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Comment: Re:Depends on the age. (Score 1) 169

by fermion (#48945127) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do I Engage 5th-8th Graders In Computing?
There is truth to this. There is a great deal of difference between a 10 year old and a 13 year old, and way more differences within children of the same age than if you were to be dealing with late teens.

This age group is going to be deep into concrete thinking. They are going to spend most of their time challenging rules rather than working with them to develop a functional product. They want to see how rules can be broken and if the framework is still functional with broken rules. They are looking for a minimum set of constraints that will lead to maximizing the freedoms they are looking for, without additional responsibilities.

These are all useful things if channeled properly.

For instance, while I don't see robots as useful for higher grade levels, I think they are useful for the 10-14 year old. Robots can provide instant feedback that forces kids to follow rules, and allows the give and take that lets kids discover principles, like how to make a right turn. Robots can also easily be tailored for individual abilities.

What is missing in many courses is that kids learn differently for older teens and adults. The assumptions they make are different, and they are more likely to spend time 'gaming the system' to look for vagaries.

What kids don't have is the abstract ability to understand how something as abstract as a physical computer interface works. Even though it looks like a concrete representation, it is not. Just try to teach a kid to work a breadboard. Yes, you can teach them rote but are they going to understand what is really happening. My experience is not until they are in high school.

So teach cause and effect. If they are old enough teach them how to solder. Get simple robots and let them play. For older students, get Inventor and 3D printer. If a kid seems to want to program, let them make a tic tac toe web page.

What will happen is that some kids will try spend more time on the internet looking at porn than learning. That is the testing of rules thing.

Comment: Re:Does It Matter? (Score 1) 272

by fermion (#48940923) Attached to: VirtualBox Development At a Standstill
I paid for virtual machine software for the Mac to run Windows XP and 7. I did not want to reboot. I switched to virtual box not because it was free, but because I felt it was better. I have not needed to run windows for a couple years, so I do not know what the current state of development is in the market, but VirtualBox would be my initial choice if I needed a VM. One data point. For the modeling software I was using on Windows 7, Parallels made my machine run much hotter.

Comment: Re:I work in Earth-observing satellite ground syst (Score 2) 24

by fermion (#48937401) Attached to: Spire Plans To Use Tiny Satellites For More Accurate Weather Forecasts
The first question that popped into my mind was did they have a new model that would take data from 100 satellites and produce a more accurate forecast. I don't think that satellites alone are not going to create a more accurate forecast. This reminds me when I was talking to a teacher back in the 80's. He mentioned that at one point it was believed that if we could create a dense enough network of satellites and sensors, we could forecast the weather with great accuracy and for arbitrarily long periods. Theoretically, given an infinite array of sensors, the forecast would be perfect and long range. But then actual science interfered as the work of Lorentz propagated through the ranks. The sensitivity to initial conditions, and the inherent limitations of data collection, made such claims of better forecasting theoretically impossible. I have to think that the current configuration of satellites represents some compromise between cost and benefit. Not to say that more satellites will not provide a benefit. Whoever contracts with the service will be able to claim 'We have better forecasting because we have more satellites', which will help with marketing. It will help push forward the cubesat business and will test out these new technologies, which is of great benefit. And it is an experiment that might succeed in producing useful data that might be able to be put into better models.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't a sorted table have been more useful ? (Score 2) 136

by fermion (#48892859) Attached to: By the Numbers: The Highest-Paying States For Tech Professionals
This is advertisement from the parent company of /., so there is no need for any real information.

Presenting things as maps is the 21st century method of establishing credibility. It is much cheaper than actually creating an informative graphic with useful data, a la Edward Tufte.

As has been mentioned, this data is not all that useful. One still pretty much makes more money in places that are more expensive to live, but not nearly enough. For instance, in San Jose one might make 25% more than in Houston. On the other hand, the median price for a home in San Jose is 5 times the average pay listed on the site, while in Houston the median price for a home is only 1.4 times the average pay listed on the site. Doing this type of normalization is simple, but does not drive rubes to higher paying jobs that might pay higher commissions to places like Dice.

Comment: Re:Or: (Score 5, Interesting) 65

by fermion (#48892777) Attached to: Smartphones, Tablets and EBay Send SkyMall To Chapter 11
This seems to be the narrative that the parent company, Xhibit Corp,is pushing. Perhaps blaming 'the market' will help it in bankruptcy with creditors, and protect the owners from personal liability.

What is not being widely reported is that Xhibit Corp sold the customer loyalty fulfillment part of the business last year for around $20 million. This was the unit that apparently generated the vast majority of the revenue and probably all the profit. Why would a firm who expected to stay solvent sell of the unit that generated most of the revenue, a unit with guaranteed sales?

It really seems like a scam to create liquidity of the profitable assets and then screw the creditors. The fact that the business was a failing was probably known at the time of the sale. For instance, it was probably known that Southwest Air was going to stop carrying the catalog.

Comment: Re:oh good grief (Score 1) 820

by fermion (#48877357) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret
The Miata is a highly tuned engined with a highly tuned exhaust system in an attempt to create a pleasant engine noise experience.

What we are talking about here is noise for those who need others to notice them. Who buy the big truck or the loud motorcycle because they do not get enough attention at home.

This of course is different from an electric car which needs fake noise so that others are not startled.

In any case the Miata has one of the most expensive engines, and that along with the suspension contributes the majority cost to the car. There is nothing else that one buys a Miata for.

Comment: Re:We've sold the spectrum here; wouldn't be allow (Score 1) 104

by fermion (#48812241) Attached to: Where Cellular Networks Don't Exist, People Are Building Their Own
Another thing to consider it that is not as necessary. For many in developing world there is no landline, or at least affordable landline.

I remember about 20 years ago I knew many more people in South America who had cell phones that in the US. I, at that time, did not have a cell phone. OTOH, many of those in SA that had cell phones did not have land lines because the lines either did run into the mountains, or the land line was too expensive. In particular, the local service would not sell what we call residential lines, instead requiring the higher business rates.

What they did have outside the US were reletively strong repeaters, and many had then. The cell phones would work in urban areas, then fade, then work again when they were in range of the home signal booster.

Now, as in many places outside the US, the coverage is excellent and one is never very far away from a shop that will top off your data.

Comment: Re:You don't say !! (Score 4, Interesting) 324

by fermion (#48804435) Attached to: How To Hijack Your Own Windows System With Bundled Downloads
This is old news, but still of a concern because of Google. I have noticed lately that sometimes when I search for software to install on a new machine or try out for a project, one of the download services comes up as the first result instead of the actual place hosting the repositories and packages.

This reminds me when link farms were more of an issue than they are today, and when just doing a search could kill your windows machine.

Really it is the search engines that keep these people in business, and modifications of the algorithm could minimize the damage just like it did with link farms.

Comment: Re:We don't need to stinkin' badges ... (Score 1) 46

by fermion (#48794801) Attached to: Chicago E-Learning Scheme Embraces Virtual Badges For Public Schoolers
"gamerfication" is something that some educators want to try. I see no problem with this as some students will respond to this kind of motivation. I see it as worthy as grades. Long term, however, the value will be no more than grades or a high school diploma. There will be issues with validity and value. Did the kid earn the badge or was given the badge. Were the requirements for the badge the same everywhere, or were some people give lower requirements.

Comment: Re:Rewriting history to favor India/Arabs? (Score 1) 187

The reality is, for instance, that Algebra is derived from Arabic, that Algebra as we know it today was refined in the middle east, and is of particular Arabic origin. Much of the origin myths of the west have been written to exclude non-western contributions. This can be as simple as US children not being taught that the Russians were instrumental in defeating Hitler, to including stirrups on horses in B.C.E Europe even though such technology only existed in China until the 5th or 6th century C.E.

Comment: Re:Broadcast Radio? Eeew.... (Score 1) 126

by fermion (#48785027) Attached to: Radio, Not YouTube, Is Still King of Music Discovery
who is going to pay $200 a year for radio. I pay almost that much for contributions to non profit stations, but if I listen to commercial radio it is streaming from my phone, mostly non-US stations to discover movie.

In any case Sirius does not solve the basic problem, which is the payments to the artists for airplay. Streaming services are going to tend to much better than radio to target new music to listeners, and are not running ads to pay for excessive fees to allow artists to publicize their music, so while these services need to pay artists, they cannot be as much as radio. Likewise, the big publishers should be removed from the process, otherwise we are going to end up with same lame formats we have on radio.

Comment: Re:The great lie of the market. (Score 2) 34

So a diamond is essentially worthless, but good upselling makes it worth a lot. This values pays for the processing and marketing of the stone. In the US, for instance, 50 years of brainwashing has made couples forgo homes and food to buy a rock. In the case of the apparently paid link, they are a delivery service. The problem is that it is hard to create enough value for delivery. Overhead, profits, and minimum wage means that someone is not going to pay a large delivery fee, the value is not going to create a viable business. Of course you could do what Uber and Lyft does, which is essentially externalize all real costs to contractors, but even in that case profit is apparently not possible without surge pricing which tricks customers into paying multiples of the expected price.

Comment: Re:Not all bad, some middling to good-ish reviews (Score 1) 351

by fermion (#48664067) Attached to: Ars: Final Hobbit Movie Is 'Soulless End' To 'Flawed' Trilogy
My take on it is that there are higher expectations for movies, not just in terms of the production values but in terms of the actors. This was the sixth middle earth movie, and everyone is showing a bit of fatigue. The cameras angles, thankfully sparingly used, to make hobbits seem small are getting increasingly passe. There were few landscapes which though also getting a bit old were at least entertaining. The actual battle could have used a some lesson from TV on how to shoot on a budget.

In fact the entire movie reminded me of an elevator episode from a TV series. These episodes are made when on has blown one's budget for the season, but still need to get 24 in the can. So you have everyone stuck on an elevator, or locked in a room, or the like, and have some dramatic events happening. Of course it is hard to carry an entire movie on this premise, but when one has promised a mini series, one has to deliver.

Comment: Yes, idiocy (Score 1) 580

by fermion (#48625779) Attached to: Reaction To the Sony Hack Is 'Beyond the Realm of Stupid'
We are not talking about the risk of an attack on the level of 9/11. We are talking about a risk of an attack like Newtown, or Littleton, or the Holocaust Museum, or the Knoxville church, or, to be apropos, Aurora.

We are talking a movie that has a lot of hype, but may not last past the first weekend. A lot of people were planning on seeing it, but are people going to make a statement and risk some lone gun nut coming in and killing several people

Is it commercially responsible to pay for the distribution of a film when people may be afraid of the consequences of seeing it? Might it be more commercially responsible to release it when the heat dies down. Are parents going to allow their kids to see this movie know a lone gun nut might kill them?

Again, we really don't know what is going on here. Team America already killed this guy in the movies, and made fun of him in the most racist of ways(I so ronery). But this is just a movie. It's purpose is to generate revenue for sony. It is not an 'film' so it's sole purpose is to generate revenue for Sony. It has some hype, but it also has some risk. Again, not of movie theaters being bombed, but of someone, who does not necessarily have and national backing, coming in with tactical shotguns and 100 round rifles and killing several people. This is not that hard to imagine as it happens with some regularity.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke