La Dolce Vita: chapter 8, in which our hero makes his first friend.

Presence and collaboration work! AWESOME!

Not without a bit of pain, of course… but hey, every little bit of progress is brilliant. I had to install Tomeu’s new sugar-presence-service RPM for F10, which will soon be available in a F10 testing updates repository near you.

So let’s talk a little bit about what presence is, and how it works. At a high level, anyway. As is often the case, the reality is a lot more complicated than how I’m going to represent it here, but I’m seeking to drop some very basic knowledge for the absolute Sugar n00b.

“Presence” is how you know that there are Sugar users around you. In order to see other users, you need to be connected to a “presence server”. For kids in schools, this presence server is almost always going to be running as part of an XS school server and preconfigured by school administrators — but really it’s just connecting to a jabber server.

You can select a presence server in Sugar by going to your activity view (F3 will get you there) and hovering over your XO. In a few moments a dialog box will pop up with options. Select “Control Panel”, and then “Network”. Under “Mesh”, you will see an entry for “Server”. Put in the name of a presence server, restart Sugar, and poof! You’re connected! Now if you go to your Neighborhood view (F1 will get you there), you will see not only wireless access points, but also other people who are connected to the same presence server. Click on one of these people and add them as a friend, and they will immediately show up in your Friends view (F2 will get you there).

All of which begs the question… what presence server shall I connect to?

It’s a very good question, without a simple answer.

In the default Sugar build for Fedora 10, there is no presence server defined by default. Why? Because right now, presence servers can’t really support that many users, and a lot of them aren’t always up. Sending 1000 Sugar users to a single presence server could be a catastrophe. (Well, not a catastrophe, but it would certainly bring the presence server to its knees.)

In the long term, figuring out which presence server a given user should connect to by default is a non-trivial problem. In the short term, though, there are some strategies that we can pursue to make it easier for people to get connected and experiment with presence and collaboration. Which is crucial, because right now, it’s pretty difficult to figure out how to do that.

At Sugar Camp we discussed the idea of a presence server tracker. Imagine a web page with info like this:

PRESENCE                  CURRENT         MAX SEEN               NOTES
SERVER                    USERS           USERS              33               65            up as of 12/1/2008            18               40            up as of 12/1/2008      0               70            DOWN as of 11/28/2008

After chatting with morgs and daf and Robot101 on freenode/#sugar today, looks like daf is going to see if he can take this on. I hope and believe that it will be insanely useful. Just knowing how many people in the community are actively playing with this stuff on a regular basis will be really helpful info, and will let us know if our evangelism efforts are being successful or not.

In the meantime, if you want to try out presence for yourself, you can use the server Until too many people try to connect and it falls over, of course. But hey, if that actually happens, I think it’s the right kind of failure; I’d rather deal with too much traffic than not enough. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Next challenge: collaborating with friends. More on that in the next day or two.

La Dolce Vita: chapter 8, in which our hero makes his first friend.

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