Sugar v0.84: Sugar on a Stick Review

   
   
   
   
   

So the new Sugar on a Stick v0.84 is out and I gave it a try on the XO, installing the suggested Windows XP version.

olpc sugar

It is paramount to follow a few key actions:

  • Use the LiveUSBcreator version 3.6 or higher as older version are not XO-aware and will not work.
  • Do not boot a PC with the stick before you boot the XO.
  • If you use newer firmware (q2e30+) to hit esc after start and get to the OFW prompt and the type "boot" to boot. Otherwise SoaS will stay behind the boot animation and you will never see it!

SoaS on the XO boots really fast and you get to the familiar home screen, which is already populated with a number of applications. They all work. But be warned: you should not install SoaS as the main OS in your XO unless you are an experienced XO developer.

Noticeable Improvements

The immediately noticeable difference is the improved journal that now prompts for naming/renaming and addition of comments and tags for easier and more "logical" searches. Also allows you to choose with which application you open the file with (assuming that more than one can do it) and to send the file (assuming tat you have a properly configured machine).

The other nice thing is that if you open an application opens the last journal instance (assuming you did not rename it to something else), so you do not get 300 terminal entries... Of course if you want to save something eg a bookmark as a Browse entry, you have to rename it appropriately.

The other major change is under the hood. The full Fedora 10 foundation that allows for less complicated installation of mainstream Linux applications. Another nice feature is the "view source" option that allows you to see the code for any application and modify it if you want. It is similar to the Develop activity in but now is "just there".

Also a number of activities are updated to newer versions (that will not necessarily run under update 8.2, 8.2.1).

A Couple of Nuisances.

The microphone light is on and speakers do not work. To fix this, open the terminal type "alsamixer -V all" and mute (type "m") V-REFOUT (mic light) and External (speakers!). Also the XO will not shutdown. It goes to "system halted" and stays there. To really shut the XO down, just press the power button for 3 sec.

SoaS is totally unaware of the XO-hardware. Besides the two little things above, game buttons will not work (only the "O" game button will get you to Journal!) and many function buttons will not work (journal, screen brightness, frame button). The battery monitor will not work (just shows the initial level and never updates). The camera will not work (even if you install the not-included Record activity).

The SDcard and USB are not detected and if you mount them manually they do not show in the Journal. There is no power management (and the relevant control panel) and no software update panel. Some old activities will not work (but that's the activity developer's job I guess). Your hacks are likely not to work (at least till you find the right paths and still then is not certain).

So unless you are ready for a lot of tinkering or development, keep Sugar on the stick.

The major goal of Sugar 0.84.x is testing and developing. That's what you should do with it. It is clear that the XO was not at all on the scope of Sugar Labs at this stage. Being the first SoaS version the apparent goal was basic functionality and broad implementation.

Suggested Enhancements

The only feature that I think should be included in 0.84+ enhancements is the ability to use an XO-aware stick to boot a PC (mine stuck at eth1 configuration and then messed up the XO network settings). This is not possible with the current version of SoaS/LiveUSBcreator. Implementation will make work a bit easier for developers and certainly "allow the parents to see what their kid is doing" with their SoaS on another computer.

Now, it would be great if someone develops packages that you could just "yum install" and regain XO functionality. Should not be very difficult. The key bindings and battery monitor would be a good start, and camera (or a compatible version of Record activity) should follow soon after.

Till then I can only hope that Sugar 0.84+, among other things, will also be XO-aware. Hopefully, Sugar Labs will not do the same to the XO as OLPC did. OLPC abandoned Sugar development on the XO and although you can find ways to justify or explain it, it did not resonated very well.

Similarly one can think of reasons to justify or explain Sugar Labs not developing for the XO but this will be equally bad. If nothing else there is almost a million KIDS with an XO out there. They deserve better.

I'm not suggesting that SugarLabs will stop developing Sugar for the XO, I'm just saying that since current actions do not contradict it, I would like at least to see the opposite statement in black and white somewhere.

Unless, if we are to believe that they also think that "dual boot" Windows XP should be the way to go on the millions of XOs out there. I hope not

Mavrothal is a frequent OLPC News Forum contributor and loves to experiment with SoaS.

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7 Comments

Not to worry, the XO-1 is most certainly a target platform for this and future versions of Sugar! We of course feel a responsibility to the hundreds of thousands of children learning with Sugar every day. There is feverish bugfixing activity on v0.84 even as we speak ( http://dev.sugarlabs.org/query?status=assigned&status=reopened&max=0&desc=1&order=id ) and the next step will be integration with the OLPC people. One aspect of that is school server integration.

As far as I know, no Windows-equipped XO-1s have been sold to anyone aside from pilot projects. Which of course could change, but Sugar remains by far the native interface of the thousands of XOs shipping every month. Moreover, if indeed the future XO-2 runs on an ARM processor as announced, it's an open question whether Microsoft can offer a system other than Windows CE for it.

A couple of points: internally, we refer to "SoaS-1" for Sugar on a Stick bootable USB versions based on fedora-10 and "SoaS-2" for fedora-11 versions (by way of comparison, v0.82.x which shipped on G1G1 XO-1s runs over fedora-9). And, to differentiate between images, the .iso files are datestamped; for example the most stable SoaS-1 image we have is from March 23rd ( http://download.sugarlabs.org/soas/snapshots/1/Soas1-200903232259.iso ). A new image of SoaS-2 went up yesterday here: http://download.sugarlabs.org/soas/snapshots/2/Soas2-200904011025.iso

Useful link for Sugar on a Stick roadmap information: http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick/Roadmap

Caroline Meeks of Solution Grove, the Sugar on a Stick project manager, and Walter Bender will distribute the first Sugar Labs logo'd beta Sugar on a Stick keys on April 10th to some lucky attendees of FOSSVT ( http://www.ncose.org/node/47 ) where they will present Sugar.

An important part of reaching v1.0 of Sugar on a Stick in the coming months is user feedback, and we are working on making that easier too.

I can start Sugar now from the stick on my XOs and Acer Aspire One and in a VirtualBox session on my Mac Mini (instructions here: http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick_VirtualBox )

We are excited about this release (bugs and all) because we are succeeding the ambitious technical challenge of getting Sugar to run on varied hardware and systems - those Macs and PCs in classrooms, netbooks which are projected to grow by 65% by NPD this year. That said, supporting the XO-1 remains of course very important for us.

Sean
Sugar Labs Marketing Coordinator

My opinion: Sugar on the XO still needs a good bit of work for integration. It isn't done yet. Every new version of Sugar that is considered as a candidate for the XO will need some hand holding to work on the XO.

Let me draw a parallel. Distros such as Ubuntu have come a long way to work on many kinds of hardware, but when a company like Dell decides to sell a laptop with Ubuntu on it, Dell has to go through a QA process and make sure that stock Ubuntu actually works on the Dell. If it does not, then Dell has to customize it. The customer is buying a complete package, and not pieces that somewhat fit.

The same applies to the XO. The hardware-software integration of Sugar and XO (build 767) is strong. Suspend/resume, camera, microphone, lid open-and-close, etc. work, and work well. That's what needs to happen when OLPC decides to take a version of Sugar and spin it for the XO. There are also other integration issues such as the Sugar+XO working with the school server XS and work continues on that front.

So, while it may not be Sugarlabs' responsibility to make Sugar releases work on the XO, it will surely lie squarely on the shoulders of OLPC.

Again, this is my opinion, and I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet :-)

cheers,
Sameer

OK!...
OLPC is not responsible for Sugar on the XO, SugarLabs is not responsible for Sugar on the XO, can at least someone tell me if Microsoft is developing Sugar-on-Windows-for-the-XO?...

If you re-read my post, you'll notice that I said "So, while it may not be Sugarlabs' responsibility to make Sugar releases work on the XO, it will surely lie squarely on the shoulders of OLPC."

If I was OLPC's customer, I would hold OLPC, not Sugarlabs, responsible for making Sugar work on the XO. The fact that Sugarlabs is working with OLPC on making sure Sugar works on the XO is an added bonus (Sean: Thanks for the detailed post).

Again, it is very much like holding Dell, and not Canonical, responsible for making Ubuntu work on a Dell laptop. Its a supply chain thing. There are several pieces to it, but the customer buys one package from one vendor. In the case of XOs, the vendor is OLPC, and they are the ones who should provide a working Sugar build on the XO.

Sugar running natively on Windows would be great, especially for the market Sean was referring to ("...Macs and PCs in classrooms, netbooks which are projected to grow by 65% by NPD this year."), but we are not there yet. We do have virtual machines, but no native builds for Windows.

As for "Sugar-on-Windows-for-the-XO?" I can't think of any plausible reasons (except for maybe a couple of evil ones) to do so.

Time to get that cup of coffee.

cheers,
Sameer

Thank you Sean!
(because Sameer Verma's comment had me going...:-) - was posted before yours)

Woops, I need to add Mavrothal as the author of this post. Also, Sean's comment was older, but caught in the spam folder - I just released it.

The blame-game can be played for ever... I do not care much about it.
I care about 1 million of kids (and hopefully more) with XOs out there to get the best out of their machines. Not to find someone to blame because they don't.
What are your priorities?

I'm pretty happy with Sean's statement and I'm sure will materialise. Aren't you?

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