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Comment: Re:Sure to be as wildly popular as haskell... (Score 1) 189

by dbc (#48678121) Attached to: MIT Unifies Web Development In Single, Speedy New Language

Riiiight. That's why we still use FORTRAN for so much new code.

New programming languages succeed when they:
1. Provide compelling beneifts to some group of developers.
2. Are freely licensed (Java tried to break this rule for a while).
3. Are well documented with both reference and tutorial information in many forms.
4. Are delivered with a stable reference implementation.
5. Are correctly marketed.

I'm old enough that I did CS homework on punch cards, and I've probably learned and forgotten more languages than most Slashdotter's have ever used. I learned something from every one I tried, whether I became fluent or merely dabbled. Don't dismiss the new just because it is new. In this business, that will be the end of your career. Try every new thing that looks like it has a chance of succeeding. Then, dismiss the ones that truly suck. *That* is how you become a successful grey-beard curmudgeon sitting on the other side of the design review table.

Comment: Re:Incidentally... (Score 1) 83

by dbc (#48650705) Attached to: How a Massachusetts Man Invented the Global Ice Market

Hmm.... not sure I totally buy this. Insulated, iced, box cars were being used to ship meat and fruit in the USA before 1900. My recollection is that pretty early on, the various express companies were operating ice manufacturing plants where it was impractical to harvest natural ice. Southern California, for instance -- places that grow oranges well, and are naturally semi-arid, don't have many opportunities for harvesting natural ice.

Toitally agree, though, that it is an economic decision. It's a classic case of shipping costs dominating the cost of the product. I remember an Econ 101 lecture where the example was ready-mix concrete plants. Wet concrete can not be shipped far because it is outrageously heavy, and therefore costly to ship, and secondly it is highly perishable -- if it sets up in the truck you have neither a product nor a truck :/ (And you *especially* don't have a truck if you let the Myth Busters clean it for you....)

Comment: Re:But what about my burger? (Score 1) 133

by dbc (#48642383) Attached to: Tesla About To Start Battery-Swap Pilot Program

Narrow minded? Wha??? All I said was that this is a great test precisely because there is a very good alternative to the battery swap. Have you ever designed a meaningful experiment for *anything*? Have you looked at how quickly the Tesla super charger can bring a Tesla up to 80%? Knee jerk much?

Comment: But what about my burger? (Score 1) 133

by dbc (#48638789) Attached to: Tesla About To Start Battery-Swap Pilot Program

Tesla already has a fast charger at the Harris Ranch location. Which, if you are driving Sili Valley to LA, is a good place to stop for a lunch break. If I had a Tesla, the thought of a battery swap would not be compelling, since I'd be thinking of making the lunch/recharge stop anyway. OTOH, this is a good test -- when at the same location you have the choice between a battery swap verus a rapid charge plus good lunch, do people still go for the battery swap? It is an interesting marketing test precisely because the competing option is compelling.

Comment: Re:It's about self-confidence in bench skills (Score 1) 208

by dbc (#48623565) Attached to: New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible

You are quite right. It's because most parents don't involve their daughters in workshop and construction projects, but they do involve their sons.

Not every girl is going to groove on helping assemble a new set of bookshelves form Ikea. Neither is every boy. But both can benefit from being taught about fasteners and tools.

More to the point, we are talking about why girls fall off the tech track, not what gets them on the tech track in the first place. Girls simply don't get appropriate mentoring at a young enough age, and my contention is that appropriate mentoring is training in hands-on bench skills (defined loosely to include code monkey skills) that will reduce self-doubt when they end up getting surrounded by people who do have the bench skills.

Comment: It's about self-confidence in bench skills (Score 2) 208

by dbc (#48617643) Attached to: New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible

Girls drop off the tech track (CS, engineering, etc) because they are intimidated (wrongly) by the boys who come in with "bench skills" already formed -- the boys have been tinkering and taking things apart and building and coding and have their own toolbox (literal and figurative) already. The girls see that, and don't think they will be able to compete -- an inaccurate conclusion, because success in engineering school does *not* depend on having the resistor color code already memorized, nor on having memorized the API's to three dozen Python libraries already. Success comes from the deeper analytical skills.

Girls need tinkering opportunities that will build their bench skills. When they have their own toolkits (literal and figurative) then the boys will no longer intimidate them.

Math is a different issue. The critical years for developing the self-perception that you belong with the math crowd is the same years that girls are trying hard to fit in. The population density of girls in the USA (and it seems to be a problem for us, not for other parts of the world) who enjoy math is low enough that it is hard to fit in socially and be "mathy". For my daughter, we found a math camp (Mathpath.org) where the population of girls was high enough that she found a peer group of girls where it was *cool* to like and be good at math. That made a huge difference.

Comment: Re:just treat CS like football ... (Score 1) 307

by dbc (#48596825) Attached to: Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

No, I'm sure he means: Do athletes take PE? Would you expect someone coming in on a full-ride Division I gymnastics scholarship to be forced to take the PE class in basic tumbling before they showed up for the gymnastics team's training camp? That would be insanity. Likewise, a semester spent teaching someone where the semicolons go in Java is a waste of everyone's time if that person is up to speed on the basics of coding and is ready for introductory data structures.

Comment: It's about mitigating unwarented self-perception (Score 1) 307

by dbc (#48596365) Attached to: Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

My experience in this goes back over 30 years ago, to when one of my friends was one of three women Electrical Engineering majors. She lived in the same house, and was in the same intro circuits analysis class. She bailed a few weeks in and changed majors. Why? To quote: "Because you guys have been building Heathkits and fixing televisions since you were 10 years old. I haven't." In short, she was intimidated by the *perception* that she couldn't keep up with us. Nobody was making her feel unwelcome. And she would have probably sliced out the liver of anyone who tried, but that's another story... she had fight in her. But despite having the grades and doing well, she felt intimidated for no good reason whatsoever. She would have done fine. That Heathkit experience helped, sure, but it wasn't make-or-break.

She ended up in ceramic engineering, which was a great fit for her, so that much is good. But IMO she ended up in a good place for the wrong reasons.

The problem here is trying to convince people that some negative self-perceptions are completely unwarranted. Early experience is not what makes-or-breaks your ability to do well in the advanced classes that really count for something.

I *do* think hands-on experience is good for building the self-confidence that eliminates the negative self-perception. Maybe it sound silly, but perhaps some "remedial tinkering" classes just to get some bench time in a low-pressure environment is what it takes to build some self-confidence.

Comment: So build that princess a castle. (Score 3, Insightful) 584

by dbc (#48520383) Attached to: Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

Princesses love castles.

Go to the local building supply center, and get enough lumber to build a playhouse in the back yard. Make sure the kid is out there actually swinging a hammer and measuring and cutting wood. I did this with my 4 year old daughter. We had a grand time. Of course, at 4 she couldn't really swing a framing hammer to full effect and needed a lot of help to sink the nails home, but hey, it was a great time. And participating in the entire project from beginning to end was a great way to learn a few practical things. But the most important of all was to treat the idea of a girl doing a construction project as a normal thing.

Also, bury the kid in enough Lego to build a couple of princess castles. At age 4, developing spacial reasoning through tactile learning is going to cause the brain development that becomes math/science/engineering thinking later on.

Another thing I did was as soon as my daughter could reliably count to twenty, I took her to the local electronic surplus houses and had her help me get parts. I'd hand her a box of switches or capacitors and tell her to count out 10 of them for me while I searched out the next part. And of course if she wanted a couple of pretty, shiny, purple caps for her own collection, that's OK too.

For starting on actual coding, Scratch and Lego robots go a long way. When the time comes for that.

So looking back, I'm not sure what I did that worked, or maybe nothing actually worked and my kid would have been an engineer regardless, but she is now in the middle of doing college applications to top engineering schools. And still likes pink and purple. If soldering irons and Bridgeport mills were available in pink, she'd be there. It is not necessary to do a princess-ectomy to end up with an engineer.

Comment: Re:Wow... (Score 5, Insightful) 647

by dbc (#48481483) Attached to: Debian Forked Over Systemd

You comment is well put. A distro that is "Debian without systemd dependencies" has a very large built-in audience right out of the gate. And that audience is technically sophisticated, with the ability to contribute. Regardless of whether or not you consider that audience a herd of Luddites (which I do not) it has both critical mass and sufficient know-how and motivation to give Devuan a fast ramp, which is the key to survival in today's crowded distro world.

Comment: Ha! Microsoft bought all the prototypes! (Score 1) 140

by dbc (#48435299) Attached to: Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards

I've seen these robots, inside and out. Plywood and body putty, mainly, with off-the-shelf electronics and software glued together. Very spiffy-lookging UI, though. Gotta do the pretty part first, you know.

The CEO of the company has an interesting track record -- no time to google it now as I'm headed for the airport -- but he left the taxpayers of Indiana with a $75 million liability when his company harvested a bunch of tax credits and then cratered. Oh... and I think just a couple of weeks ago this CEO said they had built only a hanful of units so far, like under 10.

The plywood and body putty issue can be solved with a few man-years of engineering so that doesn't bother me too much now except that the PR photos may be a bit misleading. The tendancy of the CEO to harvest large quantities of dollars and then move half a continent away must give pause.

Steve Jobs said two years ago that X is brain-damaged and it will be gone in two years. He was half right. -- Dennis Ritchie