Python for Kids on the Raspberry Pi

10 Jan, 2013

I finally managed to find enough bits-and-pieces to get a Raspberry Pi (borrowed from a friend - thanks Matt!) up and running, in order to test out the code from Python for Kids. A USB charger for an old Nokia phone, a somewhat dodgy-looking USB power adaptor from the bottom of a cobweb-filled box in the back room, a wireless mouse (the base for which had managed to hide itself on the opposite side of the house), a bent network cable (surprisingly still functional), and a powerline adaptor scavenged from the TV. In the end the only thing missing was a USB keyboard, which finally arrived in the mail this morning.

Raspbian menu It looks like all the code works fine, and Python3 is installed by default on the Raspbian operating system, so there's not a lot required to install out of the box. There is one thing to be aware of - do not use the IDLE3 icon which is on the desktop by default (at least not when you're running the graphics code in the book). Instead, go to the Other menu, and choose IDLE (Python 3.2) (click on the screenshot to see what you should be looking for). This runs IDLE in "No subprocess" mode, so modules such as turtle will run correctly.

However, to use GIMP (the graphics program we use in Chapter 15), you will need to install it first:

  1. Make sure your Raspberry Pi is connected to the internet
  2. Open a terminal (select the Other menu, and then LXTerminal)
  3. Update the package list (might not be necessary, but just in case) by entering the following command: sudo apt-get update
  4. Once completed, install GIMP by running this command: sudo apt-get install gimp

After installation, you'll find a new menu option in the Graphics menu: GNU Image Manipulation Program.

That should be all you need to get started with the Raspberry Pi.

Puzzle 1 Solution

01 Jan, 2013

Happy New Year!

The solution to Programming Puzzle 1 has been added to the puzzle page - actually it was updated just before Christmas, but I've been entirely too lazy busy to post about it. ツ

Finding your way

19 Dec, 2012

Google Maps We went to Rome over the weekend. Despite the weather (mild but wet), gelato seemed one of the higher priorities - a task that was more difficult than you might expect, when you want to go to one of the more famous Italian ice cream parlours, and you're relying on the slightly oddly printed tourist maps (with occasional irritatingly positioned advertising boxes). Apple's Maps isn't bad, at a high level, and I like the way it saves prior searches, but in order to see the street names, you need to zoom in far too close to get a good idea of where you're going next (at times).

Giolitti Google Maps doesn't save prior searches (unless you're logged in, I believe), but it offers a number of alternative walking routes (useful for tourist wanderings), and seems to do a better job of highlighting street names. In addition, with data roaming switched off, it didn't stumble after first downloading the maps on Wi-Fi - I don't think Apple Maps was quite as good. I haven't quite dragged it to my front screen to replace Maps yet - but I'm wavering...

Two years of effort

11 Dec, 2012

Python for Kids in box My author copies arrived from No Starch today - the culmination of two years of not-an-inconsequential amount of effort.

If you happen to have ordered a copy, here's hoping it arrives in time to stuff the Christmas stocking.

New Programming Puzzle

09 Dec, 2012

puzzle image A new programming puzzle has been added today. This one is a bit more difficult than the last - the actual solution isn't all that complicated, but it does require a bit of lateral thinking.

Engineering... or programming?

13 Nov, 2012

Are Programmers Engineers?

Scratch the Kindle?

22 Oct, 2012

I had thought that, at some point, I would consider buying a Kindle. If this Boing Boing story proves to be true, I'm not so sure. Certainly, in a feature-by-feature comparison with the competitors, it's something to bear in mind...

Ref #1: Ref #2:

On iOS 6 Maps

23 Sep, 2012

iOS 6 map showing Bangkok streets One interesting thing I've noticed with the new Maps app in iOS 6 is that (unlike Google Maps) there's no longer an English translation for streets in Bangkok (or if there is I haven't found how to switch it on yet). I've tried searching for the common English spellings for some streets and it appears to work - but doesn't seem quite as accurate. And if you don't read Thai, when Maps isn't showing you the correct street, you won't be able to tell anyway. So, much as I like the look of Apple's efforts, I think what I really want is a native Google Maps app, with offline map storage...

Update: although it sounds like perhaps iOS Maps will be better for offline navigation anyway.


04 Aug, 2012

TRS-80 The TRS-80 is the computer that got me started (over 30 years ago). It's funny that even up till now, I hadn't realised that the "TRS" (pretty obviously) stood for Tandy Radio Shack.

Please Don't Call It Trash-80: A 35th Anniversary Salute to Radio Shack's TRS-80

Learning to code?

01 Jun, 2012

Back in 2006, author David Brin lamented the lack of a good way to get kids into programming (Brin's article was actually my impetus to start writing an e-book for teaching small humans to code): Why Johnny can't code.

Compare with the situation now...

John Naughton thinks kids should be taught to code in school. Given what is taught at the moment in UK schools for ICT, this isn't a bad idea: Why Kids Should Be Taught Code.

Dan Rowinski, of ReadWriteWeb, writes about a movement forming in the programming community around the idea of a new standard of literacy: Computer Programming for All: A New Standard of Literacy.

Matthew Murray, of ExtremeTech, has a few doubts, and thinks there needs to be more focus on the basics (imagination, logic, reasoning, and problem solving): Should Kids Learn To Code?

Jeff Atwood (also linked in the RWW article) thinks that you should learn to code for the right reasons, or else focus on more important skills: Please don't learn to code.