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LAPTOP NEWS 2007-04-07

1. OLPC “Game Jam”—a game design and programming event designed to encourage development of open-source games for the OLPC platform (the XO)—is being held at Olin College next weekend. A group of game developers will get together over a three-day period to make as many innovative games as possible for the laptop. “Our goal is not just some great games and experimentation for the XO but also to bring the unique constraints and output of this project to next year's GDC Experimental Gameplay Workshop.” Code will be released on SourceForge under the GNU General Public License so everyone can freely experiment with the source and games.

2. Mechanicals/ID: The XO mechanical design is finally complete. The last major item—the insert molded rubber/plastic bunny ears—was approved on April 4th. The core team responsible for this milestone: Frank Lee and Victor Chau of Quanta, Yves Behar and Bret Recor of Fuse, Jacques Gagne of Gecko, and Mary Lou Jepsen of OLPC. This is the culmination of nearly two years of efforts on the ID and mechanicals. It bears mention that many contributed to the ID/ME over this time on the laptop, and in addition to the above, we would especially like to acknowledge the following who at various times shouldered large parts of this effort: Quanta: Ben Chuang, Johnson Huang, Sam Chang, Alex Chu, and Roger Huang Fuse Project: Mitch Pergola and Martin Schnitzer Design Continuum: Kenneth Jewell and Kevin Young MIT Media Lab: Ted Selker ChiLin: Albert Hsu, HT Chen and Scott Soong OLPC: Nicholas Negroponte, Rebecca Allen, Mark Foster, Walter Bender, and Michail Bletsas

3. System software: Build 385 and firmware Q2B87 form a new stable build. We do not anticipate another stable build for approximately 3–5 weeks, as we work on suspend and resume, power management, and the Geode LX bringup. Please update your systems to this build. Key changes and improvements include:

  • a fix for a number of crashes in Sugar, which have been seen occasionally became much more common in Build 368 was finally traced to a bug in the fontconfig library;
  • updated library content;
  • improved UI for selecting networks, and further bug fixes in the network driver;
  • fix for LiFePo battery problems (This is the last known battery problem.);
  • memory of the WEP wireless key should be much improved;
  • updated TamTam bundle (save and restore work properly);
  • a new, improved calculator program from Reinier Heeres;
  • a temporary workaround for a presence-service problem is in place; and
  • sufficient aliases for old X11 core fonts that most applications not yet updated to the current X client-side font model should work (specifically, this fixes a crash in the Adobe Flash 9 plug-in for Linux).

We will have a automated backup script before the next stable build for backup of laptop contents to the school server; this is simply using the "rsync" command which is already included in current builds.

4. Firmware: Mitch Bradley completed preparations to cut over to fastboot/suspend/resume firmware. The Q2Cxx series will include these new features:

  • suspend/resume support;
  • memtest86 built in to firmware;
  • keyboard diagnostic that displays key presses graphically;
  • explicit probe-usb no longer needed: attempts to open the USB node automatically handle connection-status changes;
  • new boot flash layout per Quanta's request, plus tools to inspect manufacturing data and save it to a disk file; and
  • faster boot time.

Lilian Walters released to Mitch the keyboard self-test code and the auto reprobe for USB. Richard Smith released q2b86 and q2b87 with new EC bits that fix outstanding LiFe battery problems.

5. Power management: As mentioned above, we are cutting over to the “C” series of firmware releases as we develop our suspend/resume work. Richard worked on resume SD bug with Pierre Ossman. It seems that after a resume, the clock on the SD is not coming back up right. It starts but then goes away. Richard is still trying to hunt this down. Only SD is not resuming properly now. The resume time without SD is down to 0.23 seconds!

6. Kernel: Andres Salomon did the regular Linux tree merge, merged the libertas wireless driver into the stable tree, and worked on the open firmware (OFW) device-tree kernel patch. The device-tree implementation is going to require a lot of tender-loving-care to get it upstream, unfortunately. Dave Woodhouse diagnosed a latent bug in the JFFS2 file system caused by pretty pathological logging behavior; it will require some work to fix. Jordan Crouse worked on the Geode LX frame buffer driver (lxfb).

7. User environment: Jim Gettys figured out how the old core X font system worked, to enable applications using the obsolete X core font system (e.g., Adobe's Flash 9 plugin) to work properly on our system. Chris Ball tested fontconfig-2.4.2, which Jim correctly predicted as the fix to Sugar crashes that had become very common in Build 368. We had been about to revert the branch prediction firmware workaround instead. Both Chris Ball and Chris Blizzard have confirmed that the crash disappears as of Build 380. Chris also tracked down the Unicode scripts as the cause of our console font becoming tiny. John Palmieri came up with a fix, which is in the latest build.

8. School server: John Watlington reports that we have a school server up and running as a mesh portal in Cambridge. Up to three mesh networks are supported, with routing supplied between each other and the Internet.

Laptop News is archived at Laptop 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:

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.
Dec. 2006 Uruguay announced its participation in the project.

All milestones can be found here.


Jan. 2007 OLPC has No Plans to Commercialize XO Computer.
Jan. 2007 OLPC Announces First-of-Its-Kind User Interface for XO Laptop Computer.
Jan. 2007 Rwanda Commits to One Laptop per Child Initiative.
Dec. 2006 Low Cost Laptop Could Tranform Learning.


Miscanellous articles can be found here.

12 Apr. 2007 EYF Times| Meet the Scientist: Nicholas Negroponte
11 Apr. 2007 CNET News| Photos: Nigerian students power up their laptops
11 Apr. 2007 The News| Poor rural Thai students to get 100-dollar laptops
29 Mar. 2007 ComputerWorld| OLPC eyes experimental battery for $100 laptop


Miscellaneous videos of the laptop can be found here.

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