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The Programming Olympics

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The Pure Joy of Learning

It's 10:00 am on the first Saturday of school at C.U. (University of Colorado). No projects have been assigned yet. No significant homework. So why do we have 24 C.S. students in the Computer Science Engineering Lab? They're about to compete in the first annual C.U. Code War. Participating doesn't count toward a grade. It fulfills no school requirements. It doesn't pay. So why are they here?

For the same reason some people will spend an entire day playing basketball in a tournament. The pure joy of competing at something you love. These 24 students woke up early and spent their Saturday designing and writing code. Did they enjoy it? Every single one said they want to do it again next year. Why? Because a lot of us programmers love what we do. Yes we get paid well for it, but it's not the pay, it's that we love the work.

Events like this add significantly to the College experience. First off it helps reinforce a joy in learning purely for the sake of increased knowledge. That is one of the fundamental tenets of learning.

Second, it provides a more diverse learning experience. A code war is different from an assigned project. With an assigned project everyone can get an A and the criteria to do so are very clear. In a code war there is only 1 winner and so you have to strive to write better code than the others, without knowing what the other teams are creating.

Third, I think back to what one mom said when we were complaining about driving our daughter's soccer team all over the state for games – that it's cheaper than drug rehab. Providing compelling events for students that keep them busy helps reduce the time they're learning the hard way that dumb behavior has consequences.

What's a Code War

A code war is a contest where each team is given an identical programming problem. Each team then writes a solution to the problem in the allowed time and the solutions are run against each other. For the Windward Code Wars I create problems where each team writes an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) for a game. I do think an A.I. is fun because instead of the result being a score for each team with the high score winning, you watch robots move on the board and shoot each other as you are following your robot cheering for it when it makes a good move. The play-off is a lot more interesting.

The teams get the problem and then all go to different classrooms. And they then quickly go into what most people know is the way to be as productive and innovative as possible. First they turn off all communication – cell phones off, Facebook closed, etc. They then talk through the problem discussing approaches to the problem. And then it's an iterative of implementing an approach, trying it, discussing the result.

The team that won ended up implementing and discarding two approaches before finally settling on the third approach that was successful. One approach worked well but took too long to calculate a move (the game only allowed 1 second). The second approach made bad moves. The final approach was a pretty simple one (they didn't have much time left) but it showed that oftentimes simple does a better job.

The final play-off was as exciting as a basketball game tied in the final minutes. The team members were watching their robot on the screen as the robots all moved, fired, took flags, etc. But from the cheering (on good moves) and cries of anguish (on bad ones) they were there on the screen in their robot. And they watched their 8 hours of effort as their robot moved in relation to the others.

To sum up the Code War - a good time was had by all.

And so…

If you are hiring programmers for a start-up, these are the students you want to interview. A love of creating good code means this is someone who will put everything they have into creating a successful company. Yes you need to interview on other criteria but on this one very important criteria, these students are clearly what you want.

I hope C.U. (and other schools) can come up with events like this for other majors. It would be a great way to start the school year off on a positive note.

And if your school would like to participate next year, please contact us at Windward Code War.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it process the template handling each tag in order, and each tags can pull from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select in a tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one datasource, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. Additional details ...

David Thielen

President/CEO at Windward Studios

From his early years as a Senior Developer at Microsoft, to legendary designer of the popular Enemy Nations strategy game, to reporting and document generation guru, Dave has never lost his passion for building superb software and teams.

david@windward.nethttps://www.linkedin.com/in/davethielen/
This blog was written by:_
David Thielen

For over 10 years, Windward has lead the industry with our world-class document generation platform that creates visually stunning, data-powered documents designed exactly the way users want and are created in a fraction of the time and cost compared to existing solutions. Proudly located in Boulder, Colorado, Windward Studios is the premier solution for developers and business users adding reporting and document generation capabilities to their applications in over 70 countries around the world.

© 2019 Windward Studios Inc.

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