[Community-news] OLPC News 2007-09-15

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 13:04:58 EDT 2007

1. Thomas Jacobson, a network consultant with over 30 years of
experience with Internet and satellite communications, spent two days
at OLPC discussing how we can best take advantage of satellites for
very low-cost bit distribution (updates and content). He gave a talk
on Thursday (See http://www.tcjnet.com/xosat.html).

2. Nortel CTO John Roese has been blogging about the XO (See

3. Microscope: Professor Robert Shapiro visited Mary Lou Jepsen at
OLPC last week to discuss more issues of optimal microscope design to
allow the XO to provide diagnosis of HIV/AIDs, TB, and malaria, which
kill more than six-million people every year, worldwide. Low-cost
detection of these diseases could save many lives. Surprisingly, the
key for detection is not high magnification; low magnification of a
large image area and a dye coupled with violet-colored LEDs for
illumination can be combined with image processing is sufficient.
Professor Shapiro showed a prototype microscope to Mary Lou and
discussed the basic requirements. Barrett Comiskey (whose has been
designing a periscope) is also working on a low-cost microscope for
the XO.

4. Testing: Translation of Sugar and the various core activities has
begun in earnest. Alex Larsson and Rafael Ortiz worked this week with
John Palmieri to produce a build that properly supports multiple
languages. (Spanish had been broken for the last few builds due to
some translation problems.) Alex has plans for testing all of our
international keyboard mappings.

There is now a link from the sidebar on the OLPC Wiki home page to
"Test", where you can get information on the latest build before you
load it, test configuration notes, and review our current set of test
plans. If you would like to help with our testing, there are lots of
bug fixes that need verification and lots of test plans to get

5. Schedule: There are still some bugs that need triage in Trial-3. We
want to be at code freeze on Monday, so please do the best you can to
get your bug fixes checked in this weekend. Starting Monday we want to
get approval from Jim Gettys for every code change (bug fix) before

6. Suspend/resume problem resolution: This week the team working on
the suspend/resume problems (including among others, Chris Ball, Mitch
Bradley, Javier Cardona, Jordan Crouse, Richard Smith, John
Watlington, and Gary Chiang) found the root cause of our "crashes upon
resume" bug (the infamous bug #1835). The hardware was not allowing
enough time after powering up the system clocks before bringing the
Southbridge out of reset. This requires a minor hardware change to
correct. A dozen machines in Cambridge have been modified, and are
being used in the search for remaining suspend/resume problems. One of
Chris Ball's tests passed 25,000 successful resumes in Open Firmware
with the fix. Testing now shifts to wireless suspend/resume again

7. Activities and infrastructure: Many fixes for Sugar, telepathy, the
presence service, the Journal and datastore, and various system
components were checked in during the week:
* Mime-type invocation was cleaned up in order to invoke the proper
activities at the right time;
* The security infrastructure for Bitfrost is now in the builds
(turned off by default) to enable easier/faster testing of activity
adherence to the security model;
* Simon Schamijer added a hide/show tray button to the browser (which
contains thumbnails of shared bookmarks) and a view-source feature in
the browser (See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Web_Browser);
* Simon also got sound working in the Memorize Game, which uses Csound
to play ogg files;
* Ranier Herres completed a much improved version of the calculator,
including plotting of functions;
* Improvement on Etoys continues: Bert Freudenberg has been keeping up
changes in Sugar and the datastore; Kathleen Harness, Kim Rose and
Yoshiki Ohshima worked on quick-help contents; Takashi Yamamiya
adjusted the color picker and fonts to the XO display; Ted Kaehler is
fixing the painting system; and Scott Wallace fixed various issues
around fonts and scriptors.
* Gnash has been updated to Version 0.8.1; it is much improved,
although patent concerns still prevent us from shipping the ffmpeg
library used by many common codecs (the Adobe Flash player has also
been tested extensively);
* Measure can now be safely used with other audio applications, thanks
in part to an audio-driver cleanup that Andres Salomon has completed
(the driver allows for independent control of the bias voltage and
AC/DC coupling); Arjun Sarwal and Eben Eliason have modified the user
interface to use a graphical representation of functions to encourage
children to "see what this button does."
* The TamTam team, led by Jean Piché, has been busy: TamTam has been
split into three activities—TamTamJam, TamTamSynthlab and
TamTamEdit—each with a massively reworked user interface;
* Mark Maurer fixed bugs in the Write Activity, most notably some
synchronization bugs that manifest themselves during collaborative
writing sessions; Marc Oude Kotte fixed some bugs in libabiword; and
* The Read Activity now support zoom and copy to the clipboard.

8. Keyboards: Sarmad Hussain, Tariq Badsha, Babar Haq, Salman Minhas,
Naveed Ikram, and Sufyan Kakakhel have been advising Walter Bender on
the design of an Urdu keyboard for Pakistan. Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin has
done the same for Mongolian.

9. X Window System: Ethiopian support is improving; Bernardo Innocenti
filed some bug reports to upstream projects and built packages for the
builds. We also have user-oriented installation instructions for

On the Xorg front, Bernie started to look at a hard-crash bug in
amd_drv, triggered when the Browse Activity renders a complex iGoogle

Bernie also make a lucky discovery: setting LANG=C take 5 seconds off
the boot time, and possibly saves some memory too!  We can set the
proper locale later in the boot process: just before starting Sugar.

Stefano Fedrigo has backported promising EXA performance patches to
Version 1.4. So far they resulted in a crashing server, but there is
hope: while this server will make Trial-3, it may be ready for our
first deployment system.

Jim Gettys attended part of the X developer's summit (XDS), where he
discussed how to best secure the X Window System with Eamon Walsh's
XACE extension. This is nearing completion, but will not be ready
until early next year. He also investigated solutions of how to
improve drag and drop onto the Sugar frame; there are several
possibilities we will
follow up on.

In the serendipity department, one of the talks at the XDS included
information about a useful USB to VGA product on the market; there
have been many requests for this capability for better use with
projectors than our current network-based solutions, and this may be

10. Kernel: Andres Salomon committed audio-driver fixes (the capture
device should now be in a sane state when the device is opened/closed,
HPF and V_REF are no longer coupled, etc.), enabled the es1371 module
for VMware users, and included a missing battery feature
(accumulated_current) into the stable tree. The other major effort
this  week was in support of fine-tuning power usage; Andres has
started working on tests using the battery's ACR registers to get
better measurements of power savings that result from various tweaks.

11. Updates: Scott Ananian pushed manifests, upgrades, and OS signing
into the build process and is working on updating our activation
process with "real" cryptography. Scott also documented Eben Eliason
and Rebecca Allen's startup UI design (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Startup_Sequence) and split it into a number
of manageable implementation steps.

12. Firmware: Mitch Bradley continuing work this on firmware security,
and on better tools for checking NAND FLASH integrity. Two bugs
consumed 98% of Richard Smith's time this week:
(1) the resume problem as reported above, which was resolved; and
(2) a mysterious "turn off" problem—the core of the problem is that
the timing used by the embedded controller (EC) to assert the PWR_BUT#
signal is based a loop counter rather than a timer; Richard is looking
into fixing this.

13. World Digital Library: The World Digital Library team, under the
direction of John van Oudenaren and Michelle Rago, is finishing a
working model of their visual seven-language library interface this
month in preparation for a public demonstration at the UNESCO general
conference October 15. The demonstration will draw on 60GB of
materials from around the world, with highlights from the history of
India. They will be showcasing the demo on three devices: the XO, the
Classmate, and the iPhone.

14. Help wanted: ePals wants to hire a Python developer next week to
finish a Sugarized activity that offers access to their PenPal
services. They have a design almost completed, and expect this to be
around 40 hours of work. The Library of Congress is considering up to
three unpaid internships this fall with office space in their Science
and Technology Sections, to identify educational and illustrative
materials in the public domain and to get digital versions of them
online and bundled for their own website and for OLPC collections.
This is an opportunity to have unlimited access to their stacks and to
get experience with modern digitization processes. Contact SJ Klein
(sj at laptop dot org) for details regarding both positions.

15. Ethiopian texts: Emma Shercliffe of Macmillan and Ignatz Heinz of
Avallain are finishing work on a language-learning tool this month,
and a collection of Ethiopian texts and materials for the team in
Addis. They will make this material available to the world. Macmillan
is also interested in working with local teams across Africa to help
share their experiences working with education ministries and schools;
they have local authors and publishing branches in around half of the
countries there.

16. Character recongnition: Thomas Breuel, a computer science
professor at Kaiserslautern who is working on some of the harder
character-recognition problems for Google's book scanning project, has
been testing a handwriting-recognition application with the XO

17. Email client: Mark Doffman has been working on the Python bindings
for Tinymail. He could use some help with the actual "Sugarization" to
complete a production client for an XO (See
and http://mail.gnome.org/archives/tinymail-devel-list/2007-September/msg00000.html).

18. Off-line wiki: Renaud Gaudin of moulin-wiki is working with the French
development team at Linterweb (an open-source data-mining group) and
the French Wikipedians. Together, they are building an off-line wiki

Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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