Back in college, I volunteered to help on “Women in Computing Day” to teach middle schoolers programming using Alice. I also helped teach an undergraduate teaching assistant position for Engineering Fundamentals, the class all engineering students were required to take. The course used Alice to introduce the students to programming concepts (loops, methods, conditional logic, etc).
I thought Alice was a really innovative way of teaching programming. It was GUI-driven programming that was expressive enough to do cool engineering stimulations, but with the simplicity that middle schoolers could understand and use it.
The other day, my mom asked me to find the “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, some professor that made this speech. She had heard about on the T.V. and was interested in seeing what it was all about. I found the YouTube video and began watching it. To my surprise, Dr. Pausch’s work has crossed my path. He is the creator of Alice.
The Open Geospatial Consortium just announced that KML has been adopted as an open standard. KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language, originally designed by Keyhole who was acquired by Google back in 2004. Keyhole’s Earth Viewer product was reborn as what we know today as Google Earth. I first came across KML when I was working on some data visualization using Google Earth. I found it to be very expressive and easy to use. You can do neat things like stream dynamic KML to animate the map or add overlays on the map.
It’s interesting to see how Google Earth/Maps’s popularity has allowed KML to become the international standard. It will be even more interesting to see how quickly the standard is adopted by many of the geo-visualization products out there. While I don’t think it will be “the HTML of geographic content“, I do think this standardization will open up the market for new products that build/support KML, pushing KML to its limits as we have done with HTML.
Google App Engine, which acts a Google-hosted application platform powered by Google technologies like BigTable and GFS. You can read more about it here. I was lucky enough to get an invite to try it out. Right now it only supports Python, but they say they plan on expanding this to other programming languages. I hope that’s true. I never really played with Python but this might give me more incentive to take a closer look at it.
Anyways, going through their Getting Started documentation took about 10 minutes. All of the apps are hosted at the appspot.com domain but from the Admin console, it looks like you can have your use your Google Apps domain which is pretty cool.