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RE: Topologica port to Linux (was: A call to action)

> Well ... I took a quick look at the Topologica site
> (http://www.topolgka.demon.co.uk/index.htm). The applications
> there are
> commercial, licensed apps. I don't have a clear idea of what you're
> proposing that someone do.

Produce a Linux version of one. Otherwise I can see a loop here where people
sit around saying there's no  point in producing software because schools
don't use Linux while schools don't use Linux because there's no software. I
sorta gathered that was why we were invited into this listserve.

 Are you connected with the company
> and able to
> negotiate the details of an arrangement? Who are the "we" in your last
> paragraph?

Topo is pretty much a 'garage operation' with a bunch of freelancers, of
which I am one, working around it with a fairly common philosophy and a
great deal of personal respect and trust. The proprietor is Brian Kerslake
(brian@topologika.com). I think he would agree with me when I say that it is
not some huge money machine (would that it were:) but it is a loose knit
group of people who feel that there should be some standards and quality
rather than simple froth in edsoft.

> I didn't see any information about how the apps were written
> -- the sorts of
> details, like what programming language is involved,

RISC OS machine code, RISC Basic 5, Visual Basic, Delphi, Director 6, - not
sure what the up-coming Mac stuff is written in. Basically we use whatever
tool seems right for the particular job on a particular platform.

> kinds of data
> structures are used, etc. -- the kinds of information that
> any sensible
> programmer would ask about before committing to a job (or, in
> my case, even
> hazarding a guess about whether I have the technical qualifications to
> consider taking it on).

Well, have to be honest. In porting stuff before we've shown it to a
programmer and they say whether they can do it or they can't. Not sure what
you mean by data structures.

> I looked at the demo of MathMania (picked because it was the
> highest grade
> level listed for a math program with a Windows demo version)
> and ran through
> it. It looks okay, but not all that different from other apps
> I saw around
> 5+ years ago for the Mac (back when I was a sysadmin/teacher in a K-8
> private school).

Yep - the original was written I think in '89 for Acorn.

 Without seeing more of the apps at work in
> their current
> forms, I have no good way to decide whether working on
> converting them would
> be a good investment -- either financially (if the resulting
> product were
> sold commercially) or as a public service bit of volunteer
> work (I confess
> to being a bit skeptical about this possibility, if the
> resulting app would
> be owned by Topologica and not released as Open Source).

OK - I think you have come up with about 100 different reasons not to do it.
That's just fine. You seem to have decided exactly what Topo's approach
would be to such a project. My motivation was to see if there was anyone
within, or outside this group, who would be interested in beginning
discussion. What Topo is offering is marketing (or giving-away) access to
some 30,000 UK schools as well as many in Canada, Australia and NewZealand.
We (i.e. The Collective) would be keen to promote alternatives to Some
Current Operating Systems. To this end we /might/ be prepared to allow the
conversion of some of our (award winning) designs - a project in which we
would expect to /share/ the risk with the programmer. I you don't feel that
Linux has the commercial potential to carry edsoft then I would question the
purpose of this listserve, if you do then I would suggest that starting with
a few proven products would be a good way of launching it.

> I imagine anyone who might have the programming skills to
> take this job on
> would have similar questions. What is the best way, do you
> think, to get the
> information that one would need to make an informed decision
> about your
> "call to action"?

OK - how about this; 'anyone' (or anyone else) might say that it would be
something they would be interested in doing. They might then look over the
web site, maybe download a few demos (more to come shortly) and we might
send them more on disc if they requested them.

They might see a package that grabbed their imagination, that they felt was
of value, that they felt they had some of the programming skills and could
get the rest to produce it for the Linux OS. At that point Topo would decide
if it felt confident with that person (people) and would start to talk about
open/closed standards, methods of distribution, commercial considerations,
permissions (topo /never/ takes the copyright of an outside
writer's/designer's work unless the designer wishes to sell it - they
certainly own none of mine) etc.

There are a range of products from the very simple Freddy Teddy stuff that I
imagin any compitent 'weekend programmer' could tackle (though we like
things bug free in the end:) up to complex programs like Music Box which
required fairly sophisticated graphic/sound work including synchonising
several channels and providing real time music editing.

We'd want to work with someone who's competent certainly, but it's equally
important that they're keen. In a word, Han Solo, not C3P0 :)


> At 08:20 PM 8/2/99 +0100, Marshal Anderson wrote:
> >OK, enough with the chat already. Is there anyone out there,
> or any one who
> >knows someone, who would be prepared to take on a conversion
> job based on a
> >piece of Topologika software?
> >
> >They would need basic graphics and sound handling - but all
> pics and sound
> >files can be provided.
> >
> >Dunno quite what we'd do with the result. On the one hand we
> could give it
> >away as a sort of taster - in which case there'd be no money for the
> >programmer. If we decided to sell it there's be a royalty.
> >
> >Any thoughts?
> >
> >Marshal
> ------------------------------------"Never tell me the odds!"---
> Ray Olszewski                                        -- Han Solo
> Palo Alto, CA  94303-3603    	 	        ray@comarre.com
> ----------------------------------------------------------------