adlambert

Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:01 am

I've been mulling over some thoughts about how I would like to use a Raspberry Pi device, and there is something that I am trying to reconcile.

Back in the times of the original home computing boom (around 1982 onwards) fragmentation happened by platform. So there was a BBC micro community and a Sinclair community, Commodore etc, and some more niche areas like "Jupiter Ace" etc.

If you had spent 2 weeks salary on a BBC Micro then you were signed up to that platform and despite a couple of differences between A and B, you could buy (pre-WWW) BBC Micro Magazine and everything in it would apply to you. And you worked in either BBC Basic and 6502. The whole community spoke the same language, and this resulted in focus.

Sinclair fragmented a bit across ZX81, Spectrum, QL etc. But Sinclair basic was pretty standard, as was the Z80x family.

In these forums I am reading about the choice of distros, not too bad, but some differences exist in linux at the distro level. The choice of languages is enormous, and there are even a number of programming paradigms that didn't really exist in the mainstream back then.

On the face of it, I would consider this choice to be a very good thing. However, I am interested in how this would work at the beginner level. Would it be a good idea to give guidance on standards (I'm deliberately not using the word "control") for the units that are being used in the schools and for relatively inexperienced users. This might help when these people communicate across the internet, so that they are all reading off the same page. There will be teachers out there that love Python will raise  a set of devotees, and another teacher down the road will be a Perl fan (or name any language in the Tiobe Index top 20).

I note that the standard hardware is going to ensure that standardisation is largely the case, I am just wondering where the distro/programming language will go?

I've had a search around the forums for this matter, and I did see that there will be a standard build pre-installed on SD available to buy. Would this be the one that would be the de facto R-Pi environment or will factions diverge and leave new users confised by choice?

I think there are pros and cons to both scenarios. I note that there are certain Android phones that are very popular for hacking with unofficial customised software, a lot of kids are into this and doing their own builds.

Jaseman
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:44 pm

I understand your concerns.

In a way there's too much choice.  It's like choosing between Facebook or Google Plus.  You'll never get everyone to agree on which is best.

I think for the purposes of standardization/control it might be an idea to have one flash card set up for a standard build/project.  You may have other cards for experimental use - Different Linux versions, etc.

What I would like to see is some coherent step-by-step learning programme from absolute beginner level.

IE: Lesson 1: Connecting up your R'Pi

It sounds as though Debian is going to be the default OS for starters.

BUT - Who is to say one of the users will come up with some really great Distro that everyone wants?  Something compact, with a nice X Window system, with web browser, media player, medibuntu codecs for DVD playpack, lossless wma support, office suite and a bunch of games.

Presumably you will boot up to a Linux command prompt, so some lessons on basic operational commands might be useful: cd, mkdir, cd, cp, mv, rm.  Plus a brief description of the Operating System's different folders /home /tmp /var /usr.... and what their purpose is.

Then later on branching out into some very simple programming.  Here it will already start to branch out in different directions: Bash Script, C++, Basic, Python, HTML, Java and so on.

In those early days you just had Basic.  If you were very clever you might venture into machine code from within Basic.  You didn't really have to worry about file structures too much - it was a case of sert the volume to 75% and press play on your tape deck.

So I can see lessons branching out from a tree.  The headings might be something like: Networking, File Administration & Permissions, Programming, Multimedia, Web Design, Graphics, Robotics.

What you don't want to happen is that lots of people enthusiastically pay up for a little circuit board.  It arrives and they have no clue what to do with it, so it ends up either on Ebay, or shoved into a draw to gather dust.

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:06 pm

The are plans underway for specific teaching materials, on the official Raspi distro. This should provide the stable platform on which to build, for want of a better word, a curriculum.

If other want to do their own distros, fine, and I am sure there will be lots of great ones. Remember, it's just an SD card and reboot to move from one to the other! That I think is one of the great advantages of the Raspi.  30 seconds to move from a standard teaching platform to a games system to a hardware control system and back to teaching. It's like the SD card IS the computer, with the Raspi just providing the means to run the computer.
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TrevorF
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:27 pm


James,

Great post about how the R'Pi is not intended to be an answer for everybody.

[Random aside] As is often the case, the start of projects focus on the hardware and then the software needs to follow in maturity thereafter ... I am not sure how much in the way of resources R'Pi foundation si going to be able to spend on supporting the core software platform(s) and/or consult to technical leadership in the educational institutions ... ? Just wondering ...

[My point] The cold-swapping of SD cards is a great way to multi-platform ... what support for storage of stuff between swaps I wonder ... I am a Linux noob, so I do't know how well the mounted storage (or sections thereof) are divorced from each other (in terms of documents/files/projects) versus installed apps. Sounds like a brilliant case for cloud storage services?

Some kind of dropbox-type of thing for R'Pi subscribers?

How the business model would work I don't know since storage (and network traffic) on cloud systems is not free ... hmmm

Trevor


mArt
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:32 pm

I was going to add a comment onto the various 'Raspberry Pi V2' threads along these lines.

The first batch of boards have only gone into production and already people are talking about the next version of the R 'Pi and what additional features they may like.  This is all good and I applaud peoples enthusiasm, but, don't we need to take stock of what we are going to hopefully get our hands on soon.

I believe a certain amount of stability within the hardware and to a certain degree software across the board the makes it possible for everyone to be on a level playing field and create and contribute to the community for the benefit of all.  Having too many options can dilute any community contributions that may be of value to a certain person.

As the OP was saying, this proved to be a distinct advantage in the good old days, where you pretty much knew that you could take a floppy disk off your mate, and knew it would work on your machine.  You could type in some code from a magazine, and new it would work.  This is what make the scene back then so fun.  You didn't have to worry about whether you had version 1.3 of the device, or whether you had add-on X or Y.  Everybody knew they were talking about the same thing.  Kids don't want to worry about things like this, they just want to get one and reap some quick rewards before their attention gets drawn back to the TV or console.

It looks like documentation and tutorials are going to be a fairly large part of this project and once you start fragmenting the hardware, this task becomes ever the more difficult,  adding caveats and exceptions everywhere.

Please,  don't rush into making V2 of the R 'Pi, don't start creating 10's of 'pretty much required' add-ons.  Please keep it all to a minimum and give everybody a nice long time to explore the full potential of these devices before adding X,Y & Z in creating V2!

/rant

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:41 pm

I'm going to throw in something that might not be popular.

Isn't the hardware exactly the same as an artist's charcoal and paper? To me it's how people use their imagination that is important. Then we can move onto paints.

Only when we have

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:42 pm

Agreed. #1 will need to bed in for a period, be reviewed, tested and ripped apart before plans for #2 get off the ground. I am also in favour of a "standard" distro. People can explore other flavours and do what they want with them but most end users are going to want something that they can discuss with others, read in a magazine, see a video of, etc, etc, and not be confused that everyone is using different flavours.

I don't think this is restrictive, just sensible.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:51 pm

To give an analogy. When we started reading, the class would have been given the same Janet & John (or equivalent) books to read. When we had reached a level of basic competence, the teacher would have pointed to the library in the corner and let us get on with it. Some readers would advance quicker than others and read more complex books, but all would have started from a common point.

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meltwater
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:06 pm

Don"t forget that many of the languages available will work just the same regardless of the distro.

But I would expect if they get used in the classroom then a standard distro will be used, doesn"t need to be set in stone yet.

As JamesH says, it is not like a PC or mobile phone, where switching the OS is difficult, just pick up a spare card and do what you want, then switch back in a few sec.



I"ve talked about the concept of a cloud (or at least network) based management system for OS images and user data [made some space for it on the wiki] on the forum, seems like something like that would be very useful so hopefully something will come out of it, shall have to see.

Also checkout (which is mentioned elsewhere on the forum, created by Sciman), which is the sort of thing I guess people can use:

http://codingclub.cuteseal.co

When it gets taken into schools the curriculum will have to be done formally anyway to meet the requirements of the gov etc.
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:12 pm

TrevorF said:


[My point] The cold-swapping of SD cards is a great way to multi-platform … what support for storage of stuff between swaps I wonder … I am a Linux noob, so I do't know how well the mounted storage (or sections thereof) are divorced from each other (in terms of documents/files/projects) versus installed apps. Sounds like a brilliant case for cloud storage services?

USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that''d work wouldn't it?

datmanbu
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:17 pm

datmanbu said:


I'm going to throw in something that might not be popular.

Isn't the hardware exactly the same as an artist's charcoal and paper? To me it's how people use their imagination that is important. Then we can move onto paints.

Only when we have


That was post #6. For some reason I got a database error as I was submitting that post so the last line that I had deleted was carried forward.

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:36 pm

PhilS said:


TrevorF said:


[My point] The cold-swapping of SD cards is a great way to multi-platform … what support for storage of stuff between swaps I wonder … I am a Linux noob, so I do"t know how well the mounted storage (or sections thereof) are divorced from each other (in terms of documents/files/projects) versus installed apps. Sounds like a brilliant case for cloud storage services?

USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?

That was my thought!
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Jaseman
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:52 pm

PhilS said:


TrevorF said:


[My point] The cold-swapping of SD cards is a great way to multi-platform … what support for storage of stuff between swaps I wonder … I am a Linux noob, so I do"t know how well the mounted storage (or sections thereof) are divorced from each other (in terms of documents/files/projects) versus installed apps. Sounds like a brilliant case for cloud storage services?

USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?

The short answer - Yes - You can mount a drive and move documents & files between platforms.  It won't be called /home or /usr though.  I normally name them /rd01 'removal device number 1'.

Providing you have a spare USB port.

You might want to format that drive to Extension 3 or 4 rather than FAT or NTFS.  To get linux to read/write from FAT/NTFS you might need to install some extra drivers/libraries:

apt-get install libfuse2
apt-get install ntfs-3g

I've used NTFS and FAT32 drives on Linux Kubuntu before without issue.  The only thing I noticed is that text files pick up some extra codes if you take that drive back to a Windows PC.  It's not a major issue, you find that the hard returns become little square symbols.

Then again I don't think Windows can read Extension 3 or 4 file systems so if you want to be using documents between Windows/Linux and or others, FAT32 I think is the most common format.

patrickhwood
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:10 pm

Actually, you won't need to install anything to use FAT32 file systems, as this is very common across most linux systems, certainly all the ones that have been mentioned for the RPi.  You may or may not need to install packages for NTFS, though.

Ext2fs, ext3 and ext4 actually refer to the second, third and fourth extended file systems (see the linux kernel documentation, specifically ext2.txt for a reference).

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:11 pm

Jaseman said:

The only thing I noticed is that text files pick up some extra codes if you take that drive back to a Windows PC.  It's not a major issue, you find that the hard returns become little square symbols.
That is the difference betwee DOS and Unix line endings. Unix uses Carriage Return only, while DOD uses Carriage Return and Linefeed.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the filesystem

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:40 pm

Tomo2k said:

Unix uses Carriage Return only, while DOD uses Carriage Return and Linefeed.
To be pedantic; doesn't *nix use linefeed (0x0A) ?

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:07 pm

hippy said:


Tomo2k said:


Unix uses Carriage Return only, while DOS uses Carriage Return and Linefeed.


To be pedantic; doesn't *nix use linefeed (0x0A) ?


*Facepalm*. Dammit. Yes. Bugger.

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:29 pm

As a long time user of Debian, including using the ARM version of a Mavell Plug (before the **** powersupply exploded and left the insides of a capacitor everywhere), there already is a community built around that - just subscribe to the Debian User mailing list and you will see lots of discussion about everything related to the distro and the apps within it.  Its a great place to go for advice on setup.

I am sure that there is a similar community around Fedora.

I've often tried other distro's briefly - but have always returned to Debian.  There are some that are completely different (like Gentoo - where you compile all the applications from scratch) some which are Debian based (like Ubuntu) - meaning they use the Debian way of defining a package, identifying the per-requisites, and installing it.  People often refer to "apt-get",as the package installer but that's rather old and aptitude is the more up to date replacement, or synaptics which is a giu version of aptitude (aptitude is semigraphical, but runs in a terminal). I've even worked my way through Linux from scratch, building a system from the ground up, but I always came to the conclusion that it was more trouble than its worth.

That said, and to refer to the first post of this thread - one you have the basic system in place - which boots and loads up and has the applications you want - Linux is a pretty common environment across all Distros.  The main differences are the choice and Desktop environments - the two heavyweights GNOME and KDE, and the lighter weight such as LDXE, XFCE etc etc.

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:49 pm

PhilS said:


USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?


/home is a stupid idea, because you cannot umount while you are logged in, and /usr is also a stupid idea because /usr carries system binaries und system data.

Jaseman
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:08 pm

foobar said:


PhilS said:


USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?

/home is a stupid idea, because you cannot umount while you are logged in, and /usr is also a stupid idea because /usr carries system binaries und system data.



I think it's a counter-productive comment.  Understand that the question came from somebody that knows nothing about Linux or the purpose of those folders.

Let's encourage people to have a go, not mock them.  Unfortunately any useful information you may have given will be overshadowed for that guy.  When he reads it, he will just see 'What a stupid idea from a stupid person!'.

Exactly the sort of arrogant reply I spoke about on another thread.

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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:29 pm

foobar said:


PhilS said:


USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?

/home is a stupid idea, because you cannot umount while you are logged in, and /usr is also a stupid idea because /usr carries system binaries und system data.


Unmounting while logged in isn't an issue, the question was to be able to retain data between SD cards.

I'm not a seasoned Linux veteran but I know my university mounts our /home from a file server, and they've recently changed from Fedora to Ubuntu without modifying my files.

CookieMonster
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:48 pm

foobar said:


PhilS said:


USB stick mounted as /home or /usr? I think that'"d work wouldn"t it?

/home is a stupid idea, because you cannot umount while you are logged in, and /usr is also a stupid idea because /usr carries system binaries und system data.


Dude, that is

1) Harsh

2) Unhelpful (what would you suggest?)

3) Irrelevant (you can log out users, unmount /home, pop the USB and swap it)

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liz
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Re: Fragmentation

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:55 pm

There will be an officially recommended distro, which I can't name because there are still some bits of paper that need signing - I can hint about things you might wear on your head that are not blue, though. A standard platform is absolutely necessary for people building learning materials.

However, Raspberry Pi is just a Linux box. You're encouraged to use (and to port) whatever your favourite flavour is.
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Jaseman
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Re: Fragmentation

Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:17 am

It's not a very subtle clue there Liz, but then it could be a bluff



Goodnight!

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liz
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Re: Fragmentation

Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:28 am

OrangeTurban Linux. It's the new rock and roll.
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