Talk:Activity bundles

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How to embed external applications?

From the LWN interview with Jim Gettys:

Chris' team is putting together a python based environment 
(into which conventional applications can be embedded) 
aimed at young children, temporarily called "sugar" (...)

How does this "embedding" work? How would a simple python "wrapper" script look like that embeds a simple X app?

Bundle activities in filesystem images?

Why not pack the entire bundle into a "disk image", e.g., using (z)isofs or cramfs? Hence, one application would be exactly contained within one file (similar to AppDirs, but one file instead of one directory).

This image would be mounted at the runtime, and unmounted again after usage has ended.

That way, the bundle becomes more "robust" (in the sense that it is read-only and cannot alter itself), plus it can be more easily exchanged (e.g., via mail/wlan) without the need to re-package it.

The impact of the additional overhead on speed is minimal, as my tests have shown.

I am in the process of providing a demo implementation. Some ideas are also provided on -- [probono]

Bundle versioning? Bundle member versioning?

Will component members of a bundle be versioned?

If a computer joins an activity, and discovers that it has an earlier bundle in place (rather than a missing bundle), will it import the newer bundle? In other words, will a newer bundle version automatically propagate to all who join an activity, in the same way that a missing bundle would? -- [kritchie]

If a bundle is not a single (monolithic) file, can the computer that has an older bundle import just the newer compenent members of the bundle to bring its own bundle up to date without importing the whole bundle? -- [kritchie]

The contents of the bundle, as currently defined, are pretty much opaque. So it's effectively monolithic. Considering the disk constraints on the machine, bundles probably can't get too large, so maybe doing incremental upgrades of activities isn't worth the effort. -- Ian Bicking 13:13, 27 November 2006 (EST)

Version Keys: Interface Version Key vs. Build Version Key

On reviewing the .info structure, I am wondering why we don't have an *interface* version key (IVK). An IVK is a key that changes *only* when a component's "contract" changes with regard to either the interface structure (syntax, signature, parameter usage) or the agreed and expected functionality (semantics). Thus, newer builds that may be more efficient or have other performance benefits but which do not change the contract will have a higher *build* version key (BVK) while their compatibility remains unchanged (signified by no change in IVK). An unchanged IVK would usually indicate that upgrading is optional rather than mandatory to join the activity. If we want to declaratively force an upgrade, in the event that backward-compatibility is broken in a new interface contract, then we must use a third key, a *compatibility* version key (CVK). The CVK value sets the lower bound on acceptable values of the IVK. For example, (IVK=5, CVK=3) indicates that the new interface contract is simply an extension that is compatible back to IVK=3. Thus, a new IVK issued with a matching CVK would mandate upgrade before use, while later builds (of the same IVK, CVK) are optional and could be deferred without risk of harm to the activity.

So, in the present .info structure, if "activity_version" serves as a build version tag, we must introduce an "activity_contract" (or some such tag name) to serve as the interface version tag. On the other hand, if "activity_version" was already intended to signify interface version (IVK), then we could simply add an "activity_build" (or whatever) as BVK. The same line of reasoning applies to "host_version" key(s).

Observe that there is an implicit major/minor grouping of IVK/BVK (BVK may vary within IVK). We can introduce a new build version (BVK) within the scope of a given interface version (IVK), but it is not possible to change the interface version (IVK) without also introducing a new build. Given monotonically increasing integer keys, the only interesting implementation decision is whether to combine them (structured, as ivk.bvk) and whether to restart BVK when IVK increments. I see the most value in keeping them separate, as two distinct integer keys, and also in never restarting the build number. That allows the simplest logic for subproblems (e.g., "is this build newer than that one?").

Over the past 30 years, I have found the use of an Interface Version Key (IVK) to be remarkably valuable in automating the maintenance of distributed and componentized architectures, whether coupled by messages or remote methods (although I much prefer message-based coupling). The IVK also greatly simplifies many problem-solving strategies. I strongly recommend incorporation of something similar into the OLPC projects. -- [kritchie]

Security Question

Forgive my ignorance, but the idea of automatically downloading and running any 'activity' that announces itself on the network (subject to it having an exciting enough name for a child to try it) sounds like a huge security hole! are they intended to run in some sort of sandbox? if not, it seems to me almost as scary as ActiveX... [agundy]

The idea is that everything always runs in "some sort of sandbox" - see Bitfrost for details. Homunq 13:00, 29 January 2008 (EST)


In addition to running the activity, it would be nice to indicate how to run the tests for the activity. Running the tests is a key part of editing the activity; it's also an entry point for doing automated testing. If the tests look similar to how something like buildbot expects tests to look (non-zero exit code on failure, just keep the text output for the report) then we could test Sugar updates or other system updates against real code. -- Ian Bicking 13:18, 27 November 2006 (EST)

initial install?

Some bundles come with the OS. They can be transferred somehow, at least if there is a mesh network. They can be edited if they are Python. That's all nice, but... how does a developer get a bundle onto a machine?

Is it enough to just copy it into /usr/share/activities via the Linux console? Will the bundle be immediately usable, usable after reboot, ignored forever, deleted...?

From the web browser, can I download a bundle? (or anything...) Does that install it? Does the web server have to provide some non-standard MIME type? Would a my-new-project.xo.tar.bz2 file work?

It would be great to have a "Hello World" bundle that I could install directly from this wiki. Something that displays my test image would be nice.

AlbertCahalan 23:49, 9 March 2007 (EST)

looks like bad info

-bash-3.1# pwd
-bash-3.1# rpm -qf Etoys.activity/
-bash-3.1# ls */
BlockParty.activity/  Memosono.activity/    Web.activity/
GroupChat.activity/   NewsReader.activity/  Write.activity/
Journal.activity/     TamTam.activity/      Xbook.activity/
-bash-3.1# ls
BlockParty.activity  Etoys.activity      Journal.activity   NewsReader.activity  TamTam.activity  Write.activity
Camera.activity      GroupChat.activity  Memosono.activity  Slideshow.activity   Web.activity     Xbook.activity
-bash-3.1# find . -name localized

So the Etoys activity is really an RPM. Say, that looks like a workable solution with decent documentation. Etoys also massivly violates the rules about being self-contained; it depends on a separate RPM which isn't useful for anything else.

Actually, it is useful. You can take the etoys rpm and run Etoys on any regular Linux machine without Sugar. Squeak is one of the scripting languages on the XO, so it must be in the base image. You can write other Squeak-based activities which will use the Squeak kernel included in the etoys rpm, just as other activities depend on Python. Due to the monolithic nature of Squeak it is not possible to separate the Squeak kernel from the Etoys specific parts, otherwise they could be moved to the XO bundle indeed. Bert 17:21, 9 October 2007 (EDT)

There are 12 activities, but only 9 files. Obviously that isn't needed.

The 'activity/localized/' directory which "must be present" does not in fact need to be present at all. Not a single activity provides it. 20:10, 22 March 2007 (EDT)

Proposals for update

(Discussion moved to Bundles and updates)