[Edu-sig] Tips for wandering faculty

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Apr 26 19:36:21 CEST 2006

By wandering faculty, I mean you're invited to gigs in a room you
don't control and maybe have never seen before -- my situation rather
often.  A lab tech has likely installed Python ahead of time, but in a
lab situation, there's always the question of rights, especially write
rights.  The typical thing is to not know or care about
/site-packages, and so to have no writable access to *any* disk space
on the default Python path.  Your mileage may vary.

We have several ways of addressing this situation, both from within
the bash shell (if using Linux or maybe OS X) or from within Windows. 
To keep things Pythonic, I mix the subject of namespaces, essential
early Python, with the example of sys, and sys.path in particular. 
Here's an importable resource you're able to append to, meaning
whatever home directory you *can* write to is appendable to sys.path
per this session.  And that's a good thing.  Plus it reinforces the
core concept:  import menagerie as zoo and/or from zoo import Dog,
Monkey, Human.  Many side bar topics also feature (including escape
characters, if you want to stick with Windows backslash notation -- I
have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, as Python is quite willing to use
forward slashes even on Windows).

I like this segment for another reason:  unlike some educators, I have
no interest in "shielding" my students from the gross reality of some
hunkering OS, complete with kernel, GUI resources and whathaveyou.

Yes, a Linux system is huge and complicated.  No, I don't favor
"insulating" students from that hugeness, by constructing some dream
world atop it and inside it, but unaware of it.  This whole idea that
we must "protect" students from this context is an anathema to me, as
it's hypocritical.  The people who *build* your pseudo or virtual
reality need to know about these underlayers, these pipeworks and
clockworks.  Their not wanting to clue you in is a sign they're not
treating you as a peer, but as a rat in some maze of their own

It may sound like I'm taking aim at Squeak here, but I'm not really.

Squeak provides a more open source world that goes almost to the chip,
just like Linux.  You have access to the source code if you want it,
down to where SmallTalk meets C, at which point there's not a lot to
see (others have commented on this piece -- what Python might stand to
gain from once the intended meetings happen in the Bay Area).

More I'm taking aim at curricula which haven't discussed the file tree
by the time we're dealing with 15 year olds.  If you're already 15,
and have no access to a bash shell, or the concepts of hard disk and
filesystem, then IF you're actually using a hard drive with a file
system, you're being ripped off, big time.  Time to shop for a smarter
set of teachers.  Learn about partitions, standard trees and variants,
search paths, config files.  Don't let them hide that stuff behind a


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