Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: I am reminded of the 'face' on Mars (Score 1) 169

by scerruti (#32172730) Attached to: Lidar Finds Overgrown Maya Pyramids

You know how people tend to see faces in objects? I suspect that when people design systems with this much processing they tend to see straight lines where they may not actually exist. There is a *lot* of digital processing happening on the raw data. So what does that cause? A game trail or footpath may appear to be a road. An irregular slope suddenly appears to be terraced farmland.

Let us not be awed by this technology until it has been proven out by field studies, this was the same technology that, just a few years earlier, reported a lake with a 14 degree slope.

Comment: Re:Oh dear lord. (Score 1) 464

by scerruti (#31695492) Attached to: Will Smith In For <em>Independence Day 2</em> &amp; <em>3</em>

I'm going to go way out on a limb here....

Have to agree with you about Jeff Goldblum -- in a single afternoon -- deciphering the alien equivalent of TCP/IP and hacking up a computer virus capable of running on alien hardware. Beyond ridiculous.

Earlier in the movie the Aliens had managed to hack into all of Earth's communication satellites in order to broadcast their countdown timer. (They apparently lack accurate time pieces.) Perhaps, in order to communicate with all of Earth's communication satellites, they needed to build a common Earth like interface. Then imagine that they distributed this interface (let's say it was a rudimentary, poorly secured Python interpreter) via a Windows update type mechanism to all their ships. Finally, they built into it the ability to patch itself so that they could add communication routines for other satellites over time to all the ships.

Now all Jeff Goldblum has to do is write one little Python script that calls a system function in this alien built python interpreter to disable the shields. It turns out the disable the shields command was actually a side effect of a buffer overflow that Jeff discovered when he was trying to make the interpreter display the skull and crossbones.

It's all actually very believable compared to giant alien ships coming into orbit just to destroy buildings. In fact, come to think of it, it was probably in the movie and then got cut because it was just "too obvious".

Comment: Ivory Tower Syndrome (Score 1) 507

by scerruti (#31232512) Attached to: Suspension of Disbelief

"but how could the school have thought they had the right to punish her for that in the first place?"

This question could only be asked by someone clearly outside of the day-to-day functions of schools. Further evidence abounds in the summary "it would have been a matter for the police, not for a school punishment".

Schools do not operate under the same rules as "the real world". Commit violence upon someone and you are likely to suffer detention, really injure someone and you are likely to be suspended. Steal and you face a stern lecture. The police do not get involved, there are no assault or theft charges filed. Schools have operated as substitute parents since they were created, however public schools face the daunting challenge of trying to discipline children without having any real authority to punish and without recourse to the typical rule of law except in extreme cases. Even the punishment of suspension is only a hope that the parents will be so unhappy about having to arrange for care of their children that they subject the violator to appropriate punishment.

Are we surprised then that school administrators and teachers operate not only above the law, but clearly ignorant of it? For example, did you know that many school districts tell teachers that wholesale copying of sample textbooks is permitted under Fair Use for Educational Purposes? I know of a teacher who installed a cell phone jammer because it worked so well at his last school. My wife, a teacher, was incredulous when I told her about the PA spycam situation, but I am not surprised to see these administrators defending their position. If there is no way for you to use the law to enforce discipline for the students then why should it apply at all?

Perhaps this is why we just had a Principal plead guilty to diverting PTA funds for personal use.

Comment: LEGO Mindstorms (Score 1) 364

by scerruti (#28709825) Attached to: Low-Budget Electronics Projects For High School?

Yes, yes, you have $5 to spend. How many students? What about a grant?

Look, if you are teaching physics then you can integrate a full robotics platform into the entire course. Your labs will come alive and be compelling. Most of the answers to this point are geek answers and you don't need to teach geeks physics, they will learn it even if you took the books away. No theremin or oscillator is going to be any more interesting to the average 9th grader than a flashlight bulb.

The fact is that you can't teach them modern electronics in a 9th grade classroom. Modern electronics is software assisted IC design, it involved expensive diagnostic tools or chip programming tools. Electronics is taught the way it is because the fundamentals are easy to understand and useful as you move forward.

However, if you are still convinced that you should go down this path then at least turn it around. In biology we learn how a frog works in a book and then we take it apart to see it for ourselves. Have your students bring in an inexpensive electronic device and take it apart. They may be worthless for there original function after that, but it might be interesting to see how the parts could be combined.

Finally, "The Dangerous Book for Boys" has a couple of easy projects in it.

Comment: Everything I Need to Know About Pest Control (Score 1) 398

by scerruti (#27953899) Attached to: Texas Makes Zombie Fire Ants

...I learned in preschool.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I dunno why she swallowed that fly,
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly -
Perhaps she'll die. ... and so on ...

She dies in the end.

Comment: Technical Support (Score 1) 747

by scerruti (#27299939) Attached to: Richard Stallman Warns About Non-Free Web Apps
I can't wait for the technical support calls. Can you imagine trying to support people who run into errors using your site because they chose not to use your version of a javascript routine but instead replaced it with their own? Not to mention that this is not a fact they are going to disclose over the phone, and, at some point, won't even realize it is happening.

Comment: Don't Make Innovation a Volunteer Activity (Score 2, Insightful) 281

by scerruti (#26849809) Attached to: How To Encourage Workers To Suggest Innovation?

Seriously, all of the responses here are good, but they address the symptom of your problem, not the problem.

Your problem is that you don't have a culture of innovation. You need to create a culture of innovation, to do that you need to fix some things.

1) You are doing performance reviews wrong. Don't feel bad, almost everyone is. Fix that.

2) Your workers think that innovation is optional and something that is a bonus. Innovation is an expected part of your job, and if you are not innovating you are not doing your job.

Grishnahk says, "Any innovative ideas I come up will be kept hidden until I'm out of here."

You need to convince people that the only way that they will succeed is if the company succeeds and you need to reward people when they do their job well. (See point #1) The Grishnahks of the world will constantly seek the workplace where mediocrity is tolerated. There are 500,000 new employees looking for jobs from last month alone. Get rid of Grishnahk.

3) Openness. People need to know that you got rid of Grishnahk and why. People need to know that you gave Mark's job to John because John worked harder and contributed more.

Do not tolerate substandard work. Expect innovation as a fundamental core of each persons job, not as a volunteer opportunity. Reward hard work with recognition.

*Portrayal of Grishnahk as a slacker was from a single statement and used for illustrative purposes only.

If it's worth hacking on well, it's worth hacking on for money.

Working...