FLOSS Is The Right Way

“a lot of children had never had any examples of programming. They’d used a computer, but in fact the computer had used them. They knew how a mouse worked, they knew how to save a spreadsheet, they knew how to load an XBOX game, but they didn’t necessarily know anything else about computing”I’ve seen this repeatedly, a classroom full of students who “knew how to use PCs” but had no idea how fast they were or of what PCs are capable. I demonstrated a few simple programmes in PASCAL to show them how fast the maths was. Even on decade old machines, hundreds of millions of FLOPS happen. These are computers that are sluggish under the bloat of M$’s software. Put on lean software like GNU/Linux and they fly.

I let them read the GPL and the EULA.txt and jaws dropped. They had no idea that their use of PCs was handicapped by non-Free software. I showed them the power they had with a bit of knowledge of FLOSS, and a screwdriver. They were liberated from needing to depend on the Wintel treadmill and Wintel itself for all aspects of their IT. A decade ago, it seemed every way forward for FLOSS was uphill because of the lock-in. Now young people can buy a small cheap computer with Android/Linux and “root” it and presto! they are free of the Wintel treadmill forever. A billion people have seen the light and it’s possible another billion or more will go to FLOSS this year alone. The world is just beginning this explosive migration away from non-Free software.

See Friends record their call to arms for open source!.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in Linux in Education, Teaching, technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to FLOSS Is The Right Way

  1. oiaohm says:

    Link1: http://scratch.mit.edu/discuss/topic/38970/
    Link2: http://flex.apache.org/dev-faq.html
    Link3: https://code.google.com/p/blockly/
    DrLoser as normal under researched. Scratch 2.0 in fact depends on Apache Flex that then depends on Adobe Air.

    Interesting is link2 Apache Flex is getting able to rebuild more and more flex applications into html5 and JavaScript no air required.

    Mind you flex is a step up from using squeak for portability on one hand and a step back on the other.

    It is really interesting when you look at lots of Adobe Air applications. A lot are in fact Flex applications. Result is Adobe Air life span is limited. Interesting enough Adobe Air is 32 and 64 bit. Scratch 2.0 is only 32 bit on Windows and Mac as well. That is a true issue what is wrong with its platform portability causing that issue.

    Only some versions of Linux is required as a disclaimer. Like air is not provided for arm processors under a normal Linux. So no running in a RPI.

    I would normally recommend link:3 blocky over using scratch. Python and Javascript export beats Air export. Particularly when you join it up with phonegap. Yes blocky is standard alone html5 and javascript so you can stuff it inside phonegap and have it run on phones without internet today without waiting for scratch 2 to have flex fixed up behind it.

    Syntax Blocky and Scratch are both the very much the same both a descendants from the same MIT project.

  2. oe wrote, “branching, assignment, iteration, I/O”.

    Yep. PASCAL even omits the I/O… ;-). You get to call a library routine for that high-level stuff. But yes, if you can’t break down some operation into such basics, you have no hope of writing software at any level. When you’ve mastered the basics, move on to libraries and packages of libraries to avoid reinventing the wheel. I was really amused in one province to find out that calling subroutines was considered high level stuff. They left it to the third year of computer science. I introduced my students to it in the first day. No one said I couldn’t. In fact, I pointed out to the principal that the curriculum recommended teaching up to five modules in parallel. Doing so got the students to writing useful software on the first or second week, a much more paedagogically sound approach, motivationally speaking.

  3. dougman says:

    Hey Bing-A-Ling,

    Software and hardware go hand in hand, the right must know what the left is doing and vice versa.

    When you look at the first Apple computer you see a prototype hardware mechanism paired with custom software. Same with Google and it’s stripped servers, etc.

    Go bark up another tree with your nitpicking.

  4. oe says:

    For educational computing I have been convinced FLOSS is the best way to go. 1) most FOSS OS’es come packed to gills with your choice of IDE’s, graphical & numerical libraries, compiler/interpreters, and syntax tools across many standard languages; pick your poison C, C++, Pascal, BASIC, FORTH, fortan, python, css, perl, java, ruby, lisp, smalltalk, forth, octave, ….you name it it’s probably in package manager repositories. It’s always best to teach the general theory and to open standards; if all they get from the employer later is Excel w/ VBA it’s easier to pare down their expectations than grow up on undocumented, unauditable, non-standards compliant and grasp the power of these general purpose tools. If you have the fundamental statements covered (branching, assignment, iteration, I/O) your good. FOSS teaches them how to learn, the really smart ones won’t be bound by artificial barriers and will pull the slower ones along with them.

  5. DrLoser says:

    I’m not quite sure where a screwdriver comes in, Robert. To the best of my knowledge, it is entirely orthogonal to software of any kind and has no relationship to programming of any kind, either FLOSS or proprietary.

    Anyway, to your cite. Do you ever actually read these things?

    You can install the Scratch 2.0 editor to work on projects without an internet connection. This version will work on Mac, Windows, and some versions of Linux (32 bit).

    (My emphasis.) Not only that, but it is dependent on Adobe Air. And I know how fond you are (not) of Adobe.

    Not only that, but it’s not a programming language in any sense of the phrase. I’d sum it up as a toy animation editor. Not a very good one at that. And furthermore, one that has a set of “controls” that only the brightest of 8 or 9 year olds could use. Change X by? Set Y to? Glide N secs (yes, eight year olds are expected to understand abbreviations) to x:0 y:0?

    This thing is beyond valueless. It will actually put kids off anything along the lines of IT development.

    It’s so completely awful that they might even turn to Pascal in despair …

Leave a Reply