Today I'm happy to look back and see how what was a 100% volunteer-run organization has welcomed other organizations to pool their resources to keep improving Sugar. In most cases these efforts have went on quite discreetly, even if they amount to a significant share of our new developments.
The organizations that are putting their employees to work on upstream Sugar are:
One Laptop per Child
OLPC has put 3 of their engineers to work on Sugar through 2009, they have sold more than 1.5 million of machines with Sugar on them, so they have some interest.
* Daniel Drake (dsd) has taken maintenance of the 0.84 stable branch, has sent several patches for fixes and has contributed one major feature: OLPC mesh support.
* Sayamindu Dasgupta (unmadindu) has kept working on everything localization, improving the book reading capabilities of Sugar and is currently working on improving font size selection in Sugar. He is also maintainer of the 0.84 stable branch along with Daniel.
* Martin Langhoff has kept working on the integration of OLPC's school server with Sugar and has also been doing great work fixing regressions in Sugar's journal and handling of usb sticks.
Paraguay Educa is a NGO that is implementing an OLPC deployment in Caacupé, Paraguay. They have distributed 4000 XOs and though being a very small organization, they have surpassed any other OLPC deployer in working with the upstream communities of the software they use.
* Raúl Gutiérrez Segalés (rgs) has been working with Walter Bender on TurtleArt, a software that introduces young learners into algorithms and computation. He is also leading the technical team and has encouraged his colleagues to be bold and join the FOSS community.
* Martin Abente (tch) has been working on adding to Sugar the capability of using 3G modems. Aside from his involvement in Sugar, he is the main author of a logistics system specially developed for the task of deploying 1-to-1 programs. This system has been made FOSS by Paraguay Educa and is being offered to other OLPC deployments.
* César D. Rodas (crodas) is not working on Sugar (yet!), but he has been assigned to make Fedora 11 run well on the XO-1 machines. This is very important for Sugar Labs, because until there isn't a new release for the XO-1, +1.5 million machines will be stuck with very old software: Sugar 0.82 and Fedora 9. This is also important because deployments start to feel empowered to take on tasks that were seen previously as too hard to be taken by anybody outside the OLPC headquarters.
The Ceibal Plan is the name of the government project that has universalized computer access in primary education, Uruguay is the first country in the world to have achieved this and I'm happy that Sugar is the chosen software for each of the 366.000 machines. They have been modifying Sugar downstream to better adapt it to their needs, and have realized that by not upstreaming their work, it will be more expensive for them to update to new versions.
* Daniel Castelo (Daniel_C) has been put in charge of upstreaming their 3G modifications on top of the work that Martin Abente is doing. He is also working on adding printer support and has been thinking of implementing ADSL connections.
* Esteban Arias (esteban) has made excellent work adding accessibility features to Sugar and is now submitting them upstream. He's starting small for our next release (0.88) but he has lots more of very interesting stuff to upstream.
Though I find these developments very reassuring, I'm still quite a bit worried about the rest of the iceberg. If an organization deploying only 4000 machines is able to work internationally to develop the software to their local needs, which opportunities are losing the deployers of the million of machines that don't dare to participate in the development process?
There's also the issue of module maintenance: all Sugar modules are currently maintained by volunteers. When OLPC took maintenance of the 0.84 branch, they actually took work out from the shoulders of those volunteers, but the rest of the contributors are actually increasing the work that maintainers have to do because of feature discussion, code reviewing, bug triaging and stabilization. If the three volunteers that are maintaining most of Sugar run out of money and need to find a normal job, who is going to do that work?
Aside from module maintenance, there's also the roles of Feature Manager, Development team coordinator, Product Manager, System Administrator, etc. that need to be carried by someone. Deployments are going to need to participate in these other areas if they want to keep having a healthy place where to work together and pool their resources.
All in all, given what 2009 brought us, I'm thrilled when I try to imagine what 2010 has in for Sugar. Have a happy hacking year!