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Comment: No (Score 3, Insightful) 223

by petes_PoV (#47938245) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

I can only spend maybe 10 hours a week on this

Since you already have a full life, something would have to give. The amount of time you estimate to be available would get to hobby level: the same as the other thousands of amateur astronomers in the country. But it's not enough to do any serious studying, get qualified or do research to a publishable quality.

Comment: Re:Working in Tech - or DOING Tech? (Score 1) 391

by petes_PoV (#47921369) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?
A difference between badly documented code and well documented code? Sure. The badly documented (or not documented at all) is far more likely to be buggy, fragile and inefficient. People who create software professionally take pride in their work and a big part of that is letting other people know just how good they are. They do that by explaining what the code does and by implication telling the world how experienced and smart they are.

Poorly documented stuff is written by people who think it's all "fun" and have no real clue about professionalism. They probably haven't even spent any time thinking about the structure of the problem before diving in and bashing out a couple of thousand lines of code. These people tend to be trying to prove to themselves how good they are and mistakenly associate "good" with code size or how many overly complex and inexplicable constructs they can use - in the false assumption that others will be impressed by this.

We aren't. But I've never seen an Arts or Humanities coder produce this kind of shambolic mess (mostly because I've hardly ever seen any code from non-technical programmers) and I don't believe it's something any self-respective tech. graduate would be prepared to put their name to, either.

Comment: Working in Tech - or DOING Tech? (Score 1) 391

by petes_PoV (#47919171) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?
While the two CEOs who are promoting this view both have non-technical qualifications (so: no surprise there) the article is written more as a "preaching to the choir" piece than as serious career advice.

For example: the liberal arts train students to thrive in subjectivity and ambiguity, a necessary skill in the tech world where few things are black and white I don't see that as being particularly helpful when trying to compile code - it either does or it doesn't. There is no alternative to having an executable pop out of the slot when you "win". It also avoids any notion that technical problems require technical solutions - and the only way to arrive at the best (if not "the") solution is to have a deep understanding of the technical issues and the technical advantages and flaws with each alternative. No matter how good you are at history or philosophy, you won't be helping in this arena.

So while it is quite possible for technically unqualified individuals to work at technology companies, that does not mean they will be working with (or creating) the technology the firm is based on. But it could mean that one day, they'll be your boss.

Comment: Re:And KDevelope is what exactly? (Score 5, Insightful) 47

by petes_PoV (#47903081) Attached to: KDevelop 4.7.0 Released

It's something that's general knowledge for the majority of Slashdot readers

Nope. I've never even heard of it - and having read that announcement I'm still no clearer what it is, what it does or whether I should be interested in it.

However, it's not alone. There is a huge amount of FOSS that has an entire "front" web page that tells people in exquisite detail what changes have been made, who contributed, how others can get involved and what bugs are outstanding without ever mentioning what the hell the project does, or what benefits it brings the world. This just adds one more to the tally.

It may be the best thing since sliced bread, but until these projects extract their collective heads and start addressing the billions of people outside their closed, little development communities, no-one will ever know,

Comment: Diving deeper (Score 1) 546

by petes_PoV (#47820405) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?
No. Learning to code is like learning the alphabet and some basic words.

Learning to be a programmer is being able to use a word-processor, having the rules of grammar, the 4 modes of discourse, a huge vocabulary and a storytelling ability fluently available to you.

"Coding" tells you the structure of a for loop. Being a programmer tells you when to use it and how to deal with the exceptions it could throw up. Sadly there are no job interviews I have ever encountered that are deep enough to split the one from the other.

Comment: Re:That's open source Bzzz--- that's cheap prices. (Score 1) 165

by petes_PoV (#47796767) Attached to: Update: Raspberry Pi-Compatible Development Board Cancelled

why do we advocate its use?

Why do people rave about it? Because it's cheap.

Forget all the principled arguments: free software, "for the children", pretty coloured boxes, or hackability. The only reason people buy Pis is the price. The only thing that most of them do is them load XBMC and then brag to their friends how they got a $99 media player for fifty bucks.

We're all tarts: chasing after the cheapest price and free-est stuff. Nobody really cares whether the software is FOSS, the hardware is open source or if the PCB is made out of panda skin. If it low on the $$$$'s it's top of every geek's wishlist.

Comment: Re:Why does it take so long? (Score 1, Interesting) 211

by petes_PoV (#47795455) Attached to: Battle of the Heavy Lift Rockets

So what exactly requires so many years to make it al work

It takes as long as it does, because that is the amount of time (or money: same principle applies) than is allotted to the project. Finishing sooner makes no sense as you'd just be working yourself out of a job earlier. There is also no pressing need to have such a vehicle. It's not as if there was a killer asteroid heading this way that would spell doom - and worse: upset NASA's carefully crafted timetables.

In that situation, where there was a deadline to be met (and not a vacuous political one), then yes: I daresay the prototype would be on the pad in a matter of months. With 2 or 3 more following close behind.

Comment: Re:Competition is good. (Score 2) 211

by petes_PoV (#47795419) Attached to: Battle of the Heavy Lift Rockets

Anyhow, I went off the deep end on your idea to illustrate just how silly the idea that the government is holding back progress

unfortunately when you went off the deep end, you missed the pool completely.

This was never about government consipracy. It was simply that governments have no need of improved performance or improved efficiency - when they have (as near as dammit) infinite amounts of money available to "solve" the problem with.

The commercial aircraft makers, being subject to both competition and finite resources *had* to make things better to stave off their competitors who were in the same race for betterment and profit and to meet clients' expectations of improved performance: speed, reliability, payload capacity and lowered cost. Governments do not have those drivers, hence they have no need to improve the vehicles they use.


Comment: Re:Competition is good. (Score 0) 211

by petes_PoV (#47794951) Attached to: Battle of the Heavy Lift Rockets

engines designed in the 70's&80's are still seen as state of the art

But that's government "progress" for you. Compare 60 years of spaceflight technology from 1955 to 2015 (OK, the years were cherry-picked) and it's still basically the same: LOX/Kerosene or LOX/LH2 and some engines are bigger and some are smaller.

Now look at aircraft development from (another cherry-picked 60 years): 1910 to 1970. That went from wooden biplanes to the 747. Sure, there were a few "helpful" eras in between - like 2 major wars and lots more lesser ones, which kicked development up by several notches. But those developments were still the result of commercial companies, just as NASA contracts out work, today.

Comment: Re:why submit a project without knowing the price (Score 1) 88

by petes_PoV (#47790561) Attached to: MIPS Tempts Hackers With Raspbery Pi-like Dev Board

Why would anyone want to waste time on a project for this board

You wouldn't waste time on a project for this board as the specs for it seem to be entirely generic. So your project would work just as well on many of the other SBCs out there. There don't seem to be any killer features on this product (possibly the camera) so whatever you were planning to create for a Cubie, or an Olimex or any of the others would work on this one, too. And if it didn't then just toss this variant and continue working on the more mature SBCs

Comment: Re:Binoculars (Score 1) 187

by petes_PoV (#47740795) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Get a tripod that can lift the binoculars high enough that you can stand upright while using them whether you are looking at the horizon or near the zenith

It doesn't work.

Not only would I need a tripod with a reach of over 7 feet (nearly 6 feet to my eyes, then the tripod head, then the height from the binoculars mounting screw to the tripod), but you'd be standing directly under the tripod to view upwards - and too close to the tripod's legs at lower angles. Tripods are also unstable, since if they do extend high enough, it's on a single, wind-out, pole which has no lateral support.

Finally, you get neck-ache from having your head tilted at such an angle. Which is why proper astronomical telescopes have right-angled viewing positions, so you can observe from a much lower pivot-point and with your head directed downwards which is much more comfortable.

If you absolutely *must* use binoculars for astronomical viewing, either get a sun-lounger and lie back, or get a parallelgram mount (which will cost many times the price of even a decent pair of binoculars). However, sun loungers only point you in one direction, so are inconvenient for long-term viewing, unless you have a sun-tracking model. In which case you can probably afford a decent telescope.

Comment: Mosr recommendations are misleading (Score 2) 187

by petes_PoV (#47740711) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

I'd be pleased if some of these kids decide to take up astronomy as a hobby, but don't have any strong expectation that will happen

And most won't.

Most kids (adults, too) will be curious, rather than interested, However, once they take a look through a telescope they will be disappointed. The only objects that give any sense of awe, or wonder, are views of The Moon, Jupiter, Mars (when it's close: once every 2 years), and Saturn. Everything else is just a fuzzy, faint, grey blob.

Sure, you can point a telescope at M31 (Andromeda) and tell people that it's a galaxy and that it's 2 billion light-years away. But really: who care? and who can appreciate how far a light-year is, either? Try a telescope on M13 (The Hercules cluster: either the best or second-best cluster in the night sky) and it is just a collection of points of light - quite pretty for the average newbie to look at once, but that's about it - a bit like picking up an unusual shell on a beach.

I have lots of friends and neighbours who have asked for a look through my telescopes. But none have ever asked again. They see things through my 12-inch Dob or 4 inch refractor (on a GOTO) and make all the right, appreciative, noises but that's mainly for show. Afterwards the reaction is mainly that's nice - who wants a beer? And the whole experience is chalked up "I've seen the rings of Saturn" - but that's all it is: a tick on a "bucket" list.

So I would ignore all these recommendations for this telescope or those binoculars. - they merely reflect the biases and posessions of people who are already enthusiasts. I wouldn't go buying equipment in the hope of impressing, or converting children to astronomy. It won't. They are used to bright, colour images from space telescopes of things at the very edge of creation. They will settle for nothing less and are much more used to seeing things on screens than first-hand. Who can compete with that?

Comment: Re:Binoculars (Score 3, Interesting) 187

by petes_PoV (#47740677) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?
This advice about binoculars had been obsoleted by cheap, good, chinese telescopes. (Ans pretty much every commercial telescope is chinese-made, these days)

The advice came about after WW2 when there was a good supply of army surplus gear at very attractive prices. At the same time any amateur telescope was both expensive (being essentially hand made) and with poor quality optics and even worse mechanicals. The eyepieces sucked and the mountings available were completely rubbish.

In those days, an "expensive" pair of binoculars would cost about £30 (UK currency - I don't know what that translates to in other currencies at the time). However that was roughly 2 - 3 weeks pay (before deductions) for a shop worker or junior office employee. Obviously at the the time, astronomy was a rich mans' game - and it was almost all men.

With binoculars you are paying twice for the optics (one for each eye). Unless you go for top-end gear, you have fixed eyepieces that will only give a wide field of view - and them, you have to buy additional eyepeices in pairs. You also don't get any sort of mount - and a standard photographic tripod is unsuitable as you need to have the binoculars at eye height, or higher, in order to look upwards - a configuration that tripods are not designed for since you'd be standing too close. Without a mount, small arms will soon get tired of holding them at raised heights and you can't easily "star hop" to targets when you are a complete newbie. So using them is both frustrating and tiring.

By all means buy a pair of binoculars (I have 3), but you'll also need a parallelogram mount - another 200 USD or more. You will also have to set their focus for each user, which means they will be nudged off target. Also you will only be able to see big things like The Moon. Planets will be too small to please with binoculars' low magnification and most dim astronomical targets will still be too dim to appreciate - just on the verge of vision: more "detecting" them than "observing" them - a turn off to kids used to seeing Hubble-like images.

So binoculars are a bad idea to start with. One that is handed down due to ignorance and repetition without any consideration for why the advice was once helpful. They are no longer any match for a small, cheap, telescope on a proper mount.

Comment: Re:Trolls == Necessary Evil (Score 3, Interesting) 382

by petes_PoV (#47696015) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Would You Pay For Websites Without Trolls?

In a company monitored socail media

I find it quite alarming that anyone would go anywhere near a company forum, excpet to sing the company song and add their vote to how GOOD everything was. One place I worked had one. It was shut down after 6 months as it was only HR who posted anything and the number of times that content was read was in the single figures.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.