Monday, February 14, 2011

HUCS Quest 2011

The CS department is offering a $1000 scholarship for the first student who successfully completes the "Quest". You may obtain a Registration Form from Dr. Baird which must be turned in to the secretaries in Science 100 by noon Tuesday Feb 15. The first clue will be posted at 4 pm on the same day. The following information is from Dr. Baird:
HUCS Quest (Harding University Computer Science Quest) is intended to be a fun, challenging and intellectually stimulating game for computer science and computer engineering majors. A series of clues and hints will be given which will ultimately lead to the final clue, which contains directions for claiming the prize. The prize will be a $1000 scholarship awarded for the following semester to the winner of the quest. The winner of the quest must be eligible to receive the scholarship, or willing to designate someone who is eligible to whom the scholarship will be given. The recipient of the scholarship must be a computer science or computer engineering major.

Contestants must sign up to be in the contest and, when eligibility has been verified, they will be added to a special "HUCS Quest Roster" on the Easel system. There will be a series of clues and hints given out over the Easel system. The timing of the release of clues and hints will be determined by the judges in an attempt to influence the length of the contest. (We would like for the contest to last no longer than three weeks.) The clues and hints will ultimately lead to the final clue which is a microSD memory chip which will be hidden somewhere on the Harding campus. This chip will contain directions for claiming the prize. Contestants must follow those directions to claim the prize.

Clues and hints will involve several aspects of computer science, such as cryptography, algorithms, file structures, etc. Solving the clues may require construction of a computer program. Almost all of the clues and hints also involve knowledge of some other area of learning such as languages, art, literature, music, history, mathematics, or one of the sciences. Many of the clues will cause contestants to research both online and in the library and to consult with friends in other disciplines.

Students may form teams to work together on the quest. Teams may be from 1 to 3 persons and must be declared when registering for the contest. The scholarship prize will be divided evenly between team members and all eligibility rules apply to each member of the team.

When students sign up to participate in this contest, they will also sign a form indicating their willingness to abide by the contest rules, which are given in the attached document. At the time of registration, your major (which must be CS or CE) will be confirmed on Pipeline before your registration form is accepted. If you are currently one of these majors and your major is not listed as such, please contact the Registrar's office to get it changed before you come to sign up for the contest.

If you have any questions about this quest, please contact me. We had a very successful HUCS Quest contest in February 2009. I hope this one will be fun for all who participate.

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


The contest is over. First place: Brandon Huber, Robert Craig, and James Robbins. Second place: Nathan Hourt

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saving 172 BBC websites with BitTorrent

A recent budget cut at the BBC meant that as many as 200 websites were going to be shut down. However, an individual named Ben Metcalfe crawled 172 of the websites before they were deleted and has made them available via BitTorrent. I don't think Metcalfe really needed to expend the effort since it's likely the Internet Archive has archived the sites or will shortly, but it's nice to see an individual being pro-active in ensuring the sites would not be lost. The loss of the sites is a big downer for some who have contributed significant content to the sites in the past.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bing is "copying" Google's search results?

Earlier this week, Google revealed the results of a sting operation that appeared to catch Bing red-handed. Microsoft has apparently been using Internet Explorer to determine which queries and search results their users were clicking on when using Google, and they incorporated that information into Bing's search results. Although Google says this is unfair copying of search results, Microsoft is claiming that the information is just a small part of their overall formula for ranking search results.

The debate has received a lot of attention. Even Colbert had something to say about it: "Evidently, hiybbprqag is a word meaning 'You got serverd!'"

This debate has been good fodder for my Web Science course, and it was even relevant to my Seminar class which discussed ethics and intellectual property this morning. Search engine results are intellectual property, so is Microsoft's use of clickstream data fair use, or did they cross the line?


This post generated some interest on my Facebook account. One of the comments included this link to Danny Sullivan's article that gives more analysis of the situation.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A short history of computing

I finally produced a set of 40 slides on the history of computing in both PowerPoint and PDF formats. I injected a little humor, including some "infamous" quotes like Ken Olson's: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

Along with standard events like the Analytical Engine, ENIAC, and the Internet, I've also included some of my favorites like Tron, the first movie to use extensive 3D graphics. Most of the photos were obtained from Wikipedia, but I included a few of my own, like this photo of the first Google server that is currently housed in the lobby of the Gates Building at Stanford.

I know there was a lot of stuff I left out. If there's something you think I should really include in my slides, let me know, and I'll give it due consideration... my CS1 students will also thank you for suggesting more information they have to remember for their first exam. wink

You can also check out some of my other historical slides on graphical user interfaces and the Internet.