Thursday, October 14, 2010

ejabberd: It sure is nice when it "just works"!

 (Note: Evening after the original post -- Oops!  I was dead wrong about our ejabberd server "just working".  It turns out that Sugar machines on the same network can "see" each other without a jabber server, so changing the server only removed us from interference from the pre-configured server.  Back to the drawing board :-(

With Ubuntu Sugar Remix (USR) now running on all the machines in our CS lab, here are the near term goals for our Sugar project:

  1. Setup an XMPP server so users can connect with each other.
  2. Increase our general level of "sugar culture" by using sugar in our day to day classroom activities.
My original thought was to use OLCP's School Server (or XS).  Two of our system administration students installed the XS software on one of our servers.  I had hoped that the XMPP (jabber) server would be active out of the box, but this does not appear to be the case. After talking to David Farning, the man responsible for getting USR ready for the Ubuntu Maverick release, I decided it would be better to look into running XMPP on an Ubuntu server instead.

A quick google server lead me to this page comparing available jabber servers.  I decided to try ejabberd, and after running:

$ sudo aptitude install ejabberd

on one of the Maverick workstations in the lab.  After setting the Sugar "learnstations" (it doesn't sound right calling them "workstations" ;-) to use the new sever, it just worked!  (note: I added a quick how to page on the Ubuntu wiki here showing how to set the jabber server).

It is a wonderful feeling when things "just work", but we have a lot more to do now.  Specifically, we need to:
  1. Learn more about how ejabberd does what it does.  If something doesn't work, we lack the tools at present to figure out why.  This page from the ejabberd website may prove helpful.
  2. Learn how collaboration works in Sugar.  This page from the floss manuals site may be a good place to start.
In both of these efforts, I'm hoping to coordinate with the David Farning, Caroline Meeks, and the rest of the USR community to make our work as effective as we can.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Introducing the Ubuntu Family Home Computer

I'm not sure if the good folks at Canonical even know what they've got, but thanks to the hard work of of the Ubuntu Sugar Remix (USR) team, October 10, 2010 will mark the arrival of the first Ubuntu family home computer.

The Bear Family's Ubuntu 10.10 Login Screen
This is the first Ubuntu that is truly for the entire family.  Mama Bear and Papa Bear can both have administrative rights and private data, thanks to their encrypted home directories and secure passwords.  They login to the gnome desktop environment that keeps getting prettier and more user friendly with each six month release.

Papa Bear's Gnome Desktop
But what is really exciting and new with this release happens when Baby Bear clicks her name on the login screen, and is taken right to her Sugar desktop without having to type a password.

Her parents are happy because they know that the Sugar Learning Platform provides Baby Bear with a safe and effective place to learn and grow.  No evil advertisements here, just games and puzzles that teach Baby Bear to type, and add, and write, and problem solve.

Baby Bear's Sugar Desktop

The Sugar Learning Platform is starting to deliver on its early promise of creating a free, open learning platform for children of all ages.  With USR now installed on each machine in our computer lab at school, we will be able to explore its possibilities and contribute to its development.

Stay tuned for our reports on what we learn!