No news is … too busy to write anything.

I’ve been busy with buying a car and sorting out a summer holiday to write anything recently but I did manage to find some time to mount my arduino and breadboard onto a piece of perspex last week.  It looks pretty neat and it means that I can wire circuits without everything falling apart.  I plan to stick some wheels and motors (from the printer) on it soon.  I don’t know what kind of battery I’ll need for those motors since they are rated for 18V.  9V (and less) does work but I guess that they’ll drain the batteries pretty quick.

Finding some wheels that will connecting to the motors is going to be fun but I’ll come up with something.

Before then, I’ll use the breadboard and arduino to do some IR tests.  I want to be able to read the codes coming from my iSobot remote control so that I can then use the arduino to program the iSobot more easily.  I know how to do all this, it is just finding the time to do it.

Over the last week, in a bid to get something starting on my tutorials for this blog, I finally settled on a version of GNU/Linux to recommend to new enthusiasts.  I’d recommend, Xubuntu .  I have an old laptop computer (Dell Inspiron 1150) that has 512Mb RAM and 2 Ghz Pentium II.  It is about 5 years old.  I installed a few different distros on it and now it is beginning to creak with the features. Ubuntu has always been easy to install, but it is a ‘friendly’ desktop.  Xubuntu is a very lightweight and fast version of this distro which is why I chose it.

The first additional packages for me to install were b43-fwcutter (because my wireless card doesn’t work otherwise), java runtime (sun-java6-jre) and then installed eric & IDLE (for Python) but maybe Eclipse would be a better alternative.  I ought to grab python-pygame (SDL bindings for Python) also as this is going to be useful for learning to program.  Lastly I grabbed the latest version of Arduino IDE , avr-gcc & avr-libc.

From this I should be able to provide enough information for the Programming of Robots and Video Games.  I said ages ago that I wanted to create my own Distro and this could be the first steps for a Beginner’s Programming Distro.

You’ve probably notice I’ve settled on Python for programming.  This isn’t because it is the best language for programming video games but it is a good interpreted & compiled language which reminds me of my BBC BASIC programming days.  It has idosyncracies that I don’t like but I fancy writing about programming before writing about C++.


Linux Distro

A recent linux mag (Linux Format) has an article on “Build your own Distro”.  I’ve thought about doing something like this to match my interests for a few years.  Something like Gamebuntu : a distro with just games.  But there are a few of these now (

To match the programming thoughts I’ve been having I thought it might be a good niche for a Young Programmers Workshop style distro.  Something that you can put onto a USB stick, plug into any PC, and get a programming workshop.  Then anything you write can be always on that USB stick.   As long as you have a PC available you have somewhere to hack around with programming.

I see it having:

  • a really small footprint; 50-200Mb.
  • a simple desktop (Enlightenment), gOS, LXDE
  • an beginners mode: First time login, get web page up and several easy to find buttons to start up the easiest of programming systems I can find (e.g. Alice or Processing or Scratch)
  • an intermediate mode: Start with an IDE – bit like the old Apple II, Commodore 64, BBC Micro days). Just start coding, compiling and running.
  • an advanced mode: just the normal linux with terminal window.  Using C++ and an IDE/SDK of choice.

At the least it will need:

  • Gcc C++
  • libSDL + support
  • Allegro
  • and more.

I feel I should avoid languages for the sake of languages: i.e. python, php, perl, etc.  I don’t really know what I’m doing but it is one of those tasks that I keep thinking about but never actually following through.

For an idea of the kind of desktop I see for this Distro – it would have a similar feel to gOS but without WINE, OpenOffice or Skype.  I’d probably keep the google gadgets and firefox to keep the PC web browser friendly.

To keep the size down it should be something like Slitaz or Pud in size.   Since I’m after light desktop, LXDE looks a good fit.

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