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Comment Bad article is bad, should feel bad (Score 1) 455

In the tradition of shitty "journalism" at the Verge the author is trying to convince others of something so they can be hailed as a technical prophet.

Microsoft has enough money that they can pour it into Windows Phone for a very long time and not bat an eye. The Windows Phone platform will only die if Microsoft loses interest, not because of poor market performance.

That being said this article is full of weapons grade stupid. It claims that last quarter 400m smartphones were sold yet only 1.1% were Windows Phone devices. That's a small percentage but works out to 4.4m phones. If the ASP (average sale price) is $200 that's almost a billion dollars in revenue for the quarter. While that's nothing compared to Apple's iPhone revenues it's not anywhere close to zero or any number less than zero.

Yet again someone trots out a "market share" number as if it is a meaningful comparison of anything. As has always been the case market share percentages don't need to be large in order for a company to be making money. Apple's "market share" of the overall PC market is likewise small compared to all PC manufacturers yet they make an enviable amount of money off Macs. They make a ridiculous amount of money off the iPhone despite Android "winning" with market share percentage.

You can compare revenue, profit on that revenue, and unit sales. Share percentages are virtually useless when trying to gauge the health of a competitor in a market. They're used by "journalists" that don't want to bother with math or real analysis.

Comment Re:Misses the point (Score 1) 214

Just like Math, the point is to get students to understand Logic and Reasoning skills.

No. Full stop. Programming does not teach logic and reasoning. It might use those skills but it certainly does not teach them. Nor does it teach mathematics, critical thinking, grammar, or anything else everyone seems to profess.

If you want children to learn reasoning, logic, and critical thinking they need to be taught those things specifically. People with a predilection for those things will find programming intuitive and those without will just be frustrated.

Programming also does not teach children about how computers work or about the theory of computing. It doesn't help them use computers in their daily lives nor will it help them much in the future.

This whole idea is just a modernization of "computers will make kids smarter" meme from the 90s. Schools unloaded millions stuffing computers in the back of classroom. Statistics were quoted saying students with computers did better in school. What was lost on people was students that did well in school had socio-economic situations and home environments that allowed or encouraged them to well in school. Having a computer was simply a hallmark of higher socio-economic status.

Today it's statistics claiming programmers make more money than other professions. The mean salary for programmers is not much better than other white collar professions. The outliers in places like the SF Bay Area skew the numbers significantly. The average programmer is not working at Facebook or Google, they are working at Initech.

Comment Re:It won't, and note microsoft is always involved (Score 1) 317

What's your point? I've replaced Word documents with Python + LaTeX. Excel can be automated, Engineers have had automated Excel for the last decade.

Bully on you for replacing Word with LaTeX, most people in most jobs are simply not going to be able to do that. They're going to need to stick Word documents in a CMS or on a file server for other people to use. Unless the whole organization moves over to LaTeX/Markdown/asciidoc or whatever easily-parsed-by-Python plain text you're out of luck. Your job is not representative of any significant fractions of jobs.

VBA is locked in and dying. AutoHotKey is mono-OS. Jupyter Notebooks are platform agnostic and can be centrally run. (Requiring no setup for the users part).

VBA is locked the world's largest desktop computing platform. AutoHotKey (and many other applications of its kind) are "mono-OS"...running on the world's largest desktop computing platform. Jupyter notebooks are well and good providing the shit you're doing can live in a Jupyter notebook. For a vast majority of the world with a Word window open that is simply not the case.

If we want to shoehorn computer classes into already packed curricula we should focus on basic computing concepts rather than trying to teach everyone to write programs. Whether kids learn to use Office, Google docs, or Markdown having them learn the basics of using a computer is far more important to their future productivity than some Python scripts.

Yeah, that knowledge they pick up in college. I knew how to script and write simple TI-89 programs before college. I didn't have a use for them until I learned mechanical engineering. I went to college to pick up that "significant amount of extra knowledge".

So your argument is school kids should all be thrown into programming classes so they can "automate their jobs" but then they need a full college education to be able to understand enough to be able to automate their jobs?

I've encountered a terrifying number of people coming out of college CS programs with no abilities to actually sit down and write programs. You're expecting non-CS graduates to be able to program well enough to "automate their jobs"?

I'd much rather see schools spend money helping kids become numerate and literate. They'll be much better equipped for the future if they can communicate and understand numbers than if they took a few semesters of Python.

Comment Re:It won't, and note microsoft is always involved (Score 1) 317

Knowing how to program allows you to automate your job. Programming is the new 'keyboarding'. You're looking it like CS is the 'job'. The 'job' is something else that needs to be automated.

Every time this subject comes up I see this tired idea reiterated (always with an anecdote attached). The problem is that it is complete bullshit. It's bullshit because everyone ends up using different definitions of "programming" or "Computer science" to fit their preconceived ideas.

Say a high school gives kids a year of Python programming. Python is easy to learn and relatively forgiving. A few years later those kids get jobs. Oh man, they can automate their work with their Python skills! Except their job involves using Word, Excel, and some bespoke LOB applications.

It's technically possible for them to do some automation using Python but requires a significant amount of extra knowledge on top of knowing Python itself. Very few jobs have a bunch of easily digested ASCII data that is easily manipulated by the novice Python programmer.

If you want people to automate their jobs teach them VBA and introduce them to AutoHotKey. They'll be able to do far more automation with those than Python in a majority of jobs. Help them understand templates in Word and they can turn their piss poor grammar into something that at least looks consistent. Shit even just teaching them how to do better Google searches would help them more in the long run than a programming class.

The disconnect is that using a computer (the programs on it) is very different from programming one. The skills of programming do not necessarily correspond to basic computer usage. Nor does programming actually teach people formal logic or necessarily improve their skills at reasoning. These in fact are precursor skills to programming.

Comment Re:why is critical infrastructure on the internet? (Score 1) 62

While not universally true, there's a good deal of critical infrastructure that is airgapped and "secure". What can happen is these systems end up compromised when an engineer plugs a previously invected laptop or flash drive into that secure network/system. The payload can then either infect those airgapped systems or exfiltrate data (onto the infected laptop/drive) in order to exfiltrate it to the internet once its on a connected system.

This is the sort of hacking that is done by APTs, i.e. full blown cyber espionage. The infection can occur through highly targeted exploitation (spear phishing, etc).

While air-gapping a critical system is easy in theory in practice it is much more difficult to truly do so. Air gaps aren't just an absence of a physical connection to the outside world but also lacking a logical connection to the outside world. That process gets much more difficult and expensive because the operator needs to build a fully isolated environment for the critical system themselves as well as any sort of management and monitoring systems.

Comment Re:Microsoft could TAKE OVER the smartphone market (Score 1) 154

If Microsoft wants to take over the smartphone market, they first have to make a dent in the hearts of the non-business market.

Microsoft doesn't need to take over the smartphone market, they just need not become irrelevant. Smartphones, tablets, and phablets are becoming serious contenders in roles where laptops used to reign unchallenged. If Microsoft doesn't at least have a meaningful presence in that space they lose a generation of users.

Targeting the non-business markets is a losing proposition for Microsoft. Apple could take that path because they were able to leverage their significant position in the PMP space. Consumers could replace their RAZR and iPod nano with an iPhone. It wasn't until BYOD policies allowed iPhones that they really got business friendly features.

Microsoft isn't in that sort of position. They've lost the hearts of the non-business market. It's expensive to chase the high end consumer market. Apple makes most of the money and a handful of others move a lot of units. Microsoft faces a losing battle competing there.

Competing in the business market they could have strong offerings where the competition is weak. With AD and Exchange/Outlook functionality they could plug right into existing infrastructure with no impedance mismatch. The Lumia line isn't good competition in the consumer space but could look good to businesses.

Comment Re:Anyone else think she could be a plant? (Score 4, Informative) 210

Microsoft is selling more tablets than Apple

No. A single report had them outselling Apple in tablets online. The report didn't bother to list sources but they definitely didn't include online sales figures from either Apple or Amazon. Apple and Amazon are easily the two largest online iPad retailers so without their figures that report is absolutely meaningless. It also doesn't count the thousands of brick and motar locations selling iPads.

making more money than Amazon in the cloud business

This is not a very meaningful statement. Microsoft offers a lot of managed Windows Server services on Azure and charges a pretty penny for them. Azure is where businesses go to outsource their Active Directory needs. Money is just shifting from Windows Server CALs to Azure.

Comment Re:Cut the fat. (Score 1) 397

We should get rid of history classes while we're at it... how many kids become historians?

You're stumbling into enlightenment without quite knowing it. The history curriculum in schools is not pushed by politicians or exploitive corporations as some sort of training for a career as a historian. There's no false claims of "shortages" of historians.

There's a ridiculous idea that by forcing everyone to "learn programming" (which means different things to different people) they will somehow gain proficiency with computers. A carpenter doesn't need to know how to forge steel in order to properly use a hammer. Teaching them to force steel or to be a blacksmith isn't likely to make them a more effective carpenter.

If you want make someone proficient with computers it's ok to just teach them that. For people that have an interest in becoming programmers a base level of computer proficiency is more important than non-programmers having extremely novice programming abilities.


More Than Half of Kepler's Giant Exoplanets Were False Positives 88

StartsWithABang writes: By surveying an area of the sky containing over 150,000 stars visible to it, the Kepler satellite monitored each one over a multi-year period looking for periodic changes in brightness. Thousands of planetary candidates emerged via the transit method, where periodic dips of 3% or less were noted with regularity. However, a follow-up study has come out on the giant exoplanets, finding that over 50% of them aren't giant planets after all, but wound up being eclipsing binary stars. Perhaps our lone star Solar System is the oddity, after all.

Comment Re:Humans on Mars make no scientific sense (Score 1) 162

The Earth and the ISS are the only two places in the solar system that a human being can do anything without wearing some sort of space suit. The ISS can only provide this environment thanks to a lot of external logistics support from Earth. There are exactly zero self-contained and self-sufficient environments off Earth. The most inhospitable environments on Earth are orders of magnitude easier to survive in than even the most inviting environments in the rest of the solar system.

Even if we managed to get some sort of colony established on Mars or the Moon it would take vast sums of money and a lot of time to get them to a point where they could be considered even remotely self-sufficient. We have a difficult time building entirely self-contained and self-sufficient environments here on Earth let alone in deep space.

Keep in mind self-sufficient doesn't mean a bunch of Martian or Lunar agrarian colonists in some steady state. It means having enough advanced industry to build equipment necessary for survival of subsequent generations. If Martians can't build themselves new backhoe loaders, space suits, and semi-conductors they're not going to survive Earth getting wiped out.

Thinking that we're going to colonize the solar system as "insurance" against something happening to Earth is a fantasy. Colonizing space is absolutely nothing like colonizing anywhere on the Earth. Columbus and Cabot had breathable air, drinkable water, and edible flora and fauna at their destinations.

Comment Re:Check their pockets (Score 1) 508

All of your points apply equally with PCs. Just because those things might happen does not mean they will or that the OP needs to deal with them. They would not be expected to do tech support for the virus-riddled home PC any more than they would be expected to do with a phone. Writing up a cheat sheet with some pointers to free online services is hardly tech support.

Various versions of Android and iOS are immaterial since the requirement for the class would be a particular application or suite of applications. If they can run Google Docs or Office 365 on their device and can send the instructor documents they have fulfilled that class requirement. Who cares if the kid typed up their paper with the on-screen keyboard on a tiny screen? If the content of hte paper is good and it was turned in on time it doesn't really matter how they physically managed to write it.

Comment Check their pockets (Score 1) 508

Even students without traditional computers at home likely have very servicable smart phones in their pockets. Fairly capable smartphones are available at very low prices or free with contract. There's even the so-called "Obama Phones" (cheap phones and cell service offered to various government assistance recipients) that some students may have.

With that in mind think about how you can get them to use those devices they already have to not only access resources but do their homework. Do some research to find out some cheap or free apps that can do the sorts of tasks you need done for your class. For instance a good PDF reader for books and documents and an editing app/suite for writing assignments. Google Docs and Microsoft Office are both readily available for Android and iOS, you could provide some instructions for writing papers and sending them through those services. You can even do document sharing so you can collaborate with them on assignments. Don't limit that concept to the phone-only students. Online collaboration can be a useful skill for them to learn and it gives you as the teacher an ability to correct or advise their work in real time.

There's a lot of cheap Bluetooth keyboards that work very well with Android and iOS. You can recommend (or provide) some for students lacking traditional PCs at home so they can type up long form assignments. Additionally give your phone-only students some idea of places that might have free WiFi (libraries) so they can access higher bandwidth content.

Between students with traditional PCs and only smartphones you're probably going to get 99% of your students. For those handful without either a PC or smartphone there's computers at the public library, school library, or even your classroom. You can always accept handwritten papers and abuse the school's printers to get a few dead tree copies of online documents.

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