alexp700
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Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:19 am

Hi,

I've been reading with interest about this exciting project. As a programmer that grew up during the golden era of hacking, I love the fact your trying to rekindle that spirt of development and hacking. While this may be something you're addressing once you've got more hardware, I'm concerned that you're too focused on hardware and not on software. Something I've noticed is most people longing for the golden era are hardware guys, and they naturally focus on the bits that got their juices flowing. I always found the software end more interesting, and that is (from what I can tell) the area you want to encourage.

I hope that you will be producing a very easy to use tool chain as part of this development. This should not be just a command prompt and vi. We've had those available for years - and fin. Has the Pi got its own IDE and debugger? This part in my formative years was more important that any hardware (and really still is!). The iPhone platform with Xcode has reminded me how much this matters. I have had a PC on my desk with 10-100 times the performance for years, but the first time I got something up on that little screen the desire to create was rekindled. Though the tool chain is basically the same as Linux has had for years, they bound it all up in a quick and easy to use manner - online/local help a keypress away, intelli-type code completion, 10 secs to compile->debug->run. Debuggers that actually stop the code you've written and allow easy inspection of what is going on. These make more difference that any hardware.

You have a golden opportunity to solve this problem, as you have a controlled platform with known parameters. Please don't create another wonderful, but unusable device!

Best regards,

Alex Powell

vadsamoht
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Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:32 am

I, too, am much more interested in the software aspects of this project than the hardware, but I don't see how much con really be done about this at the moment. As far as I can tell, the Foundation is primarily focusing on just producing the units in the first place and the lack of units 'in the wild' means that there are few people looking at active development as things currently stand.

I haven't heard anything about there being an official/unique IDE/toolchain, but there's no reason why one couldn't eventually be made by the community.

jamesh
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Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:17 pm

Quote from vadsamoht on September 2, 2011, 12:32
I, too, am much more interested in the software aspects of this project than the hardware, but I don't see how much con really be done about this at the moment. As far as I can tell, the Foundation is primarily focusing on just producing the units in the first place and the lack of units 'in the wild' means that there are few people looking at active development as things currently stand.

I haven't heard anything about there being an official/unique IDE/toolchain, but there's no reason why one couldn't eventually be made by the community.

You are right about getting the HW sorted first - the resources are not there to produce custom IDE's etc. We are trying as much as we can, but there is a lot of work needed just to get the HW and drivers up and running correctly.

This really is where the community comes in - as more people get the equipment the amount of effort available increases, and more and more gr3eat stuff will be produced.

As to what comes as standard, command line compilers for C/C++, Python and Perl will definitely be there.
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alexp700
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:52 am

Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:58 pm

Appreciate making the hardware is a challenge. However for it to fulfil the goals of getting a next generation interested in computers the barriers to entry in ease of use must be lowered - I would put this as a core goal before release. I can buy a Pentium 4 and monitor on ebay for about $25 (possibly less), and run Linux on it. OK it needs more power and is slower, but it has superficially everything I need to get going as a budding programmer...

Except it doesn't. Installing Linux is now quite easy, but you're instantly hit with millions of packages options programs. You can spend days just trying out pointless projects, and loose your original drivers to create. All of them are distractors from learning.

The BBC B had a switch, a burr-beep, and Basic. Most computers of the era had that the same thing - driving you towards writing something, even if it was only "hello world". I seem to recall the reason the BBC had such a good basic was because some Cambridge students took a 6502 basic an optimized it. RaspberryPi is still heavily connected with the Uni, why not get them to get the latest round of undergrads to build a decent toolchain?

I suggest taking the Qt Creator IDE as a good starting point (I believe its fully GPL). I used it briefly and was quite impressed by its potential - good debugging etc. It is badly bloated by its cross platform nature, but the first port of call would be to get those undergrads to strip out all the cruft - i386 tool chains, libraries for things that aren't needed, redundant help, telephony related stuff. Get it nicely bare bones with a window manager that works on the hardware. Then put together a lightweight distro. Add $15 to the price - academic textbooks now cost more like $50 anyway - and bundle it together. Boot the distro with nothing more than that - the IDE. You could even leave out a webbrowser (smart kids will then have to learn that the hypertext help can be used instead ;) ). That to me would be closer to the goals.

Or is Cambridge now only left with ARM engineers that have forgotten how to program ;)!

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liz
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Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:15 pm

The initial release is aimed at hobbyists (but it'll still come with a software stack that I think you'll be pretty pleased with) - the later educational release will come with additional software. It *is* a phenomenally hard job getting the hardware out, especially given that we all have day jobs, and we're finding we've got a lot of press etc. to deal with on top of all this too at the moment!
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alexp700
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Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:52 am

Re: Software development environment

Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:30 pm

Good luck with it, and I'll be buying one out curiosity. You're making a very interesting Easel - just don't forget the paints!

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