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

April, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Digital Dorm Room Tour

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    My friend Edwin is on the road running the northeast leg of the Digital Dorm Room tour. Today he is actually at Brooklyn College which is near and dear to my heart because my wife went there and because it is only blocks away from where I grew up.

    The Digital Dorm Room is actually a model of a cool technology enabled dorm room built into a truck. Why they let Edwin drive the truck around the country is beyond me. Maybe it's because I am old but somehow riding around in anything driven by Edwin has been something of a thrill ride for me. He is, let's say, an enthusiastic driver. Edwin talks about the idea behind the DDR (not to be confused with Dance Dance Revolution) on his blog here. There are some cool "toys" installed and he has prizes to give away.

    The official web page with a map of where Edwin is going may be found here. Check it out as there are cool technology trailers and information about some of the software products Edwin will also be demonstrating. For a full schedule so you can find out if and when the DDR is coming to a school near you visit this page.

    Edwin is a great guy and I'm not really worried about his driving. Don't read anything in to the fact that I am not tagging along. (wink wink)

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    When One Thing Leads To Another

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    The laws of unintended consequences seem to live in computer science and software development. Most good software products seem to wind up being used in unexpected ways. More than that one thing seems to always lead to another and not always in expected directions.

    For example start with XNA Game Studio Express. It was designed to let hobbyists create their own video games for the Xbox 360 and for Windows PCs. It does that very well. And then other people with other ideas started looking at it as a tool for other things. For example there is a research project called Boku that is creating a 3D game that allows very young students to create computer programs. XNA GSE was a natural choice for this development.

    Less obvious perhaps was the use of XNA GSE to create the virtual world/simulator system for Microsoft Robotics Studio. I should mention that the MSRS team just announced (here on their blog) the latest technical preview of their work with lots of new features. Well what's the next step here?

    Aside from a simulation package the Robotics Studio had to deal with some serious technical issues around concurrent operations. On a robot a lot of things often have to happen at once.  An article by Mary Jo Foley quotes Tandy Trower, the head of the MSRS team:

    Businesses have discovered that the Microsoft Robotics Studio includes technology that is suited for programming multicore, distributed systems. Specifically, businesses are quite interested in the concurrency and coordination (CCR) and decentralized software services (DSS) runtimes that are currently embedded in the robotics toolkit, Trower said. These runtimes are part of the evolving multicore/distributed programming model into which Microsoft and other tech vendors starting to plow lots of money and development work.

    So what we have is that some software for game development allowed the robotics team to get some things done much easier so that they could focus their energies on other, very complicated, problems. Not many systems work in a vacuum these days and all the good projects build on the work of others.

    One last comment, dealing with multicore systems and handling concurrency are some of the big issues in computer science today. They are going to become more and more important as time goes on. Students today will want to be familiar with at least the vocabulary of the problems.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    An Expression Web Video Tutorial

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    Randy Guthrie has posted a very nice 34 minute long video tutorial on how to create a personal web site using Expression Web. Expression Web is free for schools though the MSDN AA program. For college/university students it is also free through the Dreamspark program.

    Randy does a great job with this tutorial I think. So many of the tutorials I see run through things too quickly. It can be hard to keep up. Randy keeps a nice moderate pace (must be that western attitude or altitude - Randy is in Colorado) though and I found it very easy to follow.

    If you want a good walk through that will result in a usable web site, this is the video for you. Highly recommended!

    Oh and Randy has a bunch of other resources including two other pieces on Expression Web at his Student Resource page. Check them all out.

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