Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the McCown's

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men." - Luke 2:14

Photo by Stacy Schoen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Android app course wrap-up

As the semester has come to an end, my Android App Development course finished with a showcase last week displaying the 8 Android apps that were developed by 17 computer science and 11 graphic design students. I'm including a brief description of each app below to give you a feel for what was created this semester.

None of the apps have been made available yet on the Android Market, but a few teams have allowed me to share links to the their apps below. Before you can download and install them, you'll need to change your settings so your phone or tablet can install non-Market apps.

Bison Live: This is your one-stop destination for all things Harding. See your grades, look up contact information, and read the latest news. Download

Red Zone: Design offensive and defensive football plays. Save them or email them to your friends. Download

Dream Log: Keep track of your dreams with the aid of recorded video, photos, and tagging.

RallyPoint: Invite your friends to rally to a central location.

Ultimate Wedding Planner: An app to help you plan the ultimate wedding.

Terra Explorer: A game to help you improve your knowledge of geography and country flags.

Acorn Maze: Guide your acorn through a multi-level maze to reach the flag.

Searcy Info: Find out the latest news, weather, and places to dine in Searcy, Arkansas. Download

Here are a few photos taken by Stacy Schoen from last week's showcase:

In order to determine the overall success of the course, I asked the comp sci (CS) and graphic design (GD) students to complete a survey when the course was finished. When the CS student were asked if they were pleased with how their project turned out overall, three quarters of them said they agreed or strongly agreed. Nearly three quarters of the CS students said they would like to continue working on the project even when the course was over. 82% of the CS students enjoyed working with their graphic designer counterparts, and the same number thought their project was made significantly better because of the GD students.

The GD students were somewhat less positive about the experience. 64% of the GD students were pleased with how their design was implemented by the CS students, and about half expressed interest in continuing to work on the project after the semester was over. The GD students expressed even more interest in porting the project to the iPhone which perhaps reveals an underlying platform preference between techies and artsy people.

Unfortunately, only a third of the GD students expressed an interest in working with CS students in the future. Communication seemed to be a problem for a few students, and one complained that the CS students just picked what they wanted from her design instead of adopting it completely. The CS students also complained of communication issues and other difficulties, but in general they seemed to come out of the experience with more positive feelings. Perhaps this is because the CS students felt more ownership of their projects and had more control about what went into the apps.

We are planning on running this experiment again in a future offering of the Android course. Hopefully we can devise a way to engender more positive feelings for the GD students.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Windows Live GUI Blooper

This morning I was signing up for a Windows Live account and was asked a typical security question in case my password needed to be reset. Apparently a programmer thought he was "increasing" security by requiring my first pet's name to be at least 5 characters in length. I just don't know what I was thinking at age three when I named my dog a three letter word!

Just in case you were wondering... no, my first pet was not named Tron. wink

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Game Development course in Spring 2012

I'll be offering a Game Development course in the Spring 2012 semester for computer science majors. The prereqs are Data Structures and OOP. This is the first time this course has been offered since fall 2009. Like the fall 2009 course, this one will use the XNA platform, the same platform used by Xbox and the new Windows Phone 7 OS.

I am considering structuring this course like my ongoing Android course. Students would be placed on two-man teams and would deliver a number of software engineering milestones in order to produce noteworthy games which could be released in the Xbox Live Marketplace as XBox Live Indie Games.

I'm also considering having our students compete in Microsoft's Imagine Cup or perhaps the Dream.Build.Play Challenge. These would be exciting programs to participate in, but I'm not sure if they would be something we could tackle in just a single semester.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Android student projects

The fall semester has turned out to be much busier than I anticipated, but I wanted to take a moment to write about the Android course that I'm teaching this semester. Although I've joint-taught an Android course before, I revamped the course to have more group work and focus more on software engineering principles by following the direction of David Janzen's Android course at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo.

Seventeen upper level CS students are teaming up with 12 upper level Graphic Design majors to work on eight Android applications with the intention of releasing a working beta on the Android Market in December. The projects range from kid apps to useful utilities and everything in between. I'll share more details about the projects in a blog post later this semester.

This is the first time I've been able to coordinate a joint project with our graphic design students. Not only will the joint venture lead to better looking apps, but I believe my students will benefit greatly from having to interact with non-CS majors who use a different vocabulary and see software differently. I'm thankful to Stacy Schoen, a colleague of mine in the Dept of Art and Design, who is helping me in this experiment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Warrick's status

Warrick is now available. See the Jan 24, 2012 update below.

I've received numerous inquiries about Warrick the past few months, so I wanted to let everyone know where it currently stands. For those of you that don't know about Warrick, it is a program I wrote that can automatically reconstruct a website that is no longer available on the Web by locating missing web pages from various web repositories like the Internet Archive, Google's cache, etc.

Since creating Warrick about six years ago, a lot has changed:

These changes have required me to make some radical changes to Warrick in the past, but it's still broken in terms of accessing the Internet Archive. That's why there's been a note on the Warrick website for several months warning about Warrick's current state.

Fortunately, a new development called Memento will help shield Warrick from some of these types of difficulties in working with various web repositories. Memento is an addition to the HTTP protocol which enables easier access to old web pages. If you keep up with this blog, you might remember that I implemented an Android browser a year ago that uses Memento to surf the Web. Warrick can use Memento to find archived web pages much easier than the current method which requires custom code for each web repository.

A PhD student at Old Dominion University, Justin Brunelle, is currently modifying Warrick to make it Memento-compliant. Hopefully Warrick will be up and running again soon. Once it's working, the old Warrick website will be replaced with a more up-to-date version, and it will be open to the public once again.

I appreciate everyone's patience while Warrick is being transformed.


Dec 12, 2011: Justin is still making progress on Warrick. I hope it will be available in a few weeks. I will keep updating this blog post when I know more.

Dec 20, 2011: Justin has given me a beta version of Warrick which I am testing. I hope to make this version available as soon as some documentation is available. Unfortunately, this beta version will require some technical knowledge of how to install Perl libraries and run the tool from the command line. We plan to make Warrick run automatically from our website in the future.

Jan 24, 2012: Warrick 2.0 Beta is now available from Google Code! You can read more about the new version here. Right now Warrick only runs from the command line on *nix systems (Linux and Unix-like systems), but a Windows version is in the works. Work is also being done on a new web interface for less tech-savvy users... I don't have an ETA for it yet.

Mar 6, 2012: Warrick's web interface is now available! That means you can just submit a job and get an email to pick up your recovered website when the job completes. For those of you who are tech savy, you can still download and run Warrick locally on your own machine.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

We're back!

Monday morning our family caught a noon flight from Athens back to Little Rock. Unfortunately we didn't actually arrive in Little Rock until 3:30 am due to equipment failure and other issues on our connecting flight. I estimated that the total trip was 27 hours from door to door! On a good note, when we got home and walked in the door, we were greeted with a "Welcome Home!" sign that our friends had made, and our frig was full of food. We have some great friends!

After a very busy summer lugging our kids across three continents, Becky and I were certainly ready to be home. At the same time it was sad saying goodbye to our time in Greece. Living and traveling with 32 college students was an extraordinary way to spend the summer, and we will certainly miss the students and the daily interaction we shared at the Artemis. The boys are sure to miss the swimming pool and all the attention they received from the students. I'm thankful we’ll get to continue seeing many of the college students in a few weeks when the fall semester starts back up.

We wrapped up the summer semester with a ton of class days followed by final exams. Becky’s composition course seemed to go well. To the chagrin of my students, we covered every chapter in Part 1 of McRay’s Paul book in the Bible course I taught. I learned an incredible amount of information about Paul and how the gospel of Christ was spread across Asia and Europe in those decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection.

My Speech Comm course also was a positive learning experience for me, and the final week was mainly students giving persuasive speeches. One student did so well that he made me re-evaluate my stance on teaching kids about Santa Clause!

Teaching these courses outside my discipline was challenging, but I found that I enjoyed teaching them about as much as I enjoy teaching CS courses. The great thing about being a professor is that you always get to keep learning new and interesting stuff.

The final week at the Artemis also included a Toga party to celebrate the end of the summer. All the students, the directors, and even my family received humorous awards. I think the best one went to Ethan: Most Likely to Dress Up Like Spider-Man to Chapel.

About twelve of us also took a day trip to the Corinth Canal where we bungee jumped off one of the bridges. It was the first time any of us had bungee jumped, and it was a great place to do it for the first time. A few of us (me included) actually hit the water below!

On a closing note, Becky and I were very appreciative of Mike and Beth who were very supportive of our family. They are excellent directors, and you can tell the students absolutely love them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trip to Israel

We're back from our trip to Israel. This is the last of the big trips we'll be taking this summer (the previous ones have been to the Peloponnese, Egypt, and a Mediterranean cruise). I've enjoyed all the trips, but this is the one I have looked forward to the most.

Our guide Yossi was kind enough to provide us a summary of all the sights which I've included (with some editing) below. A typical day involved getting on the bus at 8:30 am and returning around 6:30 pm. It's amazing how much you can see when touring hard for 10 hours a day for 9 days!

We started our tour of the Holy Land in Jerusalem where, and as Yossi noted, all the ingredients were present for a "fire"; all that is needed is for someone to strike a match. We ended 9 days later in the capital Tel Aviv for a very short night where we caught a flight back to Greece at 7 am.

The boys did great (it's amazing what a sucker can do for morale wink). Braden spent a lot of time on my back, but he rarely complained and often fell asleep, even in 100 degree heat!

Day 1: Fly from Athens to Tel Aviv and bus to Jerusalem

Day 2: Jerusalem
  • The old city of Jerusalem: the Dung Gate, Temple Mount - El Aqsa facade, Mosque of Omar - Dome of the Rock, Via Dolorosa: St. Ann, Bethesda Pool, the Austrian Hospis - general view of the Old City
  • The Ethiopian village (on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher), the Ethiopian Chapels, Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Mount Golgotha, the Armenian Chapel, the Roman quarry, the Holy Sepulchre, tomb of Joseph of Aramithea
  • Garden Tomb
  • Mount of Olives: panoramic view of the Old City, the Jewish cemetery, Getsemane: Church of Agony and the Garden of The ancient Olives
  • The underground Church of Mary's Tomb
  • The Western Wall, the Western Wall tunnels, the Damascus Gate

Outside the Dome of the Rock

Day 3: Judean Lowland (shefela)
  • Beth Guvrin (house of the Nephilim): the Columbarium cave, the cisterns cave, the underground oil press, the Sidonian ornated tomb (Cerberus)
  • Elah Valley - David against Goliath, archeological site of Beth Shemesh (house of the sun)- the monumental building, view of the Sorek Valley
  • Birthday party at the underground crusader passage in the Sorek winery
  • Emmaus: meet Anton - the Jewish-Catholic monk, visit the Byzantine Church, the Mosaic room
  • Neve Shalom: walk along the Emmaus Road to the Dome of Silence (where we sang and got kicked out wink)

Yossi playing his flute in the caves of Beth Guvrin

Day 4: from Bethlehem to Wadi Qelt
  • Bethlehem: Shepherds' Fields, Basilica of Nativity, Grotto of Nativity
  • Israel Museum: scale model of Herodian Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book, the archeological department - the best exhibition of biblical archeology in the world
  • Shopping at the Old City Market
  • Last view of the Golden Dome from Mount Scopus and to toward the desert
  • Wilderness of Judea: afternoon walk along the cliffs of Wadi Qelt, view of monastery of St. George and the Jordan Valley

Next to the scale model of first century Jerusalem

Day 5: the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea
  • Nabi Musa: a desert walk in the Judan Wilderness high plain through the Bitumen quarries and the Muslim cemetery to the cloister of prophet Moses' tomb, visit the Aiubic Khan
  • Qumran, home of the Essenes, finding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Bathing in the Dead Sea at Kalia Beach
  • Visit the Ahava factory in Mizpe Shalem
  • Swim in oasis of Ein Gedi: walk between the Acacia trees and Apples of Sodom to the upper pools of David's stream
  • Masada: the museum of the Ostraca (named clay pieces) and the reconstructed Roman camp
  • Mount Sodom: sunset hike down the eastern sloops of the mountain, birthday on the flower button, panoramic view of the southern basin of the Dead Sea, the salt shafts

Floating in the Dead Sea which is 1/3 salt

Day 6: the Jordan Valley to the Sea of Galilee
  • Oasis of Jericho: Tel-es Sultan, Jericho excavations, the oldest city in the world, view Mount Temptation and monastery of the Qarantal
  • Drive along the Jordan Valley to Harod Springs: story of the selection of the 300 warriors by Gideon and refreshing in the Roman pools of the spring
  • Beth Shean: the Roman theater, the public bath house, the cardo and the Dionysus capital
  • Drive across the Jezreel Valley to Beth Shearim, the underground necropolis: Cave of the Coffins, the candelabra relief, coffin of the lions, the ancient glass museum

The springs where God separated 300 men for Gideon to use to defeat the Midianites

Day 7: Golan Heights and Upper Galilee
  • Drive across upper Jordan river to the Valley of Bethsaida
  • Minefields of Golan Heights up to volcanic crater of Mount Bental: panoramic view of Mount Hermon and the Damascus Valley
  • Drive through Druze villages of Bukata and Masaade
  • Banias Nature Reserve: Hermon Springs, Cave of Pan, the Hellenistic cult center, walk along Banias River to Caesarea Philippi, palace of Salome, city of Agripas II
  • Drive through Hula Valley to Mount of Beatitudes: walk down the mountain on the Roman country road to the Byzantine area, Sermon on the Mount, view of Tabgha Valley
  • The hidden cascade and swimming in the Sea of Galilee
  • Evening walk on the Tiberias promenade to the sound & lights show

Standing by the Sea of Galilee

Day 8: Lower Galilee and the Sea of Galilee
  • Drive via Cana in Galilee to Nazareth: Sunday service at the Church of Christ of Nazareth, Church of Annunciation - Grotto of Annunciation, the Byzantine rotonda, upper basilica, the biblical village
  • North-western shores of the Sea of Galilee: St. Peter's fish on the shores of Capernaum
  • Gennesaret: Jesus boat museum, boat ride to Tabgha Valley
  • Capernaum: St. Peter's house, Jesus' Synagogue

Eating Peter's fish on shores of Capernaum

Day 9: Jezreel Valley, Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Coast
  • Mount Precipice, Nazareth Village
  • Megiddo - the ancient city of King Solomon: the Solomonian gate, panoramic view of Valley of Armageddon, the Canaanite altar, the underground water system
  • Drive up Mt. Carmel to the Muhraka where Elijah the prophet fought the prophets of Ba'al
  • Caesarea Maritima: the Roman theater, the Herodian villa, the Herodian pool, the ancient port
  • Drive through Sharon Valley to Tel Aviv; evening tour in Old Jaffa: house of Simon the Tanner, Gate of Faith

Standing on Mt. Precipice where people of Nazareth may have tried to push Jesus to his death

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greek cruisin'

On Monday morning, June 20, the HUG group boarded the Calypso cruise ship in Athens and set sail for a four-night cruise around the Mediterranean. Dr. Cliff and Mrs. Louise Ganus accompanied us on the trip which made the trip even more special for all of us. (Chancellor Ganus is a former president of Harding University).

Our first stop was in Mykonos, a small Greek island where the buildings are painted white twice a month. We mainly just walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the island and did some shopping.

The next day we sailed to Kusadasi, Turkey, early in the morning and toured Ephesus where Paul once roamed and established a church. The ruins were in much better shape than what we had seen weeks ago in Corinth. It was especially neat to sit in the theater where people had shouted "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" for two hours, an event initiated by those who profited on the worship of Artemis and saw Paul's teachings of Jesus as a threat (Acts 19:23-41).

In the afternoon we sailed to the island of Patmos where there the Apostle John had been exiled and where he wrote the book of Revelations. We visited the Monastery of John the Evangelist and the Grotto of the Revelation. We ate dinner with the Ganuses that evening and got to know them much better.

The next day was spent in Rhodes where we swam at a beautiful (although very rocky) beach in the morning that was near where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. After lunch and naps, we visited the old part of the town where we found a playground for the boys to burn some energy. Ethan made friends with a Greek boy, and the two of them played ball for a while.

On Thurs morning we arrived in Crete and toured the Minoan Palace of Knossos, home of the legendary Minotaur.

In the afternoon we sailed to beautiful Santorini for a very quick trip. Becky and Ethan rode a donkey up the long path (599 steps) to the top of the island as did all of the HUG students. Braden and I took a cable car to the top along with the Ganuses and Steven. We walked around and admired the beauty of the island and did a little shopping. Note to self: Great place for an anniversary some day. We arrived back in Athens early the next morning.

We really enjoyed the cruise. The boys loved sleeping in their own bunk bed on the cruise ship and eating hot dogs and jello for lunch. They also were the center of attention since they were the youngest kids on the cruise... the cruise staff were constantly smiling at them and playing with them.

We are now back at the Artemis and are on the second half of our trip. We've got a few weeks straight of classes and one big trip to Israel coming up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Braden sleeping

It's Father's Day, and Braden's gift to me was a 5:45 wake-up call so we could watch the sun rise together. It's hard to believe that a kid who so easily falls asleep could be the same the kid who wakes me up way too early on most mornings. Just for fun, I thought I'd compile all my photos of a sleeping Braden while we've been overseas. Enjoy.

He was sleeping so well that I left him in the baby carrier.

Historic ruins? Boring!
(Photo by Mike James)

Sometimes Braden falls asleep while eating and twirling his hair.

Not quite asleep, but a cute pic.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peloponnese and Egypt

Since my last update, our HUG group has now toured the Peloponnese and Egypt. The Peloponnesean tour was four days, and we saw Corinth (and many sites related to Paul's ministry), Nafplion (the first Greek capital), Mycenae, and Epidaurus. The trip concluded with a visit to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The original starting line is still present (below).

After a few days back in Porto Rafti, we headed out to Egypt for an 11 day tour. It was quite intense because of the amount of time we spent each day touring, the amount of time traveling by bus and train, and the very hot and dry weather. Probably the most restful time we had was at the Cairo Movenpick hotel which was incredibly beautiful and had a wonderful pool (below).

For most of the HUGgers, the best part of the trip was seeing the pyramids. The pic below doesn't really capture the immensity of the Giza pyramids which remained the tallest of all human-built structures until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England in the 1300s. It also doesn't capture the incredible heat... it was around 110 degrees outside!

We also saw the Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, Memphis, and Sakkara. After a night train to Aswan, we took a cruise ship up the Nile River to Luxor, a four day excursion. Along the way, we visited the Temple of Philae, the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam, and the Temple of Edfu. We also took an incredible half-hour long ride on the back of a camel to visit a Nubian village. Ethan loved the ride, but Braden never made a peep... I'll assume he enjoyed it too, despite the 110+ degree weather.

In and around Luxor, we visited the Necropolis of Thebes which included the Valley of the Kings, the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, the Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Luxor. Then we took a long bus ride back to Cairo (arriving at 3 am!) where we visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, the Citadel of Salah El Din, the Mohammed Ali Mosque, and a few other sites.

We then took another long bus ride up to Ismailia where we stayed the evening within sight of the Red Sea. The next day we drove through the Land of Goshen and headed to St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula, following the path of the Israelites as they fled Egypt in the great Exodus.

That evening we stayed in the Hotel Catherine Plaza, and all the students woke up at 1 am in order to climb Mount Sinai and have a devotional service as the sun was rising. Becky had unfortunately become quite ill, and I stayed behind to help with the boys. (At some point during the trip, about 3/4 of our group became sick; the boys and I were thankfully able to avoid it.)

The next day we visited Saint Catherine's Monastery were we were given a personal tour by an American who has lived there for about 30 years. The chapel is built around what many think is the original burning bush that Moses encountered when God told him to go back and lead the Israelites out of slavery. The bush is quite amazing; it's totally green although it has no water source.

After the visit, we finally headed back on a very long and hot bus ride back to Cairo and flew back to Greece the next day.

Despite the sickness and the heat, we really enjoyed our time in Egypt as did most of the students. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. Everyone was very kind to us, especially to the boys who probably had their heads rubbed by at least 50 different Egyptians! We are, however, quite thankful to be back in Greece where no one haggles over the prices, no one charges you to use the toilet, and you can drink the water from the tap!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 1 in Greece

We've been here in Porto Rafti for about a week now along with 32 Harding students. The boys have adjusted great to being here, and Becky and I are getting better adjusted as well. We're starting to get to know the that have traveled over with us, and I have to say I am quite impressed with them. They have been very friendly with our boys and have helped us keep an eye on them. Mike and Beth James (Mike is the director) have also been very welcoming.

If you are friends with Becky on Facebook, you can see a ton of photos we have taken. I'll just include a few here. Below is a photo from the coast of Porto Rafti. As you can tell, the water is gorgeous, and it's consistently sunny and dry during the summer.

The photo below was taken from the balcony of our apartment. This is the view I have when prepping for class (we're really roughing it wink).

Becky and I have taught a few days each, and our classes are starting off well. The students seem to be taking their studies seriously even though there are so many distractions here. It's a little strange teaching non-CS courses for the first time (Speech and Bible), but I'm enjoying it. When we are not teaching, we're spending time with the boys and interacting with the college students. We've been to the beach twice and gone swimming in the hotel pool a few times.

On the Thursday after arriving, we toured Athens and of course hit the Acropolis. (No, Ethan was not feeling sad, just being uncooperative.) We also sat on Mars Hill and read aloud from Acts 17 where Paul introduced the Athenians to the "Unknown God" they had been worshiping.

On Saturday, Braden turned two. The directors and students threw Braden a little birthday party, complete with chocolate cake and a few gifts.

We're leaving in the morning for a three-day tour of the Peloponnese. I'll write about it next week.