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Comment Re:There is a thriving home-built plane community (Score 1) 417

you don't have to buy a "coding" license to write hello world on a Mac box

...Unless it was for iPhone development.

I'm not trying to develop for iOS, so haven't looked at the details for that, but I have registered enough to get XCode for both MacOS X and iOS, and haven't paid a cent.

Registering as an Apple developer is every bit as difficult and expensive as registering on SourceForge. Fill out a web form. The only cost is time, unless you want more than to be able to download tools etc.

Comment Re:Ok...But let's not blame the mouse. (Score 1) 391

Don't bother arguing with the part of his misstatement that wasn't his point. You have to keep track of the input cursor (which he called the mouse arrow).

One of the problems I'm having as I type with a trackpad between my palms and emacs keystrokes is having the cursor suddenly jump somewhere else. Probably at least one cause is hitting the control/meta key when I meant to hit the shift key and then the letter causes the leaping cursor -- but whatever the cause, it totally disrupts the flow of text from my fingers when I notice it.

I suspect ed's not that much better than vi(m) for his purposes, but I will attest to ed's greatness. (As an ed then emacs user, I only ever learned to drive vi by making heavy use to the colon to escape to ed).

Government

NSA Chief Wants Internet Partitioned For Government, 'Critical' Industries 258

GovTechGuy writes "NSA chief Keith Alexander, also the head of the US Cyber Command, told reporters that he would like to see the creation of a secure zone on the Internet for government and critical private sector industries such as utility companies and the financial sector. Alexander has repeatedly emphasized the dramatic nature of the cyber threat facing American networks and his comments were a further sign that the Pentagon does not think the war against foreign hackers can be won. Alexander denied the military has any role in safeguarding civilian networks currently, but didn't rule out the option in the future."

Comment Re:Hidden philosopher/sorcerer's stone? (Score 1) 73

I was aware of the presence of nitrogen in organic compounds (but not, I think, in sugar?).

l may have misunderstood the intent of the original sentence, and simply reacted to the sentence itself. I suspect the intent was to suggest that N2 was created rather than NO2, but "organic matter is converted into harmless nitrogen gas" is not the same as "the nitrogen in organic matter is converted into harmless nitrogen gas" in my usage of the language -- I was, actually, expecting to see CO2 and water in the list, rather than the implied "nitrogen in".

Ah well, modern american english usage appears to include an implied "and whatever" somewhere in almost any sentence.

Comment Re:the developer should participate in system test (Score 1) 396

"but, but, you're not supposed to do that".

Yeah, that one still makes my *hair* stand up.

Still one of my favorite moments, 3x years later, is the stunned sputter from the summer student (who'd written a unix program to interpret an octal dump from 1ESS error messages) when, on my first run of it, I redirected a unix directory into it and it crashed immediately...

His introduction to diabolical testing.

That's one way to make testing fun.

Comment Hidden philosopher/sorcerer's stone? (Score 1) 73

From the article:

Usually, air is pumped into wastewater sludge to boost its oxygen content. This promotes aerobic bacteria that convert the sludge’s sugars and other organic materials into harmless nitrogen gas.

...

I presume at least one of those aerobic bacteria has a philosopher's stone in his pocket? Converting sugar, which is a carbohydrate, into harmless nitrogen gas, requires more than mere chemistry.

Struck me there were a couple of similar chemical faux pas(ii? -- how does one do pluralization on such imports?) in the article, making one wonder whether some parts of it can be believed...

Comment Re:Choices (Score 0) 702

The presence of competition is not a necessary condition for a "free market".

Probably true -- and competition will certainly arise if the monopoly charges a lot more than it costs for a competitor to arise. And, as we've all seen, anybody with a basement can just buy a bunch of 1200 baud modems and set up their own ISP business, if they can convince their local phone company to connect them.

OH? That's been done -- and replaced?

Well, then, all you have to do to become a competitor is install fiber optic cables throughout some "reasonable" neighborhood, and convince Comcast / Verizon / ATT / other local monopoly to connect you.

We don't need no stinkin NN, we just need a couple of billion spare dollars.

We certainly don't want to trust the Government -- just trust our corporate overlords, who've been working for a long time to create mistrust and incompetence in a government that used to work fairly well.

Comment Re:Hypercard (Score 1) 346

I must say, my first reaction to the question was "Danny Goodman's Hypercard Handbook" (or whatever it was called). Hypercard really was a great program for the OP's interests. Too bad Hypercard isn't around any more.

I note that the OP did not say he wanted to become a programmer, merely to learn some technical skills.

One of the hardest things to learn in this regard is the unnatural precision required -- that is, speakers of natural languages are used to almost every word having multiple meanings, and having amazing flexibility in word choice and sentence structure in anything they want to say. Computers are much more structured and computer languages have much greater constraints. For the purpose of learning, it helps to think there's only one meaning and only one way to say something.

I think HTML (or perhaps better XHTML) and CSS is a good place to start, actually. Creating/copying a simple web page with HTML and then modifying it by adding a list and then using CSS to change the appearance of some simple elements will illustrate that precision. CSS has the "advantage" that any syntax error simply results in the statement being ignored, without causing the whole thing to "die". The "advantage" to XHTML over HTML is the same -- it's more tightly constrained, and errors simply result in NOTHING. That is, of course, also it's "disadvantage" because a "minor" error doesn't provide much in the way of a clue as to where it is.

I'm sorry I can't suggest a good book to start with for a total beginner, though.

I did take a brief look at "Scratch", and that might be a good place to start, too. Don't allow yourself to be put off by it being aimed at kids. If you're a beginner, you want something that's intended to be easy to use to do something "interesting" -- something where you can see the result quickly and easily. After you've changed the color of a fish sprite (a tutorial video I watched) and made a whirling butterfly you begin to see how the pieces fit together.

As someone else said, if you have a mac available, Automator may be a good place to start trying to do something actually useful.

Be prepared to ignore many of the remarks from programmers who frequently fail to recognize just how unnatural their normal way of thinking is.

Oh -- one more thought -- If you want to try something that doesn't require a computer, but will help you to learn to think like a techie, find a "good" book on Plane Geometry and learn to do the proofs and work the examples. Of all the HS math courses, this is the one most like programming -- you have some basic "facts" and ways of combining them and have to make something new.

Good luck

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