[Community-news] OLPC News 2007-08-18

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sat Aug 18 12:07:51 EDT 2007

1. Cambridge: Ivan Krstić has been named to Technology Review's
prestigious TR35 List of Top Young Innovators. Ivan has been
recognized by TR as one of the world's top innovators under the age of
35 for his work on OLPC's innovative computer-security platform,

2. CTest-1: 300 CTest-1 laptops were built this week in Shanghai; 150
of them are on their way to Cambridge, 10 of which will be immediately
diverted to UL for final certification, along with full complements of
batteries and AC adapters.

3. Microscope: Barrett Comiskey of the Nicobar group (and former Eink
co-founder) has begun work on a low-cost microscope and a low-cost
periscope. He is working on developing optical and other peripherals
for the laptop, such a plug-in membrane that can act as an audio
drumming machine. Pierre Lena, who runs the primary school science
program "la main a la pate" (LAMAP) is also working on a microscope
for the XO; efforts can be coordinated between the two efforts.

4. Activation: Scott Ananian updated the initial ramdisk to better
handle activation from unpartitioned USB keys and SD cards; he tuned
the activation graphical user interface (GUI), and he refactored the
code to support activation via a separate anti-theft client. Scott
tracked recent JFFS2 cleanmarker changes by Mitch Bradley and Dave
Woodhouse and to he added support for backup and restore from
unpartitioned USB keys/SD cards. Scott updated the autoreinstallation
script: we now turn on "preserve user data" by default. Also, the
script preserves the activation lease contents on activated machines
and some changes have been made to make activating
never-before-activated machines a bit easier. Scott also updated the
autoreinstallation instructions on the wiki (See

5. "Pretty boot": Holding down the left directional pad during boot of
the latest builds freezes the DCON—the first iteration of "pretty
boot." Scott used the minimal framebuffer support he wrote for the
activation GUI to make a tiny proof-of-concept boot animation (which
rotates the XO man).

6. Software updates: Scott also wrote a manifest specification (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Manifest_Specification) for
activity/library/base os bundle manifests. The manifest will allow us
to do inter-bundle sharing, incremental download, and security system
authentication of bundle contents.  It uses canonical JSON as an
interchange format, in the minimal spirit of LISP S-expressions (See

7. Wireless: In response to mesh throughput fluctuations observed by
the team at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Rio de Janeiro,
Marvell implemented and tested and new rate-adaptation algorithm. The
new scheme continuously adjusts the transmission rate using
transmission-frame error rates as its input. In the existing scheme
the rate for a specific link was fixed during path discovery. The new
scheme results in more constant mesh throughput at the expense of peak
observed (instantaneous) throughput.

8. Firmware: Mitch Bradly released Q2C24 firmware with various
improvements, including: faster scrolling; graphical display of
copy-nand progress; the firmware resume path leaves USB alone; WLAN
driver supports promiscuous mode; an Easter egg (press rocker key to
the right after power-on); and a change to the cleanmarker format for
consistency with kernels after Aug 10. He also made progress, albeit
slow, on crypto. Lilian Walter worked on DNS this week. The code can
now issue DNS AAAA query to both IPv4 and IPv6 DNS servers to resolve
hostname into Ipv6 address. The next phase to get her router or DHCPv6
server to advertise the IPv6 DNS server IPv6 address.

9. School server: Due to an increase in the volume of discussion, we
now have a separate chat (#schoolserver on irc.oftc.net) for the
school server. Holger Levsen has setup a conventional laptop with an
"active antenna" (a Marvel USB wlan device) as a school server (at
least the internet gateway part of it) based on a installation image
from http://xs-dev.laptop.org/xs/, while taking notes on every
installation/configuration step. He plans to automate the procedure
next week. Using the server, XOs can now access the interweb over the
mesh automatically.

10. Kernel: This week Andres Salomon continued pushing patches
upstream (the never-ending story), discovered a serious flaw in the
way that we're handling our kernel configs that broke IPv6 support
(and will most likely require an upstream patch to get right), merged
some USB patches from upstream that should help with suspend/resume
issues, synched the master and stable branches up, merged a bunch of
vserver updates (including ipv6 support), and fixed some audio driver

11. X Window System: The packaging part of X 1.4 is complete; in
retrospect it wasn't that problematic. The server starts and runs
Sugar with no visible rendering issues, but there are no yet any input
devices. Bernardo Innocenti is trying to get HAL (the hardware
abstraction layer) to properly configure them. The old mechanism based
on dbus and "respeclaration" no longer works, but we do not care,
because it was only for debugging purposes.

Sergey Udaltsov has made a first pass at XKB support for Amharic. The
new keyboard standard that has recently been formalized in Ethiopia
includes a basic keyboard layout and a series of overlays for
composing more than 200 characters.

12. Etoys: Most of the Etoys team members, Yoshiki Ohshima, Scott
Wallace, Takashi Yamamiya, Kim Rose, and Alan Kay spent a week with
Kathleen Harness to discuss the documentation issue. (Kathleen has
been managing the squeakcmi.org site at UIUC.) Kathleen's "SqueakCard"
will be bundled as a quick help materials for Etoys.  Concurrently,
various bug fixes and enhancements were published.  Most notably,
Takashi's and Korakurider's gettext interoperability is reaching to a
point where almost all needed phrases in the system can be exported
for translation.

13. Build 542: Jim Gettys has pulled together extensive release notes
for our new stable build (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Trial-2_Software_Release_Notes). There
are also extensive notes geared towards a less technical audience in
the wiki (See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/542_Demo_Notes).

Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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