Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congrats to I-CON on a job well done!

Thanx to the I-CON 29 Planing Committee, you brought I-CON back home to SUNY Stony Brook this past weekend with a bang!  Take a look at the program:
Of course, my Computing Independent Study class CIS(theta) had a 48 hour display at the Art Show in Javits 105.  You can see samples of our at and buy your own prints! We sold some prints and distributed some business cards (see below) in the Print Shop thanx to Jon Morgan who organized a great show!  Here's a list of all the artists in attendance (including me)!  I met Gary Lovelace,, who had great oil paintings and prints of fairies and nature themes.  I had to get a print for my daughter - she loved all the big fury animals and nature scenes! BTW, my next Art Show is for PI Day at Suffolk County Community College Grant Campus (where I-CON 28 was last year) on 4/17/2010.

We spent the day on Saturday at the Con itself. At 11:30 we saw The Physics Demonstration Show in SAC 304 with Dr. H. Takai who is a professor of Physics at SUNY Stony Brook. We missed the Chemistry Magic Show which was not in the program this year, but Dr. Takai gave a very fun and informative talk!
We were disappointed to find the I-CON BBQ gone so we went the the SAC Cafe where I got a free lunch since I fell on someone's chicken sandwich....
Then, at 1:30, we went to the SAC Auditorium to see Roberta Rogow - Filk GOH who was giving a very warm and intimate performance to a small group.  So, she taught us some choruses and we all joined in.

Right after Roberta, from 2-3pm, we saw Marc Gunn - Celtic Kilted Geek of celtic music fame,, in the same room.  He was fantastic!  Marc sang a lot of celtic stuff and even some Tom Lehrer (see above)!

Of course, we could not miss the Movie Previews with Bob Greenberger in Javits 102 from 3-4:30pm which is always a blast! Glenn Hauman was there, as ever, to assist.  Glenn was also on the Destinies Radio show  with Howard Margolin! I didn't have time to go to the authors' and scientists' panels I usually go to.  But, my favorite Star Trek novelist, Keith R. A. DeCandido, was one of the mystery guests on the 3/26/2010 Destinies show!

Then we saw a couple of Q&As in Javits 100 from the balcony: The Big Screen vs. The Small One - C. Carpenter, T. Todd at 4:30 and An Hour With Voltaire at 5:30.  Charisma Carpenter was the actress behind Cordellia in Buffy and Angel.  Tony Todd is well known for his Candy Man movies, but we love him as Captain Kurn, Worf's Brother on Star Trek TNG! 

Voltaire is a great filker as well as a professor at the School for Visual Arts in NYC where my son was just accepted for the freshman class next Fall!
We didn't have time for PC/Console gaming, board gaming or LARP.  I understand the PC/Console gaming was in ESS which is weird. What happened to the Computer Science building we always used to use?  Other gaming was in SAC A and B. It was sort of strange that the Dealers' Room in the Sports Complex was no longer at the center of the Con. BTW, we didn't see any martial arts or rocketry demos on the Physics Lawn this year. Also, this Anime and CosPlay stuff has got to go.  It's taking over the Con with a bunch of dressed-up weirdos. Where are all the Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, BattleStar Galactica or Caprica, LOTR and Narnia peeps? I only saw one good Klingon this year....

Then we went to the Suffolk Diner 'cause we were starving. Thanx Gabe & Jen, that was a great day! 


Generally speaking,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

...darned red tape!

Congrats to Maria and Gary Litvin on their great MP3 text! 
I'm going to see if my Chairperson can ram this new text through for approval ASAP. You have no idea how much red tape I have to go through to get a new course or a new text approved.  I have to write a whole new course proposal, etc. I have to get together a textbook adoption committee, etc.  And more.... 
BTW, the Graphing Calculator culture has hit its apex I think. Even TI sees the end of the TI-83/89, that's why they came up with the TI-Nspire.

The Nspire is a hardware version of there TI-Interactive software that works well with SmartBoard and as CAS. So, even TI is moving toward the PC desktop. Why not embrace the CAS on the desktop paradigm? The migration to this new/old paradigm is even more pressing with all the free software out there. 

Mathematica/MATLAB/Maple are all closed source and expensive but have been around for a while. If this were not the case, the Graphing Calculator culture may not have thrived so.... 

The only benefit to the Graphing Calculator now is the portability and compatability issue for schools to have a standard they can use on regents exams and SAT, etc.  

I just went through all this with a course I originally called "Scientific Computing Lab" which was subsequently renamed by my Superintendent as "Calculus Research Lab," like a science lab meeting every other day in addition to class, using SAGE (FLOSS Mathematica) to enhance the learning of Calculus.

My argument will be that, for all intent and purpose, the current Computer Math course and the "new" Computer Math course are basically the same course and that the text is nearly the same text as my home grown text, we are just modernizing the language used.  If I can't skip all the bureaucracy, I may not be able to order this book until a year from now. I think I'll try to use iPython that's built into SAGE for this course too.  

You know, I could really use a text like this for my "Calculus Research Lab!"  Just saying.... 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

AP Calculus BC Pep Talk!

OK, we finished a 2 week unit on convergence tests for sequences and series of all positive terms last week. We focused on the Integral Test, Comparison Test, Ratio Test and Root Test theorems. We also stressed the Divergence Test (Cauchy's Minimal Criterion for Convergence of Series of Constants with All Positive Terms - a necessary but insufficient condition for convergence). We did a little with alternating series and absolute vs. conditional convergence too.
This week we started a 2 week unit on MacLaurin/Taylor/LaGrange plus radius of convergence based on the ratio test for absolute convergence of power series using last week's work to test endpoints. We do the Alternating Series Test here too.

Then we have Easter break. After that, 4/6 - 4/16, we will do a 2 week unit on vector/polar. In the past I've rushed this unit as we've touched on it a bit here and there through out the year. I think we have a little extra time to do this topic justice this year. This will reduce our AP Review time, but every unit this year has had a Free Response Friday and a Multiple Choice Monday test, so that's a lot of AP Review right there!

Anyway, what I stress in this last BC unit is
Part I:
r(t) = position vectors
v(t) = velocity vectors
a(t) = acceleration vectors
arc length in parametric mode

Part II:
slope along a polar graph
area bound by a polar curve
arc length along a polar trajectory
we use parametrics/vectors to derive formulas for part II 

So, as you can see, we are nearing the home stretch - we are nearly done!  Here's to a great showing on the AP exam!! Good luck to us all!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Plus ca change, plus la meme chose!

Just an update for you: 

(1) I think I finally have approval AND enrollment for my "Calculus Research Lab." I will be using the Calculus texts/pdfs listed on the website. This is a lab that meets everyother day in addition to my AP Calculus class like a science lab but in a computer classroom. I would appreciate any suggestions for other SAGE/Calculus related materials I should look at!

(2) Also, I am updating my intro programming course, "Computer Math" that leads to my AP Computer Science class. I will be adopting the text "Mathematics in the Digital Age" from This is a commbination dicrete math and python course. So I thought using SAGE here would be great! Any thoughts here are welcome.

(3) Finally, I am upgrading my linux cluster for my "Computng Independent Study" students to use I wonder if anyone is using SAGE on a cluster of PCs like this. Any ideas are welcome! 

Teaching with Technology, 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Its time for a new intro programming course!

I'm reviewing a new text, "Mathematics for the Digital Age and Programming in Python" by Maria and Gary Litvin, and it looks great! Surf on over to and have a look. 

I've been running an intro or preAP Computer Science course based on some sort of BASIC since 1975 (qBASIC/yaBASIC, VB/REALbasic, TI-83BASIC/TI-89BASIC)! So its time for a change. I think I will propose a new 2-year curriculum: 
Computer Math (Fall Semester) = Python & TI-83BASIC 
Advanced Computer Math (Spring Semester) = C++ & TI-89BASIC 
AP CompSci (2nd year) = Java & Octave

I am very interested in this new python based text. I am thinking of using it for our intro programming course. As this is a math credit class, doing some discrete math would be a great bonus! 

BTW, I use SAGE/Octave/R with my AP Calculus, AP Physics and AP CompSci students. SAGE is based on python, so using this book with would be very easy. However, this online notebook approach obviates input/output files. If I were to install SAGE on my Linux boxes in my PC classroom, I could use python on its own or within SAGE with input/output files. 

Teaching with Technology, 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Setting up for I-CON is hard to do!

I haven't been to I-CON in two years!  The reason being that I-CON moved to Suffolk County Community College Grant Campus last year and I did not like the way things were set up. Needless to say, I'm going this year (I-CON 29 March 26-28, 2010) and I'm bringing my computer generated art with me!  There's one problem though.  The Art Show used to get a lot of exposure in the Dealers' Room.  At I-CON 26 & 27 it was moved to the smaller Pritchard Gym behind the Dealers' Room.  This year I hear its in Javitts 105???
So, we are entering the Art Show again this year.  See, I'm listed here It's about time, since I've been amassing a ton of stuff for I-CON since we were there for I-CON 27.  I went to Michael's Art Supply and got eight 23" by 35" poster frames. I'm going to Jo-Ann's Fabrics to get a background for 2 panels (each is 8' high by 4' wide).  Otherwise the pegboards are very bare wood.  I need to get something colorful with stars but it needs to be a mesh I can get the hocks through easily.  I used to make eight 23" by 35" prints.  I also have some print from I-CON 26 and 27 that are 18" by 24" framed fractals that I can put in the print shop.  In addition, I have 100 prints i made on 8.5" by 11" photo quality glossy paper on my color laserJet.

Hope to see you there! 

Generally speaking,

Rocks Cluster Distro Rox!

It's time for a bit of introspection.  We have not gotten much running on the new 64bit dual-core AMD Athlon based cluster.  So, here's what I'm thinking about.  I'm talking to the powers-that-be at my school about: 

(1) installing an all linux environment ( for my parallel programming class and other programming classes
(2) moderninzing my intro programming class to use "Mathematics for the Digital Age" and SAGE to teach discrete math and programming 
(3) running a Calculus Research Lab using SAGE to teach Calculus using computers (every other day like a science lab in addition to Calculus class in a PC classroom) 

I've seen LittleFe (get it? not "big iron"), its actually based on BCCD which I've used (1.0 based on openMosix, 2.0 based on MPICH, 3.0 based on openMPI). I'm not interested in building the hardware, however. I want to make use of the dualcore AMD 64bit Athons we have! BTW, we've also used clusterKNOPPIX/parallelKNOPPIX/Quantian based on openMosix as well as pelicanHPC based on LAMMPI, MPITB and Octave. I'd like to emulate the pelicanHPC model in a permanently installed cluster.

I have a dedicated ftp server (to share files with my students) and sftp server (for students to save their work) based on Slackware. So all they really need the Linux desktop for is to anonymous ftp or ssh with a passwd into one of those servers and do their work there. I don't use WIMxP for anything.... So, maybe its time to nuke the WIMxP partition and set up a Rocks Cluster!

OK, I think my Computing Independent Study students have more programming vs. hardware experience, so I'd like to leverage that (although, they helped me reinstall my classroom with Fedora). So, "hiding the details" of seting up the cluster is OK at this point. I'd like to focus on parallel programming. I read some of the beginner's dox and have the following concerns: 

(1) Does the master node have to be dedicated or can it be dual boot? My dept likes WimpDoze for some reason. So, all our PCs have WIMxP on hda1 and 64bit Fedora 12 on hda2. 
ANSWER: Yes it is dedicated. In fact, the install process is simplified to such an extent that nuking the partition table is automatic! 
(2) Does eth0 have to be on the private network? We have always had the internet (public network) on eth0 and the cluster (private network) on eth1. 
ANSWER: Yes, so we'll just have to switch the ethernet cables around.  

(3) When installing the compute nodes, can I specify a partition? When the compute node PXE boots, Rocks gets installed to the hdd, right? Or does the cluster just run in RAM on the compute nodes? 
ANSWER: Nope, the compute nodes are installed to hdd from the master node via PXE and the partition tables are nuked again!
(4) When installing the compute nodes, can I boot from CD/DVD as with the master node? PXE boot has had issues in my lab (conflicting DHCP servers?). 
ANSWER: Yes, but PXE boot is a time saver so lets see if we can do it that way.
(5) Is the resulting installation usable as a desktop for everyday tasks when the cluster is not in use? I teach AP Computer Science with Fedora as the desktop and slackware running my ftp (for sharing files with my students) and sftp (for students to save their work) servers. 
ANSWER: Yes, you get a stable FLOSS version of RHEL that's even better than Fedora called Centos.  

BTW, we've been playing with clusters for a while: 
Colossus: 486 PCs + ethernet + PVM 
Guardian: Pentium I&II PCs + ethernet + openMosix
Centauri: Pentium III&IV PCs + fast ethernet + openMosix 
Shadowfax: 64bit AMD Athon PCs + gigE + ??? 

We got the latest hardware upgrade last school year. At that point we didn't know what to do with it all. So, we installed Debian and wrote bash scrpts to scatter/gather povray jobs via publicly authenticated ssh. This year, we started by installing 64bit Fedora 11 (then Fedora 12) and trying out openMPI. We are having a bear of a time getting openMPI to work over our public key authenticated ssh. Then I read about Rocks and found that it has a similar goal. Rocks is based, in part, on RHEL and openMPI! 
Here's some nice dox: 

Welcome, Math 3H to Room 429!

OK, we got through our first week of Algebra 2 Trig Honors together. We reviewed inverse functions and exponential functions and we started logarithms. 
I think we're off to a good start. I know the first quiz was a bit rough, but it was just your first try at one of my little quizzies.... You'll do better!  

Man, I bet you didn't know what you were getting into when you came to my classroom! Don't worry, I've been teaching Regents Math for nearly 30 years, so you're in good hands. I hope you enjoy my teaching approach using Smartboard and Youtube technology. Maybe it will help you understand and remember new material better.

I know you've had a hard time with so many different teachers. It can be hard to learn new topics while at the same time adjusting to a new teaching style and new expectations.

I want to help you for an extended period of time.  So, hopefully, you'll let me help you improve your skills and get ready for that blasted Regents exam anyway! 

Learning with Technology,