TUX&GNU@school - 7th 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 Kalzium [3], a free chemistry education program, about the homepage of OFSET (Organisation for Free Software in Education and Teaching) [4], and about the idea "An extension for Kalzium" ;-).

Welcome to the seventh edition of TUX&GNU@school. Unfortunately it's still not possible to receive the column as a newsletter. Though I will try to make it possible till the next edition. Furthermore I want to devote this edition to a very valuable member of the Swiss (and international) Free Software community, Mathias 'turrican' Gygax, who left us far to early.

Kalzium - The Periodic Table of the Elements (PTE)

Kalzium [3] is a piece of free education software (GNU GPL) from the KDE Edutainment project [5] and shall first and foremost offer a simple access to the Periodic Table of the Elements (PTE). I tested the version 0.5 (KDE 3.1.5) on the 'testing' version of Debian GNU/Linux [6].

After the first invocation of the program you see the beloved (or hated) Periodic Table (see screenshot 1). Some of you will feel reminded of their chemistry lessons in school days. All the presently known (state 2002) chemical elements are listed simply and clearly. A simple mouse click on one of these over 100 buttons further information about the selected element appear. Then a new window is opened which is devided in three sections containing information in a general way (as name, symbol, atomic weight or density), about the state of matter (melting and boiling point) and about energies (ionisation energy and electronegativity).

As you see in screenshot 2, which shows this information for the element Iron, there is a button labelled with "Web Lookup" too. Through this you can reach the website of the University of Split which displays further information about the corresponding element in a new window. This information is displayed in one of the following five languages: Croatian [7], German [8], French [9], English [10] and Italian [11]. Incidentally you change this setting through the menu bar Settings -> Configure Kalzium... and there in the item Web Lookup.

Screenshot 1: Kalzium after the frist start

Screenshot 1: Kalzium after the first start

In this settings dialog you can change the Colors too. But for what? For this we go again back to the main window (see screenshot 1). The Periodic Table of the Elements, as perhaps still some of you know, is divided in different groups which are emphasized in different colors. In the tool bar you can choose among the international usable groupings IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) [12] and CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) [13] or, for whom this is as meaningless as for me, you can completely deactivate them. Further on the PTE can be displayed by characteristics as Acid Behavior or State of Matter or simply in Blocks or Groups too. Now all these highlighting modes and their different colors can be set to your preference in the above called setting entry. This allows the teaching person to precisely highlight what he or she is talking about right now.

In this tool bar a selecting menu is located too with the two items Complete and Mendeleev which show two "different" PTEs. And before we finally leave the tool bar of Kalzium I want to say something about the time bar (rightmost). After clicking on this button at the bottom of the Periodic Table of the Elements a sliding controller appears which stands on 2002. With this you can now go back in the history and see which elements were already known at which point in time (whereas some elements aren't discovered yet but only predicted). And as we are talking about the sliders, in the tool bar you can select the display according to the State of Matter and explore which element are vapor, liquid or solid at which temperatures ;-).

Screenshot 2: Information about the chemical element Iron

Screenshot 2: Information about the chemical element Iron

Some of you perhaps already noticed the menu item Quiz. Chosen this item you can decide how many questions are asked to you and then you can enjoy a little quiz. From my school days I remembered at least that much that I mostly reach above 50 percent of correct answers ,although, as regular readers of this column know, my love to chemistry isn't that far reaching. Left of this quiz through the menu item Calculations you reach a simple calculation window (KMol) where simple formulas for calculations of the molecular weight (Mw in u) can be entered. By the way this tool can handle all the elements.

According to Carsten Niehaus, the author of this program, Kalzium is suitable for all ages and students. A colleague of mine, who studies materials [14] at the ETHZ (Swiss Federal Institut of Technology Zurich) [15], uses this program relatively often. According to the handbook of Kalzium Carsten is interested in bug reports, new data and improvement proposals as well. You can write and send them relatively easy through the menu item Help -> Report bug... (well preferentially in English). And because I haven't got a good idea for this edition of TUX&GNU@school till now and I heard about a good one at a Free Software event [16] last week, I want to explain it right here (and sending it to Carsten as well of course). If I remember correctly last week somebody asked me the following: "Is it possible to simulate chemical reactions with Kalzium?" I think the person meant what happens if e.g. you take a carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms or more generally how does oxygen and iron react together. As a non-chemist and a not-often-programmer I don't know now how simple or impossible it's to implement this but Carsten, this as a food for thought ;-). But of course at this place a large thank you to you and your helpers for this wonderful piece of free education software.

But now continues to the homepage or project of this edition respectively.

OFSET.org - Organisation for Free Software in Education and Teaching

This is the first time that the information this section is based on is not entirely collected on the corresponding homepage. But I asked some questions (borrowed of the Brave GNU World [17]) to a person of this homepage/project too. For that reason thanks a lot to Hilaire Fernandes of the OFSET for the detailed replies to the questions. Some of you might know him as an important person in the development of Freeduc [18], the GNU/Linux-LIVE-CD for schools and education.

The OFSET - Organisation for Free Software in Education and Teaching [4] was founded at the end of 1999 as an organisation according to the French law. The aim of the OFSET is it to support and further the development of free education software for education and teaching. Thereby it's important that the whole thing happens as international as possible therewith the work isn't made double and triple. Currently the OFSET counts more than 40 members with a hard core of approx. ten people. On the one hand the members [19] are developers programming busily themselves, in the other hand they are e.g. secondary school teachers with whom they practise active exchange of ideas concerning education software. The activities of the organisation are supposed to speak to not only students and programmers but also parents, teachers and whole schools.

For the concrete development of free education software the OFSET gives some guidelines concerning the deployed tools which you can read at their charta [20]. They always start programming from the user interface which clearly is supposed to stand in the centre of their software development. Internationalization is aspired where it seems useful, translation and documentation at the places where it's feasible and people are available. The scriptability is another point where the members of the OFSET attach importance to. Therein they see a good possibility to give the prospective users a tool for the adaptation which seems to be central for free software. Currently they use C, C++, Python and Scheme as programming languages, but they does not have to limit oneself to these. They always use the GNU GPL [21] and the GNU FDL [22] as licenses.

Screenshot 3: Front page of the homepage of the OFSET

Screenshot 3: Front page of the homepage of the OFSET

The current status of some projects of the OFSET: [23] GCompris [24], which hopefully is already know by some readers and whose author is a member of the OFSET too, reached version 5.2 (at the moment of the interview with Hilaire, the 16th October 2003, it stands at version 4.0). DrGeo [25], a free geometry education program which exists since the foundation of the organisation stands with version 0.9.9 at the barrier to the famous and notorious 1.0. Further out of the countless education software productions a new subproject has arosen which is supposed to make contents (e.g. sounds and pictures) for education software exchangeable among the projects. To the best of my belief AssetML [26] is currently inserted by GCompris and Childsplay [27].

Thanks to the solid legal basis of the OFSET the collaboration with the UNESCO [28] in the last version of Freeduc [18] (Freeduc 1.4.1 in November 2003) was much easier. Not to be ignored is the collaboration with other projects in this environment as for instance Skolelinux [29] or WIMS [30]. But of course the OFSET has got "other projects in preparation but it is to soon to talk about these ones".

As an answer to my question, what they have for special problems, Hilaire answered shortly: "No, only solutions ;-)." Nonetheless the OFSET can need helpers of course. Besides developers they also search translators, documentaion writer and people who represent the OFSET at Free Software events. Currently they miss e.g. a primary school teacher who could take over the documentation of GCompris. Automatically generated OpenOffice.org [31] documents are already there, they only have to be filled. Interested people can simply send an email to ofset at ofset dot org [32]. As a project for the somehow more distant future the OFSET strives to receive the RIP label for their software which is franchised by the French Education Office and serves as a quality label and increase.

If you want to get more information about the OFSET, the best place to go is the homepage of the OFSET [4] (English and French). Interesting pieces are the statutes [33], the already called charta (guidelines) [20] or the manifesto [34] of the OFSET. At this place and at the end of the presentation of the OFSET I want to wish you good luck for your further work.

But now let's go to the today's idea - rubbish, I presented it already above - then to the news.

News and up to date program versions

As an improvement I want to incorporate here news from other internet pages. For the moment these are news from edu.kde.org [5] and ofset.org [4]. Because this is the first time I'll include all news from the beginning of 2003. The messages from these pages are taken here one to one or translated respectively. The "I" in the edu.kde.org-news is refers to Anne-Marie Mahfouf by the way. If you have further proposals send me [1] an email please. Of course there will still be other news.

QtForum contest includes KDE programs (edu.kde.org - 20.02.2004)

The QtForum announced today that its contest [35] is now open to KDE applications. The changes is as follow: "This folder must contain the source code to the program and, in source form, any code upon which it depends. As an exception, kdelibs version 3.2 or later stable releases are allowed as external depency." I was meant to be judge in that contest but I resigned from this position in order to allow entries of programs in which I helped. I will not present any of my own applications though, having had prior knowledge of the contest. I wish you all good luck if you enter the contest and I hope that new applications will soon join our module!

OFSET supports Skolelinux (ofset.org - 15.02.2004)

OFSET is officially supporting the Skolelinux [29] project. The goal of this project is to provide a free ICT infrastructure for schools and it is perfectly complementary to the OFSET goals of developing free software for education. Read more [36].

New icons (edu.kde.org - 22.01.2004)

Several applications have new icons based on svg source and in crystal style. Thanks to Chris Luetchford and David Vignoni who took time to refresh and redesign our icons They look really great!

Klicker, the KDE metronome (edu.kde.org - 20.01.2004)

All musicians need it and now KDE provides it! Klicker [37], the KDE metronome, has reached version 1.0. It provides visual and sound beats and the plan is to transform it into a more general music helper application with a tuning helper, a voicing component, a chords trainer and more! Well done, Russell, and carry on the good work! You can download it here [38].

An icon theme for kids (edu.kde.org - 28.11.2003)

Everaldo, the Crystal icons theme author, has come up with a new kids icons theme [39]. Thanks a lot for those wonderful icons and congratulations to Everaldo who will soon be a father! Additionally, you can find the desktop wallpaper here [40]. This theme is now included in kdeartwork in cvs HEAD and will be shipped in that module for KDE 3.2.

OFSET at the Solution Linux in Paris (ofset.org - 18.11.2003)

OFSET will be at the Solution Linux event in Paris, from the 3 to the 5 of February 2004.

Freeduc-cd 1.4 (ofset.org - 30.10.2003)

FREEDUC-CD release 1.4, see the FREEDUC page [18] for more information. This version has been developped with the support of the UNESCO, see our press release [41].

Debian in Schools (Debian Weekly News (DWN) - 05.08.2003)

Thomas Lindemans explained [42] at the European Schoolnet [42.1], a partnership of 26 Ministries of Education, why educators should try GNU/Linux. Debian is mentioned as being "built for stability" and good for those who enjoy a "fast and secure operating system". The article suggests that using Debian in a school would require somebody with knowledge of Linux because of text configuration files, however no mention is made of Skolelinux [43] or the Debian-Edu [44] subproject.

KLogoTurtle is a new promising application (edu.kde.org - 23.07.2003)

KLogoTurtle [45] is a LOGO interpreter for KDE. It helps to teach computing and mathematics to young children. You can have a look at the screenshots page [46] and send as your teaching experiment with Logo as well as your thoughts and wishes. KLogoTurtle is currently in the kdenonbeta module and is meant for developers only at the moment, please read [47] this page if you want to try it but as LOGO is a very useful teaching tool, KLogoTurtle will become a must-have KDE-Edu application!

OFSET at the Libre Software Meeting 2003 (ofset.org - 18.07.2003)

We were at the Libre Software Meeting 2003, at Metz. We met several people we use to work with. We had a stand to demonstrate Freeduc-cd. We also sell Freeduc-cd and new prestigious members join our organization. Look at those picture album (http://redfox.redfoxcenter.org/gallery/LSM2003 [48]).

Kard needs more pictures (edu.kde.org - 04.07.2003)

Kard [49] is a Memory-like game for young children. You have some cards on a grid and you must match the cards by pairs. The number of cards varies from 4 to 24 (multiples of 4). Kard is currently in the kdenonbeta module. At the moment, there are only 2 themes which are colors and objects related to a house. It would be nice to get more pictures for Kard. For example, I have in mind pictures of musical instruments that would be associated with the corresponding instrument sound. Another level would be the sounds without any pictures. If you are an artist or a would-be-artist, here is the way to be known! Please check out the screenshots page [50] to know more about Kard.

Kig 0.5.1 released (edu.kde.org - 03.06.2003)

I'm currently releasing Kig 0.5.1, which is a bugfix release in the 0.5 series. Major improvements in Kig 0.5 include much improved undo support, a KSeg import filter, a full screen mode, a polar coordinate system, multiline text labels, printing support, along with a lot of UI improvements and bugfixes. Check out this page [51] for installation instructions.

Édulinux: a new educational French (Québec) Linux distribution (edu.kde.org - 03.06.2003)

The University of Sherbrooke is proud to announce the release of Edulinux 9.1 [52], a new educational linux distribution based on Mandrake 9.1 and localized in French. It consists of 3 CDs (ISOs available here [53]) and includes several KDE-Edu programs (screenshots [54]). This distribution is targeted to French speaking schools, students and their families and is very easy to install. The KDE-Edu team wish to thanks all the i18n teams for their hard work because they make it possible to widely distribute our applications. Several articles in newspapers backed up the launch of this distribution and that will make more people aware of the existence of Free Software!

Czech sounds in KLettres and code improvement (edu.kde.org - 30.05.2003)

KLettres has had a major code improvement (hard-coded data are now gone ;-) and another language has been added. Czech is now supported, thanks to Eva Mikul?íková. On the KLettres website [55], there is a page [55.1] where I explain what to do if you want to add a new language. The new version is in CVS HEAD and will be shipped with KDE 3.2. Please take a look at the screenshots page [56] to learn more about KLetttres.

GCompris gained prize (ofset.org - 26.05.2003)

Again a new success for OFSET, GCompris won the 1st prize in the category of educational application during the Trophees du LIBRE in France!! See there (http://www.tropheesdulibre.org [57]).

KTouch major release (1.3 in CVS) with some new features and a rewritten API (edu.kde.org - 12.05.2003)

KTouch is available in a new version (1.3 in CVS) with some new features and a rewritten API. Among the new features, you can now change the fonts for the keyboard and hebrew support and a color settings dialog have been added. You can have a look at the project webpage [58] to learn more about KTouch and of course you are encouraged to try the new version in CVS HEAD.

Freeduc-cd 1.3 (ofset.org - 02.04.2003)

Freeduc-cd release 1.3, see the Projects page for more information.

Wikipedia.org with more than 500'000 articles

The free encyclopedia project Wikipedia.org [59] counts meanwhile more than 500'000 articles in most different world languages. Wikipedia is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation [60] which contains several other projects too I want to talk about another time. For the readers of TUX&GNU@school the following numbers will be the most interesting: English Wikipedia [61] - 221'275 articles, German Wikipedia [62] - 59'698 articles, French Wikipedia [63] - 29'009 articles and Swedisch Wikipedia [64] - 22'487 articles (State: 07.03.2004).

Duden software for GNU/Linux too

All software of the Duden publishing house (the Duden is the standard work of the German language) is now also available for GNU/Linux. First of all schools which want to change their IT will be happy about this.

QCad in version II released

QCad, a free 2D CAD program, which I reported about in the 6th edition of TUX&GNU@school [65] is being released in version II. Although you don't see it instantly on the homepage [66] QCad is still propagated under the GNU GPL which the author reassured explicitly. Certainly if you want a packaged and for your favorite distribution perpared version you are allowed to spend some money to the project team. Already packaged demo versions are available at the download page [67].

SelfLinux 0.10.0 published

And right now the version 0.10.0 of the German project Selflinux [68] was published. It's the aim of this project to simplify for novices the entrance to this new world with numerous articles.

Skolelinux is now an official subproject of Debian

Skolelinux [29], a school distribution from Norway based on Debian, was joined with the Debian subproject DebianEDU [44]. Furthermore the project goes slowly but safely to the version number 1.0 and these is also the reason why the last prerelease pr46 is that stable. All up to date versions are ready for downloading on the Skolelinux FTP server [69].

Oralux - Knoppix for blind people

Oralux [70] is a LIVE-CD distribution based on Knoppix for blind and visually impaired people. At the startup firstly the hardware is automagically detected and configured. After that the user is lead, controlled by voice, through an entrance menu and thereafter to a working environment with voice output. Currently they use Emacspeak [71] for this. But for the future they plan also to better integrate Gnopernicus [72]. Oralux is available in the current version 0.05 at the download page [73]. By the way on Oralux 0.05 you'll find TUX&GNU@school 6 in German as a text for listing.

Kalzium is getting rewritten

As I saw just now at KDE-Apps.org [74] Kalzium shall be completely reworked and rewritten for the version 1.0 (not yet released). It looks as we can be thrilled.

Up to date program versions

Ok, that's it once more. This edition became quite large but hey there're worse things ;-). Till soon...

[1] Criticism, questions, comments, ideas and more please to: foxman@lugo.ch
[2] The homepage of TUX&GNU@school: www.unormal.org/alis/tagatschool7.en.html
[3] The homepage of Kalzium: edu.kde.org/Kalzium
[4] The homepage of the OFSET (Organisation for Free Software in Education and Teaching): www.OFSET.org
[5] The homepage of the KDE Edutainment project: edu.kde.org
[6] The homepage of Debian: www.debian.org
[7] The Periodic Table of the (chemical) Elements (PTE) in Croatian
[8] The Periodic Table of the (chemical) Elements (PTE) in German
[9] The Periodic Table of the (chemical) Elements (PTE) in French
[10] The Periodic Table of the (chemical) Elements (PTE) in English
[11] The Periodic Table of the (chemical) Elements (PTE) in Italian
[12] The homepage of the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry): www.iupac.org
[13] The homepage of CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service): www.cas.org
[14] The homepage of the Departement of Materials at the ETHZ (Swiss Federal Institut of Technology Zurich): www.mat.ethz.ch
[15] The homepage of the Swiss Federal Institut of Technology Zurich (ETHZ): www.ethz.ch
[16] The homepage of the Swiss Free Software event LOTS - Let's Open The Source: www.lots.ch
[17] The homepage of the column Brave GNU World: www.Brave-GNU-World.org
[18] The homepage of the LIVE-CD Freeduc
[19] Becoming a member of the OFSET
[20] Charta of the OFSET
[21] Further information about the GNU General Public License (GPL)
[22] Further information about the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL)
[23] Projects of the OFSET
[24] The homepage of GCompris: www.ofset.org/GCompris
[25] The homepage of DrGeo: www.ofset.org/DrGeo
[26] The homepage of AssetML: www.ofset.org/AssetML
[27] The homepage of Childsplay: childsplay.sourceforge.net
[28] The homepage of the UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation: www.UNESCO.org
[29] The homepage of Skolelinux: www.Skolelinux.org
[30] The homepage of WIMS - WWW Interactive Mathematics Server: WIMS.unice.fr
[31] The homepage of OpenOffice.org: www.OpenOffice.org
[32] Drop-in center of the OFSET: ofset@ofset.org
[33] The statutes of the OFSET
[34] The manifesto of the OFSET
[35] QtForum programming contest
[36] OFSET press release of the Skolelinux support by the OFSET
[37] The homepage of Klicker: www.duskglow.com/personal/software.shtml
[38] Downloading Klicker 1.0
[39] Kids - KDE icon theme for children
[40] Wallpaper for the icon theme Kids
[41] OFSET press release of the freeduc support by the UNESCO
[42] Report of Thomas Lindemans at European Schoolnet
[42.1] European Schoolnet
[43] The Norwegian homepage of Skolelinux
[44] The homepage of the Debian subproject Debian-Edu
[45] The homepage of KLogoTurtle: edu.kde.org/KLogoTurtle
[46] The screenshot page of KLogoTurtle
[47] Instructions to try KLogoTurtle
[48] OFSET picture album of the Libre Software Meeting 2003
[49] The homepage of Kard: edu.kde.org/Kard
[50] Screenshot page of Kard
[51] The download page of Kig
[52] The homepage of Édulinux: www.Edulinux.org
[53] The ISO download page of Édulinux
[54] The screenshot page of Édulinux
[55] The homepage von KLettres: edu.kde.org/KLettres
[55.1] How to add a new language to KLettres
[56] The screenshot page of KLettres
[57] The homepage of Trophées du Libre: www.TropheesduLibre.org
[58] The homepage of KTouch: KTouch.sourceforge.net
[59] The homepage of Wikipedia: www.Wikipedia.org
[60] The homepage of the Wikimedia Foundation: www.Wikimedia.org
[61] The English front page of Wikipedia
[62] The German front page of Wikipedia
[63] The French front page of Wikipedia
[64] The Swedish front page of Wikipedia
[65] The 6th edition of TUX&GNU@school
[66] The homepage of QCad: www.QCad.org
[67] The download page of QCad
[68] The homepage of Selflinux: www.Selflinux.org
[69] The download page of Skolelinux
[70] The homepage of Oralux: www.Oralux.org
[71] The homepage of Emacspeak: Emacspeak.sourceforge.net
[72] The homepage of Gnopernicus: www.baum.ro/Gnopernicus.html
[73] The download page of Oralux
[74] Kalzium on KDE-Apps.org

About the author:

Mario Fux finished 1999 the PrimarlehrerInnenseminar in Brig, after which he then caught up on the mathematical and natural scientifical matura. Currently he studies at the university of Zurich in the main subject education (pedagogy) and computer sciences as the subsidiary subject. Together with two colleagues he founded the "ALIS - Arbeitsgruppe Linux an Schulen" (Swiss work group for linux at school). And if he is not spending 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.