I love it when people do stuff. Anthony, a student at Hull, is doing stuff. He has started up a web site for gamers who want to talk about, play and even build games. The whole thing is very slick and there are lots of forums and places where folks can pitch ideas and find like minded souls to go on and build something. I wish him the best of luck. If you want to take part then you can find the whole thing at

Codeacademy for learning JavaScript


During a First Year lecture this week I said that the students should spend some time this Easter learning JavaScript. Everyone should know a bit of JavaScript, it is what makes web sites work, and with the coming of HTML 5 it will be even more important. I’ve just found a really good way to learn it too. (this also works for anyone who fancies doing a bit of programming). Take a look at Codeacademy.

Looks like great fun.

Hull Computer Science Blogs


I tell all my students to start a blog. Not because they’ll instantly get loads of readers, or because the world necessarily cares much what they think right now (sad but true) but because it is good practice for writing.

Writing is important. It is how we tell people stuff. Being good at writing is a really useful skill to have. And like any skill it gets better if you practice. I’ve been blogging for the thick end of 10 years or so (and I do mean the thick end). I’ve set myself the goal of writing something different every day and I’ve mostly kept at it. It has made me much better at writing. I can turn out a few hundred words really quickly now if I need to. And the words make a lot more sense than when I started. Or as I used to say “Sense words make much more now. Want cookie.”

The lovely thing is that quite a few Hull students have taken my advice to heart and even got together to bring you all their stories in one big chunk of blogging goodness. If you head over to then you can see what they are up to.

I hope they all keep at it. Starting a blog is easy. Keeping it going is the hard part. You don’t need to write every day, but you do need to have writing as part of your routine. And when you do something, even if it is just go see a movie, try to put down a piece that sets out what you thought about it. And keep an eye out for things to write about. As I always say:

“What doesn’t kill you makes a darned good blog post.”

Bud Light Presents Real Men of Genius


If you haven’t heard the “Bud Lite Presents” series of radio advertisements then you are in for a treat. I’ve no idea when they were recorded, but they are excellent. I’ve always had a soft spot for Budweiser beer, ever since they started using my software to put datestamps on their bottles, and the adverts are just great.

My favourite is “Mr. Fancy Coffee Shop Coffee Pourer”, but you may have your own. Best used as part of a “random play” list on your favourite music player (mine’s a Zune). You can get the mp3s from here (although you have to wade past some annoying advertising).

Giving Great Presentations


If you are serious about presenting (and I reckon everybody should be) then you will find this presentation from TechEd 2011 very interesting/useful. It was given by Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi who are very experienced Microsoft speakers.

They make all the sensible points about presentations that seem like common sense; know your stuff, practice your demos, engage the audience etc, but they also set out some other very good thoughts that will take your presentations to the next level.  Well work a look.

SyncToy and Drive Letter Setting Fun


At the end of the year I have to go through my marathon photo tidying up session. I keep all my writings and other important stuff on SkyDrive, Live Mesh and DropBox but there is just not room in the cloud for all the pictures that I take. And so this is the time when I go through the pictures directories of all my various machines and pull them all together to make a final, definitive set of all my photos that I can copy across a bunch of hard disks.

And when I’m doing this I find SyncToy very useful. I can use it to bring together files from lots of different disks and also make sure that two disks hold exactly the same set of files. It doesn’t seem to mind being pointed at directories that hold many gigglebytes of files and I can just leave it to get on with the work.

Oh, and when I’m using external drives I find it very useful to be able to make sure that when I plug the drive in it gets exactly the same drive letter each time. You can do this using the Disk Management tool. Open up Control Panel and then for “Disk Management” Then open the scary “Create and format hard disk partitions” option to bring up the Disk Manager tool:


Select the drive that you want in the list of volumes and right click it. Then select “Change Drive Letter and Paths..” to bring up the Change dialog box.


Then click Change and nominate the letter that you want to use in the combo box on the right:


Once you have done this you just click OK down all the menus and, presto, your drive has the letter you chose. And even better, the letter is remembered for next time you plug the drive in. Great stuff.

Final Battleships Tutorial Podcasts Available

Traffic Light

I managed to find a quiet time at work today to record the last two podcasts for the 08101 Battleships tutorial. You can find all the tutorials here:

These are tutorials to support programming coursework set for our First Year programming course. The students have been asked to produce a C# program that will take the part of one player in the game of Battleships.

C# Fun with Pexforfun


pexforfun is fun. Especially if you like writing code. It gives you a mental workout, teaches you programming smarts and has a lovely test driven, puzzle powered approach based on “Code Duels”.

You are set the task of writing a program that behaves in the same way as some “mystery code”. You type your code into the browser (you get intellisense support and everything) and then hit the “Ask Pex!” button. Pex then compiles your program and runs it against the test cases for that mystery code. If your program works you get bragging rights and then move on to the next puzzle. If your program fails you get to see which tests failed, so that you can refine your code for next time.  You can log into the system so that you can track your progress through the puzzles or you can just turn up and have a go, like I did.

I’ve just done one puzzle and really enjoyed it. I think we will be using pex during our first year programming labs at Hull, it really is a nice way to sharpen your C# skills. Find out more here:

Xbox Game: Angry Robot Rampage

Tom has been busy writing a game over summer. Angry Robot Rampage is the result. He has a blog post all about it here and you can find it on Xbox indie games here.

Great stuff. Now Tom, I want a Windows Phone version…..