Category: Great Links

Programming for Kids

Blockly Games caught my eye the other day and finally got me to pull together my notes on programming teaching tools for kids.  There are some really cool tools out there.  If you have a sphere of influence with kids whether they be your own or just ones who might listen, check out these resources…

Blockly Games

This is the tool that I just recently ran into.  The nice part is that it is web-based so you don’t have to install anything.  Also, it is puzzle based.  Instead of just giving kids something to explore, it gives them a challenge to try to accomplish.

Link: Blockly Games

The tool is made up of multiple games that motivate kids to explore and learn:

Blockly Games Menu

For example, the maze game requires that you write a program to walk the user through a map.

Blockly Games: Street Maze Game

Learn to Code

I found another very similar tool.  The one-up from a kids point of view: angry birds.  It looked very similar to the blocky games (in fact, I think it is the same library), but the character in the puzzle was an angry bird.  There’s also a nice little intro video to explain what is going on.

Link: Hour of Code


I’m not sure where I first heard about Alice, but it sounds like a pretty cool learning tool.  It uses a 3D interface, which makes it a bit heavier.  The download was 1.2G!

Link: Alice Homepage

Getting it working wasn’t hard at all.  I went to the Alice 3.1 Download Page.  After uncompressing the download, I ran:

sh ./

That was for my Linux system.  For Windows, there is an Alice3.exe that you can run.

I think that I may have learned about Alice from this Google Tech Talk:

Wombat Object Basics

Oracle has a little tutorial for using Greenfoot.  It looks a little involved, and I haven’t been through it all yet.


Installing Greenfoot was pretty simple.  The download page has a deb package that I could use.  I simply installed it using the Ubuntu Software Center.

Snake Wrangling for Kids

This is a book that I came across a long time ago.  I haven’t ever delved into it, and now I find that there is a new version out on Amazon.

Link: Google Code Project (Old Version)

Here’s the new version:


Scratch is an online tool.  It seems very similar to Blockly, but instead of puzzles and challenges, it is just a tool that lets kids explore.

Link: Scratch Website

RoboCode / RoboJS

A long time ago, I ran into this cool game.  It makes programming fun.  The idea is that you write a small program to control a virtual robot.  You pit your program / robot against others in a virtual arena.

Link: RoboCode Website

The original RoboCode requires Java and running a program from your PC.  I found another version that was ported to Javascript.  I’m not sure it is as complete as the original, but it allows you to play the same game in Javascript and a browser.

LinkRoboJS – Robocode in Javascript

You can check out the source code:

BBC Schools Computing

BBC has launched a website with various resources.  There’s a bunch to explore here, and I haven’t explored it all.

Link: BBC Schools Computing

PHP For Kids

This is more like a web development course.  You can go through the material and learn HTML, PHP, etc.

Link: PHP For Kids


Great Link: Email Tool

I found this great link to help open email attachments:

Encryptomatic’s Free Online Email Viewer

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, someone will send me an email attachment.  It is either a file that ends with “.eml” or a winmail.dat file.  GMail can’t open those attachments; it has a “View” link but that just shows the raw text that can be very hard to read.  Now, I can use this tool.

Email Attachments

The tool says that you can “Upload and View a .EML, .MSG or winmail.dat message”.  I haven’t used it a lot, but it has worked for me so far.  The only problem that I have had is that I haven’t gotten winmail.dat files to work yet:

Trying to upload winmail.dat

Google Voice Voicemail Rings

I have really enjoyed using the Google Voice option for voicemail on my cell phone.  The cool part is that it sends me an email with the voicemail message.  The message is attached in sound form and it also makes an attempt to do voice recognition.  The one disadvantage is that it rings way too many times.  Some people give up on leaving a message because it rings so many times.  Well, thanks to Evan Wondrasek, I found a fix!

Here’s the original article:

Techorator: How to Prevent Extra Rings using Google Voice as Voicemail

Read More

What’s in a Unified Name?

I ran across this article …

Engadget: Project Unity stuffs 20 classic consoles into one: if you can’t play it, it’s probably too new (video)

… and it made me wonder how many projects we have named Unity!

Canonical’s Unity

This Unity is the (relatively) new user interface for Ubuntu Linux.  You can read more about it here:

For me, the biggest difference is the new menu.  Instead of a traditional “start”-style menu, Unity introduces this new dash:

One of the things that I need to master as a blogger talking about the Unity interface is the lingo.  Here’s a little article that shows what the different parts are called:

Ask Ubuntu: What’s the right terminology for Unity’s UI elements?

Just FYI, I discovered some nice information about Unity and some of the alternatives:

Unity Gaming Engine

I have a friend and colleague that did some work with the Unity Gaming Engine.  Since it is a 3D engine, I get it confused easily with the “Unity 3D” interface, but it’s completely different.

Just by looking at their website, you can see the quality of the graphics.  I haven’t had a chance to work with it, but it looks very nice.

.Net Unity

While looking around for other things called Unity, I came across this .Net project.  I am not sure I have the bandwidth to try to understand it, but it’s yet another unrelated Unity project.

Codeplex: patterns & practices – Unity

Unity Linux Distribution

I am not sure this distribution is still active.  When I first searched this out, it was there, but now, the site doesn’t respond.  The Wikipedia article describes it a little.  A distribution with that name would be very confusing.

Packt Celebrates Their 1000th Title

You may want to sign up on Packt’s website!

From what I understand, Packt is publishing their 1000th book on September 30th.  To celebrate, they will be giving out two free surprises.  I don’t know what the surprises are, but they have been good to me so far.

Here’s the official text:

To celebrate this event with our readers, we’d be gifting them with not one but two assured surprises which would be revealed to them by the 30th of September, 2012. Anyone who is already registered or signs up for a free Packt account before 30th September 2012 is guaranteed a surprise gift.

So, head on over to their website:

Website Detector

Jake pointed out this cool little tool that inspects a website:


So, I thought I would test a few sites that I have visited in the past:

Here are some CMS platforms that I tried (from the List of CMS’s):

This is a very simple test and not thorough at all.  Just playing with curiosity.

If I had one suggestion, I think it would be cool to detect Advertising providers (like AdSense, etc).  I would love to know what others are using.