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Comment: Re:Depends on the age. (Score 1) 162

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:Vast... Tracts of Land (Score 1) 205

by jfengel (#48942585) Attached to: New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels

I'd be interested in reading the source to see what the argument is. Off the top of my head, the Irish Potato Famine strikes me as a pretty real famine. It was certainly exacerbated by political pressures, and they were growing monocultures in the first place because of the pressure for productivity. But it was a real crop failure, and they learned to reduce their dependence on a single crop.

Certainly it could have been handled better, and far fewer people would have died. But I still think the death toll would have counted as a famine, or at best a famine barely averted by aid. I'd put it in a different category from starvation caused by war or corruption. Even the Great Chinese Famine could be chalked up to politics without too much of a stretch, but there are still crop failures due to drought and disease.

Since the agricultural revolutions of the past few centuries and especially the last few decades, we're so awash in food that aid will always be stymied by people rather than lack of calories. But I'd put the tipping close closer to 40 years than 400.

Comment: Re:More ambiguous cruft (Score 1) 479

Yeah, as I understood it, the objection is that it forces farmers to buy seeds yearly. That's fine in a first world economy, but subsistence farmers need to be able to re-seed with their own crop yield. Many of them may never see enough cash to buy seeds in the first place, but there was concern about "first crop is free!" type promotions.

I don't know how realistic the concerns were in this particular case, but the history of companies like Nestle and their milk formula scheme is enough to give pause to a lot of people.

Comment: Re:On tracking (Score 4, Insightful) 104

by mcrbids (#48942475) Attached to: Fixing Verizon's Supercookie

Your traffic is always being tracked by cookies, government spies, whatever.

Please stop with the "sky is falling" routine - it only makes the problem worse and the stakes are too high to just throw your hands up in the air and give up in blissful ignorance.

Even https exists to serve this purpose. Certificates are just another cookie.

I suspect that, at a basic level, you have a fundamental misunderstanding as to what a "certificate" is and does.

1) A cookie is an identifier that allows you to tie numerous http(s) sessions together by domain. It can thus be used to track you by having many sites contain images or content from a common domain. (EG:

2) A certificate is used to negotiate a private session with a single domain. It's provided by the server and validated by the client to set up an encrypted connection. It allows you, the user, to verify that you are connected with the correct domain and *not* a nefarious person. The use of HTTPS and certificates foils the Verizon "supercookie" as they have no meaningful way to pierce the encryption provided between you and, say,

Comment: Re:More ambiguous cruft (Score 1) 479

by jfengel (#48942065) Attached to: The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know

The terminator gene solves the gene-spreading problem, but it introduces the problem of leaving farmers permanently at the hands of Monsanto. They are forced to buy new seeds every year.

They can, of course, opt out, but then they miss out on Monsanto's improvements. So we've got a conflict of expectations not entirely unlike Slashdot's frequent outrage about EULAs that effectively mean you don't own your own software, or even hardware.

As I understand it, most farmers buy seeds anyway, because the plants don't breed true to type. But there was particular worry about poor nations, where the farmers are closer to being completely broke, and this looked suspiciously like indentured servitude.

I'm not taking a position on the argument here, just clarifying what it's about.

Comment: Re:Does It Matter? (Score 1) 267

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:Just curious who decides.. (Score 4, Informative) 88

by jratcliffe (#48940565) Attached to: US Wireless Spectrum Auction Raises $44.9 Billion

Broadly, it is general revenue to the treasury. In this case, a chunk of it was allocated ahead of time. Congress passed (and the President signed) the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012." That legislation instructed the FCC to find spectrum in this set of bands to auction off, and allocated a portion of the proceeds to (a) defray the cost of moving the existing users of the spectrum and (b) building a public safety wireless network.

So, the FCC, while it conducts the auction, does so at the request of, and on the behalf of, Congress.

Comment: Re:I wish they'd fix the missing functionality (Score 1) 145

by jafac (#48940555) Attached to: LibreOffice Gets a Streamlined Makeover With 4.4 Release

Excel has a very stubborn and evil UI bug. It's been there forever, and it appears that MS has no intention of ever fixing it, or ever giving users an option to suppress the behavior. Ever try to scroll a large document, and you'll see what I mean. It is impossible to scroll by half-cells (or >1 cell). It's very annoying, especially when you have cells which contain a paragraph or two of text, and makes it almost impossible to navigate without losing your place as you're reading a spreadsheet. The other really horrible issue is that tab-names can only be llike 15 characters. If you need a more descriptive name for tabs, well, then, fuck you.

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: It goes in waves (Score 2) 469

by Kjella (#48934839) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

For us here in Norway PSTN/ISDN was our bad time, when the one monopolist could charge pretty much everything they wanted. When we got DSL, the market was deregulated and lots of offers showed up. In the US, far more people get Internet via cable, which obviously has far more reason to protect their traditional business. As for recent fiber roll-outs it's really the power companies that got the ball rolling there, eyeing an opportunity to break into a new market by running fiber optics as well as power lines. Obviously the incumbents couldn't sit around and watch that and it became a race to lay down fiber first, since it's rarely profitable to come second. So it's a very nice three-way race to roll it out, though the prices are fairly steep.


US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One 291

Posted by timothy
from the the-privileged-few dept.
Tyketto writes Following up on a previous story about its replacement, the US Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 to replace the aging Presidential fleet of two VC-25s, which are converted B747-200s. With the only other suitable aircraft being the Airbus A380, the USAF cited Boeing's 50-year history of building presidential aircraft as their reason to skip competition and opt directly for the aircraft, which due to dwindling sales and prospects, may be the last 747s to be produced.

Comment: Re:TLDR; 2D arrays wit a ton of spares are reliabl (Score 1) 253

by Kjella (#48932391) Attached to: Proposed Disk Array With 99.999% Availablity For 4 Years, Sans Maintenance

Even if the mean time between failures for consumer drives was 6 months, the odds of 'popping' two more spares in the month after the first failure would be less than 3%. If the MTBF is 1 year the probability drops to 0.7%.

Except if you got a bad batch where some kind of material or production defect will cause many disks to fail near simultaneously. The overall MTBF might be true for all the disks they produce, but unless you make a real effort to source them from different batches over time you can't assume that's going to be your MTBF.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell