Sugar category

Next Club Meeting at DIY Fair, DC Library

With the recent OLPC Community Summit in San Francisco and news that my project developing digital literacy lessons in Etoys for street children in Zambia won a grant from USAID, I’ve arranged to have a club meeting as part of a display I’m setting up at the DC Library’s DIY Fair:

On Saturday, Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 18 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Adaptive Services Division of the DC Public Library will host a DIY (Do It Yourself) Fair in the Great Hall of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G St. NW. The DIY Fair will be a celebration of creativity for people with and without disabilities.

You can register for the DIY Fair through Eventbrite

The Learning Club meeting will take place Saturday Nov. 17 at 10am on the second floor of the east lobby of the DC Library during the Fair. I will give an update using the presentations I gave at the OLPC Summit on OLPC open hardware and Lubuto Library in Zambia, show off the new OLPC 15 watt solar panel with an XO-1.75 laptop, talk about the USAID grant and relay some significant news on the future of OLPC (much positive, some uncertain). I will have USB drives with the latest stable build of the XO-1 operating system for anyone who needs to upgrade their laptop. The upgrade will overwrite the contents of your laptop, so be sure to copy off important files. If you have any other special needs, please contact me in advance.

At around 12 noon, I will set up some displays I recently assembled for the local First Lego League Senior Solutions Science Expo and will be there until 3pm and during Sunday’s scheduled Fair hours. On display will be a Raspberry Pi computer running MIT Scratch and Lego WeDo, my exact replica of the Mars Curiosity Rover built entirely in Lego bricks designed by former NASA engineer Stephen Pakbaz and an XO-1.75 laptop with the digital literacy lessons developed for street children in Zambia.

This will be the last Learning Club meeting for 2012, so please use the meeting opportunity and display hours next weekend at the DC Library to bring your questions about OLPC, open source learning, open source hardware and informal digital learning.
written by Mike Lee on 12 November 2012 Comments Off

Turtle Art Day! Saturday, 8/7, 1pm, Arlington Career Center, VA


Sugar Labs DC presents Turtle Art Day as a celebration and learning opportunity for the amazingly versatile Turtle Blocks and Turtle Art Mini activities for OLPC XO laptop, Sugar on a Stick and Ubuntu operating system. Turtle Art incorporates many of the graphical capabilities of the seminal Logo programming language and has been championed in recent years by Walter Bender of Sugar Labs. Interested parents, students, and teachers can experience an introduction to Turtle Art at the Career Center. There will also be a sneak preview of the new Turtle Art Activity Portal where Turtle Artists of all ages can upload their works to share. The gallery has some sublimely beautiful pieces.

Saturday, August 7, 2010, 1-4pm
Arlington Career Center
816 South Walter Reed Drive
Arlington, VA 22204

Contact Page, Google Map, Aerial Photo, Bus Info

Download the poster artwork from Flickr.

NOTE: This event takes the place of the previously announced August 21st meeting. There will be no meeting on August 21st!

Eternal Snow

Eternal Snow by Jeff Elkner

written by Mike Lee on 18 July 2010 Comments Off

Sugar Labs DC to release its TimeLapse Activity

TimeLapse Activity

TimeLapse is computer software for the Sugar Learning Platform used to gather periodic data (sound and images).  It is the first software activity developed by Sugar Labs DC and runs on the OLPC XO-1 laptop. The idea for TimeLapse grew out of the exciting, eclectic, interdisciplinary meeting of scientists, computer programmers, pedagogues, and hardware hobbyists originally brought together by the OLPC Learning Club DC.

Dr. Frank Linton, who has an observation bee hive in his house, was interested in studying the relationship between the sound made by the hive and the health and well being of the bees inside.  He wondered if he could use his XO laptop to gather periodic sound sampling from the hive.  This real world need became the seed for the development of TimeLapse.

Over the past two years, with Dr. Linton acting as customer, Jeff Elkner, and a group of young programmers from Sugar Labs, DC have made steady improvements to TimeLapse.  The current release is the first one that is installable through the Browse Activity in Sugar, making TimeLapse easily available to Sugar users all over the world.

Come celebrate the accomplishment of these talented young programmers.  Bring your XO and try out TimeLapse for yourself.

Update: TimeLapse is now available for download on the Sugar  Labs activities site.

Note time change!!!
When: Saturday, January 16th, 2010, 1 pm to 4 pm

Arlington Career Center
816 South Walter Reed Drive,
Arlington, VA 22204
Contact Page, Map, Aerial Photo, Bus Info)

Walter Bender of Sugar Labs will join in by video conference from Cambridge, MA.

We’ll also raffle off an original copy of the new XtraOrdinary 2010 SD card!

written by Mike Lee on 6 January 2010 Comments Off

Sugar Blueberry released, December dinner

Congratulations to the team at Sugar Labs who has officially released another major update to the Sugar Learning Platform in the form of the significantly enhanced ‘Blueberry’ version 2.0 of Sugar on a Stick. In the time it takes to bake a holiday cake, you can install Blueberry one or two USB flash drives to try out with a young child on a desktop PC or laptop. As can be seen from the photo above, I’ve got it installed on several USB flash drives and SD cards. Blueberry on a flash drive makes a great stocking stuffer, but don’t leave the drive in your stocking or on the tree for too long!

For December, the Learning Club will gather at Taste of India in Woodley Park, DC to reflect on the year past and discuss plans for 2010.

December Dinner
Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 6:30 – 8:30pm
Taste of India
2621 Connecticut Avenue Northwest (near Woodley Park Metro)
Washington, DC 20008-1522
(202) 483-1115
Map, Web site]

It would be a good idea to RSVP before Tuesday evening 12/15 so we have an idea of the size table we need. Email Mike and Kevin at the email addresses on the right column of the home page.

Other notes and reminders:

  • The OLPC Contrbutor’s Program is a way to get XO laptops granted free for worthy projects.
  • The OLPC Support Gang is a group of volunteers that answers help ticket questions that people submit to They are always looking for more volunteers of all technical levels to participate.
  • OLPC has a number of job openings.
  • While the Give 1 Get 1 program will not happen this holiday season, the giving campaign is still on.
  • Sugar Labs has partnered with Nexcopy to collect used USB flash drives to reload with Sugar on a Stick for distribution to schools.
  • There is a brief video clip available of Walter Bender’s keynote speech at the Netbook World Summit where Sugar on a Stick version 2.0 was released.

Until January’s meeting is scheduled, we may or may not post further here. So if we don’t see or hear from you, do have a safe and happy holiday!

written by Mike Lee on 13 December 2009 Comments Off

Streaming audio on your OLPC XO

What: Family XO Mesh Meetup
When: Saturday, August 15th, 2009, 10 am to 1pm
Where: Gallaudet University [map, aerial photo], Student Academic Center,
**NOTE ROOM CHANGE: We are UPSTAIRS from the old meeting rooms in the basement on the first floor [
floorplan], Classroom 2 SAC1210 and Classroom 3 SAC1211, Washington, D.C. 20002

This month, we are back at the Gallaudet Student Academic Center in the AV-equipped classroom one floor above the multi-purpose rooms where we used to meet. We have another informative presentation by our own Kim Toufectis on options for streaming audio in your XO-1 browser. Kim went on to investigate audio after researching his presentation on cloud computing.

Kim will present a survey of sites he’s tested that work for streaming music and news via the XO Browse Activity’s built-in open source Gnash player that handles Flash files. If time permits, and some of our command line experts are around, we’ll also demonstrate how to set up the XO to play MP3 audio from a USB flash drive. Mike will do an update on the OLPCorps Africa deployments [see the team blogs].

We will also raffle off one or more sets of folding paper eco speakers.

September 19th, we’ll back at the Arlington Career Center with a special presentation on the activities of the first few months of Sugar Labs DC by Jeff Elkner and plans are shaping up for a demo at the meeting of the upcoming XO 1.5 laptop (essentially an upgraded motherboard)!

Don’t forget to sign up for our meeting announcement email list if you’re not already on.

8/14: Adding links to use during the meeting:

OLPC Teachers’ Mini-Deployment Guide book sprint in DC

Prezi Zooming Presentation Editor

OLPC Blog OLPCorps Deployment Update

OLPCorps Sahn Malen, Sierra Leone Blog

8/15: From the meeting:

Kim’s presentation

Adobe Flash version test 

written by Mike Lee on 9 August 2009 Comments Off

Sugar Labs Goes Into Orbit!

Cici with Sugar on a Stick on netbooks

What: Family XO Mesh Meetup
When: Saturday, March 21st, 2009, 1 pm to 4 pm
*** Note time change ***

816 South Walter Reed Drive,
Arlington, VA 22204
Contact Page, Map, Bus Info)

Our March meeting is upon us this Saturday at the Arlington Career Center, but at 1pm instead. At the meeting, we’ll review this month’s OLPC/Sugar Labs headline news starting with the relaunch of the Sugar Labs web site to coincide with a new release of the Sugar user interface, now dubbed Sucrose 0.84. Not only is this new version ready to install on the OLPC XO-1, it can be tried out as “Sugar on a Stick” (SoaS) on USB flash drive (as demonstrated last month and pictured above) as well as a “live” CD-ROM. We’ll review the new features and help those who want to have it installed on their XO or want a USB drive configured. You must request a developer’s key from OLPC to install this update, and a 2GB USB drive is recommended for the SoaS. As you may have seen at the last meeting, Sugar runs on many netbooks now as well as desktop PCs and Macs using Virtual Box.

I visited OLPC Headquarters at the beginning of the month and I’ll report on what’s new there including a new Contributor’s Program. Work is beginning on the XO 1.5 with updated hardware specs and a release date of late 2009/early 2010. We may also have a special guest from Boston.

Randall Caton, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Computer Science at Christopher Newport University in the Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering, will speak about his work at NASA developing Etoys lessons and his hopes for the future of learning. At the January meeting, we some of us participated in a Jam session to review and collect feedback on his existing Etoys activities. We’ll be presenting our preliminary findings to Randall.

And I finally bought a replacement for the $149 Alpha 400 netbook that was smashed by some kids slamming into me on the subway. I’ll bring it to the meeting.

If you aren’t already subscribed, our monthly email update is the best way to find out about meetings. April’s meeting should be back at Gallaudet, and our confirmed guest speaker will be our very own Kim Toufectis, who will speak on using the OLPC XO to access web-based productivity tools–or what techies call “cloud computing.” Kim published some of his intial thoughts and discoveries in a post on OLPC News last month.

The photo is of my 5-year-old daughter Cici posing with two netbooks running Sugar on a Stick. The shot is from a set I created and donated to Sugar Labs.

written by Mike Lee on 15 March 2009 Comments Off

Learning Learning on a Stick

What: Family XO Mesh Meetup
When: Saturday, February 21st, 2009, 10 am to 1pm
Where: Gallaudet University [map], Student Union Building, Lower Level [floorplan], Flexible Room L040 and L041, Washington, D.C. 20002
**Please check back a day or two before the meeting in case of a room change.

This month, we will demonstrate a very early (alpha) version of “Sugar on a Stick” running from a USB flash drive on the new Intel Classmate 3 laptop (sold as the CTL 2go Convertible Classmate PC).

Sugar on a Stick, or SoaS, is Sugar Labs‘ strategy for making it possible to run the Sugar learning environment on any computer from an inserted USB flash drive without needing to alter the native system. SoaS also provides extra space for storing user’s files. The vision is that teachers can easily try out Sugar without alarming their tech adminstrators and children can carry Sugar and their working files with them wherever they go.

With the OLPC Association‘s recent pushing of all development of Sugar to the community and Sugar Labs, work on SoaS is gaining some momentum. The current version of SoaS is really just a proof of concept with a select few Activities installed, some of which are not working. SoaS, which now runs on top of a version of Fedora 10, also doesn’t have network capability and is missing other hardware support such as the ability to use the built-in webcam. Sugar Labs is looking for interested parties to join the development effort, and the Learning Club hopes to help with testing, if not more, in the coming months.

The Classmate 3, pictured at above left next to the OLPC XO-1, just came on the market a few weeks ago, and the unit we’re demonstrating is a production unit purchased from the CTL web site. We’ll do a side-by-side hardware comparison of the Classmate 3 with the XO-1. The Classmate 3, which takes inspiration from the XO’s form factor, is the latest in the line of Intel’s children’s laptops that has essentially been in direct competition with OLPC in the developing world. The arrival of Sugar on the Classmate 3 perhaps symbolizes for today how market forces have assimilated and evolved the early ideas of Nicholas Negroponte and the original OLPC team.

In other news, we enjoyed doing the Content Jam last month (photos) and got five of the 13 or so NASA Etoys activities reviewed. We’re still collating our comments, which will be submitted to the author as he plans to more fully adapt the activities for the XO. The Sqeakland Foundation showcased our Jam in their January newsletter. Randy Caton, the author of the activities, plans to attend our March 21st meeting. We’re hoping he can present some of his insights on working with Etoys and the XO.

This month, we’re doing a Bug Jam after the meeting at 1:30 in another room on the Gallaudet campus. The Bug Jam group will perform some systematic testing on the newest release of Sugar 8.2.1. All are welcome to join in and help.

Jeff Elkner, who hosts our meetings at the Arlington Career Center, has organized a group of mentors and students to continue developing activities to run on Sugar such as the Audio Capture Activity used on a live beehive. Jeff’s development efforts may be the most serious to date in the Washington, D.C. area and those of you who have expressed some interest in helping with activity development, please talk to Jeff at the meeting or contact me at curiouslee [at] gmail [dot] com.

We will continue meeting on third Saturdays monthly alternating between Gallaudet and the Arlington Career Center with possible detours to Nortel Networks. Locations haven’t been confirmed yet, but the next three third Saturdays are:

Saturday, March 21, 10am – 1pm, Location TBD
Saturday, April 18, 10am – 1pm, Location TBD
Saturday, May 16, 10am – 1pm, Location TBD

The photo illustration for this post is from a set of photos taken while testing Sugar on the Classmate 3.

written by Mike Lee on 14 February 2009 3 commenti

Scenes from the Learning Fields of Cambodia

OLPC Learning Club DC member Mike Cariaso popped up on my Google Talk last night to tell me he had arrived at the Elaine & Nicholas Negropnte School in Reaksmy, Cambodia. This is the school featured in the May 2007 60 Minutes report on OLPC. He made the eight-hour drive north with Elaine from Phnom Penh the day before in great weather. After settling in, Mike was naturally eager to document his surroundings to post online. The school has a satellite uplink and generators, so I was chatting with Mike as he uploaded some fantastic photos to Flickr. He even ran back outside to get a better picture of the kids using the laptops in sunlight. Cambodia is exactly 12 hours offset from Washington, D.C. So while I was yawning in my easychair, it was the height of the day’s learning for the kids in the school. Mike’s first observations (as a technologist) were that the kids were still having lots of problems with the XO trackpad and none of the machines were currently accessing the satellite internet due to technical problems. Those sound like great first challenges to which Mike can apply his considerable skills as he begins his several-month stay as a volunteer. We’re looking forward to many more dispatches from the learning fields.

written by Mike Lee on 19 December 2008 1 commento

FLOSS, Sugar and Sensors for October

Location change! This month we are deviating from our plan and meeting at Nortel Networks again where we have a more convenient environment for doing software updates to the XO laptops.

What: Family XO Mesh Meetup
When: Saturday, October 18th, 2008, 10 am to 1 pm
Where: Nortel Networks, 101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC 20001 [

As the title of this post suggests, we’re going to show things related to open source software and hardware. First, we’ll pass around the very first copies of OLPC XO Laptop and Sugar User Interface printed manuals! My copies are pictured above. They look an feel fabulous. These print-on-demand books can be ordered from or you can download the PDFs for free to print yourself or read on a computer screen. The manuals are the result of a team of volunteers working with the FLOSS Manuals project. FLOSS stands for “free, libre, open source software.” The FLOSS web site offers an ever growing collection of community authored manuals for various popular open source packages. More than just PDFs to download, the web site lets you build your own custom PDFs by selecting only the chapters you want. Each chapter is written in a self-contained style. Adam Holt, who called in to the last meeting from OLPC Headquarters spoke at length about the recent book sprint event in Austin during which the majority of the content of the two OLPC manuals was authored. I know many of our club members have been pining for good documentation in printed form. Be happy now! Even better, if you don’t think a FLOSS manual covers a topic you need, you can jump in and add content to benefit others.

The bulk of our meeting time will be devoted to helping anyone who wants to upgrade to the new Sugar 8.2.0 update. I’ve been using it for a while, and it makes my XO feel like a brand new laptop with speed and usability improvements as well as a raft of bug fixes. As always, there’s a small gotcha: this new release is best installed clean on your XO wiping out everything on it in the process. If you have files in your Journal you wish to keep, they should be dragged to a USB drive. Customizations such as Adobe Flash, Firefox, Opera, Java, web radio, video players will be lost. We will likely be able to help reinstall some of these customizations, so please let us know in advance (curiouslee [at] so we can be prepared and do post to the discussion forum. This new update is the one that will be shipped with the upcoming Give One Get One 2008 program now being offered via Amazon at

One very pleasant surprise in this new Sugar update is that the Scratch Sensor board now works with Scratch! Scratch was demonstrated a few meetings ago by Richard Bullington-McGuire. It’s essentially a way to program animations and games using pieces of software code that snap together like Lego bricks. The sensor board, now marketed as the PicoBoard for USD$50, plugs into the XO’s USB port to provide light, sound, resistance, push button, and slider inputs to the Scratch environment. One club member suggested an alarm system for a child’s bedroom could be created with Scratch and the sensor board. I hope to demo this at the meeting.

Do try to check back here a day or two before the meeting in case there are any updates. I am only planning to send one email update. Not on our email list? Go here.

written by Mike Lee on 9 October 2008 1 commento

Super XO Kid

Michael Connet of Nortel LearnIT, and the host of our last meeting, has just posted some of the fabulously creative student animations that were previewed. Highschooler Phi Tran was the primary animator, and in another video, he explains how he created them. In the animations, an energetic XO kid runs around a fanciful rendition of the Sugar user interface to demonstrate networking concepts through gestures and movement. The animations are the first in a series and one can easily imagine a superhero cartoon character coming out of this project. This is just another vivid example of the diverse talent we have in the DC area XO community. Bravo!

written by Mike Lee on 21 March 2008 Comments Off

The OLPC Learning Club DC and Sugar Labs DC are independent grassroots organizations supporting the missions of One Laptop per Child and Sugar Labs.

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