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Comment: Re:Administrators (Score 4, Insightful) 538

by jrminter (#47290683) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job
There is a clear reason for the rise in tuition: The availability of "easy credit" for student loans.

In the Dark Ages when I was an undergrad, we lived in dorms with painted cinder block walls, spartan furniture, and a bathroom per hallway. We had a minimal gym facility but reasonable equipment in the labs. With some help from my parents and working had during summers and breaks, I graduated with only $750 in loans.

Now you have luxury dorms and sports complexes. Sadly, the cost increases for these facilities and the explosion of administrators made it practically impossible to pay for one's education at a top tier state school by working hard during the summers and breaks and some help from ones parents.

Let's not mention the Lake Wobegone mentality that all the children are above average. Colleges love remedial courses - they get paid and the students stay longer. But that changes the economics. Attending college is a business decision and if the graduate can't repay the debt in a few years, the ROI wasn't there.

Comment: Re:Massive conspiracy (Score 1) 465

by jrminter (#47261469) Attached to: IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation
Depends upon whether six months of backup meets the requirements of the records retention statute. If not, at a minimum all management who signed off on the policy should be fired. I could also see a statute setting different retention periods for different levels of employees. I could see a shorter period for lower level employees, but senior employees such as Lerner should have records that cover a much longer period, such as the statute of limitation for the consequences of criminal action in their position.

Comment: Re:Couldn't disagree more! (Score 2) 115

by jrminter (#45453237) Attached to: How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

I, too, have taken three Coursera classes for credit and done all the work. All three were well worth the effort. One was a teaser program for an expensive masters sponsored by the University. That was clear and did not diminish the value. Another was the first offering and was experimenting with peer grading. There were many problems with peer grading, but that did not diminish the value. I respect all three of the instructors and benefited greatly from the work and interaction.

One must have reasonable expectations of MOOCs. Much of the data mining is actually designed to benefit students. Andrew Ng and Daphne Kohler have written about how valuable the large sample size is for detecting conceptual misunderstanding from wong quiz answers to give appropriate automatic feedback. Two of my classes had over 10,000 participants. Compare that to the typical size of less than 200 at most universities. Seems to me that both faculty and students benefit from such research - faculty from publications and name recognition and students from better instruction.

Comment: Re:because desktop linux is a toy and novelty (Score 5, Insightful) 1215

by jrminter (#43949731) Attached to: What Keeps You On (or Off) Windows in 2013?

It is a bit more complicated. I work in the analytical division of well-recognized company. Most of our vendors design instrumentation to work with Windows. There are rarely drivers for other OS choices. Most is also designed with an over-emphasis on graphical user interfaces, the bane of reproducible research.

I see way too much abuse of spreadsheets. According to Baggerly and Coombes, part of the problems in the Duke scandal were caused by off-by one index errors with Excel. Similar spreadheet blunders arose in the recent Reinhart-Rogoff problem.

I hate Excel. It is hard to do simple things efficiently. Try and do a scatterplot with multiple series. How many keystrokes will it take? Once you get your analysis done and your report written with Word, how difficult is it to fix if the client wants to add one more sample? Then consider the changes in VBA. We have 3rd party code that are locked and won't even open on current versions of Excel.

Over the last few years, I migrated all of my back-end data processing to R/Sweave/LaTeX. For some projects I use markdown instead of LaTeX. Everything is scriptable, plays well with version control (code is mainly text files), and runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows. I use (and contribute) to Open Source whenever feasible. Solving problems is easier and I find community support better than most vendor support.

If I could get my hardware to play nice with Linux, I'd switch in a heartbeat. There is only one application I would miss - the debugger in Visual Studio. RStudio is pretty good at what it was designed for, but that does not include debugging the C++ code that needs to be written to speed up some computationally intensive parts...

Comment: Re:Just be a real scientist... (Score 1) 87

by jrminter (#43399631) Attached to: Mendeley Acquired By Elsevier
I use JabRef and am quite satisfied. I also prefer LaTeX to Word etc and with Sweave can include chunks of R code to produce figures. RStudio is a decent IDE for all of this and

Sweave/LaTeX/BibTeX files are all text files and work efficiently with git for version control. Having everything under version control has saved my bacon more than once. An added benefit of git is that it is easy to keep work synched across multiple computers with different operating systems.

I find support from these Open Source communities better than commercial support (as long as one follows Eric Raymond's advice on "How to ask questions the smart way."

Comment: Re:Call Quality (Score 4, Informative) 445

by jrminter (#42202371) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk?
You are spot on. I work in a basement lab (electron microscopy) constructed with Hauserman partition walls (metal over drywall type core). These act like a Faraday Cage and cause cellular reception to be awful. To make matters worse, my management - trying to cut cost - decided that everybody had personal electronic devices these days and eliminated voice mail on our desk phone. What a mess. I have a hard time reading Dilbert these days -- it is too close to my reality...

Comment: Weren't the forensic accontants bonded? (Score 3, Interesting) 237

by jrminter (#42045815) Attached to: Meg Whitman Says HP Was Defrauded By Autonomy; HP Stock Plunges
The statement that caused me most concern was, "'We stand by the forensic review that we've seen." Excuse me? Somebody didn't look closely enough. Wouldn't a deal this big require a bond? Were I an HP shareholder, that statement would start my petitions to the BOD that Meg should go. Were I an HP shareholder, I would expect at least a statement like: "We have commissioned an independent review to insure that our forensic accountants used due diligence. HP will actively support the authorities with appropriate jurisdiction in the prosecution any fraud." Hindsight is always 20:20, but the shareholders deserve a specific analysis of what went wrong and assurance that the company will support prosecution of fraud.

Comment: Re:Hardly newsworthy (Score 4, Informative) 780

by jrminter (#41014467) Attached to: Linux Is a Lemon On the Retina MacBook Pro
It is one thing to have an older MacBook and think about moving to a Linux distro when the current OS no longer supports your hardware, but unless you are a hobbyist who get pleasure from tinkering and wants to see "if I can...", it seems like a waste of time and money. Note that I am writing this on a 2009 MacBook Pro with Mountain Lion but I also use Linux for many aspects of my work. If I wanted a Linux laptop to just "get my work done," I would look carefully at one of these: http://zareason.com/shop/Laptops/ The key is to let your supplier work out the hardware details. That is part of why one buys from a given supplier. We are all free to tinker to our hearts content, but if our objective is to use the system to do something useful, it is typically more productive to get something that works on the OS of choice. This is hardly a new concept...

Comment: Fallacy of the excluded middle (Score 2) 575

by jrminter (#40757495) Attached to: Khan Academy: the Teachers Strike Back

As a couple of others have noted, there is no reason to posit a false dichotomy - that one must use either Kahn Academy (or similar) or a "live" teacher. Short lessons like Kahn does are useful to review concepts/unit operations where a student is rusty. My wife teaches physics, statistics, and calculus at a small high school and is an adjunct at a local community college, teaching the CC classes in the high school. The best bang for the buck for college credits around. Anyway, her biggest complaint is that too many of her students have been coddled in lower level classes and have either never mastered the pre-requisites or simply not retained them. Kahn's videos are one of many helpful resources for such students. The goal is to transform students into self-directed, life-long learners. This is really the only path to success, because the half-life to obsolescence of any technical course of study is so short.

Prof. Jean-Claude Bradly at Drexel discovered that students actually preferred pod/vodcasts of lectures (they could pause and watch on their schedule) and it freed up class time to work problems and answer questions. I see Kahn Academy videos in this same light. Are they perfect? No. can they be improved? Yes. Will polite, constructive criticism be better received than snarky comments? Absolutely! In this regard, the cliche "everything i needed to know, i learned in kindergarten" has some merit - things are a lot better when everybody is polite and plays nice in the sandbox.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission

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