One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has taken another step forward in its mission to make low-cost notebooks available to children in developing nations, unveiling a user interface (UI)\u00a0purpose-built for the machines.Known by the code name Sugar, the open-source UI publicly announced Wednesday was developed by OLPC in conjunction with Linux distribution vendor Red Hat and design firm Pentagram. The organizations\u2019 combined 10-person design team focused on creating a UI that could be easily used by children with little or no computing experience.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nOLPC\u2019s "$100 Laptop"Sugar is still "a work in progress," according to Christopher Blizzard, software team lead for OLPC at Red Hat. "The code\u2019s working reasonably well, but there\u2019s a lot of polish we need to do."Over the next couple of months, OLPC plans to ramp up the numbers of its laptops in countries including Argentina, Brazil and Nigeria from the current 10 to 50 devices per country into the "low thousands," Blizzard said. As children start using the laptops, OLPC is looking to incorporate feedback on Sugar into the design process. "We\u2019re taking the tack\u2014release early, release often," he added.The Sugar UI features four main views\u2014home, friends, neighborhood and activity\u2014and uses stick-figure icons to denote the individual user and other children on the network, and other icons to indicate particular activities such as a globe for Web browsing or a palette for an art project."We\u2019re trying to build something that is collaborative first," Blizzard said. Simplicity and accessibility are important factors, but the design team was also keen not to limit the UI\u2019s capabilities. "Walter\u2019s take is it doesn\u2019t have a ceiling, but it has a very solid floor," Blizzard said, referring to OLPC President Walter Bender. Starting from the home view where they can specify user preferences like color,\u00a0children can then move to the friends view to see which of their friends are on the network and what they\u2019re doing. They can also chat with them. The neighborhood view shows everyone connected to the mesh network and the activities they\u2019re engaged in. At any point, the child can also choose to join in with group activities.Each laptop can act as a node in a mesh peer-to-peer ad hoc network, so that if one laptop is directly accessing the Internet, when other machines in the network power on, they can share that single online connection.The activity view allows a child to focus on a specific activity using the laptop\u2019s full-screen mode. There\u2019s also a journal view that can be thought of as another activity, where a child can see what he or she has created on the desktop, save and add to that content, and share it with friends.Around any of the views is a frame equivalent to the menu bar on more traditional computer user interfaces. The child can click on people, places and things around the right, left and top sides of the frame, while the bottom side is reserved for accessing activities. There\u2019s also a context-sensitive search bar on the top of the frame so that the child can easily locate things on the desktop.The laptop\u2019s operating system is a scaled-down version of Red Hat\u2019s Fedora Core 6 Linux distribution. Sugar also includes a Web browser based on the Mozilla Foundation\u2019s Gecko rendering engine.-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Related Links:\n\nNegroponte: Wealthy Nations May Buy OLPC \u2018$100 Laptops\u2019 for Others\n\nBrazil Receives OLPC \u2018$100 Laptops\u2019\n\nOLPC Ships First Ten \u2018$100 Laptops\u2019Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.