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+ - White House: President Obama Writing a Line of Code #1 SciTech Highlight of 2014

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "That President Obama became the first President to write a line of code (as a top Microsoft lobbyist looked on) is #1 on the White House's Top 9 science and technology highlights from 2014. To kick off this year's Hour of Code, the President 'learned to code' by moving a Disney Princess Elsa character 100 pixels on a screen, first by dragging-and-dropping Blockly puzzle pieces and then by coding 1 line of JavaScript. Interestingly, Bill Clinton might have been The First President To Write Code had Microsoft seen fit to use its patented, circa-1995 Graphical Programming System and Method for Enabling a Person to Learn Text-Based Programming — which describes how kids as young as 8-12 years of age can be taught to program by progressing from creating a program using graphical objects to doing so using text-based programming — to teach President Clinton to code some 20 years ago!"

+ - The World of YouTube Bubble Sort Algorithm Dancing

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "In addition to The Ghost of Steve Jobs, The Codecracker, a remix of 'The Nutcracker' performed by Silicon Valley's all-girl Castilleja School during Computer Science Education Week earlier this month featured a Bubble Sort Dance. Bubble Sort dancing, it turns out, is more popular than one might imagine. Search YouTube, for example, and you'll find students from the University of Rochester to Osmania University dancing to sort algorithms. Are you a fan of Hungarian folk-dancing? Well there's a very professionally-done Bubble Sort Dance for you! Indeed, well-meaning CS teachers are pushing kids to Bubble Sort Dance to hits like Beauty and a Beat, Roar, Gentleman, Heartbeat, Under the Sea, as well as other music. So, will Bubble Sort dancing to Justin Bieber and Katy Perry tunes make kids better computational thinkers?"

+ - Yes, Virginia, There are NORAD/Microsoft and Google Santa Trackers

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Marketing Land's Danny Sullivan has a pretty epic post on How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD, and wonders if future generations will think of Santa tracking as synonymous with Google, just as past ones have thought of for NORAD. Until it split with Google in 2012 (for unknown reasons) and hooked up with Microsoft, Sullivan explains, NORAD had really been the only place to go for a serious, dependable Santa tracking service. "There’s a big part of me that wishes Google had gotten out of Santa tracking when it split from NORAD," says Sullivan of the divorce. "The NORAD Santa tracker brings back memories from my childhood; it brings back memories of me being a father with young kids checking in on Santa’s progress. In contrast, Google feels to me like an upstart interloper messing with my nostalgic memories. But maybe Google’s a welcome alternative to others. It’s not uncommon to see the occasional complaint about a NORAD “Santa Cam” video showing Santa being accompanied by fighter jets. Some might prefer a Santa tracker that’s not connected to a military organization. Of course, some might not feel one connected to a giant company is necessarily preferable. Part of me is also sad that when I go to NORAD’s own site, I get a big Internet Explorer icon in the top right corner, which effectively opens up an ad for Microsoft. I guess I feel it’s too blatant. Of course, complaining about the commercialization of something Christmas-related, I suppose, is kind of useless." Sullivan adds, "Overall, I’m thankful to the many people who are involved with both operations [NORAD Tracks Santa and Google Santa Tracker], who work hard to make children smile on Christmas Eve.""

+ - The Death of Voice Mail 1

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Duane D. Stanford writes at Bloomberg that Coca-Cola's Atlanta Headquarters is the latest big campany to ditch its old-style voice mail, which requires users to push buttons to scroll through messages and listen to them one at a time. The change went into effect this month, and a standard outgoing message now throws up an electronic stiff arm, telling callers to try later or use “an alternative method” to contact the person. Techies have predicted the death of voice mail for years as smartphones co-opt much of the office work once performed by telephones and desktop computers. Younger employees who came of age texting while largely ignoring voice mail are bringing that habit into the workforce. “People north of 40 are schizophrenic about voice mail,” says Michael Schrage. “People under 35 scarcely ever use it.” Companies are increasingly combining telephone, e-mail, text and video systems into unified Internet-based systems that eliminate overlap. “Many people in many corporations simply don’t have the time or desire to spend 25 minutes plowing through a stack of 15 to 25 voice mails at the end or beginning of the day,” says Schrage, In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. More revealing, the number of people bothering to retrieve those messages plummeted 14%. More and more personal and corporate voicemail boxes now warn callers that their messages are rarely retrieved and that they’re better off sending emails or texts. "The truly productive have effectively abandoned voicemail, preferring to visually track who’s called them on their mobiles," concludes Schrage. "A communications medium that was once essential has become as clunky and irrelevant as Microsoft DOS and carbon paper.""

+ - President Obama 'Learned to Code' Using Method Patented by Microsoft in 1998

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Earlier this month, President Obama 'learned to code' by moving a Disney Frozen Princess character 100 pixels on a screen, first by dragging-and-dropping puzzle pieces, and then by coding one line of JavaScript. Apparently unbeknownst to those looking on at the White House event — including a top Microsoft lobbyist as well as former Google and Microsoft employees — the First President to Write a Line of Code had done so in 2014 using a method patented by Microsoft in 1998. In fact, Microsoft applied for a patent for its Graphical Programming System and Method for Enabling a Person to Learn Text-Based Programming way back in 1995, to address "the difficulty of teaching programming to youngsters eight to twelve years in age." From the patent: "The ability to edit or create a program using graphical objects is an important aspect of the present invention, since it enables relatively unskilled programmers such as children to quickly make changes and develop programs, and enables them to grasp simple programming concepts. As will be noted below, a user also has the option and is encouraged to increase his/her understanding of text-based programming as it relates to the graphic program developed using graphic objects, by selectively editing the program in other views or modes that expose the underlying text-based programming steps." In other words, precisely what President Obama did. Which raises two interesting questions: 1. Could Microsoft, if it chose to, sue President Obama and the 80MM-and-counting others who "tried" an Hour of Code for patent infringement? 2. Why didn't Microsoft — who twenty years after its patent filing has declared a national coding talent crisis — use their patented method for teaching kids to code to, well, actually teach kids to code?"

Comment: Re:Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's 2011 concept car sket (Score 1) 90

by theodp (#48656957) Attached to: Google Unveils New Self-Driving Car Prototype

More here: Is Google CEO's "Tiny Bubble Car" Yahoo CEO's "Little Bubble Car"?. Thought it was interesting that the no-frills bubble car Google came out with in 2014 was closer to Mayer's 2011 vision, and quite a departure from the modded Priuses and Lexuses that Google had shown off in the past. Your mileage may vary. :-)

+ - The Magic of Pallets

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Jacob Hodes writes in Cabinet Magazine that there are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the holds of tractor-trailers in the United States transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of. According to Hodes the magic of pallets is the magic of abstraction. "Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a “unit load”—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency; the gains are so impressive, in fact, that many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century." Although the technology was in place by the mid-1920s, pallets didn’t see widespread adoption until World War II, when the challenge of keeping eight million G.I.s supplied—“the most enormous single task of distribution ever accomplished anywhere,” according to one historian—gave new urgency to the science of materials handling. "The pallet really made it possible for us to fight a war on two fronts the way that we did." It would have been impossible to supply military forces in both the European and Pacific theaters if logistics operations had been limited to manual labor and hand-loading cargo.

To get a sense of the productivity gains that were achieved, consider the time it took to unload a boxcar before the advent of pallets. “According to an article in a 1931 railway trade magazine, three days were required to unload a boxcar containing 13,000 cases of unpalletized canned goods. When the same amount of goods was loaded into the boxcar on pallets or skids, the identical task took only four hours.” Pallets, of course, are merely one cog in the global machine for moving things and while shipping containers have had their due, the humble pallet is arguably "the single most important object in the global economy.""

Comment: FBI warned theaters of possible cyberattacks (Score 1) 220

by theodp (#48635029) Attached to: Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding Is a Superpower

There was a cyberattack threat component, too. FBI warned theaters of possible cyberattacks over 'The Interview': The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released a warning on Tuesday, advising theaters and other businesses associated with Sony Corp's Hollywood studio's film "The Interview" that they could be targeted in cyberattacks. The private document, which was obtained by Reuters, said that "anyone associated with the production, distribution and promotion" of the film "could possibly become the target of cyberattacks."

+ - Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding is a Superpower

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "The idea of programming as a superpower was touched upon by CS teacher Alfred Thompson back in 2010, but it became a rallying call of sorts for the Hour of Code after Dropbox CEO Drew Houston described coding as "the closest thing we have to a superpower" in a Code.org video that went viral. And if the kids who learned to code with the President last week were dubious about the power of coding, this week's decision by Sony to scrap the release of the satirical film 'The Interview' after a massive hack attack should put aside any doubts, especially after new revelations that Sony had reached out to the White House for help and screened the film for administration officials back in June. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama Administration is viewing the Sony attack as a 'serious national security matter' and is considering a range of possible options as a response, which could turn things into a contest of U.S. Superpower vs. Coding Superpower. In case it wasn't mentioned last week, remember to always use your coding superpower for good, kids!"

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll invite himself over for dinner. - Calvin Keegan

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