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I've got a couple of kids who are beginning to use the computer more and more for their own purposes. A couple of days ago, My son couldn't enable monsters on his Minecraft server, because he didn't know which of the files was the properties file, "Server" or "Server".

Yeah, "Server" or "Server". I forgot to check "Show file extensions" for his user profile when I set up the computer, even though that's one of the things I always do for new installations for myself.

I set up his preferences. There: One was "Server.log" and the other was "Server.properties." Now he could find it. That got me to thinking that these kids should have a primer on computers. Things like:
  • What do computers do?
  • What are files?
  • Where is the stuff I'm working on?
I started drawing clouds, computers, disks, and even WiFi antennae. And then it hit me: Minecraft! Minecraft is a great usecase for these kids. They're familiar with it!

Textures are stored on everyone's individual computer. That's local file storage. That's why everyone can have a different look for the same world. That's why when the same kid goes to different computers, the different computers might render the same Minecraft world differently. The texture is local to the computer.

Worlds are stored at the Minecraft server. And the server tells every player about the world. That's how all players can share the same world. The one server tells everybody the same story.  In our case, access to the server is contained to our home network.

Skins are stored on the Internet. Notch has a huge database with everybody's skin on it. That's why you can go to different computers, log on to different servers, but your skin always follows you around. Everytime you log in, your computer retrieves the skin from Notch's one huge skin database in the Internet.

The actual explanation goes a little differently, and is age appropriate. But it's useful that this one game that they love, customize, and know well actually illustrates the difference between local file storage, home networks, and the Internet.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
Never thought of it like that
I have my own Minecraft server, so I understand it all, I'm also a web developer so I understand the part about Notch's database and I develop local apps which gives me an understanding of the textures (I use the paintrypack (http://painterlypack.net/)).

Still, never thought of it like that.


Ethan (8), Lisa's son
dblume
Feb. 6th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
Re: Never thought of it like that
Thanks for leaving that nice note, Ethan.

I'm very impressed that you understand the ideas of databases and remote vs. local storage. That's very good!

My own son never sticks with one skin or one texture pack for very long. He's always experimenting! I'll show him the painterlypack that you mentioned. Maybe he'll like it!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: Never thought of it like that
Ethan, minecraft is a waste of your talent. You should convince your mom to bring you to work to fix some of my bugs. :)
dblume
Feb. 6th, 2011 04:08 am (UTC)
Re: Never thought of it like that
Elliott, you're not supposed to hide behind an anonymous reply!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )