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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 15 declined, 1 accepted (16 total, 6.25% accepted)

+ - Encouraging a child's new-found interest in robotics

Submitted by SomeoneGotMyNick
SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) writes "With the holiday season coming around, I have to consider what's best for my Son, who is in his early teens, when it comes to giving gifts which are fun, challenging, and career oriented. In the past, racing style video games were popular choices, but I don't want (expect) him to be able to play video games as a career.

He is currently taking courses in school which are introductions to computers and programming. He is familiar with programming concepts from playing around with Scratch for many years. He also likes the idea of tinkering with robot like devices, even though there is little he has available to do so right now.

When I'm doing stuff with my Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards, he always develops an interest, but doesn't quite "get it" when I try to explain the details of what I'm doing with them. Maybe I'm explaining it wrong, or maybe he needs to learn it a different way, perhaps with a collection of hardware add-ons and project documentation which I normally don't use myself.

I would like to encourage the interest he develops, without initially overwhelming him with too many details. Either that, or he is a lot like me when I was growing up, and needs to do a little discovery on his own using these microprocessor based systems, which could lead to a more positive self esteem and appreciation for learning.

What I'm thinking of doing is finding something which merges robotics and computer programming. My first thought is Lego Mindstorms, but I don't know if/how powerful that system can become. I'm hoping to find something that can start off easy, but at the same time, the major investment in components doesn't go to waste because it can be outgrown too quickly.

I've checked on Arduino and Propeller based robot kits, but unless someone else can provide details on their personal experience with them, I think they may have a discouragingly steep learning curve to get started.

Any information will be useful. Are there relatively unknown, but useful kits out there. Is a "piecemeal kit" a better choice, with certain book purchases and a collection of individual components ordered from SparkFun, Jameco, etc? Are Lego Mindstorms a powerful and really good value kit for the money?"
The Internet

+ - Effective monitoring of teen's Internet activities 1

Submitted by
SomeoneGotMyNick
SomeoneGotMyNick writes "My kids, whose ages orbit around 13, are becoming more Internet saavy. I set myself up the ability to monitor their Internet access anytime I wish. I must run Ethereal or Wireshark to perform this monitoring. After a while, this process becomes unwieldy. All computers in my house run through a Linux box configured as a router. I usually monitor from that machine. I may also monitor from any machine connected to the hub (yes, a HUB) which the kid's computers are connected to. Hubs make it easy and cheap to monitor a set of network connection. My kids are aware I can monitor their activity anytime I wish, yet I don't want to nanny them to the point where they are unable to earn my trust. I can already block any site(s) I wish. So, that avenue is covered. I simply don't have time anymore to scan through log files or sit and monitor real-time. To make this process easier, I'd like to figure out how I can configure my existing network to look for "triggers" indicating inappropriate usage and/or log unencrypted text conversations (from chat rooms). I prefer to monitor at the network level, preferably using open source software, which can notify me via e-mail, etc. I'd consider EFFECTIVE client software (Windows based) and keyloggers if there are no other solutions as long as they hide completely, don't slow down the computer, run locally (not as a cloud service), and aren't subscription based. Has anybody in a similar situation come up with a useful setup?"
Programming

+ - Scripting in Commodore BASIC in Windows/Linux-> 1

Submitted by
SomeoneGotMyNick
SomeoneGotMyNick writes "Someone with a lot of time on their hands (or more nostalgic than I am), had created a scripting language based on Commodore BASIC for Mac OSX and recently finished a version that works on Windows and Linux. You can pass text versions of Basic programs as a parameter to the program. I found it odd that it took 1.8MB of source code to compile to an interpreter that used to fit in 8K of ROM space. If this ever becomes very popular, how long will it be before we see Obfuscated CBM Basic contests?"
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Books

+ - Large Book Budget? What would you spend it on?

Submitted by SomeoneGotMyNick
SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) writes "I was told by our department head that we should get together a list of reference books that we may want. Apparently, we have a large reference material budget and nobody knows what to spend it on. If we don't spend it, we may lose future reference material budgeting next year. For a quick background, we are a programming department utilizing Visual Studio 2005 (I know, some of you are going Boo, Hiss) and we use VB and ASP.NET (Do I hear more boos and hisses?). We also use Javascript, AJAX, and most of us are wishing to hone our skills in designing creative websites. You know, ones with a good visual impact. Although I'm perfectly capable of picking books on the proper subject, I usually have a problem picking the right book on the subject. My experience in buying books results in good books, but not excellent books. Hoping that the Slashdot community used a variety of books on similar subjects, I'd appreciate some recommendations, hopefully with a reason why you found the book to be an excellent reference. And please, DB400 book references would be a plus!!"
Communications

+ - Best Hackable Mobile Phones for New Service

Submitted by SomeoneGotMyNick
SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) writes "I'm in a situation where I'm eligible to get out of my Sprint contract early without an Early Termination Fee. I have till Oct 30 to decide. Since mobile phones and plans appear to keep improving every 90 days or so, it's easy to get lost when picking the best bang for my money. What I'm looking for is a media phone that is cheap and "hackable" with a reliable carrier. I use the term "Hackable" somewhat loosely. In other words, I want a phone that, even though it might have some features locked, I want to be able to unlock those features without buying expensive software from the carrier to do it. I want to install my own ringtones (MP3 preferred) through a simple USB interface or something similar. Also, can anyone recommend a carrier with good web browsing services without requiring expensive access plans like with the Treo or Blackberry? My current Sprint phone has WAP access, and I'm aware that "flip-phone" access to the web is charged a smaller monthly fee than PDA based access. I cannot simply surf anywhere I want on a WAP plan. I understand some newer in-phone web services are not only faster, but allow access to more conventional websites. Like maybe surfing Slashdot on a RAZR screen."

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