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Comment: Re:Ancillary titles to TFA (Score 2) 317

by Will.Woodhull (#49779277) Attached to: Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned

What we really need is to demand improvements to the teachers, instructors, and course developers whose reliance on PowerPoint is an abuse of the classroom. FTFY.

Competent educators know damn well that PowerPoint presentations are inadequate in any setting more advanced than teaching college students how to tie their shoelaces. An obvious reliance on PowerPoint for "educational experiences" is an obvious sign of an incompetent educator. Take away that PowerPoint and you still have an incompetent educator. But someone who knows what he is doing in the classroom might use PowerPoint along with a battery of other tools, from rote memory exercises (On old Olympus' towering top a Finn and German view a hop) to advanced computer simulations that demonstrate esoteric features of organic chemistry. The competent educator will choose the most suitable tool from the ones available. Most of the time, that will not be PowerPoint: it is never the sharpest tool in the shed, but sometimes it is the most suitable for the task at hand.

Comment: Re: *shrug* (Score 1) 386

by Will.Woodhull (#49759285) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

As to Vista, I last set up a machine under XP half a year before 7 came out.

That would be roughly the time I settled on Ubuntu as the best-for-me Linux distro and made the final migration from WinXP to Linux. Since then I've gravitated to the Ubuntu Studio version since its bundle contains several apps that I use. I have VM capability but have as yet not needed it. I have WINE installed, but rarely use it. Life is good.

Comment: Re: *shrug* (Score 1) 386

by Will.Woodhull (#49759165) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

The hype for Win30 was huge, I'll give you that.

Win30, and Win31 in its early days, were competing with several good task-switching programs that enabled the user to switch rapidly between a spreadsheet and a word processor (the typical business setup) or some boring business app and a cool game (when the boss wasn't looking). The one that the computer dealer I worked for used most of the time was DESQview. Win30 offered no particular advantages over the task switchers on the hardware of those times, and it crashed more often. And while Win30 did run WordPerfect and Lotus 1.2.3, there was no cooperative multitasking with these: it was simply task switching. MS Word was in many ways a better word processor than WordPerfect, but all the professional offices and many of the retail and manufacturing businesses we sold to were too heavily invested in WordPerfect templates to change. IIRC, there was no alternative to Lotus 1.2.3: Excel did not arrive until later.

But Gates was positioning Win30 as a stepping stone to IBM's true preemptive multitasking OS: OS/2. OS/2 development was bogged down with internal politics, and a failure to listen to its own engineers about the limitations of the 80286 CPU. It was not until IBM gave up on trying to use the 80286 and built its OS strictly for the 80386 that OS/2 was made marketable. Gates was right about calling 80286 "brain dead", but he did not say that until after Windows had gained a big lead in the hype wars. At the time of Win30 and early Win31, what Microsoft emphasized was that Windows would be the front end of OS/2, which was going to hit the market "real soon now".

Microsoft made it very easy for computer shops like the one where I worked to sell its products. Their cute little buxom girls in the tight fitting tee shirts and shorts would bounce in and flirt with the boss while helping him decide where to set up the freebie displays. Also, if you could convince a customer that Windows was the future (and a couple of minutes of showing him how to play Solitaire with the mouse was often enough), then you could sell him a more expensive machine with an 80386SX processor, extended memory, and a larger hard drive, and maybe even a tape backup. Much more profitable than selling him an 8088 machine with less memory and DESQview, which would also have worked for him.

Comment: Re:Won't save most of the 4000 lives (Score 1) 615

by Will.Woodhull (#49706461) Attached to: The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks

I agree: automating truck driving will not decrease truck-car crashes very much since most of those are caused by the car driver.

I don't see much of a future for drone trucks, though. Instead I think the role of the truck driver will change, with less emphasis on managing the controls and more on the strategies involved. Such as selecting between alternate routes when road conditions up ahead have changed, supervising loading and unloading, monitoring the truck's performance and intervening when something-- tire pressure, fuel consumption, exhaust quality, etc-- are approaching nominal limits. The automation will function more like an airplane's autopilot, but the driver will still be needed for the executive functions.

For instance, it will be a long time before a fully automated truck will be smart enough to slow down to conserve fuel a hundred miles from a congested urban area, so that it will avoid rush hour traffic and still make delivery on time.

Drivers may be able to spend time relaxing with their feet up on the dash, but they won't become superfluous. It is more likely that their employers will assign them additional duties to fill any slack time on the roads. Like perhaps a long distance trucker able to earn bonuses for any cold-calling marketing successes he might have, or for participating in his company's astroturfing campaigns on Slashdot... :-)

Comment: Re: News for nerds (Score 1) 866

by Will.Woodhull (#49688833) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

Yeah, its OSU that I intended to write. The image I had in my head was of the fields just across the river from town, and I was too focused on making my point succinctly to notice I was screwing up the name.

Beaver - Duck, Duck - Beaver... I've spent years in both Corvallis and Eugene and I still get them mixed up. If they'd only play real football rather than that simplistic American football it would maybe be easier to differentiate between them.

Comment: Re: News for nerds (Score 1) 866

by Will.Woodhull (#49684007) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

I see what you attempted to do there. Let's get back on track:

Please show me how anything similar to religious/spiritual principles can be derived from Newton's laws, the periodic table, or any of the other findings of science. Please provide an example of using the findings of science, or the scientific method, to answer an ethical or moral problem.

Comment: Re: News for nerds (Score 1) 866

by Will.Woodhull (#49683781) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

Newton's "Law of Universal Gravitation" fails at the extremes, does it not? It cannot be used in a region some close distance from a black hole (can we still say event horizon?), nor does it have any application within a black hole, and yet there are definitely black holes in the universe. It also fails at the other extreme, in the realm of "quantum foam", Casimir-Polder forces, and the like.

But more importantly, you are profoundly right that all of science is only about the "how". You have to look elsewhere when it comes to questions of "why". Or to the only truly important question: "What the f*ck should I do now?" Those are matters of ethics or morals, that science cannot answer. And persons who attempt to steer their lives based on an absolute belief in science as the pinnacle of human thought are going to fail it.

I am a tool user. I know that you need to use the right tool for the job. And a true believers' absolute faith in science is not only an attempt to drive a nail with a screwdriver, but is an invitation to a sleazebag salesman to sell that chump a cordless electric hammer and a complete set of left-handed monkey wrenches for those tough "What should I do?" problems.

Comment: Re: News for nerds (Score 2) 866

by Will.Woodhull (#49681995) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

The problem I have with GMO is that its safety is based on the assumption that ecosystems are built according to the taxonomy of biology: species, genus, family, and so on. We now know that this is a very simplistic way of looking at the dynamic system of relationships that is an ecosystem. A forest ecosystem is defined more by the interrelationships between the great trees, the soil microbes, the fish in its rivers, and the fisher birds that deliver nutrients to the hillsides than by which particular species is filling this niche on this hillside. Ecosystems involving farmland may look simple by comparison, but they are actually more complex, and much more brittle. It becomes difficult to even establish their boundaries since run-off may be influencing more than one watershed.

GMO research needs to demonstrate that the change in the genes in the ecosystem are not going to damage the ecosystem. So far there is no serious attempt to do that: the most that is being done is to assure that genetic drift, the movement of modified genes between species, is not too bad. But the GMO was done to significantly alter some attribute of the crop, so how does that affect the ecosystem as a whole? If this new sugar beet is more drought tolerant, then the subsoil becomes less moist toward the end of the hot season, and what affect will that have on the soil microbes, and available nutrients?

That kind of research is not getting much attention. Mostly because it is so damned obvious that if you start talking about ecosystems, then the problems with monoculture become glaringly obvious, and without monoculture there is no profit in GMO development. And profit is what drives Monsanto. Without obvious profit, there would be no great push to get GMO adopted. Its development would be slow, conducted by agricultural colleges like University of Oregon, under more appropriate systems of checks and crosschecks than Monsanto's profit driven approach.

Comment: Re: News for nerds (Score 4, Insightful) 866

by Will.Woodhull (#49681491) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

Belief systems and the practice of science are as unrelated as music and athletics. There are plenty of excellent scientists that are devout believers in various religions. There are more who follow personal spiritual paths that are separate from any organized religion.

There is the unfortunate phenomenon of belief in Science, but that is not science. That is just another belief system, where pseudo-scientists believe that things science once discovered are somehow imbued with an eternal truth. The true practitioner of science knows that: firstly, every single scientific "law" might be overturned at any time by some new discovery that displays reality from a new and different point of view; and secondly, that Science as Religion is totally useless when it comes to guidance with any of the important decisions every one of us must make.

That second part is of direct concern to me, and to many other people. These decisions include whether to tell the truth or lie, whether to work for the common good or grab whatever you can get, whether honor and honesty are more important to the person than status and finding an easy way toward personal goals. Persons who believe in science have substituted Newton's laws and the periodic table for religious/spiritual principles, which just doesn't work. It seemingly gives them a framework that allows them freedom from the encumbrances of morals or ethics. But those encumbrances are part of being human, and without them these persons are just shits.

Comment: Re:At the same time (Score 1) 323

The discussion has switched from operating system to language. WRT operating system, DOS was never used on any of the 6502 machines. Apple developed its own. I believe Commodore did as well. Radio Shack could have used DOS since it was an 8088 processor, but mostly, maybe always, used the CP/M system instead.

I did not know that the BASIC language was licensed by Apple and Commodore from Microsoft. It must have been easier to port from 8080 assembly to 6502 assembly than to develop from Kemeny and Kurz' minicomputer original.

I cut my teeth on Applesoft BASIC, but I used only the integer subset; the floating point was too demanding, although now I don't recall why. Whether it ran too slowly, was too resource intensive, or-- probably-- was too hard to program and debug. I did some home accounting/budgeting, but did it all in pennies rather than dollars, and avoided division operations.

Since the Apple ][+ was the native computer of the original VisiCalc, its 6502 base code and its proprietary DOS were responsible for moving the PC from hobby toy to business computer. For an accounting firm to be able to do some of its spreadsheets in house is what triggered business' interest in PCs. This was a couple of years before the IBM PC even existed.

You are right on the timeline of IMBM-DOS, and I was misremembering. IBM PCs first arrived around 1982 as I recall, with IBM originally planning a single one time production run of 250,000 that would, they thought, completely flood the hobbyist market. Then Visicalc came along, then Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM, and then IBM foolishly lost control of the market they had created by getting caught up in internal power struggles, while all the IBM clones came along. I believe the Compaq came out in 1984, along with a bunch of lesser machines. They went with MS-DOS as IBM would not sell its DOS to hardware competitors. However I was working with MS-DOS v3.1 as the newest and best in 1987 on a Novell network, and in my recollection v3.0 had come out only a year before that. But again, I might be misremembering. 'Twas a long time ago, in CPU years.

Comment: Re:At the same time (Score 2) 323

This is one of the few Gates myths with some truth behind it. He published GW-BASIC ("GW" for "gee whizz") some time in the 1980s. It was a major breakthrough: an interpreted language that could be used to develop and run custom applications on the small-office-home-office computers of the day, but which had several features of compiled languages. It was brilliant. It is still brilliant, its just that these days Javascript, PHP, Perl, and the like do what used to be done in BASIC, and much more.

The world would be a lot different if Gates had continued to focus on software development, instead of turning away from that to become last century's greatest marketeer and hypester.

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