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[olpc-software] welcome to the olpc software mailing list

Welcome to the olpc-software mailing list. This is a mailing list for discussing the olpc base operating system and all its components. These include the kernel, the X window system, the runtime and any base applications we're going to include.

The OLPC platform itself isn't very large, and we're going to be solving problems that require changes across the operating system. For example eople in userland need to know what's going on in the kernel and people in the kernel need to know what's going on in userland. So we're going to try to do something new and keep everyone on the same mailing list instead of dividing everyone into little technical buckets.

I hope everyone has read the goals, which are are available here:


Read them? Good. Wait, you didn't read them? Go back and do so. No, no. That's fine. I'll wait.

[ long pause ]

OK, you've read them. Good. Now you understand that we're trying to do something a little different here. I think that this is going to be one of the bigger challenges of this project. People will probably join and ask "how do I get my package foo installed on this machine?"

But what we're trying to build here is not another platform on which we can run Fedora or any other Linux distribution. Instead what we're trying to do is to use the software we have in Fedora to enable a different kind of platform. Something that's specific to this hardware and specifically serves the needs of users instead of the needs of the people developing the software. This is a very subtle but very important point for people who want to be involved in this project. Just to restate, our goal is not to get Fedora running on the OLPC hardware but instead to use Fedora to create a good experience for the human beings who will be using it.

Doing a specific design for our users is not something that we're going to be talking a lot about at first, but I'm sure it will come up over the next few weeks. Instead we're going to be discussing the platform, the hardware, what kinds of challenges we have and how we can attack the really big picture items. These include:

1. How do we deal with the low power requirements of the OLPC platform?

We have some pretty specific challenges in this area. Right now the kernel doesn't have great power management facilities and we're going to have to make some pretty serious changes to user space apps to avoid using the battery whenever possible.

2. What kinds of changes to people writing applications have to make in order to run on the OLPC platform, and what's special about this hardware?

People writing applications need to understand what the base platform is, so they know what's available. They also need to know how to deal with the pretty small screen size, the memory constraints and the fact that it's running off flash instead of off a hard drive; certain operations are expensive. It's also likely that we'll have a dual-mode display that can switch resolutions. We don't expect all apps to use this, but for the few that do it's going to present some interesting challenges.

3. How do we deal with the memory and disk usage problems in a lot of modern Linux software?

We've been able to get a pretty small operating system together, but a lot of the application that are out there use huge amounts of memory. We need to have a targeted effort to reduce memory consumption of some of these apps. Sometimes this means making hard choices about what we ship or what we can include in the base distribution. We have to be ready to make those choices. Including everything isn't an option because we just don't have the physical space.

This mail is short and only begins to touch on what we need to cover, but at least it's a start. Let's get going!


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