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DavidS
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:55 pm

Let me start by saying : LINUX RULES!
Now having said thus, Linux is not a good system for beginning software developers (they need many of the base concepts first).

There have been some suggestions of putting a thin wrapper toolset in place to help get around this, this seems like a very bad idea. To me this reads: 'Lets teach them to use a toolkit that adds an extra call layer and slows down system calls, we can have the next generation of programmers producing even worse code than ever.'.

We already have to many layers between us and the HW, this is part of why the Linux API is so complicated to begin with.

POSSIBLE [REASONABLE] SOLUTIONS:
1. Distribute a version of the system with Risc OS (this would increase the price, by $17.70 USD do to licensing fees to Castle.
2. Create a complete rewrite of Risc OS from the ground up. This is at best a very long term solution.
3. Find an easy to use OS with a simple API that is not Unix like.
4. Develop an GUI based easy to use OS with a simple and direct API from the ground up.
5. Develop a GUI for Minix with a very simple API.

I intend to do a redistribution of the Pi with concept 1, and eventually 2.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:01 pm

Quote from DavidS on December 17, 2011, 15:55
POSSIBLE [REASONABLE] SOLUTIONS:
1. Distribute a version of the system with Risc OS (this would increase the price, by $17.70 USD do to licensing fees to Castle.This is 50% of the cost of the Model B hardware. The prime consideration for the Raspberry Pi is price.

The OS is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things. We should be teaching computing concepts, not languages. We should be nurturing the next generation of computational thinkers, not programmers.

hilltop
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:13 pm

Just to clarify, points 1) and 2) can be answered by these pages:

https://www.riscosopen.org/wiki/documen ... %20Roadmap
https://www.riscosopen.org/forum/forums/5/topics/731

Castle will not charge a per-unit license fee on any installation/source download of RISC OS 5 from ROOL (RISC OS Open Limited). Plans are underway to create a community sourced Raspberry Pi-compatible disc image which will likely have an official vendor/unit cost, but this cost is unlikely to be as much as outlined above. A full DIY option (for those with some knowledge of RISC OS) will cost $0.

Also, there is no potential problem with driver compatibility etc. since an insider at Broadcom is reported to be working on the ROOL kernel/driver code, ready for a release with the Pi itself.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:22 pm

Hiltop:
That sounds great for people that already know what they are doing, and should remain an option even with a separate option to include RiscOS on a model B.

Though for those that do not already know what they are doing (the target market) there should be an available option that includes a license for Risc OS, and has Risc OS pre-installed.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:28 pm

There is a thread covering RiscOs here
Also Risc Os Open are heavily engaged in porting RiscOs to the Pi
And an alpha board was shown running RiscOs at the http://www.riscoslondonshow.co.uk/
Many here are sympathetic to RiscOs having been brought up with it. Last I heard, a lot of work is needed to make it happen for the launch, but I'm confident they'll make it work!

EDIT: ok, other people can type faster than me!

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:36 pm

Quote from scep on December 17, 2011, 17:01
This is 50% of the cost of the Model B hardware. The prime consideration for the Raspberry Pi is price.

The OS is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things. We should be teaching computing concepts, not languages. We should be nurturing the next generation of computational thinkers, not programmers.

Yes the price is significant; thus why it should be presented as a third option.

As to your statement "We should be nurturing the next generation of computational thinkers, not programmers.":
I must both agree and disagree. Yes computational thinkers.

Now not all will continue programming after they are done with CS, though there is a reason that even grade school CS courses include some programming skills. They do not have to fallow the path of a programmer, though they should understand it.

Remember the whole concept of Home Computing was to take the power from the 'computer gods' and give it to everyone. By not at least teaching each CS student to program we are giving the power back to the 'Computer Gods' (those few that create and modify software).
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:39 pm

@David

Not sure what you mean by "include .. on a model B"? AFAIK all Raspberries Pi will come without SD cards, which means bare of any OS. That said, hopefully the Foundation will have enough confidence in the state of the ROOL port to include RISC OS as a purchasing option in the online shop from release.

For "those that do not already know what they are doing" sites such as piLEARN.com are trying to raise the profile of RISC OS.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:40 pm

I'm not sure the OS is that important. The IDE, tools, support and documentation seem much more relevant to me.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:44 pm

Quote from DavidS on December 17, 2011, 17:36
Remember the whole concept of Home Computing was to take the power from the 'computer gods' and give it to everyone. By not at least teaching each CS student to program we are giving the power back to the 'Computer Gods' (those few that create and modify software).I wasn't clear, sorry. I actually think that we should teach 'programming' to five-year olds in the same sense that we teach e.g. algebra in maths; poetry in English and data analysis in science. Computing should be on the curriculum from an early age.

My point was that computing is not programming. In fact, I'd say that the popular belief that computing == programming is the main reason that CS is considered geeky and arcane, and therefore has a poor take up amongst boys and is ignored by girls.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:50 pm

Ah yes. I agree that programming should be part of early grade school CS (as that is mandatory), this would probably also increase the number of people that take up CS later.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:51 pm

In the UK 99% of pupils don't get to do any computing of any sort until year 12 (16 year olds). Then no one takes it as they don't know what it is (and other reasons).

Hence the Raspberry Pi!

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:04 pm

I'm not sure why people think that LInux isn't a good enough tool/OS for people beginning to program.

Why not? It's not like something like Python calls Linux API's directly - you just use Python libraries so in that respect the OS is irrelevant. Same with C - you can teach people to program with C, just using the standard libraries. All the concepts are available straight away - and standard C is the same on any OS.

So the only point of contention would be the OS itself, and making use of the tools - e.g. Editors, IDE's, desktops etc. Well, you can use LXDE on the Pi, there are number of different IDE's/editors available. There doesn't seem anything in the OS itself that prevents people from learning, so I am back to my original point - what's wrong with Linux as a learning platform?

(Note, I am not saying RISC OS is a bad option)
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:40 am

Quote from jamesh on December 17, 2011, 20:04
I'm not sure why people think that LInux isn't a good enough tool/OS for people beginning to program.


True, possibly. For that first, crucial, step.

But one view of the sad state we're in at the moment is that even those who are supposedly computer-literate tend to think in terms of x86, Windows, and maybe Linux.

Surely part of the Pi's attraction is that it doesn't use x86. It widens the view of the student, showing that there are other ways to skin a cat (pace Mooncake)
Wouldn't it be nice to show that there are other cats?

(Actually, in that analogy, Mooncake would be Arm, the tom nextdoor would be x86, and Linux et. al. would be skinning-machines. Sorry Mooncake)

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:23 pm

Thank you Burngate.

To the other responses, do you really wish to through a 4 year old (or other computing novice) in and teach them an abstraction on an abstraction, thus as they begin to understand things it gets instantly difficult as suddenly (a couple years later) they are overwhelmed by the realization of the number of layers that they are working on, though yet before they are prepared to understand it.

Are you trying to create technophobes (remember Turring?)?
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:48 pm

Quote from DavidS on December 18, 2011, 22:23
To the other responses, do you really wish to through a 4 year old (or other computing novice) in and teach them an abstraction on an abstraction, thus as they begin to understand things it gets instantly difficult as suddenly (a couple years later) they are overwhelmed by the realization of the number of layers that they are working on, though yet before they are prepared to understand it.
No, no one has wished that. You've built a big old straw man and pushed him down the slippery slope to his abstract doom.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:49 pm

As long as you teach the kids that all computer UI's are abstractions i don't think it really matters exactly how many layers of abstraction there are. I'd say it matters more whether you could easily find help online when you get stuck.

I'm not British, but I'm not from that far away either (Sweden), and RiscOS is relatively unheard of in these parts. I think i've heard of it before, but i had to google to find out more about it. I do remember reading something about "Acorn" in a computer mag about twenty years ago. I'm a geek with well above average knowledge of computers and OS's in general, I think that says a lot.

NB I'm not trying to belittle RiscOS, i'm just making an observation. Just because more people know about linux doesn't make it better. There will be plenty of room for different OS's to coexist as alternatives. I think what i'm trying to say's that it's much more important to get kids involved in any kind of computing at an early age, than exactly which OS might be involved. Although, for the sake of furthering technological development, I'd prefer that OS to be as open as possible.

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:33 am

Quote from anwe79 on December 18, 2011, 23:49
As long as you teach the kids that all computer UI's are abstractions i don't think it really matters exactly how many layers of abstraction there are. I'd say it matters more whether you could easily find help online when you get stuck.

NB I'm not trying to belittle RiscOS, i'm just making an observation. Just because more people know about linux doesn't make it better. There will be plenty of room for different OS's to coexist as alternatives.

It may not make a difference for me or you, though for a young child these layers upon layers will look very much more complex than just more of the same. For them a single layer of abstraction makes much more since, and is much less likely to cause them befuddlement. In the worse case on Risc OS you have 3 layers of abstraction, where in the best case on Linux you have 5 layers of abstraction (if you are using an HLL 4 if not), and even more as you add the WM, and on that the ToolKits, etc. and to add yet another abstraction on that to make it look simpler at first, oh when the curtain of that illusion flies open it will hit that first domino.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:35 am

I will add that Risc OS is not the only good alternative, it is just the most known.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:36 am

The abstraction is irrelevant. DavidS is obviously a big fan of assembler programming, so that makes him think that the abstractions are bad. They are not. Abstractions REDUCE complexity, they don't increase it. That the whole point of them. Take a camera driver. This is an abstraction that allows someone to, for example, grab a frame from the camera. This abstraction hides the unbelievable amount of pain required to set up the camera, frame the camera, handle interrupts from the camera, tune the camera etc.

Now, someone, somewhere, might be interested in that pain - and that's fine. They can deal with it. For the 99% of the rest of the world who just want to get on with programming their application that deals with camera images, abstraction is the only way.

There is a reason drivers, libraries and HLL's exist. It because they take the pain away of having to deal with low level crap at every turn.

Now, I'm not saying people shouldn't have some knowledge of these abstractions and how they plug together, after all, nearly every computer system has them, but except for a minority few, they really shouldn't have to worry about them. In fact, I personally think that starting at the bottom and working up can be a disadvantage. It's how I learnt, and I have found the mindset its creates to be a disadvantage.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:20 pm

@jamesh: I have no trouble with making things simple by abstraction and while I love Assembler I also love HLLs when properly used. You can have a single layer of abstraction that makes things as simple or even more so as these layers upon layers, but only if it is designed that way from the kernel up. The Risc OS API is a good example of this as its native API is so much easier to learn and use than the API of any toolkit that I have yet seen on X11.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:27 pm

So as to dispel any illusions I should say, My personal preference in program languages is:
First Compiled BBC BASIC V
Second Assembly
Third Compiled C
And then Compiled Pascal.

OO is a couple hundred further down the list, Lua may be added to the above eventually though for now it is a new language for me.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:33 am

You're a new learner-driver, first lesson.
"Press this pedal to go faster, that one to slow down"

You've now passed your test, got your licence, and a bit of experience.
"Join the M25 at Staines, take the M40, onto the M42 east, then M5 north. M6 north till you see signs to the airport and follow them" - That's a high level language

"Pressing the accellerator adjusts this sleeve on the fuel pump, allowing more fuel to be injected into the cylinder. As the pressure from the pump rises the injector breaks open, and the fuel forms a fine spray of dropplets. Each dropplet is heated by the air in the cylinder, starts to evaporate and burns ... " - That's machine code

The learner starts in the middle, and works up to higher level abstraction, and down to lower level abstraction, as needed (though if you want to be a brilliant F1 driver, perhaps knowledge of a petrol engine would be better than an old diesel)

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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:53 pm

Ok maybe I should say I am also probing to try to get people thinking of other good alternative OSes that have a very simple API and only a couple layers of abstraction, not just Risc OS.
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:37 pm

Any suggestions?
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Re: Risc OS / Beginner OS

Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:04 pm

Unfortunately this is my question, I am only familiar with a few ARM OSes. the only two that I know of that could be a starting point are:
Risc OS, and Minix.

Risc OS has the disadvantage of being a commercial product.

Minix has the disadvantage that it does not have a good GUI available, and if you add X you defeat the purpose of keeping the API simple without adding many layers.
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