Friday, June 20, 2008

Nortel Tech Conference Day 3

At the general session , Al Worden, an astronaut on the Apollo 15 mission, spoke about the engineering challenges during the Apollo program. It made me think about how all of the macro engineering of the engines and the micro engineering of the computers must all integrate perfectly, or the results could be fatal.I think OLPC could benefit from this kind of thinking by pairing some of the large scale problems with the XO laptop with software or hardware solutions.(and vice versa)

One of the other speakers today was Andy Lippman from MIT, who talked about Nortel's partnership with MIT and some of the benefits it has brought. He also showed some of the cool things the Media Lab and other sections of MIT re working on, besides the XO.Also seeing the concept XOXO pic again made me think of some of the cool things in our future.

I did not go to as many sessions today as I did on Monday, but some of the stuff today really inspired me. New technology focused schools, fully realized mobile broadband, and next generation (maybe we could call this Web3.0?) web apps are all areas that Nortel is working on,and the work I've seen looks amazing.

Tomorrow I head out to the Kennedy Space Center, which will be really interesting to see with a bunch of engineers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nortel Technical Conference Day 2

Other then the general session,which focused on the changing face of college education, the events on Tuesday focused on very technical discussions which had no direct relevance to me. So Michael and I decided to go to Universal Studios.

Once we got there the first thing we did was ride all of the major coasters in the park.The best was probably "The Hulk", a giant steel launched coaster with many loops and corkscrews.

Of course, it was always fun to try out the "wimpier" rides. Many of them were in the shade and helped us escape the heat of Florida in the summer.

After exhausting ourselves at Universal, I got a rather funny urge to see how much it costs to see a movie in the universal resort area , completely out of curiosity and totally expecting it to be outrageous. Surprisingly, its actually about 30 cents cheaper to see a movie here then in DC.

Both Michael and I had been wanting to see "The Incredible Hulk " when we got back to DC, so we decided to just go now and complete the day. It definitely lived up to the hype and I would encourage those who are fans of the comics to see the movie.

For dinner we went to Boston Lobster Feast , which had a buffet of all you can eat lobster and other seafood.

All in all , a great day of relaxation in preparation for busier days ahead.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nortel Technical Conference, Day 1

One of the many opportunities that working with Nortel LearniT has given me has been an invitation to the Nortel Technical Conference in Orlando,Florida. I attended discussions ranging from Nortel's business plans to ideas to enhance the Vancouver Olympic Games.
Some of the sessions I attended focused on mesh technology which is of great interest to our readers so I will elaborate a bit on those.

On Monday, I gave a demo of the mesh technology on the XO, which generally worked out successfully. First, 4 XO's were set out sharing the Chat application, all connected using a Schoolserver. Then I had volunteers try out Record and Distance sharing the former of which worked quite well, the latter not so much. I suspect that Distance is rather sensitive to version differences, so I will have to look into that. After that I showed off some of the schoolserver technology such as the DNS configuration that allows for the Schoolserver to push out a domain of the teacher's choice for the students to connect to. Incidentally all XO's connected through the school server correctly utilized web caching , the first time I've gotten it to work flawlessly.

The session before mine also focused on an implementation of mesh networking. Bob Withrow, the Director of Networking Research at Nortel, gave a demonstration of open 802.11s technology (seen at used to route calls locally rather then through a carrier. For his demo, he used 4 XO's hooked up with special antennae combined with several neo1973 phones running the openmoko software.The XO's were supposed to be used to measure mesh activity and to show how the link reconfigured as the phones moved , but the heavy wireless traffic at the conference prevented this demonstration from working correctly.I did learn quite a bit out how mesh could be implemented into consumer products and the challenges involved.I wonder if Google has looked at this for its Android platform.

More coming soon!

Matt Gallagher

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bugs... They're everywhere!

After reciving two new Mass Production XOs from OLPC via the developer program, I've been testing them like crazy. I've reported 8 new bugs, and more are to follow.

In addition, I submitted a simple patch to Sugar to fix an annoying traceback that is issued when "sugar-install-bundle" is called with no arguments. Hopefully it will be accepted soon.

I'm just getting my feet wet so far.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pycon 2008 Recap

I'm sorry that this is quite a bit late, but I 'd like to fill you in on some of the interesting thing that were accomplished at PyCon.

(Pic of attendees in main expo hall)

One of the first big OLPC related events at Pycon was a keynote by former OLPC employee Ivan Krstić. He focused on how the OLPC facilitates learning and the ways in which Python helps with that.

(Pic of Ivan's keynote)

Some of the other talks that focused on the OLPC project addressed issues that have plagued software development on the platform, such as a lack of proper unit tests in many applications.

(pic of slide from OLPC unit testing talk)

The second part of the conference that I attended was the OLPC Sprint. (for those who don't know, a "sprint" is a period of rapid collaborative development on a specific project, similar to the "hackathons" of OpenBSD fame)
Led by Mike Fletcher, the OLPC group made significant progress in creating several useful applications for the XO despite having no official representation from the OLPC organization( a fact that disappointed some)

(Pic of OLPC sprint room)

I worked quite a bit with James Hancock, the lead developer of GASP, as he started to work on an XO-friendly networking API and further Pippy (and possibly Develop ) integration.

(Pic of James Hancock)

An unexpected but familar face came in the form of Mel Chua , who I had worked with before on other OLPC related projects. She has been a great source of constructive criticism and advice for GASP , as well as helping us out with documentation.
(Pic of Mel Chua)

By the time I left PyCon, I realized that the OLPC project has many long struggles ahead, but there are plenty of people ready to meet the challenge head on.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hello from PyCon 2008

PyCon 2008 was huge this year. Over 1000 people attended -- a 70% increase from only a year ago. The OLPC presence is everywhere. Participants used them to browse the web and take notes at presentations.

This morning one of the Plenary talks was an OLPC Update by Ivan Krstic. He gave a keynote at PyCon last year, so it was an good opportunity to look back and see how far the project has come in the last year. Most exciting was seeing his pictures from Uruguay and Peru, where the first two XO deployments are taking place.

I attended a morning talk titled "Programming for the One Laptop Per Child laptop" by Charles Merriam. It was a good discussion of what to expect from developing software for the XO and helped prepare us for the coming sprint.

This evening we are starting the sprints. Matt Gallagher, James Hancock and I are at the Twisted with Games BOF (Birds of a Feather). James is eager to add networking support to gasp, and the twisted developers are talking with him about using twisted to do that.

In the "it's a small world" department, Mel Chua showed up at the start of our sprint. She is a student of Dr. Allen Downey, the original author of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. I've never met Allen face to face, but I've been working with him for several years on the book. Mel knew about gasp and is interested in sprinting with us.

That's all for now. I'll report back on the progress of the sprint in a day or two.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Logging on #gasp!

Jason Straw came through, using the Arlington Career Center webspace to host our bot and logs. You can see what we've been up to here. Also, the user mailing list archive is up here, so for those what want to pitch in, or just keep tabs on the project, check it out.

In other news, expect to see GASP 0.2 packaged for Ubuntu and the XO within a week! Exciting times, folks.

From the logs:
jhancock__: ayanami: I don't think I have meet you before?
ayanami: jhancock__: Error: "I" is not a valid command.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Logging on #gasp?

The IRC channel #gasp on is going to be where we hold meetings and discuss development. For this to be useful, we'll need automatic, publicly available logging, so we don't have to worry about record-keeping on our own machines (and XOs) and can see what happened at past meetings.

Our best bet for this is a piece of software called supybot, paired with some scripts that create and update web pages as logs are created. For hosting, we turn to our sponsors at Nortel. I've asked Jason Straw for help hosting the bot and storing the logs at

Monday, March 3, 2008

DNS school server craziness

Just a quick post, but I've been having some issues with the schoolserver nameserver not syncing with the external schoolserver. On the XO, removing the schoolserver DNS allows internet access,but prevents any access to other schoolserver features.Can anyone shed any light on this?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Looks Like We Need Flash

Michael Connet suggested to me that we investigate using the 2D vector graphic and animation tools in eToys to develop tutorial animations for the XO. Yorktown High School student Jamie Boisture spent a week and a half investigating Squeak. I followed with a conversation on the #squeak irc channel. Our conclusion: while it may be "possible" to generate 2D animations with Squeak, the conceptual differences between Squeak and flash are enormous, and this is not a practical option for our illustrator, Phi.

To give you an idea of the kind work Phi does, take a look at this. If anyone knows of example animations made with eToys that look as good as what Phi did here, please let us know.

Friday, February 22, 2008

School Server in the house!

Editors note: Pictures will be added to this post as soon as I get a hold of a camera tomorrow

Well the day has finally arrived. I have successfully set up a functional OLPC XS School Server. Thanks to the folks at Nortel LearnIT, who managed to procure an active antenna for us, we finally got a chance to get started.

For the actual server , I used a system76 laptop (it's an older model which is no longer offered by them unfortunately) . Installation was simple, with a simple boot to a fedora live environment followed by an installation script. After that , the fun could begin.

After plugging in an active antenna, I then booted up an XO and it immediately connected to the server. I tested this by running "ping schoolserver" on the XO, which replied successfully, confirming connectivity and the XS servers DNS server was functioning correctly.

One thing that gave me a bit of trouble was when I attempted to register the laptop to the server. The first time I tried, both the laptop and the server froze for a long period. After they became functional again , I noticed that the laptop had failed to register. Trying it a second time however , successfully paired the laptop with the server.

As I had other classes , that was all I got to test. The good thing is that I will be bringing the server to the event at Nortel's offices tomorrow and will attempt things like patching and software distribution.

GASP is a Launchpad Featured Project!

FFM, the maintainer of GASP, told me today that we've made the Launchpad's "Featured Projects" list! We're in the illustrious company of such projects as Miro, SchoolTool, Bazaar, and Ubuntu itself. Go to and see for yourself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GASP, Python, and the XO

GASP, the Graphics API for Students of Python, provides an easy and fun way for learning programmers to write games and other programs using colors, shapes, pictures, and movement. It's based on the PyGame library, which, though full-featured, is too complicated for beginners to easily learn.

It's also a perfect match for the XO. The latest version of Pippy, the built-in Python API on the XO, includes some simple games and examples, all written in PyGame. GASP, along with its sister package GASP-Games, will let users of the XO play games, see how they work, and write their own.

My fellow Yorktown Student David Cooper has made great improvements to GASP recently. The 0.2 version (currently in development and testing) includes new functionality that allows for easy pausing. It also speeds GASP up considerably, allowing it to run much smoother, even on platforms like the XO with limited resources. I'm documenting and improving that code, and yet another YHS student, "FFM", is the man in charge, running and packaging the project.

GASP is the future of game development on the XO. As it becomes a stable product and the Games package starts to assemble a set of examples, you'll be able to start writing games of your own.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Copy files to and from the journal

To get started, download the following files to the XO

The usage for these files are as follows:
Usage for to: python   -m MIMETYPE [-t TITLE] [-d DESC] [-T tag1 [-T tag2 ...]]
Usage for from: python [-o OBJECT_ID] [-q SEARCH_STR] [-t SEARCH_STR] [-m] OUTFILE

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New DC learning club meeting

A new meeting of the OLPC Learning Club DC is scheduled for Saturday, Febuary 23th and is to be hosted at the Nortel offices at 101 Constitution Avenue, NW. Suite 325 East, Washington, DC 20001

We will be working on improving our graphics API, GASP, as well as writing some examples to be included in Pippy. We will also be using a block of the time to mesh. It will run for 9am to 1pm.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yes, but is it called the GNU XO?

According to OLPC Nepal, Richard Stallman's "weighed in" in support:
Stallman has always stressed for the need to use free softwares in educational institutes. The OLPC project has only made him happier.

Report on DC OLPC Learning Club meeting at DC Cares

Mike Lee has just posted an account of the January 31 meeting of the OLPC Learning Club at DC Cares downtown offices, which several of us attended.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New OLPC Handbook

Our friends from OLPC in Austria have been working on developing a new handbook to support XO laptop users. Here is some background on what they've done:

"We finally managed to finish the first few chapters of the Activity Handbook that we've been working on. The purpose of this handbook is to provide you with all the information you need in order to get started with software development for the OLPC XO."

The current draft includes the first four chapters...

# Welcome to the Activity Handbook!
# Introduction to Sugar
# Preparation
# Sugar Basics

..which basically serve as an introduction to Sugar, to setting up your machine for Sugar development (emulation, sugar-jhbuild, Live-CDs) and writting a simple HelloWorld activity. We're going to expand the handbook over the coming weeks to include chapters about using the journal, collaboration, using the various XO input devices and sugarizing software. So stay tuned for updates!

You can find the Activity Handbook project page (with more information about the project, how you can contribute, etc.) at and in case you're feeling lazy you can simply click on the following link for a direct pdf download:

XO's coming to US schools

In a bit of a reversal the OLPC project will soon be offering US schools the opportunity to participate in the OLPC program. The project will be based in Washington D.C. , giving us an ideal opportunity to continue work here in the States. Expect updates on this in the coming weeks.


Friday, January 11, 2008

We're back!

After a week of technical issues, we have Internet access again and back in business .

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Assisting with new users

As the first donors to the G1G1 program recived their laptop right before christmas, there was a large amount of new users who had lots of questions about how to use the XO.

There are many outlets for support questions to allow people to give and recive help in the way they are most comfortable, such as:

People who wish to assist with the help AT address should email Adam Holt at holt AT