[Community-news] OLPC News (2008-06-08) - Tech Team

Kim Quirk kim at laptop.org
Mon Jun 9 10:03:34 EDT 2008

Highlights of the week include:
 * The release of PER703-6 to production, and 8.1.1 into testing (Releases
 * Review and discussions on the new Sugar UI
 * Feedback from Peru and Uruguay (Support section)

We've also started discussions on a better way to produce community-news to
make it more relevant and inclusive. If you have suggestions on
improvements, please post them on the discussion page of News:

Sugar UI:*
Nicholas asked for a review of the new Sugar User Interface. "Changing the
graphical user interface cannot be done lightly," he noted in a memo. "It is
akin to changing a national flag." He observed that current design is
"inconsistent in its use of the frame and awkward about showing a large
number of activities," and asked the review team to "revisit" the circle in
light of other modifications to the UI.

Lisa Strausfeld, Christian Marc Schmidt and Takaki Okada from Pentagra,
together with Eben Eliason, Jim Gettys, Marco Presenti Gritti and Kim Quirk
participated in the discussions. New options are being explored using the
whole screen, where possible keeping the XO  figure in the center, as a
fiducial for zooming. Eben and Christian showed some mock ups of a few
different Home screen views based on lifting the restriction of the circle.
They will add them to the wiki "Designs" page as they are completed.

After reviews and discussions among many people it was decided that we want
to rebase the 8.2.0 (August) release on Fedora 9. Among other things this
should provide us with a better network manager upon which to improve the
connectivity and collaboration experience.

To help improve our development efforts, Chris Ball and Sayamindu Dasgupta
are putting together a code review process for OLPC based on 'Review Board',

Sayamindu Dasgupta made modifications to the Metacity window manager so that
it is more suited for Sugar. He enabled the new compositing manager in
Metacity (results of his experiments:
http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2008-June/006214.html). He also did
some basic memory usage measurements with metacity (results:

Pootle's Scratch translation project is now out of the "experimental" phase,
which means that people can start working on it without having to worry
about losing their translations. Thanks to David Leeming, there are three
new languages in Pootle: Solomon Islands Pidgin (Pijin), Marovo (Solomon
Islands), Tok Pisin (PNG).

Faisal Anwar of Media Modifications has started working on a "Sugar Almanac"
of code snippets and best practices. He has started to write  documentation
for activity package (toolbars) and the graphics package.

Dafydd Harries and Guillaume Desmottes continue with Gadget development to
improve the collaboration experience. It is pretty close to being
feature-complete, and testing can begin in earnest soon. Guillaume is also
working on refactoring Search/View Gabble API.

*Hardware / Embedded Controller: *
Richard Smith is working on a problem found in production where the battery
sensor chip behaves in a way that the management code doesn't understand and
it reports incorrect charging status. He is also working with both Quanta
and Gold Peak on problems charging the NiMH batteries at the factory. We
expect to have a resolution soon, but in the short term all batteries being
shipped will be LiFE.

RCAL and Gecko, our development partners for the Multi-Battery Charger will
continue detailed testing and analysis on the thermal problems we are seeing
in this product. We will be slipping the prototype build dates until we have
a solution for overheating.

Paul Fox has made great progress this week on porting the current EC
codebase to the sdcc compiler.  This will enhance the EC development
workflow and remove the dependency on a closed source compiler that has to
be run under Windows XP in a vmware session.

This week we released the Peru 703 build (8.1.0) to production, which means
that about half of the laptops in the current production run (of 100k) will
have the latest build on them coming out of the factory. This is the first
production image we are releasing that has country specific activities and
content, so we needed to create tools, and define and document processes in
order to get this right. Up until now, a country was required to customize
their build at the point of deployment. For very large deployments, we can
now provide the tools and process to get this customization done at the
point of production. The country is responsible for testing the builds and
the final image; and is responsible for keeping to the production schedule.

There was also a good amount of testing on the 8.1.1, a bug fix release
scheduled for final test next week. This is an important release for
Ethiopia and Haiti keyboard mappings, and also provides a fix to the
resistive pentablet mode.

The Sugar team has released Sucrose[1] 0.81.2. You can find the release
notes here: http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/ReleaseTeam/CurrentRelease/Sucrose.

Welcome to OLPC's new QA Lead, Joseph Feinstein! As well as contributing to
the test effort itself, he will also work with Kim Quirk to create test case
management tools, help with modifications of the bug tracking work flow,
process, and getting the 100 laptop testbed back up and running.

We said goodbye to Giannis Galanis (Yanni) this week, who has been a long
term volunteer testing network connectivity, collaboration, and wireless
issues. He hopes to stay involved (and we hope he does too), but is moving
to London where he expects to start a full time job soon. Thanks for all
your help, Yanni!

John Watlington visited Uruguay at the beginning of the week in order to
help them set up a repair center, and talk to their server and network
teams. Uruguay has a centralized repair system.   When a child's laptop
fails, they take it to the nearest Post Office, which is equipped with
shipping boxes.  The laptops are shipped to a central repair facility in
Montevideo, where they are triaged, repaired or replaced, and sent back to
the child's school through the mail.

About half of the returned machines simply need the software reinstalled.
The other half are dominated by laptops whose RTC battery has come loose
while running old firmware.   OLPC shipped the serial adapters needed to
repair these this week to Uruguay.   The two most serious hardware problems
they are seeing outside of this are broken screens
(dropped laptops) and keyboards with keys torn off.

The hardware team has been working on a "Troubleshooting Guide for the XO",
which will be made available to these repair centers.   This will be used by
the Uruguay team, and has also been requested by the Peru team as they start
to plan a repair and spare parts strategy.

The visit served to illustrate how much we don't know about the software
that Uruguay is deploying.   In particular, their server software doesn't
include the presence service we now know is crucial to collaboration in
dense environments.   They also have their laptops automatically turning
into mesh portals upon connecting to the school WiFi networks, which results
in most of the laptops in a school trying to use the mesh to communicate,
despite all being in range of the well-planned WiFi deployments done by
Uruguay.    A member of Plan Ceibal's technical staff will be in Boston
for the next two weeks to further improve communication with them.

Martin Langhoff and John Watlington have been in Peru for the latter part of
this week, working with the Ministry of Education team on server issues.
 On Friday, they had planned to deploy a school server in a nearby school
(less than three hours from Lima), but ended up travelling to Arahuay to
diagnose and fix a server problem there.  They discovered
that it was an unexciting motherboard hardware failure instead of any
problem with the current XS software.   What this does illustrate is the
importance of a "Server Manual" which includes simple troubleshooting and
repair instructions, analogous to the "Laptop User's Manual" written by
Peru.  A new version of that Manual was released this week and will
be installed on Peru's laptops, with future versions already in planning.
Carla Gomez-Monroy joined Martin and John in Peru on Friday, and will be
working with the next round of teacher training next week.

Emily Smith, Adam Holt, Sandy Culver, Christine Myrick, and some contractors
continue to respond to all the emails and phone calls about the first G1G1
program, and we have started discussions on the second one.

Kim Quirk, Mel Chua and Nikki Lee discussed and outlined ideas for
non-profit repair center that doesn't require monetary exchange. One of the
difficulties that a volunteer repair center has to face is that the parts
and shipping cost money even if the labor is free. Legal and tax
implications need to be taken into account as well as how to transfer funds.
We also need to encourage or find someone to provide a repairs business for
all the laptops that are going to individuals (G1G1) and small groups (less
than 10,000). These groups will all need to be able to get spare parts,
repairs or replacements.

Number of emails into the help queue this week: 299, 137 are donor services
G1G1 and 162 are tech support.

Martin Langhoff gave a keynote at AIS Conference in Sydney (Australian
school IT managers). There was lots of interest in volunteering in OLPC
efforts in AU and the Pacific. He also spoke at Sydney OLPC Techfest with
Joel Stanley, Pia Waugh, Jeff Waugh. Jeff and Pia are coordinating volunteer
efforts for the Pacific.
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