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Comment: Visual isn't easier (Score 1) 876

by Michael Snoswell (#46195703) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

Most non-trivial programs can be drawn as diagrams at a conceptual level, which is probably the level you're talking about when you say you "think about algorithms but don't program" (I'm paraphrasing). Sounds like you're looking for an excuse not to learn programming. As soon as you do the answer to your question will be obvious: there's so much detail and complexity in a real program that a picture can't capture the information in a succinct way.

Sure, you can actually describe every variable and data structure and nuance of any program as a diagram, but it's going to be very complex and unmaintainable (ie very messy to debug) and have a lot of text in it to describe exactly what you want.

Some programming languages can be very good at simply defining certain types of programs - APL can do some awesome matrix and vector calculations in a few lines, or Perl can describe some very complex data manipulation in a few lines. In both cases you'd spend much, much longer describing it in a diagram that includes every nuance of the program, or trying to describe them in sentences.

All these things are self evident to programmers. They know there's fiddly detailed things you have to do in C or Assembler sometimes, or graphics that easier/faster done in Python/Tk or text manipulation best done in Awk or Perl or symbolic manipulation best done in Lisp or whatever. And to those programmers those programs ARE the most efficient way to encode ("draw") the problem. Furthermore other programmers look at well written code and quickly build an understanding of what code is doing. Comments help her a lot, depending on the familiarity of the programmer with the kind of code. (eg a programmer specialising in interrupt driven driver writing for a living is going to have trouble understanding a program with simulates sonar echoes in water).

Again, bite the bullet, learn how to program in a few languages and all this is obvious.

Then there's complex systems that can be described AT A HIGH LEVEL in diagrams, but the caveats and exceptions and nuances to describe it fully might cover 1000s of pages, or much more, of design documents. In many cases the final programs of hundreds of megabytes of definition documents (like an autopilot system I worked on for an air force jet) ends up much bigger than the final source code (and then the final programs are way smaller again).

Stop pussy footing around though, teach yourself to code and write some substantial programs (at least a few 1000 lines, but probably a fews 10k lines) and do that a few times, then in a few languages and you'll understand coding these days is pretty efficient. I'm sure it'll be improved upon but for now you'll get insight into why your question so obviously shows you just need to learn how to program.

User Journal

Journal: Working for myself at last

Journal by Michael Snoswell

Well, a small hiatus in posts and now it's interesting to go back and read the old stuff. Boy, it's interesting to see how I thought I knew what I was talking about, even just a few years ago - and I didn't! Not in hindsight. Retrospective views are so insightful - just a shame we're mostly hopeless at seeing our own futures.

Comment: Re:Autism... (Score 1) 247

Hmmm, from what I've heard from and read about Susan Greenfield over the last 15 years or so, I would say she thinks a couple of notches deeper on neuroscience matters than most people. She is also very aware of the popular press and the reasons why the public respond the way they do. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a carry on argument from the unproven idea that vaccinations cause autism. There certainly is a huge increase in autism in the last 20 years. Something is causing it.

For what it's worth my opinion is that autism is usually diagnosed before the age of 5 years, sometimes by the age of 3. These kids won't have seen much video games by then - maybe a lot of TV though. I recall reading that autism is pretty much unheard of in developing countries, it's a western phenomena, so something that changed in the last few decades in developed countries is causing this.

I think this all highlights the need for proper research, not knee jerk responses, which may be the exact response the Baroness was after.

Comment: Re:The space WHAT? (Score 1) 297

by Michael Snoswell (#29945192) Attached to: Russia Develops Spaceship With Nuclear Engine

To say nothing of the Japanese, Indian and Chinese space efforts that have gone from nothing to orbital capability in the last 30 years. China now has put people into space too on their own. Japan and India are sure to follow (though Japan has used Russian flights for this so far I think).

The above poster is correct though in reprimanding US-centric thinking. I'm sure there are also still a few British people who think the UK is actually a dominant world power in space - which it was in the 50s.

Comment: vi is tiny (Score 1) 1131

by Michael Snoswell (#26704929) Attached to: Favorite text editor?

I have an old version of vi for DOS that is about 30k in size. It's written in assembler and was the very first editor I used in my first programming job back in '85. It was great because it had all the functionality I need and easily fitted on those early 128k floppy disks so I took it everywhere when visiting clients and kept a copy in the car glove compartment just in case. I'd hate to think how many floppies I would have need for emacs (and they didn't make Hummers back them to carry the disks)....

Comment: Patent is nonsense.....prior art exists (Score 4, Insightful) 261

by Michael Snoswell (#26265797) Attached to: Worlds.com Sues NCSoft Over MMO-Patent

I presented public lectures on a system I developed called Cyberterm, back in the early 90s. I presented lectures at UK VR_SIG Meeting at deMontfort University in Leicester in 1995 and at the HITL (Human Interface Technology Lab) at the University of Washington in that same year. I can name names or people in attendance if required.

Each talk was advertised and attended by the general public and outlined Cyberterm's use of pretty much exactly the system described in the patent (which I had up and running at the time). The system had also been demonstrated to numerous other people around the world at the time and since then and was written about in WAVE and Virtual magazines in the late 90s and described in written detail in many online papers as well as a series of ariticles in the PCVR-Magazine (also in the late 90s). Some of these articles are still available online archived by the HITL Librarian.

As the author of this system and the underlying technology, I would say I have some copyright ownership of the technology I developed. I still have archives of the earlier code and it runs with a copyright message.

I'll be happy to claim a big chunk of any money worlds.com make. Patent attorneys and lawyers of other companies (NC-Soft for instance) wishing to defend themselves can contact me via linkedin.com (amongst other places).

Comment: Based on the movie.... (Score 1) 251

by Michael Snoswell (#26156475) Attached to: Drilling Hits an Active Magma Chamber In Hawaii

There was a great sci-fi movie back in the 60s, "Crack in the World" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059065/ that had a similar story line to this, only it ended up with a rift forming in the earth's crust that spread across Africa and they used nukes to end it all, causing a huge chunk of crust to be hurled into space. Life imitates art again.

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel

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