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Music By Natural Selection 164

maccallr writes "The DarwinTunes experiment needs you! Using an evolutionary algorithm and the ears of you the general public, we've been evolving a four bar loop that started out as pretty dismal primordial auditory soup and now after >27k ratings and 200 generations is sounding pretty good. Given that the only ingredients are sine waves, we're impressed. We got some coverage in the New Scientist CultureLab blog but now things have gone quiet and we'd really appreciate some Slashdotter idle time. We recently upped the maximum 'genome size' and we think that the music is already benefiting from the change."

Comment Other ideas (Score 1) 122

I think you could do a touch screen that takes them to a limited number of sites, kids like touch screens. You could take them to google, and wikipedia, and show them how wikipedia is bigger than X number of stacks of encyclopedias. Then you could talk about Tim Berners-Lee and html/http and how that revolutionized the internet. You should start out with the arpa and tcp/ip and gopher and fetch and telnet and all those things most people don't know about any more. Give them real information. Real history.

Then progress up into the modern day, maybe like 3 rooms, past, present, future? Put a big quote up on the wall, the Arthur C. Clarke (I think) one, "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (or whatever.) Teach them the wonder and joy of computers. You'll make 1-2% of them geeks for life. Show them how space flight and medical procedures and everything else on the cutting edge of technology is dependent on computers.

K.

Comment Re:C++/ADA (Score 1) 578

I don't think coding has to be hard, necessarily. But...part of good, clean code is 'problem-solving'. Making sure that the logic of the code flows right and that there's no ugliness in it.

It is sort of like being a basketball player. We could probably make a ball that would help you target the net and could use fin stabilizers and gps and whatever to be more accurate. That's what the IDE you two are talking about is doing. It doesn't help you, at all, be a good basketball player. And if you dumb it down enough, it stops being a sport (which in code terms might be a good thing, for everybody to be able to write code any time they want to do anything they want it to do), and more importantly, it stops being something people worry about doing well. It is a skill, and the pursuit of excellence in that skill is the only way new discoveries are made or great accomplishments are...accomplished.

A lot of processor manufacturers hide the deficiencies of entire OS or apps by just pouring on more power. It works. But it doesn't work as well as writing good apps to begin with. It's nice to have all that extra power, but to me, it is a shame to waste it on inefficient processes.

K.

Comment C++/ADA (Score 1) 578

When I went to the CS department at college, they informed me the C++ classes I took in junior college were no longer applicable to their CS degree, because they'd changed what was CS210-211 to ADA from C++. "Because we wanted students to spend less time debugging and more time writing code". Er...I'm no master coder, but in my experience, any project over 100 lines involves spending more time debugging than actually writing code. I thought that's just how it was.

I am all for languages that are easier to use. But coding should be hard. It is hard. And setting people up with the expectation that there's very little debugging involved, or that they can write killer apps in 45 minutes is crazy and counter-productive.

K.

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Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child 331

Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."

Comment iGranola (Score 0, Flamebait) 865

Apple is basically the Volkswagen of computers.

There is this pretension of counter-culture. This idea that buying a mac is an act of rebellion against the 'oppressive overlords'. That Macs are 'more green' and 'more consumer friendly' and in general, Apple has done a good job of seamlessly integrating the organic/recycling/conservationist creedo into their advertising campaigns.

You see this same thing in SUV ads. Green earth and blue skies, and scenic natural wonders. They co-opt recycling visual cues to associate one of the worst offenders with 'naturalness'.

The truth is, Apple had a monopoly on academic institutions in the 1980s. They were beating the pants off IBM in those days, at least in the home/school markets. Businesses were still using IBMs, but everything at home and at school, from kindergarten to college, was Apple. The ][e was ubiquitous in middle and high schools all over the country.

IBM has never exactly been 'young and hungry', they've always been 'blue chip', but...they were definitely younger and hungrier then.

My point, really is, I think it is okay if you prefer Macs. That's fine. But the average end-user for a mac is not much different than the average end-user for a PC. Except, the PC end users don't have ignorant, sanctimonious discussions with you about how their product is better and how they bought it to not support a Big Evil Corporation. While completely ignoring that Apple is no different than Microsoft. They're equally interested in a monopoly, they're equally interested in their bottom line, to the detriment of the consumer/end-user. They're just worse at it. They're not as skilled monopolists and evil overlords. But please people. An incompetent, bumbling, drunken [generic evil person] is no less evil than one who is competent.

Hopefully, though, if Apple keeps doing things that don't really help their bottom line all that much, but do manage to sabotage their carefully cultivated public image, like this, I won't have to have this conversation with Mac-Afficionado/Soccer-Daddy man anymore.

K.

Comment Re:true mobile computing? (Score 1) 47

Actually, I thought that you could create a + sign of keys for each finger. Which is essentially how it works for a keyboard, but there's more diagonals. Basically, each finger has five positions, up, down, left, right, and center/"home row". That allows you to type everything but 'z' with just quick flicks of your fingers in a variety of directions. Since writing is a linear means of information storage (you can only enter one character at a time, no matter how fast you can type, or otherwise it loses its value as a recording) it shouldn't involve any more complicated learning processes for us than typing now does. Just a new way of doing the same thing. But it does reduce a keyboard to 10-small divits in a piece of plastic, and a few sensors which really aren't any more complicated than current touch screen technology. And, as an added advantage, in 10 years, it should be relatively easy to track the positions of each finger in a dynamic/uncontrolled environment. Which means it should get easier and easier to completely do away with this "keyboard" and go with one of those laser-projected keyboard systems, thus reducing the size of hardware even further, by doing away with any kind of hardware keyboard at all.

K.

Comment Re:Moving (Score 1) 47

My concern with the Wii, as a gamer, has always been about the lack of quality. So many of even the PS3/xbox games are becoming 'rhythm games'. Which is code for button-mashing nonsense. In the PS3's motion controller, there's already games like Godfather (&2) where you have to fling the controller through space, while holding buttons, to get it to do something.

All of these gimmicks, all of these excuses to skimp on game development, graphics, story, take away from games. The Wii's 'goal' is to sell gaming to a bigger market. To induct non-gamers into becoming gamers. Except. Those people aren't going to want deeply involving stories supported by state-of-the-art graphics and sound-scores, with ever-closer-to-reality physics engines. They just want the ball to bounce on the screen it a soft, gentle arc when they fling their Wii-daikatana around the room. Or the little cartoon character to jump (and giggle obnoxiously simultaneously).

In other words, once we accept that motivated self-interest is the only way to get people to act, do, or perform in a certain way, Nintendo is created a motivated self-interest to create 'easy', 'fun', 'simple' games with a lot of pretty pictures. There's even apparently a cheat mode in the newest Wii that lets you skip parts of games that are too hard for little Johnny or Susie. And the market is about 100 times bigger than the market for CoD or GTA or anything else you'd care to play.

This is compounded by the problem of market cohesion, there are fewer and fewer, but bigger and bigger, participants in the market. With Activision's, for instance, known history of screwing players, skimping on game quality (long term sales) for making E3 release dates (short term sales dollars), and other wise being 'in it for the money', how long is it before some big company realizes anybody with an AA in CS can write the equivalent of original Donkey Kong for the Wii, in two weeks and that at that rate, they can pump out 26 games for the 'casual gamer' a year from one code/dev team. /rant

K.

Comment Debian Sarge? (Score 1) 507

I ran a server for work, apache + qmail + squirrel mail + clamav + spamassassin on Debian Sarge (and I think later Woody, not sure about the timing of that) on a 233mhrz, 32mb ram, 8gig HD box for several years. Then the drive fused solid and the box seized up. But it took like 3-4, maybe even 5 years before that happened. I don't know much about the linux dev world, and if you can still find a copy of Sarge around somewhere, or even if it'll run on your particular architecture, Debian wouldn't run on the replacement for that box. But if you can find it, I can't imagine why it wouldn't work. And it's footprint is pretty small.

K.

Comment Scam (Score 1) 186

I loved this series when it first came out. Then Rand Al'Jordan turned it into a giant money suck. The last half of the series appears to exist exclusively to fatten Jordan, et al's bank account, while massacring as many trees as possible. Thousands and thousands of pages of NOTHING HAPPENING.

I think these books are a classic case of the cash-cow mentality that Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Patterson, and every other major commercially-successful author has gained in the last 20 or so years. We see the same thing with TV and to a lesser extent movie 'franchises'. The story no longer matters as much as the money it is possible to bilk from the fans. Quality goes down hill, the whole purpose of writing the story becomes, not to tell a story, but to effortlessly 'convert' your bank balance to a positive number.

Then again, maybe it is not effortlessly. If school taught me anything it is that making up BS that doesn't say anything is usually harder than just studying.

K.

Comment 1980 is calling (Score 1) 823

I am baffled by the number of people saying, "Just use pen and paper that's the best way for me." How is that an answer to the question? "We don't need none of that there change stuff. If dinosaurs were good enough for Jesus to ride to pre-school then they're good enough for those people younger than me."

It sounds to me like a simple keyboard map would solve a lot of your problems. Map your F-keys (function) to various...functions. I can think of a couple of ways to do it off the top of my head, but a customized software solution shouldn't be too incredibly hard either. Just requires a text entry field, some math-specific formatting of the text, and the ability to hold down shift or control or iKey or something to define when you're typing 'special' pre/custom-defined characters.

K.

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