Electricity and Electronics Teaching  and Learning Tools

User information for DC circuits challenge

DC Circuits Challenge Manual

THE WINDOWS CALCULATOR

 

The Windows calculator can be used with this program. The following procedure can be used to set the calculator up for use. Select PROGRAMS, then ACCESSORIES, then CALCULATOR before starting the DC Circuits Challenge program. The Windows calculator should be displayed on the screen. Select the block with the "line" in the upper right corner of the calculator. This reduces the calculator to an icon on the task bar. Start execution of the DC Circuits Challenge program. When you want to use the calculator, press the Windows key or Ctrl/Esc to display the task bar. Click the calculator button. You can also hold down the Alt key and press Tab until the calculator icon is highlighted. You may need to review your Windows manual on switching Windows tasks if these brief instructions are difficult to follow.

 

COPYING AND PASTING

 

In some instances, you may want to copy and paste numbers between exercises and the calculator.  The calculator has Copy and Paste options under Edit. DC Circuits Challenge allows you to use the right mouse button to evoke a Cut, Copy, and Paste menu. The mouse pointer must be positioned on a data block for this process to be active. The standard Windows Copy and Paste keystrokes, Ctrl/C and Ctrl/V, can also be used in most activities.

 

PRINTING SCREENS

 

Most screens generated by DC Circuits Challenge can be printed. Hold down the Alt key while typing the letter P to send a copy of the current screen to the printer. You must not reposition the window prior to sending a copy to the printer. This process may not work if prohibited by your network rules or by special prohibitions that have been added to your operating system.

 

 

 STORING SCORES ON DISK

 

Student scores can be stored on a diskette. A diskette must be in the drive prior to choosing this option. Errors and possible loss of the score data may occur if the drive does not contain a diskette. The file generated by the disk storage feature is given a DOS compatible file name, gxxxxxxx.xx, where the lower case "g" is always the first letter in the file name. The xxx… is the student ID that is a sequence of two to nine numeric digits. The file is a simple ASCII text file that can be read and examined with any word processor. Do not examine and resave a student grade file under the original name with a word processor! This can make the file appear corrupted by the score printout utility. Word processors inject formatting characters into a file. The DC Circuits Challenge program calculates and stores a code with each record in the student's score file. This Validity Code is a simple encryption signature designed to reduce the possibility of file entry alteration and the generation of duplicate records. The Validity Code provides some low-level security but is certainly not hack proof. The validity of records can most easily be checked by use of the "Print Grade File" option in the DC Circuits Challenge.  This option produces a formatted printout of a selected student grade file. Never attempt to use this option to print any other file type. Each grade record in the file is validity checked with "E!" printed after any record failing the validity test. The routine also checks for duplicate records that are indicated by "D!" printed after the duplicate record.

 

The program stores student grade files on diskette drive A: by default. One may want to store grade files on another drive or directory under some circumstances. See the next paragraph for instructions on changing the path for student grade files. The student records will be stored in a file named gxxxxxxx.x where the x(s) represent the digits of the student's ID Code. The ID Codes are a series of numeric digits. The ID Code must contain at least 2 digits long but no longer than 9 digits. A DOS filename is generated with an appended lower case g followed by up to 7 digits. Any additional digits are added after a period to produce a legal DOS file name. The file is a simple ASCII text file that can be viewed with any word processor. The score printing options in this program can detect modifications to the file. In addition, individual records in the file can be validity checked by use of a procedure in this program. These validity-checking procedures are not intended to offer high data security.

 

OPTION INITIAL SETTINGS

 

This program reads the file "options.ini" on each startup. The file options.ini is located in the same directory as the program file. The first entry determines the state for the certificate printing option default condition. The two possible settings are:

 

CERTIFICATES ON or CERTIFICATES OFF

 

The second entry sets the default condition of the disk storage feature for grades.

The two possible settings are:

 

DISK STORAGE ON or DISK STORAGE OFF

 

The third entry sets the default condition of the Wallpaper option. The possible settings are:

 

WALL PAPER ON or WALL PAPER OFF

 

All characters in the above initialization options must be in upper case characters. All characters are significant including spaces. Any error in spelling, spaces, or case will cause the option to default to the ON setting.

 

Line 4 of the option.ini file contains the path for student grade file storage. Errors in formatting this line may cause program execution errors. Any directory or subdirectory paths given must exist prior to program execution. The program will not create directories. No entry on line 4 will cause the program to default to a:\ as the path for student grade storage. A few examples of paths and explanations are given below.

 

b:\

 

The student grades will be stored on b: drive.

 

c:\stuff\

 

The student grade files will be stored in the "stuff" directory of c: drive. Caution! You must create the "stuff" directory prior to running the program.

 

c:\records\student\

 

Grade files will be stored in the "student" subdirectory of the "records" directory of c: drive. Again, you must create the directory structure prior to running the program.

 

Floppy disk data is easily corrupted or destroyed in several ways. Students should be strongly advised to make backup copies of their floppy disk grade files frequently to avoid data loss problems. Teachers can prevent massive data losses by processing student floppy disk files often.  This also encourages students to have assignments up to date.

 

VIDEO AND HARDWARE

 

This program requires 600x800 graphics or higher. A wallpaper image is placed over the unused portion of the screen on systems with resolution above 600x800. The wallpaper is useful to beginners because accidental task switches are unlikely. The default bitmap image for the wallpaper is named chips.bmp. Another bitmap file can be substituted for chips.bmp. The file will be tiled as wallpaper across the unused portion of super VGA displays. Some institutions may want to display school or department logos on the wallpaper. The file chips.bmp can be deleted or renamed to allow normal task switching as no wallpaper will be displayed. This can be useful to more advanced students who are familiar with task switching.