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

July, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Do you RSS?


    One of the great things about blogs is that there are a lot of ways to read them. You can of course use a web browser like Internet Express (or FireFox or Opera or Safari) and the statistics for this blog suggest that a lot of people are reading it on the web. But you can also read blogs using a news aggregator. An aggregator basically checks the blogs that you have subscribed to and collects the updates in one easy to read place. This is all done using a form of XML technology using a couple of formats. One is called RSS and one is called Atom. Which one you use depends on a number of things including what blogging engine you use. There are some politics involved but I’m not about to go into that.

    The biggest advantage that aggregators have is that they save a lot of time. Rather than having to visit each site on a regular basis you can just check the aggregator and it will let you know what has been updated and what hasn’t. And then you can easily read the updated articles without wasting any additional time. Aggregators fall into two basic types: web based and client. (though there are other kinds as well)

    Web based aggregators are web sites that allow you to create an account and add subscriptions to that account. You can then go to that web site, log in and see all the updated articles. This has a benefit of portability – anyplace you can get a web browser to open you can read your blogs. It’s not very useful though if you have to go offline and want to use idle time to catch up on your reading.

    Client aggregators are programs that you install on your computer. From time to time, usually on a schedule you set, they check the blogs you have listed and download new content. You can read this content while you are off line. The drawback is that some feeds do not include all the information and so you have to be online to read the rest and also that coordination can be difficult if you use multiple machines.

    Web-based aggregators include bloglines, MyYahoo and of course MyMsn.

    Client aggregators include RSS Bandit (my favorite) and FeedDemon which is actually a hybrid of online and offline.

    There is a list of more aggregators than I ever knew existed here. If you are not using some sort of news aggregator you may be surprised at how much time it saves you. Oh and if you do get one please be sure to add this blog to the list of blogs you follow.




  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    More on Educational Robotics


    Yesterday Microsoft announced that they are partnering with Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr to create a new Institute for Personal Robots in Education. This program is going to deliver robotics technology and curriculum materials for the computer science curriculum. (Press Release here – Q & A with some of the people involved here) I think this is a pretty exciting event because I think that robotics has the possibility of getting a lot more people interested in computer science. Also I think that there is a lot that robotics technology can do to improve the way people live and work. Having some proven tools, there is a strong evaluation effort planned for this institute, can only help.

    The plan here is to work on materials for college, including the early CS courses. I tend to think that a lot of first and even second year materials are usable by more advanced high school students though. So I see some potential for this program to benefit students. If nothing else the creation of a small, reliable and sturdy robot that can be sold in a college bookstore with a book sounds like something that has use beyond these selective universities. It’s a development I intend to watch closely.

    Oh and the project is going to use the Microsoft Robotics Studio which is already available in beta.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Visual Basic 2005 Jump Start


    My friend and co-worker Martin Schray (check out his resources page) just sent me a copy of his new book – Jump Start Guide for Microsoft Visual Basic 2005. It’s a really useful book if you are upgrading from earlier versions of Visual Basic but it is also useful if you are looking for a better understanding of features so you can add a little extra to a course. The chapters include:

    1. Enhancements to Visual Studio 2005 – Read up on code snippits to make in-class demos go easier
    2. Visual Basic 2005 Language Enhancements – New graphics features, the My namespace and overloading
    3. Enhancements to Windows Forms Applications – Read about new containers and other new controls
    4. Enhancements to Web Forms Applications – New security and membership controls let you talk about web page security in new ways.
    5. Introduction to Mobile Application Development – Want to add programming for Pocket PCs and SmartPhones?
    6. Enhancements to ADO .NET – Good stuff about database access

    This is not a textbook but it is a great learning tool for someone looking to come up to speed quickly on the latest enhancements and features in VB 2005. Martin knows his stuff and explains things very well. And of course there are a lot of screenshots to make it easier to follow along.

    I’d be tempted to have a couple of copies for the lab as reference books. It’s also good for a student who learned on an earlier version of VB and is looking to do an Independent Study semester.

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