Recommendation for a text

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. John Coleman

    John Coleman Guest

    Greetings,

    I teach math and computer science (though mostly math) at a small liberal arts college. Because of our smallness we don't have a huge course offering.To compensate, we have a grab-bag "special topics course" where we cover different topics each semester based on student's and/or professor's interests.

    Next fall I will be running a special topics course with the title "Modern C Programming". The motivation for the course is that currently our CS students are exposed to C++, Java and a smattering of other languages (e.g. Lisp in an elective AI course) but no C per se. While in principle they learn some C naturally in the course of learning C++ they really don't learn all that much about things like pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings and they definitely don't learn anything about C99. The proposed class is intended to give a serious introduction to C to students who have a working knowledge of either C++ or Java. This will allow me to blow through the basic syntax of expressions, loops, etc. in a couple of weeks and to spend the bulk of the semester on aspects of C which are different from Java and even C++.

    My question is - what would a good text be? My first tentative choice was King's "C programming: a modern approach", but I have also been looking at Kochan's book "Programming in C". More recently I have been toying with the idea of using K&R. On the one hand that seems on the face of it like a poorchoice for a course called *Modern* C programming. On the other hand - it *is* a classic and seems to hit the right level of difficulty (a course forstudents who already know at least one programming language). My main question is - does the merits of K&R outweigh the disadvantages of the lack of coverage of C99? I could of course supplement K&R by e.g. O'Reilly's "C Pocket Reference" which covers the C99 material. Where I'm at right now is that my heart says to go with K&R but my head says go with King (or Kochan). The bookstore wants a decision on my part sooner rather than later.

    Also - I am open to ideas about projects for the students to work on. One idea that I had was to concentrate on the Mandelbrot Set. Towards the beginning of the semester they could have a program which just prints to the command line e.g. with '*' for points in the set. Later on they could write it to a portable bit map text file. Even later they could write it to a .bmp file in which they have to get the header and the byte-alignment correct. Finally, I could have them rewrite it in C99 with e.g. the complex-number type and variable-length arrays so they don't have to hard-wire in the size of the bitmap. This topic of course reflects my interest as a mathematician.I have less ideas when it comes to straight computer-science applications (although Jacob Navia's idea about a hex-dump utility for pedagogical purposes caught my eye).

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions

    -John Coleman
     
    John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012
    #1
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  2. John Coleman

    jacob navia Guest

    Le 05/03/12 14:21, John Coleman a écrit :
    >

    You can use my compiler system and its associated text book:
    "An introduction to C programming using lcc-win".

    It has several advantages:

    o It is free of charge (the compiler AND the introduction)
    o It starts from the ground up, but covers sophisticated topics
    like in-depth floating point analysis, memory allocation strategies
    and many others.

    o It is geared to lcc-win but all extensions of lcc-win are clearly
    marked as extensions.

    I am sure many people in this group will start complaining about it
    and propose you gcc or some variant. Just ignore them :)

    You can judge yourself by downloading it from

    http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~lcc-win32

    To download the introduction only, click on the "Tutorial" button.

    Jacob
     
    jacob navia, Mar 5, 2012
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. John Coleman

    Stefan Ram Guest

    John Coleman <> writes:
    >I will be running a special topics course with the title
    >"Modern C Programming"


    What does »modern« suggest in this context?

    >pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings


    This is classic, traditional C.

    >C99


    This is obsolete (canceled and replaced by ISO/IEC 9899:2011).

    >One idea that I had was to concentrate on the Mandelbrot Set.


    That was the height of fashion some decades ago. There is nothing
    wrong with that. But why then, of all things, you choose »modern«
    to title your class?
     
    Stefan Ram, Mar 5, 2012
    #3
  4. John Coleman

    John Coleman Guest

    On Monday, March 5, 2012 9:35:34 AM UTC-5, Stefan Ram wrote:
    > John Coleman <> writes:
    > >I will be running a special topics course with the title
    > >"Modern C Programming"

    >
    > What does »modern« suggest in this context?
    >
    > >pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings

    >
    > This is classic, traditional C.
    >
    > >C99

    >
    > This is obsolete (canceled and replaced by ISO/IEC 9899:2011).
    >
    > >One idea that I had was to concentrate on the Mandelbrot Set.

    >
    > That was the height of fashion some decades ago. There is nothing
    > wrong with that. But why then, of all things, you choose »modern«
    > to title your class?


    The choice of the word "modern"

    1) The subtitle to King's text.
    2) "Advanced" sounded too pretentious
    3) I wanted to emphasize to prospective students that C is not some language that was replaced by C++ in the 80s but is rather still heavily used and is furthermore a language which has (incrementally) evolved from the language which was (more-or-less) a subset of C++. Finally, I have as one of my course goals the teaching of methods to prevent buffer overflows, which is more of a concern now than when K&R was written.
    4) As I indicated in my post, I was aware that my Mandelbrot set example should either be supplemented or even replaced by other projects which have amore computer-science flavor.
     
    John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012
    #4
  5. John Coleman

    Stefan Ram Guest

    John Coleman <> writes:
    >I wanted to emphasize to prospective students that
    >C is not some language that was replaced by C++


    You might show them

    http://www.tiobe.com/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

    . C++ now even has been exceeded by C# in popularity.
    C++ is dying.

    C++ is still taught today, not because students believe it
    replaced C, but because teachers and division chairs believe
    it replaced C.

    Another source

    http://lang-index.sourceforge.net/

    gives similar results. See also

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measuring_programming_language_popularity
     
    Stefan Ram, Mar 5, 2012
    #5
  6. John Coleman <> writes:
    <snip>
    > Next fall I will be running a special topics course with the title
    > "Modern C Programming". The motivation for the course is that
    > currently our CS students are exposed to C++, Java and a smattering of
    > other languages (e.g. Lisp in an elective AI course) but no C per
    > se. While in principle they learn some C naturally in the course of
    > learning C++ they really don't learn all that much about things like
    > pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings and they
    > definitely don't learn anything about C99. The proposed class is
    > intended to give a serious introduction to C to students who have a
    > working knowledge of either C++ or Java. This will allow me to blow
    > through the basic syntax of expressions, loops, etc. in a couple of
    > weeks and to spend the bulk of the semester on aspects of C which are
    > different from Java and even C++.


    Be careful to point out why one would use C. Far too often, C is seen
    as the "hard stuff" to get hooked on when the C++ high has worn off, but
    that does a disservice to the students. C has niche uses: it's small so
    there are environments where other languages won't work, and it's a sort
    of lowest common denominator that can be useful for writing libraries to
    link with almost any other language, but it is rarely the right choice
    for a "normal" application. (These are not the only use-cases but the
    point should be made that C is hard to use correctly and that must
    be justified when choosing it.)

    > My question is - what would a good text be? My first tentative choice
    > was King's "C programming: a modern approach", but I have also been
    > looking at Kochan's book "Programming in C". More recently I have been
    > toying with the idea of using K&R. On the one hand that seems on the
    > face of it like a poor choice for a course called *Modern* C
    > programming. On the other hand - it *is* a classic and seems to hit
    > the right level of difficulty (a course for students who already know
    > at least one programming language). My main question is - does the
    > merits of K&R outweigh the disadvantages of the lack of coverage of
    > C99? I could of course supplement K&R by e.g. O'Reilly's "C Pocket
    > Reference" which covers the C99 material. Where I'm at right now is
    > that my heart says to go with K&R but my head says go with King (or
    > Kochan). The bookstore wants a decision on my part sooner rather than
    > later.


    I can't help much here, but do you have to pick only one? The bookshop
    might be able to stock both on a sale-or-return basis and you can then
    explain the merits of each and the students can decide.

    > Also - I am open to ideas about projects for the students to work
    > on. One idea that I had was to concentrate on the Mandelbrot
    > Set. Towards the beginning of the semester they could have a program
    > which just prints to the command line e.g. with '*' for points in the
    > set. Later on they could write it to a portable bit map text
    > file. Even later they could write it to a .bmp file in which they have
    > to get the header and the byte-alignment correct. Finally, I could
    > have them rewrite it in C99 with e.g. the complex-number type and
    > variable-length arrays so they don't have to hard-wire in the size of
    > the bitmap. This topic of course reflects my interest as a
    > mathematician. I have less ideas when it comes to straight
    > computer-science applications (although Jacob Navia's idea about a
    > hex-dump utility for pedagogical purposes caught my eye).


    So many... Regexp matching is fun and can be posed as a simple exercise
    with lots of optional extras for those who like to do more. I.e. write
    Unix's grep command.

    I've had fun with poker hand exercises:

    $ choose-winner 2h4s5c7d8d kskh3c3d3s 4h5h6h7h8h
    4h5h6h7h8h

    You can make it harder by using a "hold 'em" format and/or getting into
    probabilities with partial hands.

    A small language interpreter can also be good fun. Two very simple ones
    are SKI combinators and a cut down lambda calculus (essentially a micro
    Lisp). Depending on the student's background you can sometimes get as
    far as a very simple compiler for a C subset. You pretty much have to
    provide an interpreter for an invented machine to which they must
    compile the code, so there's quite a setup cost for you.

    Image processing can also be very enjoyable. I like to pick an easy to
    read and write format like PPM (at least to start with). You can then
    have a whole range of exercises like contrast enhancement, rotation or
    even steganography. There a very rich vein there.

    One of the key determining factors will be the students. If they are
    all art majors, SKI combinators will just bomb!

    --
    Ben.
     
    Ben Bacarisse, Mar 5, 2012
    #6
  7. -berlin.de (Stefan Ram) writes:
    > John Coleman <> writes:
    >>I will be running a special topics course with the title
    >>"Modern C Programming"

    >
    > What does »modern« suggest in this context?
    >
    >>pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings

    >
    > This is classic, traditional C.
    >
    >>C99

    >
    > This is obsolete (canceled and replaced by ISO/IEC 9899:2011).


    Officially, yes, but if you have a C11 compiler lying around I'd like to
    know about it.

    C99 is as modern as you can get these days -- and even that is *too*
    modern if you want to compile your code with Microsoft's compiler.

    --
    Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    Will write code for food.
    "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"
     
    Keith Thompson, Mar 5, 2012
    #7
  8. John Coleman <> writes:
    > I teach math and computer science (though mostly math) at a small liberal arts college. Because of our smallness we don't have a huge course offering. To compensate, we have a grab-bag "special topics course" where we cover different topics each semester based on student's and/or professor's interests.

    [...]

    It's helpful to add line breaks so your lines are no longer than
    80 columns, preferably 72. Some Usenet clients deal with very long
    lines just fine, but others don't. (Mine, for example, wraps long
    lines, but not at word boundaries.

    --
    Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    Will write code for food.
    "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"
     
    Keith Thompson, Mar 5, 2012
    #8
  9. John Coleman

    Stefan Ram Guest

    Ben Bacarisse <> writes:
    >link with almost any other language, but it is rarely the right choice
    >for a "normal" application. (These are not the only use-cases but the
    >point should be made that C is hard to use correctly and that must
    >be justified when choosing it.)


    But what do you use for a »normal application«?

    I would like to say »Java«, but the Java people say that Java is
    disappearing from the desktops and has moved on to web servers.

    (Also, I am not sure what defines a »normal application«.
    To a young student, it's an »app«? So learn Objective-C for iOS?)
     
    Stefan Ram, Mar 5, 2012
    #9
  10. -berlin.de (Stefan Ram) writes:

    > Ben Bacarisse <> writes:
    >>link with almost any other language, but it is rarely the right choice
    >>for a "normal" application. (These are not the only use-cases but the
    >>point should be made that C is hard to use correctly and that must
    >>be justified when choosing it.)

    >
    > But what do you use for a »normal application«?


    That would depend on the context. A GTK Linux application? I'd use
    Vala. A .NET application in Windows? C# probably. Something that must
    run on all sorts of systems? C++ would be a starting point worth
    considering.

    > I would like to say »Java«, but the Java people say that Java is
    > disappearing from the desktops and has moved on to web servers.
    >
    > (Also, I am not sure what defines a »normal application«.
    > To a young student, it's an »app«? So learn Objective-C for iOS?)


    I agree that definitions are a problem and that I could have been
    clearer. Maybe this is better: too many people struggle to write some
    program or other in C, simply because of a misconception that C is what
    the really advanced people use.

    --
    Ben.
     
    Ben Bacarisse, Mar 5, 2012
    #10
  11. John Coleman

    Nomen Nescio Guest

    I've been noticing the English is reprehensible in K&R II. The first edition
    wasn't great but the errors in the 2nd edition are indeed egregious and now
    I find it difficult to read because of the glaring errors. Has anyone else
    noticed this or did somebody butcher the copy I ripped off from the 'net
    (serves me right for not paying?) I do have a paid copy of the first
    edition, well worn btw. Was just too lazy to go looking for the 2nd so
    ripped one off from the comfort of my easy chair.

    > but it is rarely the right choice for a "normal" application.


    This should be at the front of every C textbook but it's far, far too late
    for that...
     
    Nomen Nescio, Mar 5, 2012
    #11
  12. John Coleman

    Kleuske Guest

    On Mon, 05 Mar 2012 15:27:43 +0100, jacob navia saw fit to publish the
    following:

    > Le 05/03/12 14:21, John Coleman a écrit :
    >>

    > You can use my compiler system and its associated text book: "An
    > introduction to C programming using lcc-win".
    >
    > It has several advantages:
    >
    > o It is free of charge (the compiler AND the introduction) o It starts
    > from the ground up, but covers sophisticated topics
    > like in-depth floating point analysis, memory allocation strategies
    > and many others.
    >
    > o It is geared to lcc-win but all extensions of lcc-win are clearly
    > marked as extensions.
    >
    > I am sure many people in this group will start complaining about it and
    > propose you gcc or some variant. Just ignore them :)
    >
    > You can judge yourself by downloading it from
    >
    > http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~lcc-win32
    >
    > To download the introduction only, click on the "Tutorial" button.
    >
    > Jacob



    Shamelessly promoting your own stuff isn't exactly "advice".


    --
    Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected.
    -- Spock, "The Squire of Gothos", stardate 2124.5
     
    Kleuske, Mar 5, 2012
    #12
  13. John Coleman

    John Coleman Guest

    On Monday, March 5, 2012 3:09:19 PM UTC-5, Kleuske wrote:
    > On Mon, 05 Mar 2012 15:27:43 +0100, jacob navia saw fit to publish the
    > following:
    >
    > > Le 05/03/12 14:21, John Coleman a écrit :
    > >>

    > > You can use my compiler system and its associated text book: "An
    > > introduction to C programming using lcc-win".
    > >
    > > It has several advantages:
    > >
    > > o It is free of charge (the compiler AND the introduction) o It starts
    > > from the ground up, but covers sophisticated topics
    > > like in-depth floating point analysis, memory allocation strategies
    > > and many others.
    > >
    > > o It is geared to lcc-win but all extensions of lcc-win are clearly
    > > marked as extensions.
    > >
    > > I am sure many people in this group will start complaining about it and
    > > propose you gcc or some variant. Just ignore them :)
    > >
    > > You can judge yourself by downloading it from
    > >
    > > http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~lcc-win32
    > >
    > > To download the introduction only, click on the "Tutorial" button.
    > >
    > > Jacob

    >
    >
    > Shamelessly promoting your own stuff isn't exactly "advice".
    >
    >
    > --
    > Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected.
    > -- Spock, "The Squire of Gothos", stardate 2124.5


    What is "shameless" about promoting something that you are justly proud of,
    especially when it is on-topic? Also - note that I specifically mentioned Jacob
    by name in my original post since I thought an idea he had discussed (last fall?) was a promising idea for teaching. That made the mention of his text
    quite natural in his reply.
     
    John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012
    #13
  14. John Coleman

    John Coleman Guest

    On Monday, March 5, 2012 9:27:43 AM UTC-5, jacob navia wrote:
    > Le 05/03/12 14:21, John Coleman a écrit :
    > >

    > You can use my compiler system and its associated text book:
    > "An introduction to C programming using lcc-win".
    >
    > It has several advantages:
    >
    > o It is free of charge (the compiler AND the introduction)
    > o It starts from the ground up, but covers sophisticated topics
    > like in-depth floating point analysis, memory allocation strategies
    > and many others.
    >
    > o It is geared to lcc-win but all extensions of lcc-win are clearly
    > marked as extensions.
    >
    > I am sure many people in this group will start complaining about it
    > and propose you gcc or some variant. Just ignore them :)
    >
    > You can judge yourself by downloading it from
    >
    > http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~lcc-win32
    >
    > To download the introduction only, click on the "Tutorial" button.
    >
    > Jacob


    Thanks for the offer but I tend to use Textpad + gcc (via MinGW) for my
    own programming and don't want to spend time learning a different environment
    between now and then. Also - the fact that lcc-win32 has an IDE is a bit ofa
    drawback from my perspective since as a side-purpose of the class I think that
    it is good that the students get more exposure to command-line tools.

    -John
     
    John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012
    #14
  15. John Coleman

    John Coleman Guest

    Than

    On Monday, March 5, 2012 12:43:30 PM UTC-5, Keith Thompson wrote:
    > John Coleman <> writes:
    > > I teach math and computer science (though mostly math) at a small liberal arts college. Because of our smallness we don't have a huge course offering. To compensate, we have a grab-bag "special topics course" where we cover different topics each semester based on student's and/or professor's interests.

    > [...]
    >
    > It's helpful to add line breaks so your lines are no longer than
    > 80 columns, preferably 72. Some Usenet clients deal with very long
    > lines just fine, but others don't. (Mine, for example, wraps long
    > lines, but not at word boundaries.
    >
    > --
    > Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    > Will write code for food.
    > "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    > -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"


    Thanks for the tip - I'll try to keep it in mind, though it might be somewhat
    hard when posting via an editor that has a small window size and automatic
    word wrap. Hard - but not that hard I guess.
     
    John Coleman, Mar 5, 2012
    #15
  16. John Coleman

    BartC Guest

    "John Coleman" <> wrote in message
    news:19481535.945.1330979870599.JavaMail.geo-discussion-forums@yner4...

    > Thanks for the offer but I tend to use Textpad + gcc (via MinGW) for my
    > own programming and don't want to spend time learning a different
    > environment
    > between now and then. Also - the fact that lcc-win32 has an IDE is a bit
    > of a
    > drawback from my perspective since as a side-purpose of the class I think
    > that
    > it is good that the students get more exposure to command-line tools.


    I've been using lccwin32 for at least ten years, and I've never used it's
    IDE. Although I also use mingw/gcc for a 'second opinion' (as my C work is
    mostly experimental).

    --
    Bartc
     
    BartC, Mar 5, 2012
    #16
  17. John Coleman

    Ian Collins Guest

    On 03/ 6/12 04:36 AM, Stefan Ram wrote:
    > John Coleman<> writes:
    >> I wanted to emphasize to prospective students that
    >> C is not some language that was replaced by C++

    >
    > You might show them
    >
    > http://www.tiobe.com/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html
    >
    > . C++ now even has been exceeded by C# in popularity.
    > C++ is dying.


    C and C++ still dominate the embedded and non-windows system programming
    space, neither is dying and one hasn't replaced the other.

    --
    Ian Collins
     
    Ian Collins, Mar 5, 2012
    #17
  18. John Coleman

    Ian Collins Guest

    On 03/ 6/12 06:44 AM, Stefan Ram wrote:
    > Ben Bacarisse<> writes:
    >> link with almost any other language, but it is rarely the right choice
    >> for a "normal" application. (These are not the only use-cases but the
    >> point should be made that C is hard to use correctly and that must
    >> be justified when choosing it.)

    >
    > But what do you use for a »normal application«?
    >
    > I would like to say »Java«, but the Java people say that Java is
    > disappearing from the desktops and has moved on to web servers.


    Common sense does prevail sometimes!

    > (Also, I am not sure what defines a »normal application«.
    > To a young student, it's an »app«? So learn Objective-C for iOS?)


    That really depends on the environment. In the Unix world, Python is
    becoming increasingly popular for utilities that used to be written in C.

    --
    Ian Collins
     
    Ian Collins, Mar 5, 2012
    #18
  19. John Coleman

    ImpalerCore Guest

    On Mar 5, 8:21 am, John Coleman <> wrote:
    > Greetings,


    [snip]

    > Also - I am open to ideas about projects for the students to work on.
    > Thanks in advance for any suggestions


    One project that could be interesting is to create a spell checker.
    Have a dictionary of words, use the levenshtein distance to evaluate
    closeness, and present a top 5 list of alternatives. One could
    incorporate file I/O to add words to a dictionary file.

    Another project would be to create an email spam filter. You could
    have a students collect samples of spam email, and devise methods to
    remove unwanted email. You could use simple keyword recognition, like
    if "meds" is in the subject header, send it to the spam folder. You
    could just have a file of email subject headers to evaluate, and they
    can calculate a likelihood that the email is spam. You could even
    make it a student contest to design the best spam filter that
    eliminates the majority of spam. You give them a sample file, while
    you run their program on your master file to determine accuracy.

    You can create structures that would mimic records in a database.
    Then have them be able to search, sort, or filter on given field(s).
    Here is a simple example of movie database.

    \code
    struct movie_record_tag
    {
    int id;
    char title[40];
    char rating[10];
    int year;
    };
    typedef struct movie_record_tag movie_record;

    movie_record movie_data[] =
    {
    { 1, "Avatar", "PG-13", 2009 },
    { 2, "Ratatouille", "G", 2007 },
    { 3, "The Matrix", "R", 1999 },
    { 4, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers", "PG-13", 2002 },
    { 5, "The Dark Knight", "PG-13", 2008 },
    { 6, "Back to the Future", "PG", 1985 },
    { 7, "The Forbidden Planet", "PG", 1956 },
    { 8, "Iron Man", "PG-13", 2008 },
    { 9, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", "PG", 1982 },
    { 10, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", "R", 1991 },
    { 11, "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie", "G", 2002 },
    { 12, "Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back", "PG", 1980 },
    { 13, "Sneakers", "PG-13", 1992 },
    { 14, "Finding Nemo", "G", 2003 },
    { 15, "Aliens", "R", 1986 }
    };
    \endcode

    You could have them store it in a container to be able to sort based
    on the year, or filter movies appropriate for a person's age (like a 5
    yr old would only be able to see G rated movies). If you have a
    linked list container API, you could have them insert these records
    into a linked list, then use search and sort functions to analyze the
    data.

    You could incorporate some kind of date processing to categorize
    people by age, like say find out who the top 10 oldest or youngest
    presidents were. They would need to do the conversions of dates in a
    string format like "mm/dd/yyyy" to some kind of day count (you could
    use a Gregorian calendar where a day count of 0 is Jan 1, year 1),
    maybe adding some error detection to detect invalid dates, and print a
    list of those presidents with their birthdate.

    There are several things that you could expose them to that while they
    are not directly related to C, you can still incorporate them into
    "modern C programming". For example, one could incorporate doxygen as
    a tool to learn documentation generation in the project. You give
    them a partial structure for an API, they have to fill in the gaps in
    the guts and documentation. You could do this for a simple container
    like a linked list or resizable array.

    You could have a refactoring project. You have a monolithic program
    that you want your students to split into headers and source files,
    maybe adding a makefile to the mix. Instead of using #define to
    define input values, have the students convert it to accept user input
    from the command line.

    You can have them learn how to use a graphing library, like gnuplot.
    The assignment could be to put in a simple equation like 2*sin(x),
    evaluate the data over a given domain with a certain precision, then
    either write a gnuplot file to display the data or use its C API.

    You would know better than me how to limit the complexity to a
    project, but maybe something here will inspire you.

    Best regards,
    John D.
     
    ImpalerCore, Mar 5, 2012
    #19
  20. John Coleman

    Hans Vlems Guest

    On 5 mrt, 14:21, John Coleman <> wrote:
    > Greetings,
    >
    > I teach math and computer science (though mostly math) at a small liberalarts college. Because of our smallness we don't have a huge course offering. To compensate, we have a grab-bag "special topics course" where we coverdifferent topics each semester based on student's and/or professor's interests.
    >
    > Next fall I will be running a special topics course with the title "Modern C Programming". The motivation for the course is that currently our CS students are exposed to C++, Java and a smattering of other languages (e.g. Lisp in an elective AI course) but no C per se. While in principle they learn some C naturally in the course of learning C++ they really don't learn all that much about things like pointers, malloc, and the safe handling of C-style strings and they definitely don't learn anything about C99. The proposed class is intended to give a serious introduction to C to students who have a working knowledge of either C++ or Java. This will allow me to blow through the basic syntax of expressions, loops, etc. in a couple of weeks and to spend the bulk of the semester on aspects of C which are different from Java and even C++.
    >
    > My question is - what would a good text be? My first tentative choice wasKing's "C programming: a modern approach", but I have also been looking atKochan's book "Programming in C". More recently I have been toying with the idea of using K&R. On the one hand that seems on the face of it like a poor choice for a course called *Modern* C programming. On the other hand - it *is* a classic and seems to hit the right level of difficulty (a course for students who already know at least one programming language). My main question is - does the merits of K&R outweigh the disadvantages of the lack of coverage of C99? I could of course supplement K&R by e.g. O'Reilly's "C Pocket Reference" which covers the C99 material. Where I'm at right now is that my heart says to go with K&R but my head says go with King (or Kochan).The bookstore wants a decision on my part sooner rather than later.
    >
    > Also - I am open to ideas about projects for the students to work on. Oneidea that I had was to concentrate on the Mandelbrot Set. Towards the beginning of the semester they could have a program which just prints to the command line e.g. with '*' for points in the set. Later on they could write it to a portable bit map text file. Even later they could write it to a .bmpfile in which they have to get the header and the byte-alignment correct. Finally, I could have them rewrite it in C99 with e.g. the complex-number type and  variable-length arrays so they don't have to hard-wire in the size of the bitmap. This topic of course reflects my interest as a mathematician. I have less ideas when it comes to straight computer-science applications (although Jacob Navia's idea about a hex-dump utility for pedagogical purposes caught my eye).
    >
    > Thanks in advance for any suggestions
    >
    > -John Coleman


    Go for C and use King's book. Your heart may tell you to use K&R but
    you're teaching a math class not history, right ;-) ?
    If you want datastructures that have variable length, well use linked
    lists of structures.
    Hans
     
    Hans Vlems, Mar 5, 2012
    #20
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