Growing up in rural Utah, brothers Jared and JR Neilsen spent their free time recording videos that starred a cast of homemade puppets. As adults they've reconvened to create their own web series,Hello World, which aims to teach kids about computer science.
The latest segment in the series, “Superusers: The Legendary GNU/Linux Show,” is focused on teaching Linux fundamentals. Puppets Adelie the penguin and Aramis the gnu lead kids on operating system adventures to teach topics such as how to use commands, write basic shell scripts, and find a file or directory.
“We wanted to do something creative and fun, merging the adventures of our youth with our current interests in computer science,” Jared Neilsen said, via email. “It's a pastiche of things we love: puppets, surreal British comedy, philosophy, music, superhero cartoons, and Linux, of course.”
Neilsen made his way to Linux designing and hacking interactive museum exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles where he worked as a technician. He was tasked with upgrading the aging exhibits from PIC chips to Arduinos, and later to Raspberry Pis. He also worked on light and sound installations using Pure Data to control DMX dimmer packs and multiple audio channels, he said.
“I found Linux ideally suited for this type of development because it's so lean, light and customizable,” he said.
His brother JR, a web developer, started using Linux a few years ago and never looked back.
Together they produce the Hello World program entirely on Linux (Mint 17 Cinnamon) and open source software. Or, when needed, they develop a workaround. For example, they create stop-motion animations on Linux using Entangle and avconv.
“One of our goals is to prove that anyone, anywhere, with an Internet connection and access to a computer and camera can produce professional media with no budget,” Neilsen said.
Their open source toolbox includes:
- Lightworks for video editing
- Blender for animation and compositing
- Inkscape, GIMP and ImageMagick for graphics and photos
- A combination of LMMS, BitWig, Audacity and Ardour for sound processing and music composition
- Entangle for stopmotion
- avconv to compile all of their moving-image assets.
The Neilsens are now seeking Indiegogo funding to start a new series of 10 videos and an e-book that will teach kids the basics of programming.