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Comment: Re:See nothing (Score 1) 79

As someone who got into back-yard astronomy a year or so ago, I can tell you that it's not so much the problem seeing anything as just never having looked.

I live in London. Way inside the boundaries of the M25, the motorway that circles London and distinguishes "Greater London" from the green belt which surrounds it. I have for most of my life. I live in the middle of a large town in London, it's complete suburban sprawl and the parks are the only break in it.

From my back-yard (which joins onto the back yards of 20+ other houses in a circle), I can see the planets and stars. We watched ISS traverse with the naked eye just the other night (because someone suggested it could be misconstrued as "Santa's Sleigh" to the right age of child). Nebulae are a struggle, but to image them is no more difficult than anywhere else (this is the bit where you need long exposures and motorised equipment anyway).

As a complete amateur, I can tell you that with the naked eye I can see hundreds of times more than I ever expected. I just wasn't looking. With a telescope, I can see anything I choose to see. I have imaged the larger planets with incredibly short exposures through a very cheap telescope. It's all there to see. A bigger hindrance, to me, is that the horizon is artificially raised by nearby houses, fences, etc. not that the light pollution from all those houses is destroying my enjoyment (and, trust me, I've yelled several times when a neighbours outside halogen PIR light turns on just as I got my night-vision).

I've been to Scotland, into the middle of the Highlands miles from anywhere, and seen Venus with the naked eye while driving there. The stars are "better" up there, but not magnificently so. I've been to Italy, into the middle of the North where it's all fields and no towns, and the same things happens - yes, it's slightly easier, and you can pick out the Milky Way easier, but it's not like the overlay you get on TV shows when they want to depict night-time. Unless you're in the middle of nowhere and spend hours acclimatising and have good eyesight or good equipment, it won't be. More likely to destroy your enjoyment of the stars is the weather, the cycle of what's actually up to see, spending hours aligning equipment and tracking (I don't like go-to technology as I feel it's cheating, so I do everything with push-to technology at worst, but manual hunting most of the time), and just the general difficulty of finding something interesting to look at.

I made some photos on the first few days of tying a Canon SLR to my telescope with some hodge-podge connections (one of them is actually taken through the eyepiece by holding the camera close). I consider them the worst photos I have taken, taken from London, with only manual tracking available, which is what piqued my interest - if this is the worst you can do with cheap equipment and no knowledge, what could you do after some practice and good equipment? Have a look, and you can also see my equipment:

There's a ton to see, even in the middle of a city. The light pollution - sure, I imagine it can be an issue and put a threshold on things. But, for the casual observer, it's only really an issue if you live close enough to the city to be priced out of owning a garden anyway. Hell, the local astronomy club meets in a park NEARER to central London - so far, in fact, that I can't be bothered to drive up there.

Don't believe the crap about not being able to see the night sky in an urban area. It's there. And even without any equipment, you can still see hundreds of stars, which is more than enough to start from (stars are VERY boring in any telescope that costs less than your car).

Yes, I intend to bring my equipment to Italy next time my girlfriend drags me over, but I will still need the equipment, and still have the same hassles as at home (except it'll be mountains in the way and not fences).

And, to be honest, I see amateur astronomy and interest in space technology as two entirely separate things. Very little man-made stuff is visible (the ISS is a rare exception when it's oriented the right way to shine down) at all - it's all natural up there. You can dig out a telescope at an evening dinner and everyone will be wowed by the crates on the Moon in close, sharp detail, or the brief glimpse of a planet. Nobody will care at all about anything man-made up there.

Comment: Re:Lesson goes unlearned (Score 1) 71

by ledow (#48688017) Attached to: Sony PlayStation Network Back Up Now, Supposedly

The justification is not technical.

It's social, and commercial.

If someone sends me something that I never asked for, I have to take specific measures against any and all such messages or I will be charged against my will.


The alternative is that the sending party that wants to spam me has to spend the money to do so, and their unwanted spam is nothing more than an annoyance (not a monetary cost on my part too). Which is how the rest of the world works.

Sorry, but I am not going to hold funds, or have a limited amount of minutes, which can be depleted at any time by random third parties without my authorisation.

Who pays for the lines and service in between? Who gives a shit? That's the provider's problem. We're talking about who can cost ME money (or remove some of my allowances).

Hell, you are paying for WRONG NUMBERS to ring you. It's just not sensible. And, as you point out, the technical side means there's NOTHING stopping your provider working the other way around (like the rest of the world). But they are profiteering from unwanted spam being sent to your phone, because YOU are paying for each call, not the spammer, or themselves.

Hell, in the EU, we are currently in the process of making even roaming calls be free-to-receive (and same-price-to-make) as local calls because of the artificial (and false) market involved in a German company operating in the UK charging a UK user more to make calls when they are in Germany.

Pay to receive is not a technical issue. Thus there's nothing stopping them working like every other provider in the world. Pay to receive is a con on YOU and if you don't see that, you really need to look into what they (sometimes the same company) are providing in other countries.

Comment: Re:Developing Story (Score 0) 260

by ledow (#48684649) Attached to: AirAsia Flight Goes Missing Between Indonesia and SIngapore

There are children starving in Africa.

There are still forced marriages around the globe.

There are female circumcisions taking place this isn't.

Unless you want to be a "ANY NEWS!" site, this isn't the place for those stories. It doesn't mean they aren't important, or don't matter. It means that it's not appropriate for a tech-news site unless, specifically, there is tech involved in a non-trivial way.

The tech side of this story is "a plane". That's about it.

You want the non-tech stories, go elsewhere, or tell us where a PURELY tech news site is.

Comment: Re:who cares how many children (Score 3, Informative) 260

by ledow (#48684625) Attached to: AirAsia Flight Goes Missing Between Indonesia and SIngapore

Try watching it on the news.

In Italy: "There were no Italians on board" x 5 within the space of a 2 minute news article.

In England: Even BBC News has a headline "Only one Brit onboard".

The crash isn't news if they're foreign or old. Same as everything else they portray on the news. War in the Middle East that involves no European/American countries? Barely mentioned. The US says something about a war in the Middle East? News article. The US is IN the Middle East, can't move for "news" of it, down to deaths of individual soldiers (an unprecedented coverage of a war).

TV News doesn't care about the news. They care about making you go "Oh my God!" when you see it, so you keep watching through the adverts.

Comment: Re:Escort (Score 4, Informative) 260

by ledow (#48683689) Attached to: AirAsia Flight Goes Missing Between Indonesia and SIngapore

Commercial aircraft go down anything up to 20 times a year, even in modern times. Back when you were a kid, likely 30 times a year or more.

Already we have this lot:

That's one every two weeks. One of the ones you hint at was, what, July and over an entirely different continent anyway.

Learn some statistics. You soon find that people have selection-bias on what they see in the news, what they perceive as a "close fact" (being a plane heading TO Malaysia crashing in another continent, instead of one heading from Malaysia that crashes near Malaysia... very different things), and what they want to lump together to form some kind of extraordinary circumstance.

Comment: Re:But wait,there's more (Score 3, Interesting) 141

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) 147

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.

Comment: Filters (Score 3, Insightful) 291

by ledow (#48660335) Attached to: BT, Sky, and Virgin Enforce UK Porn Blocks By Hijacking Browsers

I don't have a filter on my bookcase.
I don't have a filter on my movie collection.
I don't have a filter on my video game collection.

Why do I need one on my Internet connection?

I work in schools. Nobody's ever really given me a satisfactory answer that doesn't include pushing parental responsibility to a third party.

I'm with Virgin. They haven't asked me yet. The only time I've ever been asked such things is when I signed up to a mobile network and they asked me if I wanted to turn off the filter on the connection. Given that I work IT, the answer was yes. I want as few third parties between me and my service providers as possible, thanks. But the number of times I'll be using 4G to go looking for anything is going to be slim.

By all means ask... but it would have been so much easier to not ask and let those who worry about it fix it for themselves.

Comment: Re:How hard is it...? (Score 0) 188

by ledow (#48657081) Attached to: An Automated Cat Litter Box With DRM

The problem is that the rules of English are backwards here.

John's = it belongs to John.
it's != it belongs to "it".

Why that is, I don't know, but it's true. I assume it's to distinguish from "it is" and "belongs to it" because you don't have the same problem with "John is" being "John's".

However you look at it, it's a simple error, yes. But if the person isn't a native English speaker, it's yet-another "You just have to do this backwards, for no particular reason" rule.

Give it fifty years, and it'll all merge into the same pidgin-English and nobody will notice or care.

Though I am a bit of a grammar Nazi (waits for people to hunt mistakes in this post...), I only really care about it from others in informal posts on the Internet when it affects communication. Here, we both know what was intended by the sentence, so understanding isn't impaired. Live with it.

Comment: Re:Waste (Score 0) 170

by ledow (#48655265) Attached to: Minecraft Creator Notch's $70 Million Mansion Recreated In Minecraft

Quite how many bathrooms do you need in a house that can sleep - I assume - eight pairs of people?

I'd have stopped at four at the most, surely. Even in the biggest of Christmas toilet-mishap contagion, you're not going to have a problem finding a free bathroom with four of them.

Because of the area I work in, I know that you could start at least 35 schools with that kind of money and if you did it right, with a bit of research, they could be self-sustaining private schools offering bursaries to kids who would otherwise never get the education they deserved.

Comment: Discipline (Score 3, Insightful) 323

by ledow (#48653275) Attached to: Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

Don't think about what you want to happen when it all goes right. Think about what you want to happen when it all goes wrong.

When there's a teenager in front of you, telling you to fuck off, about to hit you, throwing shit around the room. Quite what do you think "talking" is going to do? Now, there's a limit and being just as angry isn't going to help, but all your lovey-dovey techniques will go out of the window even if you try them all).

(I used to run karate clubs for children up to 18... I have had 18 year old stand in front of me, push me, and threaten - in a room full of parents of kids. It did not require physical intervention to stop the situation, nor did it mean ignoring it and allowing it to continue).

You can (hopefully) stop things getting to that stage but there are points in a child's life when they aren't going to listen or conform to your fancy-schmancy child psychology class.

At certain ages, children are animals. We all are, all were, all will be for several million years yet. And the analogy holds when they are in a rage, or upset. They can't speak to you, they can't listen to reason, it doesn't work. Try to stop an animal from peeing on the sofa by just telling it no every time.

The ONLY way it works is if you've already got them to associate your denial with some kind of consequence. That consequence needn't be beating the shit out of them - nobody condones that on animals or children. But the consequence has to be there.

That consequence also has to be ENFORCED no matter how gentle it is. Take away the videogame. Deny them sweeties. Make them sit in the corner. Don't let them out with their schoolmates. Whatever it is, you need to enforce it. What's missing from modern parenting is consistency and enforcement.

Society does not function because everyone does what you tell them. It functions because the outliers that don't are handled in a different manner to those that do. And we have a set of consistent rules - the law - and we enforce them. (Crappy enforcement of the law in the US news aside, but even that proves my point - if the rules aren't consistently enforced, they will not work!).

We enforce them by the only way that provides the negative connotation to it - association with a negative action including "tasters" of that action for those who can't imagine the consequences for themselves. We call them "jail", "community service", "fines", etc.

Positive-only parenting works about as well as giving all law-abiders £100 a year. Bankrupts the country, scams the government to oblivion, and still doesn't get rid of crime - and any amount of crimes go unpunished and "rewarded" just because we don't know about them still. The positive-only approach is NOT ENOUGH to calm an angry teenager, in the same way that it won't appease an angry criminal to offer him £10 extra when he's mugging you. He's still going to mug you.

Set rules. Enforce the rules, at every infraction. And there has to be a negative consequence for failing to abide by the rules because otherwise - what's the fucking point of setting them? No animal on Earth will abide by a rule "just because". They will do it because of positive or negative actions associated with it. And positive associations ONLY work when everyone is calmly playing the game. See how far a doggy treat will get you in terms of compliance when your dog's just been barking at another that's bitten him (hint: he won't give a shit).

The other crime of modern parenting is conditioning children to EXPECT consequences for everything. Yelling at them for the most minor things is pointless. You're wasting a "power" a parent has on a bit of food on the floor or a stain on their jumper. Stop it. Then when you DO need it, it's there and has the desired effect - because they aren't conditioned to expect a bollocking over the most minor of things, and it shocks them when it does happen.

Also, stop the absolute bullshit of "I'm not going to tell you again" unless, quite literally, you ARE NOT GOING TO TELL THEM AGAIN.

"Don't do that. I'm not going to tell you again."
They do it.

Not a ten-minute standing argument where you try to bleed compliance out of them by boring them into submission while they're having a whale of a time disobeying.

If you decide a rule-break is not serious enough to act on or accidental you STILL point out that a negative consequence was associated with the action ("What are you doing in the kitchen, even if you were throwing your tissue away? Daddy said you weren't supposed to be in here, didn't he?") even if you decide to take no action. It shows that you haven't FORGOTTEN the rules, you're just choosing to be lenient in an extraordinary incidence.

Do it right, the child won't be perfect but it will be normal or above average.

And though it's a single data-point: My daughter gets compliments from strangers on her extraordinarily good behaviour all the time, in school, out shopping, with friends, etc. Only her parents know what she can be like behind closed doors. She is polite and kind. She is not molly-coddled, and can actually get told off for being too "clingy" like that - a cuddle is okay, but feeding off your parent's affection constantly is not a good idea.

She is also scared shitless when she knows (or thinks) she's done something wrong. And we've never had to lay a finger on her. We've had tantrums, and screaming tantrums, and toy-throwing tantrums. But you don't pay them heed except to discourage the behaviour in the strongest terms that are proportionate. A screaming tantrum in a shop? Whoops... there goes that toy you choose from the "under-£1" shelf because you were looking at the expensive toys and that's all I would allow you (even if they were immaculately behaved up until then). Tantrum continues, grasping the legs? Hands are removed from leg. Consequence laid down. Tantrum continues, picked up forcibly, taken from store, dragged round the rest of the shops, taken home. Done. You wanted to do what? Shame. Behave and it might have happened.

My daughter knew the road was a dangerous place after she first wandered near one, got grabbed firmly, yelled at, and it was made perfectly clear it was unacceptable to wander into the road. She was not long walking at the time. But she's not petrified of roads now, nor does she jump into them without looking. She will tell you they are dangerous, bow to an adult's judgement of when to cross, yet is capable of crossing on her own.

It's not "hard" - it's just not easy on the parents or the child. And yet I see family and friends make the exact same mistakes their parents did. I have sat gritting my teeth at the behaviour of a child my daughter's age sitting in front of me, wondering why the hell the parents are letting them do what they are doing. And then when it crosses a line, the child quickly realises that maybe if they want to play up doing it around me probably isn't the best idea - WHETHER OR NOT their parents have ever disciplined them. And without having to hurt them or scare them.

Children are human animals, just like any other. All human animals know when they are pushing their luck, the one guy in the room not to cross just by looking at him and the way he reacts to you, which person is going to give them everything they want with a little flirting or cuteness or whatever. All human animals have the same sense. And, instantly, I'll tell you that the positive-only parents are taken to be the pushovers. They can be lucky, they can get good kids, or they can just have enough time with them. But put them in a class of 30 and ask them to hold the fort for 30 seconds and you'll have mayhem on your hands.

We don't need to redefine "discipline". We need to teach people what it fucking means. And letting your kids push a trolley into strangers ankles, or throw a tantrum in a shop until they get the toy, or walk along the streets keying cars because you "were a bit of a scamp" yourself - that's not fucking discipline.

Neither, I'd like to point out, is child abuse. But it's still law in most places that a parent's gentle smack for disciplinary purposes is perfectly legal. There's a reason for that. There's also a reason that no teacher is allowed to strike a child in any manner. It's because we're not all perfect, and don't all have those skills, and that disciplining your own child is much easier than disciplining others, but that - at the end of the day - physical contact should not be REQUIRED if you've held the kids in expectation of behaviours that are suited and understood by the human animal.

You'll still get kids thrown out of school. You'll still get criminals being bred by bad (but possibly well-intentioned) parents. But you don't need to redefine discipline.... just use it.

Modeling paged and segmented memories is tricky business. -- P.J. Denning