Big Data Sets

One of the things about teaching Computer Studies is having data sets for students to run with their program to get the types of results that you should.  During program development, I always found that it was desirable to talk to the students about how to create their own data sets to meet the specifications of the program.  It shows that they can read and understand what is needed and generating data that allow them to work through a problem manually and compare their results to what is generated by their program is a great technique to master.

Of course, when it comes to testing the accurateness of their program, you want to have your own data sets.  I would make it available as a file that they would read and present the results.  Since I know what the results should look like, it’s a quick and easy way to test their programming skills.  It’s also handy to have a couple of data sets to completely test the program and also to check if the student requires multiple runs in order to get it right.

Sometimes, generating these test data sets can be a real chore in themselves.  Not so, if you use  Using this  utility, data sets can be generated so quickly.

From a menu, it’s a matter of selecting just what types of fields that you need for your file.  With a wide variety of choices, I think you’ll find this very functional.

Keep reading, and I’ll show you how easy it is to create a mailing database.  In the Column Title, generate a meaningful title for the field and then pick the data type from the pull down menu.  In this case, I really appreciate the Canadianization of the data – I can specify Postal Codes instead of Zip Codes and the abbreviation for the provinces.

Note the options for output of your file.  I would suspect that CSV and SQL would be most popular but you’ve also got options for HTML, Excel, and XML.  If you require additional rows for your data set, just add them.  When you’re good to go, click “Generate” to get your results!

Your data is good to go.  Save it and you’re ready to mark.  I would suggest running a few versions so that you have a choice of datasets with those parameters.  It only takes seconds.

The website will generate datasets of 200 records.  If you like what you see, the script is downloadable for installation on your own server.  For a small donation, you could get into the realm of big data and create a dataset of 5000 records.

What could be easier?  If you’re a Computer Studies teacher, do yourself a favour and bookmark this one today.

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Life as a Defacer

Or a hacker.  Or a criminal.  Or someone learning HTML.

I prefer to think of this as an awesome tool for the last but perhaps a discussion point for the others.

I played around with a tool from Mozilla called X-Ray Goggles.  It’s simple to use.  There’s a pile of potential in there for those of you teaching HTML and ethics.

Visit the link above and do the “first hack” that they recommend.  Got it?

Follow the instructions and drag the bookmark to your bookmark bar for later use.  I decided to see what I could do to deface/hack my blog.

Yesterday, I shared the announcement of the CSTA Conference.  Part of it looks like this…

This is a dynamite conference and I’m looking forward to being on the conference committee again this year.  But, I’m not fussy about it being in Quincy in July.  I think it would be much better if we changed the details to Boston in August.  Could X-Ray Goggles do it for me?  Yep.  And, I can learn a great deal about the page the current information is on in the process.

So, I go ahead and load the webpage. Next, I click the X-Ray Googles button from my Bookmarks and cursor over the page and voila.  I get to see the HTML behind the scenes that makes this blog post so nicely formatted.

In the left part of the X-Ray Goggles workspace, you can see the existing content including all the HTML tags.  In the right part, you’ll get a chance to see what it looks like if you decide to apply the changes.  Done.  I notice that in the paragraph descriptor, there are a few things to be changed as well.  Done, and Done.

The hacked announcement now looks like this.

And it’s as simple as that.

Now, I don’t have the permissions (presumably) to save it back to the original site which is a very good thing.  But, X-Ray Goggles does offer a couple of alternatives when I click on or press P to publish.  I could post to their hosted site.  In that case, I did and the changes are here.  The second option is a little more nefarious.  I could download the HTML source and post it to a site of my choosing.

Immediately, I see all kinds of use for this.  In the classroom learning some website coding, you could have students work on a sample provided by the teacher to learn the concepts.  i.e. you give one layout and functionality and the students learn how to hack/code/change it into a prescribed output.

Beyond that, I would use this as a great opportunity to have students know exactly where they are when they’re online.  If we could change dates that easily, what else could we change?  What information could we actually collect from someone who went to “our” crafted page as opposed to the original?  Now, using the self-publish feature, we immediately know if we’re in the wrong spot if we look at the URL –  But, suppose we chose the second option and rushed out to register and posted our page there?  Would we be smart enough users to know just where in the internet we are?

This is a very slick and powerful hack.  Give it a try to see what you think.

Finally – please – the conference is in July in Quincy.  Don’t be fooled by competitors!


The WordPress iPad Application

So, the other day @bloggucation sent out the following Twitter message.


Now, as a result of the WordPress notification, I had upgraded their application but hadn’t put it to use.  When I blog on my iPad which honestly is seldom, I use BlogPress.  Even with a bluetooth keyboard, I still find it easier to write on a conventional laptop computer.  I think it’s typically because I’m sitting in a reclining chair rather than at a desk.

So, I thought that I’d take a run at the new application and see what Aaron was talking about.  Following up on his blog and he had been raving about Blogsy, a $5 application for blogging.  As I started to poke around, I realize that it’s not fair to compare the two of them.  While Blogsy is an editor with a great deal of features, it doesn’t do everything WordPress that the WordPress application does.

In fact, as I started messing around with the new application, I could see myself using it for a number of things.

Once it’s up and running, you connect any WordPress blogs that you’ve got going to it.  Click a blog and you’ll see all of your recent posts.  More importantly, look at the left column.  It’s like looking at the menu bar of the web interface.


One of the things that I always do is keep track of the most recent comments and comment back, if appropriate.  I can do that here.


Even more impressive, I can pull up my regular dashboard.  Hmmm.  Looks like it’s time to take out the spam.


And, a nice feature, is that I can easily tap into the other WordPress blogs that I follow other than my own.  You’ll see Stephen Hurley’s blog featured prominently!


So, after the initial walkthrough, I decide to write this post.  The editor has many of the things that I do regularly when writing.  Across the bottom, you’ll see the tools needed to upload videos or images.  I took the screen captures that you see in this post and they end up in the picture gallery.  Uploading an image can be done by taking a picture with your camera or pulling one in from the Library.  Any video that I use is typically an embed from YouTube so I doubt that I’ll be using the video update feature.  Editing and checking the blog is done by flipping between text and preview mode.  For me, I didn’t find that a real problem as I typically work with the HTML of the post.  I can see where that might be of concern.

I do find writing a complete post like this awkward on an iPad.  So, I don’t see me changing that part of my blogging life any time soon.  However, the ability to flip through all of the other things, including having access to the Dashboard without having to load a browser and logging in through the web feels just right.

Back to Aaron’s original post.  I can see his point if he’s looking for an application with an easy UI suitable for education and multi-blog postings.  For me with just a WordPress blog and with all of the other management tools, I will be keeping this application on the iPad for a while!