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Journal: Continuation on education 13

Journal by jd

Ok, I need to expand a bit on my excessively long post on education some time back.

The first thing I am going to clarify is streaming. This is not merely distinction by speed, which is the normal (and therefore wrong) approach. You have to distinguish by the nature of the flows. In practice, this means distinguishing by creativity (since creative people learn differently than uncreative people).

It is also not sufficient to divide by fast/medium/slow. The idea is that differences in mind create turbulence (a very useful thing to have in contexts other than the classroom). For speed, this is easy - normal +/- 0.25 standard deviations for the central band (ie: everyone essentially average), plus two additional bands on either side, making five in total.

Classes should hold around 10 students, so you have lots of different classes for average, fewer for the band's either side, and perhaps only one for the outer bands. This solves a lot of timetabling issues, as classes in the same band are going to be interchangeable as far as subject matter is concerned. (This means you can weave in and out of the creative streams as needed.)

Creativity can be ranked, but not quantified. I'd simply create three pools of students, with the most creative in one pool and the least in a second. It's about the best you can do. The size of the pools? Well, you can't obtain zero gradient, and variations in thinking style can be very useful in the classroom. 50% in the middle group, 25% in each of the outliers.

So you've 15 different streams in total. Assume creativity and speed are normally distributed and that the outermost speed streams contain one class of 10 each. Start with speed for simplicity I'll forgo the calculations and guess that the upper/lower middle bands would then have nine classes of 10 each and that the central band will hold 180 classes of 10.

That means you've 2000 students, of whom the assumption is 1000 are averagely creative, 500 are exceptional and 500 are, well, not really. Ok, because creativity and speed are independent variables, we have to have more classes in the outermost band - in fact, we'd need four of them, which means we have to go to 8000 students.

These students get placed in one of 808 possible classes per subject per year. Yes, 808 distinct classes. Assuming 6 teaching hours per day x 5 days, making 30 available hours, which means you can have no fewer than 27 simultaneous classes per year. That's 513 classrooms in total, fully occupied in every timeslot, and we're looking at just one subject. Assuming 8 subjects per year on average, that goes up to 4104. Rooms need maintenance and you also need spares in case of problems. So, triple it, giving 12312 rooms required. We're now looking at serious real estate, but there are larger schools than that today. This isn't impossible.

The 8000 students is per year, as noted earlier. And since years won't align, you're going to need to go from first year of pre/playschool to final year of an undergraduate degree. That's a whole lotta years. 19 of them, including industrial placement. 152,000 students in total. About a quarter of the total student population in the Greater Manchester area.

The design would be a nightmare with a layout from hell to minimize conflict due to intellectual peers not always being age peers, and neither necessarily being perceptual peers, and yet the layout also has to minimize the distance walked. Due to the lack of wormholes and non-simply-connected topologies, this isn't trivial. A person at one extreme corner of the two dimensional spectrum in one subject might be at the other extreme corner in another. From each class, there will be 15 vectors to the next one.

But you can't minimize per journey. Because there will be multiple interchangeable classes, each of which will produce 15 further vectors, you have to minimize per day, per student. Certain changes impact other vectors, certain vector values will be impossible, and so on. Multivariable systems with permutation constraints. That is hellish optimization, but it is possible.

It might actually be necessary to make the university a full research/teaching university of the sort found a lot in England. There is no possible way such a school could finance itself off fees, but research/development, publishing and other long-term income might help. Ideally, the productivity would pay for the school. The bigger multinationals post profits in excess of 2 billion a year, which is how much this school would cost.

Pumping all the profits into a school in the hope that the 10 uber creative geniuses you produce each year, every year, can produce enough new products and enough new patents to guarantee the system can be sustained... It would be a huge gamble, it would probably fail, but what a wild ride it would be!

User Journal

Journal: Why I pirate

Journal by SmallFurryCreature
On 9 October 2012, the game XCOM: Enemy launched... launched in the US. Unknown to me, the EU launch date was to several days layer, 12 October 2012. Maybe. Yet, 9 October 2012, I received an SMS from Gamemania.nl a dutch gaming retailer chain, that my copy was ready to be picked up. So I left work early that day to arrive 17:54 in front of the store. Doors pulled almost shut, store had already closed and refused to serve me. Very well, I thought there are other stores in the world, so I bought it the next day at Free Record Shop in Amsterdam. Then when I came home, I tried to install. First I had to install steam, which crashed, crashed and crashed some more but finally I got it working and had to create an account. Then activate my email. Then I installed the game and was told it was not released. What? If the game was not released, what was I holding in my hand? Note the error message mentioned nothing about a region or what would be the release date. Just not released. By google came to my aid and I found that throughout Europe, the game was available for sale but not yet ready for install. I read this from angry users posts. Not a single forum had an official answer yet. Not yet and counting. Even the official release date was less then clear. But I know my Internet, if Steam, Dutch retailing, 2kgames/firaxis couldn't/wouldn't help me, maybe some pirates would? thepiratebay itself is of course famously blocked in holland but there plenty of mirrors around. So I checked and yes, full downloads were available in various flavours for a total cost of ZERO bucks! And if you had issues, then the supplies answered your question in minutes. Not like the hours, days and counting before getting a reply from people I had payed money too. Many a reply to a piracy story has had comments similar to my story, so what is so special about it? Nothing. Just that after years of downloading, I have with MMO's gotten used again to paying and I didn't have any issue with paying for this game, if it had worked. But I do have an issue with paying 50 euro's for a game that can't be played and that now that I have read the forums I have seen is filled with bugs. Bugs the official forums have no answers for but that are fixed on piracy forums. To repeat myself, for this game the people that wanted me to pay did:
  • Act as if my giving them money is a favor they are doing me and only when they feel like it, opening hours be damned.
  • Not reply in a timely manner (or at all) to complaints
  • Treat Europeans as second rate customers for no reason (what are they afraid of, that a world-wide release will overload the servers)
  • Break consumer laws by selling a product not fit for its purpose (a game that can't even be installed is obviously not a fit product)

Meanwhile, the pirates offer:

  • Early access
  • No charge
  • Free, fast useful support by computer experts.
  • Service available any day of the week at any hour.

Sometimes the anti-piracy people complain the content industry can't compete with free. But come ON! I had PAYED already and the companies just said "no". Meanwhile the group that doesn't want money, said "yes". This is like paying a hooker to have an headache while your wife is stuffing your wallet full of money and begging for sex. Something ain't right!

And this is why I pirate. Because how else can I send the signal that I am not a sheep who will just keep turning the other cheek? Sure, there are sheep who advocate just that, just wait 3 days, it is not the developers fault etc etc. FUCK THAT! Nothing is every anybodies fault and I as a consumer should just take it all and keep quiet.

NO! And that is my reason why I post about being a pirate. Because just downloading alone isn't enough. Consumer boycotts don't work, there are to many sheep drowning out the silent protest of people like me who just see no other option but to not pay to make it clear I expect more service for my cash.

Because I see no other option. Mails go unanwered, forum posts get ignored, I can get my money back from the store and the sales clerk don't care, not his problem. How can I HURT that manager who thought it was a good idea to do a staggered release, hurt that Steam admin who didn't just flip a switch to prevent customers getting angry. How can I even get the companies involved to acknowledge my existence?

I can't. But I can keep my money in my pocket. That doesn't solve anything but it is a lot more fun having impotent nerd rage with cash then without.

Anyone want a beer over the backs of game developers who haven't learned that if they want an income, they need to tell their managers to not upset their customers?

Books

Journal: History books can be fun (but usually aren't and this is a Bad Thing) 2

Journal by jd

Most people have read "1066 and all that: a memorable history of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 good things, 5 bad kings and 2 genuine dates" (one of the longest book titles I have ever encountered) and some may have encountered "The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody", but these are the exceptions and not the rule. What interesting - but accurateish - takes on history have other Slashdotters encountered?

Education

Journal: HOWTO: Run an educational system 1

Journal by jd

The topic on Woz inspired me to post something about the ideas I've been percolating for some time. These are based on personal teaching experience, teaching experience by siblings and father at University level and by my grandfather at secondary school, 6th form college and military acadamy. (There's been a lot of academics in the family.)

Anyways, I'll break this down into sections. Section 1 deals with the issues of class size and difference in ability. It is simply not possible to teach to any kind of meaningful standard a group of kids of wildly differing ability. Each subject should be streamed, such that people of similar ability are grouped together -- with one and only one exception: you cannot neglect the social aspect of education. Some people function well together, some people dysfunction well together. You really want to maintain the former of those two groups as much as possible, even if that means having a person moved up or down one stream.

Further, not everyone who learns at the same pace learns in the same way. Streams should be segmented according to student perspective, at least to some degree, to maximize the student's ability to fully process what they are learning. A different perspective will almost certainly result in a different stream. Obviously, you want students to be in the perspective that leads them to be in the fastest stream they can be in.

There should be sufficient divisions such that any given stream progresses with the least turbulence possible. Laminar flow is good. There should also be no fewer than one instructor per ten students at a secondary school level. You probably want more instructors in primary education, less at college/university, with 1:10 being the average across all three.

Section 2: What to teach. I argue that the absolute fundamental skills deal in how to learn, how to research, how to find data, how to question, how to evaluate, how to apply reasoning tools such as deduction, inference, lateral thinking, etc, in constructive and useful ways. Without these skills, education is just a bunch of disconnected facts and figures. These skills do not have to be taught directly from day 1, but they do have to be a part of how things are taught and must become second-nature before secondary education starts.

Since neurologists now believe that what is learned alters the wiring of the brain, the flexibility of the brain and the adult size of the brain, it makes sense that the material taught should seek to optimize things a bit. Languages seem to boost mental capacity and the brain's capacity to be fault-tolerant. It would seem to follow that teaching multiple languages of different language families would be a Good Thing in terms of architecturing a good brain. Memorization/rote-learning seems to boost other parts of the brain. It's not clear what balance should be struck, or what other brain-enhancing skills there might be, but some start is better than no start at all.

Section 3: How to test. If it's essential to have exams (which I doubt), the exam should be longer than could be completed by anyone - however good - within the allowed time, with a gradual increase in the difficulty of the questions. Multiple guess choice should be banned. The mean and median score should be 50% and follow a normal distribution. Giving the same test to an expert system given the same level of instruction as the students should result in a failing grade, which I'd put at anything under 20% on this scale. (You are not testing their ability to be a computer. Not in this system.)

Each test should produce two scores - the raw score (showing current ability) and the score after adjusting for the anticipated score based on previous test results (which show the ability to learn and therefore what should have been learned this time - you want the third-order differential and therefore the first three tests cannot be examined this way). The adjusted score should be on the range of -1 (learned nothing new, consider moving across to a different perspective in the same stream) to 0 (learned at expected rate) to +1 (learning too fast for the stream, consider moving up). Students should not be moved downstream on a test result, only ever on a neutral evaluation of some kind.

Section 4: Fundamentals within any given craft, study or profession should be taught as deeply and thoroughly as possible. Those change the least and will apply even as the details they are intertwined with move in and out of fashion. "Concrete" skills should be taught broadly enough that there is never a serious risk of unemployability, but also deeply enough that the skills have serious market value.

Section 5: Absolutely NO homework. It's either going to be rushed, plagarized or paid-for. It's never going to be done well and it serves no useful purpose. Year-long projects are far more sensible as they achieve the repetitious use of a skill that homework tries to do but in a way that is immediately practical and immediately necessary.

Lab work should likewise not demonstrate trivial stuff, but through repetition and variation lead to the memorization of the theory and its association with practical problems of the appropriate class.

Section 6: James Oliver's advice on diet should be followed within reason - and the "within reason" bit has more to do with what food scientists and cookery scientists discover than with any complaints.

Section 7: Go bankrupt. This is where this whole scheme falls over -- to do what I'm proposing seriously would require multiplying the costs of maintaining and running a school by 25-30 with no additional income. If it had a few billion in starting capital and bought stocks in businesses likely to be boosted by a high-intensity K-PhD educational program, it is just possible you could reduce the bleeding to manageable proportions. What you can never do in this system is turn a profit, although all who are taught will make very substantial profits from such a system.

User Journal

Journal: I don't know which is scarier

Journal by jd

That I am old enough to remember where my current .sig came from, or that nobody else is.....! For those who are suffering from a memory lapse, here is the sig: "The world is in darkness. To erase data is to suppress truth; to halt computing is to shackle the mind."

Ok, ok, you're too lazy to google it, so here's the link: Son of Hexadecimal Kid

User Journal

Journal: Automotive Security

Journal by jd

According to the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security, there are serious security flaws in the existing technology. Not necessarily a big deal, for now, as they observe that the risks are low at the current time. Emphasis on "current". They also state that no crackers have been observed to use the required level of sophistication. Again, emphasis needs to be on "observed". Yes, it may well be a while before automotive networks reach the point where this is exploited in the wild (at least to any scale), but I would remind you that it took Microsoft from Windows 3.0 through to Windows XP Service Pack 2 to take security even remotely seriously. That's a long, long time. And Microsoft had nothing like the install-base of the car industry. Further, the qualifications required by most companies to be a system administrator were a good deal steeper than the requirements for a car mechanic, so systems administrators were likely far more familiar with the issues involved. Also, said systems administrators are far more accountable for security issues, since there are plenty of third-party tools that novice users can use to spot malicious software.

The first question is why this even matters. It doesn't affect anyone today. No, but it's guaranteed to affect at least some current Slashdot readers in their lifetime and, depending on how rapidly car networks develop, may affect a significant fraction surprisingly fast. Technology doesn't move at Stone Age speeds any more. Technology advances rapidly and you can't use obsolete notions of progress to determine what will happen next year or over the next decade.

The second question is what anyone could seriously do, even if it was an issue. Not too many Slashdotters own automotive companies. In fact, I doubt if ANY Slashdotters own automotive companies. Well, the validation tools are Open Source. MISRA has a fair few links to members and software packages. In fact, even if developers just developed an understanding of MISRA's C and C++ specifications it might be quite valuable as it would allow people to understand what is being done (if anything) to improve reliability and to understand how (if at all) this impacts security. You don't get reliability for free, there will be some compromises made elsewhere.

User Journal

Journal: Has anyone had problems with DB companies? What therapies work with bosses? 4

Journal by jd

I've been having problems with Enterprise DB. This company maintains the Windows port of Postgres, but I have been finding their customer service.... less than satisfactory. This is the second time in, oh, 21 years that I've actually been infuriated by a company. However, to be entirely fair to the business and indeed the sales person, it is entirely possible this was a completely freak incident with no relationship to normal experience. There were all kinds of factors involved, so it's a messy situation all round, but the hard-sell aggressiveness and verbal abuse went way beyond what I have ever experienced from a professional organization in two DECADES. What I want to know from other Slashdotters is whether this is about on-par with the tales of meteorites landing on someone's sofa (which is my personal suspicion) or whether it's a more insidious issue. Please, please, please, do not take one incident as a general rule. I've not seen any article on Slashdot or LWN reporting wider issues with them, which you know perfectly well would have happened had there been a serious, widespread problem. Especially with all of the reporting on database issues over recent times and the search for alternatives to MySQL once leading developers defected and major forks arose.

This is, however, a major question. Like it or not, we need databases we can rely on and trust, which means that when they are backed by companies, we need the companies that back them to be honorable. (PostgreSQL itself isn't owned, so I trust the engine itself just fine. The development team is very impressive - and, yes, I do monitor the mailing lists.) Value-added only has any added value if it's valuable.

What is worse, from my perspective, is that my current boss is now treating it like this is how companies work when reselling Open Source products. His practical experience was being on the receiving end of all this. If we're to take advantage of the freedom (and bloody high quality) provided in the Open Source world, I need to deprogram him of the notion that they give hassle and sell grief. Does anyone have any experience doing this?

User Journal

Journal: Save TV for Geeks! 2

Journal by jd

A petition calling for the return of perhaps the most important television show since The Great Egg Race is currently running but isn't exactly getting anywhere fast. It is vitally important that intellectually-stimulating shows be encouraged -- the consequence of failure (24 hours of Jersey Shore on all channels) is too horrible to contemplate. Unfortunately, as things stand, that's exactly what we are heading towards. Save your television and your mind before it's too late!

User Journal

Journal: The Law for Lawyers and Non-Law for Non-Lawyers Manifesto: A Call to Arms, Legs, 1

Journal by John Allsup

etc...

We demand the right not to be treated as lawyers, by laywers, subjugated under the will of a legal system run by lawyers. We've just had enough "legal fertilizer probably legally obtained from a possibly illegally owned cow's rear end" and "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

Well (Non-)Ignorance of the (Non-)Law (respectively subect to the existence of at least one Non) is equally No Excuse.

So hear our Non-Law and take your Law of Lawwers, by Lawyers, of Lawyers and for Lawyers back to you planet of Law and leave us in peace to explore the rest of the Universe.

Important Non-Legal point:

By adding to this document, you are declaring Your intention to lay down Your life if required to do so in the event that You are required to Die so that Your inconsistent addition may be removed for the sake of all others.

User Journal

Journal: Contract contract...

Journal by hol

Let's see. Contracting can be interesting - hacking around on Solaris 10 more than is probably good for me.

And my home PC's mainboard had a capacitor blow up after 3 1/2 years of service, and turn into a smoke machine. Never thought I'd see old gear die like that.

User Journal

Journal: 1-3% of all mainstream stars have planets?

Journal by jd

The venerable BBC is reporting that a survey of light emitted from white dwarfs showed that between 1% and 3% had material (such as silicon) falling into the star on a continuous basis, potential evidence of dead worlds and asteroids. On this basis, the authors of the study speculate that the same percentage of mainstream stars in the active part of their life will have rocky matter. This is not firm evidence of actual planetary formation, as asteroids would produce the same results, but it does give an upper bound and some idea of what a lower bound might be for planetary formation.

Aside from being a useful value for Drake's Equation, the rate of planetary formation would be valuable in understanding how solar systems develop and what sort of preconditions are required for an accretion disk of suitable material to form.

Because the test only looked for elements too heavy to have been formed in the star, we can rule out the observations being that of cometary debris.

User Journal

Journal: Seven Dead Men 1

Journal by asparagus

I have released my first feature, Seven Dead Men, under a creative commons license. Feel free to download it off of LegalTorrents. If you would like to buy a copy, order it though google checkout and use the coupon code "slashdot" for a discount. The path to get to this point has been a long and circuitous one. If you have any questions about the process, ask away and I'll do my best to answer them.

User Journal

Journal: Fireball, but not XL5 3

Journal by jd

Four fireballs, glowing blue and orange, were visible last night over the skies of the Carolinas on the southeast coast of the United States, followed by the sound of an explosion described as being like thunder. Reports of hearing the noise were coming in from as far afield as Connecticut. There is currently no word from NASA or the USAF as to what it could be, but it seems improbable that anything non-nuclear the military could put up could be heard over that kind of distance. It therefore seems likely to be a very big meteorite.

The next question would be what type of meteorite. This is not an idle question. The one slamming into the Sudan recently was (a) extremely big at an estimated 80 tonnes, and (b) from the extremely rare F-class of asteroid. If this new meteorite is also from an F-class asteroid, then it is likely associated with the one that hit Sudan. This is important as it means we might want to be looking very closely for other fragments yet to hit.

The colours are interesting and allow us to limit what the composition could have been and therefore where it came from. We can deduce this because anything slamming through the atmosphere is basically undergoing a giant version of your basic chemistry "flame test" for substance identification. We simply need to look up what metals produce blue, and in so doing we see that cadmium does produce a blue/violet colour, with copper producing more of a blue/green.

Other metals also produce a blue glow and tables of these colours abound, but some are more likely in meteoric material than others. Cadmium exists in meteorites. Well, all elements do, if you find enough meteorites. but it exists in sufficient quantity that it could produce this sort of effect. (As noted in the chemmaster link, low concentrations can't be detected by this method, however this is going to be vastly worsened by the fact that this isn't a bunsen burner being used and the distance over which you're observing is extreme.)

Ok, what else do we know? The fireballs were also orange. Urelites, such as the Sudan impact, contain a great deal of calcium, which burns brick-red, not orange. This suggests we can rule out the same source, which in turn means we probably don't have to worry about being strafed the way Jupiter was with the Shoemaker-Levy comet (21 impacts).

What can we say about it, though? Well, provided the surviving fragments didn't fall into the ocean, it means every meteorite hunter on the planet will be scouring newspaper stories that might indicate where impacts occurred. Meteoric material is valuable and anything on a scale big enough to be heard across the entire east coast of the US is going to be worth looking for. It had split into four in the upper atmosphere, so you're probably looking at a few thousand fragments reaching ground level that would exceed a year's average pay.

User Journal

Journal: feature 6

Journal by asparagus

Spent the last couple of years making my first feature. Shot/wrote/edited/etc it myself on a shoe-string budget. Sent it off to a few film festivals not expecting much. The response thus far has matched my expectations. Hard to compete with people who have a thousand dollars for every one of mine.

The old saw goes it takes ten years to get good at anything. Made my first short back in 1999, keep on feeling like I'm just a single step away from breaking through. But as of yet, nothing.

And so, slogging ever onward. Been debating whether it would be a good idea to self-distribute/release the project under a CC license the same as I have with my shorts. If I sold a few dvds they would pay for the shooting if nothing else.

All I really want any more is somebody out there to watch the damn thing. And this cockamamie scheme would seem as decent as any other. Or rather, something something about doing it for the cause. Thoughts, yay or nay?

Never trust a computer you can't repair yourself.

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