Agile methods are now used in a large number of companies specialized in IT, including IT services. These agile methods are taught often in a specific course containing a part with theory  and a practical part.

The problematic is the following: we say that agile methods are effective and provide a better project management. Why we , teachers, are not using the agile gaits out of this specific course?

The project has two goals : firstly teaching agile methods transversally to the main courses . On the other hand, it is set to make the course more flexible and adapted to students. The result is a fragmented learning, so students are better able to assimilate knowledge.

The gait is as follows: The students have an access to a pdf document of the course. They have to read it. A 4 hours session goes as follows: Each student (or binomial) has a task-board on which it will add tasks (written on post-it). This task-board comes from the SCRUM agile method. When he finish a task, he updates his task board . The task board is particularly important for the teacher : it allows him to see the progress of students in their work, in the same manner as for the management of an IT project.

One of the tasks is reading course. This needs to create a synthetic and readable pdf. The students are invited to read the document for 30 to 45 minutes depending on the difficulty . Then the teacher organizes a session of oral course of 20 minutes, just explaining the main elements to start the work. Other tasks are the completion of the User Stories of the project.

To apply this method, we add different tools (for example: board planning, the pomodoro and equivalent stand-up meeting in writing) that can be visible in the photos.

Teacher Task Board


Student Task Board


Pomodoro Timer

As i already shout in the FOSDEM 2014 slides post, i have presented PhaROS in the last edition of FOSDEM, under the title of PhaROS: Towards Live Environments in Robotics.

I bring now to you this video taken during the presentation. I wish you to enjoy it!

Sorry if my hair is disheveled :), i am not very photogenic.


Enjoy it!



PhaROS tool has the mission of installing and creating packages into a ROS installation.

For doing this we have several commands, from installing and creating to administrating repositories, so you can manage your own packages and creating templates without major problems.

Install PhaROS tool

We are working for having this package in Ubuntu and ROS repositories, but meanwhile you can download it from here: pharos-deb

Once downloaded just execute

sudo dpkg -i pharos.deb

pharos –help


Install PhaROS based Package

pharos install PACKAGE [OPTIONS]


pharos install esug –location=/home/user/ros/workspace –version=2.0


pharos install –help

 Create PhaROS based Package

pharos create PACKAGE [OPTIONS]


pharos create –location=/home/user/ros/workspace –version=2.0 –author=YourName –author-email=YourEmail

Tip: Be sure the email is a correct one. If is not a correctly spelled one you will notice during last step.
pharos create –help

Register Repository of packages

pharos register-repository –url=anUrl –package=aPackage [ OPTIONS ]


pharos register-repository –url= –package=YourProjectDirectory –directory=YourProjectDirectory

Tip: If your repository requires user/password for reading add –user=User –password=Password to the example.
Disclaimer: User/Password will be stored in a text file without any security.

pharos register-repository –help

Listing registered repositories

pharos list-repositories

Creating a directory for your own project repository

pharos create-repository PACKAGENAME [ OPTIONS ]


pharos create-repository example –user=UserName >
pharos create-repository example –user=UserName  –output=


pharos create-repository –help




We are now really glad to present an enhanced way to deal with PhaROS.

Since we want to keep with the ROS community spirit of collaborative development for robotics, we introduce now our own command for managing packages made in PhaROS.

This command is mean to install existing packages and create new packages with cool snippets and examples for going faster through the learning time.

PhaROS tool is made completely in Pharo smalltalk and it allows to deploy an existent package into a pharo 1.4/2.0/3.0 in any distribution of ROS that uses catkin package. It automatize the generation xml, makefiles, type and scripts creation, going on the direction of letting the pharo programmer to focus just in programming and not in infrastructure stuff.

For Installing and Using please check this post: using-pharos-tool







CodeJam is a programming contest. It includes a lot of problems.
For each problems, 2 data sets are provided: a small one and a large one. It is really interesting to learn programming.
You can try a solution on the small data set and also send it to the CodeJam web site to know if it is correct and then try on the larger data set.

CJSover is a framework written in Pharo to easily implement algorithms to solve CodeJam problems.
It simplifies data file reading and writing. I also implemented some (really naïve and non-optimized ;-)) solutions to some problems.
And for those “solved” problems, I commit here the correct solution to then be able to run automated tests that re-run them.


$ git clone CJSolver.git
$ cd CJSolver.git
$ sh                # this will download the Pharo VM + Pharo image + load the CJSolver code
$ ./pharo-ui cjsolver.image

I did this small framework because:
- I want that students learn Pharo,
- I want that students participate to some programming contests using Pharo,
- I want to show students that YES, we can also implement these problems in Pharo

Please, checkout the code,
optimize already implemented solutions,
or implement solution to new problems,
and have fun ;-)

1- Create a category

Before creating a block, you probably need to create a category. By default, in Phratch there are 10 shown categories. Each of these categories has 4 properties:

  • a label, which is shown as the name of the category (for example “Motion”)
  • a color, which is the color of the blocks inside the category. For now, the category has not necessarily the same color because the display of a category is based on an image in the scrachSkin subdirectory. This point is not explained here. We will use a basic color for the category.
  • an order number, which represents the place of your category in the display screen.
  • a viewer page, which represents how the category is displayed when we click on it. Most of the categories have the basic behavior (displaying blocks), but sometimes, we can need specific ones. For example,the category “Variables” has some buttons (Make a variable, Make a list and Make a block). Here we will use the basic viewer page.

So, let’s go for creating our own category.
In the Pharo environment, create a class which is a subclass of PhratchCategory, like the following one:

PhratchCategory subclass: #PhratchCategoryMyFirst 
    instanceVariableNames: '' 
    classVariableNames: '' 
    poolDictionaries: '' 
    category: ‘MyOwnBlocks’

In the class side of your new class, add these methods:

    ^(Color r: 0.1 g: 0.2 b: 0.7)

where the color can have others values.

    ^'my category'

This label will be used to place your future block in this category and is used for the display.


which gives the place where the category will be placed.

Your first category is done. Congratulation !
To see it in Phratch, just relaunch Phratch, with this command:

PhratchFrameMorph closeAndOpen.

Your empty category is available in the Phratch environment.

A last thing about category: when a category is created, a new setting appears in the Setting browser. This setting allows to show or hide the category in Phratch. By default, the value is true.

2- Create a specific sprite

In Phratch a block is a message sent to a Sprite. By default the Sprite “Sprite1” is a PhratchSpriteMorph. If you need to have a specific behavior, just create a subclass of it. Then, you will have the possibility to select this new specific sprite when creating a new sprite in Phratch.

In this tutorial, we do not create a new sprite. We will use the generic one.

3- Create a first blocks

In PhratchSpriteMorph, create a protocol “*MyOwnBlocks”, to be clean with the modularity of the system.
Then you can add your behavior. It can be what you want. For example, I want to open a Transcript. For that, my method is:

    ^Transcript open

For now, the method is not visible in Phratch. To make it visible, add the following pragma:

    <phratchItem: 'open a transcript' 
        kind: #- 
        category: 'my category' 
        defaultValues: #() 
        subCategory: #a 
        special: #()> 
    ^Transcript open

When updating the view in Phratch, by clicking on “My category” a new block appears. By clicking on this block a transcript appears.
You have written your first block !

4- About the pragma

The pragma used to declare a new block in Phratch has the following form:

<phratchItem: '' kind: #- category: '' defaultValues: #() subCategory: #a special: #()>
  • phratchItem contains the label of the block. It contains also the entry for parameters.
  • kind is the kind of block. By default “#-“ means that the block is a CommandBlockMorph.
  • defaultValues is an array with the default parameter if your block needs them.
  • subCategory is a symbol that allows you to order blocks inside your category.
  • special is an array with special behavior that should be executed on the block before the block execution (the main use is the parametrization of the block itself).

Let’s go for another example. Write this method, which open a Nautilus browser a a specific class:

openBrowserOn: aStringClass 
    <phratchItem: 'open a browser on: $String$' 
        kind: #- 
        category: 'my category' 
        defaultValues: #('Collection') 
        subCategory: #a 
        special: #()> 
    Nautilus fullOnClass: (Smalltalk at: aStringClass asSymbol)

Here, you can see that a parameter is present in phratchItem: this parameter is a String. So, we have a block that open a browser on a class that you can parametrize. The default value is ‘Collection’. You can change it by an existing class.

In Phratch environment, click on this new block, you will see a browser on Collection.

5- Types

All types are declared in the class PhratchType.
Each type is declared with the pragma <phratchType: #’’>. You can browse these methods to see existing types.

6- Kind of blocks

A block can have multiple forms. In our examples, we manipulated the CommandBlockMorph. It exists multiple ones. You can see them as subclasses of BlockMorph.
The main ones are CommandBlockMorph that executes a command, ReporterBlockMorph that returns a value, BooleanBlockMorph that returns a boolean.

I stopped this tutorial here. It is enough to write simple blocks in Phratch. You can discover kinds of block or types by right-clicking on an existing block of the system, then ‘show block’ in the menu. You will see the method and particularly the associated pragma.

Dear smalltalkers, phratchers and everybody interested to help Phratch development.
We need you as an international community. Phratch needs your help to be multilingual.

The most of work is already done, It is based on the Scratch work (Thank you for all the supported languages). Now, as Phratch has a lot of new features, we need to translate each of these new features.

For each of the following languages (ar, bg, ca, cs, da, de, el, es, et, eu, fa, fi, fr_CA, gl, he, hr, ht, hu, id, is, it, ja_hira, ja, kn, ko, lt, mk, mn, mr, ms, ne, nl, no, pl, pt_br, pt, ro, ru, rw, sk, sl, sv, th, tr, uk, vi, zh_cn, zh_tw), we need to complete the lines available in the phratch issue tracker ( You can post your work as a comment or send me a mail, I will then integrate it in Phratch.

For each expression there is a msgid in english, that should not be changed. Then, there is a msgstr that should be complete in the specific language. All elements in the $$ (like $Number$) are variables, they should not be changed but they have to be integrated in your translation. For example, in french:
msgid “replace costume $Number$ with $NewCostume$”
msgstr “remplacer le costume $Number$ avec $NewCostume$”

There is less than 130 small expressions. It is 1 or 2 hours of work, and it helps us a lot.

Thank you for your help.

Packt publishing offers great discount on their books this Christmas.

Following on from the success of last year’s festive offer, the publisher will be celebrating the holiday season with an even bigger $5 Bonanza.
From December 19th, customers will be able to get any eBook or Video from Packt for just $5. This sale covers every title in the 1700+ range and customers can grab as many as they like until January 3rd 2014 – more information is available at

I continue to develop Phratch, the port of Scratch in Pharo. Phratch is a visual programming language on top of Pharo.

There are lots of new features:

  • Settings
  • FileSystems
  • Metacello
  • integration of BYOB (allows to build your own blocks)
  • integration of Color and Files
  • a lot of new useful blocks
  • projects saved with Fuel
  • possibility to implement new features without modifying the core of the system
  • possibility to customize the environment: add new categories, add new kinds of Sprite, add new blocks.

Phratch is available for Pharo2.0 with the following configuration:

Gofer it 
    url: ''
    username: '' 
    password: ''; 
    package: 'ConfigurationOfPhratch';
((Smalltalk at: #ConfigurationOfPhratch) project version: '1.0') load.
(Smalltalk at: #PhratchFrameMorph) open perform: #saveImageForEndUserSilently.

I hope to write documentations about all of the new features asap.