TUX&GNU@school - 6th edition

More or less regularly the column TUX&GNU@school [2] reports about free software, a homepage on topic and an easy to implement idea. This month I talk about QCad [3], a free 2D-CAD program, about the homepage of Schoolforge.net [4], and about the idea "Children make music".

Welcome to the 6th edition. Meanwhile it's about one year since I published the first edition [5] of TUX&GNU@school, but this is even only the 6th one. But I wasn't able to report "every month" and that's the reason why I altered this in the introduction to "more or less regularly". But the attempt of reporting monthly should be sustained and when I'm able to respect a regular respectively monthly cycle' I'll realter the introduction. At this point I would like to refer to the new French [6] translation of this column. Thank you for the whole work Anne-Marie Mahfouf, it's due to her we have another translation. Furthermore you will be able to subscribe to our new newsletter from now on. You find the place to subscribe and more information on our homepage [7]. These are the news of ourselves but now I want to move to the this time's program introduction.

QCad, a free 2D-CAD program

Up to now we introduced software for lower and middle grade at this place. Today a programm should be mentioned which would rather be more suitable for pupils and teachers of the upper grade. Furthermore QCad [3] would be surely interesting for technical colleges and engineer schools too.

I tested the version 1.4.7 of the March 24th, 2001 under Debian GNU/Linux [8] testing whereas the actual version number is 1.5.4. The author Andrew Mustun choose the GNU GPL as the license for his program. With Debian and Debian based distribution you can install the program with "apt-get install qcad". With rpm based distributions you either use the corresponding package manager or type on the command line: "rpm -i <qcad-packagename.rpm". But before I begin with the actual introduction or inspection of the program I have to clarify that my skills and capabilities in the CAD business aren't good enough to become equitable to the quality and complexity of QCad. For that reason only a short and amateurish overview at this point. Everyone who wants to know more about it is referenced to the homepage [3] and the voluminous and multilingual documentation [9]. The program also was translated into at least a dozen different languages. At the same time this is, beneath the setting of the unit of measurement, the first point which you can adapt to your needs at the first start of QCad.

Screenshot 1: QCad User Interface

Screenshot 1: QCad User Interface

Thereafter you'll see the program's interface (see screenshot 1), divided into the menu and the symbol bar at the head, the function bar at left and the layer list and the library browser at right. If you click on a function symbol a string of subfunctions appear whereas when you click the right button or you push the <ESC> you go back to the previous functions group respectively the base functions. Part of the base functions are: Points, Lines, Arcs, Circles, Create Texts, Dimensions, Create hatchings, Measure, Tag and Edit. Very positive is that when you decided for a specific function in the middle of the bottom status bar appears a text which explains the effects of the left and right mouse buttons. Right of this text you see a short explanation of the chosen function. On the left side of the status bar you'll see, with to appropriate function, the absolute and relative coordinates of the mouse pointer position.

When you know a little about the program and its features you can begin to construct your own delineations. You can choose prepackaged delineations und patterns out of the enclosed symbol and delineation library. It contains some ball bearings, screws and bicycle part drawings. What for a GNU/Linux program would QCad be if it missed the well-known penguin TUX (see screenshot 2). Furthermore it contains some form submittals. The symbol bar under the actual menu encloses mainly buttons for file functions (Open, Save, etc.), different zoom possibilities, the mandatory Undo and Redo buttons as well as a few functions for the presentations of the lines or the worksheet ifself.

Screenshot 2: QCad with a Tux delineation

Screenshot 2: QCad with a Tux delineation

When the mechanical engineer in spe finished her first layout she can save it in the formats: Drawing Exchange (*.cxf), EPS (*.eps) or Font (*.cxf). QCad can, in addition to said file formats (except EPS), open and edit the Microstation (*.dgn) and HPGL (*.plt *.hpgl *.inc) formats. You might get the impression that the software is be "only" useful in technical jobs and schools whereas it needs maybe only a brave teacher who grapples with QCad and tries to use it in his geometry lessons.

As far as the introduction of the 2D-CAD software QCad. What's left are only two things for the conclusion: Firstly, QCad was ported on several platforms it consequently don't runs only on the (mostly) homelike ix86 machine. And secondly, thanks a lot to Mustun and his numerous helpers [10] for this wonderful piece of software.

But now continues to the homepage of this edition.

schoolforge.net - Working together to unleash the power of open source tools in education

This time I would like to present the organisation resp. the website schoolforge.net [4]. But because at the moment it's only available in English this introduction shall happen based on its structure. Hence it's divided in the following seven sections: Home, What is Schoolforge, Schoolforge Members, News Resources, Software Resources, Other Resources und Mailing Lists and Chat. But before I begin the actual presentation I'm used to remark that a participation with Schoolforge mandatory requires that you resp. the contact person to Schoolforge can read and write in English at least to some extent.

On the front-side [4](see Screenshot 3) you'll not find that much but enough to get an overview. On the upper border as on all the following sides you see the logo of Schoolforge. Thereunder left you see the obgligatory navigation bar mit the seven ahead called items and thereof right the virtual content of the correspondent site. On the first page this is a short introduction to Schoolforge followed by the up to date news. Owns a site even more navigation items are these likewise under the normal navigation bar. By the way Schoolforge exists already since the 8th january 2002 which means it's soon one and a half years old.

Screenshot 3: Homepage of Schoolforge.net

Screenshot 3: Homepage of Schoolforge.net

If you are the first time on schoolforge.net you're surely interested in the item "What is Schoolforge" which means nothing else than, guessed right: "What is Schoolforge" [11]. At this place they indicate that Schoolforge is no new organisation but quasi a umbrella organisation or a communication channel for different groupings with the mutual goal to patronize open ressources at school. Therefore the primary objective is not only free software. For a future membership it's surely important to know that you can't participate as a single person. Only organisations can become a member. But they elect a contact person who represents the vote for the corresponding organisation. Generally Schoolforge tries to yoke forces, to avoid duplicative work and to ameliorate the communication between the single arrangements in groups. Another reference under this item are the "Schoolforge Operating Procedures" [12] on the one hand which specifies what you have to do and leave as a member and on the other hand the item "Becoming a Member" [13]. There is a short description where and what you have to do to become a member.

At this place I would like to show a bit more detailed interest in the "Schoolforge Operating Procedures". The membership with Schoolforge means primary a meliorated communication whereas the mailing lists are the central start-up. On the other hand Schoolforge is used to be a uniform face to the outside. All members should place links and references on their homepages as a return service. Beneath this relatively little sanction the single members own a little more responsibility. The corresponding contact person resp. the whole group should actively collaborate i.e. to post something on the mailing lists from time to time. Each and every month they elect a new vote counter which is responsible for the correct interpretation. Additionally another member of Schoolforge is responsible for the website Schoolforge.net and its maintenance. The last item I want to mention here is fact that new ideas and projects should preferably be made public and discussed here to avoid duplicated work and if applicable to build on already available knowledge.

When you follow the third link in the navigation bar you arrive at a site where all members in alphabetical order [14] are listed. At the top you'll also find a link which directs you to a somehow more detailed list of members [15]. Currently these are more than 140 organisations. On the page of the "News Resources" [16]are links to websites which regularly offer news on topic. Some of them are e.g. Opensourceschools.org [17] as a little journal, seul.org/edu [18] who publishes a report [19] every two weeks or as well as schoolforge own mailing lists [20]. The "Software Resources" [21] too contain mostly links to corresponding projects whereas I would like to mention to following ones in extracts: the application index [22] of SEUL/edu [17], the Debian [7] subproject "Debian Jr." [23] and the KDE Edutainment project [24] whose contact person to Schoolforge is responsible for the French translation of "TUX&GNU@school" [6] by the way. On the left of the page for the "Software Resources" there is still a topical listing of the newest entries to the application database of SEUL/edu.

Still some links to further interesting and helpful website on topic are on the second last item under "Other Resources" [25]. Inherent are the database with success stories resp. case studies of Linux at school [26], a link collection on topic [27] and an open database of Needs, Problems and Opportunities (NPO) in usage of technology in education [28]. And finally on the last item you can find information to the mailing lists [20] whereas there is a link to the online archive too. Furthermore there is specified how, when and where it's possible to meet people on the IRC.

Well this was a short presentation of Schoolforge an IMHO (in my humble opinion) very useful organisation on topic "GNU/Linux at school" but now proceed to the idea of this edition.

"Children make music"

Until now at this place I introduced a little idea which could be implemented by a clever programmer in zero time. But at the moment I'm not sure if this is still of interest because I didn't receive any implementations for the last few ideas. Were the ideas too banal, too difficult, wasn't it interesting or what do you think about it ? Please send me your opinions and ideas about this to [1]. But even more interesting and important for me would be if the ideas and wishes were right out of the practice, i.e. from teachers, tutors and instructors who teach themselves and know what they miss.

But nonetheless here is this edition's idea which came to me when I played with Tuxpaint [29] [30]. Surely all of you who already tried out Tuxpaint know that some stamps have sounds and noises associated with them. When you now click more than one time on the corresponding symbol and in a moment include several other stamps from time to time an interesting tone pattern appears. It would surely be quite simple to write out of this idea a short program that contains several buttons. These buttons would be underlied by different sounds and noises on which you could click on the top of one's bent. A recording function would round off this idea and give the Mozarts and Beethovens of tomorrow another useful tool.

I'd be glad to hear some noises come out of this corner and going on now to the news of this edition.

News and up to date program versions

FREEDUC published in version 1.3

A few weeks ago the version 1.3 of FREEDUC [31] was released. FREEDUC is a Distribution based on the well-known Knoppix [32] whose main purpose is the demonstration of free educational software. Which software exactly you'll find on it is written here [33] (Attention: *.txt.gz file).

Linux certificates for Austrian pupils

Since the first publication [34] already some time went by but even though I would like to mention it here once more. At Austrion schools now it seems to be possible to make resp. receive a GNU/Linux certification.

www.BSI-fuer-Buerger.de launched

Some weeks ago the German BSI - Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechologie [35] (Federal Office for information technology security) launched a new information site [36] (German only) for their citizens. The information you can find there don't belong directly to free software and GNU/Linux but are nonetheless very interesting and easy to understand. They explain you common terms as "internet" and his functionality but on the other hand they show an interest in security aspects too. At this place I would like to reference to the IMHO ingenious simple explanation of the internet from the "Sachgeschichten" (stories about how things work) of the German "Sendung mit der Maus" [37] (telecast for children in the German tv). You can download this short and quite easy comprehensible movie here [38].

GCompris with new major release

Foremost a few weeks ago Bruno Coudoin released version 3.0 followed by GCompris 3.1 some days ago. The most important changes are the bypassing of error of the gnome-canvas library which wasn't remedied until then and the possibility to write new boards in python. Furthermore there are some new boards as with each new version of course. You can find the exact details on the Homepage of GCompris [39]. Right here I wouldn't like to omit to congratulate Bruno to his success [40] at the TropheeduLibre.org [41]. Go on.

KTouch with new version

KTouch is available in a new version too since a few weeks that is to say 1.3. You can extract the exact changes and features on the homepage [42].

SkoleLinux as prerelease38

SkoleLinux [43] is a Debian based distribution from norway which is specifically made for education purposes. Meanwhile there is also a German homepage [44] and a German team which adapts the distribution to the local conditions. Unfortunately there is no stable release till now of this promising distribution. Nonetheless they released the preversion pre38 for testing some weeks ago. By the way SkoleLinux the first distribution I know that productively uses the new Debian-Installer [45].

Up to date program versions

And at the end and before I'll forget it: This is the first version of TUX&GNU@school which is also available as OGG Vorbis, Wave and MP3 [7] ;-) Go and listen to it. Bye and till the next time ...

[1] Criticism, questions, comments, ideas and more please to: foxman@lugo.ch
[2] The homepage of TUX&GNU@school: www.unormal.org/alis/tagatschool6.en.html
[3] The homepage of QCad: www.QCad.org
[4] The homepage of Schoolforge.net: www.Schoolforge.net
[5] First edition of TUX&GNU@school
[6] TUX&GNU@school in French
[7] Subscribe possibility for the TUX&GNU@school newsletter
[8] The homepage of Debian: www.debian.org
[9] Multilingual documentation of QCad
[10] Developer list of QCad
[11] Schoolforge.net -> "What is Schoolforge"
[12] Schoolforge.net -> "Schoolforge Operating Procedures"
[13] Schoolforge.net -> "Becoming a member"
[14] Schoolforge.net -> "Schoolforge members" (alphabetical order)
[15] More detailed list of the Schoolforge members
[16] Schoolforge.net -> "News Resources"
[17] OpenSourceSchools.org - News for OpenSource at school and in education
[18] The homepage of SEUL/edu: www.seul.org/edu
[19] Reports from SEUL/edu
[20] Schoolforge.net -> "Mailing lists and chat"
[21] Schoolforge.net -> "Software Resources"
[22] The application index of SEUL/edu
[23] The homepage of the Debian subproject "Debian Jr."
[24] The homepage of the KDE Edutainment project: edu.kde.org
[25] Schoolforge.net -> "Other Resources"
[26] A database of SEUL/edu with success stories resp. case studies about Linux at school
[27] A link collection of SEUL/edu
[28] An open database of Needs, Problems and Opportunities (NPO) in usage of technology in education
[29] The homepage of Tuxpaint: www.newbreedsoftware.org/tuxpaint
[30] The fifth edition of TUX&GNU@school
[31] The homepage of FREEDUC
[32] The homepage of Knoppix: www.Knoppix.de
[33] The package list of FREEDUC
[34] "Linux certificates for Austrian pubpils" on Pressetext.at
[35] The homepage of the German "Bundesamtes für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik - BSI" (Federal Office for information technology security): www.bsi.de
[36] New information website of the BSI: www.BSI-fuer-Buerger.de
[37] The homepage of the German telecast "Sendung mit der Maus": www.Sendung-mit-der-Maus.de
[38] Download link to the Sachgeschichten-Video "Internet"
[39] The homepage of GCompris: www.ofset.org/GCompris
[40] GCompris on tropheesdulibre.org
[41] TropheeduLibre.org (French)
[42] The homepage of KTouch: Ktouch.sourceforge.net
[43] The homepage of SkoleLinux: www.SkoleLinux.no
[44] The German homepage of SkoleLinux: www.SkoleLinux.de
[45] One homepage of the new Debian-Installer

About the author:

Mario Fux finished 1999 the PrimarlehrerInnenseminar in Brig after he made up mathematical and natural scientifical matura. In a body with two colleagues he founded the "ALIS - Arbeitsgruppe Linux an Schulen" (Swiss work group for linux at school). And if he once doesn't spend his time in front of the PC, he sits at his nature pond in the mountains.

This document is distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Copyright (c) 2002 Mario Fux. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license can be found at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html.