Eliot Miranda has posted some exciting news – he is working at Qwaq to develop Cog, a fast Smalltalk VM for Croquet. The VM will dynamically compile Smalltalk bytecodes to machine code transparently to the programmer, and execute this machine code instead of interpreting bytecode. He expects to have an initial release within a year which should execute pure Smalltalk code some 10 to 20 times faster than the current Squeak VM. The new VM will be released under the Qwaq open source licence (MIT-compatible).

Eliot will be posting notes on his progress and design decisions on his blog, and notes that the VM is to be released under the Qwaq open source licence. He’s looking to maintain compatability with the existing Croquet VM, Hydra, and Slang plugins. His first post gives lots of interesting details of work done so far, and his future plans.

Eliot is a long-time Smalltalker, having worked on VisualWorks for many years with a focus on VM development, and has recently been working with Gilad Bracha at Cadence.

The Mid-Hudson Valley Linux User Group will get the opportunity on 4th June to hear about a range of educational tools running on Squeak, including: SeasideScratchCroquet and Etoys. Joe Apuzzo will discuss his experience teaching 60 kids from 3th grade to 5th math and science (all within 15 minutes per group).

Find out more at the website.

Qwaq in use

Andreas Raab writes on the mailing list that:

In its ongoing commitment to Open Source, Qwaq has decided to release the first multi-core capable Croquet VM under the MIT license.

Hydra VM is a virtual machine capable of running multiple Croquet images side-by-side, therefore being able to effectively utilize multi-core CPUs. Hydra VM is still in an early phase of development, but given the (very successful) early results, Qwaq has decided to make it available to general public in the hope that other people will help Igor [Stasenko] to make further progress in developing Hydra VM.

Source code and binaries for Windows can be found at the Qwaq website.

Immersive Education Summit

Well I couldn’t resist. Aaron E. Walsh sent out an invitation to the SqueakCroquet communities for an ad-hoc Immersive Education Meeting. The Boston Digital Summit held in January covered the Education Grid, this meeting was a chance to review this information for those that were not able to make it to the summit.

Second Life was quite an experience. I had to sign up and go through some training, figure out how to get to Sun’s virtual auditorium and sit down. It was quite amusing to see some people show up on stage and not know how to sit down either, so I didn’t feel so bad. Maybe I should have spent more time in the training.

Aaron, reviewed the details of the Education Grid. The Grid is an education content virtual repository focused on interoperability, standards, and quality educational content. The goal is to provide standards that allow content to be developed to operate in different virtual worlds. These standards must be open source to ensure that content can be made freely available.

Content is just a piece of the puzzle in education. Educators also need tools to be able to evaluate the progress of students. There are a number of general tools that should be developed and made available in a consistent way for each offering. Aaron mentioned, “While it is possible to record everything that happens in a virtual world there is no way an educator could watch everything a student did in an activity that might take 2 hours.” Tools that allow educators to evaluate raw data, to assess progress and to track grades, and to create content are essential.

Quality content will be assured by having a Peer Review of offerings before the become part of the grid. The peers will be selected from the community and people with special expertise will be sought to make sure that the education goals are met, the content is accurate, standards are followed, and licensing is compatible to be a part of the grid.

Licensing and interoperability were the major concerns once Aaron opened the floor to questions. Ownership of the content was also discussed. Aaron mentioned that a not-for-profit organization would own the grid, but that the grid would be virtual and would be hosted by multiple organizations. I’m not sure there was a full answer about the ownership of the content. I would have suggested that copyright stay with the author or developing organization, and that the grid would receive unlimited rights to distribute the content, much in the same way were are trying to organize the Squeak community.

Well I ran out of time but Aaron did a very nice job of wrapping it up just a few minutes over. Thank you! The concept is really a terrific idea. I hope that our communities will join together and support developing freely available virtual world educational materials. Aaron mentioned that other meetings will be held in Croquet, I look forward to that. I hope to see you there. Hopefully that meeting will be just as well attended as the SL meeting.

Qwaq is Hiring!

16 January, 2008

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We reported earlier that Qwaq received funding, well today Qwaq announced that it is hiring. They are looking for a Software Quality Engineer and a Senior Unix System Administrator. Qwaq builds secure 3d virtual worlds for business collaboration that is written in Squeak and Croquet. It is very exciting to watch this company grow. We will be watching.

Boston Digital Media Summit

From Aaron E. Walsh:

Happy New Year, everyone. As we enter 2008 I’m happy to announce that the Boston Digital Media Summit (next weekend) is focused on Immersive Education and will feature Croquet in several sessions (see the schedule of events below; Julian’s keynote is on Day 1 — January 12th).

Please join us if you’re in the Boston area or would like to make a trip for the event. The news release is below, and I’ve attached the PDF version as well.
It’s also in HTML format along with related news items at:

http://ImmersiveEducation.org/#NEWS

The Summit schedule of events has been set, which you can also see at:

http://mediagrid.org/summit/ (main page)
http://mediagrid.org/summit/program.html (schedule of events)

Best regards,
Aaron

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Aaron Walsh

The Federation of American Scientists and the Kauffman Foundation are backing the Boston College’s own Aaron E. Walsh efforts to build virtual reality education content for virtual worlds like Croquet, Second Life and Project Wonderland.

Walsh has been focusing on delivering content to children with disabilities through the Grid Institute an organization that promotes the use of a public utility grid to develop and deliver high-end virtual reality and 3-D simulation programs.

This new multi-million dollar project called Immersive Education promises to bring together an international group of educators, researchers and companies along with foundations to develop standards and technologies that will enable a much richer interactive 3-D educational experience.

The award winning Immersive Education software, now on it’s third generation was originally only available for university students. The project was started in 2004 at Boston College. The software is now available as an open standard for educational software. Visit immersiveeducation.org for more information.