quirk has the mesh working nicely with olpcgames
and pygame. Game developers and players alike are quite excited about
this integration as it will make porting a number of existing
multi-player games extremely easy. The chose-your-own-adventure
framework that Roberto Faga is working on should be done in draft next

24. Biology: The E.O. Wilson foundation is working on a simple Bug
Blitz activity for XO communities. They have a rough draft out; Santi
from the Thai team wants to try it with their children.

Upcoming Highlights:

 – Aug 6	Wikimania, Taipei
Aug 6		OLPC Nepal Curriculum Workshop, Kathmandu (in collaboration
with the Nepalese MoE)

Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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