[Squeakland] Getting started

Mark Engelberg mark.engelberg at gmail.com
Thu Oct 20 00:15:30 PDT 2005


I have no previous experience with Smalltalk, but I am an experienced
programmer with experience in a large number of programming languages.

I discovered Squeakland a few weeks ago, and became convinced that
this would be a fun programming activity for my kids.  However, I know
nothing about Smalltalk, so...

I purchased the Powerful Ideas book, and the Bots book.  I read
everything on Squeakland, and also tried to follow some of the
tutorials on the main squeak website.

I must admit, there's a lot I'm confused about.  Let me list some of
my confusions in a stream-of-consciousness way, and maybe you all can
jump in with suggestions.

1.  Where's the documentation?  Maybe it's because Squeak is intended
to be an rapidly-evolving language, but the documentation seems very
spotty.  And that's a shame, because educational value depends a great
deal on the quality of documentation.  The "Powerful Ideas" book gives
detailed steps for completing each of its projects, but it's obvious
that this only scratches the surface of what eToys can do.  And I
can't figure out where to look to find out everything it CAN do.  And
as the teacher, I really want to know more before I begin. 
Inevitably, my children will ask in the middle of a project, "But what
if I want to ____, how do I do that?"  So where is there a more
thorough treatment of the full scope of what is possible in eToys?

2.  Publishing vs. saving.  The first excursion in "Powerful Ideas"
talks about publishing one's project.  When publishing, the only
location Squeak offered for publishing was one called %USERNAME%. 
What's up with that?  It asks whether I want to include all changes? 
Do I?  If I don't include all changes, what is being included?  After
making some changes, it seems reasonable to want to "publish" it again
to make sure a copy is saved.  Do I publish with the same name/info,
or do I need to give it a new name?  If I do publish with the same
name, is it possible to recover the previous edition?  I also noticed
that buried deep within the world menu (which isn't readily accessible
in the plug-in), there is a way to "save" or "save and then quit". 
How does this differ from publishing?  Which is the recommended
procedure?

3.  Etoys vs. Bots.  How do others perceive the way that these two
environments mesh with one another?  It seems to me that Etoys is
accessible to pre-typers because of its drag-and-drop style of
programming, while Bots goes more in depth into programming concepts. 
Am I interpreting these two curricula correctly?  Is the recommended
path to use Etoys followed by Bots?

4. Tweak vs. Squeak.  Which one should I be using?

5.  After the car curriculum, then what?  Is anyone actively
developing other Etoys project ideas?

6.  Ball dropping movie.  I don't have any mechanism for capturing
digital video of this.  Any chance someone can post the movie used in
the book to the website, so we can do the associated project?

7.  And what about Alice?  I've heard this mentioned as yet another
environment within Squeak.  How does this fit into the spectrum of
Etoys, Bots, and straight squeak programming?

Thanks so much,

Mark Engelberg



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