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Comment Did the same for Middle Schoolers (Score 1) 237

I did the same thing for a group of middle school students back in 2005 and after evaluating a bunch of graphics and sound libraries, we settled on Basic4GL.

Basic4GL is everything BASIC was, except without line numbers and with all the GLUT functionality built in (minus the initialization cruft). It also supports sound, loading a bunch of texture formats, and has the NEHE tutorials ported to it, and runs on VERY low end hardware. Download and run the demos -- you'll be impressed.

The kids did exceptionally well. We got a classroom full of (failing) middle school students to understand the idea of a coordinate system, and use this to design their own spaceship (using only a piece of graph paper and their own derived x,y coordinate pairs). We then guided them through animating this spaceship with key press events (and in the process they learned about coordinate transformations).

Our goal of having them design their own textures and sound effects never quite panned out, since we ran out of time -- but our ultimate goal was a classroom produced game where every student had a piece of the production workflow.

Afterwards, I found myself using Basic4GL for OpenGL prototyping since it does away with so much of the initialization, etc.

For example, the following is a whole Basic4GL program to draw a triangle

        glVertex3f(0, 10, -30)
        glVertex3f(8, -4, -30)
        glVertex3f(-8, -4, -30)

This was, of course, several years ago. You may find something better now (I'd recommend looking into Processing. I'd stay away from anything that a kid can't set up on his own (i.e., combination of multiple libraries)).

For the classes, you want to emphasize the basics while at the same time giving them something they can sink their teeth into from Day 1. I started with having them type in a very simple program in the first class and then run it themselves. I went from there to what the coordinates mean, etc. You will find that some kids are faster than others, and some of them might surprise you. You will also find that they'll do really well teaching each other.

Good luck!

Comment Re:As a parent with a kind who got a school laptop (Score 1) 349

Mod parent up. I also got into programming because all I had access to was a hand-me-down Apple II in 1993. It probably got me into the field single-handedly.

That being said, there is something to be said to provide technology for the sake of learning the technology itself. Logging onto the web and finding your own games IS a skill. The second part of my computer education was getting through the school's pathetic security (FileMenu=0 in Windows 3.1's win.ini) to run my own programs. Sometimes I think the whole thing was set up as a sneaky way to teach kids about computer networking.

(Downloading Doom on a 2400 baud connection and running it on a 25 Mhz Pentium with 4MB of RAM was also quite a learning experience)

Comment Run! (Score 1) 424

Fast. Do not look back, lest you turn into a pillar of salt!

Seriously, if you're over 30, quit now. Otherwise, if you are young and inexperienced, stay if this is a WELL-PAYING opportunity or you REALLY enjoy and trust yourself or the company.

If you stay, start MIGRATING the pieces into something you understand and can document. I recommend migrating to a mainstream, well-supported, open source projects UNLESS the proprietary alternative is vastly easier to deploy (this is generally not the case). Test each step and have a backout plan ready. Backup whatever you can.

Realize that you might succeed and prove yourself to the company. Also realize that it might all come crashing down on you, with all the blame being assigned to you for any and all things that go wrong. The pitfalls are many. Use the source. Good luck!

Comment Re:Closer to the trading servers? (Score 1) 105

Very good point with the trading servers. As someone who actually uses FB, I can't imagine anything worse than my employer gaining access to my friend list at everything I (and they) post in terms of work/life separation.

BTW, the value of Facebook is NOT in how well it does what it does, but in the fact that everyone you know is there, should you have any desire to talk to them as a group. For better or worse, it has replaced e-mail as a means of getting/keeping in touch with friends who live far away. I find myself almost NEVER e-mailing friends now (especially not with pictures, etc. that they might be interested in).

I do NOT like the fact that Internet communication, for all practical purposes, is controlled by one company with a horrible privacy record. But unless ALL your friends are techno-geeks (or Luddites who live in the same town), not having a Facebook account is a bit like not having a phone...

I am hoping that a viable open source alternative will emerge that does the same thing (and is easy to integrate with existing FB users)

Comment ssh & rsync & "backdoors" (Score 1) 253

If the machines are Linux (or booted temporarily into Linux), use ssh (or rsh) to script most of what you're doing. Be sure to configure them to not require passwords for ssh. Then use rsync to back up, and remote ssh scripting to do the wipe on all machines. You can get smart with transferring scripts to the machine & running them with ssh scripting without doing anything manual.

If the machines are Windows boxes, you might want to look at some remote access/backdoor solutions (of the "gray" hat variety, perhaps -- since you presumably do not want to go to each machine and log in manually to do ANYTHING). Do what the biologists do and turn attack vectors into something useful!

Comment Re:I'd Say No (Score 1) 754

"So basically you're saying "we know so little therefore let's keep knowledge secret". Makes sense."

Yes. When we may know enough to cause Extinction Level Event, but don't know enough to stop said event fast enough, keeping knowledge secret is a very very very very very very very good idea.

Agreed! I'm for releasing every software bug out there, but the worst case scenario is FAR better with software than with Biology. I'm not sure why we're even debating this -- and Slashdot contains the _smart_ people of the Internet. I'd hate to see where the stupid people hang out...

Comment Re:Viral Wars (Score 1) 754

Mod parent up. I was going to say the exact same thing. Biology is NOT Computer Science, despite the superficial similarities. It's a lot easier to destroy than fix in biological systems. Open-source virologists ain't gonna fix this one!

Destroy the article, virus, etc. Bar the scientist who did this from all future funding and keep him under surveillance lest he get tempted by others (i.e., give him a desk job).

Comment Re:Budget Cuts will doom it (Score 1) 182

It won't be budget cuts, but the lack of political will.

Don't those amount to the same thing? "Political will" == a large and sustained budget.

No they don't. NASA actually has a decent budget (more would help, I'm sure), but keeps spending a lot of it on various and sundry projects which go nowhere (certain exceptions such as the Mars Rover notwithstanding).

There doesn't seem to be enough courage even within the organization to say "Let's go to Mars!" or "Let's build a moon base!" unless it comes from the top. [The organization is not structured that way -- it is part of the Executive Branch -- their missions ultimately come from above, as it was intended]

I believe there are enough brilliant brilliant engineers amongst the bureaucrats (for the time being) to pull it off if a sustained directive was given. And some of the things they _need_ to pull off (IMHO) are beyond what can be accomplished by $20M prizes... (Not to dis the X-Prize)

Comment Re:Budget Cuts will doom it (Score 5, Insightful) 182

It won't be budget cuts, but the lack of political will. If SOME politician in charge would just give NASA a well-defined mission such as "10 years for a working moon base" or "15 years to land humans on Mars" they would find a way to pull it off, even without budget increases -- provided that the next guy doesn't just change or the mission. But this takes guts, and the willingness to stand up to the inevitable chorus of of naysayers and space-hating dullards who will keep yammering about budget deficits, etc.

So instead, they end up spending a considerable amount of money on ENDLESS reorganizations and PowerPoint presentations while they lose engineers who are tired of the Sisyphean nature of working on projects that are prone to the whims of yearly budget cycles.

Sometimes I feel like the politicians are AFRAID of letting NASA accomplish something grand, lest they attract the (unwarranted) attention of the aforementioned naysayers.

Comment Need new rendering paradigm(s) needed (Score 2) 126

I hope someone out there realizes that contact lens display will require an entirely new rendering paradigm for virtual reality (or 3D graphics in general -- but if you have a contact lens display with essentially 360 field of view, why NOT do Virtual Reality?).

The eye only sees about 2-3 degrees at once, and scans the scene so that your brain can create a 3D reconstruction. Instead of just pushing a high number of pixels at a high FPS, it will make a LOT more sense to track the eye and render what the viewer is looking at in very high resolution, and the rest of the scene in lower resolution. This needs to be done with both eyes while taking into account vergence and accommodation (which object each eye is pointing at, and where the eye is focusing).

If 3D graphics researchers are smart, I see a LOT of good research coming up in rendering paradigms made possible by this type of display which give an effective 100+ megapixel display while using only several megapixels of rendering capability...

If they are NOT smart, we'll see some heads-up display type of applications with annoying text which moves with your eye movement ...

There is some preliminary work being done which may aid this in Foveated Rendering.

Comment Join a Hackerspace; Build a Portfolio; Have Fun! (Score 1) 516

If you really want to stay in programming, create a product that you've always wanted to build in your own time. I suggest you find a local Makerspace (or Hackerspace) and meet with like-minded geeks who may want to work on projects with you and can plug you into the more interesting side of technology.

The point is, build whatever you're building with the idea that you will be sharing it with an audience who will appreciate it. This may help you get some of your passion back, and at the very least, it will be something to show your prospective employers (who is hopefully working on something more interesting). Having been on both sides of the interview table, I can tell you that a portfolio of projects trumps pretty much every other interview skill (except for bad personality).

One more suggestion: go back to school. Being a professional programmer (or having been one for some years) will give you a great edge in most technical fields, since they are full of amateur programmers. [Very few technical areas can now avoid programming]

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