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Laptop News 2007-08-04

1. Walter Bender met with Carole Wacey of Mouse.org. Mouse works with youth on technology mentoring programs. Children at Mouse.org are already actively engaged in authoring tutorials and videos about the XO and the older children (middle and high school) are interested in mentoring the elementary-school children who would be getting the XOs.

2. New York: A team from OLPC and Red Hat spent two days at Pentagram working through the outstanding design issues for the first release software on the XO. Together, we made significant progress on the Journal and sharing among groups. Simplicity was our mantra: look forward to more clarity to user interface.

3. Villa Cardal: While anyone can watch videos on YouTube, children with XOs are posting videos. A video shot on an XO, “parto de una vaca (birth of a calf),” was posted by a 10-year-old child who is participating in the Villa Cardal trial in Uruguay (Please see http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=BOzBTGGVWNg).

4. Texture and color: Quanta, Foxconn, ZYE, and Fuse Project worked around the clock and through the weekend in order to complete the color and finish review of all parts of the XO. Clear finish guidelines have been established and the color has been tuned to our specification. Not all texture changes are completed, but established parts have been created to serve as reference for both Foxconn and ZYE; both companies are confident that they will be able to match the referenced samples. Two complete sets of C-build mechanicals are en route to OLPC for final approval for the mass production (MP) build.

5. $1 video microscope: A video of Mary Lou's prototype microscope attachment for the XO video camera is posted on the web (Please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI28-IS9AII). In the video, she compares various LCD screens. The microscope, which has ~ 100× magnification, could be useful to analyzing water quality, among other things.

6. Schedules: We have declared Trial-2 software to be Build 542, which we released to Quanta for the C-build on Thursday evening. This is alpha-level software and it becomes the new stable branch. Critical issues that may still need to be addressed will be back ported to Build 542, but this will allow development to continue toward Trial-3. Please note that we haven’t completed our optimization of memory usage in Build 542; if you are running on B2-1 hardware—which only has 128MB of DRAM—you are advised to hold off on upgrading.

7. Trial-2 build: Most of our vision for the first generation OLPC software is now present; Build 542 shows off many important collaboration, connectivity, and Journal features, including: real-time collaboration in many activities (Write, Read, Chat, Record, Etoys, TamTam, Memorize, Connect4, etc.); support for automatic configuration of mesh portal points (MPP) and automatic configuration of ad-hoc meshes (allowing collaboration without any dependency on infrastructure or Internet access); anti-theft activation on installation; and registration with and backup to a school server.

A draft of the Software Release Notes can be found in the OLPC wiki (See OLPC Trial-2 Software Release Notes). The B4 Hardware Release Notes are also found in the wiki (Please see BTest-4 Release Notes).

As noted above, Build 542 is not suitable for B2-1 systems: memory usage is higher than desired, due to surprises such as a 20MB DHCPD server that we will be replacing (there are several smaller ones to choose from). Also note that the mesh wire packet protocol has changed, so mixtures of builds before 438 and current builds cannot use the same mesh.

8. Autoreinstallation and upgrade: Scott Ananian continues to work on the autoreinstallation image. Scott and Chris Ball wrote an upgrade script that preserves the user's home directory, which Kim Quirk has been testing this week. Mitch Bradley, Richard Smith, John Palmieri, and Jim Gettys found a FAT32 corruption bug in the current firmware which ate USB keys. Mitch fixed this bug in q2c20d (and later).

Scott also continued work on activation and the initial ramdisk, into which the XO boots. Scott also implemented Eben Eliason's design for an activation GUI (trac #1328), which should appear in Trial-3 builds. Scott also did some more work on network activation from the School Server, with help from Dan Williams and the Cozybit team.

9. Firmware and embedded controller (EC): Richard spent the entire week dealing with a few critical EC problems; He and Andres Salomon made progress was made on “wakeup event is repeated continuously” bug (trac #2401), when they discovered a deadlock in the EC code. Unfortunately, it's not trivial to fix, but they are testing possible workarounds.

Chris wrote a kernel patch to set the EC wakeup event mask such that 1% battery charge changes don't bring us back out of suspend. If we suspend with Build 542, we should stay suspended until we get the “battery low” signal to wake us up.

Richard received PQ2C20 from Quanta and integrated it into the new firmware releases. We released PQ2C20, 21 and 22 this week. C20 contained the bulk of the EC fixes. C21 and C22 were needed to repair some new OFW bugs that surfaced, most notably the FAT32 corruption bug, which had been responsible for upgrade failures.

Mitch Bradley released firmware for C-build. He also worked on activation and security support for the firmware, and integrated Lilian Walter's IPv6 firmware support; he hopes to test it in Cambridge next week.

Lilian finally made one of Linux boxes into an IPv6 router tunneling to the IPv6 internet. Other Linux boxes with IPv6 enabled can get on to the IPv6 internet also. Next, she will work on implementing the router advertisement/notification and global address/prefix in OFW so that it can get on the IPv6 internet also.

We thank Zephaniah Hull for providing us patches to perform touchpad and keyboard resets on ESD events.

Joel Stanley worked on tool chain for OpenEC. He submitted patch to srecord after fixing a bug in their build system. And he reworked script for power instrumentation so it can be included in Chris Ball’s tinderbox regression-testing system.

Chris resurrected the tinderbox on our power-measurement XO and added suspend/resume testing with measurements for power use, memory use, and number of software wakeups. We have lost a lot of memory to the base OS during the Trial-2 buildup; having memory tracked per-build from now on will help better contain these problems.

10. School server: John Watlington continued to work on building a usable, repeatable school-server image. We are very close; the effort is now going into a script that finalizes the configuration after the image is installed onto a disk. Stable and testing repositories for the software packages going onto the school server have been established.

11. Security: Joel Stanley worked with refining Rainbow for integration into Trail 3. He fixed general bugs and worked with Michael Stone to refactor code for maintainability. He implemented the persistent scratch space, allowing Sugar activities to save to “/data” any files they wish to (e.g., TamTam audio samples); these files are restored on next run of the activity. This allows us to have all other aspects of the filesystem mounted read-only. Finally, he investigated sound support inside containers to implement P_DSP_BG, the Bitfrost permission to allow background activities to continue to play sound. Scott Ananian and Ivan Krstić worked out the details of the anti-theft client and server; Scott and Michael worked on early boot and upgrade integration with the Rainbow security service.

12. Etoys: The SqueakFest 2007 conference was held at Columbia College in Chicago. One of the major themes of the conference this year was OLPC; there were ~100 participants (from various countries including Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Colombia, Nepal, and the US), many of them are involved in the OLPC pilot programs. Yoshiki Ohshima gave a talk on the OLPC project and the Etoys activity. Scott Wallace conducted a tutorial of advanced use of Etoys, Takashi Yamamiya explained the GetText interoperability feature at birds-of-a-feather gathering. Alan Kay gave a talk titled, “A Call for Content.” Unlike typical technology conferences, SqueakFest is focused on education; there were a lot of good discussion about learning in and between sessions.

13. Measure: Arjun Sarwal reports that the Measure Activity now features a frequency-domain representation in addition to a time-domain representation. Journal integration is complete. He also built a $1 temperature-sensing peripheral and a $1.50 intrusion alarm system; both have been tested using the measure activity. “The great thing about the XOs is that they are inherently networked, so by simply connecting a sensor to each XO, and using a combination of such sensors and the cameras, a highly powerful, flexible and robust sensor network for surveillance can be built.”

Arjun also had a very positive meeting with the Scratch team who are working on an XO port. He demonstrated the use of low-cost sensors around the measure activity. The demonstration, which utilizes the microphone port built into the XO rivaled the $25 board that is included with the PC version of Scratch. I would be helping them develop the analog input modules within Scratch.

14. Environmental testing: Four XOs have been running in an oven at temperatures above 45C for a continuous period of 6 days; they are running perfectly. This test is more extreme than real-life conditions, where at night the temperature generally goes down. A room humidifier has been placed in the oven, where is has been running continuously. None of the XOs show any problem.

15. OurStories: Stephen Cho, Google, reports that the OurStories engineering team has been through several iterations of potential solutions, and we have settled on what we hope to be a workable model for the first version of a story-collection website. The site will have the StoryCorps U.S. stories mapped on a Google Map, with the ability for users to find by location and download those stories. These are the roughly 3-minute edited versions of the stories that are on NPR on Fridays (roughly 300 stories for the U.S.). Stephen will over time work through the distribution rights issues to get all of the 12,000+ StoryCorps stories on the map. In addition, he is expecting 50 stories from Uganda and 50 stories from Pakistan through the UNICEF team. Uruguay is also looking to participate. The Museum of the Person project in Brazil also has several thousand audio stories.

The team has developed a client application with which children will record stories on their XO laptops; these will be backed up to the OLPC school server. From there, stories can be uploaded and mapped. The enables children to record a story, play a story, share a story, and find a story. Plans are underway for testing the system at the school trial in Nigeria.

16. Library: Library-creation scripts for making library bundles are now in git under “content-bundler”; a step towards automated builds of content images. A number of content publishers and platforms—Curriki (curriki.org), Connexions (cnx.org), CK12, and Jamendo (jamendo.org)—have committed to setting up simplified portals for creators who want to make OLPC material, and to adding an option to export books, music, or other collections as XO content bundles. CK12 and Connexions have full sets of books and modules available; Curriki is involved in the discussion of how to fill available gaps with wiki materials, and Jamendo has music across all continents and genres which its community are organizing into playlist-bundles. Sylvain Zimmer of Jamendo has developed bundling scripts for music, and Zdenek Broz has done the same for web sites, to simplify culling the pages from a directory of links into a usable content bundle. These will help curators with their own collections, and site-scrapers for dealing with open sites that do not have active curators.

17. Licensing: Scott Shawcroft and Jason Kivlighn are looking into “Sugarizing” the Creative Commons (CC) liblicense chooser, as a first step in integrating it with creative applications on the XO. They have a working Sugar patch, but are revising it to make it less complicated.

18. Language: Andrew Lee has been working on a SCIM-based input widget for Sugar; SCIM is used for Chinese and other stroke-based input (Please see http://wiki.tossug.org/OLPCinChinese).

19. Wikis: Shoichi Chou has been working on a standalone browser for wiki-snapshots called Ksana (ksana.tw), which supports Unicode and RTL displays, fast on-the-fly indexing of any Mediawiki dump, and link-cleaning. It is more general than other available engines, and has a facility for loading dumps as modules. A French reader/browser, Moulin, is another option; it remains to compare how much CPU and RAM they use while reading a large snapshot.

Mako Hill’s MikMik, the wiki client being considered for use on the laptops, received a face-lift this week; a suitable gateway service for merging offline edits with a global Wikipedia is being discussed—an editing API needed to support this kind of editing without visiting a web page is being developed by Yuri Astrakhan with support from Vodafone. Denny Vrandecic, one of the creators of Semantic Mediawiki wants to work on offline merging; his lab at the University of Karlsruhe is doing related software development.

20. Annotation: Alec Thomas and Alan Green, working on generalized content stamping at Google, confirmed that their work can be open sourced and are in active discussion about merging their work with existing work for OLPC (Please see Annotation; Original Annotation API Proposal; and Comment Anywhere Annotation Protocol Proposal).

21. Jams: ccTaiwan helped organize a curriculum jam with a number of Taiwanese student and CC groups in Taipei. In the US, the Columbia Journalism School and Columbia Prep confirmed that they will run a NYC jam in October.

22. Summer of Content: The trial of the Summer of Content was broadly discussed this weekend (at Wikimania), with a number of brainstorming sessions about project ideas and mentors; it will run for 6 weeks starting August 17. The southern summer starting in early December will be the true launch of the project, with a target of 500 internships and 50 mentor organizations.

23. Games: Lincoln Quirk has the mesh working nicely with olpcgames and pygame. Game developers and players alike are quite excited about this integration as it will make porting a number of existing multi-player games extremely easy. The chose-your-own-adventure framework that Roberto Faga is working on should be done in draft next week.

24. Biology: The E.O. Wilson foundation is working on a simple Bug Blitz activity for XO communities. They have a rough draft out; Santi from the Thai team wants to try it with their children.

Upcoming Highlights:

– Aug 6 Wikimania, Taipei
Aug 6 OLPC Nepal Curriculum Workshop, Kathmandu (in collaboration with the Nepalese MoE)

More News

Laptop News is archived at Laptop News. Also on community-news.

You can subscribe to the OLPC community-news mailing list by visiting the laptop.org mailman site.

Press requests: please send email to press@racepointgroup.com


Latest milestones:

Nov. 2007 Mass Production has started.
July. 2007 One Laptop per Child Announces Final Beta Version of its Revolutionary XO Laptop.
Apr. 2007 First pre-B3 machines built.
Mar. 2007 First mesh network deployment.
Feb. 2007 B2-test machines become available and are shipped to developers and the launch countries.
Jan. 2007 Rwanda announced its participation in the project.

All milestones can be found here.


  1. redirect OLPC:News#Press

More articles can be found here.


Miscellaneous videos of the laptop can be found here.

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