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Submission + - MicroPython on the BBC micro:bit

ntoll writes: If you're based in the UK (or even if you're not) you may have heard about the BBC's micro:bit project (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/microbit). Around 1 million of these devices will be given to the UK's 11-year-olds in the spring. They are all capable of running Python via the magic of MicroPython.

The code has been released under an MIT license here: https://github.com/bbcmicrobit...

A story-so-far write up by one of the developers is here: http://ntoll.org/article/story...

Comment PHP vs other languages, and number of frameworks (Score 1) 227

Good points about other languages such as Python, Ruby and Groovy - none of those languages is as popular as PHP, but they are harder to get started with than PHP, and perhaps as a result are generally chosen by more experienced programmers.

These smaller communities of more experienced programmers do seem more likely to create and choose a dominant framework - while Django is not the only Python framework, it is by far the most popular, with the most addon modules.

PHP isn't a completely bad language, but it does have a lot of problems that drive many experienced programmers to other languages. And the sheer number of frameworks in PHP is a huge problem.

Generally a strong framework without a single commercial backer is best - a strong core team of developers is more resilient to future decisions and competition than a single company whose strategy decisions can alter the future of a framework.

Comment Re:Copper? (Score 5, Informative) 347

There's already terminology for this, though not 'single word'

- long = high latency
- fat = high throughput

So a satellite connection would be a 'long thin pipe' usually, while a VDSL2 or fibre connection would be 'short fat'.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwidth-delay_product for background - as you probably know, the product of bandwidth (throughput) and delay is also the amount of data buffered in the connection.

Comment Re:non-Oracle ZFS FTW (Score 1) 113

For Mac, try the free Zevo ZFS from Greenbytes: http://www.getgreenbytes.com/ZEVO

For Windows, if you are willing to use NTFS on an iSCSI volume hosted on ZFS by a FreeBSD NAS, you could still benefit from the checksumming provided by ZFS. See the comments by 3dinfluence here: http://serverfault.com/a/122408/79266

Or you could run a ZFS NAS in a FreeBSD VM on Windows, of course, and use it via SMB from Windows.

Comment About page (Score 1) 299

The most important page on any site is the About page - people arrive with little clue on what your site or program is about, so it's incredibly valuable to provide the About page. Just a few paragraphs written without assuming previous knowledge is enough.

Comment Re:Sample size too small? (Score 2, Informative) 192

Yes, this is really junk science, but I believe there are other studies that show similar results - see http://stereopsis.com/flux/research.html for a list, including links to the full papers (the site is for F.Lux which I really recommend to adjust colour temperature to get more sleep, for Windows, Mac and Linux, and jailbroken iOS).

Comment Re:Pretty Obvious + Plug for Awesomeness (Score 2) 192

F.lux is great, works on Windows, Mac and (jailbroken) iOS. One of the downsides of iOS devices as e-readers is that you have to jailbreak to get f.lux installed and not change your sleep cycle.

There's also XFlux, but I use Redshift too on Linux - http://www.ubuntu-inside.me/2009/03/flux-better-lighting-for-your-computer.html

[[http://stereopsis.com/flux/ios.html Now on iOS]] for jailbroken devices - see [[iPhone]] for jailbreaking.

Discussion: http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=5347&p=1

Blue light in morning resets circadian cycle: http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0201-waking_up_teens.htm

Tie-in to SAD and phase advance or delay associated with depression: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060501113832.htm

Comment Re:Crashplan vs. rsnapshot (Score 1) 326

I have tried CrashPlan a couple of times on Windows and Linux, and had to give up. It would either fail to connect, or make very slow progress. It's not my broadband, since Mozy (Windows and Mac only) is fine. I also found that on Linux it would really hammer the system when backing up (4GB dual-core system) so it was barely usable.

Possibly CrashPlan's cloud service is the problem, but I'm not very impressed with the software.

For Linux and Mac backups, it's worth using something like rsnapshot, which is rsync-based and works very well to back up over 1 TB of data. It doesn't do block-level incremental backup, and it makes complete copies of files (rsync plus hard links) but it works incredibly well without writing shell scripts. It can do hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups, and has automatic retention i.e. purges the oldest backups in a predictable way (say after 6 months or 5 years).

rsnapshot works well for Linux and (I believe) for Mac, as long as you don't need fully bootable backups, and it should work really well for photos as 99% of them won't change after being created.

rsnapshot is very similar in concept to Time Machine on Mac, but without the nice GUI (in fact, without any GUI). Your files end up in a big file tree and can be restored with any file-copy tool.


Comment Re:Correction (Score 1) 691

"Our motorways have cameras over every lane which track the numberplate"

Not quite true - not all motorways have these gantries with cameras over every lane, but it's true that automatic number plate recognition cameras are located alongside every motorway at least, and on major roads, in town centres, etc, and this feeds into a national database to enable the police to track any car for whatever reason (not just uninsured/banned drivers or car theft - in a few cases, demonstrators have been tracked via this system and stopped). See my other post: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2727483&cid=39387461

These gantries do often have speed cameras as well, and in some cases there are average speed cameras.

Comment CCTV mission creep in the UK, and ANPR (Score 1) 691

Many petrol (gas) stations in the UK already have these CCTV cameras to catch people driving off without paying.

The interesting part about this story is the mission creep and data unification - once the CCTVs are in place for company reasons, the government creates another application of the data for its own reasons. Not a new story - once the data exists somewhere, the drive to get access to it is much stronger.

This all helps to turn the UK into probably the most surveilled country in the world... see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8159141.stm for stats from 2009.

This petrol station initiative is probably tying into the nationwide UK network of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in town centrese and virtually all major roads (not just motorways/freeways, but every "A road" too). Usually painted blue and on high poles, these capture and OCR the license plate of every vehicle that goes past. This feeds into a centralised data centre for queries, data mining, and real time alerts, for both criminal and terrorist investigations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police-enforced_ANPR_in_the_UK

Comment Re:Already won: Khan Academy (Score 1) 479

Khan academy is an excellent resource once kids want to learn and with some guidance from a mentor.

Sugata Mitra's self-organising learning environments are perhaps more general as they can be applied to any topic, and in fact they don't need an expert to provide the courseware or videos. Somewhat bizarrely, he just sets up small groups of children, provides an Internet connected PC per group, asks them a big question (e.g. who was Pythagoras and how did he advance geometry?) and lets them get on with researching it for 45 minutes.

See my other comment here for links and background: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2719455&cid=39326653

Comment Self-organising learning environments (Score 1) 479

Sugata Mitra has been doing practical research for 10 years that involves children learning in groups of 4 or 5 through being asked a big question such as "can trees think?", "how does a GPS work exactly", etc, then being given time with a shared computer and broadband connection to answer the question, before having to explain it to a teacher. This is called a self-organising learning environment or SOLE, and appears to work for almost any subject for children up to age 10 or so.

He started with the well-known "Hole in the Wall" experiment where he placed a computer in the wall of a building on the street, and watched what happened - the children taught themselves English as well as how to use the computer. Later experiments involved leaving a PC with English biotechnology materials in a remote village with kids who only spoke Tamil, and telling them to get on with it. Remarkably, they actually learnt a significant amount of biotech.

See http://educationalurbanism.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/dr-sugata-mitra-from-the-hole-in-the-wall-to-sole-self-organized-learning-environment/ - his ideas on "the granny cloud" show how this could scale enormously using Skype etc to have older mentors encourage the children, and perhaps ask or help in creating the big questions that will drive the childrens' learning.

I really hope he gets a chunk of the prize - he is a true innovator and his technique can be applied both inside and outside schools, from developing to developed world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugata_Mitra has references - see his TED talk, he's a very engaging speaker.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.