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Comment: Re:Hints (Score 1) 51

by mcgrew (#48642319) Attached to: Boeing and BlackBerry Making a Self-Destructing Phone

They've been working on it for over 12 years; I wrote the following for my web site in 2002. It will be in an upcoming book. Apologies for the mangled unicode, but slashdot's preview is worthless, since "preview" shows the unicode but the submission displays garbage. Here is the article:

McCoy: He's dead, Jim
        Several years ago, before PCs were not nearly as com-mon in the home as they are now, a friend of mine asked of my computer, âoebut aren't you afraid it will explode?â
        He was a Star Trek fan, and in the old 1950s and 1960s science fiction and spy shows, computers all had a nasty habit of blowing up. All one had to do to these TV or movie computers to make them explode was shoot them, with either a ray gun or a police revolver. Some TV and movie computers would blow up if you âoepressed the wrong buttonâ; one episode of the 1960s TV show The Prisoner (âoeI am not a number! I am a free man!â) had a computer that could answer any question. The bad guys, who had imprisoned the hero, a spy who had resigned his post, wanted to know why he resigned. Of course, before the bad guys could ask the computer âoeWhy did number six resign his post?â the intrepid number six offered that he had a question the computer could not answer.
        He typed in to the Remington electric typewriter and fed the paper into the computer, which, of course, promptly started smoking, sparking, and ultimately blew up. The question was simply âoewhy?â
        Similarly, in an episode of Star Trek, Spock makes a computer explode by asking it to figure the value of pi to the last decimal place. Of course, any time a Star Trek computer was fired on, whether by a Klingon or Federation phaser, and no matter what civilization designed and built the computer, it would explode in a grand display of fireworks.
        I had to explain to my friend that this was all nonsense, that early computers from the early 1950s used thousands of vacuum tubes, requiring high voltages, which could throw showers of sparks and bright purple flashes with the characteristic âoepop!â if there was a short circuit in its 120-240 volt circuitry but would not actually explode, and that modern computers ran on three to twelve volts and wouldn't even get a spark from a short.
        I had to explain to my friend that the only explosions were in my games; that the computer itself here in the analog world was safe.
        Along with the matter transporter and faster than light travel, the exploding computer was one of those things relegated to science fiction.
        Until now.
        New Scientist reports that they have found a way to make silicon explode on demand, either by shock, as with that .38 caliber police special or by electrical signal.
        âoeThis machine is stolen and will self-destruct in ten seconds.â
        New Scientist says âoeFor instance, the American spy plane impounded by China last year could have used it to destroy its secret electronics systems.â
        They add âoeIn a stolen mobile phone, the network would send a trigger signal to the part of the chip containing the gadolinium nitrate âdetonatorâ(TM), triggering the explosion... and detonate it at will.â
        So not only is Star Trek's computer to blow up, its communicators will too! I can see in five years when these bozos have the anti theft circuits in phones. Drop your phone now and it might break. Drop it in five years and it might take your leg off!
        Of course, the new viruses in ten years will not just reformat your hard drive; the kids will be writing viruses to make people's computers explode in their homes!
        Doncha just love science... Personally, I'm hoping someone with a little common sense will have a talk with these educated morons and explain that just maybe, exploding computers ain't such a good idea after all. Just maybe the US Government might be more concerned with bringing its spy plane crew home alive than exploding its electronics; they could have blown the plane up with conventional explosives, or even driven the thing into the ground, but they didn't.
        When my cell phone explodes the manufacturer better hope it takes my head off, because if it doesn't I'm suing the shit out of the morons!
        Beam me up, Scotty.
1/18/2002

Comment: Re:Good news, bad news (Score 2) 247

by mcgrew (#48642285) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Maybe folks will make art for art's sake, program for the love of code, etc. I love the freedom of being able to write and publish anything I want without making compromises with money issues. Like Rush (the band) sang in Spirit of Radio,

It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah
Your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity.

User Journal

Journal: Three Irons Burning: Progress Report 2

Journal by mcgrew

When I was in college, I often took workshops in the summer. Two weeks of eight hour days equaled a normal class for a quarter. It would allow me a couple months vacation.

One was a blacksmithing workshop, where I learned to fashion stuff out of steel, learned a little metallurgy, and learned where a lot of the "old sayings" came from: blacksmithing. One is "too many irons in the fire", which is where this journal's title comes from. I'm working on three books right now.

Comment: Re:AP and accessible (Score 1) 208

I can tell you my high school AP Calc class went at the same rate as a typical college Calc class. Maybe a little faster. So right there, my anecdotal evidence in juxtaposition with yours shows you can't generalize from your knowledge.

Was that BC Calc? Because if it was, then that's not really a fair comparison because BC Calc is supposed to cover 2 semesters. That being said, you're not seriously arguing that AP Calc is harder than taking the course in college, are you? Any day of the week, I'd rather learn calculus from an experienced, English-speaking teacher in a 20 person classroom whose career goal is to teach students mathematics than from a math prof who only teaches because he has to in a 300 person lecture hall and a TA from Elbonia. A few decades later, I remember a lot of calc from my AP calc class, but I don't remember a damn thing from calc 3 which I had to take in college.

Anyway, the AP classes that I was talking about were things like AP U.S. History, AP U.S. Lit, AP Chemistry, Physics, etc. These were all semester-long courses in university, but took a full year to teach in high school. Learning the same material in twice the time is not impressive to me.

The school system is a factory system. Factory systems that are tuned to the mean, roughly. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) set up after NCLB are esentially a selection of 7 or 8 learning supports or enrichments that are minor modifications of the base system.

Aren't we talking about a minor change, here? All I'm saying is that a motivated student ought to be able to take a bloody AP class if he or she wants to, even in the absence of a stellar transcript. I mean, really. If a kid is fascinated with history, why shouldn't that kid be allowed to take AP U.S. History instead of standard U.S. History? The kid'll get some exposure to college level work in a class that piques his or her interest instead of being told, "Hey, sorry kid. You're too dumb to handle college work."

Back when I was in school, there was this chick who really wanted to take AP Econ, but she didn't have good grades, and the teacher gave her the boot (it was in front of the whole class, too. Ouch!). All I'm saying is that there were plenty of supposedly qualified kids in that class who never even came close to grasping the material, but I bet this chick would have gotten it because she cared more than they did.

I know it's just an anecdote and I know it's just my opinion not a scientific study, but anyway, that's what I think. Because frankly, who cares if they fail? I'd rather see a motivated kid challenge him or herself and come up short than not to take the challenge at all.

Comment: Re:Gawd, I love that man (Score 1) 89

by mcgrew (#48634665) Attached to: Dick "Smitty" Cheney

Your experience was much different than mine. I was in college when Carter was President, and he stopped food stamp benefits for poor college kids. I often went hungry. I'd voted for him, voted against his reelection.

Under Reagan I worked for Disney. Reagan slashed the capital gains tax, which unleashed an orgy of hostile corporate takeovers, one of which was unleashed on my employer, who took a big financial hit from its defense and cut everyone's hours. I had trouble paying my bills for a while. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these hostile takeovers and takeover attempts. Of course, a recession followed this but none of the pundits connected the dots and they treated Reagan like a demigod.

We moved back to Illinois when Leila was born, and it took well over a year to find a job. Thanks for the recession, Ronnie.

I got a job finally, in 1987, but half the people I knew were looking for work until the nineties. That was Reagan's fault, but Bush did nothing to alleviate the situation.

There was something about Clinton I just didn't like; he came across as a sleaze and I think I voted Libertarian that election, I don't really remember, but it wasn't a vote for Clinton.

I was wrong about him; he put 100,000 new cops on the street, and my crime-ridden neighborhood got a neighborhood cop and crime plummeted. He signed PWORA which ended generational welfare. I voted for his reelection.

As to Bush II, can you name a single positive thing he accomplished? I can't.

As to Obama, my opinion of his mediocre President went up a little when he started opening Cuba; it's long overdue. We've had relations with China and Russia for years, it should have happened when the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR split up.

Comment: Re:Sly (Score 1) 391

by Slashdot Parent (#48634357) Attached to: Google Proposes To Warn People About Non-SSL Web Sites

And whilst I use StartSSL, it's a pain that you can't get free wildcard certs for your domain...

And it fucking pisses me off that the grocery store won't just give me free food, too.

StartSSL is a business, and its business model is to give out free Class 1 certs with the hope of converting you into a paying customer. They charge for every possible thing other than issuing personal use basic certs, even cert revocations. So if you say wanted to revoke your "free" cert for a very good reason like, say, Heartbleed, then be prepared to be converted to a paying customer.

I'm not saying that you should never use StartSSL, though. I'm just saying that you should know what you're getting yourself into, and know why they don't offer (and never will offer) other free services like wildcard certs.

Comment: Re:Bad for small business owners (Score 1) 391

by Slashdot Parent (#48634233) Attached to: Google Proposes To Warn People About Non-SSL Web Sites

I've considered https, but it's too hard for me as a small web site owner: first I have to manage to get an SSL certificate (costs serious effort and money), then I have to figure out how to install it correctly (tried it before with a self-issued certificate and failed; while I'm fairly computer savvy), finally I have to somehow remember to renew it every few years or so - which is an interval way long enough to completely forget how the installation worked, so I have to start all over again.

Ideally, your web host should hold your hand through this.

I don't want to come across as a shill, so I'm not going to name names, but I just looked at the customer panel for a large shared hosting provider, and the process for adding HTTPS was dead simple. You just click on "Secure Hosting", and it walks you through it. You can use a self-signed cert (which they create for you automatically), buy an SSL cert through them for $15/yr, or you can copy/paste in your own (if you want to save a few bucks and get a PositiveSSL from Namecheap for $9/yr or a "free" cert from StartSSL). It took me about 2 pointy-clickys to add SSL to a test domain.

Comment: Re:How (Score 1) 208

Imagine if you will, a scenario where you are given an opportunity to learn about a subject you truly love from one of the best experts in the field, but you would have to take the class with 10 of the most far right nut wingers imaginable.

Or even better, imagine going through college as a conservative. As you no doubt remember, only expressions of Leftist doctrine are permitted in the "marketplace of ideas" that we call college. Never mind examining the merits of all ideas; college is a place where everyone from the students through the professors consider it to be their moral duty to ignore what you say and then insult you personally while explaining how sensitive and inclusive and open-minded they are.

At the end of the day, the path to your dreams need not run through any club nor class nor approval of the tactless. It's consistent, persistent action that advances you toward your goals and dreams, and that is the lesson that I hammer into my children's heads. I have very little patience for "oh, but she might get awkwardly hit on!" Apparently that happens 742 times per hour just walking down the street, anyway.

Comment: Re:AP and accessible (Score 1) 208

What it comes down to is that the educators will look at a number of predefined criteria that reasonably predict a child's aptitude.

I understand what they do. My point is that they should not do that. They should give motivated kids a chance to be challenged. And let's be honest, do AP classes represent an actual challenge? I took a metric assload of them, and I did not find them to be challenging at all. The reason for this should be obvious: they take a semester-long college course and consume a full academic year teaching it. Of course they're dead easy.

Naturally, the schools can't let all these kids in. The system isn't set up to support that.

Well, maybe they should change that.

Comment: Re:AP and accessible (Score 1) 208

I'm not GP, but many schools restrict who can enroll in AP courses. Personally, I think that this is stupid. Even the lower-class-rank students should be able to take an AP class if they think that they can handle it. They may not be taking a full course load of AP, but why not let them try some college level work in a subject that they like?

Comment: Re:Computer careers and gender (Score 1) 208

And then there are those brilliant guys I've worked with which I still can't figure out their code

I would argue that those guys are not brilliant at all.

Any programmer can solve a complex problem with a complex solution. The brilliant programmers are the ones who can take a complex problem, distill it down to well-organized chunks, making the solution appear straightforward and obvious (even when the solution was anything but obvious).

When you get a dev on your staff who writes clear, straightforward code, you keep that dev in high morale and you don't let him or her go.

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