Feature roadmap

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This page lists all major ideas for features on the XO. It was formerly at this page: 9.1.0. As features get prioritized, scoped and a target release is identified, they will be placed on the relevant release page.

This page will include links to and details on specific releases and it will include the potentially longer term strategy and target features.


This release is the first major new feature release after 8.2.0 Its is the first of two major feature releases we want to deliver in 2009. The target date for this release is March 15, 2009 (Note: date and feature set not final and subject to change).

This release must run on C1, C2, C3 and the new C4 motherboards. (check exact list and add URL)

Technical strategy

This section outlines the main areas of technology that we will focus on improving. All of the specific features should address one of these primary concerns. The choice of these comes from listening to users and deployment leads and hearing what their concerns.

The first two strategic priorities are focused on making the XO work the way users expect it to and helping get the XO deployed more quickly in more countries. The third is also an area where we have unmet expectations. However, there have been many different understandings of what collaboration means. This release should clarify a few specific examples of collaboration and ensure that those are supported and reliable. We have a window of opportunity to build something completely new and original in this space. If we come up with a new work flow here, it must be reliable and usable within the constraints of the existing technology.

Greater reliability and performance

  • No loss of data. Fewer crashes and fewer open bugs than 8.2 and previous releases. See also: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User:Gregorio/8.2.0_release_criteria
  • At the time of the release, works the way the manual says it works. That is, all of the things explained and listed in these manuals must work as described.


  • Better performance includes faster GUI interactions. Includes launching activities, switching from one activity to another, using the journal and using the frame. GUI, activities, back ups.

Easier to deploy and maintain

Quick, clean way to upgrade XOs in the field. Covers several cases including

  1. Creating customization images (to include language packs and rpms)
  2. Installing images in the warehouse
  3. Upgrade in the schools
  4. Updating activities
  5. Activation and Leases

Each should be optimized for case where XS is available, Internet only available and no Internet (AKA USB). Must make it easier to load new image, latest translations, activities and content bundles.


  1. More fully defined activity sharing paradigms, especially with write.
  2. At least one data collection and analysis application supported with an architecture defined for others to follow.
  3. Easier file sharing between XOs and easier to generate and upload user generated content to the internet.
  4. Workflow defined and tools developed for students to collaborate on projects. Must also maintain a history of projects and people who worked on them

(Can this be called 'Groups', which has been identified as a very high priority for the roadmap Kimquirk 13:28, 20 October 2008 (UTC))

  1. Greater scale for number of XOs that can collaborate.
  2. Segregate users so that all the available channels and spectrum are used.

Pedagogical strategy


Primary release drivers

The goal (not confirmed) is to release at the end of Q1 (March 2009).

Schools that will be deploying in Aug-Sept of 2009.


Target deployments

See: User talk:Gregorio#Shipment Quantities and Languages


100K x XOs?


From Emiliano and Erik in e-mail:
Allow Uruguay to sign their own builds so that they can take an image from us, add their customizations then sign it and deploy on the XOs with the existing OLPC provided upgrade tools (e.g. olpc-update and USB keys).

An efficient system upgrade method (ideally this preserves user ata, ideally it can be done in schools with minimal manual effort).

"Efficient" needs to be more carefully defined for this to be actionable. What resource is most precious? --Michael Stone 00:00, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

List of changes in the new build (to be used to decide the best time to upgrade their deployed systems).

How are the present release notes inadequate? --Michael Stone 00:00, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Request from Uruguay for HW alerts:

In e-mail to Greg S:
Better performance of Sugar. Faster launch and close of activities, faster switching between activities, better network usage, more responsive Sugar including Journal.

Better Flash support. Minimum on par with FF 3 on XP.

From ErikG trip:

  1. Upgrade improvements including self signing
  2. Faster (better performance) including flash
  3. HW clock
  4. Journal to USB simplification (direct file system access) - teacher

Notes from the peanut gallery:

an important question which I do not see being approached in these notes is "how are the Uruguay-based folks going to help get these patches written, tested, merged, and released?" --Michael Stone 00:07, 24 September 2008 (UTC)


100K x XOs



40K XOs with 656

100K XOs with build 703

Expected to update them each year at the beginning of the school year (Feb).

Request number 1: Activation lease security feature
Source: Kim trip from July 2008.

Requirement - if the laptop is stolen, and doesn't contact its local school server within some period time (activation lease time); then it will tell the user that it will not activate on next boot and provide date and time. When it gets in the vicinity of the school server again, it will be re-activated automatically.

Requirement - it is not possible to set the date on the laptop to keep it within the lease period or to force it to outside the lease management. This might mean you cannot change the date or there is no root access, or it might mean an alternate time source is used.

Request number 2: Improved performance
Source: Wad trip in April 2008

Speeding up the user interface especially time to launch activities (other?)

Request number 3: Easy creation of image with Peru specific activities and content
Source: Kim trip from July 2008.

This should allow them to add their own content and set of activities to a build after it is finalized and released by OLPC. The goal is for minimal or no OLPC involvement needed.

Request number 4: School Server monitoring of XOs
Source: Kim trip from July 2008.

I think there might be some work in the XO to make the information available; and a database and API spec from the school server. This is not as high priority for their deployment as the passive lease management, but I believe this feature will be important for any deployment. We should try to get feedback from other deployments as to the information we want to collect.

Requirement: Provide XS database and an API so that countries can create reports and monitoring for various aspects of XOs:

  • Version of code
  • Which laptops are being seen each day
  • Total number of laptops being seen per day
  • Number of laptops accessing the internet
  • List of URLs being accessed
  • List of URLs per laptop
  • Which activities are being used per laptop

Request number 5: Collaboration in groups
Source: Kim trip from July 2008 and Wad trip from April 2008.

Requirements for groups (in priority order for Peru)

  1. Project Groups, which can be set up on the XO. These groups might stay together for days, weeks, or months - for example to discuss growing different vegetables or flowers. Generally smaller than a classroom. These groups can be created by students.
  2. Groups per classroom, to be set up on a School Server by someone with special access (needs a UI that can be use by a teacher with password, for instance). Use case is to be able to hand out books, vocabulary lists, etc. these would be best to do within a class.
  3. Groups at the grade level because each grade will have some common curriculum. This would be set up at the school server and require special access.

Request number 6: Backup and restore of XO user data
Make it easy to backup of the laptops. Should allow backup of user data before upgrade or clean install and then restore. Partially met by http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XS_Blueprints:Datastore_Simple_Backup_and_Restore

Request number 7: Better power management and longer battery life.
Met by http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Feature_Longer_battery_life but needs to be a fully functional and supported feature.

Request number 8: XS server running on XO
Source: Kim trip from July 2008.
Can require additional HW (e.g. SD card or USB drive) on XO. Not completely clear how important this one is to Peru.

Other Requirements from Peru
Source: Carla report.

  1. Allow upgrading with Kingston USB keys
  2. Tool integrated with the XO to collect teacher feedback on trainings
  3. Build training tools and enhance the training experience


13K x XOs


10K x XOs with English keyboards.



5k x XOs

They need some fixes to Amharic implementation which require a piece of software called SCIM. See http://wiki.laptop.org/go/9.1.0#Localization for more details.

No Internet access currently available and no school servers planned.

May consider school servers if they can get critical features from them (e.g. lease activation).

Top request so far is lease activation that times out if XO doesn't call home.

Verbatim from Eskender:

  • Security / leasing using the school server
  • Content update using the school server
Amharic input method ( consonant + vowel) instead of vowel consonant. Ticket No.8494
  • we would like to have features where we can install .rpm files which we need for some activities


500 x XOs




3000 x XOs


English, other?


50K x XOs


Journal entries saved it Cyrillic can be opened. Ability to easily upgrade. So Students do not have to go to terminal and type olpc-update --usb. Build this into an "Upgrade Stick" similar to Customization Key.

20K x XOs

Comments from Elana: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-October/019994.html


1000 XOs


500 x XOs




200 x XOs


500 x XOs


600 x XOs


15k x XOs


1000 x XOs


Equitorial Guinea



South Carolina


New York City






Priorities from deployments

There is more work readily at hand than we can do in time for this release. This section mentions areas to consider.

Activity-related work

Requests from Birmingham.
New activities:
Firefox, Flash, mplayer
A spreadsheet (I'm going to use gnumeric until Socialcalc is ready for production)
A more full featured pdf reader (yes, I know there's the Read activity, but I'm planning on installing the full evince and making sure Firefox can open pdfs with it)
A document editor the user can insert images into (the full Abiword would be great for this, but the current workaround [after editing a file] is to open write, then hit ctrl+n)

General requests:
Make it easy to sugarize third party applications.

Support Java in Browse. Needed to see Scratch web site

A better color picker in Paint & Write. Current one is "It is made for professionals to get the HTML code of the color, but it also leads to error since people need to select the color in the circle and then in the triangle. It is giving bad time to people around here [Rwanda]".
From Juliano in e-mail 9/1.

Better Flash support. Minimum on par with FF on XP. From test report by Emiliano and thread on sur list.

Most commonly used activities

Longer battery life

Requirement definition

A list of UI actions which may affect power usage: Requirements#Power Management Requirements

Background on power draw including a break down watts used in different modes: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO_Power_Draw#The_Numbers

Our job is to increase battery life in as many modes as possible.

Suggestions from John/Gnu for increasing battery life follow.

Significant technical actions that could reduce the laptop's power draw:

  • Allow users to disable the mesh: reduces power consumption of the WiFi chip, allows the WiFi chip to enter power-save mode, and most importantly, allows lid-closed suspend to totally power off the WiFi chip. #6955
  • When the lid is closed, and the mesh is off (Wifi could be off or on), the laptop should totally power off the WiFi chip. This would lengthen the duration of lid-closed suspend (before totally draining the battery) from about 8 hours to several days. WiFi with an access point rather than mesh is now the default configuration in most schools, so this would have a dramatic impact on most deployments, particularly those with off-grid power. #7879
  • Put the EC into deep sleep when in a lid-closed suspend. This will cut its power from about 60ma to about 20ma (check with rsmith), which would further increase the duration of a lid-closed suspend before the battery drains.
  • Speed up Resume, which currently takes more than 1000 ms. A cheap shot at this is to unload the USB bus modules. The Extreme power management setting was supposed to do this ("USB-disabling") but it doesn't yet. This would make auto-suspends much less visible to the interactive performance of the laptop, probably cutting the resume time to 500ms, which would let us enable auto-suspend in more circumstances. Beyond this cheap hack, we should actually fix the USB drivers so that you CAN be using the USB -- the wifi/mesh in particular -- and still not hang for half a second uselessly on every resume.
  • Fix serious bugs in resume and networking. These have so far prevented us from turning on autosuspend by default for three major releases (650, update.1, and 8.2.0), and in each release, we decide at the last minute that we can't fix these bugs because it's too late in the release cycle and we didn't fix them earlier. Multicast, ARP, mDNS, the Presence Service, and collaboration must all work in the presence of autosuspend. Much work has gone into fixing these, but neither the final nits, nor polish, nor system-level testing in a network testbed, has occurred.
  • Reduce packet traffic during sharing -- particularly multicast traffic, which loads many machines (and wakes them up from autosuspend). This will require diagnosis and improvement of the presence and collaboration protocols. Some work was done on this, after the high packet traffic melted the WiFi bandwidth in early deployments (e.g. turn on 30 laptops in the mesh, none of them can usefully get anything done), but our main response was to tell later deployments "Don't use the mesh, use access points" -- a significant reversal that we should keep working to fix.
  • Improve cpu idle detection. Currently we can't auto-suspend very often (only after >1 minute of no user interaction) because it's so heavy-handed. The cpuidle infrastructure in the kernel should be able to tell us when it's safe to suspend because no process wants access to the CPU for the next few seconds. Most of the pieces are there.
  • Reduce useless polling by kernel, daemons, and activities. There's still a major Python bug that causes multi-threaded pyGTK2 programs to poll uselessly once a second (#4680, #4677). Much work was done to close it, but there is still a small sprint required to get it done. This not only reduces power use directly, but also allows the system to suspend because it doesn't appear that activities need to do some work soon.

Who requested

Kim, Carla, John/Gnu

Related links



Requirement definition

Who requested

Improved in 8.2.0
Priority request from Carla

See also User talk:Gregorio#Priorities from Carla


This area has been flagged as critical to our success by many people, especially, Carla and David.
Teachers on OLPC-Sur.
Peru technical leaders

9.1.0 Collaboration Requirements Phase 1

Allow for intuitive mesh connection and activity-sharing.
Must support first two use cases defined at: Use Cases#Collaboration Examples

Requirements#Mesh / Connectivity_Requirements

Requirements#AbiWord Sharing Requirements


May need to include that link in developer section below, tbd

Collaboration Requirement Phase 2

Interschool, other use cases.

Inter-school communication

What I see as most missing and most necessary is a safe space for collaboration between students at different schools, even in different countries.



Performance and reliability

Faster activity launching

- File/activity open

- File save

- Task switching

- Activity or main GUI responsivesness to cursor

- Hardware

- Prevent or warn when user starts opening too many activities. Reduce OOM problems and handle OOM better. Ensure that activities don't harm the system. Find and reduce memory leaks. Make the system more stable.

Suggestions from Marco

From: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2008-July/007471.html

1 General UI sluggishness.

Without going too deep into the stack, I think there is a lot of space or improvement even in the python code. Michael mentioned icon cache and mesh view layout, both areas of the code that didn't get any love for a while and where I'm convinced we can make big/quick progresses. I'm planning to spend a lot of my time on this in the next release cycle.

2 Datastore performance.

I'd expect improving jffs2 performance would be a big win there. The UI can probably be smarter in the way it uses the datastore too Finally we can try to improve at the datastore level, but there we clash with the rewrite plans. I think we should find an agreement on the datastore design and just try and get it done for 9.1.0, there are two many things blocking on it.

We need to allocate time and focus to do some good profiling and then attack the problems we find. That's why I'm advocating for the next Sugar release cycle to be largely about perfomance improvements, bug fixes and code refactoring, with the possible exception of the datastore rewrite.

File management

Candybag Idea for a new activity: Candy Bag. You open a bag (i.e. you launch the CandyBag activity), then you put journal entries in it, then sharing this activity means that your friends can grab a candy in your bag.
From: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-July/017459.html

I'd be curious to see if there is a benefit to having a task like this manifested as an activity. It might work well. There's also a design for a more embedded XO to XO object transfer system. Eben 19:40, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

See also point #3 at

copy all files from the journal to a USB device with one keystroke
From Bastien

Allow listing, copying and finding files with standard Unix commands in the terminal view.
See also point #1 at: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/9.1.0#e-mail_from_Ben_S


Spell checking as part of l10n. (Sayamindu and Sur list)

Allow adding a language after the build is created and without OLPC intervention

Chinese support (Kim)

Better RTL support

SCIM (Sayamindu)

Translation Technology, (see an earlier post, Scaling and localization in package management, for background)

Security, activation and deployability

Easy GUI update of OS over net or from USB
Mostly for G1G1 but useful for all.

(I believe this needs to be divided into 'customization key' and initial install. The install has to do with the logistics, USB keys and wireless downloads. Customization has to do with how the image is created before the logistics of how to get it on laptops. Kimquirk 17:25, 9 October 2008 (UTC))

Easier upgrades and initial install

Many deployments have noted how hard it is to install or upgrade, especially on thousands of XOs. One issue is that inevitably, the Xos ship from the factory with an older build and countries need to upgrade them before deploying. I call that "upgrade in a warehouse". In other cases the XOs get deployed but there is little or no WAN available to upgrade.

Initial install requirement

When imaging a new laptop or upgrading a laptop we must support the following.

Via USB stick:

  • When imaging in a warehouse must activate the laptop
  • Must not require any user interaction with the keyboard. Can require holding down a game key on startup.
  • Must allow setting the language
  • Must allow installing a language pack
  • Must allow configuring the keyboard for a language
  • Must allow inclusion of activities and other content,
  • Must allow installing an RPM (Ethiopia)
  • Must allow setting Time, Date Timezone
  • Must work with activated XOs and non-activated XOs. In the non-activated case must activate them so the XO is ready for use in the school when done.

Via network (can require a school server):

  • The solution needs to take 1/2 the time or less than doing the upgrade from USB when 1000 or more XOs are being imaged in a warehouse before deployment.
  • When imaging in a warehouse must activate the XO.
  • Must not require any user interaction with the keyboard.
  • Must allow setting the language
  • Must allow installing a language pack
  • Must allow configuring the keyboard for a language
  • Must allow inclusion of activities and other content
  • Must allow installing an RPM (e.g. in Ethiopia)
  • Must not pull any files over the WAN more than once.
  • Must allow setting Time, Date Timezone
  • Must work with activated XOs and non-activated XOs. In the non-activated case must activate them so the XO is ready for use in the school when done.

Possibly sub-variants of in school case for Mesh, Wireless AP, XS.

Workflow example for the network case above:

  1. XOs leave the factory with an older image (e.g. 8.2.1) which includes this OFW code.
  2. A custom image based on the same or a later release including activities, content, language and maybe other customizations is prepared and loaded on the XS.
  3. An AP is setup and wired to the server.
  4. The XOs are turned on, as many as they have power jacks for. On boot up we can require that they hold down some special keys (game keys).
  5. Release the keys and the XOs find the AP and start listening on preconfigured multicast broadcast address.
  6. The XS broadcasts on the preconfigured address and each XO starts receiving.
  7. In case of errors which are more than what can be recovered by error correction the XOs, pick up again on the second broadcast or third or up

to ... n (where is configurable or they just turn t he server off).

  1. When the XO has a complete image it notifies by putting a special image on the screen.
  2. On next reboot of the XO its running the new image. Subsequent boots do not do this multicast listening unless configured specifically by the user.

Some open issues to be addressed by the design proposal:

  • Do we pre-configure an ESSID and multicast addresses and hard code those in the factory?
  • Can we get it down to no intervention of hold down games keys only?
  • What happens if you turn on "too many" XOs? Can we just let them turn on as many as they want and we'll fill them in some order or should we

limit it to set # of XOs at a time? Can we scale it by using more "channels" or more APs?

  • Any other security points?

Link to relevant OFW design specification: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Multicast_NAND_FLASH_Update

Source: Reuben, Rwanda, Birmingham, Haiti and other XO deployments where it takes too long to re-image XOs that just came from the factory.

Upgrade requirement

Needs definition.

School server push of XO images

Requirement: The XO should be able to get the latest build from the school server

  • The administrator makes the desired build available in the designated directory. When ready, the administrator requests to 'push' the build to all laptops as they come on line. Both of these activities should be an easy-to-use UI at the school server.
  • A test requirement is the ability to create a white list of serial numbers that should be upgraded with the push.

Source: Peru

Activation lease security feature

II-A1: Requirement - if the laptop is stolen, and doesn't contact its local school server within some period time (activation lease time); then it will tell the user that it will not activate on next boot and provide date and time.

II-A2: Requirement - it is not possible to set the date on the laptop to keep it within the lease period or to force it to outside the lease management. This might mean you cannot change the date or there is no root access, or it might mean an alternate time source is used... (not trying to solve the problem, just want to note this requirement).

II-A3: Requirement - Must allow setting of the lease time by the deployment lead (User interface required). That is, they can set it for 90 days (or whatever they want) on the first lease expiration and can set it to 30 days on the second. The granularity should be at 24 hours and be from 1 day to never expire.

Source: Peru via Kim except last point added by GS

Related requirement for Ethiopia and other countries:
II-A4: Requirement - Support the same as described above for Peru but allow the server which determines the activation to be across the Internet (AKA over a WAN and ibn a data center run by the deployment).

II-A5: Requirement - Support the same requirement as described above but allow the reset of the activation to be done via USB key. That is, when an XO's lease expires, it must be booted with the USB key containing a special code. This can be done before it expires to extend the lease.

Related documentation:

6689 and 7878 Expand customization key capabilities.

Allow school server to activiate XOs.
Source: thread on techteam

Actual security requirements: User:Mstone/Commentaries/Security_1

Theft-reporting security feature

Sometimes known as 'active kill'. If the laptop is stolen, the serial number can be added to a 'stolen laptop' list so the laptop's activation can be turned off the next time it finds either a local school server or a global tracking server.

II-T1: Requirement: A trusted administrator can log into a central system (either regionally controlled or OLPC controlled) and add a serial number to the 'Stolen' list.

II-T2: Requirement: Any laptop that connects to a local or global server that finds a match on the 'Stolen' list, and it was originally activated with an activation key, will be de-activated.

II-T3: Requirement: The security must ensure that the person adding the stolen laptop is a person who has been given that access; and that the server causing the de-activation is a server that has been given that right.

II-T4: Requirement: Re-activating the laptop again requires the same procedure as initial activation or lease management.

Source: Kim from Peru, Daniel from Ethiopia.

XO monitoring

Requirement: Provide XS database and an API so that countries can create reports and monitoring for various aspects of XOs:

  • Version of code
  • Which laptops are being seen each day
  • Total number of laptops being seen per day
  • Number of laptops accessing the internet
  • List of URLs being accessed
  • List of URLs per laptop
  • Which activities are being used per laptop
  • Number of minutes in each activity per laptop; can we determine (and subtract) idle time?
  • Number of minutes in each activity within and outside of school hours (perhaps this means we capture the 'start' time of each activity and allow the reporting to decide if this is during or outside of school hours).

Background and implementation ideas:
I think there might be some work in the XO to make the information available; and a database and API spec from the school server. This is not as high priority for their deployment as the passive lease management, but I believe this feature will be important for any deployment. We should try to get feedback from other deployments as to the information we want to collect.

Source: Peru

Customized startup images

Must allow changing startup picture by copying an image to the XO. This should not require any OLPC developer intervention and should not need a new or special build.


Source: Colombia and Mexico before.

Already present in 8.1.0. See: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Tweaking_the_boot_animation

Should allow setting the language at the factory or when upgrading/re-imaging. The idea is to not require the kids to click the control panel to get to their language. One idea is to include it in the choice you make on first boot (e.g. name and color) better would be to set the language at install.
Source: Bastien for Haiti.

Allow setting of Sugar Control Panel features in customization key. From Peru via Erik
http://dev.laptoptop.org/ticket/6432 http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-March/011553.html http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-July/016417.html

Allow key customers to sign their own builds

Uruguay request

Network Manager connections

G1G1 encryption.

802.11i (AKA 802.1x) Uruguay

GUI for managing network connections.

Better default network connection choice algorithm (e.g. if USB - Ethernet is connected, use it first source: A Callahan).

This already happens, but perhaps there are bugs. -DanielDrake 16:37, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

This algorithm should be "smart" in its firsdt choice but should also be adjustable in the GUI.

Unadorned and unedited user feedback

6th grade kids feedback on build 656:

Priorities from Carla: User talk:Gregorio#Priorities from Carla

Comments from technical user in Ecuador:

GUI and usability

Request from Uruguay for HW alerts:

Designs ideas from Scott and Eben in thread. e.g. I hope our alert system will use the freedesktop.org standard: http://www.galago-project.org/specs/notification/index.php

More prominent help information - Brianne, G1G1
One idea from Eben. From: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2008-August/007547.html
All of our initial discussions on help focused around a contextual help system, and I still hope that this is where we'll be taking this in the future. By embedding (?) icons within the secondary palette menus for various devices, objects, activities, and even individual buttons and controls, we can provide a way to launch into the help activity and dive directly to the relevant info for the activity, control, etc. selected. In addition, I'd like to support a community driven help system by which, in addition to the activity/olpc provided help, it's possible for kids to add tips, tricks, images, tutorials, and other info to these sections for later consumption by peers.

This is a noble, but ambitious goal, which is why a simple and static help activity is the present solution, and why it's only integrated into the system at a single point - the activity itself.

Show size of files in journal and in general make it easier.

Trash can for recovering files. Requested by Bastien, Haiti.

XO needs a clock

Priorities from Engineering

Upgrade journal per: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines/The_Laptop_Experience/The_Journal

Less flickering in starting activities and other screen changes - Michael

Show memory usage to user:
We provide no end user feedback on memory usage, either. We should investigate whether revisiting our previous attempt to give such feedback, now that Linux can provide much better information than it could when we abandoned our previous donut attempt. The users could really help, if only we let them know a bit about what was going on... From Jim e-mail to devel: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/2008-September/018944.html

Fedora 10 rebase?

Fix all GPL issues and get sign off from FSF that we are fully compliant.

Ensure the blinking of the lights is meaningful.

Debug tool that easily allows plug of diagnostic USB stick which analyzes and reports back detailed status.
ErikG idea from Uruguay

Backup to Internet idea from Walter:

Stability suggestion from Albert C (and his children) re. protecting against out of RAM conditions:

Sugar roadmap


Easier Access to and Help Using Source Code

Put a link in the library on the XO which links to GIT or other relevant source. (source: John/Gnu)

Improved clipboard

Here is a rough specification of the intended design for a usable multi-item clipboard. I'll add a list of related tickets shortly.

Sugar architecture ideas

From thread started by Michael S

e-mail from Ben S


1. The datastore
Sugar's design calls for a centralized rich data storage system, the datastore. The datastore provides secure, limited file access to Activities, manages file metadata, maintains a differentially compressed history of all work, ensures reliable backups to a trusted server, and mediates the connection to removable media. Every one of these features is crucial to Sugar's functioning, and almost none are really working at this time. We cannot afford another release based on the present datastore, as it fails to implement the features we require, and is unreliable even in the features it supposedly implements.

There have, at this point, been at least five distinct proposals for a next-generation datastore design, all differing in underlying implementation and user-facing functionality. We need to have a Once And For All datastore summit, draw up a compromise datastore design, and implement it. We can do this by 9.1.0, if we are willing to make it a priority.

Additional Links:

- Expose the file system on save, open and in the journal. Source: Marvin Minsky

2. OS Updates
We now have hundreds of thousands of laptops deployed in the field, running a variety of OS versions. OLPC cannot afford to support a multitude of decrepit versions, and children cannot afford to suffer defects that have long since been fixed. We need a reliable, fast, update system that does not rely on the network, so that children everywhere can move to the latest version of Sugar without losing their data. The update system must support tremendously invasive upgrades, like repartitioning the NAND and replacing JFFS2, because we expect to do this in short order.

A secure usb autoreinstallation stick is required. It is not technically challenging to implement, but it must be made a priority, and then be made widely available and idiot-proof.

3. File Sharing
Students and teachers have no good way to distribute files directly from one person's Journal to another. If all Activities that open a file do not implement Collaboration, then there is simply no way to transfer that file over the network. This is the most basic possible network functionality --- FTP was standardized in 1971 --- but it is completely missing from our system.

A number of technical proof-of-concept programs have been written for distributing files, using methods like HTTP over stream tubes and Cerebro's Teleport. There is an excellent set of [[Specifications/Object_Transfers|UI mockups for this] functionality. All that is left is to Get It Done.

Additional Links:

4. Activity Modification
A keystone of the Sugar design has always been the user's ability to edit any Activity, and to cement this a "View Source" key was designed right into the hardware. This functionality is simply missing, and that prevents us from making our principal claim regarding an emphasis on user modification.

"Develop" must be polished, finished, and included by default. This will require modifications to the core system, in order to support an endless variety of slightly modified Activities. It will also require work on the Develop program itself. If volunteer efforts are not moving fast enough, OLPC must ensure that someone is working on the problem as a professional.

Additional links:

5. Bitfrost
Sugar, as it currently stands, is among the least secure operating systems ever, far less secure than any modern Linux or Windows OS. I can easily write an Activity that, when run by the user, escalates to root privileges and does anything I like with the system. Given Sugar's competitive status against Windows XO, this failing threatens the very existence of the project. The Sugar designs have long stated that safely running untrusted code from a classmate is a key goal for learning, but the current software accomplishes precisely the opposite.

NO ONE IS WORKING ON BITFROST. That's right. Everyone who was working on Sugar security (after activation) has either left OLPC or moved into another role. Someone must be assigned to continue the security work, or it will certainly never make progress. Anyone who _does_ take on this challenge will start from a much better position than previously, because many of the Vserver features have moved into the mainline kernel over the last few versions. The kernel now contains a number of new, powerful isolation and control primitives.

6. Power management
Power management is the raison d'etre of the XO hardware. It is the reason that the hardware took four times as long to develop as a standard laptop, the reason that we suffer from the closed Marvell operating system, the reason that OLPC's best engineers flew around the globe fighting with details of voltage and capacitance. In an increasingly crowded low cost laptop market, it is one of OLPC's few remaining distinctions. As of 8.2.0, aggressive suspend is available, but its functionality is still far from the target.

Enabling aggressive power management is a major challenge, perhaps more difficult than anything else on this list. We know what is required for a first step: ensure that we can reliably wake up from a hardware timer.

This single feature would be enough to enable a basic sleepy approach that is truly transparent to software. Other work includes removing USB from the critical path on resume. Aggressive suspend may not be ready for 9.1.0, but if no one is working on it it will never be ready.

Easy update for G1G1

I think this is the biggest missing feature for G1G1 users, honestly. The software update control panel for activities is a great step in the right direction, but to really get people into Sugar moving forward, we have to make one-click updates a reality. They have no school server or other centralized source doing it for them, and we can't expect many to go through the manual update process. Once we have a super-simple control-panel-integrated dev key request process, we should also adjust the update UI to offer cutting-edge updates to those with keys.

From Eben and Joe

Suggestions from User:CScott

  • Better "legacy app" compatibility; this should allow us to run existing apps like firefox, pidgin, and gimp in a reasonable manner:
    • Replace matchbox window manager with XMonad, Metacity, awesome, etc. Should provide both 'full screen' mode and traditional 'tiled' mode.
    • Switch to standard freedesktop.org startup notification mechanism: <trac>5271</trac>
    • Implement freedesktop.org notifications mechanism for alerts (low battery, low disk space, available software update)
    • Refactor home/friends/mesh view as operations on root window, so they make sense in a multiwindow setup. (It's been suggested that looking at the xpenguins code is instructive for understanding how nautilus,etc arrange their root window.)
    • App launching & mimetypes via XDG mechanisms (thanks, erikg)
  • Improved antitheft mechanisms:
    • ECO fix and EC improvements
    • Security control panel, with "am I stolen" and lease renewal buttons: <trac>1502</trac>, <trac>6428</trac>
    • olpcrd work: <trac>7397</trac>
    • Revoke root capabilities when booted with security enabled: <trac>7562</trac>
  • Improved update mechanisms
    • Real COW for pristine versions, allowing... <trac>3581</trac>
    • ...binary-diff updates over http (avoiding rsync in many cases) <trac>4259</trac>, etc
    • Integration of core OS updates with software update control panel: <trac>7618</trac>
    • Integration of software updates with notification system
    • Incremental updates of activity bundles (only changed files)
    • Send back statistical data when checking for updates (batmon, etc) <trac>4594</trac>, <trac>6447</trac>
  • Security/isolation work
    • Implementation of P_SF_CORE, P_SF_RUN
    • Mechanism to validate updates to loopholed activities & allow user to manage exceptions
    • Persistent activity storage
    • NSS modules for rainbow users and for olpc/root users
    • Rainbow
  • Journal improvements
    • Proper display of 'new versions' of activities
    • Tagging system to allow folder-like management for advanced users
    • Datastore rework
    • Direct execution of activities from datastore (avoid installation step) <trac>7713</trac>
    • Ability to have multiple versions of an activity installed concurrently. (API work necessary: <trac>7713</trac>)
  • Translation improvements
    • "multiple languages, multiple places": translation system should look in local, then activity, then system translation tables, then repeat for each in a set of fallback languages (eg, quechua, spanish, english)
    • separable translation packs
    • "click-to-translate": wiki-like editing of translatable labels in the UI
  • "Asynchronous internet"
    • Integration of wwwoffle with small local cache
    • Content bundles to seed that cache
    • Mechanism to request downloads later
  • Library improvements
    • The current API is a mess, doesn't match the documentation on the wiki, is inconsistent with the activity.info format, etc.
    • Merging content and activities -- a bundle ought to be able to have *both* a library.info *and* an activity.info
    • Using a content format which is consistent with "offline internet" content -- more or less consider installing content files as pushing stuff into an offline cache
    • Dynamic generation of the top-level "home" page so we don't need to run the indexer after installing content bundles.
  • Fedora integration
    • tools to manage forked packages better. To start with: a notification tool to let us know if a new upstream release has occurred for a package we have forked.
  • Printing support
    • Print postscript (or pdf, or whatever, just pick *one*) to school server via CUP (IPP?), and install a "decent selection" of printer drivers on the school server. Control panel for 'default printer name', fixed to 'XS' by default.
    • Add basic printing support to Write, Read, and Browse; set PRINTER env variable.
    • for future, add support to Paint, Record, etc.

TODO list of User:Sayamindu

  • Language Packs version 3
    • Packs should be as RPMs
    • Utilize patches from Ubuntu for Python and Glibc to define a separate install location/search path for PO files installed via the packs
    • Also see CScott's wishlist above.
  • SCIM support
    • Conversion of all existing layouts to m17n db format , along with refinements and better support for modifiers whenever possible (<trac>6280</trac>
    • Modification of relevant startup and configuration scripts for SCIM support
    • User experience for keyboard layout switching should not change
    • Proper handling of Amharic characters (<trac>8494</trac>)
    • Implementation of OLPC_Nepal_Keyboard
  • Enhanced i18n
    • Better support for translation of content
    • Investigation of the possibility of using native digits for translations <trac>7857</trac>
  • Read improvements
    • Better Ebook mode support (still vague on this.. expect more details soon)
  • Terminal improvements
    • Copy paste and drag and drop support enhancements
    • Pippyfication (<trac>5543</trac>)
    • Better handling of "Run as root in the UI"
  • Support for standard desktop applications in Sugar
    • Replace matchbox with something more friendlier to standard desktop applications
    • Support for .desktop files in the launcher list
    • Support startup-notification
    • Support standard application icons on the frame

Thoughts from User:cjb

  • Power turned on by default.
  • Translation of Sugar inside Sugar?
  • A working Distribute activity for journal objects (could be in the Journal)

Thoughts from User:Mstone

  • Security already contains my immediate security roadmap.
  • My user page links to several of my other ideas, many of which are procedural improvements with software components.
  • My largest ongoing concern is that we have not yet smoothly carried a deployment through an update to a new major stable release. (Peru may become our first exception to this rule, but this remains to be seen.)

Notes from sj

This page shouldn't be broken down by contributor; it needs serious refactoring and organization by topic and scope.

Library and bundle updates:

  • API and .info unification across content and activity bundles. Making both and a general generic bundle clearly described within an overarching bundle format.
    • thought experiment : how does one present an activity (has its own isolation-friendly code) that includes a library bundle (its own browser-browsable static content, help and supplemental materials) and a generic resource bundle (a repository of sounds and images) look like? How do other parts of the system (the Journal, Browse, other activities) see and interact with these three collections of material (to browse and copy the code, to view the static content, to aggregate the resource collections with other collections)?
  • a Dynamic library implementation
  • coordination of a unified help interface building on top of the library bundles defined for each activity on the system.
    • integration of some way to update and share this. related to how to leave a comment on/about an activity or file/resource
  • coordination of local library bundles, and regional caches of viewed material, school server caches of bundles, and web caches.
  • cleaner display of available bundles via a bundle updater; relatd to but not the same as the current software upgrade function, which has a strong emphasis on olpc-stamped/signed materials

Sharing updates:

  • provide a way to send a file to someone else. related to bundle (activity).
  • provide a way to publish material to the world. related slightly to how edublog works now? see also robson's and juliano's interests here
  • add support for asynchronous sharing over time : the sharing of an effort should not require everyone to be online at once.

Adding basic interface pieces that we want to support in the long term, and making them do something familiar, reliably, every time they are at hand. "escape", "stop/start", "share", "view source", "keep", "cut" and "paste" should all do fairly reliable things across activities. Make them do something recognizable even when the activity developer hasn't provided an app-specific hook for same.

Replacement file system

The current file system used on the XO ([JFFS2]) was developed in the days of 32/64MiB NOR flash devices and does not scale well to the 1GiB NAND devices we are using today and certainly will not deal well with larger devices in gen 1.5 and gen 2 systems. The main issues are that JFFS2 needs to scan all blocks at mount time and that the garbage collection algorithm increasingly consumes CPU cycles as the system fills up. The first issue manifests itself as large delays at boot up to mount the file system as it is full (need to quantify this), and the second issue simply means less CPU cycles can be dedicated to user task processing. In the last few years, there has been much activity in the embedded Linux world on alternatives to JFFS2 and we need to investigate these to determine which one best fits our needs:

  • YAFFS2 : Has been around for several years and in active use in the embedded space. It does not provide compression out of the box as the devices that use it often carry already compressed data such as MP3 and MPG files.
  • UBIFS: A new file system recently merged into the kernel designed for use on large flash devices. Supports compression out of the box and supports disabling compression on a per-inode basis, which is something we desire.
  • LogFS : Another JFFS2 replacement designed for fast operation and scalability. Still fairly new and not in very active use AFAIK.
  • Btrfs : A very new file system that is primarily targeted for large storage systems with features such as snapshotting, RAID support, and online fsck. David Woodhouse has expressed that he will look into getting this to work on NAND, but it is too new of a code base to consider for 9.1
  • Managed NAND : (Not an option for existing XO machines, but might be a direction for future hardware) The industry seems to be moving away from raw NAND in favor of a NAND-chip plus microcontroller solution. The microcontroller implements a Flash Translation Layer that hides the low level NAND details, presenting a higher level interface that looks like an ordinary hard disk, so an ordinary filesystem layout like ext3 could be used. The driving force behind managed NAND is rapid hardware evolution toward multi-level-cell NAND chips and smaller process geometries, which change important NAND parameters like page sizes and ECC. The situation is similar to what happened with hard disks in the 80's, where raw-disk interfaces gave way to SCSI and IDE, which hide the ugly low-level details that changed every technology generation. Managed NAND options include LBA-NAND from Toshiba (pin-compatible with NAND chips), eMMC from multiple vendors (with an SD/MMC-compatible hardware interface), and various "disk on chip" products (IDE-compatible interface).

Development process

  • Analyze and quantify the use patterns that trigger issues with JFFS2.
  • Gather requirements for a new file system that go beyond solving above issues.
  • Develop/integrate a set of tests for FS performance and reliability that take into account our use patterns, the above issues, and any other features we wish to validate.
  • Study the three main alternatives (YAFFS, UbiFS, LogFS) to determine what requirements they meet
  • Run our FS test suite on above alternatives
  • Analyze test results and requirements study and make a decision on which alternative to use.

Deployment process

Once a file system is chosen from the above process, we will have to:

  • Integrate the file system into our kernel if it is not upstream (YAFFS2 or Logfs)
  • Integrate the file system support packages into our build system and file system images
  • Update our build scripts to generate the proper image type for

Activity impact

This change should not have any impact on activity developers as it is at a very low level of the stack.

End-user impact

End users will see faster boot up time and will not see (as much) performance degradation as the file system fills up.

Comments from other interested parties

Browse/XULRunner opportunities from User:Skierpage

XULRunner 1.9.1, the Mozilla code powering Firefox 3.1, should be released in the 9.1.0 timeframe.

Activities and content can use its new features, at the risk of incompatibility with earlier Sugar releases.

<audio> and <video> in the browser

XULRunner 1.9.1 supports the HTML5 <audio> and <video> tags, providing the ability to play OGG audio and video files natively in the browser. This will probably improve performance and reduce memory footprint compared with embedding the Totem plugin, the trade-off needs to be tested and Browse configured accordingly.

Wikipedia articles and thus Wikislices can take advantage of this, and richer multimedia in Browse becomes practical.

Key modules and relevant module roadmaps

Standard information

(These are all semantic annotations that other pages such as Releases can query.)

Release notes: Release notes/Feature roadmap

Status: status::gathering requirements and setting priorities

Primary maintainer: not chosen yet

ECO: not yet

Primary objectives:

The process is not final. It is a set of rough guidelines still being worked out and subject to change.

Lead customer: ?

Build number and URL: Build number::999

Schedule: tbd, should be first half CY 09 and possibly as early as December 2008.