Friday, November 28, 2008

What are you?

Just for the fun of it I was taking a series of poll questions at Microsoft’s Microphone application on Facebook this afternoon and all of a sudden this question came up and I was stumped.

Do you consider yourself primarily a:

  • Gamer
  • Programmer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Artist
  • Technology Hobbyist
  • IT professional

And I didn’t know. Clearly not gamer or artist. IT professional? What does that even mean today? I work for a computer company but not really in an IT role. And while I have done that it never defined me. So that’s out.

These leaves technology hobbyist which feels ok but not quite. And then programmer and computer scientist. I want to say computer scientist. I really do. But do I reach that bar or am I “just” a well educated programmer? I think I would have to answer computer scientist but admit that this is as much aspirational as actual. And I have to think about how I define computer scientist.

So where do you see yourself?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Reading

Why post anything on Thanksgiving? I mean people are all spending time with family or sleeping through football games on TV and generally staying away from the Internet for a couple of days.  Well maybe not. I get bored and I don’t watch TV and my wife loves me enough to let me stay home while she enjoys “Black Friday.” Honestly she loves it. So typically some time over a long week end I get online hoping to find something to read. And lo and behold the Internet is closed. OK not closed but there is far from the typical amount of stuff out there to read. So clearly I should do my part for those of you who are like me. If any …

Here is an interesting article on games. The Army is spending $50 million over 5 years to develop games to train solders. That’s a lot of money. But even more than as something to train solders I think (hope) it might inspire a lot more people to look at other sorts of educational games. Especially those that are more customizable. [Hat tip: Brian Scarbeau for the link.]

Teamwork in searching? Interesting article in the NY Times (free subscription required) about a Microsoft Research project that allows several people to research together using different computers. The product is now available for free and is called Search Together. It seems like this might be a very helpful tool for students doing group research projects. Maybe you want to use some time this long weekend to try it out?

Functional Programming? Ever wonder about it? It’s getting a lot of attention in many higher education computer science circles. Sure you can use a special functional language like F# but what if you want to learn in a different context? Eric White has a blog post that introduces a set of tutorial information that uses Visual basic as the language for functional program. You may want to start out at Introduction to the FP Tutorial which makes the case for functional programming.

Study: Math Teachers 1 Chapter Ahead of Students – This is a typical problem in computer science education as well. I taught a course where I was only 1 chapter ahead of students once and still feel guilty over it. How can we fix it? I don’t know. If you have ideas I’m interested in hearing them.

Leigh Ann Sudol has a post titled Numb3rs and Trains and CS with a bunch of interesting links and a discussion on the TV show and how it relates to making computer science mean something to people.l

Friday, November 21, 2008

IT Challenge 2009 Worldwide Competition for High School and College Students Ages 16 and Over

Attention all high school students 16 and over. Are you interested in information technology?

Microsoft Imagine Cup Announces the IT Challenge 2009 Worldwide Competition for High School and College Students Ages 16 and Over. This worldwide competition is focused on finding solutions to real-world issues. We need imagine a better world, and then make it happen. 

You can still compete, but don't delay there's only 5 quizzes left!

Infrastructure 11/23/08
Application    12/9/2008
Application    12/20/2008
Management     1/14/2009
Management     1/31/2009

Sign up today:


Why should you participate?

  • You can further develop your IT talent by participating in a global competition.
  • You get a chance to compete with peers from other countries.
  • You have access to Imagine Cup forums to network with other students with similar technology interests.
  • The IT Challenge adds value to your education. The online quizzes are like mini-certification exams. You can use them as practice exams or see what it's like to take a Microsoft certification.
  • Eligible students who move on to round 3 have the potential to win up to US$8,000 in the WW Finals plus an all expense trip to the Imagine Cup World Wide finals in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2009.
  • There are no fees to register for the IT Challenge competition and guess what, you can compete online!
  • And better yet, you get access to virtual labs and 100+ hours of premium technical e-learning and e-books to prepare for the competition.

Check out past competitors


What’s the process for signing up?

The IT Challenge is an individual competition based on four themed online quizzes (client, infrastructure, application, and management technologies). Competitors are challenged to demonstrate proficiency in the art of developing, deploying, configuring and maintaining IT systems that are efficient, robust, and secure.  In addition to analysis and decision-making processes, this invitational challenges students to demonstrate proficiency in the science of networks, databases, and servers.
Remember, you are only required to participate in (and pass) one of the quizzes in Round One to move onto the round 2.  Every eligible entrant that receives a valid score of 50% or higher on any single Round One quiz as determined by Imagine Cup will advance to Round Two. Here are four easy steps:

Step one: Register for the IT Challenge
Step two: Compete in Round 1 online* (feel free to try practice quizzes before the “real thing”)
Step three: Eligible winners compete in Round 2 online.
Step four: Eligible students who move on to Round 3 have the potential to win up to US$8,000 in the WW Finals plus an all expense trip to the Imagine Cup World Wide finals in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2009!

For a complete description and information about eligibility and judging criteria, visit

Sign up today:


ABOUT IMAGINE CUP: The Imagine Cup brings together more than 200,000 students from over 100 countries around the world where they compete to help find the answers.  And no matter who comes up with the best solutions - everybody wins!

In 2009, the Imagine Cup challenges the world's most talented students to "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today." Some might use technology to help a brother or sister get an education. Or find entirely new approaches for medicine.  Or discover ways to counter the inequalities that exist between genders around the world.  These students might ensure the sustainability of our planet or help deliver universal primary education.  Yeah, it's that important.

The United Nations has identified some of the hardest challenges in the world today in its Millennium Goals. This year the Imagine Cup uses these ambitious challenges as a guiding light to inspire change all over the world. Learn more about the eight Millennium Goals by visiting


Have you heard about Academic Second Shot? If you are planning on taking a certification exam, you get two shots at passing a Microsoft 072 (academic series) certification exam, and the first exam is offered at a student discount!

Register now for an academic discount on your first exam 

For more information, please contact Lani Fraizer at lani (at) or call (916) 458-6460.


Are you already participating in the Imagine Cup's IT Challenge or Academic Second Shot?

Please take a few moments to share your feedback with us: lani (at)