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Comment: Re:On, to Mars! (Score 1) 124

by MacTO (#46831917) Attached to: NASA Chief Tells the Critics of Exploration Plan: "Get Over It"

Mildly off topic:

Until we can make vast improvements in launcher reliability, perhaps we should stick to 1960's technology for that aspect of space exploration. Getting off of and back onto Earth's surface is an extraordinarily difficult task and it will remain so for the decades to come.

Rather, in my opinion, we should be focusing upon building infrastructure in and beyond Earth orbit so that we can get people into space for longer durations. The infrastructure that we do develop needs to be fully repairable and upgradable in space, rather than retired after a relatively short duration. Simply put, it is too expensive (in terms of energy and dollars) to transport materials into orbit only to dump those materials back into Earth's atmosphere a decade or two later.

Once we get the foundations in place, developing reusable launchers will be necessary. Hopefully they will also be much more viable by that point in time.

Comment: Learn how to be cheap ... (Score 1) 389

by MacTO (#46796547) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

That means things like learning how to manage your money: learning what is a necessary and unnecessary expense, learning how to shop for bargains, learning how to do things for yourself in order to save money (e.g. cooking), learning tricks to reduces bills (e.g. heating), learning how to share resources, and so forth.

I've seen many students complain about how poor they are. Yet they were spending money like their parents were spending money, which was fine for the parents because they had a lifetime to establish themselves financially (e.g. good paying job, accrued assets). Worse yet, some were spending money like they were still living with their parents (i.e. they didn't cut back on the discretionary expenses since leaving home).

Yeah, losing the luxuries suck. On the other hand, most students would be able to provide themselves with the necessities and lead a happy life without those luxuries.

Comment: Re:why not just go the trades / apprenticeship sys (Score 3, Interesting) 105

by MacTO (#46792869) Attached to: Minerva CEO Details His High-Tech Plan To Disrupt Universities

In many cases what you suggest is sound. In many other cases, it is not.

For instance, you could probably get away with an apprenticeship for computer programming. Yet you would not get away with an apprenticeship for computer science. There is too much background knowledge that must be acquired for that to be viable. Besides, universities are pretty much an apprenticeship for computer scientists once they hit graduate school. (Assuming that the student is going into research, of course.)

Universities also serve many other functions. At least that is the case for students who are going about things in an intelligent manner. Since the goal is learning, rather than training, the student is free to think. You also have opportunities to make contact with other people in the field, may they be your peers or your instructors. This opens up both research and employment opportunities.

That all assumes that the student is doing more than attending lectures, reading books, and completing assignments. It assumes that the student is being more than a student. One of my professors put it best when he said that he isn't the instructor and we aren't his students. Rather, we are all colleagues. Unfortunately, most of the students didn't get that.

Comment: Re:Samsung's objection is absurd (Score 2) 232

by MacTO (#46627675) Attached to: Judge Overrules Samsung Objection To Jury Instructional Video

While I agree with your assessment of Apple's portrayal in the video, it is also important to avoid the perception of bias in the legal system. Even the perception of bias, may that bias be imaginary or real, has the potential to undermine the legal system.

(For a more common example of this, consider how many minorities distrust the judicial system because of perceived racial biases. Whether those biases are real or not is a moot point.)

Comment: Improve my skills first ... (Score 1) 251

by MacTO (#46572103) Attached to: 3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

I need to improve my knowledge and skills related to 3-D printing first, then I'll make the plunge.

As many have noted, 3-D printing isn't easy. A big part of the reason is that the technology isn't well developed yet. As others have noted, 3-D printing is also over hyped. A big part of the reason is that the idea is exciting, but it takes a particular type of personality to have a use for it.

Yet this simply means that 3-D printing is of limited value as it stands, and as it will continue to stand. (It will become more reliable, but it will never become convenient.) It does mean that the people who end up using it will have a mindset where they want to create their own stuff. Some of those people will be inventive, while others will want to know how their stuff work. Some will be tinkerers, while others will take pride in what they create.

So please stop with the negativity. If it's not for you, that's fine. If you can't honestly recommend it to other people, that's fine. But also understand that there are other people who want to use 3-D printing and have good uses for 3-D printing.

Comment: Re:Makes perfect sense (Score 1) 142

by MacTO (#46560569) Attached to: Why US Gov't Retirement Involves a Hole in the Ground Near Pittsburgh

Government run institutions are among the last to change, except when they are among the first to change. The thing is that there are a lot of government institutions out there. Some of them have a lot of motivation to institute change, because the scale of the problem is so large that traditional methods won't work. Some of them have a lot of motivation to avoid change, because the amount of effort required to institute change exceeds the returns. So you are in a sense right: there are cases where there is no reason to change. Yet you are also wrong: it is a feature (i.e. they aren't changing in order to control costs) rather than a problem.

Comment: Re:Astrophysics humour... (Score 4, Interesting) 48

by MacTO (#46547239) Attached to: Spacecraft Returns Seven Particles From Birth of the Solar System

Empty? We are talking about the Solar System here. Even if you ignore the Sun and planets, this place is remarkably full. This sample from STARDUST demonstrates just how incredibly full it is.

(No sarcasm intended. A lot of the matter out there is in the form of an incredibly tenuous gas rather than particles.)

Comment: Summary misses the interesting points ... (Score 5, Interesting) 392

by MacTO (#46541593) Attached to: The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage

There is a lot more to this article than the mythical labor shortage. There is a discussion of the complexity of the issue. That includes things like labor market cycles, shortages in some specializations with surpluses in many, the cost of misinformation to graduates, and a fair bit more.

To the summary skimmers, this article is probably worth your time.

Comment: Re:Lemme posit this... (Score 4, Insightful) 100

by MacTO (#46540053) Attached to: College Grads Create Fake Tesla Commercial That Elon Musk Loves

The big reason: you aren't in the target demographic for TV commercials. I suspect that you would find the advertising in a trade publication that interests you similarly interesting, because you would be in the target demographic.

Time is another consideration. This is a 1 minute commercial, so they have time to "tell a story". I'm pretty sure that most commercials are 30 seconds, and even 15 seconds, in length. That's barely enough time to get a person's attention and blurt out your product name.

Comment: Should have strong private and public funding ... (Score 2) 279

by MacTO (#46497769) Attached to: The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

Private funding is great in many areas. This is particularly true of science that addresses problems that society needs to solve (e.g. medicine) or that captures people's imaginations (e.g. astronomy).

However, there is a lot of science that needs to be done that doesn't fit into either category. That is where governments need to step in.

Comment: Focus upon usability, not looks ... (Score 3, Insightful) 114

by MacTO (#46490991) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Management Interface On an IT Appliance?

For usability, you need to look at your target market. This means that you should be asking the people who will buy your product, rather than the people on Slashdot. (If we are your target market, at least let us know what you are developing so that we can provide meaningful input.)

Comment: Re:OLPC served its purpose (Score 1) 111

by MacTO (#46469743) Attached to: Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down?

To add to what LoRdTAW said:

The landscape of computer education has also changed tremendously, and for the better. Whether this was stimulated by the OLPC project or not is an open question, but there has been a change.

Computers in education pretty much meant a computer running a web processor, a word processor, and a smattering of poorly designed educational products when the XO-1 was introduced. Since then the "constructionist" philosophy of Papert, which was the framework of computer education in the 1980's, has reemerged. Many projects have been started to develop more comprehensive computer curricula and educational resources (e.g. lesson plans and software). The available software is more flexible in both lesson design and their philosophy of education. Self-directed resources have also improved. When the XO-1 came out, they were mostly geared towards reading and viewing. Now we have a large element of collaboration.

While it is sad to see the demise of the OLPC project, the demise reflects many positive changes in the landscape of education.

Comment: Consumers should look for a better deal ... (Score 1) 306

by MacTO (#46415405) Attached to: Mozilla Is Investigating Why Dell Is Charging To Install Firefox

As a service, this really does make sense. It takes time and knowledge to configure a computer. A lot of people are lacking in one, or both, of those departments. The price also makes sense when it comes down to installing an individual piece of software. It takes time to do so. For businesses, time is money.

On the other hand, consumers really ought to look for better deals. You can tell someone what you need and pay them by the hour to get a system that is tailored to your needs. If you need a bunch of stuff done, it'll cost much less. It will also be done according to your requests, which is something that Dell isn't equipped to do.

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch