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E-School updates labs, software, curriculum

University computing facilities just received a much-needed software upgrade to serve student needs and enhance the computer science curriculum.

This month, Information Technology and Communication installed mainly Microsoft Office 2000 and Visual Studio 6.0.

The University previously used Microsoft Office 97-Professional Edition before making the upgrade this summer, said Tony Townsend, who is part of ITC's Computing Support Services. The Office 2000 licenses cost $36 per workstation.

Adobe Acrobat Version 4 replaces Version 3 at a cost of $80 per workstation, Townsend said.

Most computer labs boast the new upgrades, with the exception of some of the residential buildings.

"The Slaughter Hall public lab and some of the dorm labs still have last year's software versions. They will be upgraded during the semester as we install new hardware," said Marlene Jones, who is part of ITC's labs and classrooms group.

In an effort to improve the Computer Science curriculum, Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0 was installed in selected Engineering school facilities.

Recent revisions in C++ standards initiated the Engineering School to look for a better compiler, Undergraduate Engineering Program Director James Cohoon said.

Computer Science classes used the Borland C++ compiler last year.

"Students will get a chance to use a C++ compiler that better reflects the standard," said Cohoon, also a computer science professor. "Microsoft Visual C++ reflects the adopted standards."

The Visual Studio package includes Visual C++ and Visual Basic, which the University received at a reduced cost from a Microsoft grant, Townsend said.

"Some of the Visual Studio licenses were from a grant, while others cost about $6," he said.

Microsoft donated 100 licenses, said Computer Science Prof. John Knight.

The University currently has 200 licenses, Jones said.

Visual Studio also can be found in the computer lab in Thornton Hall, as well as in the ITC classrooms in the Mechanical Engineering Building and Clark Hall room 147, she said.

Only the Thorton Hall lab has public access, she added.

Computer Science professors will make the decision to switch to the new Microsoft compiler or continue using Borland for their courses.

"CS 101 and CS 201 are officially switching," Cohoon said. "The textbook is unaffected and every example [in the text] will run."

CS 120, a computer science course designed for pre-Commerce and College students, will now be using Visual Basic instead of Borland C++.

"They asked us to switch to Visual Basic," Computer Science Chairman John Stankovic said.

C++ is better suited for engineering students, but not the best option for everyone, CS 120 Prof. Jane Prey said.

"Visual Basic is much more applicable" to the needs of students, Prey said.