Monday, March 29, 2010

Interesting Links 29 March 2010

In yet another example of how poorly I do at predicting what is going to be interesting and/or controversial almost no one read and absolutely no one commented on my post about companies getting involved in curriculum writing last week (Curriculum, Companies, Cooperation and Conflict). My asking of the question Where does Computer Science Belong? did a little better with some interesting comments. I recommend the comments at least.

Related to that last post and question, Cameron Wilson of ACM wrote a post called Computing and the Common Core that you should read. The most important part of it is his call to action.

Now the community can support this breakthrough by sending letters for support for the inclusion of computer science in the final document. The initiative is taking comments on the draft until April 2. There are two ways to comment. The first is by taking the survey, which as an additional comment area where you can express support for computer science. (Follow this link  External Linkand click on the "submit feedback" to get to the survey.) The second is by sending letters to

Interested is seeing some good college/university projects? The US Imagine Cup finals have opened up their People's Choice – Video Gallery. Watch the videos and vote for your favorite team. Send your friends and students over as well. This will give you a good idea of what the Imagine Cup is all about. And perhaps inspire some students to enter this global competition going forward. It’s amazing.

Concerned about accessibility and how it relates to educating your students? From the UK Higher Education blog:

We’ve just issued the third edition of our accessibility guide for education, and it’s available as a download from our accessibility site. The site also includes a number of accessibility video case studies.

The Accessibility: A Guide for Educators has been updated to include information on Windows 7 accessibility features, and current assistive technology product recommendations.

Rob Miles (@robmiles) has posted some XNA videos at Rob also has a blog post on Windows Phone Accelerometer Support in XNA that you may be interested in.

Are you planning for Office 2010? Have you downloaded the free beta? There is not a free e-book available called First Look at Office 2010. Get yours now?

Speaking of Office there are some interesting downloads that will be interesting to many teachers. There is a brand new Chemistry add-in for Microsoft Word at There is also a math add-on for Word at the download center and math worksheet generator at Microsoft Education Labs.

Over at ZDnet Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) kicked off a new blog post series last week - Microsoft Women Worth Watching. Day 1: Julie Larson-Green. Day 2 was Betsy Aoki: Microsoft Women Worth Watching.

Intel has some videos about intelligent devices - with Intel chips inside of course :-)

Rob Bayuk (@TeachTec) has been blogging and Twittering Office how-to tips including - Add sounds, movies, and animated pictures to your PowerPoint presentations. For more like that follow the Teacher Tech blog.

From the ACM SIGCSE mailing list (I think) I found this great collection of programming assignments in Python. I can see these easily adapted to other programming languages though.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Playing Video Games Will Not Get You a Job But Creating One Might

Last week I had a chance to hear Larry Hryb (AKA Major Nelson) of the Xbox Live team talk to a group of college students at Microsoft’s Cambridge (MA) facility. The audience was made up mostly of students with aspirations of making it in the gaming industry. Game programmers, graphic designers, game developers, game audio enthusiasts, and more. Larry talked about Xbox Live and Xbox specific topics for a while and then joined a panel of people in the game industry that included someone from Linden Labs (Second Life) and some independent game companies. They talked about careers in the industry. Obviously one of the things students wanted to know was what they need to do to get into the industry. One of Larry’s kick off comments was most interesting. Basically he said (I’m paraphrasing) was “I don’t care what games you play, how much you plan, or how good you play. I hear that all the time. Tell me what you have created.”

There is a huge difference between being a consumer and being a creator. Being good at one does not mean you will be good at the other. A video game company and in fact any software company is looking for people who can create. Several people on the game industry panel said they wanted to see code from potential developers. Art from potential game graphic artists. Potential game designers who are not also programmers (and there are places for those people) can create board games to show off their talents and imagination. The important thing is to show of what you can create. It doesn’t matter where you get or create your portfolio but that you have one. One independent game developer whose games are making him money on Xbox Market said to get a hold of XNA and create a game to demo. Maybe even get it on Xbox Market and have some evidence that you can create marketable products.

This idea of having a creation to show goes beyond just games though. An interview for just about any entry level software job is going to cover what you do beyond your course work. Everyone expects you to do well in your course work and to get good grades but what they want to know is what you do outside of class. Do you create interesting projects? Do you take your own ideas and express them in code? You may talk about wanting to change the world but what steps are you doing to actually make a difference?

Yes internships can help with this. But not everyone can get a great internship. Everyone can get development software and create software that can make a difference for themselves and perhaps even the world. Microsoft has programs like MSDN Academic Alliance (your school may already be a member) and DreamSpark that gives departments and students professional software for their use. Dreamspark is completely free for students as well!

There are competitions like the Imagine Cup where students create teams and compete internationally. Over the past few years many students have used their projects as portfolio projects or even to launch their own businesses. You can see what some of this year’s projects look like and vote for your favorite at the US Imagine Cup People’s Choice Video Gallery. Oh and there are several types of competitions in the Imagine Cup including a Game Design competition. If you don’t think that winning a major international development competition impresses prospective employers think again. Be thinking about entering next year!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Series Programming

Programming phones seems to be the hot new thing these days. Yesterday Microsoft announced the availability of free programming tools for the new Windows Phone 7 Series of devices. Start with Visual Studio 2010 Express for Phone beta.

Windows Phone Developer Tools includes:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone
  • Windows Phone Emulator
  • Silverlight for Windows Phone
  • XNA Game Studio 4.0 CTP

I’ve got the complete set and am installing it today. With the Windows Phone Emulator I can get some code developed even before the phones themselves become available. I’m just trying to figure out want to create.

Need some documentation? Charles Petzold's preview ebook Programming Windows  Phone 7 Series is now available online at

How about Code Samples for Windows Phone? There are some of those as well. And don’t miss out on the Windows Phone 7 Series Developer Training Kit!