University of Manchester
Department of Computer Science

ARCADE Availability

ARCADE is not at the state where it's available as a package that you can plug in, switch on, and sit back to watch it dance whilst hearing it sing in tune; for no effort. Not quite. Yet.

But as we get closer to that, I am interested in more University Departments trying it in the short term. And I don't necessarily mean Computing Departments: ARCADE should be suited to manage any kind of continuous assessment. So, if you're feeling really keen about considering using it, read on. Here are 4 attempts to put you off!

First: Currently it runs only on SUN4 and PC Linux architectures (but you need access to only one SUN4 or Linux PC, which would run ARCADE).

Not put off? Okay, second: There is not a mountain of lucid documentation explaining how to install and run it. In fact, these web pages are your lot! Well, that's not quite true: each command in ARCADE has a built-in `man-page', which is very useful once you have grasped the basics, somehow...

Still here? Third: The first hurdle you face to get ARCADE started, once it's installed, is to write a configuration file describing your laboratory structure and so forth. Currently there is no special support for producing and maintaining this cryptic, typically 5K big, text file. (Here is an example of one!) You just study a man-page describing the syntax, and then you type at your editor. (At least it does show you where you got it wrong when you exit the editor nowadays: it didn't even do that when Brendan in Durham started using ARCADE!) A nice tool is in the pipeline.

Are we alone yet? Fourth: ARCADE is quite sophisticated, and thus complex. There is a lot of detail to be picked up, and there are as yet only a handful of `experts' in the world.

Wow - you're still reading. Perhaps you are a candidate who is determined enough to give it a try! In reality, of course, I would be prepared, even happy, to give you a reasonable amount of hand-holding, to make sure your efforts are not wasted. I'd recommend, of course, that you pilot it for one or two semesters with it running just one or two modules. That's what Brendan at Durham did for a year; then he went to full stream the following year.

So, are you keen enough to persue it? If so, drop me a line here: It would be helpful if you could say a bit about the current structure and philosophy of your labs, so I can judge how well ARCADE is likely to fit in with what you do already.