[Community-news] OLPC News (2008-11-10)

Jim Gettys jg at laptop.org
Mon Nov 10 12:09:32 EST 2008

Community News

A weekly update of One Laptop per Child November 9, 2008

G1G1 has gone global. Nicholas announced to delegates at the World of
Health IT conference in Copenhagen last week that all 27 EU member
states would take part this year. More exact details will be in future
Community News; as 2. below indicates, the details are non-trivial.


G1G1 Support:

1. This was the week to deliver final content for the new website, and
to start getting approvals for the Amazon storefront. We aren't quite
there, but we hope to have beta versions for both on Wednesday or
Thursday of next week, and to go live on Friday. Christian Schmidt, Kim
Quirk, Seth Woodworth, Stefan Unterhauser, Eben Eliaison, and SJ Klein
are trying to pull together the loose ends to get to a beta version on
Wednesday. C. Scott Ananian has also joined the effort. Henry Hardy, and
Ed McNierney will help out with the server updates that need to be ready
for November 17th. 

2. The G1G1 team also has revisited the idea of an international Amazon
site for order taking, with the hope of using Brightstar for delivery
outside the US. Issues to be resolved include international banking,
certifications for the laptop in various countries, recycling program
for Europe, and fulfillment warehouses with the ability to ship to end
users and to receive and process returns.


3. The QA team is testing connectivity and collaboration among more than
50 laptops, simulating the environment of a school that lacks a server.
The machines have been communicating over an access point. So far,
results are mixed. Testing and investigation will continue.

4. Joe Feinstein and Frances Hopkins have run tests against the new
firmware, q2e21, which is needed to support the new touchpad. A problem
with restarting/shutting down some of the production laptops with new
touchpads is under investigation. Reuben Caron has created a script to
automate the process of de-registering a laptop from the school server,
which is working well. Mel Chua is looking into dsh
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Dsh) for remote access to the laptops. Thanks
to Michael Stone for the idea. 

5. Reuben Caron continued testing with XS 0.5 dev-7 and looks forward to
testing the final release next week. He began exploring ways to attach
multiple ejabberd services to alternate IP addresses to avoid the
overhead of fully virtualized servers. He also continued working with
the QA team on automation and troubleshooting the XO backup to XS

6. Mel reports that you can get full notes and logs of the community
test meetings at
Interested people are welcome to join! Greg DeKoenigsberg and Brian
Jordan are trying out the process for “Testing an Activity” on Speak and
Paint. Marco notes that Mel is a great meeting chair.

We have a (very ugly, please help fix!) portal page,
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Community_testing, and a meetings portal page,

Greg and Brian are trying out (on Speak and Paint respectively) our
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/How_to_test_an_Activity instructions, which
are under severe amounts of construction are there any volunteers here
with exploratory test experience that can help write up this guide?

How can we encourage smart testers to take ownership of specific
Activities and do "deep" testing on them, and come up with their own
criteria for and metrics of quality? (As opposed to having community
testers spending their time being/recruiting drones to run through
scripts.) Greg quoted Patton: "Don't tell people how to do things. Tell
them what needs to be done, and let the surprise you with their
ingenuity." (Seriously, this was a great discussion - please do read the
logs to get the full blast - it starts around 17:28:29.)

It was generally agreed that automation was a good idea for reducing
drone-ness, which is boring. Ben and Mel will be dreaming up designs
over the next week, and welcome help. Basically, "I'm a tester. I want
to automate this boring thing. What is my ideal interface to do so / the
most beautiful tool I could imagine for it?" One possible source of
inspiration: Sugarbot.

Everybody likes Joe's design which was the basis of our current
semantic-mediawiki-based test case management system

Marco brought up some great questions about the tester/developer
relationship. We need to make sure that good bugs get filed when a test
fails, and that developers know about the testing going on for the
things they're working on (actually, this should be a "people are using
my work, yay!" motivation.)

internal QA: We've been looking for a way to manage our large testbeds 
from a central machine, so Mel sat down and played with dsh (thanks to 
Michael Stone for the suggestion) this morning, and...


Why is this cool? Well, say you wanted to run the ps command on all the
machines in your /etc/dsh/machines file, which looks like this...

olpc at
olpc at

All you have to do is this:

mchua at tumtum-tree:~$ dsh -Ma ps
olpc at 1166 ? 00:00:00 startx
olpc at 1185 ? 00:00:00 xinit
olpc at 1211 ? 00:00:02 ck-xinit-sessio
olpc at 1240 ? 00:00:40 python
olpc at 1244 ? 00:00:00 dbus-launch
<...more entries from go here>

olpc at 1549 ? 00:00:00 startx
olpc at 1566 ? 00:00:00 xinit
olpc at 1577 ? 00:01:31 python
olpc at 1585 ? 00:00:16 dbus-daemon
<...more entries from go here>

Systems Administration:

7. Henry Edward Hardy reports that we have seen a significant increase
in activity on wiki.laptop.org, which is causing slow performance and
periods of limited access during weekdays that affect a number of
critical services. The extreme load has also caused some emails to be
temporarily delayed.

Country Support:

8. This week Reuben worked with the deployments in Perú, Paraguay,
Mongolia and Lebanon. He is working with the international operations
team on a visit to Lebanon to help with some tech support issues. We
also hope that a visit to Birmingham in the near future will help us do
some live testing with a large laptop and school server deployment.

Software Development:

9. Greg Smith is collecting all well-formed ideas for future development
at:http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Feature_roadmap. Add your suggestions to
that page. In the near future we will start prioritizing them and
choosing the target set for inclusion in the next release, 9.1.0. The
agenda for a technical conference in January is being set at
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XOcamp_2. The first review of all proposals
should be done by next week. We then will create detailed materials and
pick lead presenters for each session. 

10. Eben spent this week scrambling to get everything needed for the
website refresh together. This included copy-editing, updating the
timeline, creating new screenshots for all 28 activities included in the
G1G1(2) set, exporting activity icons, creating a google map which
indicates quantity of laptops shipped, collecting photos for the people
page, improving the loading logic for the dynamic slideshows, revising
the software vision movie, and writing a narration script for that

Eben also spent some time discussing plans for fleshing out a Sugar
notification system, and planning some enhancements to the scalability
of the zoom level views.

XO OS Software:

11. Michael and Chris Ball departed for a 10-day trip to Montevideo to
better understand and support the deployment model and technology
strategy being used in Uruguay.

12. C. Scott Ananian fixed a number of issues with Pippy localization,
and wrote some proof-of-concept code using the new Pippy physics
library. He also looked at libcanberra and PackageKit for possible use
in 9.1 (and pyv8 for *far* future use). The latter half of his week was
hijacked by infrastructure issues; he overhauled the squid reverse proxy
in front of wiki.laptop.org to better match the configuration used by
wikipedia.org, and began moving www.laptop.org off pedal.laptop.org,
anticipating G1G1 loads.

13. Paul Fox worked on some bugs that may or may not be related to the
new touchpad (#8901, #8887), implemented a new final powerdown LED
flicker in the EC firmware (to remove ambiguity when forcing a poweroff
by holding the power button in), and began writing up an EC firmware
regression test plan. 

14. Early in the week, Erik Garrison ported compcache 0.4 into the
olpc-2.6 series (http://code.google.com/p/compcache/) kernel and tested
that it didn't break builds. Then Erik built the development version of
the awesome window manager (http://awesome.naquadah.org/) on an XO
running debxo and has been testing configuration changes which make it
work better in that environment.

15. Jim Gettys finished investigating OpenGL support in Gen-2 for one of
our processor options, and then wrote a memo on the implementation
options. This topic is much more complex than it would have been in the
past, since the drivers for X11/OpenGL are in a major state of flux, to
enable long term competitive performance relative to other platforms.

XS School Server Software:

16. Martin Langhoff and Douglas Bagnall focused on testing installations
and upgrades so we can release XS-0.5. This revealed that the key
importation process had unfinished aspects, so he worked on fixing that.
Early in the week Douglas wrote up some ejabberd tests and resolved
compilation problems with the pam_sotp rpm. To support large
installations and generally give better presence service, Martin and
Douglas have mapped out a plan to make ejabberd show presence for users
in the same group/course rather than everyone.

Sugar / Activity Software:

17. Sayamindu Dasgupta worked on SCIM integration and proposed a set of
packages to be included into Joyride (#8934). He also resolved problems
with the interaction between SCIM and Rainbow's activity isolation (due
to isolation a separate scim daemon was being needed for each activity,
which had serious memory and CPU usage implications, especially for
complicated input mechanisms). He also worked on RTL (mirrored) icon
support in Sugar, and in the process came up with support for specifying
stock-ids for Sugar icons. He is preparing patches for review. In the
localization department, Sayamindu acted as a go -between for the team
at Mongolia and the developer community to integrate several
translations done by Mongolian teachers from the field. He also helped
Pablo Saratxaga get started with translations of Sugar into Walloon -
many thanks to Pablo for the initiative.

18. Marco Pesenti Gritti started looking into activity startup
performance. From the first measurements it looks like import time, if
done more lazily could be pretty good. The feeling is that we are doing
more slow/sync things at startup then importing modules. I also suspect
the launcher animation is slowing things down a lot, but needs to

Marco added debug logging for activity startup time, should be helpful
for the performance work. * Tried to split up better the
distribution/release work the Sugar team is doing, to avoid too much
costly focus switching. Tomeu is now our joyride master, while Simon
keeps leading the release team. Marco spent quite a bit of time to think
and discussing how to handle activity upstream releases better. Thanks
to garycmartin and gregdek in particular for feedback and idea. Made
also a bit of concrete progress with the Analyze release by Eduardo.
Several people made progress on the sugarlabs.org reorg. Marco trimmed
down the review queue, feel better now. Dear contributors, we will not
suck so much in the future, please keep sending good stuff. Marco had
more icon cache discussions with Tomeu and Benzea, made some progress
but it's pretty difficult to measure conclusively the memory/graphics
performance effects.Marco did lots of sugar 0.83 packaging/refining
work, we are getting there but progress on joyride has been pretty slow.
It would be nice if the whole team would contribute more actively,
especially given we decided to port to F10. dsd is rocking as usual, no
surprise there.

19. Tomeu Vizoso has been working this week in bringing the last Sugar
code into the joyride builds, added a way for activities to override the
default "View source" behavior, packaged and tested Benjamin Berg's
proposal for a new icon cache, added a way for activities to request a
notification to be shown in the shell and gave this capability to XoIRC
and has started a port of a mind-mapping application: Labyrinth. He has
also restarted to keep a TODO list in his wiki page and welcomes
comments about it: http://sugarlabs.org/go/User:Tomeu

20. Simon Schampijer kept on working on the integration of NM 0.7 in
Sugar. He finished the loading and saving of the connections. We still
use the old profile format but will later probably switch to gconf and
gnme-keyring, and the WPA part. Morgan Collett started documenting API
changes in 8.2.0 at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/API_changes - please
contribute. He worked on API improvements in Sugar and activities,
including reduction in boilerplate code required for collaboration. 

21. Richard Smith worked with Henry Hardy to install a new virtual
machine on weka for firmware builds. Toward the end of the configuration
and setup he discovered he had installed a 64-bit copy of the OS, which
causes a few build issues. Henry will re-install and replace it with a
32-bit OS.

Laptop Power:

22: Richard dug ever deeper into the power measurements. He previously
reported that newer builds used .5W more power than the previous builds,
but based on the data he has acquired since then that claim is under
suspicion. The variability of the data is enough that .5W difference is
in noise. Further data are needed to pinpoint all the variables.


23. Mitch Bradley released Q2E22 firmware with some bug fixes, solid
firmware support for the new touchpads, and an enhanced diagnostic for
the old touchpads. He also released q2e22a, a developer test build with
XO-to-XO multicast NAND update support and much-improved USB
performance. The NAND update feature lets you "clone" one XO's NAND OS
image onto any number of other XOs at the same time, without needing an
access point. The performance exceeds the original goal. In a recent
test, Mitch cloned a 368 MB OS image in fewer than seven minutes. The
network throughput for this tool exceeds the highest XO wireless rate
that has ever been measured using Linux.

Deployment Workbook:

24. With the help of the learning team, Richard, John Watlington,
Reuben, Carla Gòmez Monroy and Joshua Seals continued to refine the
deployment workbook to better understand the costs of deploying the
laptop. They are achieving important insights, especially in areas such
as the power adapter where it appears that a slight increase in the cost
of the laptop might greatly reduce the deployment expense.


25. Deepak Saxena primarilly worked on understanding some odd behaviour
with the new Touchpad (#8901, #8894, #8942, #8491). Deepak also moved
the OLPC kernel moved forward to and rolled up a new UBIFS test
image with the latest bugfixes.

26. Marvell released wireless firmware version 5.110.22.p22, which
rearranges some internal buffers to deal with marginal cases discovered
during WPA association testing, adds a diagnostic debug event for those
cases, addresses WOL filter input issues and provides an API to get/set
the probe response retry limit. Ricardo Carrano continued tests with the
new dirver implementation of the signature based wake-on-lan filter,
that fixed minor issues observed last week, and started tests with
latest wireless firmware release 5.110.22.p22 which fixes some wpa
related issues (#8666 and #8667) and corrects some minor controls over
management traffic and the wol filter.

27. Javier and Colin at Cozybit identified the root causes of WPA
association failures. Colin has written a Network Manager patch that
resolves some of the failures and Javier is working on a driver patch to
work around wpa_supplicant's tendency to set the BSSID to all zeros
prior to any association request (a very loose interpretation of the
standard, since an all-zeros BSSID is a valid address - the 00:00:00
prefix is assigned to Xerox Corp.)

Links of the week:

28. User link of the week (Spanish):
http://ceibalflorida.blogspot.com/search/label/etoys Shows eToys
presentations built in Uruguay. See also the "Blogósfera" link on the
right. Blog posts by XOs in Uruguay have taken off again in the last

29. User link of the week (English):
http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/321 US University-style
evaluation of the XO deployment in Nepal.

30. Walter Bender's Sugar Digests:
http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/2008-November/002459.html and


Ghana: The country has signed an agreement with OLPC to purchase 10,000
XOs, scheduled for delivery in five shipments through June 2009. The ten
member Ghana core team will be in Cambridge the week of November 17 for
a technical and learning workshop. The team is currently pulling
together detailed information on the first-phase launch schools. We
anticipate a significant need for infrastructure accessories, including
solar panels, servers and access points. Power will again be a vital
concern, as it is throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Also, schools in Ghana
generally are not large – the average size is about 300 students – which
will mean increased on-the-ground deployment effort and expense. 

The big news in Colombia was the symbolically important delivery of 650
laptops to La Macarena in central Colombia, a former FARC stronghold,
where the children were enchanted with their new machines. 

Jim Gettys <jg at laptop.org>
One Laptop Per Child
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