Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Squeak Etoys on iPad

In preparation of making Etoys work on the recently announced OLPC tablet, I ported it to the iPad. Here is a video—read on below for some details:

This might look exciting, and it certainly is, but it feels actually a lot more clunky than it looks. You may have noticed the little target circles I added whenever a finger touches the screen. That's to know where exactly the finger hit. It's really hard to hit anything, took me a while of training to hit the colorful halo handle buttons on first try. We really need to redesign the user interface before giving this into the hands of kids ...

But for now, some technical details: John McIntosh ported the Squeak Virtual Machine to Apple's touch-based OS last year (source available at isqueak.org). I modified it slightly to enable multi-touch and keyboard input. Also, I rewrote his code to deal with touch events in Squeak, and added multi-touch handling to Morphic. Fortunately, Morphic was designed to handle multiple "hands" (pointing devices) from the beginning, so adding this was much easier than in a system that assumes there is only one mouse. That's why moving multiple objects at the same time, and painting with more than one finger, just works once the events are in the system.

So far this is just an early test. We should work on improving the Etoys touch UI in next year's release. The Sugar menu bar works fine, but everything else is way too small. At least we have the luxury of being able to test Etoys already—getting the rest of Sugar running on a touch device might take a while. Hopefully OLPC will have developer machines soonish. If this test has shown one thing, then that there is lots of work to do (and it may even be necessary to start over).