[Edu-sig] More OLPC chatter

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Jun 30 00:29:40 CEST 2007

Here's a floating email fragment

>Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 20:54:09 -0400
>From: "Walter Bender" <walter.bender at ...>
>Subject: OLPC software: our first release and beyond.
>To: "OLPC Devel" <devel at ...>, sugar at ...

>One important feature where we have made little progress is the View
>Source key. We decided to build the user experience?and the core
>Activity base?in Python, in large part, to facilitate the children's
>direct access to modifiable code. We are moving to the latest stable
>version of Python as part of our Fedora Core 7 migration; however, we
>have yet to put enough resources into building a suitable development
>environment for children. This remains an important goal, but not one
>we can reasonably meet for our first release. The incorporation of the
>context-sensitive spirit of "view source" into all Activities is
>another area where we lag. Bolstering these efforts is second only to
>stabilizing the current system. We look forward to the possibility of
>Guido van Rossum, Python's creator, leading these efforts in the fall.

Always interesting to see where some people are hoping to invest
some of our BDFL's precious clock cycles...

Stepping back for a moment, one has to realize this is a different
shop talk, as we typically look at source code as text files, modifiable
yes, but not while running as binaries, which are different files entirely,
derived from said text files by various processes.

Some of this text is expressed in pure Python, but a lot of what
*runs* under Python in modular form is actually written in something
else, as is Python itself.  A whole different text editor might be more
appropriate in that case, or at least different plug-ins (the Eclipse model).

The trend is to target a shared VM and play freely with other language
communities, swapping whatever works in inter-pluggable arrangements.

One way around this shortcoming of Sugar's is to suggest that once
kids are mature enough to eyeball the kind of convoluted source
code required to keep the likes of Sugar alive, it might be time to
transition to a more standard model laptop that doesn't push the
bleeding edge so hard.

Adults need to focus on stable developer environments like Wing's
or whatever (or like IDLE for starters).  So at your bat mitzvah or
other ceremony, you maybe trade in your much loved OLPC XO
(and your teddy bear), and move up to something more expensive,
with a more traditional source code treatment (anyone ready for
C yet?).

Or just start using more of those legacy TuxLab desktops, running
a variety of distros (Ubuntu Studio might draw some kids, more
because they want to study graphical arts than they want to do
lexical programming).

Basically, I'm somewhat Kusasian in outlook:  go with immersive up
to a point, then take a break and study some classic combos e.g.
emacs + bash + gcc.  Drop all the way down to machine language
even, coming up through MMIX enroute to Python Part Deux (or
"snake guts revisited").[1]  At some Coming of Age level, we no longer
want to shield kids from the messy reality of *no* single governing
paradigm at all levels and the old immersive environment turns out
to be one fish tank among many.

In retrospect, those early experiences with special namespaces
for children will remain a comfort (we hope), and some will elect
to professionally teach them to a next generation, and/or invent
new ones (already the case, so a next iteration).


[1]  http://worldgame.blogspot.com/2007/06/techie-chatter.html

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