[Squeakland] Release Notes for Etoys download - Sept 2008

Kim Rose kim.rose at vpri.org
Thu Sep 11 11:30:13 PDT 2008

Release Notes - Etoys -September 2008

These notes accompany the download of Etoys available via  
www.squeakland.org as of September 11, 2008.   In the past, the  
system has often been referred to as "Squeak", but to help  
distinguish it from other versions of Squeak, we will refer to the  
version now available on the website simply as "Etoys."

The team at Viewpoints Research Institute (VPRI) has been working on  
the "Etoys" activity for the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) "XO"  
platform.  We started from the previous version of "Squeakland  
Squeak", then added new features and made many bug fixes, performance  
improvements, and visual tweaks.

VPRI has decided to release the Etoys activity for the XO as the  
"universal" Etoys version for all platforms.  Advantages include:
1) Two years of work have gone into improving Etoys overall;
2) Etoys will be identical on the XO, Windows, Macintosh and Linux  
operating systems;
3) The new features, enhancements, and fixes will be beneficial to  

In this way, all users of the XO and other platforms will be  
"compatible" and be able to share their projects and documentation.

Below is a list of "New Features", "New UI Changes", and "Notes on  

"New Features"

  -- Functions.
     There are now over a dozen mathematical functions available for
     use in arithmetic expressions in scripts, in addition to the  
     operators.  (Click on the golden treasure box of a script  
editor, drag
     out an "abs" tile, drop it on any numeric-valued tile or phrase  
in a
     script, and then (unless you actually want "abs") choose the actual
     function name you desire from the  menu that shows up when you  
click on
     it.  There is also a choice called "parenthesis", which serves  
to put a
     subexpression within parentheses, in order to influence order of  
     (There is also a way to "wrap" an existing numeric tile  
expression in a
     function, by holding down the "shift" key as you click on an  
     arrow" -- this will make the expression governed by the  
extension arrow
     become the argument of a function call.)

  -- Arithmetic Operator Precedence.
     The arithmetic operators (+ - * / // \\ and min and max) now have
     more conventional precedence; i.e., multiplication and
     division are now "stronger" than addition and
     subtraction.  (See below under "Notes on Compatibility" for more  

  -- "RepeatTimes" tile.
     A tile to write a simple loop is provided.

-- Display Scaling.
     We think it useful to offer a "standard", normalized screen size  
for users
     on non-XO platforms, so that a project made on one computer can  
have a
     consistent appearance across a broad range of computers with  
varying display
     sizes and screen resolutions.   Because the XO has a screen with  
1200 x 900
     pixels, this was chosen as the "standard" size.  On a computer  
with a
     different display resolution, 1200 x 900 pixels are scaled to  
fit in the
     display.  If the actual display size is vastly different from  
1200 x 900, the
     scaling may not look very nice; in such cases, scaling can be
     turned off from the menu bar.

  -- The Online Help System ("Quick Guides")
     There are now over 60 help guides included in the system.    
Click on the
     question mark button in the menu bar to see them. They can also be
     printed as a single PDF file found on the Squeakland and Etoys/ 
olpc websites.

  -- Polygon Vertices.
     In a Polygon, the vertices are accessible from tile scripting.
     Visit the polygon category in the viewer of a Polygon.

  -- World Stethoscope.
     World Stethoscope, a tool to use the input from external sensor  
     is included.

  -- Event Theatre.
     A tool that provides a better way to record and play back a
     user's actions.  This can be used to create small snippets of  
     voice-over can be added later, and there is also an "Event-Roll"  
tool for modest
     after-the-fact editing of such recordings.

  -- A New Generation of the Particle System (aka "Kedama").
     Kedama has been entirely rewritten for this release.  The new  
version is faster
     in most cases, and there are semantic changes as well -- see  
more details in the
     compatibility section below.)

  -- All Players Tool.
     The tools labeled "Players" in the Supplies provides a list of  
all players
     in the current project.

  -- Book Page Reverting.
     Book pages can be made revertable.  Book pages can be marked as
     revertable, and such pages can be reverted to the state when the
     book was last saved into a project.

  -- More Sound Compression Options.
     In the Sound Recorder, there are choices for Sound Compression.

"New UI Changes"

  -- Bigger and More Consistent Fonts and Buttons.
     In general, the tools have been redesigned for screens with a  
     resolution.  Larger fonts are used, and buttons in viewers,  
scriptors, and other
     tools have now been made more uniform.

  -- Stationary Navigator Menu Bar at the Top.
     Instead of having an orange pop-in/pop-out navigator bar at the  
bottom of the
     screen, the navigator bar is now located at the top of screen,  
and is stationary.
     Type alt-RETURN at any time to show or hide it.  The new  
Navigator follows the
     design of the OLPC's UI specification, but we took the liberty  
to make it narrow,
     and change its color.

   -- New Supplies.
     Click on the "treasure box" in the navigator menu bar at the top  
of the screen to
     open or close the new "Supplies" flap.  You can resize the flap  
by dragging its
     bottom gray edge.

  -- Script Editor ("scriptor") Redesign.
     Layout, colors, proportions, menus, and fonts have all been  
     A "Gold Box" has been added -- click on it to get a palette of  
useful tiles; click
     on any item in the palette to get a copy of it for use in your  

  -- Better Drop Zone Feedback in Scriptors.
     The green drop zone that shows when dragging over a script is
     greatly improved.

  -- Right Click for Halo.
     On Windows, the default is changed so that right mouse button
     brings up the halo.

  -- Opening Screen.
     The start-up screen now provides links to tutorials and example  

"Notes on Compatibility"

Most projects created in an older "Squeakland" version should load  
and work fine in the new system.  (However, projects created in the  
new etoys system will *not* be
usable in any older Squeakland version.)

A few old projects may exhibit different behavior when loaded into  
the new system.  Here are some things to watch out for:

- Because of the arithmetic operator precedence change, a script
    that contains a long chain of arithmetic may produce different
    results; e.g., "3 * 4 + 5" used to be interpreted as "3 * (4 + 5)"
    and the result was 27, but now it is "(3 * 4) + 5" and the result is
    17.  Such a script should be editted (perhaps adding the
    "parenthesis" described above) to be properly interpreted.

- The size and look of scriptors and viewers will change upon
    loading.  The new shapes may hide other carefully located
    objects, and if the project depends on the specific sizes of these
    tools, it may not work in the same way.

-   The changes to Kedama are great enough that, although an old  
project with Kedama
     may load and may even run acceptably, it is guaranteed that  
editing an old
     project in the new release does not work.  For proper migration  
of any Kedama
     project, the project should be built afresh in the new system;  
     the semantics change may require some changes to the project's  
scripts.  This
     only applies to projects that have the small window where one  
script controls
     hundreds of tiny turtles and patches.

All in all, we hope this version will be seen as a great opportunity  
to redo existing interesting projects, if needed.  Such projects can  
be shared among the millions of of Etoys users including XO users.

We hope that by using Etoys,  you, or your children will learn more  
about how our world works and have fun in the process!

More information about the Squeakland mailing list