Summer of Code/2007

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Archives: 2006

This is a page for 2007 Summer of Code Ideas. For Summer of Content ideas, see Summer of Content 2007. Content-related activities described below are suitable projects to migrate to the latter's project discussions.

See the 2006 internship announcement for more context. If you have additional ideas for projects, or comments on the ones below, please leave a note on this talk page.


If you are interested in mentoring participants, please read the mentor FAQ. Note that both the ability to spend significant time mentoring, and the quality of the students are key to a good return on investment by the mentor, and the learning by the students. Please do not sign up to be a mentor unless you are certain you can meet the obligations of being a good mentor. If you are interested in mentoring, please send mail to Sj and leave a note below with a link to your userpage, where you should describe your background.

Interested mentors

Game development

Hardware testing, display optimization, input options, alternative power and charging

  • Mary Lou Jepsen
  • Richard Smith

Library design and assessment

Tools for local content creation


User stack architecture

Mesh application design

Distributed collaborative projects

System Software


Input and device options

Using the camera as control device

Mentor:Kent Quirk

A nice SoC project would be to build an API to use the XO camera as a game input device. A few ideas come to mind:

  • Detect one or more regions of distinctive color (a ball, a sheet of paper) and track its position as an X-Y input device (possibly even Z if you can take size into account). User could then move the object in space to provide input to a game.
  • Detect motion of the image background so as to infer the motion of the XO itself. It would be a substitute for a tilt-swivel sensor and could be used to play games like Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball.
  • Detect motion of the image background so as to provide simple dead reckoning position tracking. This would be unbelievably crude but it might be possible to use a down-facing camera to make some sort of hide and seek game enabled by the XO.
  • Detect faces and/or hands like the Sony EyeToy. Face tracking can provide a nice input model.
  • Capture a background with no user involved, then notice the changes as the user moves in the frame to return an outline of the area that's "different" (this is the "Shadow Garden" model).

It's unlikely that all of these ideas would be implemented, but a high quality subset of them would be nice to have.

The API must include Python support, and be capable of operating at "reasonable" frame rates (preferably at least 10 fps).

Comment:Peter Korn

Please see "head mouse" products that use a reflective dot pasted onto the person's forehead or glasses that can be more easily tracked by cameras. A good listing of these commercial products can be found at enablemart

New Power Inputs and Alternative Power and Energy

Mentor:Mary Lou Jepsen or Richard Smith
  • Explore alternative power inputs for the XO laptop
  • Solar and human power input testing - testing our solar panels with the laptops, the human power crank, yoyo, etc.
  • Gang charger and power system design for in country gang chargers off of car batteries - finding car batteries readily available in country, optimizing to our gang charger design, getting feedback from user testing in country and making modifications with gang charger supplier(s). Working closely with Firmware team on charging issues"
  • Testing batteries and recharge ability for various vendors batteries
  • Testing weird power inputs to motherboard and assuring safety for strange inputs

Display Readability Optimization and Testing

Mentor: Mary Lou Jepsen
  • Testing of display readability and optimization of graphical layouts to enhance display readability. Our display is very different from a standard display and has 3X the luminance resolution compared with chrominance resolution. Studies of display readability in both backlit and sunlight readable mode and the font configuration for optimized readability (with testing on children) are to be done.

Power aware applets


Nutshell: we need some applets that display information better to become better power aware.

User Stack architecture

Many of these projects still need help

Nutshell: We're looking for several exceptional students to spend their summer in Boston, working within the user stack team, building the architecture and application suite which will be the children's primary mode of interaction with the laptop. This suite currently consists of the E-book reader, a distributed wiki notebook, and e-mail and IM clients.

ebook reader

Mentor: Don Hopkins

Work with a crossmark/html book reader, or produce tools for converting to/from this format, to give children annotatable access to the worlds digitized books.

Don Hopkins is developing a PDF based eBook reader for the Internet Archive, using the "poppler" library to draw with Cairo. It will have a simple book reading user interface to search, page, zoom, pan, rotate, arrange pages in various configurations, follow links, navigate the index, etc. It should be fully usable in "book mode" with the game controller. It will be able to browse and search the Internet Archive eBook library, and download eBooks to read. It can use the Internet Archive RSS feeds and web services to get lists and descriptions of books, and search the archive, and download XML meta-data and PDF documents.

Other interesting eBook related projects:

Optimizing eBook activity and libraries for low power and memory consumption. Optimizing Cairo library image rendering. Reusing the "poppler" PDF rendering module for other purposes. Integrate useful PDF generation modules (i.e. PyGraph, ReportLab). Write some useful components and applications using PDF generation and rendering modules. Extending Poppler's API to support editing PDF documents. Developing a simple PDF editor component (for annotating eBooks and editing graphics).

Collaborative shared eBook reading activity: synchronize the document, page and a cursor over the network, so kids can take turns reading an eBook out loud together, with special support for plays and scripts. Each child chooses one or more characters to read, and the eBook parses the text to know who speaks each line, and prompts each child to read their lines by zooming and highlighting the text to read.


Help improve features on a wikireader -- a notebook for reading, annotating, and editing collaborative texts. Features include online/offline synchronization, distributed versioning and conflict resolution for text, and providing a variety of views and zoom levels for a given document.

IM client

nutshell: a fast instant messaging client that integrates neatly into many applications. Extensions: connect with an automatic im-translation setup; or with a network of human interpreters. See Instant messaging challenges for the complete implications of an olpc IM system.

email client

nutshell: develop a lightweight email client for children.

Content creation and review

Content stamping

Nutshell: develop a simple system for building review groups and content reviews of all types of content, and clients for viewing / downloading materials via the Open Library Exchange using these reviews to inform the view.

Distributed translation


Nutshell: design an online distributed translation system that matches users with language skills to parts of large localization/interpretation/translation projects.

One dictionary per child

Nutshell: Multilingual Wiktionary & Wikidata customization for the laptops/servers, with a dictionary viewer. The main task is to produce a viewer that runs efficiently on the laptops, reads standard dictionary file formats, and can display definitions in multiple languages without redundant copies of definitions.

Distributed map environment

Nutshell: define a distributed map environment for the OLPC network of XOs, school servers, and regional/global servers.

No-language tutorials

Nutshell: develop libraries for creating no-language videos, screencaps, animations, and slideshows depicting people interacting with their environment -- for demonstrations or sharing ideas across language barriers.

Game development

PyGame port

Mentor:Kent Quirk?

Nutshell: get PyGame's api to work on the laptops.

Details: work to implement the details (that will soon be) laid out in PyGame Implementation.

Easy Game Toolkit

Mentor: Ben Sawyer

Nutshell: build a collection of Python libraries that make it as easy as possible to build certain classes of games in Python.

Details: PyGame is a good basic API for games, but its flexibility requires some detailed knowledge of game design and game architecture. In order to help novice programmers to build interesting game-like software, it would be nice to make a collection of libraries on top of PyGame that would do the following sorts of things:

  • Set up the interface and make a drawing surface available
  • Create simple UI structures -- collections of buttons, menus, simple textual displays
  • Create animated sprites and allow them to have certain behavior -- velocity, collisions, interactions
  • Managing a standard asset structure of the sorts of assets that can easily be created on the OLPC -- sounds, music, graphics.
  • Basic networking system for using the OLPC mesh network
  • Implement basic platformer game engine -- gravity, sidescrolling
  • Implement basic 2D arcade game engine -- sprites, missiles, particle systems, sounds, input
  • Implement basic 2D graphic adventure toolkit -- a world of rooms, database and data entry tools, simple command structure.
  • Implement educational game toolkit -- simple text and image manipulation, sound effects, standard quiz database system, data entry tools, tracking and reporting of results

The result should be a collection of libraries that make the creation of a game like Pong a matter of a few dozen lines of code, and creating a basic platformer should be more of an art problem than a programming problem.


Vision and hearing tests

proposer: Felipecarvalho

Nutshell: It would be good to include tests on bootup that can check the user's vision and hearing.

This would help identify if a child needs to be pointed to a doctor to better use the Laptop. This should be easy for a teacher or older child to administer.

Virtual Magnifying Glass

Proposer: --Felipecarvalho 2 May 2006 (EDT)

Nutshell: Improve the magnifier so it can take advantage of X Composite Extension and be more adequate for the Laptop and much more efficient. See Virtual Magnifying Glass, &c.

Add Dynamic Mode to the software by using the X Composite Extension. This allows the user to see the current desktop contents under the magnifier window. The user can also interact with the window under the magnifier (such as mouse, scroll wheel, keyboard, etc...).

System Software

Performance is important, particularly in the UI stack. There is driver work to be done; a bit of kernel driver work, but extensive X driver work. Cairo can use further improvement. Our tinderbox can use extension to testing applications. It would be good to repeat the Packard/Gettys X Network performance tests, to see what we're doing on the wire (finding what is being done stupidly in applications, and what should be optimized). Security expert people can help on both authentication of the X protocol and its encryption. Furthermore, Eamon Walsh has done work to generalize X's security framework: we need a policy engine suitable for VServer based systems.

General system performance analysis is also welcome, focused on our core applications.

Power management and memory management are also possibilities.

2006 project ideas

see the archives for more project ideas from last year