[Community-news] OLPC News (2007-05-19)

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sat May 19 19:52:53 EDT 2007

1. Taiwan: Mary Lou Jepsen gave a keynote address at inauguration of
the Taiwan ICT Alliance, where she featured a fact that many in Taiwan
didn't know: by part count the XO hardware is 92% Taiwanese.
Ambassadors from Paraguay, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador,
Haiti, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Panama, Burkino Faso, Malawi,
Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland, Gambia, Palau, Marshall Islands,
Solomon Islands and Nauru, and representatives from Brazil, Fiji,
Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia, as wall as 40
CEOs from Taiwanese IT companies attended. The ambassadors showed
strong enthusiasm for XO and strong desire to become launch countries.

2. Villa Cardal, Uruguay: Walter Bender visited with the Ceibal
Project team at their test site in a small country town about 80K from
Montevideo. What was most impressive about the deployment is how
comfortable the children and teachers seem with their Xos after only
one week. The children are making extensive use of the video camera
and word-processor to create multimedia documents. The teachers are
comfortable with letting the children explore and then present their
findings to the class. The school deployment team, led by Fiorella
Haim, has been focusing on the mesh network—making sure that the
children and their families will have Internet access both at school
and home. The XO's sunlight-readable display came in handy—both for
the children, who spend time with their XOs outdoors and for the towns
people, who have some lovely parks for sitting, surfing, and reading.

3. Buenos Aires: Walter gave a demonstration of the XO to the
Argentine ministry of education. Vice Minister Juan Carlos Tedesco was
the senior member of a group about 15 people, including Gustavo
Peyrano, Chief of Advisors, Olga Cavalli and Adrian Carvallo of the
Foreign Offices Ministry (technology experts), Susana Montaldo,
Minister of Education of Tucuman, and Adriana Canal, Advisor for
Minister of Education of Buenos Aires. (Tucuman and Buenos Aires have
been selected to be the sites of test schools.) The demo was
mesh-centric; it highlighted the Layer 2 routing—browsing through a
mesh point portal (MPP) was enabled by the presence of a relay mesh
point—and mesh-enabled applications, including video conferencing,
Connect-4, sharing of ebooks, and automatic backup and restore to and
from a school server. Other demos included a demonstration of the
journal, a test of extended battery-lifetime (more than 12 hours in
ebook-mode), full-screen video, web browsing, eToys (including World
Stethoscope—a means of sending data into eToys from the XO's
microphone input), Turtle Art (a simple graphical environment for
programming in Logo), and a serverless (mesh-enabled) listserv for
posting community notices. The discussion that followed highlighted
the unique features of the XO hardware, including the advantages of
the display, low power, robustness, low environmental impact;
software, including the collaboration features of the Sugar user
interface and the Bitfrost security system; and the laptop ecosystem,
including gang-chargers, solar-powered mesh repeaters, etc. Also
discussed were observations from how children and teachers are using
the XOs in Brazil, Nigeria, and Thailand.

Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the demonstration a
success, including Richard Smith, Chris Ball, Michail Bletsas, John
Watlington, Dan Williams, John Palmieri, Marco Gritti, Chris Blizzard,
Tomeu Vizoszo, the Collabora team, the eToys team, Erik Blankinship,
Bahktiar Mikhak, Don Hopkins, Mitch Bradley, Andres Salomon, SJ Klein,
Felice Gardner, and Jim Gettys.

4. Google's Stephen Cho organized a day of discussions around an "Our
Stories" project, including Sharad Sapra, head of UNICEF's
Communications division, Dave Isay of StoryCorps, and Joe Lambert of
the Center for Digital Storytelling. The goal was to refine milestones
and support for both on-line and XO activities to help children
interview people in their community and share those stories, to
encourage teachers to work this into a class/community exercise, and
to visualize the results on a world map. A public presentation was
well received; around a dozen Googlers signed up to help make the
project happen. The initial focus is on having a simple prototype
ready by early June; Stephen hopes to host five-million stories from
OLPC countries after three years. Similar works underway such as
Brazil's Million Stories of Youth could use the same interfaces.

5. Taipei: Michail Bletsas spoke at the annual Taipei Summit
conference, whose theme this year was WiMax. Michail expressed the
opinion that WiMax is drifting away from relevance by focusing on
licensed spectrum in the developed world. (OLPC's interest of course
is unlicensed spectrum in the developing world.)

Prof. H.T. Kung of Harvard University showed up a demo of his
collaboration with OLPC running on six XO laptops. These laptops—in
the official Taipei booth—were accessing the Internet via a WiFi/WiMax
gateway router. One of the XO's was running a traffic-management
module, refereeing traffic for the other five and enforcing fairness
in downloads over TCP.

6. Environmental: Several environmental groups have been in contact
with Mary Lou Jepsen about our "greenness" and are duly impressed at
how we go above and beyond EPEAT environmental specifications.
* XO batteries last 4× longer than standard rechargeable batteries;
long lifetime of batteries is not an EPEAT requirement.
* Idle power consumption: Energy-Star compliance is mandated by EPEAT,
but the idle power consumption of the XO laptop is 14× better.
* 5-year laptop lifetime; long lifetime of laptop before obsolescence
is not an EPEAT requirement.
* Half the size and weight of a typical laptop; energy and resources
used to make an XO are less; also not an EPEAT requirement and
relevant for recycling
These groups are helping with the various aspects of our environmental
statements and policies. In particular they are helping us craft the
best "take-back" system we can, to assure XO laptops don't end up in
landfills, ever.

7. Human power: Pedal Power Haiti wants to try our laptops with the
pedal power system they are using from Dissigno (a San Francisco-based
human-power startup). This system is big, but folds up, and is in test
already in Nepal and Haiti. The output is between 12–14.6 volts at
50–70 Watts. The system was designed to charge a car battery, and can
work with our gang charger systems as well.

8. Power management: This week we passed a major milestone: working
ebook mode using the read activity as vehicle. Suspend and resume are
working on both GX and LX--although we have a few bugs left on the LX.
Walter Bender demonstrated the fruits of many people's labor in
Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay. In one test--with the caveat that the
the WiFi was off, an XO ran for 23 hours on  a 92% battery charge.
Even with the backlight on, we have seen ebook mode run for more than
13 hours. Thanks go to Don Hopkins, Chris Ball, Mitch Bradley, and
Andres Salomon.

The last major functional piece of resume is working; Marcelo Tosatti
reports that it appears that basic functionality (detection of device
insertion) is now working, even though he has no idea why (perhaps
some change in mainline). All we need to do is to power up the USB
ports after resume. Once this is done, we should have completed basic
suspend and resume work, and move on to performance (both speed of
resume, and power management in general. This will also allow us to
have the mesh alive in ebook mode as soon as  we have completely
autonomous mesh firmware.

9. Suspend/resume: Chris Ball has prepared a jffs2 image that Quanta
can use for testing LX suspend/resume. Resume is stable when done from
the console, but not yet from inside X. Bernardo Innocenti found and
helped to diagnose a problem with the serial port on LX after resume,
and Dave Woodhouse came up with a fix.

We also looked at optimizations: with our standard kernel, resume
takes 2–3 seconds from when the kernel starts up to when it finishes
initializing. After disabling USB, we are down to about 1 second.
Since the touchpad and keyboard remain powered up during suspend, we
can skip the suspend/resume code for them—an additional savings of 0.5

10. Kernel: At Dave Woodhouse's behest, Andres Salomon started looking
at LOGFS, a potential successor to JFFS2. We won't ship it with Gen1,
but it is something we are exploring for use after our initial release
and an eventual Gen-2 system. Greg Kroah-Hartman is working on binding
multiple PCI drivers to a single PCI device by way of a "piggy" bus
driver: the piggy driver binds to all PCI devices; then other drivers
can go through the piggy layer. It's still in active development: the
code can be found in the -mm tree. Andres is finishing up the open
firmware device-tree work. Bernardo also extended the kernel debugger
(kdb) to be able to read and write model-specific registers (MSRs).
Pierre Ossman tells us that an 8GB SD card worked on his XO, so now we
know that we support 8G+ cards. Pierre also has a patch to
significantly increase the speed of SD on our hardware.

11. X Window System: Bernardo is chasing X crashing on XVideo and
RANDR; he has had a hard time reproducing the bug:  he only sees it on
a B2 machine with his own kernel—not with the stock 406 kernel. Jim
Gettys is investigating the  current state of X Window System as it
pertains to the XO. We need to deal properly with ebook mode (the game
buttons and the touchpad need to rotate along with the screen); the
new input system hasn't landed in X.org head yet. We also have
power-related work in both the X Window System and kernel driver teed
up. Jordon Crouse implemented the X DPMS extension (screen saver) this
week as well, completing another piece of what is needed for power

12. Firmware: Mitch Bradley has been busy. He
* discovered a way to eliminate 64 mS from the resume time, using a
barely-documented AMD test register;
* discovered a problem with the microphone LED blinking at
suspend/resume (John Watlington has a proposed fix);
* improved firmware audio self-test for frequency response and
distortion measurements;
* analyzed speaker audio quality and proposed a zero-cost hardware mod
to reduce distortion;
* reduced the memory use of the firmware JFFS2 driver by a factor of ~8;
incorporated lovely new boot progress icons designed by Eben Eliason;
* specified in great detail a new protocol for CPU/EC command
interactions, to improve speed and reliability;
* revised, corrected, and documented the interrupt routing for the B3 systems;
* determined the correct software fix for the camera-light-left-on problem;
* corrected network boot problems that were holding up manufacturing;
* added manufacturing data strings to the device tree in support of
school server interactions;
* added MSR, DCON, display registers, and manufacturing data support
to the Linux-hosted Forth debug tool;
* added SD high-capacity support to the firmware SD driver;
* provided support and training for new Quanta software engineers; and
* provided technical support for country evaluators late at night on IRC.

Lilian Walter read up on IPv6, came up with a plan and started some
coding. That stopped in order to get the power management code working
on the

13. School server: John Watlington reports that the school server is
on track, with schematic-level design starting. A batch of Active
Antennas is back from assembly. Holger Levson reports:
* Automatic livecd is almost working. He found three bugs in
livecd-installer in textmode: two of them are fixed; the remaining
problem is trivial to workaround. The installed system boots fine.
* Fully automatic installation (FAI) is working. We need to put the
server applications in FAI to have them automatically installed. (A
how-to for using FAI needs to be written.)

14.  Multicast: Miguel Álvarez finished implementing and debugging a
new version of Dan William's "MostlyReliablePipe." This one is based
on the scalable reliable multicast (SRM) protocol, and so far the
results seem interesting: in his first test-bed with four nodes—all
transmitting at a rate of one message/s and with an induced continuous
error-rate of 30% (which I hope is far worse than any situation the
mesh will face), no packets get lost, and the overhead in terms of
traffic oscillates between 1-5% of the total data transmitted. He will
be conducting a much larger test and will upload the code to git for
everyone to use, critique, comment and modify.

15. Sugar design: Eben Eliason:
* uploaded a number of new screen shots to the Activities section of the wiki;
* created a series of find/replace dialog mock ups that employ some
new approaches to the problem;
* created an extensive section in the human interface guidelines about
the new toolbar design;
* created a series of icons for status indication during the boot
process which integrate neatly with the OLPC logo graphic style;
* worked with Marco Gritti to spec the visual style for "inactive"
controls and buttons in the UI;
* began working on a series of mock ups specifying the various
invitation methods, receiving invitations, and the notification
* continue working back and forth with Manusheel Gupta to "Sugarize"
the Paint activity;
* worked with Pentagram on the mesh UI design; and
* continue working back and forth with the Abiword team to Sugarize
the Write activity.

16. TamTam: Jean Piché reports that the TamTam team is making its summer plans:
* solidify TamTam on the B4 and C machines: better keyboard response;
a possible move to a 22k sampling rate (This would improve audio
quality famously, specially where headphones or external speakers are
used.); reinstate microphone and keyboard recording; and solve all
pop-up window issues.
* merge TamTam Jam and miniTamTam into one integrated activity; the
TamTam suite would revert to a three-prong affair: Play, Compose, Make
* Sugar conformity and integration: the Sugar controller toolkit is
almost complete enough for all of the TamTam purposes.
* TamTam tunes outside TamTam: a simple embeddable TamTam player so
children can put their compositions into documents. (AbiWord would be
the first target.)
* tutorials and field trials: text-free tutorials to show children how
to use the applications;
* The sound bank will be fully overhauled (hopefully at a 22k sampling rate).

17. Ebook: Josh Gay and Ian Bicking spent two days at OLPC working
through our infrastructure for recording and aggregating comments.
Josh is currently finishing a port of Stet, the 'heat map'-style
commenting system used for the GPLv3 draft, which will be usable for
commenting on any web page(See
http://gplv3.fsf.org/comments/gplv3-draft-3.html). Ian is looking into
a simple reader interface that renders any HTML page, not only those
that have been preprocessed, as a way of integrating our current
book-reader concept more neatly with the browser. Marco Gritti and Ian
suggested pyxpcom might be the right way to proceed, with some success
(See  http://mailman.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2007-May/002396.html).

18. In the community: Bernardo Innocenti has started volunteering his
time at OLPC working on kernel and other low level software. Hal
Murray is helping out Lilian Walter testing that our power management
hardware controls are all correct and understood.

19. Etoys.  Works continue to match the Etoys' Look better with the
Sugar environment.  Takashi Yamamiya has been working on copy and
paste multimedia objects between EToys and other sugar activities.
Bert Freudenberg built a new VM with preliminary D-Bus support for
Etoys with Takashi's clipboard support.  Andreas Raab's "virtual
display" code is incorporated so that people can make a content for
XO's 1200x900 pixel screen regardless the actual size of display.  A
Sugar-like menu bar is added by Yoshiki Ohshima.  Scott Wallace's
enhancement of "property sheet" provides better interface to
manipulates the graphical properties of user objects.  Alan Kay and
Ted Kaehler continue on making more educational examples and documents
in and for Etoys.


Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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