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+ - The Magic of Pallets

Submitted by (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 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!"

+ - The Joys and Hype of Hadoop

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Investors have poured over $2 billion into businesses built on Hadoop," writes the WSJ's Elizabeth Dwoskin, "including Hortonworks Inc., which went public last week [HDP], its rivals Cloudera Inc. and MapR Technologies, and a growing list of tiny startups. Yet companies that have tried to use Hadoop have met with frustration." Dwoskin adds that Hadoop vendors are responding with improvements and additions, but for now, "It can take a lot of work to combine data stored in legacy repositories with the data that’s stored in Hadoop. And while Hadoop can be much faster than traditional databases for some purposes, it often isn’t fast enough to respond to queries immediately or to work on incoming information in real time. Satisfying requirements for data security and governance also poses a challenge." So, how does this jibe with the experience of you Big Data practitioners?"

+ - Microsoft Aims to "Reach Every Individual Girl in Her House" w/CS Toolkit/Course

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""CS Principles", explains the intro to a Microsoft Research talk on a new Computer Science Toolkit and Gaming Course, "is a new AP course being piloted across the country and by making it more accessible to students we can help increase diversity in computing." Towards this end, Microsoft has developed "a middle school computing toolkit, and a high school CS Principles & Games course." These two projects were "developed specifically for girls," explains Microsoft, and are part of the corporation's Big Dream Movement for girls (not to be confused with Google's Made With Code initiative), which is partnering with the UN, White House, NSF, EU Commission, and others. To questioners who asked if Microsoft had piloted the courses in schools and how the company would get the word out about the tools, it was indicated that getting the material in the hands of all schoolkids was not really a priority ("our real goal is to reach every individual girl in her house"), and that "UN Women, Girl Scouts, and the Girls Collaborative Project, the White House, and the EU will all be pushing people" to, a website that complements the Microsoft-underwritten and co-produced film Big Dream, which premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November, was screened in Washington DC and Silicon Valley as part of CS Education Week, and will be rolled out to a wider audience in 2015. According to a document on its website, Microsoft Research's other plans for Bridging the Gender Gap in computing include a partnership with the University of Wisconsin "to create a girls-only computer science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).""

Comment: Intro CS Courses Vary by Majors at Large Schools (Score 1) 307

by theodp (#48593827) Attached to: Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

University of Illinois CS Courses: CS101 (Engineering & Science), CS102 (Non-Tech), CS125 (CS Majors). What seems to be missing is providing slower on-ramps for those who did not have good early training that may be interested in majoring in CS, perhaps one or two courses for no credit, not unlike what CS undergraduate degree holders seeking an MBA would be required to take to catch up on Business/Finance subjects before they can start coursework that counts towards the MBA degree.

+ - Google Suggests Schools Ban Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' from Classrooms 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "To address the challenge of rapidly increasing CS enrollments and increasing diversity, reports the Computing Education Blog, Google in November put out an RFP to universities for its invite-only 3X in 3 Years: CS Capacity Award program, which aims "to support faculty in finding innovative ways to address the capacity problem in their CS courses." In the linked-to RFP document, Google suggests that "students that have some CS background" should not be allowed to attend in-person intro CS courses where they "may be more likely to create a non-welcoming environment," and recommends that they instead be relegated to online courses. According to a recent NSF press release, this recommendation would largely exclude Asian and White boys from classrooms, which seems to be consistent with a Google-CodeCademy award program that offers $1,000 bonuses to teachers who get 10 or more high school kids to take a JavaScript course, but only counts students from "groups traditionally underrepresented in computer science (girls, or boys who identify as African American, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native)." The project suggested in the Google RFP — which could be worth $1.5 million over 3 years to a large CS department — seems to embrace-and-extend a practice implemented at Harvey Mudd College years ago under President Maria Klawe, which divided the intro CS offering into separate sections based upon prior programming experience to — as the NY Times put it — reduce the intimidation factor of young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. Google Director of Education and University Relations Maggie Johnson, whose name appears on the CS Capacity RFP, is also on the Board of (where Klawe is coincidentally an Advisory Board member), the K-12 learn-to-code nonprofit that has received $3+ million from Google and many millions more from other tech giants and their execs. Earlier this week, received the blessing of the White House and NSF to train 25,000 teachers to teach CS, stirring unease among some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools."

+ - How Best to Hold Tablets, Phablets, Phones?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "A photo of the huge Velcro strap gracing a Microsoft Surface produced for the NFL (not unlike that Wham-O catch game you played with as a kid) illustrates that in the still-nascent world of phones, phablets, and tablets we've yet to stumble upon the best way to hold mobile devices. Might a variant of a Chinese finger trap or Ring Pop help you hold your phone? Do you miss having a slide-out keyboard or long for a fixed Blackberry keyboard (or clip-on knockoff) to grab onto? Is the conventional wisdom of a border-to-border screen with touch-only keyboard best, or might a less sleek-looking device be more practical? So, how do you typically hold your tablet, phablet, or phone?"

+ - 2014 Tutorial that 'Taught President Obama to Code' is Straight Out of 2005

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "A decade ago, Washington University prof Caitlin Kelleher, then a student at CMU, figured out how to make introductory computer science engaging for millions of kids. Too bad nobody's giving her credit for it now. On Monday, President Obama kicked off the U.S. Hour of Code by praising for its "incredible work" before he sat down and 'learned to code' himself by using this year's flagship tutorial to make a princess from the blockbuster Disney hit Frozen ice skate forward 100 pixels. Which looks a lot like, one might argue, a dumbed-down version of a learn-to-code Alice tutorial described in Kelleher's 2006 CMU thesis, which used essentially the same paradigm employed in the tutorial to make a 3D ice skater move forward 1 meter. Hey, at least the President was spot-on when he later told girls that guys sometimes get credit for women's earlier pioneering CS work. So, perhaps someone should let the President know that some of the credit billionaire-backed and Disney are getting for 'making computing cool' should rightfully go to Kelleher, whose game-changing work earned her the highest praise in 2007 from late CMU CS prof Randy Pausch, who called it "the best 'head fake' of all time" as he described the novel Alice Project in his Last Lecture. The NY Times also took note of Kelleher's pioneering work in 2011, and Kelleher received the Innovation Award from the Academy of Science of St. Louis earlier this year."

+ - Seeking Coders, Tech Titans Turn to K-12 Schools

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Politico reports on how a tech PR blitz on the importance of coding in K-12 schools has won over President Obama, who's now been dubbed the 'coder-in-chief' after sitting down Monday to 'write' a few lines of computer code with middle school students as part of a PR campaign for the Hour of Code, which has earned bipartisan support in Washington. From the article: The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry, led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other giants. It’s been a smash success: So many students opened up a free coding tutorial on Monday that the host website crashed. But the campaign has also stirred unease from some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools. And it’s raised questions about the motives of tech companies, which are sounding an alarm about the lack of computer training in American schools even as they lobby Congress for more H-1B visas to bring in foreign programmers. Much of the marketing for the campaign, run by the nonprofit, explicitly touts the need to train more employees for the industry. “Nowhere else in education do we start by saying ‘We have a need for this in the K-5 curriculum because there are good industry jobs at Google,’” said Joanna Goode, an associate professor at the University of Oregon who works on computer science education. “I’m not doing this work to train Google employees.” Such skepticism hasn’t slowed the industry’s momentum. Founded just last year, created three introductory programming courses for students in elementary and middle school in a matter of months. The curriculum has not been formally tested — but already, about 60,000 classrooms nationwide already have committed to using it. The group is also promoting two courses for high school students that were developed before was formed, under grants from the National Science Foundation. The NSF had been rolling the courses out slowly to research their effectiveness. Now, with NSF’s blessing, is racing full-speed ahead: Industry funds will be used to train 25,000 teachers in 60 public school districts from New York to Los Angeles."

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.