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Comment: I used BeOS for audio analysis (Score 2) 226

by Xcott Craver (#44798045) Attached to: Thought Experiment: The Ultimate Creative Content OS

I mostly used BeOS in grad school because I liked alternative operating systems, but several times I'd try to port my work to Windows or Windows NT and find myself astonished at how impossible my this stuff was to do on other computers at the time (late 1990s.) NT's architecture and event processing often prohibited the sort of real-time audio and video apps I was writing, and the API standing between me and the data was much more restrictive.

In retrospect, I think a number of my research successes were accidentally due to using an OS that would let me implement some really nutty ideas.

Comment: Jesus, Java? Why not COBOL? (Score 1) 245

by Xcott Craver (#43419189) Attached to: 'CodeSpells' Video Game Teaches Children Java Programming

Java is an OK language, but it's kind of bureaucratic and boring. I can't think of a better way to suck all the magic out of a fantasy game than to have the spells written in Java---except maybe having the kids produce an ER diagram and a set of tables in Boyce-Codd normal form.

At the very least, they could do without the pointless punctuation. Does a spell really have to have semicolons and empty parentheses to denote that the spell is imperative?

Comment: I think it's more fundamental than that: (Score 5, Insightful) 489

by Xcott Craver (#43369991) Attached to: Getting a Literature Ph.D. Will Make You Into a Horrible Person
Baby boomers or not, the number of PhD graduates far exceeds the number of professors due to the simple logistics of teaching. Suppose you start a professorship at 30, and retire at 70. How many PhD students do you advise per year? Let's say 1.5 just to be on the low side. And suppose they each take 5 years to graduate. You just cranked out a dozen PhDs, and created one faculty opening by retiring. One should expect an advanced degree to increase one's job prospects, but it's numerically silly to expect, specifically, a faculty position. This is why every university hires people with degrees from an even better university---not because NIU frowns on NIU grads, but because the market for the teacher's job is so competitive that only the best CVs get in.

Comment: This won't last (Score 1) 253

by Xcott Craver (#43364285) Attached to: Automated System Developed To Grade Student Essays
No matter how sophisticated the algorithm, the set of strings that get graded an A is bound to contain some weird and illegible elements. They probably won't be too hard to find by inspection of the algorithm and its training data. It will only take a few widely publicized examples of meaningless essays with a high auto-grade to cast doubts on this method of grading, no matter how effective it is in the common case.

+ - The Underhanded C Contest is back->

Submitted by Xcott Craver
Xcott Craver (615642) writes "After several years of inactivity, the Underhanded C contest has returned. The object is to write a short, readable, innocent-looking computer program that nevertheless performs some evil function for reasons that are not obvious under code review. The prize is a $200 gift certificate to ThinkGeek."
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+ - 5th Underhanded C Contest now open

Submitted by Xcott Craver
Xcott Craver (615642) writes "The next Underhanded C Contest has begun, with a deadline of March 1st. The object of the contest is to write short, readable, clear and innocent C code that somehow commits an evil act. This year's challenge: write a luggage routing program that mysteriously misroutes a customer's bag if a check-in clerk places just the right kind of text in a comment field. The prize is a gift certificate to ThinkGeek.com"

Comment: But this is a false dichotomy (Score 1) 1259

by Xcott Craver (#29807323) Attached to: Student Loan Interest Rankles College Grads

Billy doesn't have the choice between (a) saving up or (b) financing the whole dang thing with loans.

Most of us will (c) take out loans to pay for part of college, and cover the rest by working before and throughout college, including summer internships; by choosing an affordable school, rather than one that costs over 20K/year; by making choices like not living in a dorm for all four years; and by not paying for graduate school out of your own pocket (it is rarely economical to do so.) I did these things, and ultimately got as far as a Ph.D. with a total loan burden on the order of 20K.

As I said, it seems like a cultural problem: people don't seem to understand that they can and must do these things if they are broke. Instead they think their only choice is a massive loan sufficient to finance an entire four-year degree.

Comment: I wonder why you're not considered credit-worthy? (Score 4, Informative) 1259

by Xcott Craver (#29789535) Attached to: Student Loan Interest Rankles College Grads

Maybe it's because you're borrowing over 80,000 dollars for a college education.

5 minutes with a spreadsheet would tell you how much and for how long you have just screwed yourself, and by borrowing that kind of money you prove that you can't or won't spend even that much effort to think before borrowing.

I think part of the problem is cultural: I was broke back when I went to college, and I needed loans; but I also knew that you should never borrow anywhere near enough to pay your whole tuition bill. That's far too much money to borrow even if you aren't dead broke. Poverty forces you into indebtedness, but it also makes you paranoid about accumulated debt, and you understand that something that costs tens of thousands of dollars will require you to eat Ramen, work multiple jobs, and make affordable choices even if someone will extend you credit.

But now I hear horror stories about students who borrow enough money to buy a house in much of the USA, and use that to pay for an entire four-year degree plus graduate school. It's like the kids don't understand that they're poor; they get a credit line and stop acting like people who have to work for a living.

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