[IAEP] Sugar on Android via HTML5

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Thu Sep 19 09:56:39 EDT 2013

On Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:54 PM, John Watlington <wad at laptop.org> wrote:

> On Sep 10, 2013, at 5:04 PM, Sameer Verma wrote:
> On Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 7:51 PM, Caryl Bigenho <cbigenho at hotmail.com>wrote:
>> One of the things that makes Sugar the ideal learning platform for
>> children (and youth) is the wonderful compatibility of so many of the
>> Activities ... both from Activity to Activity and from student to student.
>> This facilitates the sort of learning we are all hoping to see more of...
>> creative problem solving, project based learning and cooperative learning.
>> Without this ability to integrate parts of projects, it would just be
>> another collection of apps.
> I did not want to muddy the picture by injecting my own viewpoint, but now
> that I've heard from others (on and off list) it is clear that the split is
> driven by the role they play in the ecosystem.
> Most technologists have come up with reasons why they don't think a
> complete Sugar experience would work on Android. Therefore, activities must
> run like any other app on Android. On the other hand, as Caryl said,
> "Without this ability to integrate...it would just be a collection of
> apps".
> Somewhat knowing the limitations of what can be done with Sugar stuff on
> Android, but disregarding that for a minute, I would say that Sugar as a
> *platform* is an experience. It has a UI. It has a UX. Everything from the
> Zoom interface to the activities to the Journal is Sugar. We have taken the
> original "Sugar on the OLPC XO" experience and replicated that to the
> classmate PC, SoaS, and other spins and distros, but in none of these cases
> did we break the holistic Sugar experience. Now, along comes a popular OS,
> and because the tech parts don't fit, we are advocating breaking up the
> pieces and taking whatever flies. Memorize will become one of the few
> hundred thousand apps on Android.
> I disagree.
> It's like saying we'll do the cat sprite from Scratch, but nothing else.
> It's like saying we'll do the birds and pigs from Angry Birds, but not the
> slingshot. Sugar, without all its pieces isn't worth the trouble.
> Sameer,
>    I disagree somewhat with your thesis (and am very glad you started this
> discussion.)
Disagreement is good. It brings out perspectives :-)

> From a technological standpoint, it is actually probably easier to
> implement what you describe:
> Sugar as a monolithic Android application, which takes over the entire
> user interface when
> launched.   The reason I never considered it seriously was the larger
> ecosystem.
> The reason to move to Android from Linux is two-fold:
> - Chip vendors are dropping Linux support in favor of Android.   The cheap
> chinese ARM
>  vendors only support Android.
> - Android/iOS are where application development is happening.  There is a
> much larger
> community of Android developers than Linux or Sugar developers.
> The hope was to provide the infrastructure underlying Sugar (the Journal
> datastore and
> collaboration) as Android services, encouraging their use in new Android
> applications.
> In this model, the Journal is another Android application, accessing the
> Journal datastore service.
> New Sugar activities written in HTML should be capable of running in Sugar
> on Linux
> or as Android activities (although perhaps with different execution
> wrappers).
> In this manner, perhaps we can enlarge the Sugar community with developers
> mainly
> targeting Android.   If we pursue Sugar as a single Android application,
> with embedded
> Python activities, we are isolating ourselves from the Android community.

I see your point. It's clearer now that the concepts of Sugar should be
pushed into Android (or any other platform for that matter).

> The danger of this approach is the loss of an integrated UX.  This could
> be addressed
> by customizing the home UI, in the same manner that the XO tablet has a
> custom home UI
> implementing the Dreams interface, but that would require "rooting" the
> tablet in some manner.
> But the native Android UI isn't that bad...
Let me expand on this point. There may be room for an "and" instead of an

Most of my research is on the user perspective of software, as opposed to
the developer perspective. Users who are far removed from the developer
bits tend to make adoption decisions based on *perceived* attributes as
opposed to the real ones. So, instead of looking at APIs, protocols, code,
they tend to look at things like relative advantages, compatibility with
work environment, ease-of-use, voluntariness, etc. (See

Now, in schools, the "voluntariness" will be low, in that the
school/education system dictates what needs to be used in the classroom.
However, when the machine goes home, "voluntariness" will kick in. If they
have been using Sugar in the past, "compatibility" will kick in, and so on.

So, to ease a transition, even if the developer bits are entirely
different, a similar UI and UX will usually improve adoption. MacOSX went
to a BSD base, while maintaining a similar UI from OS9. When Microsoft
introduced NT, it's core was entirely different, but they maintained a
similar UI. In fact, a major break in the UI (and therefore UX) as in the
case of Win8 has created significant problems (bring back the Start
button). In another world, the New VW Beetle kinda looks like the old VW
Beetle. Internally, they are nothing alike, but it sells well on the
fondness factor of the days gone by.

If we can use the approach used in the "Dreams" UI to create a skin, a look
and feel of the Sugar UI,


bring in collaboration, datastore, etc as you had suggested earlier,

then the problem of rebooting from one OS to the other goes away. It will
be finger swipe to go from Sugar to full Android (and maybe even to Dreams).

This still does not address the issue of what happens to the apps that live
outside of this "Sugar UI", but would still like to take advantage of the
datastore, collaboration, etc. It's analogous to how we don't have
TurtleArt icon in GNOME, but can run it if needed, and how we have the
"Documents" folder as a go-between from Sugar Journal to GNOME.

This is a rich space. More conversations please! (Apologies for not writing
back earlier).


> wad
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