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Pharo -The Immersive Programming Experience

I’d like to focus on computer programming in this installment.  Towards this end, I’d like to take a look at Pharo, a software development environment released under the MIT License (similar to GPL, see link below).  Pharo provides a graphical way to utilize the Smalltalk programming language, the programming language used to write Dr. Geo, one of my favorite geometry exploration programs.

phaor logo,energize education
The Pharo logo

First of all, Pharo’s development team refers to Pharo as an “immersive programming environment.” What does this mean? Dictionary.com defines immersive as an adjective “noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one’s senses and may create an altered mental state.” Techopedia defines a programming environment as “a collection of procedures and tools for developing, testing and debugging an application or program.” Another name for such an environment is Integrated Development Environment or IDE. What this means is that Pharo provides a graphical interface for Smalltalk that is so intuitive, full-featured and graceful that it allows you to code without getting in the way.

Before I go further, I’d like to share a few things from Pharo’s mission statement.  The Pharo team seeks to provide an accessible and innovative free, open source programming environment.  These people strive to keep Pharo small, stable and equipped with excellent tools key for software development.  Finally, Pharo seeks to foster a healthy ecosystem of contributors who strive to maintain and enhance this application.

pharo, energize educaton through open source
Pharo at work.

Smalltalk is an object-oriented programming language, which, in layman’s terms means that it focuses more on objects and data rather than on commands, or actions, and logic.  Keeping this in mind, Pharo is designed to be very straightforward to use and to provide prompt feedback.  Pharo also includes an IDE (Integrated Development Environment), from which it draws its simplicity.  Furthermore, Pharo offers a high level of diversity through a large library and a set of external applications.  Pharo also includes strong support for business use in the form of organizations, such as the Pharo Industrial Consortium and an association of users, the Pharo Association.

pharo,energize education
Pharo works its magic.

I’d like to take a look at Pharo’s interface as this is key to Pharo’s ease of use.  How often have you launched a new program with some trepidation, wondering with what will I be presented?  How intuitive will the interface be?  How long will it take me to figure out how to make this thing do what I need it to do?  Arguably, Pharo’s interface, or lack thereof, is not just one of its strengths.  It’s also aesthetically appealing.  No need for a menu bar or tool bar, as Pharo relies on context-sensitive menus for its functionally.  Simply click in the main window to open the World Menu, which is a general menu, from which you can select Workspace.  A Workspace is like an artist’s sketchpad upon which you create your application.  Once a Workspace has been opened, you can use contextual menus to perform desired tasks.

So, what’s the best thing about Pharo?  It could be that it is free to download.  It could be the number of free books about Pharo available online.  It could also be the extensive support community.  I leave it to you, the reader, to download and install Pharo.  Then start using it and find out for yourself what you think is the best thing about Pharo.

Pharo is available for Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS and GNU/Linux.

Resources

The MIT License

Pharo Website

References

Thanks to the people at Pharo for permission to use their screenshots for this article.

Black, A.P., Ducasse, S., Nierstrasz, O., Pollet, D., Cassou, D. & Denker, M.  (2009). Pharo by example.  Switzerland: Square Bracket Associates.  Retrieved http://pharobyexample.org/versions/PBE1-2009-10-28.pdf

Immersive. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/immersive?s=t

Pharo [computer software].  (n.d.).  GNU General Public License.

programming environment. (n.d.). Techopedia. Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/16376/development-environment

Middle School Open Source Users Group

energize education,cse linux penguins

I usually write about open source technology, but now I’m going to address something that is arguably the future of open source, Linux users groups for school-age children.  In this case, the users group is the CSE Asian Penguins, a Linux users group for middle school students at the Community School of Excellence in St. Paul, Minnesota.  CSE is a Hmong charter school and the Asian Penguins may well be the only Linux users group based in a Hmong charter school.  So, who are the CSE Asian Penguins and what do they do?

First of all, the Asian Penguins are sixth, seventh and eighth grade boys and girls who attend CSE.  To quote from their Web site “our membership includes Hmong, Karenni, and other types of students.”  The common ground upon which they meet is that of Linux and other open source software.  They utilize Linux for schoolwork, entertainment and communication.  Their name, Asian Penguins, comes from the fact that most of these students’ families came from Asia and that a penguin is the Linux mascot.

energize education through open source, asian penguins,operation upgrade
Operation Upgrade in action

So what does this group of like-minded open source enthusiasts do?  One of their primary goals is to become extremely familiar with the Linux operating system.  They learn to use Linux for school, productivity and life in general.  Better still, these young academicians use this knowledge to educate peers and teachers alike.  But these scholars take their knowledge of open source beyond the confines of their school and reach out to the surrounding community by bringing computers running Linux to needy families and organizations in the community.  Their most recent endeavor, Operation Upgrade, provided CSE with two computer carts, containing 60 refurbished laptops running the latest version of Ubuntu Linux.

energtize education,asian penguins, ooeration upgrade
The CSE Asian Penguins pose with the completed Operation Upgrade

So, why do I refer to a users group like the CSE Asian Penguins as the future of open source?  These young men and women are learning the ins and outs of Linux at the perfect age.  Their interest will no doubt result in the broadening of their computer frontiers into other areas of open source technology.  These students will become the software developers and hardware engineers of tomorrow’s open source products.  Because they will be well-versed in the use of open source technology, they will be able to readily collaborate with colleagues in other nations in which open source has already been adopted.  They will play a great role in the evolution of open source.

If you’d like to know more about the Asian Penguins or would like to find out how you can help, visit their Web site listed below under Resources.

Resources

CSE Asian Penguins Home Page

References

All information was retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/csemn.org/asian-penguins/home.