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

January, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CWE/SANS TOP 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors

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    It’s rare when you can get a bunch of software people to agree on much of any thing. Just think of all the programming language wars going on and the debates over what browser or operating systems to use. So when I hear that a bunch of experts have agreed on the most dangerous programming errors that gets my attention. What I found what the CWE/SANS TOP 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors list.

    The impetus for this list was in large part better software security. Reliability was a concern as well of course. But security is getting a lot of attention these days and programming errors are responsible for a lot of security issues in software.  I don’t  underestimate the amount of security issues caused by people problems but we can’t fix them in code. We can however build more secure code. So this list will help a lot of organizations in the future. In my opinion education is a key piece and the people behind this list agree.

    Colleges and others who prepare programmers will use the Top 25 Errors as a foundation for curriculum that ensures their students know how to avoid the critical programming errors. One of the colleges that participated in developing the Top 25, UC Davis, has already established a secure coding clinic where student-written software is reviewed for the key programming errors that lead to critical security vulnerabilities. The Top 25 enables the clinic to prioritize errors in its review. Other colleges are beginning to emulate the secure coding clinics.

    Besides the list itself there is a lot of supporting information on this page though. There are quotes from experts explaining the importance of these errors and for programmers to learn about them and how to avoid them. I think this is a great list for students, even beginners, to know about and to ask questions about. For professional programmers or those who expect to become professionals this list is a must read.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Ada Lovelace Day

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    For a long time I have been concerned about the small number of women in the computer field. The number has actually gone down since the days when I was an undergraduate student. Given the talented women in computer science who I have worked with over the years I see this as a huge loss for the field and for society. Now several groups – public and private, for profit and non-profit – are concerned about this issue but the blogosphere hasn’t really had an event to draw attention to the problem. Until now. Several people I know have linked to this announcement:

    I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.

    — Suw Charman-Anderson

    1,065 people have signed up (65 over target) — success!

    Open until 24th March 2009 — Sign this pledge »

    The idea is for 1,000 people or more – looks like more so far – will all publish blog entries about women in technology they admire as a one day effort to focus attention on role models for younger women. Sounds like a great idea. I’ve signed up and now I’m trying to decide who to write about. I’ve written about Grace Hopper before and while I admire her greatly I think I will do someone different this time. Maybe my wife who has been a programmer, a technical writer and who now teaches with technology in a middle school. I sure do admire her and her work. Or perhaps it will be one of the women who attended college with me those many years ago. They’ve had good careers and done things I admire. Or perhaps one of the women I have worked with over the years. Or maybe someone else – perhaps someone I don’t know personally but whose work I’ve admired for years. I’m still trying to figure it out. But really it’s pretty great that there isn’t only one name that comes to mind.

    How about you? Is there a woman in technology you admire and will blog about on March 24th, 2009? Thinks about it.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Social Computing/Networking and Reaching Out To Students

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    If you are viewing this post using a web browser and slide down the screen a little you will find a number of things. Among the “ego badges” about Twitter followers and blog follower notices and above the links to other blogs you will find a new gadget. This gadget (I’m told that is what it is called) shows the latest activity on Microphone. What is Microphone? Well it is a Facebook application that Microsoft is using to try to connect to students. It has a wall similar to individual Facebook people walls for writing quick little notes. It has discussion forums where students can ask questions and where other students and Microsoft employees answer them. It’s really a conversation. Hopefully it is an educational conversation where all parties can learn from and about each other.

    Many companies are using this sort of thing to communicate and to try to establish a more human face to their companies and products. Is it about marketing? Well in part yes. But at the same time it is about building a relationship – a two way more shared and equal relationship  - between individuals.  It can be scary at times – what if the students don’t like us? What if I tick someone off at the company – will that keep me from getting a job there? And on and on. Schools are dealing with the same fears of course.

    With or without the rest of us, students are using these tools to communicate with each other. They are using forums, Facebook, wikis, IM, YouTube and more to keep in touch with each other and to make new friends. If you believe that “students are our future” than it makes sense to adopt some of their communications paths. Companies are doing that. Microsoft also has Channel 8 site which includes a lot of videos as well as conversation about those videos for example.

    Some schools are following suit of course. Mostly in the higher education space but also in high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools. Often though it seems as though private schools are on the leading edge. They, unlike most public schools, have to compete for students so looking for a easy to standout is a good thing. But I wish more schools would take a lead in this area. There are often alumni groups for schools on Facebook for example. Some schools embrace these groups and support them. Others do what they can to shut them down. Which activity do you suppose builds more good will? Some teachers are using wikis and videos to teach. Others actively work with their IT to block both kinds of sites from student eyes. Which do you suppose makes the students think the teachers are interested in getting though to them where they “live?”

    Using social networking sites take a bit more effort at times but it sure can pay off.

    If you have a chance and a Facebook account check out the conversations at Microphone.

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