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Laptop News 2007-09-22

1. David Cavallo has formed a learning team that will work with countries to develop their own learning teams. The goal is to help each country develop a deeper understanding and richer practice in using laptops for learning. We will hold workshops at OLPC each month, work in countries, and collaborate internationally. The first workshops in countries will be in Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria during October.

2. Schedule: We still have not gotten to a full code freeze as there are too many open critical bugs. If you have blocking or high-priority bugs open for Trial-3, please help us by analyzing the work load, making a suggestion for a work-around or how to document the issue, and setting the bug to “untriaged” so that the triage team will review it. Please check with Jim Gettys or Kim Quirk before checking in any code changes.

3. Test: Alex Latham updated the test configuration notes in the wiki to address network-access configuration scenarios: two laptops under a tree; laptop connected to an access point; and laptop connected to a school server mesh. There are also some additional configuration notes and test plans for localization (See Test_issues). Alex Khitrick and Yani Galanis have both “joined” the test team this week to help with executing test cases, debugging, and writing up bugs.

4. Hardware: The hardware team (which includes people from Quanta and AMD) spent this week trying to track down some of the remaining problems with suspend/resume. We have reached a point where many laptops are running for hundreds of thousands of cycles without crashing, but occasional crashes still occur (and some laptops are more susceptible than others.) No other laptop comes close; but neither do they have our ambition to suspending between each page read (or maybe even suspending between keystrokes), with potentially thousands of page views/day.

The low noise margin of the +3.3V line that powers most inter-chip communication (and the WLAN) on the laptop was the big surprise. An even bigger surprise was that the margin was critically dependent on battery voltage! When the battery was low, our 3.3V supply was dropping to below 3.15V, due to insufficiently turning on the transistor used to switch +3.3V off during suspend.

John Watlington and Quanta have a proposed solution which is being tested. We hope that improving this will close out the “unable to resume via power button or wireless” bug completely (See http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/1835) — it was actually two distinct problems, one of which was fixed last week—and we have reason to hope that it might be at least partially responsible for the “USB wireless suspend/resume failure at setup phase” bugs (See http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/1752 and http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/2621).

Note: anyone working on a suspend/resume problem should keep their machine plugged into line power until it has been properly modified.

Chris Ball ran overnight tests on many of the proposed hardware changes. The wireless resume bugs are now occurring rarely enough to have taken a backseat to other kernel bugs related to resume (See http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/3477 and http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/3479).

5. Firmware: Mitch Bradley released Q2C27, the firmware released planned for Trial-3. It includes secure boot capability (but can also boot in a non-secure fashion). It has been tested on B1, B2-1, pre-B3, B3, and B4 systems. Do not use it on pre-B1 boards—it will brick them because of changes to the embedded controller (EC) microcode. Also note that it does not work on A-Test boards as support for A-Test has been eliminated from the EC microcode.

6. EC code: Richard Smith re-factored the way the EC does its startup procedure so that an automatic restart now happens after a reflash. This involved re-working the way the IO maps (B2,B3,B4,C1) were detected. Alas, the rework seems to have broken the power button; when Richard gets that issue sorted out, we should be able to to fully automatic firmware updates.

7. X Window System: Bernie Innocenti has been working mostly on visual bugs this week. The “iGoogle” bug was hard to find and easy to fix. The “green icons” bug was easy to find and hard to fix. Bernie has also pushed the Ethiopian and Urdu fonts in the builds.

8. Security and updates: Scott Ananian and Michael Stone worked closely together to implement the “live updates” feature (See http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/2517). This feature, available since Build 595, allows the laptop user to run the command “olpc-update NNN” to update to Build NNN. Scott worked with Michael Stone to get an initial in-system network upgrade in place. After completing live updates, they discovered certain inefficiencies in our implementation of manifest verification. Michael profiled the software and, with Scott and Ivan Krstić's help, developed an enhancement that halves the time required to verify a manifest. Scott improved the speed of the in-place upgrade by 10× by rewriting contents verification.

Scott worked with Mitch Bradley on shaking out the secure-boot process. Among other things, they tweaked the developer and activation lease formats based on suggestions from Michael Stone and SJ Klein. Scott also worked on creating a pure-Linux reimplementation of the auto-reinstallation process, eliminating the two reboots into OFW and making it more compatible with the secure-boot process.

9. Kernel: Andres Salomon spent the week testing open bugs; he helped folks who were working on the i2c timeout issues, prepared patches for upstream, reviewed lots of patches, and did a cleanup of the olpc-2.6 git repository. The git cleanup means a clone takes only 15 minutes, down from 90 minutes.

10. Licensing content: Jon Phillips has been leading an effort to integrate Creative Commons licenses into the Journal. Screen shots of his mock ups are in the trac system (See http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/3529).

11. Sound samples: Dr. Richard Boulanger continues to gather together collections of sound samples recorded specifically for OLPC by the team at Open Path Music. The most recent additions are are vocal sounds: animal noises, grunts, groans, growls, etc., plus some singing. These samples are being incorporated into activities such as TamTam.

12. Library: Mako Hill helped rewrite the Javascript bits of the library to use Python templates using the Jinja templating system (See http://jinja.pocoo.org/). This is a more robust implementation if Javascript is turned off. The templates will be reused once we turn on a web server in the builds and change from a model of “update bundle-list on download” to a dynamic view that checks the filesystem.

The default browser page will point to the local content repository and have links to browse the web. Currently, there are links to:

  • google.com, which will auto-redirect to the proper language for the country;
  • the school server;
  • wiki.laptop.org/go/Home (initially English by default) from which the activity and content bundle download pages will be more prominently linked;
  • wiki.clusty.com, to search Wikipedia (initially English by default)

Additional suggestions are welcome.

13. Biology activities: David Stang of ZipcodeZoo is working with Lauren Klein to provide a kid-friendly interface to his database of bug information for bug blitzes. Charles Smith at the EOWilson foundation is working on basic ideas and background information for classes running blitzes. Misha Herscu, a teenager who has already published his first book on herpetology in Massachusetts, is helping organize the work with zipcodezoo. Misha also helped connect the Thai group that was doing their own bug-finding activity with an unusual bug zoo in northern Thailand, who may be able to help them extend the work they have done. and perhaps take some of the first online photos of certain species (See http://www.malaeng.com/).

14. Schuyler Erle, working on mapping and radio projects for UNICEF, has gotten a radio program to work on the XO, which can make the XO an audio receiver and broadcaster.

15. OLPC Philippines http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Philippines has created a website, this will be a common place to put in notes soon. A project management site in zoho.com is under request for free account on open-source development. Rowen Remis Iral and Timothy Paul Martinez are receiving emails on how to get in touch with the government. List of some contact details are provided to OLPCPH.

OLPCPH was prepared to attend the Curriculum Jam with some educators joining the Jam in Manila and to meet Mel Chua in the Jam.

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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