Tuesday, May 10, 2011

App Development Club: Teething problems

Late last year, I decided to start an App Development club at my school. I wanted to use a programming environment that used a language that was less intimidating that Objective C. The idea had to have some differentiating feature, as previous attempts to teach programming had not met with great success. I decided, in consultation with a few others, that it would work best as an "extension activity" for those identified as being among the school's top Maths students.

I spent sometime in the summer exploring LiveCode. It looked good but I couldn't find a clear learning path. In the last week of the holidays, I discovered Corona SDK.

On the last day of Term 1, I sent out ninety odd invitations to girls (no boys at my school) in years 8 to 12. I specified 6 Tuesdays on which we would meet for an hour after school. I was very pessimistic but, while rejecting late submissions, I had to accept a total of 33 students. A mate of mine, Maths/Science teacher and all round scholar, Tony, expressed an interest in learning alongside them.

Well, there was nothing to it. Corona SDK, TextWrangler and a few other tools were installed in one lab. The year 10s, of whom there were 3, would bring their own laptops, as would Tony and I.

It may all sound straight forward, except that it isn't! Here is the issue we have had to deal with:
  • Corona SDK requires the user's registration details when it is run for the first time on a machine. 
  • This registration procedure cannot happen through the school's proxy server
  • Each registered user can log on to two machines. There is no such thing as a multi-machine or site license! (Picture me tearing my hair out at this point)
Here is how I have solved the problem for the time being:
  1. Log on to the machine as administrator
  2. Use my Samsung Galaxy S phone as a mobile access point (note: untick remember network)
  3. Turn off all proxies for that connection
  4. Pull out the Ethernet cable
  5. Adjust the time on the machine (Corona is very meticulous)
  6. Run the Corona Simulator and register using one of the student's registration details (we decided that did not need to be a top secret. Those who want to profit from Apps can buy a license for the computer in their garage!)
  7. Restore proxy settings
  8. Reconnect the Ethernet cable
  9. Log out.
  10. Move on to the next machine
  11. repeat steps 1 to 10
Thank you to those who are still reading at this point. The problem is that the registration only "sticks" for admin! So, I now log the students in myself, given that I cannot divulge the admin password under pain of death (my own, that is). The students have been warned not to use the admin privileges for evil, lest the club be terminated.

I will let you know if I find a permanent fix or if Ansca come back to me with a good idea. I will soon blog about the actual learning activities I am using and the people I have to thank for them.

If your school is doing something similar, I would love to hear from you.

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