[Sugar-devel] Minor update to Make Your Own Sugar Activities!

Tony Anderson tony_anderson at usa.net
Thu Mar 16 22:33:17 EDT 2017


I did look at the activity. However, I think there is immense value in 
introducing learners to the Terminal activity and the nano text editor. 
Through the shell, Sugar users have access to the file system and to all 
of the power of the Unix programming environment.

At the moment the tutorial shows learners how to run their program as a 
shell command (hello.py as hello in /usr/local/bin). It doesn't show how 
to interpret options and arguments, but that might be very instructive 
to develop understanding of how command line programs work. Probably, 
the tutorial should discuss pipes and how they work with programs 
implemented as filters. I still have the book - Kernighan and Pike, Unix 
Programming Environment.

When James and I started programming, constructive learning (called 
on-the-job training) was the only way to learn to program. He is 
absolutely correct - in that era you learned to write the complete 
program. I still remember that IBM 1401 programs started at memory 
location 333 (after the last position used by the printer). Our notion 
of an IDE was to have the card punch near the computer (as I recall, a 
standard tray held 2000 punched cards).

There were libraries (punched card decks that could be added to 
programs) and own code procedures you could add to another program (e.g. 
a custom sort routine). There was even version control in punched cards 
(coding in cols 73-80) that enabled patches to be placed after a card 
deck that would overlay the earlier code at load time.

Later, risc proponents were aghast that the Intel architecture segmented 
memory in 64kb segments, when at that time (8080) that was larger than 
the typical installed memory. The 64 in the Commodore 64 highlighted a 
design flaw in the Apple II that limited its memory capacity to 48kb. 
Apple's architects at the time couldn't imagine a personal computer with 
that much memory.

I fondly remember mentoring a middle-school student who was programming 
the IBM 1620, a decimal machine. His only reference was the IBM system 
manual. So he programmed in machine language. I obtained an Assembler 
manual (Autocoder), but he was happy to continue programming with 
absolute addresses. One day he came with a problem. He had gotten an 
error: out of memory.  What to do - he then learned about overlays - the 
technique of the day. But how to you introduce overlays to a program 
written on punch cards using absolute addresses and machine language? 
Game over.

In his book James talks about virtual memory beginning with the System 
360. I would rather refer back to RPG on the 1401 which was an emulator 
for the IBM tab machines (IBM 407). It was often claimed that most of 
the cycles on the System 360 were used running RPG programs written to 
emulate tab programs (implemented by wires on a punchboard). This is an 
historical forerunner to our current effort to rewrite Sugar activities 
in javascript.


On 03/16/2017 11:24 PM, James Simmons wrote:
> Gonzalo,
> I looked at it maybe two years ago. I still lurk on the mailing lists 
> for this project but I'm not actively developing anything, so my 
> opinions may have passed their sell by date.
> James Simmons
> On Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 6:33 AM, Gonzalo Odiard <godiard at gmail.com 
> <mailto:godiard at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Have you tried Develop activity?
>     http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4058
>     <http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4058>
>     On Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 12:32 AM, Tony Anderson
>     <tony_anderson at usa.net <mailto:tony_anderson at usa.net>> wrote:
>         James,
>         Sugar now provides in the Journal a link to the Documents
>         directory. This, of course, has the problem that the display
>         does not show subdirectories. I have toyed with the idea of
>         having the tutorials use Sugar Commander and the excellent
>         gedit activity instead of the shell and nano. However, at the
>         end I believe that the Terminal activity is simple to use and
>         that learners should become familiar with the file system
>         through shell commands. The nano editor is easy to use.
>         I think that a second round of tutorials introducing Sugar
>         Commander, gedit, and git could be introduced for learners
>         already familiar with shell commands and nano.
>         Tony
>         On 03/15/2017 10:49 PM, James Simmons wrote:
>>         Tony,
>>         I own an XO laptop from the first Give One Get One promotion,
>>         so I know what it can do. I've used the Terminal Activity and
>>         I wrote the Sugar Commander Activity because I thought that
>>         the original design of Sugar, which made your thumb drive
>>         look like the Journal, was not such a hot idea. In my opinion
>>         files and directories should look like files and directories
>>         and the Journal should look like the Journal. I know that
>>         some of the newer XO's can switch to a GNOME desktop.
>>         I never tried developing Activities on an XO because I never
>>         had to. It is definitely easier to do things the way I do it,
>>         and for someone living in the U.S. with reliable internet
>>         it's pretty cheap. I agree that this is not the case for all
>>         the students, or even most of them. It's a case of "to those
>>         who have, more shall be given."
>>         I had the same situation when I wrote /E-Book Enlightenment/.
>>         Free e-books in English are plentiful, other languages not so
>>         much. I had to write chapters on making e-books, figuring out
>>         what is in the public domain, photographing book pages,
>>         building a device to hold books in place for being
>>         photographed, doing optical character recognition, donating
>>         books to PG and archive.org <http://archive.org>, etc.
>>         Maybe MYOSA needs a chapter on using the XO for developing
>>         applications, installing Git and using it locally, etc. My
>>         own XO has been in a drawer for a couple of years.
>>         James Simmons
>>         On Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 12:46 AM, Tony Anderson
>>         <tony_anderson at usa.net <mailto:tony_anderson at usa.net>> wrote:
>>             Hi, James
>>             If you go to activities.sugarlabs.org
>>             <http://activities.sugarlabs.org>, you can register via
>>             the register link at the top right. This is not
>>             registration for Sugarlabs but for ASLO.
>>             As I understand the github repository, access with the
>>             ability to commit changes is closely held. The enables
>>             proposed changes to be vetted before a commit.
>>             However, the web page has a sign in link which gives
>>             limited access (create pull requests and comment on them,
>>             for example). That same two-step process is used for
>>             ASLO. The developer submits the change which puts it into
>>             a sandbox pending review.
>>             Actually Sugar has files, directories and a command shell
>>             (Terminal activity). It is relatively easy to switch
>>             activities via the Frame. I say this from several years
>>             of experience developing on the XO (easier than using usb
>>             flash keys to move code to the XO to test). The fact that
>>             Browse does not support flex and the unique XO screen
>>             makes testing on an XO essential if that is the target.
>>             The process of making changes via github to the Sugar
>>             core is certainly reasonable. However, nothing in this
>>             procedure interferes with a developer modifying and
>>             testing a change on an installed Sugar independently of
>>             the internet. Access to the internet being needed only to
>>             submit the change.
>>             The issue is not to use Sugar for everything, it is to
>>             use the available computer for everything (XO). In
>>             general, the XO is the first computer our users have used
>>             and, aside from an Android device, the only computer
>>             available. While used desktops and laptops are available,
>>             the $100+ funds are not available.
>>             The 'current setup' you mention depends on ready access
>>             to the internet, something not available for at least 2/3
>>             of our users. It is a strength of Sugar that the source
>>             code is immediately available to the user without need of
>>             a repository (except access to activities not installed -
>>             a need supplied by a schoolserver). This allows learners
>>             to get into programming in a meaningful way using only
>>             what is installed on the XO.
>>             Tony
>>             On 03/14/2017 11:25 PM, James Simmons wrote:
>>>             All,
>>>             I only meant to make the manual actually tell where we
>>>             currently put our code repositories, without rewriting
>>>             the whole chapter. (I had hoped that a Google Code-In
>>>             mentee might do that, but it didn't happen). The one
>>>             piece of information that is still lacking is how to
>>>             have your account added to the sugarlabs organization.
>>>             That happened so long ago that I forgot how it happened.
>>>             If someone could remind me I'll add that information to
>>>             the note.
>>>             I haven't done any Sugar development in years but I do
>>>             program computers for a living and I use Git in my day job.
>>>             Sugar has some good Activities to teach programming, but
>>>             I don't think it is a great Activity development
>>>             platform. For that you really need files and directories
>>>             and a command shell, the ability to run Sugar as more
>>>             than one user at a time, etc.
>>>             I understand the desire to use Sugar for everything, but
>>>             I think it would always get in the way. You wouldn't
>>>             expect to be able to develop an iphone app on an iphone,
>>>             or at least I wouldn't.
>>>             If I wanted to teach Activity development to children
>>>             I'd get some reconditioned desktop computers and install
>>>             Fedora and Sugar on them. I have used nothing but
>>>             reconditioned computers myself for years. It is amazing
>>>             to me what you can get reconditioned on Amazon and
>>>             elsewhere for around a hundred bucks. This is basically
>>>             my price range for a "new" computer, and for that I can
>>>             get a Lenovo or other quality brand with more than
>>>             adequate disk space and memory. These computers are
>>>             built for use in offices and have many years of life
>>>             left in them. In Fedora you can run Sugar as a desktop
>>>             environment as well as in a window. You can hook them up
>>>             to a TV or a projector (something I remember many people
>>>             wanted to do with the XO).
>>>             I don't see ASLO being separate from Git as a problem. I
>>>             think of it like the production environment at work. If
>>>             it's good enough to use it goes on ASLO. If not, it
>>>             stays in Git, but I might push my code to the central
>>>             repository so others could fool around with it.
>>>             Part of teach a child programming should be teaching him
>>>             good work habits, and I think our current setup promotes
>>>             that.
>>>             James Simmons
>>>             On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 9:28 AM, Laura Vargas
>>>             <laura at somosazucar.org <mailto:laura at somosazucar.org>>
>>>             wrote:
>>>                 2017-03-14 7:13 GMT-05:00 Walter Bender
>>>                 <walter.bender at gmail.com
>>>                 <mailto:walter.bender at gmail.com>>:
>>>                     On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 12:45 AM, Tony Anderson
>>>                     <tony_anderson at usa.net
>>>                     <mailto:tony_anderson at usa.net>> wrote:
>>>                         On 03/14/2017 12:03 PM, Alex Perez wrote:
>>>>                         I would think ASLO could simply be made to
>>>>                         inspect the contents of an activity, upon
>>>>                         upload, (since it’s just a zip file), and
>>>>                         look for the necessary string within
>>>>                         activity.info <http://activity.info>, such
>>>>                         that it could be displayed under a
>>>>                         “details” section of an Activity, within ASLO. 
>>>                         What I propose is that the ASLO page have a
>>>                         link to the github repository. See the
>>>                         attached screenshot which shows a link to
>>>                         home page. I would see this link being added
>>>                         here.
>>>                     +1. But that can be done if (1) we include the
>>>                     repo path in the info file and (2) do the work
>>>                     on ALSO to display it (I think alsroot was
>>>                     looking into this).
>>>                 +1 to add the repository link field on ASLO.
>>>                 This is an example where we all agree that something
>>>                 needs to be done.
>>>                 Now, how do you propose we get it done?
>>>                     You proposal has no bearing on where the repo is
>>>                     hosted, as it should not.
>>>                         Tony
>>>                         _______________________________________________
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>>>                         <http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/sugar-devel>
>>>                     -- 
>>>                     Walter Bender
>>>                     Sugar Labs
>>>                     http://www.sugarlabs.org
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>>>                 -- 
>>>                 Laura V.
>>>                 *I&D SomosAZUCAR.Org*
>>>                 “No paradox, no progress.”
>>>                 ~ Niels Bohr
>>>                 Happy Learning!
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