Friday, 27 November 2015

Huayra 3.1

Since it's a bit more than eighteen months since I last downloaded and played with Huayra, I thought I'd have a go at building the latest version Huayra 3.1.

It's a 3.4GB download for the iso image. Building it on virtualbox was reasonably simple - it's debian based, and while some knowledge of Spanish helps, if you've installed Debian based distros before it's really just a case of following the bouncing ball.

The only snafu is that you end up with a 9.5GB virtual box disk image - which is larger than the default virtual hard disk size of 8GB. The installation script does quite a bit of clean up towards the end of the installation so I'd be generous when creating the virtual hard disk - 20GB seems about right.

It's a fairly standard environment, and is obviously targeted towards education and programming with such nice extras as iPython and the Arduino development tools installed by default, but it has all the standard tools as well.

All in all faster and slicker than the old version, and interesting to take a gander at if you're interested in the use of linux in education ...

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Teaching Robotics

Yesterday, I tweeted a link to an Argentine initiative, part of the Huayra initiative, encouraging students to build a simple robot out of (mostly) recycled parts and an Arduino board.

On the same theme, few days previously I tweeted a link to a news story of how some Mexican high school students had won a robotics competition in Romania.

There's a story here. Recently the news has been full of stories about robots are going to take our jobs. Possibly true, possibly not. Past experience of the IT revolution suggests that the changes will be different to those predicted but equally disruptive.

But let's assume for a moment that robotic devices become a lot more common. That means that, initially at least, we'll need a lot more technicians to set them up and configure them, do a little bit of tweaking, carry out field upgrades and the like.

Not advanced cybernetics, but good solid run of the mill technician work. The robotics equivalent of the early 20th century workshop 'fitter'.

When I look at our education programs here in Australia, I don't see a whole lot of evidence that we're headed in the same direction - rather more we're still stuck on teaching kids to use Microsoft apps and webmail.

Useful, but not necessarily the best thing to equip them for the future.

Maybe I'd better start working on my Spanish ...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Riding the wily werewolf

Having upgraded my Mac to El Capitan, a few days ago I upgraded my Linux laptop to Ubuntu 15.10, aka Wily Werwolf.

I'd been running the 14.04 LTS (long term support) version very successfully - it was stable, booted considerably faster than my Mac, and apart from very occasionally getting in a stupid state where it didn't come out of hibernation properly, problem free.

But, some of the applications packaged with it were beginning to be out of step with some of the newer versions available on some of my other machines running Debian and the like so I decided to upgrade.

Upgrading involved going via 15.04 - I actually thought about stopping at 15.04 and not upgrading to 15.10 as it was so new the paint wasn't fully dry, but 15.04 felt unstable on my laptop.

Nothing I could put my finger on, it just didn't feel as rock solid as 14.04.

Going from 15.04 to 15.10 gave me a few more patches, the new versions of the applications I wanted, and more, it felt more stable, and it's proved to be fairly solid in use.

The upgrade process was fairly mechanical, just a case of following the prompts, and while it wasn't quite as slick as a Mac or a Windows upgrade, it was all there and it all made sense - strangely this is the first Ubuntu upgrade I've done in a long time - mostly I just rebuild the machine from scratch - but this machine had a slew of files and extra applications that would be a pain to reinstall, so an upgrade it was. And everything still worked afterwards.

What it showed is that Ubuntu is mainstream quality, does what you want, and works well. No complaints so far ...