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Comment Fallacy of the excluded middle (Score 2) 575

As a couple of others have noted, there is no reason to posit a false dichotomy - that one must use either Kahn Academy (or similar) or a "live" teacher. Short lessons like Kahn does are useful to review concepts/unit operations where a student is rusty. My wife teaches physics, statistics, and calculus at a small high school and is an adjunct at a local community college, teaching the CC classes in the high school. The best bang for the buck for college credits around. Anyway, her biggest complaint is that too many of her students have been coddled in lower level classes and have either never mastered the pre-requisites or simply not retained them. Kahn's videos are one of many helpful resources for such students. The goal is to transform students into self-directed, life-long learners. This is really the only path to success, because the half-life to obsolescence of any technical course of study is so short.

Prof. Jean-Claude Bradly at Drexel discovered that students actually preferred pod/vodcasts of lectures (they could pause and watch on their schedule) and it freed up class time to work problems and answer questions. I see Kahn Academy videos in this same light. Are they perfect? No. can they be improved? Yes. Will polite, constructive criticism be better received than snarky comments? Absolutely! In this regard, the cliche "everything i needed to know, i learned in kindergarten" has some merit - things are a lot better when everybody is polite and plays nice in the sandbox.

Comment Re:Msc People are awake now, this is a good thing! (Score 2) 103

Your point about updates breaking critical workfows is something Windows users have struggled with for years. The problem is that it is typically difficult to find out until it is too late unless one spends a great deal of time following all the development mailing lists on all software in one's toolchain.

Comment Re:LaTeX (Score 1) 642

I detest the modern versions of Office. Word 5 was a productive tool - versions after that were increasingly bloatware; Office 2010 was the last straw. I spent the last year transitioning to LaTeX. I have templates for technical reports, presentations, and reports of analysis (I specialize in microscopy and image analysis.) The combination of R, Sweave, and LaTeX, and shell scripts or batch files makes many projects very fast to reproduce when new data is added. This tool chain works quite well with git for version control - much better than the Microsoft "track changes." Microsoft keep breaking VBA to the point I will not use it for anything new.

The best part that I have found as a scientist is that I can create a directory hierarchy for a project, keep the source code and report under version control with git and have all the needed data in the appropriate place in the path. When the project is done, i do one final build of the analysis/report as a quality check and then use tar/gzip to make a compendium for archiving. When I need to reproduce an analysis, months later - everything is there. This has improved the quality of my work significantly compared to when there was a lot of point/click/copy/paste involved. it is also especially helpful in the middle of a project when I want to try a "what if" scenario or if a client wants to fine tune the sample set - or tosses in "just one more" before a tight deadline. Really reduced the number of "Mylanta moments" for me.

Comment Re:slow where (Score 1) 301

Been there. Done that. Don't need another T-shirt... Most of our machines are on 24x7 and I tried to convince our WWIS folks to schedule updates and virus scans for after 7 p.m., but no.... Made my job impossible - I'd be on deadline with an internal client screaming for analytical results because a production line was down or a customer was upset about some imperfection and we needed to diagnose and fix the problem yesterday and some auto process would kick in. Our IS folks treated us all like office workers writing memos. That's why I wiped all the lab computers and and set them up as stand-alone systems in my own workgroup. My office system is the only one left in the domain and there are still times I am trying to generate a big report with R, Sweave, and LaTeX and some IT autoprocess starts sucking up all my CPU and thrashing my disk. I really want to move to a model of scientist as artisan - where I administer and use my own system and send results to my internal and external clients in the cloud. I am starting the transition, trying to use OpenSource tools wherever possible.

Comment Re:IT spending dropping dramatically (Score 2) 301

I agree. I was recently pulled into a project to develop some software that was going to run on a system with a highly-customized real-time Linux kernel built from scratch from the 2009 version of Ubuntu (Karmic Koala.) I needed to make sure my code ran on that platform, so I grabbed an old (2007 vintage) laptop and installed Karmic. I was surprised how peppy it was. I suspect that it would do 99% of what most students and office workers would need. The problem is that designers keep putting out content that use new versions of Flash and other plug-ins and I suspect that these kind of annoyances are what will force people to upgrade otherwise fully functional systems. Note that vendors do this to force upgrading to new hardware and software to drive sales, not because of true need by customers. But that IS how the world works...

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