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The SF Chronicle wrote a story about my mobile phone programming course that uses Google’s App Inventor for Android. Below are the students at USF’s CS night (click the pic to see article).

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Here’s an example

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Jing is a screen capture tool", posted with vodpod

Jing is free and easily installed. When its running, a little sun appears in the top right of your screen. You can click it to get a capture widget up, and then easily create a screencast. You can also upload the screencasts you create to screencast.com. I also grabbed a bookmarklet from vodpod.com which allows me to easily post any video to a wordpress blog (this is how I got this screencast posted).

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App Inventor for Android

Google is giving my class at USF 20 Android smart phones, with a goal of exploring the use of a new visual programming language tentatively called App Inventor for Android. The language (tool) is still restricted to Google’s trusted user program and the university professors they’ve invited for the project.

It’s basically a block language like Scratch for the Mobile Phone. One cool aspect, which I learned at a Google Workshop, is the way you use a barcode scanner on your phone to download a newly developed app. to the phone. Very cool.

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My Introduction to CS class at USF was featured at a Google User Group Meeting. Freshmen Aaron Draczynski and Matt Cline demonstrated the ‘Bookface’ social network software they created as a class project using Python and Google’s App Engine:

The idea behind the class was this: computer students typically don’t get to write web software and other cool stuff until they’ve learned the basics for a year or more. This can lead to a lack of motivation and students not continuing as CS majors, even though they are really excited about the web and computing.

This summer I learned about Google’s App Engine and was pretty wowed. It eliminates some of the barriers to web programming for beginners: you don’t have to setup a database or server as its all setup for you and housed within the greatest computing infrastructure ever created. Could this technology, combined with the wonderful Python programming language, allow beginners to learn web software in one semester?

As we near the end of this experiment, I believe the answer is a profound ‘YES’. The students have been extremely motivated, working harder than perhaps any other class I have taught. I think they’re pretty excited to have written a social network as opposed to just using one!

If you’re interested in learning to build dynamic web applications using Python and Google App Engine, check out these  notes.

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farmer john

Negotiators have agreed on a farm bill, the antiquated one that pays subsidies to rich farmers and will almost certainly add to the world’s rapidly deteriorating hunger crisis. Pelosi and friends are arguing to limit subsidies to those poor folk making somewhere around a million a year. George Bush– yes, our president– has called for a much more reasonable limit of $200,000, and a call to help feed the world with food bought in other countries, not just the US. Amazing! SF Chronicle’s Carolyn Lochhead’s article discusses it in her article Farm bill upends normal political order

Where do our presidential candidates stand?

Clinton said this: “Rural America is struggling in the face of skyrocketing energy prices, an economic downturn and rising food prices,” Clinton said. “Saying no to the farm bill would be saying no to rural America.” swampland

McCain: “I do not support it. I would veto it. I would do that because I believe that these subsidies, the subsidies are unnecessary.” desmoinesregister

Obama (in November in response to filibuster of farm bill):”I was disappointed to see that important improvements and solutions for our family farmers in this bill fell victim to partisan politics and obstructionism. Those who stood in the way of this bill stood against our farmers and a clean energy future. While the bill that passed committee didn’t include everything I would have liked, including specific reforms to help family farmers instead of big agribusiness, it did take much-needed steps to invest in conservation, nutrition, specialty crops and rural development. It provided funding for renewable energy and recognized farmers who are working to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it included a packer ban, which is so important for market transparency.” obama

The problem, of course, is systematic: our capitalism and laws that allow lobbyist money to stranglehold our politicians. Though I don’t like what Obama says above (bolding is mine), I still think that he, after being elected, will do the most to work against such a system (his small donation campaign is a great start).

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