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Comment Rephrasing the question... (Score 1) 285

Entertainment is; play, books, crafts, end of story.

The backlash against sitting kids in front of a screen was probably forseeable, but outside that, I think a more general underlying question is, WHEN kids inevitably start to interact with technology, are we going to drive them towards the basics that we learned, or jump them into some more updated starting point? Obviously age matters, but it's hard to determine when and how much you expose children to technology (technology which will almost certainly dominate their lives much more than any previous generation). I think you have to depend a lot on the child, particularly their age. It's important to be well rounded, of course, but it's all a matter of balance. Do I think a two year old NEEDS an iPad? Of course not... nor should they spend their days glued to a TV. But will exposing a child to age-appropriate tech as a part of a well rounded lifestyle help them in the long run? Well... it's tough to say.

In general, though, yes, I want my children to learn fundamentals that are important to a deeper long-term understanding and appreciation for things. Just as learning to play peek-a-boo then hide and seek then tag then ball and team games and having unstructured exploration time throughout build some life skills, picking up Call of Duty as the first video game ever played is silly. The underlying question of retro games is, then, is the more modern collection of child games a better starting point than a classic game? I'd mix both, but if I had a child that really showed an interest I would try to help them understand the history better, by exposing them to classic games. This is a little harder with operating systems, but I would certainly try where possible. If my child is interested in programming I'd try to teach logo and basic, but I'll also utilize more modern built-for-kids programming tools, whatever those might be that are appropriate to their age.

But I think the question is important as posed because of how quickly technology changes. Balls are largely the same as they were when I was a child, computers are not. The context that understanding 8-bit video games gives to modern computing seems important to me, so, yes I think it is an important lesson to my child, while at the same time it is now much harder to balance children's social, play, family, and learning time (amongst other categories).

This approach is the same with sports, games, operating systems, robotics, rocket science, finance, and every single aspect of life for which lessons can be taught... underlying groundwork, history, and basics are important, as is balance and wide exposure, as is the narrower focus of dedication when they do choose to specialize. It's just that the groundwork we were taught as kids for new technology is vastly different than the groundwork that is available now, so it's a worthier question beyond an answer of just "don't sit your kids in front of the TV all the time".

Comment Re:What bothers me about photomosaics is... (Score 3, Informative) 61

I actually did this for my parents two years ago, and I agree that this was the biggest problem, but it is surmountable. I ended up with landscape oriented tiles that were about 1 inch wide and a little over 3/4" tall. This gave a good tradeoff between visibility at the small scale and the ability to make a convincing image at the large scale.

It took a lot of work to cull images that were not recognizable, but we keep a magnifying glass with the picture for people that have trouble with it and it goes pretty well... most people don't need the magnifying glass. It helps that my mom is a photo bug and has tens of thousands of pictures to choose from (well, it helps that there's a lot to pick from, it hurts that there's a lot of duplication and silly pictures). Andreamosaic actually has a feature that I recommended to deal with this... you can ask it to keep a distance between multiple photos in the same folder, which is great if you have pictures in folders by date, assuming that pictures in the same folder will be somehow similar to one another. Andrea is very good about supporting the software and it's really quite usable.

Pictures with single faces in them work well, or with two people standing near one another. Large group shots are identifiable as such, but the individual people can't be made out very well. Large objects such as gifts, pets, flowers, and trees are very identifiable, but photos of paper were the worst (pictures of wedding announcements or invitations or music). I'll try and post a photo if I can track one down (yes, the problem with so many photos is that sometimes a single one is hard to find... must organize).

Comment Re:I think you all get that this is communist BS (Score 1) 1216

Yours is the first comment to use "exploit" on the page (at the moment), and I completely agree. The right that people have in forming a government that oversees business is largely to avoid the exploitation of others. This is why slavery, indentured servitude, human trafficking and such are illegal.

The question I have is, how can you define exploitation? Minimum wage laws have been the stopgap in place for some time, but they seem to have flaws; plenty of people making minimum wage still can't support themselves or their families, while many of these people are working for corporations that make huge profits and pay their upper level management lavishly. It's difficult for me to not call that exploitation.

(Raising the minimum wage is one solution, but it's easy to admit that there are industries where different minimums make sense, particularly in how they're calculated... home health care is a good example of a problem spot -- where 24-hour-a-day live-in care doesn't really translate to 24-hours of work the same way a 9-5 job is an 8-hour salaried work day with benefits and time off, or a 3-hour lunch shift at a fast food hourly job with no benefits is just, well, 3 hours.)

Enforced ratios seem to be a good way of mitigating those problems. Highly paid leaders will still be highly paid, but they will only grow their own compensation by growing the compensation of those whom they manage. A vested interest in the worker-bees wages seems to be a good way to avoid exploitation.

Still, it would have to be a well-written law. How are "wholly owned subsidiaries" considered... if "Fast Food Corporation" franchises its stores as individual "companies", who are the lowest and highest paid individuals in the structure? How is ownership managed (if I'm paid in stock, or if I'm an unsalaried owner taking bonuses from profits, how does it count towards the ratio)? What is the effect on business that rely on offshoring work or sub-contract labor (if I "fire" all my basketweavers and offer them the same low-pay as sub-contractors, am I breaking a rule)? There's a lot to be considered.

Also, the choice of 12x is going to be a huge point of contention. Should it be 10x? 50x?

It's an interesting concept. I don't think it will happen in the US... definitely not soon, but I'd at least strongly consider it if it were up to me.

Comment Re: "Ethical" microtransactions? (Score 1) 177

In Candy Crush, you literally can't play unless you do something profitable to the developers (including texting friends or posting to facebook which is valuable in a free-advertising sort of way). From a psych perspective, this is playing on addiction by withholding something someone can actually use to have a different or more successful experience... the high gamers get from achievement and from actual playing and being rewarded with more "valuable" in-game items can be similar to the "gambler's high" that addicts have problems with in that way. I'm not convinced this is unethical, but I could see an argument for it (which is why gambling is highly regulated).

Buying cosmetic components can cause addiction, certainly, but as I said before I think it's more comparable to collectibles. Having them provides no benefit other than the satisfaction of owning them and bragging rights. Baseball cards, stuffed animals, and all sorts of things have lived through this business model. To Chanloth's question, though: are they profitable without addiction? Some are, some aren't... there's probably some difficult economics to ferret out there -- some people spend all their money on beanie-babies, but even if you exclude those few truly addicted, the things sold like hotcakes (to non-"whales"). I'm sure the game devs would love to have some people spend thousands on PoE, but I bet they'll be just as happy to make a profit with enough people paying a few dollars each. I'm skeptical that there's any way this is de-facto unethical, but I am convinced there's a difference between pay-to-win and cosmetic-only micro-transactions.

Comment Re:"Ethical" microtransactions? (Score 4, Insightful) 177

I don't think that's an accurate assessment. For one thing, you're sort of comparing the marketplace ethics to the ethics of addiction... any game can be addictive and destructive, does that make it unethical to create? The gamasutra article even mentions addiction, but it points out (even if implicitly) that the addiction is more towards actual game pursuits -- the example of acquiring rarer items by spending more time and money create a spiral. Cosmetic-only purchases may actually minimize that, since they don't affect gameplay, there's no driving reason to purchase them insatiably, other than maybe the same drive that causes someone to collect stamps or my little ponies. In that line of thinking, every "collectible" business model would be unethical... it's a hard argument to make.

Certainly, though, some of the things that DID make pay-to-win unethical in some people's minds is that it made people with more money more competitive, and advance quicker. The PoE model certainly ameliorates that situation, so it's a move in the right direction.

I've been playing the game for a while, due to a friend's recommendation, and I like it -- I particularly like the regular events and races -- but I'm also inclined to spend a few dollars customizing my character that I never would have spent in WoW or Diablo or other games, because I know it supports the creators and I feel it doesn't interfere with the economics or the gameplay.

Comment Interstate Commerce (Score 1) 658

I'm guessing this will fail legal tests at the federal level due to interstate commerce laws and privacy, but I could be wrong... from the article:

"...allowing them to install mileage meters connected their vehicles’ odometers or GPS systems that could better track non-taxable miles on private and out-of-state roads."

The state can't tax out-of-state anything, generally, but certainly not an activity (like driving) performed out of state (buying something online and shipping it in-state would be different). It's true that technology could allow them to determine the difference, as ShanghaiBill implied, but the court could rule that since there is no way to do this without infringing privacy (which itself is legally grey where driving is concerned), that the law loses based on the catch-22. At best, it could be forced to allow self-reporting of non-taxable miles (much like many states rely on self-reporting of out-of-state purchases for use-tax purposes).

It's an interesting conflict, however, that will certainly go to the judicial system to sort out, if the law ever passes.

Comment Analog vs. Digital? (Score 5, Insightful) 204

We've been historically terrible at deciphering ancient languages without something to help link it to a current language (such as the Rosetta Stone).

All this talk of data formats spanks of a very digital future, which I think we have a very hard time of predicting. The linked article is very binary... the grooves they explain can have "two or more" readable states, and their use of a QR code is interesting since it's an analog representation of an absurdly hard to decipher technology (without a key, as parent indicates should be the first thing). How would we encode data on these things? ASCII encoded English? Aliens would have to decode a language and then translate it. There's got to be something easier.

At least the QR code is ultimately a 2D picture, though. I'd imagine any thorough storage over that period of time will have to start with something extremely basic. Sculptures or 2D visual instructions that clearly lay things out. I think you could probably describe a mathematical encoding mechanism visually, but a language would take some work. The Arecibo message is somewhat famous for being a digital message that is notoriously difficult to interpret, and that's by people who would actually recognize some of the glyphs. The picture attached to the 1970s Pioneer vessels is higher resolution and easier to identify, and the audio/visual nature of the Voyager Golden Record is also interesting. But still the idea that these will be intelligently deciphered by themselves is tiny.

It's impressive that they're building something to last... they're just going to have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to put on it. Should lead to some interesting conversations.

Comment Re:simple (Score 5, Interesting) 497

Plenty of talented developers and teams get crushed by government red tape, bureaucracy, and the simple inability of most government agencies to manage their contracts. I can't figure out why but there is an enormous attraction for government program managers to micro-manage. Having worked on a handful of very expensive, very large government programs I can tell you that either side can make a project a disaster. But I've been on teams that can roll out a successful commercial project in 3 months that takes 3 years for nearly identical functionality in the public sector (DoD in my case). It's not incompetence at the individual level, either, in my experience; it's something institutional. Too many regulations that cause inflexibility and twisted risk/reward feedback for both costs and personal performance, and the antithesis of an evolution-as-improvement driven culture to match changing development standards.

Comment Re:Code Comments (and some core algorithms) (Score 1) 598

Ah, I'm glad someone already hit this. I'd have gone with a more generic "readability" and "documentation", but yeah.

I'd also include a few more mathematically interesting algorithms that push graphics as well as algorithm and iterative design. Breshnam's circle algorithm comes to mind, as well as fractal programming. For very precocious kids, pushing a 3d object from scratch is a great way to learn (i.e. rotate a cube using nothing but the ability to turn on and off a pixel).

On the other hand, while I would definitely avoid complex libraries as the "genuinely useful" curriculum, most coding these days kind of eschews these concepts, for better or worse. Learning how to wrangle a .NET, Ruby, or Java library set is just as important these days. I'm not sure how to handle that in a core curriculum.

Comment Stephen Few Loves his Bar charts (Score 2) 194

I completely Agree... I've actually had a few public disagreements with Stephen Few (on his blog - Hi Stephen) about his love of bar charts.

He's absolutely right, technically, on the visual perception -- that it's easier to compare lengths to basically anything else (like pie slices), particularly shapes that vary in more than one dimension (is a 5x5 rectangle bigger than a 6x4? If you know the dimensions you can do the math, but if you look at the boxes it's not as easy).

BUT, where I disagree (and I seem to agree with parent AC) is that people get tired of bar charts. Kids, in particular, have amazingly short attention spans, and as any teacher knows, engaging a child in a learning experience is very important, and different students will learn different ways. Your example of buying pizzas for a class is a classic example (although war is not the standard goal). Cutting a long subway sandwich or tootsie roll may not have the same effect. In fact, it's possible that the measurements Stephen Few relies on to measure visual perception could change if we took the time early on not to cater only to what our students are already good at, but to exercise spatial considerations that could improve.

Pie charts have their place, if only to break up the monotony. Certainly we should teach kids ratios based on bars, lines, squares, and other things as well -- for the most part we already do -- but we should not say that any one way is the best, even if there's one measurement that "proves" it, at the expense of variety.

Comment Re:They forgot INTERCAL! (Score 1) 254

Worse yet, they forgot INTERCAL! Any language with a "COME FROM" command (rather than "GO TO") should make the list by default.

Of course, noone uses it, so maybe it didn't meet the criteria. Whereas I agree that SQL is hugely used. SQL isn't really a programming language, though... extensions such as PL/SQL help make it so, but those are very non-standard and tweaky in their own right. As a set-focused (relational) data processing tool, SQL actually does OK.

---Chip

Comment The animation was less brilliant (Score 1) 374

I'm with you on 7th Guest... it was way more playable to me, and the games since then resemble it much more than Myst, IMO. I really just didn't enjoy Myst... it was eye candy at the time, but very static -- there were far more engrossing and compelling games even at the time. I wouldn't even call it very "open"... If you got stuck on a puzzle you'd eventually have to solve it to move on, just like in any game... it just let you wander around a lot looking for clues in the mean time. It owed a lot of that style of gameplay to Sierra's adventure games (and others) that came well before it.

But calling the graphics brilliant... they were pretty certainly, but the animation lacked significantly compared to 7th guest which came out almost exactly the same time and looked fantastic as well as animated.

As to why it didn't influence more games... the shortcuts they used on CD-Roms back then are no longer necessary. They'd pre-animate and pre-render everything then just call it up from disk. More Power has allowed us to animate and render on the fly which means that, no matter how open Myst seemed, it's almost trivial to make something more open and fluid now and in a much better way. Myst's and 7th Guests's technology was breakthrough at the time, but it was a stop gap while more real-time technologies could take over.

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