droleary
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 2:16 am

Heater wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 3:29 pm
I'm an beginner with the Pi and programming. I have a problem with my Java project, which interfaces to a Gertboard. My OS is Arch.

In which forum section should I post my problem?
None of them, until this hypothetical person can coherently understand the "problem" well enough to present it properly to a worldwide audience, which can include taking up the valuable time of actual RPi engineers. They need to talk to their teacher or whoever else offline got them interested in using the RPi. These forums should not be seen as the first tier of support.

Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 6:26 am

droleary,
None of them, until this hypothetical person can coherently understand the "problem" well enough to present it properly to a worldwide audience, which can include taking up the valuable time of actual RPi engineers.
I have to disagree.

My hypothetical question was crafted to demonstrate that it is often not obvious which forum section a problem should be posted to.

As you have probably noticed many beginners don't know how to state their problem or where the problem is or how to find out. In this hypothetical case it could be because they have an out of date Java library or some old out of date example code. Or their Gerboard is malfunctioning or there is something about it they don't understand. Or whatever it is is not compatible with Arch.

We should not blame our hapless beginner, who has no idea what is going on, is totally bewildered and does not even have the language describe the situation.
They need to talk to their teacher or whoever else offline got them interested in using the RPi. These forums should not be seen as the first tier of support.
Why on Earth not? My expectation is that this forum is exactly intended to help such beginners. Not by taking the valuable time of RPi engineers but by leveraging the enthusiasm and helpfulness of thousands of others in the Pi user community. Some of whom are quite likely to have experienced the same problem, have been skillful or knowledgeable enough to fix it and are more than willing to tell someone.

If my hypothetical beginner were actually me then there would be no teacher or anyone else around to help. I learned of the Pi from the internet. I only know one other Pi user in this whole city. I imagine this is quite a common scenario.

Where else should such a person turn?

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DougieLawson
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 7:24 am

The problem for your hypothetical user is there's a choice for the folks who don't know. Do they got "General discussion" viewforum.php?f=63, "General Programming Discussion" viewforum.php?f=31 or "Beginners" viewforum.php?f=91?

We need a "triage" forum called "If you don't know where to post, put it here". The mods can leave a sticky in there that says "Your post will be moved you won't find it when you return" with a link to the "ego search". They can also move the "Not booting sticky" to that forum.
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hippy
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 10:00 am

droleary wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:16 am
They need to talk to their teacher or whoever else offline got them interested in using the RPi. These forums should not be seen as the first tier of support.
I understand what you are saying but reality is that these forums will be seen as the first port of call by many, and it is the only official place to come to get support, help and assistance. It's where the Foundation themselves direct people if they have any questions.

Whenever someone recommends using a Pi they are merely acting as a voluntary agent for "Raspberry Pi", not taking on support or advice responsibility. That still rests with "Raspberry Pi" and that's handled here in the forum.
DougieLawson wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 7:24 am
We need a "triage" forum called "If you don't know where to post, put it here". The mods can leave a sticky in there that says "Your post will be moved you won't find it when you return" with a link to the "ego search".
Forum software like vBulletin allows a post to be moved and an expiring link left showing where the post has been moved to. I don't know if phpBB has the same but that makes moving posts extremely easy when it is needed and also allows a poster to quickly and easily find where their post has gone; most will have simply bookmarked the URL of the page their post appeared on.

droleary
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 2:11 pm

Heater wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 6:26 am
My hypothetical question was crafted to demonstrate that it is often not obvious which forum section a problem should be posted to.
Yes, I know. It was a nonsense/worst-case scenario. It still has an answer: don't post at all unless you have the courtesy to take the 5 minutes necessary to narrow down what your actual problem is.
We should not blame our hapless beginner, who has no idea what is going on, is totally bewildered and does not even have the language describe the situation.
If they can't use language properly, that makes these forums an even worse place to go to solve their problems. They need someone who knows them, knows how they communicate, and is likely standing next to them with another set of eyes.
If my hypothetical beginner were actually me then there would be no teacher or anyone else around to help. I learned of the Pi from the internet. I only know one other Pi user in this whole city. I imagine this is quite a common scenario.

Where else should such a person turn?
I already answered: a teacher or local user group or friend that shares your interests. Good on you for figuring out how to bootstrap yourself up without any other help than online resources, but that is not the best way to go about it and should not be encouraged as the path most people should follow. Perhaps new users should be shuffled into "User groups and events" so that they can get a better idea of what kind of local community is available. Perhaps it'd be a good idea to expand that sub-section into a full section with sub-sections that represent particular countries/states/cities.

Anyone who is trying to go it alone and is so utterly lost that they can't even coherently describe their problem should probably not be starting with a system like an RPi in the first place. They should be exercising their hardware chops with a microcontroller (or other lesser circuit building). They should be exercising their software chops with Linux on a PC, in a VM if necessary, maybe even installing the "Raspberry Pi Desktop for PC and Mac" version if they're sure they want to move on to RPi hardware in the future.
DougieLawson wrote: We need a "triage" forum called "If you don't know where to post, put it here". The mods can leave a sticky in there that says "Your post will be moved you won't find it when you return" with a link to the "ego search". They can also move the "Not booting sticky" to that forum.
That would be a great solution, but it can be labor intensive if the forum software doesn't properly support it. That's why I try to limit the amount of flagging I do asking moderators to move messages.

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rpdom
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 2:22 pm

$search_engine first. Questions later.

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bensimmo
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 2:32 pm

Wow, telling beginners to use VM's.
Ones that can't even follow the basic setup of the main site are not going to get a VM working on a PC.

Pi's are for beginners, it's written all over the website, tutorials and allsorts.

Even a beginner's posting section here on the forum.

Even Clubs and Jams setup so they can get one to one help if there happens to be one and they are the right age. (Your solution)

Pi's are not hard for beginners to get going, at least ones that can read a website and ask questions on a forum, just like this one.

It's the learning afterwards that is, as is any Tablet, Phone or WindowsPC if they are new to them. They just have most of the help built in to that setup.

A lot of learning is done away from a one to one setup, one to one is an additional way of learning now.
The internet enables this over the old ways of waiting once a month for a magazine or knowing more than your teacher.
Last edited by bensimmo on Wed May 30, 2018 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

RichardRussell
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 2:51 pm

droleary wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:11 pm
I already answered: a teacher or local user group or friend that shares your interests....
Anyone who is trying to go it alone and is so utterly lost that they can't even coherently describe their problem should probably not be starting....
Wow. Rarely have I disagreed with a post so profoundly.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 4:25 pm

droleary wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:11 pm
Anyone who is trying to go it alone and is so utterly lost that they can't even coherently describe their problem should probably not be starting with a system like an RPi in the first place. They should be exercising their hardware chops with a microcontroller (or other lesser circuit building). They should be exercising their software chops with Linux on a PC, in a VM if necessary, maybe even installing the "Raspberry Pi Desktop for PC and Mac" version if they're sure they want to move on to RPi hardware in the future.
Er no! You are so very wrong.

The whole reason for the RPi is to give kids a platform where they can get started with programming. It's a throw-away OS (the OS is easily re-installed) with a bunch of tools aimed directly at the kids/learners (scratch, idle, thonny, python, etc.).

Running in an Oracle Virtualbox VM on Windows is non-trivial.

Running on a micro-controller needs a specific purpose and an understanding of a single threaded process, they're not really a general purpose machine with a regular OS. The RPi is very much general purpose.

I started with a ZX80, you couldn't break that because it always started from power-on ready to run - you could get it to run hot because of the voltage regulator. The hard part of the ZX80 was getting programs saved to cassette tape in a form that would reload to let you carry-on tomorrow from where you left off today (when the heat-sink had cooled).
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Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Wed May 30, 2018 4:33 pm

droleary,
...a teacher or local user group or friend that shares your interests. Good on you for figuring out how to bootstrap yourself up without any other help than online resources, but that is not the best way to go about it and should not be encouraged as the path most people should follow. Perhaps new users should be shuffled into "User groups and events" so that they can get a better idea of what kind of local community is available.
Of course having to bootstrap oneself is slow and error prone. It would be better to have someone at hand to help out.

What you seem to forget is that for a vast majority of the human race that is a luxury they don't have. Friends, family and teachers know nothing. Actual user groups may not be available nearby. Or if they are it may not be so easy to get there.
If they can't use language properly, that makes these forums an even worse place to go to solve their problems.
I did not mean they can't use language properly. Perhaps they are very smart and articulate. What I meant was that they will not know all the technical terms and jargon that we often use to discuss things. Terms and jargon that we have learned over many years.
Anyone who is trying to go it alone and is so utterly lost that they can't even coherently describe their problem should probably not be starting with a system like an RPi in the first place. They should be exercising their hardware chops with a microcontroller (or other lesser circuit building). They should be exercising their software chops with Linux on a PC, in a VM if necessary, maybe even installing the "Raspberry Pi Desktop for PC and Mac" version if they're sure they want to move on to RPi hardware in the future.
There are so many things wrong with that I don't know where to begin...

Sure they can start with a Pi. That is what Eben Upton conceived the Pi for back in the day.

Getting into any other microcontroller will be much harder. Except perhaps the Arduino system, but that is very limited.

Expecting a total neophyte to get Linux installed on a PC, or worse still a VM, is just crazy. Assuming they even have a PC.

droleary
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 2:39 am

bensimmo wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:32 pm
Wow, telling beginners to use VM's.
Ones that can't even follow the basic setup of the main site are not going to get a VM working on a PC.
I take it you haven't done it recently. Downloading VirtualBox was trivially easy on my Mac. And downloading a Linux distribution to run on it (including the raspberrypi.org one) was equally easy. These are things that that can be done without a lot of local help to give a beginner a taste of what they're in for if the choose to buy the RPi hardware.
Pi's are for beginners, it's written all over the website, tutorials and allsorts.
Just saying it's so doesn't make it true. An RPi is still a full computer with an OS that is used on server-class machines. There's a lot that can go wrong, and so I would still recommend not throwing genuine beginners into the deep end of the pool like that.
DougieLawson wrote: Running in an Oracle Virtualbox VM on Windows is non-trivial.
Then that sounds like a Windows problem. In my experience, everything about a VM is more "throw-away" than an RPi.
DougieLawson wrote: Running on a micro-controller needs a specific purpose and an understanding of a single threaded process, they're not really a general purpose machine with a regular OS. The RPi is very much general purpose.
Are you seriously trying to argue that a full multi-threaded, multi-processing OS is easier to understand than a single-task microcontroller?
Heater wrote: What you seem to forget is that for a vast majority of the human race that is a luxury they don't have. Friends, family and teachers know nothing. Actual user groups may not be available nearby. Or if they are it may not be so easy to get there.
Then that should be the beginner's first priority: setting up a support structure. Because it's rarely a road to success to just throw technology at people and say they have to make it on their own. I don't think that represents the RPF mission at all.
I did not mean they can't use language properly. Perhaps they are very smart and articulate. What I meant was that they will not know all the technical terms and jargon that we often use to discuss things. Terms and jargon that we have learned over many years.
That's what I meant, too. If they don't have someone sitting next to them with those "many years" of experience to translate their problem into a language that everyone here understands, it's not going to be a very good experience using these forums for help. You can already see a ton of posts that demonstrate just that: people who can't ask good questions, helpful people asking for clarifications, and the original poster never following up. We don't need more of that.
Expecting a total neophyte to get Linux installed on a PC, or worse still a VM, is just crazy. Assuming they even have a PC.
And I am simply arguing that the RPi is so much like a PC that your advice remains essentially true. I would welcome a link to evidence that demonstrates a "total neophyte" would have success doing either alone, especially assuming they don't have a PC to bootstrap the process!

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Imperf3kt
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 3:04 am

Here's one for you then.
I live in Australia. I heard of the Raspberry Pi through random magazine articles I read to keep myself from living under a rock on the moon.
I know nobody who understands computers as much as I do (except this one guy in New Zealand... A bit far to travel)
Nobody I know has ever heard of the Raspberry Pi or even SBCs for that matter.

Who do I turn to for advice if not the place I bought the device?


You also claim microcontrollers are easier. How? I am familiar with a PC. I am not familiar with a PCB with datasheet that requires knowledge of a programming language (and computer to flash the thing) to use.
Stop plugging your fan directly into the GPIO 5v
https://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/power/transient-suppression.html

Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 6:58 am

droleary,
Then that should be the beginner's first priority: setting up a support structure. Because it's rarely a road to success to just throw technology at people and say they have to make it on their own. I don't think that represents the RPF mission at all.
I admit that just throwing technology at kids and other beginners is not ideal. I claim that it is a common situation. I claim that young kids are not in a position to set up a support structure. I claim that being such a support lifeline is exactly part of the RPF mission and that is why this forum exists.

Warning: Anecdote time.

When I was 10 years old I had technology thrown at me. It was a Philips Electronic Engineer kit. A box full of transistors, capacitors, resistors, antenna coil, tuning capacitor etc and a breadboard. It had a nice book showing how to build all kind of electronic projects, a light detector, a electronic organ, a radio etc. Well, I'm 10, I didn't understand any of that. I'd never seen a transistor before, no idea what it does or how. Those schematic diagrams with their weird component symbols were meaningless to me. I hardly had an idea what voltage was (It's that tingle on your tongue when you lick a battery terminals). Nobody could help me, not parents, friends, nobody around. How would I set up a support structure for myself, stuck out in a small village as I was?

But still, I managed to build all the projects in that kit and get them working. Wow, what a buzz. I learned a lot. Especially when I started tweaking with things, trying experiments that were not in the book.

Slowly, slowly I found books in the library and magazines in the stores that gave clues about how all that stuff worked. By the time I was 14 I was building a digital clock with TTL chips and Nixie tubes. This at a time when alarm clocks were mechanical and radios and TVs still had tubes in them. Again there was nobody around who could help out with this new fangled digital logic. I was in despair for a long while when my finished clock did not work but I got it going in the end.

Now. If we replace the 10 year old me in that story with any young kid of today, if we replace Philips Electronics Kit with Raspberry Pi kit, then I claim that is a quite similar situation and common today. I claim kids can figure this out. Even if they have to do it on their own.

The magic part is that when they get stuck they have this forum and the whole community on the net to turn to. Something we did not have the luxury of.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 7:09 am

droleary wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 2:39 am
DougieLawson wrote: Running on a micro-controller needs a specific purpose and an understanding of a single threaded process, they're not really a general purpose machine with a regular OS. The RPi is very much general purpose.
Are you seriously trying to argue that a full multi-threaded, multi-processing OS is easier to understand than a single-task microcontroller?
Yes I am, because when you first boot plain Raspbian (or even NOOBS at second boot) on a Raspberry Pi connected to a TV with a keyboard & mouse you'll get something that somewhat resembles the Windows normality you're used to.

When you first power on an Arduino it does nothing special. It sits there looking stupid. To get from stupid to functional takes a lot of effort for a beginner.

With Oracle Virtualbox it's trivial to get the base software installed. It's non-trivial to get to an OS running in a VM.
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Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 7:57 am

Warning: Another anecdote...

I don't get to talk with teenagers and young people very often. But a while back I met two young brothers at some expo or other. In their early twenties. For whatever reason we struck up a lengthy conversation. When it turned to computers, the younger brother said something like "Old people don't know anything about computers". I bit my lip and we continued the conversation. As it happened I had an SBC in my coat pocket , as I often do, I forget if it was a Pi or something else. Something in that conversation prompted me to pull out that board and show them. They were fascinated, never seen such a thing, didn't know there were such things. We talked about microcontrollers and what they could do and and IO and hooking up sensors and programming them and Linux and on and on. And yes Arduino. They were so curious and asked many pertinent questions, even had ideas what they might do with one. This went on for an hour or so. I pointed them to resources on the net, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Espruino etc.

When we parted I could not resist looking that younger brother in the eye and saying "It seems young people don't know anything about computers".

Anyway, that was the day I realised we live in a world where the majority of youngsters have no idea about programming, they have never even seen a command line. All they know is apps and how to poke at icons on their touch screens. Giving them a Mac with Virtual Box is not going to change anything. It's not going to light their fire.

I also realized that quite likely they only need a little poke in the right direction, only to be made aware of the possibilities available, and their curiosity will do the rest. As may have happened that day when I bedazzled those two you brothers with an SBC.

That is what the Pi is for. That is what this forum is for.

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bensimmo
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 9:13 am

I work in a school, I have kids.

They are capable of following the website to use Etcher in Windows (NOOBS before) to put the *VM Image's* aka Raspbian Desktop onto an SD card.

They then found it incredibly easy to place SD card in a Pi and turn it on, after putting the hdmi and power cables in.

With NOOBS, a few clicks and a wait or now instant satisfaction.

One Desktop OS with tools for learning with and head back to the RaspberryPi.org website and follow the tutorials.
They can browse, they can program. They can get utterly confused with IDLE3 before they realise they need to open a new file ;-(

It was not difficult really.

Perhaps the Pi's should come with some IKEA style instructions for a quick start with some links to type in to windows, just to make sure they know where to point the browser.


I have placed a few Arduino boards in front of the kids. They are not as easy to get in to, you need to have some background of what you are even trying to do.
We soon gave up with them.

Micro:bit and similar (CPX for example) are however easier to get working.
Stick usb in, follow instructions at their website and probably end up at Microsoft's really nice website MakeCode.
Off they are with physical programming creativity.
You can even pick micro:bit's up from libraries now to borrow. (In the UK).


Which leads back to a beginner forum section, where they need a little push or get a little stuck or quite often just wish to say hi with a question.
This forum is the person sat next to them giving them a helping hand. Just like in physical life, you need to figure out what they are trying to say. It's just quicker next to them.
Perhaps they could set up a beginner conference section.. but that runs into all sort of Safeguarding issues if children are involved, not so much for the older beginners.

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Burngate
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 10:46 am

droleary wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:11 pm
... don't post at all unless you have the courtesy to take the 5 minutes necessary to narrow down what your actual problem is.
If they can't use language properly, that makes these forums an even worse place to go to solve their problems.
They need someone who knows them, knows how they communicate, and is likely standing next to them with another set of eyes.
Good on you for figuring out how to bootstrap yourself up without any other help than online resources, but that is not the best way to go about it and should not be encouraged as the path most people should follow.
Anyone who is trying to go it alone and is so utterly lost that they can't even coherently describe their problem should probably not be starting with a system like an RPi in the first place.

Someone once said that being able to formulate a question is 90% of the way to the solution. Or something like that. https://litemind.com/problem-definition/

50 years ago, a 12-year-old given a ZX81 would have an easy route to more knowledge, if he wanted to do more than play space-invaders, but the next generation, the PlayStation generation, didn't - doing more than play games on it was a lot harder.

Today, a 12-year-old has had a 'phone for years, he can use Facebook and watch YouTube on it, but hasn't a clue what goes on inside it. But then, nor do his friends, his teachers, his parents ... anyone he knows. And they don't seem to care!
But his Granny gave him a raspberry Pi to play with.

He hasn't a clue where to start, but he'd like to be able to do all the things he can do on his 'phone, as a first step towards doing more impressive things, such as making a LED flash.

RichardRussell
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 11:24 am

Burngate wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 10:46 am
He hasn't a clue where to start, but he'd like to be able to do all the things he can do on his 'phone, as a first step towards doing more impressive things, such as making a LED flash.
This is becoming increasingly off-topic, but can I suggest that he first learns to program on his phone. That way the hardware and OS are familiar and all he has to acquire, initially, are programming skills; for example BBC BASIC is available for both Android and iOS. Once he has become competent at programming on the phone he can directly transfer those skills to a Raspberry Pi if he wants to experiment with hardware interfacing and the like.

Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 12:24 pm

Woah, 50 years ago the ZX81 was 13 years into the future. It did not come out til 1981.

50 years ago I was 10. With vague dreams of building some kind of "computer" out of rotary telephone dials, switches, relays and light bulbs. Having read such a project in some book or magazine. Not that I has any idea how to.

50 years A ZX81 would have exceeded my wildest dreams by a few orders of magnitude. I mean, only James Bond had technology like that!

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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 2:12 pm

Imperf3kt wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 3:04 am
I know nobody who understands computers as much as I do (except this one guy in New Zealand... A bit far to travel)
Nobody I know has ever heard of the Raspberry Pi or even SBCs for that matter.

Who do I turn to for advice if not the place I bought the device?
By your own description, you weren't anything like the hypothetical complete beginner that's being discussed. If anything, you should be the one that people near you would be seeking out to mentor them. How easily do these forums make it possible for that to happen?
You also claim microcontrollers are easier. How? I am familiar with a PC. I am not familiar with a PCB with datasheet that requires knowledge of a programming language (and computer to flash the thing) to use.
I just don't understand all the flawed motivated reasoning that is happening here. Look, it's not like you wouldn't need to know a programming language if you wanted to do the same sorts of things with an RPi! My on-topic point remains that these forums, as currently implemented, do not serve as the best resource for someone to get started if they have little knowledge about either computers or electronics. Nobody is helping the educational mission of the RPF when they irrationally assert otherwise.

Heater
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 2:21 pm

This is going nowhere. Let's just say, we think you are wrong. We can agree to disagree and move on.

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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 2:51 pm

Heater wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 12:24 pm
50 years ago I was 10. With vague dreams of building some kind of "computer" out of rotary telephone dials, switches, relays and light bulbs. Having read such a project in some book or magazine. Not that I has any idea how to.
50 years ago I was 19 and writing programs (for classes) to run on a CDC 6400, having previously learned to program on the IBM 1620 and IBM 1440.

On topic, however, I don't see a problem with having an "other languages" in both General and Programming. It's a matter of context.

jamesh
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Re: Forum structure

Thu May 31, 2018 3:22 pm

Has gone the way of the rambler, this thread.

My own view - this forum is the first point of call for a huge number of beginners. It should be the second, after something like Google, but often people are happier to spend more time writing a question on here than getting the answer from Google (which often redirects to this forum anyway). C'est la vie.

Pi's are used by complete beginners, often with great success. Often with no success. As our documentation becomes better, as our software gets easier to use, then the number of unsuccesses* will decrease.

As for the forums, as I said above, due for a revamp. Will be talking with Liz next week.


* this should be a word.
Principal Software Engineer at Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd.
Please direct all questions to the forum, I do not do support via PM.

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