Friday, October 29, 2010

Why can't my new Dell compile Flash CS4 files faster?

All the serious geeks at Adobe must use Macs.

I have a new Dell Studio XPS 1645 with 8GB of RAM, an i7 Q820 processor @ 1.73GHz, and Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit OS (giving it a 5.9 Windows Experience score). It takes 39 seconds for this beast to compile one of our CLIPS activities. My confreres running Macs get it done in about 15 seconds. Today, I tried compiling the same .fla on a 4.5 year old MacBook (not a Pro) and it took 18 seconds. Then I tried my 3.5 year old Dell running Windows XP and it took 28 seconds.

Why doesn't an upgrade feel like one?

I have looked around the web for ideas about how to get Flash to compile an .fla faster but haven't found anything helpful. Maybe I should use the XP virtualization that came with the Windows 7 machine or use DropBox to distribute my computing power.

Does anyone have any similar experiences and especially any that will speed up the process?

Sluggish and Lonely in PC land,


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Should have stuck with talking about goalies!

I remember a Euclid Problem that was referred to as "that old chestnut - the goalie problem". This teacher should have stuck to talking about goalies...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Literacy, Student Engagement, Images and TED

Jesse Brown, host of TVO's Search Engine podcast, spoke at the recent TEDxOntarioEd event in London. It is kind of ironic that I listened to this talk on Rodd Lucier's Clever iPod app, given its heavy reliance on visuals. I did this on the same day that I received word that one of our innovative teachers, Lynda Marshall was awarded a Literacy prize from Nipissing University, in part for her work with graphic novels.

One of my former students, David Kennedy, has been working on Bitstrips as well. Bitstrips for Schools is licensed by the Ministry of Education for Ontario's publicly-funded schools.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Computation is destined to be the Defining Idea of Our Future

Is Stephen Wolfram a Clive Cussler-esque egomaniac or a visionary? When do we tell students about this - or are we too busy hoping they don't find out that Wolfram Alpha factors trinomials?


Will Richardson mentions this recently.

I have been thinking a lot about how learning objects like CLIPS can be precise and concise at the same time.

Did you get through all that?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We need more patient problem solvers

Dan Meyer says a mouth-full!

Need more? Spend time in his "What can you with this?" series.

It is not everyday that I re-post something I find at the Kitchen Table Math blog which they recommend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NFB Performance Rights

I just received this message from the Near North's Educational Technology Coordinator, Jane Henderson:

I received an update from the Ontario Educational Software people (OESS) and as of April 1st, the Ontario Government has paid for performance rights – classrooms, libraries, etc.. Please go to (The National Film Board). There are no passwords – all we need to do is go to the website and enjoy. This is a great educational site, so please make sure you forward this message to the staff at your school.

So, I don't need a lot of encouragement to pursue a diversion! And I have been looking for a film that I remember with fondness from my school days, The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes by Bill Mason. Not only did I find it, but I can embed it here. Besides its interesting geological information, it reminds us of the significant damage that is being done to the Great Lakes by human activity.

See my earlier post about another movie I remember with fondness, the Log Driver's Waltz.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Troitsky Bridge Building Champs

My son, Neil, who is a Civil Engineering student at McMaster University, was part of the winning team in the 2010 Troitsky Bridge Building Competition.

In the video below, you will see Neil's shadow on the right and then he will appear in the frame, wearing his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen garb. The digital readout shows the total carrying capacity in kg. The previous record was around 2500 kg. There is a nice writeup on McMaster's site, which looks like it may be replaced eventually, and a scraped one on the Exchange magazine site, which provides some context before watching the video.

The McMaster release included this photo (Neil is on the extreme right).

It made folks who have known Neil a long time think back to his creations using Lego, K'nex and even cardboard and tape as a child.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Regular Expressions in Excel

Once I learned a bit about regular expressions in Actionscript 2, I wanted to use them in Microsoft Excel.

It turns out that there is a VBA extension for Regular Expressions and a installable set of custom functions for Excel that includes regular expressions. To make it work, here is what I did:
  1. In Excel, hit alt-F11 to bring up the code screen.
  2. Choose Tools | References and check Microsoft VBScript Regular Expressions 5.5
  3. Close Excel.
  4. Download and install Morefunc 5 from
  5. Open Excel and start writing functions like "=REGEX.SUBSTITUTE(V2, " .......$| ....... |^....... |^......$|^.......$"," ???????? ")"

To learn more, check out the Morefunc documentation, sites like this, or sites that I referred to in my previous post. You can also write your own functions like lispy does.

Open Question: What do Excel for Mac users do?

Pretty soon you will be ordering this cup:

Regular Expressions in Actionscript 2

Regular Expressions are a powerful method of working with text strings based on dynamic patterns. For example, you might want to extract all the numbers from a string like "Michael travels 550km in 6.2 hours using 40L of gasoline", or replace any occurrence of "INV" followed by an arbitrary number of alphanumerics followed by a space with "- reference removed -".

Regular Expressions are useful in parsing user input or creating grammars for strings.

Flash decided not to support a RegExp class in Actionscript 2, though it is implemented in Actionscript 3, Javascript, and JScript.

Pavils Jurjans
bemoaned this fact and created his own RegExp class for Flash 5, which was encapsulated by Joey Lott into a .as file for Actionscript 2. Pavils also created a very handy tester, which together with websina's page, helped me to get started with regular expressions.

The CLIPS programmers have started to use our version of the class, which has been documented with ZenDocs, and includes a trim, rtrim, ltrim and slightly modified replace method. A simple tester .fla is available to interact with the class.

I probably feel as excited learning this new skill as the fellow in this comic.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Running DOS Games on Windows

In my last post, I mentioned trying to get Colourful Math to work on Windows, collecting a few delicious bookmarks along the way.

Today, I downloaded dosbox after a bit of an internet search to get a sense of its reliability (since the zombie-like dude in the top corner did not inspire a lot of confidence). dosbox allows you to run all sorts of DOS programs under Windows, Mac and Linux - Doom and Railroad Tycoon (which is a free download now) seem especially popular.

When you run doxbox, type
  • mount c: c:\colourfulmath (where c:\colourfulmath is the directory where the files are)
  • c:
  • dir
  • cd clrmath
  • 4colours (the bat or exe)
and voila!, you have a blast from the past in a nice tidy emulator (or virtual console?) window.

I received a very pleasant email from the Claude Laflamme, the developer (with Industry Canada funding) of Colourful Math. He indicated that his developer interest turned to and Colourful Math has not been ported to any more modern operating systems.

I was thinking that folks of a certain age (probably over 18) might like to know that there could be a way to play their favorite MS-DOS games on their current operating systems, using dosbox, if they are keen on having waves of nostalgia wash over them. My kids spent hours on the evaluation version of Soleau games like Wallpipe, Ant Run and Bolo Ball - which are still available - the rousing Sine Dancing-like antrun theme is playing on my speakers as I type (even after exiting!).

Monday, March 8, 2010

How useful are games in teaching Math?

I have been thinking about this question for a while and the answer depends a lot on the type of games we are talking about. There are cross-number puzzles, ciphers to decode pun-ish riddles, drill and practice games, role-playing games, etc.

It may be that "game" is a organizer for "play" which is really a state of engagement. Students can engage in a game for hours, puzzling out the rules and feeling accomplishment.

I wish that I could be at Maria Andersen's presentation - Playing to Learn Math.

Does our view of Math education allow us to imagine a time when a robot could do a better job of much of our teaching, as the Koreans and Japanese are working on?

This week my daughter, who is studying Math at UW and is currently in a graph theory course, was reminded of a set of games that she played as a youngster - expressly designed to introduce colouring problems in an engaging way. They are MS-DOS based and I have got them to run enough to recognize the screens, but not really to enjoy.

When I am trying to get Sketchpad or Flash to produce a certain figure or interaction, I can enter an engaged state that social psychologists refer to as "Flow", which I find enjoyable.

Keith Devlin would like a couple of hundred million dollars to develop a MMP game that would allow players to construct math learning. I admit to being a tad skeptical, but what would such an environment be worth?

What role have games and play had in your Mathematical development?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Farewell Kate

Anyone who was a schoolchild when I was has a particular affinity for this NFB short. The world said goodbye to Kate McGarrigle this week.

I found this video about a planned re-make of the short, but can't seem to find if it was ever made.