Pat Besong's photo

Programming

Perl

Although my degree in college was in Art, when I took the job as an instructional technologist for Penn State's World Campus, I began to look into new things that might help me improve the type of things I was able to do with our course Web sites. I had already taught myself HTML, but thought I could stretch myself even further by learning some CGI programming. I spent a lot of late nights working on Perl tutorials on the web, and I was soon able to make some pretty neat things.

  • An online quiz that would immediately grade itself upon submission
  • A chat board
  • An admin tool for online courses to add, search, and delete students from course access in batches of 10
  • An online Web page editor
  • A Web page builder
  • An online survey tool
  • A method that finds and delivers a student's course page just by logging in

Javascript

When I worked at SMGnet, I was tasked with bringing four different CD-based simulations to the Web in a span of three months. There would be no database available to keep track of the simulation's scoring, so I had to do it all with browser cookies. I learned Javascript very quickly in order to pull this off. Not only was I able to keep score throughout a whole simulation, but was able to use the data to create bar graphs for reporting user progress. I also learned to create rather elaborate two-dimensional arrays in Javascript that could also act as a mini database.

Another cool thing I was able to do in Javascript was to create a Javascript-based password-protection scheme for Web sites that could not do so by normal htacess means. Although it was only Javascript and therefore provided only a low level of protection, it wasn't exactly easy to defeat as most pasword-protection schemes are. I wrote an article and sold it to the Web Review which was later bought out by Dr. Dobbs Journal and is still listed there today.

I also taught Javascript for a while in our ITS Seminars. I recreated Voodoo's Javascript tutorial and made it interactive, adding some of my own content as well. It was a great help in teaching the class.

ActionScript

Actionscript is the built-in programming language in Adobe Flash. I've been using Flash since 2000 and have slowly developed my skills in using Actionscript. It is very much like Javascript, so if you know that you have a major advantage in learning Actionscript. More recently I've been working on a kiosk for Penn State's Sports Museum that uses external text files to input athletes' bio information for display. It's a pretty sophisticated script that dynamically loads all the data when called upon. I will eventually get this to work with a database backend to draw the data from.

Another cool project I did with a lot of Actionscript was for a Landscape Architecture course here at Penn State. I built it so that instructors could simply drop text, jpegs, and audio files into folders and the presentation would play on its own. It would dynamically load each slide along with the narration and the text of what was being narrated and proceed to the next slide at the conclusion of the audio for that slide. You could also navigate back and forth or jump to any particular slide in the presentation. It uses the same Flash file, but just reloads new content, so it is very efficient.

RealBasic

RealBasic is an application development software that I use sometimes to build small applications for the Mac. It can also create a Windows version as well, but I haven't gone that route with it. It was pretty strange at first, but after doing a few tutorials I kind of got the hang of it, and there is a very good support forum on the RealBasic Web site with lots of people who are willing to help.

A couple of apps that I built with RealBasic included a screen capture program called ScreenCaptureX for the Mac, and an RSS writer that writes the XML for you for your podcasts in a way that iTunes understands. I also created a podcast recording solution with it that automatically uploaded the audio file to our initial podcast site, but we switched from WordPress to Drupal as the backend for the site, and it no longer functioned the same, so we couldn't use it after that.

I would like to learn Objective-C and XTools for developing apps on the Mac, but I find it very difficult to learn at this point. It is not exactly intuitive for me. Sometimes, however, I've found that it's just a matter of finding the right teacher or tutorial series. So, I'll keep plugging away at it in my spare time at home.