I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended the Technology Showcase today in HFA. This was a partnership between Instructional & Media Technology ("Media Services"), Library, and Computing Services. It was a great opportunity to share the work being done in all the technology units.
Computing Services showed three technologies that may be new to you:
Microsoft Surface is a tablet computer, sort of in the middle between an iPad and a laptop. One feature I really like about the Surface is the keyboard cover. It looks the same as the iPad cover, but when you lay it flat, there's a touch keyboard there. That means you can type on the keyboard cover instead of using an on-screen keyboard. The keyboard cover even includes a "trackpad" to control the on-screen mouse cursor. The model on display today was the "Surface RT," which sells for about $499.
Note that Surface RT uses slightly different technology from the Surface Pro ($899) and cannot run the same programs.
If the Surface is a compromise between a laptop and a tablet, the Google Chromebook is a step closer to a laptop. The basic idea behind the Chromebook is that you don't install software programs on the Chromebook; you won't have a copy of Microsoft Office on the Chromebook. Instead, you run everything off the Web. Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar, … you do everything via the built-in Chrome web browser. The technology in the Chromebook is all about supporting web applications. The battery life on this device is amazing—when I took the Chromebook to EDUCAUSE during Spring Break, I regularly got about 7 hours' usage before I had to charge it again. You can find different models of the Chromebook from a variety of resellers. The model on display was the Samsung Chromebook, and sells for about $249.
Both the Surface and the Chromebook were purchased with department funds. If you would like to try out either device, please let us know and we'll arrange a loaner for a few weeks.
The Raspberry Pi is a small computer (the size of a credit card!) invented in the UK as a teaching platform for secondary ed students. It's a low-cost system that makes it easy for students to learn about computing "under the hood." For example, computer science students might use the Pi to write "embedded" programs, or use the Pi as a platform for research projects. And it's cheap, about $35 for the Model B on display today. The Model A (same as the B, minus the network connection) is about $25. That's less than the cost of a textbook.
One other feature that makes the Raspberry Pi an ideal student research system is the row of pins along the bottom-right edge. Students can use those pins to connect an add-on board, called the Gertboard, to control other devices, such as motors. This allows for an endless variety of projects. One project I am fond of connected two motors via the Gertboard, and used those motors to control the knobs on an Etch-a-Sketch.
I wrote a few simple, undergraduate-level programs to demonstrate the Raspberry Pi. One program was a chaos computation of the Sierpinski Triangle, written in C to run in Unix ncurses. The Sierpinski algorithm is straightforward, but if folks are interested in seeing the source code, let me know and I'll gladly share it. Similarly, I'll also share the code for my other demo programs, including the program that computes a sequence of Fibonacci numbers. (I almost finished a version of Conway's Life cellular demonstration, also in C for Unix ncurses, and I'll share my work-in-progress if anyone is interested.)
UPDATE: I've posted the programs at my personal page.