Friday, January 22, 2010

New Degree in Software Development

The Harding University Computer Science Department is proud to announce a new degree: the B.S. in Software Development (or CS++ as I like to call it smile).

This new degree was suggested by fellow faculty member Gabriel Foust in response to many of our students who wanted to take our elective courses (game programming, security, search engines, compilers, and mobile computing) but couldn't justify the cost of taking additional courses that wouldn't contribute directly to their major. So we created a degree which allows students to take far more CS courses than our previous BS or BA degrees in CS.

The following summary is from Dr. Tim Baird:
In a nutshell, the BS in SD degree is different from the BS in CS in the following ways:
  • some of the courses which were previously elective are now in the CS core (349, 431, and 445)
  • it does not require 19 credits of math, starting with Calc I, although one may have anywhere from 3 to 13 credits of math in this degree if they so desire.
  • it allows for more credits of computer science (the BS in CS allows for 41, this allows for as much as 58 credits)
The BS in SD degree is different from the BA in CS in the following ways:
  • some of the courses which were previously elective are now in the CS core (349, 431, and 445)
  • no minor is required (rather than a minor in some area outside CS, the extra credits that would have been in a minor are all in CS)
  • it allows for more credits of math, if desired, or it may be completed with the same 3 credits of College Algebra as the BA in CS
We anticipate that the job market demand for this major will be essentially the same as for the BS in CS and the BA in CS. After all, those majors are more different from each other than this major is from either of them, and they have traditionally had essentially equal demand.

Tim Baird, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Computer Science

Aside from the job market, the only reason I would tell a person to do a BS in CS instead of SD would be if they were thinking about getting a Masters or PhD in CS. Most universities require a BS in CS which has the required number of math hours, and the SD degree doesn't have that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mobile app developers striking it rich?

As some of you know, I'm team-teaching a mobile application development course this semester. We're focusing on the Android platform the first half of the semester and the iPhone platform in the second half.

With all the hype surrounding the iPhone and Android platforms and their app stores, a question that some might ask is, "Can I get rich developing mobile applications?"

If you're in it just for the money, you're chasing after disappointment. Just ask the writer of Ecclesiastes how much joy and satisfaction there is in great riches. However, I do think it's prudent to investigate if training to be a mobile application developer is worth the investment in time and money.

Apple recently reported that 3 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store in less than 18 months, and according to Juniper, revenue for mobile applications will hit $24 billion by 2014. That smells like opportunity. However, Michael Mace (former Chief Competitive Officer and VP of Product Planning at Palm) believes mobile application developing is a dead end, primarily because there are so many platforms on which to develop and because web-based apps have a better future:
"I think Web applications are going to destroy most native app development for mobiles. Not because the Web is a better technology for mobile, but because it has a better business model."
I personally believe both native and web-based apps have their place, and there's no reason to give up on native mobile applications just yet.

So returning to the "rich" question, I've found a number of articles that address this topic. I just emailed these articles to my students, and I thought I'd share them here:
However, I wouldn't suggest quiting your job or dropping out of college to program iPhones just just yet:
  • Striking It Rich: Is There An App For That?
    "Not only have most sellers failed to turn a profit... even developers with high-ranking games and applications have made far less than commonly thought. Many come nowhere near recouping their investment at all."

  • One billion iPhone apps downloaded. But how many are worth it?
    "'You'll have better luck in Vegas,' says Howard Cohen, an independent software engineer and consultant who has one app out and another in the works. 'Most people do not make much money, or even [get] their costs back, when selling their apps for the iPhone.'"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Barbie... a computer engineer?

The spring semester started this week, and I discovered, to my dismay, that I didn't have a single female in any of my 5 classes. I believe this is the first time in my career teaching computer science that this has happened.

Why no females? This isn't just a problem here at Harding... it afflicts CS departments across the nation.

And there are lots of reasons out there ranging from the geek culture of CS and stereotypes to lack of female role models.

But perhaps what we need to do is send a strong, positive message to females at an early age... how about a Computer Engineer Barbie?

This is not a joke... you can now vote what Barbie's next career is going to be. There are 5 choices: Computer Engineer, Environmentalist, Surgeon, Architect, and News Anchor. Of these 5, CE (a field that is strongly related to CS) is definitely the one most likely to be overlooked by a female today.

Do you think if Barbie becomes a computer engineer that it will mean more females in my classes in 5-10 years?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Warrick is back in action

Warrick, the service I created several years ago to recover lost websites, has been revived. I took its web interface out of commission about a year ago when we received more jobs then we could ever process in 2009. But I've decided to wipe out the old jobs and start fresh. I'm curious to see how quickly we receive more jobs than we can handle in 2010.

Some stats. Since July 2007 when Warrick's web interface was first made public, we have recovered 4287 websites and 3,508,091 URIs. That's a lot of missing material the public wants back.

I've also updated Warrick:
Happy website reconstructing.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My taskbar... seriously

I'm using Windows XP on my laptop at home. This is what my taskbar sometimes looks like. Is Windows trying to tell me something about my network connection?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Helpful Eclipse error message

Programmers are often blamed for creating very vague, jargon-filled, and generally unhelpful error messages that frustrate the typical user. Today, I believe I've found the most discouragingly vague error message yet. It comes from Eclipse Galileo (version 3.5) after attempting to create a new Android project. Nice.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Maps an obsolete technology?

Silicon Alley Insider recently listed 21 Things that Became Obsolete this Decade. (Guys, the decade isn't over yet.) Among them were PDAs, paid-for email accounts, VCRs, and a number of other items.

While I generally agree with these guys, I was very surprised they listed maps as an obsolete technology. They seem to think everyone can now navigate with a GPS or smartphone. While these technologies are certainly more helpful at times than a paper-based map, they aren't without their faults.

Believe it or not, sometimes GPS will give you bad directions. Just ask Michael Scott.

And it's not always available. On a recent trip to Louisiana and Dallas, I used the GPS on my Archos 5 Internet Tablet for the first time. There was a period of 3 hours where the GPS could not pick up a signal. And we were driving major highways the whole time! Without a map, I would have been forced to pull off the road and ask directions. Gasp!

Google Maps isn't perfect either. Google Maps suggested I take a road that didn't even exist as a shortcut to my parents' new home a few months ago. And before that, Google Maps told me my friend's house was 5 miles north of Fayetteville when it was actually south of the city.

And have you ever tried to get a good overview of the road system for a large city using a small screen? Impossible. A paper map that is 10 times larger than your tiny screen makes it significantly easier to figure out the highway system.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should throw away or newer navigation technologies, I'm just suggesting that the good 'ol map is still quite handy.