Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

Sugar on a Stick: Linger’s initial response

I got to try out the netbook and Sugar on a Stick this weekend. Here are some of my initial reactions…

  • The Fun
  • : Ava (my four year old daughter) and I had some fun going through some of the activities. We started in Speak (the “funny robot”), and moved into Recording Activity, Maze, and Physics. I “interviewed” Ava with the Recording Activity and asked her if she liked this computer. She said “Yeah!” and noted how she liked to play the games.

    I, too, had a lot of fun watching her experience these activities. She wanted to use the paint feature in Etoys, as she has used that before, but the computer was slowing down (and it was also time for her to go to bed).

  • The Stick: seemed to lose some speed after running through some of the activities; notably after running Physics. This could lead to some potential issues. Yet, maybe there’s a simple solution.
  • Recording Activity: videos are recorded in .ogv file, which is a opensource codec (from what I understand) and is kind of hard to share and play elsewhere. I had to download VideoLAN VLC to play the video on my Mac, but it only would play the first 10 seconds of each of the videos. After those 10 seconds, I could only hear the remainder of the audio.
  • Internet/Browse
  • : Getting onto my wireless was as easy as entering the password. Browse conjured up a few annoyances for me as a more experienced surfer, I suppose, due to the lack of tabs and nuanced shortcut keys. Yet, I bet if I keep fooling around I wonder if there are some cool features to use Browse with the Journal and/or Write activity.

Overall, I want more Sugar on a Stick, and I’d like to see my daughter do some more work in it too. Kevin and I will be going to Madison on Tuesday afternoon. We’ll be using Sugar on a Stick w/ the teams new netbooks, so it should prove interesting to see another spark of use from the students. Now, it’s time to start thinking about some activities!

More to come…


7 comments on “Sugar on a Stick: Linger’s initial response

  1. Mel
    January 24, 2011

    It sounds like there’s going to be some good discussion around Sugar on a Stick development at next weekend – any thoughts you’d like to pass on?

    If you and Ava (we’ve had first-grade QA engineers before, so she’d be very welcome!) are interested in getting a bit more involved contributing, I can try to track down the current maintainer (Peter Robinson) to see how we can get you started making your ideas part of the actual project.

    • kab13
      January 24, 2011

      Great looking conference, Mel. I see four participants list Sugar as an area of interest.

      Our team has been puzzling over how to make the mesh networking work, and I read in Warschauer’s article that the mesh networking was largely considered a failure and is being phased out of Sugar. True?

      We also struggle with curriculum integration, but this conference looks like it might be more tech than teach.

      Thanks for responding.


    • Chris Lindgren
      January 24, 2011

      Hi Mel,

      Thanks for your response! That conference does sound interesting, and like Kevin I would also be interested in learning more about the mesh networking feature. I’m also curious about the nature of filesharing with Sugar and its compatibility w/ other operating systems. If students can’t share outside of their OS, then I start to wonder how well students can collaborate across these platforms.

  2. Mel
    January 24, 2011

    I think you see us as more organized than we actually are. 🙂 FUDCon is a great gathering – it’s an unconference (look up the wikipedia article if you’ve never been to one) so it’s incredibly informal and tends to be largely “hallway track,” for those used to bigger conferences.

    Chris and Kevin, it sounds like you have excellent thoughts, and I’d love to have more context and information behind them so that we’ve got some meat to sink our teeth into during the Sugar discussions at FUDCon. So if you have 30-40 minutes this week, here’s what I’d encourage you both to do:

    Write up your thoughts to the Sugar on a Stick mailing list,, before this Friday (when people arrive). Link to this post for reference so people have some background on who you are, what you’re trying to do, and what sorts of things you’ve run into – and don’t worry about being too detailed/long, or too informal. Imagine you’re hanging out with education-minded geek friends and trying to explain what you’re up to, and type what you’d say there. Somewhere between 2-5 pages of casually written text (don’t edit, just type!) seems about right.

    If you cc those emails to me (mel at melchua dot com), I’ll personally track down the release team at the conference and make sure they see your thoughts, and encourage them to respond to you individually on-list (so others in the community can see and benefit from the answers) – what I’m hoping to eventually do here is start a conversation where tech and teach can continue along with the work they’re already doing, but benefit from overhearing stories from the other side – end-user and deployment feedback is what the engineering side of SoaS has been lacking, so I’m glad you’re here and blogging and commenting.

    Oh – and wrt mesh networking, you’re correct in saying that’s been phased out (at least in its original form) from the OLPC *hardware* – in that focusing on making laptop-to-laptop connectivity is no longer a feature of focus (for technical reasons; it turns out to be more trouble than its worth right now).

    But that shouldn’t be an issue for either of you if you’re using netbooks and SoaS, because those have nothing to do with OLPC’s hardware decisions (and don’t support the experimental 802.11s mesh networking stuff anyway – it was a one-off crazy hardware experiment only really done on the XOs).

    What I think you might be talking about is *collaboration* in Sugar’s *software* – totally separate from hardware. Collaboration refers to multiple kids on multiple computers playing multi-user Activities, and that’s always been (and still is) a core feature of Sugar, though it’s difficult for Activity developers to code it in, so many Activities are only single-player. The computers of those kids can be “connected” to each other in pretty much any way so that the software can hook up like that; they can all be online (a wired connection, “normal wireless,” etc) and connected to the same Jabber (chat) server, they can be on a LAN (though I haven’t really heard of any classroom using this)… as long as they’re connected to the same Jabber server, Sugar Activity collaboration can happen.

    The confusion comes in because it was envisioned originally that the XOs would do that connection – *for* collaboration – over mesh networking – so the two were indeed formerly very much connected. When the mesh networking was scrapped, a lot of folks thought collaboration was also dropped, but that’s not the case. Long answer and potentially still confusing, but I hope this clears things up a bit.

  3. kab13
    January 24, 2011


    Your Mesh-Jabber discussion completely clears things up for me. I always thought that the mesh networking was a hardware feature of the XO, but then Warschauer threw me for a loop by linking in to Sugar.

    Our discussion with John Tierney and others about how to make the collaborative components of Sugar work have always referenced the need for a server, so now I think I understand what’s going on. The neighborhood in Sugar will still work if laptops are sharing a server, but otherwise the collaborative piece fails. I think the students at Madison elementary will be able to see each other in the neighborhood–we might find out tomorrow.

    Thanks also for your suggestion about composing an email to the Sugar on a Stick email listserv. We will try to carve out some time before Friday.

  4. Peter
    January 25, 2011

    Hi, Great to hear some feedback. Along with Mel I’m the maintainer of SoaS. Would love you to sign up to the mailing list and continue the discussion there , or email me (you’ll get it from the blog post) along with Mel.

    In terms of the “mesh” its still supported but limited by hardware. In the recent SoaSv4 we support what’s known as “ad-hoc wifi networking” which allows the under the tree style collaboration using just about any type of wifi hardware. Its great for small groups in a cafe or similar for basic collaboration.

    Look forward to seeing you on list for feedback towards the next release.

  5. henry
    January 28, 2011

    FamilyShield by OpenDNS
    To block porn set DNS server settings to

    I think this is necessary to allow a child to use a computer on the internet.

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