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March OLPC Meeting Houston (Notes)

Hi, I wanted to provide information about the recent meeting of the Houston OLPC meeting, which featured Samuel Klein, the director of community content.   I don’t know how much of these nuggets of information was off-the-cuff and how much is official; use your own judgment. After the meeting, we met at Beck’s Prime for Hamburgers. Here is some tidbits we learned over that day:

  • OLPC is due to have a major update in a week or two. (Translation: two to three weeks). Here are the release notes. This update is expected to fix lots of things (which may have already arrived in the minor updates).; Klein mentioned a few things I don’t remember. He mentioned faster startup time for Activities,  better mappings of the game buttons on the display (useful for reading in tablet mode), improved handling of video and other multimedia. However, you will need to download  Activities and  Collections again, and possibly other customizations you made to the machine (such as Flash) . For this update, they separated Activities from Updates, so after this Update, it will no longer be necessary to reinstall activities.
  • Klein confirmed that that for Update 1, drivers/libraries have been written to make use of the trackpad (which up until now was disabled). That means that developers of Activities will be able to integrate the trackpad (and handwriting detection)  fairly soon although no activity included with the update will be able to use it.
  • Klein showed off a 3-D game called Bounce which was the hit for the meeting. In addition to being like a 3-D pong, children are able to configure/edit the game to increase the physical dimensions of the play area and speed.
  • I learned quite by accident how to install content collections (i.e., .xol files)  in XO. The collections page has so far been poorly maintained and documented. All you have to do is download the .xol file. Afterwards, when you open up the Browse Activity (as if you plan to surf the web), the newly added collections will appear on the left hand side of the home page  underneath each categories (after you expand them). This is so non-obvious it’s hilarious.
  • So far not a lot of .xol content has been available. Most of the content are image galleries and little else.  But here are three .xol files you should download: Wikislice GeneralWikislice Animals, and Wikihow
  • Building a collection is not hard.  It basically is a bunch of files readable by XO which are bundled together and zipped, along with a configuration file. So far, a lot of the collections are PDF files, so they take a while to load, but I suspect it would be possible to build a collection out of HTML files and view it inside the same Browse activity. That would definitely avoid the slowness of PDF loads. 
  • I have plans to put together a storybook/picture book of well known children’s tales. I plan to have two volumes: Level 1 and level 2 (depending on age level).  I am definitely taking suggestions for content!
  • Klein confirmed that XO owners have had difficulties sharing activities with XO owners who have already updated to a more recent version.  (That is why for example sharing activities was relatively easy at our first meeting, but became more difficult after people updated their machines with each minor release). Hopefully, if everyone gets updated to the Major Update 1, these problems will disappear. (I’m assuming that WPA authentication problems will disappear as well).
  • Klein confirmed that XO will be available for sale to Americans at the end of 2008.
  • Klein mentioned something interesting; although olpcnews.com is popular with users inside North America, in fact,  developers mainly follow the official forums, so if you want to give feedback or hear from people who actually know what they’re talking about, you should check the official forums in addition to olpcnews.
  • Houstonian Aaron Poffenberger did a demo to show off Webkinz on the XO. Our main problem turned out not to be XO but the library’s wifi capabilities.

This was a really fun meeting. The topic for April’s meeting will be Updating; if you haven’t had time to update your XOs, someone at the meeting will be happy to do so. I haven’t picked a meeting date yet but would entertain suggestions. (We’ll try to meet at Montrose library this time on a Saturday afternoon).

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Kurt Stoll 4/4/2008, 9:15 am

    Hi! This is Kurt Stoll from StartupHouston and I would be interested to know where and when the next meeting will be so we can let other people who read our blog know about it.
    Thanks,
    Kurt Stoll
    Chief Technology Evangelist
    StartupHouston.com

  • Robert Nagle 4/8/2008, 9:59 am

    Here’s the meeting time for April:

    FYI, the April Meeting will be

    Saturday April 26 at 3:00 PM at the Montrose Public Library . We reserved the big room downstairs to the right of the circulation desk.

    Once again, parking is free at the parking garage behind the library on Saturdays.

    Hopefully by then the major updates for the OLPC will be available (that’s the main reason I wanted to do it the last Saturday of the month).

    We can have two groups. One to help people with updates, the other to do activities.

    I plan to talk about downloadable ebooks, and maybe to go over Pippy.
    Haven’t decided yet.

  • Anne Gentle 4/9/2008, 7:07 am

    Great info, thanks so much Robert! I should have driven over for the meeting.

    I’ve added the information about the separation of the activities from the Sugar OS to the Floss Manuals manual – thanks for the heads up. The wiki has lots of good info too.

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