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Since I brought up C++ the other day I’ve had a few questions in email. Some of the common questions I get revolve around doing more interesting things with the console. By interesting I mean different colors, placing the cursor at specific parts of the screen and the like. You know, all those things we used to do the hard way back in the day before really GUI (Graphical User Interface) objects like we have today with Windows Forms or some of the objects available in Java with Swing. Well I have good news for you. Using a modern C++ compiler like the one in Visual Studio 2005 does not mean you can’t do all that fun stuff.
Today I decided to play with a bit of it. The object you want to use is the Console object and you want to have the IDE create a CLR Console application. The following code is fairly self-explanatory. Console::Title sets the title of the DOS/Console window that is opened. The code in the loop sets the background color to black and prints out two spaces to replace characters in row 10 and position i. Then a sort of arrow (foreground already set to red) is printed on a white background. Then a sleep. Note that you need to add “using namespace System::Threading;” after the line that says “using namespace System;” for the call to the Threading object to work. The
Console::Title = "Rocket Ship?";
Console::CursorTop = 10;
Console::ForegroundColor = ConsoleColor::Red;
for (i=0; i < 76; i++)
Console::BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor::Black;
Console::CursorLeft = i;
Console::BackgroundColor = ConsoleColor::White;
There are other methods available like Clear and Beep and more. Give it a try if you do interesting console applications with your students. Since this Console object is part of .NET you can do the same kind of things in console applications written in C# or Visual Basic as well.
Now available for free is a series of video lessons that use SQL Server 2005 Express Edition to teach databases. The whole series starts here and includes over four hours of video-based instruction. There are 8 lessons in all and they start at the very beginning with "What is a database?"
You may find these videos useful for your own professional development or as additional resources for use in class. The last lesson actually walks you though the steps of connecting a database to a web application so there are lots of places that might come in handy. Check them out and let me know what you think!
Oh and if you don't have it installed already you can get SQL Server 2005 Express Edition as a free download here. You will find other samples and some SQL Server 2005 books available at the same site.
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.