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Showing posts from August, 2013

The Technology Black Hole of Free Time

Back to school means back to the battles with Blackboard (I've posted on that plenty of times). Even if BB was the perfect learning management system, there would still be the days spent planning and organizing online content for a new course. This week, I'm gathering the reusable materials I will upload and preparing new materials. By next week, the shell for the writing course I'm teaching will be reasonably complete.

My summer was meant to be spent learning to program in Objective-C. It was also meant as a time to finished a research project and revise an academic book chapter. None of those things happened. Life in the digital age doesn't seem to give us more time, but it does give us more potential tasks. My to-do list kept growing faster than I could complete projects.

Maybe it is a time management issue. I completed a lot of tasks in the last few months, many of them creative writing projects. I also am preparing a new website complementing my creative inter…

Video Games as Writing

Video games are written, before and during the coding process. They are, after all, stories — from the simple story of a hungry "Pac-Man" avoiding ghosts to the complex stories of modern massive(ly) multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Yet, some of the aspiring game developers I've met don't quite appreciate how important storytelling is to game success. Blood and guts in high-def will only carry a game so far.

During my early years as a computer geek, I'd sit at my VIC-20 keyboard and create text-based adventure games in BASIC. I continued to do this well into college, because there is something about writing a text adventure that forces you to consider the storyline of a game carefully. While text adventures have declined in popularity, graphical first-person games are still constructed as stories beneath the fancy rendering.

The tool I've used in the classroom to teach video game writing is Inform []. The Inform website ha…

Social Networks and Students

University instructors have it somewhat easier than K12 teachers: accepting "friend" requests from our students, especially our adult and non-traditional students, isn't much of an ethical quagmire. Still, you have to be careful and have some guidelines or you'll risk trouble.

1) I only accept "friend" requests from former students who are 21 or older, so nobody can claim I have favorites or suggest anything untoward. Connecting to young students is, in my opinion, always a bad idea — especially for male teachers, but we've seen female teachers have "problems" online, too.

I explain to students that it isn't that I don't like them or want to be friends later in life, but it is important to maintain professional standing while they are in my courses.

2) LinkedIn is the "safest" social network for teachers to remain connected to former students. It is a professional, career-oriented network that is more about employment th…

Desktop Databases: Still Great for Many Tasks

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
August 5, 2013 Deadline
September 2013 Issue

Desktop Databases: Still Great for Many Tasks

“dBase LLC is very excited to announce the new and updated version… dBase Plus!”

When I received an email announcement that dBase Plus 8 had shipped, compatible with Windows 8, I had to double check that the press release wasn’t a hoax. As a teenager, I loved experimenting with dBase III. Sure enough, dBase is back, trying to compete against Microsoft Access and FileMaker Pro.

Easily one of the five most important personal computer applications of all time, dBase was the best database engine and development platform for many years. It spawned great competitors, too, from “clones” like FoxPro and Clipper to innovative databases like Alpha Five, Clarion, Revelation and Paradox. Even today, the many applications on your smartphone likely use SQLite, a relational database with tables similar to dBase IV of the 1990s.

While Ashton-Tate’s dBase was not the first database…