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Comment: or credibility of the government (Score 1) 74

by fermion (#47580703) Attached to: The CIA Does Las Vegas
In 1950 Joe McCarthy claimed to have a list of communists in government and started a process that destroyed the lives of common US citizens without due process or ability to appeal. In the mid 1960's most young people were against the government because they were being forced to serve their country in the military, which generated a great deal of anti-government sentiment because they did not want to. If we look what is happening today, most of the government overreach does not effect such average of high profile private citizens. For the most part this overreach is seen as only targeting foreigners or terrorists. Susan Sarandon is not being hauled in front of congress and being prevented from working because of what she says. In effect, the government has gotten much more sophisticated at managing the perception of the public. Of course not everyone is governement is so sophisticated. Some are still playing 'there are 400 communists in the Obama white house' card or claiming so other such nonsense and trying to use it to limit rights. But for the most part, the days of stupid seem to be at a lull.

Comment: Re:No surprises here (Score 1) 119

by fermion (#47540093) Attached to: AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%
The college board is desperate for relevancy. Since 1994 the SAT has changed several times after 50 years of stability to make it more attractive to increasingly critical urban population and schools. It was no longer good enough to see which students matched the standards of east coast prep schools, students had to be characterized based on a more diverse standard. It may have been wrong, but there was simply not enough money to be made catering to the east coast universities looking to rank the east coast preparatory graduates. They are now trying to get funding through the AP exams. The thing you have to know is there are many federal grants that will fund low income students who want to take the AP Exam, money that goes directly to the that the College Board. So, unlike the 20th century when only the best of the best took the AP Exam. There is not enough money in it. There are not people profiting at all levels on students taking the AP exam. Universities, often private, often the best in the area, are training teachers to teach AP classes, mostly paid by federal grants or local tax dollars, a single class generating $10-20 thousand dollars for the university and college board, and there are often dozens of classes offered over the summer. There is the cost of AP books published by the CB as well as past tests which are not free. The College Board is also free to punish or reward districts with awards and direct monetary compensation to various leaders, and these punishments come down to the school level. There are cases where district leaders have reprimanded people at the school level when the leaders did not get their expected rewards. I am not judging what is going on right now. All I am saying is that AP classes are no longer used to filter the best students from the best classes. AP classes are now a way to introduce college level material to interested students. Students who do not want to be in these classes are generally not. Instead of filtering by ability, the filter is a desire to learn. This, of course, means that many students are not able to do the work and get frustrated. Most are not going to do well on the test. But if the class is well taught, these kids will be more ready for college, I would say even more so than a dual credit class. The added benefit is that there is little grade inflation on the test. Students are allowed to fail, then given some information to reflect on that failure. As anyone who has been to college knows this is a critical skill. With the need for every student to graduate, even if they have never attended a class, the AP exam is one of the only way to provide that feedback to college bound students. It is unfortunate, but too many 18 year old adults still think that running home crying to mammy and daddy is a reasonable way to pass a class. The AP test does not finely rank students like so many other test do, and rewards students for their ability to find the questions they know best, and completely those to get enough points to meet their desired goal.

Comment: Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (Score 2) 77

by fermion (#47536175) Attached to: Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill
Right now you best deal on a contract phone is buy a new phone when the contract runs out. Otherwise you are paying the fees for a phone that is already paid for. If you sign a new contract, and get a new phone, the amount of money you pay is constant. There is no wasted money. If she was paying for a plan that was out of contract that was a waste of money. Paying $100 is wasted if she was out of contract. Paying $100 in contract would not necessarily be a waste, but it is likely a wash. The value of an iPhone 5S is about $650. If you buy the phone and use something like Cricket it will be $2000 over two years, but there is no lockin. If you get the subsidized phone, and use something like verizon, you are paying a few hundred dollars more over the two year period, with lockin. Most people aren't set up to lay down a few hundred dollars for a phone at time of purchase. Getting a phone for free and paying for a couple years makes more sense. The lockin comes from this extended payment. My fear is that this current climate is leading to higher prices. On verizon, if you use their early upgrade plan you pay about $150 extra over the two years, in addition to the $300 premium.

Comment: Re:Price of using scientists as political pawns (Score 5, Insightful) 298

I don't think any serious person thinks that Galileo woke up one morning and said lets do politics. No, he was at church, the story goes, say the chandeliers swinging, and ended up being persecuted by the politicians of the time.

Most scientists don't take political positions. They make observations, and when a consensus is reached, they sometimes take actions. For instance, when it became pretty clear that lead was dangerous, there was a movement to remove it from gasoline. This became political because some interests were only interested in quarterly profits, not long term costs to taxpayers. Fortunately the taxpayers won. For instance, there is really good science linking the buildup in the environment of lead to the increase in crime, and the decrease in crime of the past decade or so to the decrease in lead. It is not just correlation, cut actual causation.

Now, as far as NPR is concerned, compared to Fox News of course it looks biased. NPR is not going to invite John McCain on the air to talk about when he was a kid you could kill black people, and know he has to deal with a black man, as he has been saying this past week. But the thing about NPR is it probably does a better job of using the public air waves than other.

Here is the rub. Fox News can say and do whatever it wants because it does not use free public resources. This is the key. Free public resources, not funding by the government. The government funds lots of things, and that does not necessarily absolutely limit speech. For instance, many churches take money for schools, which frees up money that they then use to do stuff like encourage people to attack people going about their day to day business. For instance, one church in my area bought cameras so they could photograph people going into a gay club. But radio stations were given public bandwidth and were supposed to use it responsible ways. I think NPR is responsible and balanced compared to some of what I hear on the AM stations. AM stations are using free resources. We could take it back and make a great deal of money leasing it to other agents. We don't. They agree to use it, and should be more responsible.

Comment: Re:SCSI madness (Score 1) 192

by fermion (#47498189) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000
I never had a problem with SCSI. As a matter of fact, it was as plug and play as you could get a the time. For instance, the IOmega tape drives came in SCSI and parallel. Installing the parallel PC option was very difficult, even following instructions. On a Macintosh with SCSI, it was plug and play. The biggest issue I saw was just getting it plugged in and either using a setting a terminator. In other words, following instructions.

Comment: DUH (Score 2) 82

by fermion (#47496351) Attached to: High School Students Not Waiting For Schools To Go Online
Any student that is disciplined, self motivated, and has learned how to learn, will be more able to learn in a an independent fashion that students who do not have these skills. In a traditional education one went to school where one listened to a professor lecture or read books on the subject. The actual pedagogy, after the teen age years, was minimal, and often involved simple discipline, not teaching of the skills one needed to learn more independently in later life. As long as we could live with the vast majority population engaged in semi-skilled labor, this was fine. However, now we really have more a need for skilled labor. This requires more people to have than a high school education. So we need an advanced pedagogy to help people reach the potential where they can learn more.

All these computer classes are great for the natural learner, the 20% or so of students who have that ability. But these are the same students who have been graduating high school for year, who can go to the public library and learn everything that they would if they got an MBA(one of good friends did this), who, like reported in the NYT today, did not complete school but invented Scotch Tape.

While we need to make sure not to apply negative pressure to these kids, which means to let them take the online courses, give them independent study, allow to explore, we also cannot use this an excuse to stop the more expensive education of the kids who really need to be taught. The correlation between online courses and independent skills(Or as it says, habits of the mind) in no way indicates that online courses teach independent skills. Sure, you could put a kid a computer and give him an F if she does not complete statistics, but is that teaching? Some would say yes. I would say we are accepting that most of kids will be semi-skilled laborers without the jobs to insure a high rate of employment, which means more welfare checks.

Comment: Re:Really miss the 68k (Score 1) 236

by fermion (#47475299) Attached to: Nearly 25 Years Ago, IBM Helped Save Macintosh
When Mac came out things like graphics coprocessors were pretty rare. One problem with the MS Windows product was that there was no cheap way to incorporate the kind of graphics heavy capabilities of the Mac. The 68K was the way to go. It was a more elegant solution and there was really no comparable product for the price. Look at the price of an x-window system circa 1990. But the x86 did become better at graphics, and by the mid 1990s there were tolerable products that could be purchased for about the price. It was still a kludge, and would remain a kludge until NT was integrated with mainline MS Windows. And this was what lead to the PowerPC. It was a partnership with IBM, which was struggling to rebuild itself as services company, but wanted to remain relevant in the hardware business. It provided a platform that was superior to anything that Intel or related companies had to offer. No one saved anyone else. What I find annoying is that the current partnership is seen as groundbreaking or innovative. The people who are saying this are conflating user facing propaganda with internal realities. Apple and IBM are both system building. They are competators, but traditionally in different market segment. Apple is consumer/creative, IBM is corporate. Both compete with MS which only provides components, not solutions, but controls the market by controlling the key component, the OS. IBM has worked with Apple before, the present example being the PowerPC. But IBM is not in hardware anymore, at least not at the PC level. It provides integrated solutions. Apple can provide the hardware that is easy to integrate into a vertical solution, which is what IBM does. IBM wins because it can charge a lot for these services. Apple wins because it can sell a lot of iPads.

Comment: Re:Subscription Everything (Score 1) 87

by fermion (#47468055) Attached to: Amazon Is Testing a $10-Per-Month Ebook Service
or convenience fee. Here is the problem with e-books and libraries. They are just like physical books. There is only one or two 'copies' to check out. For a physical library this was a real constraint, as the library could only house so many books. For e-books it is a fake constraint. Libraries should have access to as many copies of a book once they pay a basic fee to access the book, then simply pay a per use fee when the book is checked out. Maybe $5 for acess and a 50 cents for use. It costs the library more than 50 cents to process a book when checked out and returned. i think the reason this is not done is it would kill the book market. Even people like myself who spend my youth collecting a massive library are not buying new physical books as much. I don't even buy e-books that much because the authors are not getting as big a cut. But this, if it is structured correctly, could be the solution to e-books. We know ebooks are not as valuable to us because they can be recalled, they can be gone if the machine is discontinued, a whole bunch of issues that don't exist with physical books. The DRM makes e-books much less valuable. So if one bought an e-book reader, or just downloaded the software, then paid a fee to read books, that makes more sense than buying a book that for all intents and purposes is just being leased. It would especially be good if the authors get a better cut.

Comment: Re:Jobs aren't future proof, skills are (Score 1) 509

by fermion (#47462791) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs?
In particular the law profession is no longer the guaranteed jump to the upper middle class it used to be. Large firms are cutting costs, outsourcing, and computer are taking over.

I learned to use a computer in middle school based on a teletype. My first real job was using MS Excel on a Mac. If I had been taught how to use a program, I would have been screwed. But I was taught a how to think how computers work, the skill of programming and use a computer, not just an application. I had to transfer my skills of using a t-square and triangle to using a 2d based schematic program to a 3D based rendering program. I can thank my teachers in high school for focusing on best practices instead of rote mechanics.

I firmly believe that if a kid goes to college, they should go to college for something they love. If they learn how to think and how problem solve, they be more likely to complete a degree with something they love, and if they are smart enough to work as they move through college, they will gain skills that will get them employment. If they go don't go to college, then get work that will teach you something. The entry level job should not only be about pay, it should be about learning.

There is no way to know what the world is going to look like in 30 years when today's teens are stuggling to complete that last 15 years of work before retirement, when all the kids who are born in 10 years are going to sniping at her back to take her job away because they are more up to date. Look how few parents were buying their kids computer in 1984. I wonder how many wish they had.

Comment: not a valid study (Score 1) 710

by fermion (#47454071) Attached to: People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use
Electricity use is largely driven by the stuff you have. The more stuff, the more electricity that is used. In the US one might use a lot of electricity, but maybe you buy your electricity from a company that has lower CO2 emmissions. Sure, the electricity one uses might come from coal, but you are creating demand for cleaner sources, and in the long term helping to control the situation. Conservation is part of the issue, but if you buying energy star equipment, for instance, and buy clean electricity, and still using more, then one can't say that you are not really concerned about global warming.

In any case there are probably more significant way that a person contributes to the carbon problem. Cars are a good example. Petrol is mostly carbon, and no matter how clean we make the exaust, and it is clean, there is still carbon that has to be expelled as CO and CO2. Asking someone how much petrol they consume a year is therefore a much better indicator, although in the UK the car ownership and use is probably not as great as in the US.

Then there is food. A kilowatt hour of electricity is like a kg of CO2, burning a gallon of gas is like 8kg, and eating a pound of beef is like 50 kg. Eating chicken, according to the OECD, cuts that in a quarter. So someone who uses too much electricity but each chicken instead of beef, or even tofu with cuts in a quarter again, is probably doing more good that some who has beef every day but is very frugal on the electricity.

Comment: Re:SciFri / Staples (Score 1) 127

I don't see home depot as servicing the target market for these products. On a story I heard this morning, it seems like people think they can go home and print gaskets or a screw. Maybe, if you can find the file online or have a caliper a a disign progam you can, but why would you spend the money? I suppose you could print a custom handle for a door or a faucet, if you wanted a plastic handle, but people pay good money for metal parts. I suppose you could coat it in metal, and it would be as good as the low end products.

I think that 3D printers have a market and will get to the point where they will be Sold in Stores My concern with Home Depot is their ability to market them positively. Sure, $4K is low enough that many people will but it and take it home and try to use it. But if Home Depot is trying to push 3D printers to just anyone, many of them are going to get returned because they can't print washers. And the reviews are going to be bad, and 3D printing technology is going to be pushed back 5 years.

Comment: Re: Idiots (Score 1) 147

The US taxpayer gave away airwaves to broadcasters in exchange from free service. The broadcaster can recoup costs and make a profit through advertising. Cable companies pay because they collect all signals and transmit to everyone. Aero rents an antenna and a DVD and records specific shows. I think the SCOTUS only looked at present revenue, no the long term impact of limiting broadcaster viability in the age of the internet. I have the right to place an antenna anywhere and receive a personal signal or recording of the signal. If the broadcasters are not going to honor the original mandate, they should give our airwaves back.

On a related note, broadcaster have been increasingly ignoring the public service mandate, and our government has been complicit in this. Aero is just another example of the giveaway of public resources to the privileged few.

Comment: Re:speed is not really what they're lacking (Score 1) 203

but to a kid speed is all that matters. It is fast, are the explosions cool. The thing with a 3D printer is that the layers have to be laid accurately. I suspect any 3d printer can go fast if you leave accuracy. The same is true with inkjet, where my old $500 epson is not as fast as a $50 cannon, but it renders images better.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin