TheManWhoWas
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:57 pm

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.

Fast forward 30 years and there are no ZX81s. If you want to learn to program you have to start on a PC, Mac or Linux machine - straight in at the deep end! And Linux is the scariest of them all; the one for the hardcore, as the threads on the discussion board show.

And yet that is what the Raspberry Pi will be running. This doesn't sound like a gentle introduction to the world of programming. Why should school kids get going on such a device if they can't get going on the PCs they already have?

Isn't the fundamental issue a lack of simple programming environments and training courses rather then lack of cheap hardware e.g. something more like the RobotC Virtual World stuff that Carnegie Mellon are producing?

Or are such things in the pipeline for Raspberry Pi?

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:07 pm

Linux with a fixed hardware setup and SD-card images isn't scary.

And Python I'm sure will be on all these images. I only use Python within Blender - maybe slightly odd experience. But its easier than those early BASIC's.

JamieR
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:10 pm

I'd love to learn programmeing but it's not easy to get into. I have no idea where to start. I love to make a super simple RPG game thats my future goal but where do you start.

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:19 pm

JamieR said:


I'd love to learn programmeing but it's not easy to get into. I have no idea where to start. I love to make a super simple RPG game thats my future goal but where do you start.


There are a number of resources here and the Python programming language to download. The resources are free but you also need the rights to install programs on your computer. Starting is easy.

http://wiki.python.org/moin/Be.....rogrammers

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rurwin
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:23 pm

Maybe the world needs software. Feel free to provide it. The Foundation is providing hardware. Someone else is providing some educational materials to go along with it, but that is not what you mean.

You are welcome to your opinion though, and nobody is forcing you to buy a Raspberry Pi.

Here's my opinion:

The Raspberry Pi could be the new ZX81 or BBC Micro. It would require a big buy-in by schools before it achieves critical mass, but it could happen. If it doesn't then we just get a nice bit of kit for teaching computing and a fantastic bit of kit for hobbyists.

Linux is no more scary than a ZX81 was. It doesn't boot into BASIC, but it provides Python, and kids today know about files and stuff, so the learning curves are comparable. Linux can be simpler than Windows, because a lot of it can be stripped out. The RaspPi does not need to ship with mail servers and word processors and all the junk that takes ages to understand and administer. It can be almost as simple as type in a program and type run.

A while ago some friends of mine wanted me to reinstall XP because their PC was full to the brim with downloaded toolbars and malware, but they had lost the XP disk that I had bought them out of my own pocket. So I installed Linux Mint. These are absolutely standard facebook-and-email near computer-illiterate people. It lasted for a month or two with no complaints. The only reason they got another friend to install XP was that they could not run their PC games on it. And that's a full Linux system, not a stripped down one like the RaspPi will be.

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abishur
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:23 pm

Actually that's a very common misconception.  Somehow Linux has gotten the reputation as being the domain of the suspender wearing, neck beard sporting, coke bottle glass vision IT guru and therefore is not acceptable for the common man!  But this simply isn't the case... okay so it heavily used by IT gurus, but not because it's inaccessible for the common man, but because of how powerful it can be.

I mean I can do things on windows that would make the average user's head spin, but that doesn't mean my five year old nephew can't sit down and easily play a game of minesweeper!

Adding to this is the fact that they're providing two flavors of linux (is it still two?  I think it is... three if you count XBMC I guess) that you can download for free that will 100% work with all the necessary hardware straight out of the box!

Plus when you consider the fact that the goal is to provide students who haven't had access to a computer ever with a computer of their own that means that the first environment they'll be introduced to is Linux which will make the integration process that much easier.
Dear forum: Play nice ;-)

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abishur
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:27 pm

rurwin said:

 And that's a full Linux system, not a stripped down one like the RaspPi will be.

Actually, the R-pi will be a full linux system as well.  The only difference is that you need to be conscious of using overly bloated, memory hog programs.  So you use LXDE instead of KDE, and a better web browser than firefox or IE or even chrome, but you still have full access to the media richness of the web.  Not stripped down at all
Dear forum: Play nice ;-)

TheManWhoWas
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:47 pm

Just to be clear, I'm not having a go at Linux and I'm sure the distros supplied will work perfectly. But I don't really see how it helps people like JamieR get started with programming anymore than installing Python on a PC or reformatting his laptop to run Linux would.

As far as I can see, kids have plenty of access to hardware nowadays, and schools are stuffed with computers, but there is no easy intro for youngsters wanting to get into programming. They just don't know where to start.

So the problem is more software related than hardware IMO.

toxibunny
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:55 pm

"Linux with a fixed hardware setup and SD-card images isn't scary."

This. 100x this. And I f*#ing hate linux...
note: I may or may not know what I'm talking about...

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liz
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:58 pm

This is exactly why we're releasing into the hacker community before the big educational release, which will be later in the year. We only make the hardware; the software stack needs populating, and it's the folks who make up this community who are working hard at doing that. You may have seen already that Scratch and KidsRuby are running; there's a bunch more kid-centric stuff in development at the moment. We need to get boards out into the hands of the developers, though, which is what this first phase is all about.

There are five publishers working on books that I'm aware of at the moment, and you can actually take part in Computing at School's documentation if you give them a shout and offer to help. There's a huge amount of software work going on; we're not publicising any of these things until the writers/engineers/developers give us an explicit go-ahead, because we do not want to create undue pressure on them. So while it may appear that there's not much going on from the outside, I can assure you that there will be lots (and lots, and lots) of material for kids, parents and teachers once we come to the educational launch.
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JamieR
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:04 pm

Alchemy said:


JamieR said:


I'd love to learn programmeing but it's not easy to get into. I have no idea where to start. I love to make a super simple RPG game thats my future goal but where do you start.


There are a number of resources here and the Python programming language to download. The resources are free but you also need the rights to install programs on your computer. Starting is easy.

http://wiki.python.org/moin/Be.....rogrammers



Thanks for the link im looking into it now hope its easy for me im a slow learner.

toxibunny
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:12 pm

I'll tell you my story - I want to learn to program in python, pygame, and eventually a bit of openGL type stuff. My WinXP box is full of cruft to start with, and needs a reinstall, but I've got installs of python 3.2 and 2.7, as well as other bits and pieces.

Not much works. Why not? I don't know. Maybe it's my openGL. Maybe it's something to do with my hardware. Maybe it's some sort of windows DLL thing, who knows... I can get some very basic python stuff done, and a bit of pygame, but only half of the PyQt demos work, when I copy+paste demo scripts I get errors, no matter which version I use... The whole thing is a mess.

So I tried to install debian linux onto a USB stick. Spent all day yesterday - it didn't work. Something to do with GRUB. Debian IRC channel couldn't help.

Installed puppy linux instead. Puppy linux runs python, and Qt, but not pygame or pyqt. Seriously wanted to smash something.

The problem is not that there was a hardware problem with my PC, it's because PCs are very complicated, they aren't standard hardware, or software really, and they're kindof a hassle to reinstall - nothing like swapping an SD card, anyway...

I *imagine* that with the Raspi, seeing that the hardware is standard, a specific linux distribution is going to be 'standard', the team are pushing python, the Qt people are Pi fans, and we have an eager bunch of enthusiasts (a significant number of which are super-tech-competent), that both initial setup, use, and troubleshooting are going to be a far nicer experience...
note: I may or may not know what I'm talking about...

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:14 pm

These video tutorials from Liam are also very good.

http://www.raspberrypi.org/for.....-tutorials

adlambert

Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:17 pm

It's very normal for the linux community to be in denial about the inscrutability of linux OS. To suggest that it is not totally user friendly will usually draw anecdotes about how they installed in on this relative or that friends PC and they never looked back etc. But the real truth is that straight up linux requires some familiarity with geekdom and that is going to put off a lot of the XBOX generation before they even get started. If this idea is going to hook a lot of new programmers, then it will need to deliver Hello World and beyond right on to the doorsteps of its intended targets. SUDO, tarballs and source code compiling is not going to cut it in the same way that the early ZXes did. Not when there are other paths of less resistance to a goal, and home computers are not a novelty any more. Raspberry Pi board is only one piece of the jigsaw.

> gh

Syntax Error.

>

Sonofagunn
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:17 pm

It looks too complicated to me - yet I am very excited at the possibilities here.

How will the zillions of instructions, details, and acronyms ever make sense to my son and I? I looked at the Python Beginner's guide, but you must be joking. The beginners learning to program page requires programmer level knowledge!!! Version 2 or version 3?

Is there a basic manual in the works? How to get a screen, a keyboard & a browser to operate?

I would love to jump into this with my son and discover programming. I am afraid that we will not be able to get past go without already knowing how to program.

If you are aiming this at children, perhaps a child who has no knowledge of programming should be enlisted to write a basic operating manual?

Perhaps I am "jumping the gun" and looking for a solution before the device is on sale. Hopefully the earlies will continue to help develop necessary resources.

Congratulations to everyone involved for a tremendous effort to bring forth the Pi.

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liz
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:21 pm

Sonofagunn said:



Is there a basic manual in the works? How to get a screen, a keyboard & a browser to operate?


Yes, there are several - see my response above!
Director of Communications, Raspberry Pi

andyl
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:46 pm

Firstly we don't know if the standard distribution on the Pi is going to put the user at a login prompt on a text console or at a graphical X login.

If the latter it should be straightforward for people - the metaphor is exactly the same as other GUI OSes.

If the former then you do not need a vast knowledge of how to get going.  About a dozen commands and how to start X would be enough.  I imagine that could all fit on a single side of A4.

There should be no need to sudo, no need to untar and feather archives, to compile packages from source in order to get started.

To get to a programming interface where you can try out simple statements - you just type python.  I am sure there will be a standard installed IDE.  But if not running X then instructions on how to use a specific editor (and I am sure there will be a reasonably easy editor installed) will not be that big either.

BTW - for the person who said that the Beginner's Python tutorial was a bit too complex - this may be because it was aimed at beginners to python rather than beginners to programming.  I would recommend http://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/ for complete beginners.  Apart from assuming that you will have gedit (in reality any text editor will do), it is remarkably clear and is what I will be using to teach my nephew.

macemoneta
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 1:24 am

To learn python programming it might be easier to use the Khan Academy videos, since these are actually used in schools:

http://www.khanacademy.org/

Scroll down to the section:


Computer Science



Introduction to programming and computer science


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fos
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:40 am

Several years ago, I taught a course called Far Out Science to a bunch of middle school students. I included any kind of "science" that was fun from astronomy to robotics. I had a couple of donated IBM 486 vintage computers that no longer worked. I re-formatted the hard drives and installed Debian GNU/Linux. I had them boot into a command line. Each of the students had their own login. I showed them how to login and then gave them a list of commands and a few text based games to play. Many wanted graphics and were disappointed. Others were interested.

Bottom line: at least three went on into some sort of information technology field. One graduated with an IT degree from Texas Tech last December. He is off to Hollywood hoping to make it in video production.

For some, all it takes is a spark and a way to kindle it.

PS. Do any of you remember how heavy and robust the early IBM PCs were. They were built like tanks!

PPS. I really like Learn Python the Hard Way
https://faroutscience.com

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johnbeetem
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:25 am

adlambert said:


It's very normal for the linux community to be in denial about the inscrutability of linux OS.  To suggest that it is not totally user friendly will usually draw anecdotes about ...  But the real truth is that straight up linux requires some familiarity...



One of my favorite quotes:


Unix is user friendly.  It just chooses its friends carefully.


I suppose I should be fussy and point out that most RasPi users won't even see Linux.  They'll see GNU, which runs on top of the Linux kernel.  Most Android users don't see their Linux layers either.

error404
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:26 am

John Beetem said:


I suppose I should be fussy and point out that most RasPi users won"t even see Linux.  They"ll see GNU, which runs on top of the Linux kernel.  Most Android users don"t see their Linux layers either.


I doubt that they will even see GNU, if the "users" we"re talking about ones that are afraid to learn a new operating system. They"ll see LXDE or OpenBox or something. Though I don"t think that class of user is really who the Pi is targeted at in the first place.

If the learning curve of Linux (which these days is not much different than any other OS) were really a serious problem to the goals of the project, we wouldn"t have computers to type on this forum today. The equipment and software of the past was far more difficult to use than the Pi will be, yet it was still hugely influential and successful and inspired millions to develop the more refined stuff we"re using right now.

Simple is boring. Instead what is important is discoverability. If the goal were just to make a cheap computer to browse the web, well it'd still be using Linux, but the goals would be entirely different. Keeping it a bit raw and exposed keeps it interesting, inspiring and limitless.

Finally, those machines of the 80s were the deep end. The deep abstractions we have today are definitely the shallow end. Today's programming languages are more usable, more descriptive, far more capable, easier to debug... I could go on. It's arguable whether that makes them better for teaching, but it's definitely easier to write any program in Python than it is in BASIC - especially for a neophyte.

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rurwin
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:27 am

Sonofagunn said:

I looked at the Python Beginner's guide, but you must be joking. The beginners learning to program page requires programmer level knowledge!!!
Take a look at the tutorial instead. It's much better as an introduction.

Alchemy
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:27 am

fos said:


PS. Do any of you remember how heavy and robust the early IBM PCs were. They were built like tanks!



They were built like tanks. I remember going for a job interview as a student late 80's at IBM Hursley park. They had 50m domes in which a poor computer was put in a single sand bagged area and then microwaved to destruction or some other torture. Lots of military style tests for home PC's.

The passion has to come from making things. Programming lets you make things without constantly purchasing materials. And if you try something outside the norm you will be the only person to have that technology. I love the "no one else" has seen this feeling.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:48 am

rurwin said:


Here's my opinion:

The Raspberry Pi could be the new ZX81 or BBC Micro. It would require a big buy-in by schools before it achieves critical mass, but it could happen. If it doesn't then we just get a nice bit of kit for teaching computing and a fantastic bit of kit for hobbyists.


I think you're missing out an important extra sector here: Small technical-based businesses will I suspect actively pick up on the Pi, especially for field applications where there's not much electrical power available, even if the educational take-up is less than perfect. The availability of a low-power (hopefully as low as 1W), ridiculously affordable and widely supported (eg by forums/communities such as this) computer is potentially ground-breaking. It's not that the technology hasn't been available before but you've often needed to be a relatively large company to take easy advantage of it (because of the order volumes needed and other factors).

Provided the Pi hardware turns out to be robust (which I've no reason to doubt, but the proof of the pudding...) and that ways can be found to make it robust in the field (a good but not disproportionately costly case, ideally weatherproof) and/or potting, then I can see a lot of potential take-up by the higher-tech start-up businesses. If their products are successful then this will translate into demand. Certainly I can see opportunities here for my own sector of automatic weather stations - the Pi may make easily possible applications which are marginal with current alternatives.

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pedley
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:30 am

Ok so first is linux too complicated well my 7 year old has been using it for 3 years her comment when she came back from using a pc the first time at school was daddy why arnt the computers at school as easy to use as mine

Second learning to program me I learnt on a spectrum too I learnt by buying magazines full of examples programmers typing them in finding they didn"t work and hunting down the bugs. It didn"t have anything to do with theease of machine, I am currently learning python my self in order to teach it at school how am I doing this. I am getting piles of good well documented examples of code from all over then net running them seeing what they do. Reading the code and comments, exactly like I did spectrum basic.

The rpi gets a cheap machine that isnt used by their parents for work and email and internet and so doesn"t matter if their program means they need to reinstall it, into the hands of kids. What we now need to do is give them the information to play around with in the same way those magazines did with me.

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