Squeak, Scratch and Etoys on Ubuntu and Maemo

When my older daughters were young, I told them they could play any game on the computer that they could write. While I did not make this a strict hard and fast rule, we did take it somewhat seriously at it helped establish a more creative approach to the use of computer games.

Back then, I had them programming in Logo. Now, my youngest daughter has asked for a Nintendo DS and a cellphone for Christmas. I’ve told her the same thing about writing her own programs, so today, we spent a bit of time working in Scratch on her Ubuntu based laptop.

For some background: Scratch:

is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.

As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.

It runs nicely on just about every platform, and I’ve been running it on Ubuntu as well as on my Nokia N900 cellphone for some time.

I started my daughter off with simple logo type program commands. Soon, she was drawing triangles, squares, hexagons, circles, and designs that I used to create with a spirograph when I was a kid.

We moved on to exploring a few other bits of programming and hit a few walls. The sound wasn’t working and some of the simple commands did not seem to do anything, so I figured maybe it is time to make sure that everything is up to date.

Scratch runs in a Squeak virtual machine. “Squeak is a highly portable, open-source Smalltalk with powerful multimedia facilities.” I had been running Squeak 3.9 on my various machines, and Squeak 4.1 is now out. So, I’ve started my upgrade to Squeak 4.1.

There is a good blog post on upgrading Squeak on Ubuntu machines that I used as my guide. In my case I downloaded the deb file and installed it that way on my Ubuntu machines. However, the debian package page suggested adding the repository to apt/sources.list.

I figured maybe I would try this for my N900, however, after adding the repository containing squeak, the update manager asked if I wanted to update just about every package on my system, including Ruby, Python, gstreamer and who knows what else. So, I backed out of that upgrade.

Trying to install just the package, it told me that I needed at least libc6 2.7 and libuuid1 2.16 as well as a few other packages. So, I didn’t install it and stayed with the older version of Squeak on my N900. I did rebuild that version, as well as make some attempts at building a newer version of Squeak, but ran into difficulties, so I’m saving that for a later blog post.

On the Ubuntu laptops, the upgrade went smoothly and I then followed Getting Squeak 4.1 on Ubuntu to upgrade to the latest version. This also went very smoothly on both machines.

Yet this did not solve the problems, so I downloaded the latest Scratch image. This runs nicely on all my machines and has solved all the outstanding issues on Ubuntu. The N900 install will probably take a bit more work.

More soon...

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