Posts By Author: Alessandro Bogliolo

Crowd-Scratching with DirectPoll

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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To celebrate Scratch Day 2016, UniUrb has developed a simple .NET application, called DirectPollMonitor, to allow the audience of a webinar to control a Scratch project in real time. DirectPollMonitor takes in input the URL of the result page of a poll made by DirectPoll. Each option of the poll is associated with a specific keypress event on the computer in which the app executes, so that every time the option is voted the corresponding keypress event is generated. By default, the keypress events associated with the first 26 options correspond to keys ‘a’ to ‘z’, while all subsequent options (if any) are associated with the ‘space’ key. DirectPoll ‘stop/reset’, ‘pause’, and ‘play’ events are mapped onto keys ‘0’, ‘1’, and ‘2’.

When the program executes, keypress events are treated as if they were generated by the local keyboard and received by the focus window.

This provides a very simple and general mechanism to grant collective control of any Scratch project to an arbitrary number of people taking part to an instant poll.

To use DirectPollMonitor:

  • 1. Download the DirectPollMonitor archive (requires .NET 4.5.2)
  • 2. Extract DirectPollMonitor into a local folder of your choice
  • 3. Open a Command Prompt on that folder
  • 4. Launch the DirectPollMonitor from command line using as a parameter the URL of the DirectPoll result page
  • 5. Start the DirectPoll and invite the audience to vote
  • 6. Change the keyboard focus to the Scratch project


In order to make sure that all keypress events are properly received by the Scratch project, it is recommended that the window in which the Scratch project executes keeps the keyboard focus for the entire duration of the poll. Hence, it is better to control the poll from a different computer, while leaving in background the Command Prompt Terminal in which DirectPollMonitor executes.

A standard poll has been created for testing purposes. It has only 5 options associated with keys A, B, C, D, and E. Hence, it can be used to control any Scratch project designed to react to these keypress events.

Provide this link to the audience:

Pass this URL to DirectPollMonitor:

Use this simple Scratch project reacting to keys A, B, and C to test the remote control: (the name of the project has been typed by the audience…).

DirectPollMonitor was tested for the first time on ScratchDay 2016 during a public webinar attended by many Italian School teachers with their pupils. Several Scratch projects were developed during the webinar and controlled in real time by more than 100 people. Here is the video log.

Sources files to be published on GitHub.

University credits for certificates

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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The University of Urbino awards 1 credit to students who enrol to Applied Computer Science for Academic Year 2015/2016 having already obtained certificates signed by their School teachers. This initiative is aimed at contributing to the early development of computational thinking skills, by encouraging secondary schools to adopt instruments as proposed by Ministry of Education and Consorzio CINI with the “Programma il Futuro” initiative.

The University of Urbino has always worked together with schools to provide early learning opportunities based on playful and intuitive methods: It has took part since the first editions to Computer Science Education Week and Europe Code Week, it has launched the Code’s Cool learning community, it led the Italian participation to Europe Code Week 2014 with CodeWeek ambassador Alessandro Bogliolo, and it’s now offering a MOOC to support school teachers who want to adopt instruments.

This initiative gives to Italian schools the opportunity to take their students to conquest their first university credit!

The introductory course of offers approximately 20 hours of playful interactive activities which introduce the main coding principles, contributing to the development of computational thinking and problem solving skills. The MOOC completes the course by showing how to put the concepts into practice to develop original mobile applications. School teachers can directly manage a virtual classroom, which gives them the online instruments to monitor and certify the progress of their pupils. The certificate of completion will be recognized by the University of Urbino in case of enrollment.

The credit that will be recognized is deserved – says Alessandro Bogliolo, coordinator of the School of Information Science and Technology of the University of Urbino – Students who enrol to a University degree program having already developed basic computational thinking skills are predisposed to learning computer science, are fully aware of the meaning and power of coding, and they are familiar with visual programming tools and teaching methods that are complementary and preparatory to academic study.

People who is no longer at school can take advantage of the MOOC individually by registering to the virtual class directly managed by Alessandro Bogliolo, who will certify the completion. Certification will be recognized in case of enrollment to the Laurea degree program in Applied Computer Science, delivered both on campus and at the distance.

Additional information can be requested at


Presentation of the e-learning platform for A.A. 2014-2015

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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The distance-learning methodology and the e-learning platform adopted for A.A. 2014-2015 by the Laurea degree program in Applied Computer Scienze of the University of Urbino have been presented yesterday during an online meeting. The video log of the meeting (in Italian) is now available online. For further information please refer to

EU Commission against Hungary’s Internet tax

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo

The Hungarian draft tax bill contains a provision for Internet providers to pay a tax of about €0.48 per gigabyte of data traffic. Although it would be possible for Internet providers to offset corporate income tax against the new levy, this measure would represent a major step backward in the digital agenda for Hungray, which is already under the EU average in all digital indicators.

Thousands for protesters gathered in front of the Economic Ministry on Sunday, in a rally launched by a Facebook group. At the end of a long day of protest, my friend Mizsei said that the Government seemed open to a change, but nothing has happened since then. That’s why yestarday there was a second turn of protest and EC vice-president for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, took a strong position against the Hungarian tax bill, saying that  it “is a terrible idea” that “curbs freedom and won’t work”.


EU spokesperson Ryan Heath said that the new tax “is part of a troubling pattern of behaviour and laws from the Hungarian governments, and more than that it is bad news for the internet which is a global common resource.” Any unilateral action taken by a member state without coordination increases the gap among EU countries and ultimately weaken the position of Europe in the digital world in terms of freedom, human rights, and competitiveness.

In addition, EC considers the Internet tax to be a wrong measure also from a practical and economic point of view. In fact, Internet traffic grows globally at a rate which is out of the control of any single country, so that the effects of a levy applied to data traffic would be very hard to predict even in the short term and the tax rate would require continuous adjustments in order not to become unaffordable. At the moment the Hungarian government has proposed a cap on the tax, a monthly amount of 2 €/enduser/month and 20 €/coorporate user/month, with an expected yearly revenue of about €100 million. Interestingly, with this measure Hungary goes against its own digital strategy, which prohibits any kind of taxation of internet traffic.

It is unclear if there were acts of violence during protests, but the overwhelming crowd has implemented a peaceful and striking protest showing the bright screens of their smartphones.

hungarian-protest3 hungarian-protest2

Protests are still going on in Hungary and in many other countries in solidarity, while a new rally has been launched in Hungary for Sunday Nov 02. Hungarian Parliament has reacted to EC position saying, according to Hungarian online daily, that if the European Union wants to dictate to Hungary, then the country should consider slowly backing out of the Union.

PhD program 2014-2015 – Application deadline Sept. 16

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Application for the 2014-2015 edition of the 3-year PhD program must be submitted by September 16, 2014.  There are 8 positions available. You are invited to read the competition notice and submit your application in time. You can contact me directly either by e-mail or on the phone for any additional question.

In particular, one of the scholarships, co-sponsored by Regione Marche and Wave s.r.l., will be devoted to a research activity in the field of social travel communities. The online platform The Trip Mill will be made available by Wave s.r.l. for real-world experiments.

Is There Anything More Wearable Than Your Smartphone?

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Technology scaling has fueled the myth of wearable computing since long time ago. The many challenges hidden behind the idea of wearable computing have engaged researchers and companies for many years, leading to extraordinary results that have overcome the imagination of sci-fi writers and have brought huge changes in our everyday lives. Representative recent examples include general purpose smart watches (e.g., Samsung Gear Live, Moto 360, LG G Watch), smart glasses (e.g., Google Glass), and many domain-specific wearable devices mainly used in health care and sports (e.g., metabolic holter, activity monitor, vital signals tracker). Many more wearables are expected to be marketed in the next months thanks to the boost provided by Android Wear, just launched by Google.

In spite of the large number of amazing new gadgets with unprecedented ergonomic design, my smartphone is by far the most wearable device I use every day. Technically speaking, I’m not exactly wearing it, in that I need either to keep it in hand, or to put it in a pocket or in a bag. But I feel more comfortable with my all-in-one mobile than with any other wearable device, including my mechanical wrist watch.

So my first question is:

1. Do smartphones belong to the category of wearable devices?

To provide a tentative answer to this question I need to go back to the first time I encountered the myth of wearable computing in my professional life (trying not to consider the time spent watching Star Trek as part of it). At that time (the early 90’s) the Internet was in its infancy, Wi-Fi was still WaveLAN, laptops were hardly portable, and I had no cellular phones. To me, wearable computing was just an enabling technology to achieve the goal of ubiquitous/mobile computing. Wearing a computer has never been a big dream of mine, but I’ve always desired to be able to compute and communicate anywhere and at anytime.

The difference between a portable device and a wearable device is that the former is so cumbersome that I decide to bring it with me if and only if I know for sure that I’m going to need it during the day and that its utility will compensate the discomfort that it will cause to me in my daily routine (laptops belong to this category, although they have become much thinner and lighter than in the early 90’s) the latter is so handy and useful that I know for sure that I’ll need it during the day and that I won’t be limited in all other activities because of it, so that I bring it with me without even considering if it is worth or not (I have no doubt that smartphones belong to this category).

This brings to my second question:

2. Is there any device which is more wearable than a smartphone?

According to the definition provided above, I don’t think so. I wear my smartphone more than any other object, clothes included. There is no piece of clothing that I wear for more than 12 hours every day! Even a sweater looks less wearable than a mobile to me, in that I decide to carry it with me when I go out only if I really think I’m going to put it on, or otherwise it will hinder me in my activities.

Going back to wearable electronic devices, smart watches and Google glasses are very good examples of truly wearable gadgets enabling new applications in many relevant fields like augmented reality, accessibility, health care, and gaming. However, they are still not usable enough as general purpose personal devices in order to replace smartphones, while they are more hindering than a smartphone when not used. At the moment, they look more like companion gadgets than like stand-alone devices, and their marketing and usage models rely on the fact that endusers already have their smartphones with them.

Work in progress in the Von Neumann lab

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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The new lab is almost ready. New furniture, 40 seats, new hardware, new software, dual boot, cloud, and virtualization. Here is a picture of the Von Neumann lab with the new PCs still packed.