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Chemistry Tasks For the Computer Lab? 154

soupman55 writes "I teach Chemistry to students completing their last two years of high school. Basically it's a 'teach and test' course with a few experiments thrown in. I want to jazz up the course using computer and internet resources. For instance, I could set some tasks that require Excel spreadsheet calculations. Or I could set some web quests where students search for information online. One of the decisions to be made is: Do I use computer/internet tasks to help the students grasp the material that is already in the course, or do I help them become aware of ideas that are extensions to their course? Also, when I compare Chemistry classes with Accounting classes, it strikes me that unlike Accounting where learning to use software like Quick Books is an integral part of the course, that there is no particular software that a chemistry student must learn to use. Or is there? What in terms of chemistry and computers worked for you? Or what is there computer-wise that wasn't in your high school chemistry course but should have been?"

Comment Re:Say goodbye for XML (Score 1) 272

I think you're wrong. From the coverage I've read, it's a method of processing and manipulating XML documents, and they designed an piece of XML editing software around it which they showed to Microsoft and Microsoft then stole the ideas from.

News coverage of technical things is so effing horrible. Most tech articles are written by people who don't understand programming but don't see why that should stop them from broadcasting their misinterpretation of technical information. You should just read the patent; most of it is very clearly-written.

It does not predate XML, and has nothing to do with XML-based standards.

Filed in 1994, it does predate XML. It doesn't predate SGML, though, and since core XML is essentially the same thing, it's probably safe. However, I it does affect XML-based standards -- specifically the ones that separate content from structure/presentation.

The Patent

It's a way to separate content from structure. So, for example, where and SGML document would store data like "<p>Hi <i>friend</i></p>", they store it as two separate pieces of data. The content piece would be "Hi friend", the structure piece would be "0:p, 3:i, 9:/i, 9:/p" (roughly). So now if you wanted to format that document differently, you could just use a different structure piece; the content piece doesn't change.

This exact technique obvious, so I don't think it should have been awarded a patent. But maybe what's obvious to us in 2009 may not have been obvious to the patent examiner in 1994 and, in any case, it doesn't look like any of the affected parties are going to try and argue obviousness. The important question is how generally will their technique be interpreted?

Taken narrowly, it's a way of putting XML-like tags in a separate file, mapping them back into the content using byte offsets. This is easy enough to work around. Taken broadly, it's a way of separating content from structure. So, any time you augment the content in one file by some kind of annotations in another, you're violating their patent. So HTML and CSS are problematic because the style information is in a separate file, even though the mapping is done using tag and class names and not using byte offsets.

I don't know much about patent litigation, so I don't know how much leeway they give plaintiffs. But I doubt Microsoft Word uses their exact technique; they probably do something similar to HTML+CSS or XSLT. So this victory could indicate that the courts are interpreting the technique broadly. Which sucks. Man, patents like this are killing the industry.


Best Man Rigs Newlyweds' Bed To Tweet During Sex 272

When an UK man was asked to be the best man at a friend's wedding he agreed that he would not pull any pranks before or during the ceremony. Now the groom wishes he had extended the agreement to after the blessed occasion as well. The best man snuck into the newlyweds' house while they were away on their honeymoon and placed a pressure-sensitive device under their mattress. The device now automatically tweets when the couple have sex. The updates include the length of activity and how vigorous the act was on a scale of 1-10.

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