Sniff is a "Scratch-like" programming language that's designed to help Scratchers move gently from Scratch to more conventional languages. They can start writing programs, without having to learn a new language because Sniff is based on Scratch. They learn a little more about variables, compiling, syntax errors (!), and they can have fun controlling real hardware while they're doing it.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Release 20: the Scratch2015AMS build

We're off to Scratch2015AMS next week (yey!), so we've been getting everything ready. Among other things that meant copying Sniff onto lots of USB sticks (thanks to the Centre for Digital Entertainment for the very nice USB sticks - they'll be up for grabs next week). It seemed a bit silly to be giving out R19 as we've added loads of cool stuff since then, so that sort of forced the schedule on Release 20. There's a few things in there that are still works in progress, but there's too much good stuff not to take it to Amsterdam.

Key features:
  • Improved Tell notation using spaces
  • Improved Diagnostics (for Tell)
  • SniffPaint
  • Foundation work for MBED
  • Bug fixes

"Tell" is Sniff's way of interacting with external libraries. We write low level code in C then expose it through nice friendly API's. However when things didn't go right, they went badly wrong - telling a device to do something it didn't understand exposed some low level diagnostics that weren't pretty - now they don't. We've also let you include spaces in Tell commands, so instead of telling a sprite to "moveTo" you can tell it to "move to". The old way still works, but the new way is much prettier, and more Sniff like

We've been testing and working with the Sprite code for a while now, but one of the problems was the hoops we had to jump through to make a simple image. What happened to Mac Paint, and Windows Paint.exe (its a freemium feature in win10!)? So we wrote SniffPaint - a simple icon editor that we can use to make sprites, and of course its written in Sniff.

We've also started working on MBED support. This is a whole group of ARM based boards, which happens to include the BBC MicroBit. When we eventually get our hands on one, it should be pretty easy to add support for it. We've been testing with the Nucleo STM32F411 which is really nice and really cheap. STM make a whole range of demo boards for their ARM chips, and sell them for £10. The 411 is one of the more powerful, and it pretty ideally suited to running Sniff. The actually code works great on MBED, but setting everything up is hard work. We should be able to set things up more easily for the MicroBit rather than trying to work with all MBEDs. If you've got an MBED and you'd like to try it with this release get in touch - we'd love to work with you and support as many boards as possible.

Check the Downloads page to get your hands on the new code!

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