Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

March, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Hints and Tips for Using Visual Studio in the Classroom - First in a Series

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    This is the first of a series of hints, tips and suggestions for using Visual Studio 2005. Mostly I plan to describe features that are new to Visual Studio 2005 but I will probably include some features that were introduced in earlier versions but that may not be as well known or understood as they might be. The full series will be kept in an article for later reference.

    By default Visual Studio 2005 does not ask the developer for a location to save their project. This is by design and it lets you easily discard a project when you are done with it. This is actually quite useful when you are writing a quick piece of code for a demo or to try something out. After all, just how many copies of “Hello World” do you really want to have on your computer? And is “WindowsApplication123” really something you want to save until the end of time? Probably not.

    This works out very well for professional developers. They are disciplined people (well, mostly) who are quite capable of saving their projects with a good name, in the right location, at the right time. Students? Well, quite frankly students are not always the best managers of their time. Many is the time I have seen a student save their project in a rush because the bell just rang and their next class is at the other end of the building. Sometimes it becomes almost impossible to find the project later. I always used to recommend that students save everything once the project was started. Sometimes they listened. An other option is to force people to select a name and location for the project at creation time. That is the setting I recommend for student computers. This is how to do it.

    From the Tools menu select Options. On the option dialogue box select Projects and Solutions and under that select General. Now check the option box labeled “Save new projects when created.” That will cause a full dialogue box to open when a new project is created so that students can easily specify the right location for their project. You can also change the default project location from this dialogue box. If every student’s account maps to their own drive you could use that address here.

    One other suggestion: The Tools menu has an Import and Export Settings option. Once you get a set of settings that you think are perfect for use in your class you can export those setting to a file and use that file to a) set up other computers in the lab or b) put things back the way you want them after some student changes their settings in such a masterful way that Visual Studio becomes less usable by others.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Scientist Awarded Academy Award

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    The Academy Awards has a whole section of awards for technical achievement. Things like better film, cameras, sound equipment, and the like. This are achievements that make the art of making movies better. Recently a computer scientist who now works for Microsoft recieved one of these Academy Awards for some work he did earlier in his career. You can read about it here.

    Computer science is turning up as being important in a whole lot of places. Just think of the industries that are possibilities for people who understand computer science. And that reminds me - I found out recently that the head of Information Technology for the Boston Red Sox has a World Series ring. The head of IT for the New England Patriots has a Super Bowl ring. Now those are perks of the job!

    One last thing. You can read Adam Barr's story of a conversation with a tech support guy who works at a ski resort here. Think about riding your snowboard (or skiing) to and from work assignments. Now that is my idea of a way around the office!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Finding Coffee and Walking Through Your Email

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    Sometimes computer science research is not about solving the most serious problems in the world.  Sometimes it is just about trying an idea to see where it will take you. Microsoft Research has over 700 researchers who look into all sorts of things. Every year they have an event called Tech Fest where they highlight what they have been doing and show it to other Microsoft employees. Think about it as a super science fair were all the projects have been done by PhDs.

    While most of the show is just for employees (one of these days I really want to get to go) some of the exhibits are shown to invited media people. The Seattle P-I has some stories about some of these exhibits that give a taste of the different ways research can go.

    One story is about a trial of a new user interface device - a step pad. While in it's research phase is seems mostly a fun toy application think about how it could be applied to other, more serious things. Things like people who need to use their hands for other things or who can't use their hands at all. How might something like this change the way they work?

    A second story is about using location information from different sources. In this case a database with locations of coffee shops and infromation about where the user is from GPS to locate the way to the nearest coffee shop. This again is actually more seriously about using different kinds of devices to communicate with the user. The application may seem fun and not very important (unless you really need your morning Starbucks) but there is serious research involved.

    Who says that research has to be all boring and stuffy?

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