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Comment: Good salary better than free education (Score 1) 499

by Roger W Moore (#48678989) Attached to: Paul Graham: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

Just make all the STEM programs FREE.

Making one program free while the rest remain expensive (all subjects should be free like they are in school) is not a good way to motivate students to take a STEM degree. You will end up with lots of poorly motivated students who cannot afford to take the subject they really want. The best way to ensure that students want to take STEM is to ensure that there are lots of well paid jobs waiting for them. This provides monetary incentive to people planning to make a career in STEM which is what you want.

The problem with society today is that STEM is viewed as hard by most students and leads to a job which is ok but requires real work. Compare that to the view of subjects like business studies or law where the view is that you can get a well paid job and have to do far less actual work to get the same (or even better) salary. That's not to say that there are a lot of really hard working lawyers and MBAs out there but the general perception is that you can get by doing far less work if you want to and still get a better salary than a STEM worker at least based on my interactions with prospective students.

Comment: Re:XML??? (Score 1) 32

by Jason Levine (#48676781) Attached to: Net Neutrality Comments Overtaxed FCC's System

I'll admit that when I first used XML, I started trying to use it for as much as possible. (Blame "Shiny New Technology" syndrome.) I had written stuff to databases before but I thought this technology would make so many things easier. Years later, when I'm reviewing my old code, I'm finding that removing the XML and moving the data to a database improves everything. XML definitely has its place, but it also has limits. Trying to export a million comments as an XML file is almost guaranteed to run into problems.

Comment: Perler Bead Sorting? (Score 3, Insightful) 79

by Jason Levine (#48676575) Attached to: High Speed DIY M&M Sorting Machine Uses iPhone Brain

This makes me wonder if it would be possible to build a machine to sort perler beads. For those who don't know, these are small (under 5mm) plastic beads. You place them on a tray to make a design (Doctor Who, One-up mushroom from Super Mario Brothers, etc), then iron the beads so they melt and fuse. It's an inexpensive (relatively speaking) craft that can be really fun because of the wide range of design possibilities.

The major problem is that the cheapest way to get beads is by the tub. This is - as you might expect - a tub of various colors of beads... all mixed together. Want a black bead? You need to hunt through the tub to find one. Or you can do what we do and manually sort through thousands of beads and group similar colors together in another container.

The M&M sorting machine makes me wonder if you could make a machine that would sort the beads. You could even simplify it and only match a specific color bead. Incoming beads would either be sent to the "matching" tray or would go to the "doesn't match" pile. (The latter could be resorted to match another color, repeating until no beads were left.)

Anyone into robotics know how much a DIY project like this would cost and what level of expertise this would require? This might be an interesting project to tackle with my older son who is in his middle school Lego Robotics team.

Comment: Re:But wait,there's more (Score 3, Interesting) 138

by ledow (#48676295) Attached to: Donald Knuth Worried About the "Dumbing Down" of Computer Science History

It's even simpler than that.

Computers are a tool. That's what they were designed to be, that's what they are. You can use them, or not.

Computer science isn't about using a tool. It's about creating a tool that's useful, and enhancing existing tools.

Every idiot can pick up a hammer and bash a nail it. Not everyone could forge a hammer-head, wedge it strong enough into well-prepared wooden handles, etc.

That you can use the tools made by others to get rich - it's undeniable. It's also very rare and down to little more than chance. And gaming is the one that attracts young minds because they are ALL users of games and games devices.

But there were a bucket of clone games before the existence of and while things like Minecraft, Angry Birds, etc. were being developed.

The programmer who wrote the map editor for Half-Life probably couldn't put a level together. But a 3D artist can take that tool and slap it together even if he doesn't really understand what a shader is. It's two entirely separate areas that people STILL confuse.

Want to play games? Go ahead. You just need a computer. Want to write games? You have to become a coder, or use the tools other coders have written for you. Want to write the tools? You have to be a coder. Working in IT in schools, I get a lot of parents tell me their kids are "good with computers" and should be in the top IT classes, etc. and what university should they go to to write games? I advise all of them against it, when they come from that angle. Because immediately my first question is Have you ever written one? No. Then find another career path. Or go away, write one, come back in six months and ask me again.

The parents get miffed, but they are the ones that have come to me for the advice. And yet, the ones who COULD make it in computer science, they don't need to ask. They know where they're heading. They can knock up something in an afternoon or tell you how to go about it.

Using the tools can be a skill. I wouldn't want to be up on an oil rig handling some specialist device to build the platform, and it probably takes years of on-the-job and other training to do it properly and safely. But the guy who designed it? You'll probably never see him. If he turns up on the oil rig, it's in a hardhat and business suit to look at the job, and then he's gone.

Everyone can use a basic tool. Some can use a complex tool skilfully. Others can design and make the tools in the first place. It applies to all walks of life and all careers, though, not just IT.

You can no-doubt drive a car. But you'll never win a rally no matter how good you think you are. And though you might be able to cobble together parts to make something that moves, to build and design the car to similar specifications from nothing takes decades of experience and a high level of skill.

You can no-doubt browse the web on your computer. But you'll never run your own network effectively. And though you can cobble together parts to make something that works, to build and design the chips, the protocols, the electrical specifications, etc. takes decades of experience and a high level of skill.

You can no-doubt play some kind of instrument. But you'll never be a concert performed. And though you can cobble together parts to make something that makes a good sound, to build and design and PLAY the instruments properly takes decades of experience and a high level of skill.

You can no-doubt draw. But you'll never be an artist. And though you can cobble together parts to make something that looks good, to knock up a work of art takes decades of experience and a high level of skill.

We just need to separate the idea in people's heads. Using a computer is different to "being good" with a computer. which is different to "knowing" about the computer, which is different to programming the computer, which is different to designing the computer.

The deeper you go, the more skill and knowledge you need.

Working in schools:

Everyone is a computer user.
50% of kids think they are "good" on the computer.
1% can program effectively on their own.
And out of that 1%, less than 1% will ever go on to become a computer scientist - in name or job.

And I've worked in independent (private) and state schools long enough to see tens of thousands of children pass through my IT suites and be taught. The computer science stars are literally in the one-hand-of-fingers range of counting. I'd barely trust most of them to operate a computer after they left school, let alone be responsible for it.

The problem is, this means that computer-science graduates are few and far between, and those kids are unlikely to ever be taught by one at the moment.

Comment: No better press than to be banned. (Score 2) 145

by ledow (#48676211) Attached to: Crowds (and Pirates) Flock To 'The Interview'

Not saying that Sony would have been planning this exactly, but I don't see why a movie should create as much fuss or - if so - why we should care, "force" corporations to show it, etc. As far as I can tell, people are going to it to somehow "stick it to the man"? It's a crappy comedy that happens to insult a foreign leader, who got insulted. Whoopee-do.

If there was some kind of black comedy portraying, say, Obama as the worst kind of racial stereotyping, released in Korea, are we going to have a war over that too?

The modern digital war is now about hearsay, childish attacks, "what they said about me", and threatening action on the back of the worst (or zero) evidence.

I really hope you don't start WWIII because of pissing about like this.

Don't ban the movie. Don't make a fuss about it either. Let it blow over into the history of stupid things people haven't liked. When you have the PRESIDENT having to say that a corporation should show a movie, because of some political motive, it really is the beginning of the end.

User Journal

Journal: Merry Christmas! 1

Journal by mcgrew

For the first time in nine years I got to see my youngest daughter on Christmas; this is the first Christmas in nine years she didn't have to work. Great Christmas present!

And the second to last pre-publication copies came Christmas eve eve. I finished going through it this morning, and the book itself is ready. What wasn't was the cover; I fixed it and ordered another copy, so Mars, Ho! should be online in a couple of weeks.

Comment: Instant failure (Score 0) 54

by Lumpy (#48673245) Attached to: Nokia's Back In the Tablet Business, With the Android Lollipop-Based N1

Nexus tablet is better in every way, and they price this thing at Mini ipad pricing? are they nuts?

Dont buy any of this crap, Nexus7 or Samsung Pro tab 12.2 are the only two real android tablets at honest pricing.

Yes that 12.2 tablet is sexy as freaking hell and the most business usable tablet out there. it lets me view CAD files perfectly with clients.

Comment: Re:So... (Score 1) 125

by Jason Levine (#48672759) Attached to: App Gives You Free Ebooks of Your Paperbacks When You Take a "Shelfie"

In which case, the police can get a warrant to request the real name/address from BitLit. Either way, I don't see too many people writing their names in bookstore books in order to get a free eBook. Not when other piracy methods likely offer a more anonymous method of getting them.

Comment: Re:So... (Score 1) 125

by Jason Levine (#48672063) Attached to: App Gives You Free Ebooks of Your Paperbacks When You Take a "Shelfie"

To get copies of in-copyright books, you need to deface the copyright page. If you can do that in a book shop without having to buy the book, then you live somewhere with very tolerant shopkeepers

Or, if you write your name in books in the bookstore without the shopkeeper seeing, you're also essentially confessing to the crime. The police will know each and every book you "claimed."

Comment: Re: Lazy farmer (Score 4, Interesting) 110

by Rei (#48671173) Attached to: Scientists Say the Future Looks Bleak For Our Bones

But it does raise a serious issue - they're studying changes that don't necessarily reflect the selective pressures of present-day life.

Think about it: what are the leading causes of death for people in the prime breeding age (15-34)? Car accidents - by a good margin. So isn't this significant selective pressure to beef up the neck against whiplash, the skull against forehead impact, survival during significant blood loss, etc?

#2 is suicide. I don't know how this rate has changed over time or whether the methods modern humans choose for attempts are more effective than would have been chosen in the past. For example, while men commonly turn to firearms, which are a very effective way to commit suicide, women more often turn to prescription medication overdoses as a method, which overwhelmingly fails.

#3 is poisoning. While humans have always been around poisons, the sheer number that we keep in our houses, most of types that we didn't evolve to, suggests that this may be a stronger selective factor now than it was during our agrarian days, perhaps comparable to that when we were hunter-gatherers or worse.

#4 is homicide. We've definitely gotten a lot better at that, a person is far more likely to die from an intentional gunshot wound than a beating or stabbing. Selective pressures: surviving blood loss, mainly. Stronger, thicker bones may help in against low velocity penetrations.

#5 is other injuries. Again, we're not as likely to suffer from, say "crushed by a mastodon" as an injury, but we've developed plenty of new ways to get killed or maimed in our modern lives.

Then it gets more complicated on the basis that the issue isn't just about survival of the individual, but their social group as a whole, so even nonbreeding members can have a major impact...

Comment: Re:Motive (Score 1) 280

by Jason Levine (#48670947) Attached to: Did North Korea Really Attack Sony?

I wouldn't mind at all if North Korea were suddenly free and part of South Korea. Almost everyone in North Korea would be far better off. However, doing so by military force is utterly INSANE.

Even if China didn't intervene, the fact that millions of South Koreans live within artillery range of the border with North Korea means that in a shooting war with North Korea we'd probably be looking at tens to hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties just for the South alone, and probably as many or more North Korean civilians just from economic hardships and displacement - and that's leaving out the North's ballistic missles, nukes/etc. So even if the worst case scenario doesn't occur, the minimum expected result is already horrific enough that no sane person would want to pursue it.

There would also be the North Korean people to consider. Even if we somehow freed North Korea from "Dear Leader" tomorrow, the North Korean people have been fed a steady diet of pro-North Korea propaganda for their entire lives. Following their leader is all they know. If North Korea came to America to "liberate" us from our government and install a North Korea style government, they would meet with resistance. (Our government isn't popular or perfect. But it is orders of magnitude better than NK's.) Even if we magically freed the North Korean people tomorrow, they would likely resist their new-found freedom as much as possible. It might be decades before they were used to freedom.

Torque is cheap.