Jaseman
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:40 pm

Maybe they will provide a splash screen or some sort of menu that opens up after LXDE has loaded to help guide you along.

Crippen69
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:21 pm

Would it be possible to have a Grub/lilo type program to offer various enviroments at boot time? Similar to how most Linuxes list available OSes and a 'Failsafe' linux. A bit like the old Spectrum 128K gave the choice of 48K Basic, 128K Basic or Tape Loader.

Surely it can't be too hard to use  similar method to offer the user a choice of full blown desktop and various development enviroments, with each option linked to a tailored Linux config.

Not sure if this is possible, but just a thought.

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:40 pm

Crippen69 said:


Would it be possible to have a Grub/lilo type program to offer various enviroments at boot time?


I'm sure that is possible. But I hope the first activity is a tour. You need to tell pupils what is coming this term get them a bit excited. If the menu is boot time you access it by rebooting.

Lynbarn
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:24 pm

Crippen69 said:


Would it be possible to have a Grub/lilo type program to offer various enviroments at boot time? Similar to how most Linuxes list available OSes and a 'Failsafe' linux. A bit like the old Spectrum 128K gave the choice of 48K Basic, 128K Basic or Tape Loader.

Surely it can't be too hard to use  similar method to offer the user a choice of full blown desktop and various development enviroments, with each option linked to a tailored Linux config.

Not sure if this is possible, but just a thought.



It is possible - just load a different SDcard before plugging in.

Crippen69
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:43 pm

Lynbarn,

I was trying to cut down on the number of SD cards. Working off my youngests year group, there was approx 120 kids, so a different SD card for each setup, gets out of hand. If the government make programming compulsory for the first 3 years at secondary school, that's a hell of a lot of SD cards.

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rurwin
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:06 pm

It is somewhere between trivial and straight-forward to have a text-mode menu on boot.

That menu could be configured by the teacher (or the pupil) and include options such as text-mode command-line, running a program in text mode, start X, start X with a single program running. After a configurable time-out, it might select a default option.

It would be just as easy to have the RPi boot into X every time and put the menu there. Obviously the text mode options would then be obsolete.

So the child might see a menu like this:

1. Scratch

2. Alice

3. Python

4. See Miss Jones' Computer

5. Linux Shell

Choice:_

tritonium
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:19 pm

Yes - I like that solution - a multichoice menu.

How long would it take to get to the menu? 10secs, 20, 50??

Of couse SD cards are getting cheaper and cheaper, you could get half a dozen in a tic tac box - in fact probably a lot more? In fact I almost prefer the old 3.5 inch floppy discs, a bit easier to handle. The very first box of 5.5 inch floppies I bought for my first home-made was I think £20 for 10! (senior moment). £2 each, not far off 2G SD price, only about 1500 times bigger in capacity and a hundedth the phisical size!

'Right children if you would please insert your python chips, today we will be looking at......'   at least they won't be tempted to play space invaders while the teachers back is turned. Aha what an incentive to get them to write their own!

No unrealistic, menu it is.

Dave

CFWhitman
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:38 pm

I can add that my nephew has a relatively old laptop that I gave him, which is capable of getting on Flash game sites and playing DVDs. However, one of the biggest appeals to him is that he has Bluefish available to use to write HTML code. He's not interested in just making a web page. He wants to know how it works.

This laptop is running Linux of course, but one of his biggest problems with the computer is that everyone else in the house tends to use it. He still has some reservations about what he does with it though because it's his way of getting on the Internet, burning CDs, playing mp3s, etc. A Raspberry Pi would be less risky to experiment with even than his own laptop.

spurious
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:54 pm

Sample menu.. needs the launch command for each replacing the echo, but you get the idea.



#!/bin/bash


 


select CHOICE in "Scratch" "Alice" "Python" "See Miss Jones' Computer" "Linux Shell"


do


        case "$CHOICE" in


                "Scratch")


                        echo "Scratch"


                        ;;


                "Alice")


                        echo "Alice"


                        ;;


                "Python")


                        echo "Python"


                        ;;


                "See Miss Jones' Computer")


                        echo "See Miss Jones' Computer"


                        ;;


                "Linux Shell")


                        exit


                        ;;


        esac


done


TheManWhoWas
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:27 pm

OK, I know I've been nostalgic about the ZX81, but I was thinking desktop icons linking to programming environments in the vein of RobotC Virtual Worlds was more 2012.

I remember booting up my old Amiga 1200 in about 1997 and being horrified how ancient it all looked. So we can't actually give kids a white screen with a K cursor on it and expect to engage them. But equally we can't drop them into a vanilla Linux desktop and expect them to spontaneously get the urge to start programming.

davegb3
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:44 pm

Something that I've been thinking about for a while, which has come up on this thread a few times, is that the Pi will be booting Linux, and, relative to the good ol' days of the BBC etc, that's complicated.  Easy to use or not, it's the fact that the level of complexity of a modern OS, be it Linux, Mac OS, Windows, is massive.  On the beeb, you typed "AUTO", and started typing your program in.  You could type *MEM. (with an extension ROM, I think, it's been a long time), and see your program in memory. You could create some assembler that compiled to a particular address in memory, and then look at that bit of memory and see the machine code, run it, and see the data bits in memory changing.

What I'm getting is that it was possible to actually see what was going on, which, under any modern OS, it isn't, really - you've got protection levels, virtual addressing, and all sorts of other stuff that I don't even pretend to understand.

So, with the RPi, is there an opportunity to use the fact that there's a single processor, architecture and hardware, and create a really simple OS, that just boots straight to a some form of prompt.  No multitasking, everything running in kernel mode (if that's even possible), so everything is visible.  Straight memory addressing, maybe only allow a small amount, say 1Mb - 0x00000 to 0xFFFFFF. Create a program in a similar way to the beeb - ignore the language for now, it's just "a program".  Memory dumps under another command, and you can see your program in memory.  If the program could then get the address of a variable somehow, then you could look at that bit of the memory before and after "running" the program.

Ok, so it doesn't have the "wow"/"cool" factor that kids might need to draw them in, but being completely in control, and being able to see everything going on was one of the things that really got me interested as a kid.  Plus I think once you've wowed them with the openGL demos and maybe a pygame demo that they can mess about with and change a bit, then maybe they want to understand a bit more about what's going on.

Something along the lines of a cut-down minix (obviously ported to ARM)?  I'm no OS expert, so I don't know whether it would be feasible or not, or how tricky and involved it would be, or maybe someone knows of something that exists already/will soon exist?

Or am I dreaming, and it would be easier to emulate under Linux?

Dave.

Aging BBC Micro fan.

Chris.Rowland
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:53 pm

The idea of giving people a command line prompt to start with bothers me as well.

It may be heresy but I find the instant gratification of Visual Basic or C# very attractive.  I can drop controls onto a form and with a few clicks write a few lines of code to do the work.

Is there some equivalent in the Linux world?  I've not seen anything but my Linux knowledge is not extensive.

Chris

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:10 pm

davegb3 said:


What I'm getting is that it was possible to actually see what was going on, which, under any modern OS, it isn't, really - you've got protection levels, virtual addressing, and all sorts of other stuff that I don't even pretend to understand.


That's what RobotC tries to recreate in the best of both worlds. You can invent something cool like a Robot. Have all those hardware values and see how your program changes on the Robot emulated or real hardware.

Its also easier to make a virtual simple robot/pet/puppet to program.  Than the recursive looking at the thing your using idea.

TheManWhoWas
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:20 pm


It may be heresy but I find the instant gratification of Visual Basic or C# very attractive.  I can drop controls onto a form and with a few clicks write a few lines of code to do the work.


The reason I keep mentioning RobotC Virtual Worlds is because it gives this kind of gratification. Writing a loop to print "I am great!" a 100 times is the same as writing a loop to move a 3D simulated robot 100 metres across Mars - just the command in the middle is different.

This is a better way of engaging today's kids I think. They don't need to see the inner working of the computer to learn to program.

davegb3
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:31 pm


They don't need to see the inner working of the computer to learn to program.


No, but it's a massive help. And, to program well, you definitely need to know the inner workings. Anybody can write a simple program. If you understand what's going on underneath you can tell a "good" program from a "bad" program.

The RobotC stuff looks interesting - I'll go read some more

Cheers,

Dave.

error404
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:47 pm

Chris Rowland said:

Is there some equivalent in the Linux world?  I've not seen anything but my Linux knowledge is not extensive.
Chris


Qt Creator has similar capabilities. I'm not sure if it's possible to use different languages though, Qt is normally C++. I'd say it's fairly similar to using Managed .NET C++ as far as difficulty. I'm quite fond of the Qt framework, it's well designed and implemented.

GTK UI is often developed in Glade, which is a similar GUI tool for this, but it's a bit more cumbersome as it just creates an XML definition you then load into your program and doesn't offer the same instant gratification. It does work with any language with GTK bindings though.

I'm not really much of a GUI guy though so there might be better options...

spurious
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:33 am

programming for a windows environment is a damn sight more involved than a text interface. for a beginners introduction to development I would at least start in the text world, so you don't have complex events to deal with.

nothing wrong with hello world in an app compiled in text to give instant gratification that you did it right.

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:05 am

I"ve been trying things in this thread. And I"m still not sure what I make of Alice. But its certainly a complex environment with built in tutorials that is simply drag drop programming. Seems like plumbing to me but I bet everyone can do it and it explains 50% of programming at least.

In 30 years it is clear many attempts have been made to simplify learning of programming.

I"m surprised people are still mentioning good ole days interfaces. A prompt without manual is useless. What else but an electronic manual would be possible. That requires half the desktop and a big resolution.

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rurwin
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:18 am

Alchemy said:

What else but an electronic manual would be possible.
There are solutions to that, and the cost should not be huge: 20 Top Print On Demand Services

For example, Lulu one-off costs are under £4 for a 200 page manual. (B&W, perfect bound, softback, US Trade size) A bulk order, either for distribution or from a school, would reduce that further.

These on-demand printers tie into Amazon, so the manual could be available there in a variety of formats.

Lulu only does print-on-demand upto 1,000 units, above that they use traditional printing methods, and that should reduce costs further. A bulk order of 10,000 to match even a small RaspPi production run should attract a significant discount.

I have no idea what the Foundation's plans are, but they are certainly planning on providing the case free of charge. It may be that it would be possible to include a paper manual too. That would be ideal as it produces minimal friction to learning to program. If not, it should be a minimal additional cost.

obarthelemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:01 am

I've never seen that the case will be free of charge. Another issue with the manual is weight, hence freight.

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rurwin
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:16 pm

See the current home-page:

Liz says:


The educational release’s case will not add to the price if we can possibly help it.


Your point about freight is well taken though. 200 pages would not be light.

acmbc68
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:05 pm

I also started on a ZX81.

TheManWhoWas said:


I think the aims behind the Raspberry Pi are great, but I"ve got concerns that unless I"m missing a major piece of the puzzle, it isn"t really addressing the major problem with learning computing today…

I got into programming at 13 on a second-hand ZX81. You switched it on and it sat there waiting for you to enter commands. It came with an instruction book explaining how to program BASIC, and had all the commands printed on the keyboard. So I was able to read the book and play around and make stuff happen.

Over the years the computers I owned got more complicated, and so did the languages I used, but I never really had any formal programming education – I just picked it up as I went along building on what I already knew from the simple machines I started out on.


I still have it, if anything to remind me precisely what you note – that things can get too complicated real quick.

The piece of the puzzle which you may be missing is that in today"s connected, always-online, 3D multimedia world, you need to focus on things which will be both novel and interesting for todays younger generations.

I.e, Print "Hello World" and block graphics on a b/w screen won"t keep youngsters" interested for very long.  All the added bits to make things graphical, multimedia and connected necessarily add complexity.

Although not a huge fan of Python myself, it is a syntactically simple  yet flexible and powerful language which allows you to get flashy results in a short time, and its a readable language.

I developed quite a bit of educational software back in my teens, in the 80"s, on an Apple II (we had to if we wanted top grades in programming class).  At the time, they managed to keep learners" interest through (basic by today"s standards) graphics and sound, and yes, we did strive to teach programming – even to 6 year olds – Logo and turtle graphics.

Have a look at the number of sub-20 star programmers and hackers to see the level of complexity that today"s generation can grasp, follow and master!

As has been said before, Linux does not *have to be* complicated. It does offer power and complexity for those who want to go deeper into the system.

The RPi offers a ultra-low-cost platform on which a LOT (from graphics and media to the net to hardware and real-world interfacing).

To quote the Great (he deserves the capital "G" IMHO) Alan Kay: "Technology is anythng that was invented after you were born" – today"s learning generations were born WITH computers. Not necessarily more complex to them than a VCR to you or I.

God, if only I had something like the RPi when I was 12!

Cheers

Augusto









crackedmember
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:04 pm

davegb3 said:



Something along the lines of a cut-down minix (obviously ported to ARM)?  I'm no OS expert, so I don't know whether it would be feasible or not, or how tricky and involved it would be, or maybe someone knows of something that exists already/will soon exist?

IIRC  The first versions of linux were based on minix, so essentially this is what you are getting I believe.

Or am I dreaming, and it would be easier to emulate under Linux?

Dave.

Aging BBC Micro fan.


davegb3
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:12 pm


IIRC  The first versions of linux were based on minix, so essentially this is what you are getting I believe.



Yes, but that was version 0.01. Things have moved on a bit a since then.

Joe Schmoe
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:36 pm

davegb3 said:  

Yes, but that was version 0.01. Things have moved on a bit a since then.

I'll bet there is still Minix code in there - just as I'm sure there's still QDOS code in Windows (all versions). 
And some folks need to stop being fanboys and see the forest behind the trees.

(One of the best lines I've seen on this board lately)

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