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Comment Re:Fewer exams doesn't necessarily mean fewer fina (Score 1) 371

You have the same problem with written exams: how do you compare a student who knows the work intimately but froze in the exams with one who didn't study? Probably the only good things that you can say about written tests is that they are harder less effort to grade and harder to cheat at outright. They are notoriously easy to game by working old papers and such and present a totally unrealistic situation for most disciplines, with the added stress of ticking timer. Give me a good project and oral examination any day for quality assessment.

Comment Re:Emphatic Agreement (Score 2, Informative) 91

This is really the old domain specific language argument. Why go for a DSL when you have a good general purpose language and you can add functionality with libraries. In the end, it's all about notation. You can add a matrix library to Java and write A = B.times(C).plus(D).invert().transpose(), or you can have a language that allows you to write A = inv(B*C+D)'. In R, the data frames are a really rich way of handling data, and the things you can do form a great working environment. For what it's worth, there are R wrappers for many languages (like Perl and Python), but once you have gotten used to the full R environment, using the engine from other languages grates.

Comment Re:On Stallman (Score 1) 228

Copyright is not an immutable part of nature that we just have to deal with. Laws can be changed and they only get changed by people speaking out against them and buy garnering support for them. When Stallman voices his opinion that people should be allowed to share programs, he is not suggesting that everyone unlock their doors. His focus is pretty much on software, which has only enjoyed legal protection quite recently. Algorithms are still not patentable in many parts of the world and copyright, while pretty universal in spirit, is quire differently applied in different countries. If everyone just accepted the law as it was and refused to try to change it, we would still have many laws that are crazy to imagine today. Also, note that Stallman has never advocated breaking the law -- he works within it to implement open software equivalents to closed software.

Comment Re:Copyright of Style??? (Score 1) 261

On a deeper level, how much of Clapton's style was ripped off of the blues greats that he idolizes? How much of their style came from the people they emulated. The myth of the unique is so strong that people really start believing in "creative genius". At some point we will realise that all music is a reshuffle of frequencies subject to some biological constraints in our hearing and perceptual system. Might as well try to copyright 1+1=2

Comment Re:A Novelty At Best (Score 1) 261

I've listened to some excellent music composed by Emmie, a computer program that does much of what you describe (analyses parameters,etc). David Cope is far more prolific this way than composing "by hand". At some point we are going to realise that "creativity" is not about creating anything at all, but rather about generating and recognising interesting permutations. I have every confidence that machines will be producing new and listenable music in the near future.

Comment Re:Implement some of the exact same things in C (Score 4, Insightful) 293

Another layer of abstraction is easy to dismiss as encouraging sloppy thinking and "magic", but C encourages this in the same way with anything allocated on the stack. Dynamically typed languages get some heat for not forcing users to decide on the type of their variables. By writing the same program in many different languages, you get a much better feel for what is part of the problem itself and what is part of the stuff you need to do for the computer. From hand-crafted machine binaries (preferably avoiding any operating system "magic") to a quick shell script, it's all a question of where your problem space is. I'm all for learning multiple languages, but abstraction is really a good thing, so I would add "implement the exact same thing in Python/Ruby/Lisp" to that as well.

Comment Re:How math is taught (Score 1) 210

As an educator myself, I have grappled with this problem. Shared vernacular is hard to find. Just look at your own example: you used "for each" assuming that someone would understand what that meant. I have spent many hours trying to explain the concept of a for loop to very smart Chemical Engineering students, some never get it. I suppose we could conclude I was a bad teacher unless we consider that no course that I have heard of has 100% pass rate. There is a lot of active cognitive research into the best way to teach things, but I firmly believe that application of math is not enough -- it poses the danger of letting people think that the math is constrained by the application. I hear what you're saying about adapting to the incoming skillset, and you'd be surprised: most educators try pretty hard to do that. But perhaps the lack of consensus as to the end goal is part of what makes it hard to find a single good method of teaching that works for everyone in your class. If your goal is to find students that are gifted in math, you may decide to pose hard, puzzling questions. If your goal is for everyone to have some rudimentary knowledge, you may teach more simple rote work. So perhaps your experience of people trying to make it hard was a manefestation of a math department with a strong postgraduate group that benefits from a tough selection. It's hard to believe people teaching a subject have made no effort to try and achieve their goals.

Comment Re:The List (Score 1) 469

Strangely, I am very happy with the shuffle. I use it for running and find the on-wire controls far easier to use than on device ones. Turns out that I am not alone, as the shuffle seems to be selling well. The only real measure of product failure is bad sales.
Databases

Submission + - Open source experiment management software

chthonicdaemon writes: I work at a university, and as the new year starts to gain momentum it is time to start planning the experimental work that will be done. This involves doing a design of experiment and planning how to store the results. At the moment, each student or researcher who does any kind of experiment effectively has to roll his own data management system, whether it be text files, Excel or a more sophisticated approach like databases. However, most experiments that we do will be very similar. The differences in storing the results mean that people find it hard to share their experimental data. It also means that a lot of standard processing needs to be recoded/redone by everyone. We have looked at software like Design-Expert, which seems very much like what we want. However, it is expensive and doesn't solve the problem of sharing data because its database is proprietary. It also does not consider experiments that involve time series as results. I have also looked into HDF, which seems like a good choice for data, but I haven't found a good set of experiment management tools that interact with HDF.

In short, what are you guys using to do the following parts of experimental work: (1) Design the experiment: set up the design space and constraints, create optimal designs and so forth (2) Store the experimental results in a way that can be shared with other researchers (3) Analyse the results in an experiment-aware way (datapoints tagged with dates and/or block numbers etc). Ideally the whole design, with results and analyses should be e-mailable (perhaps after zipping).

Submission + - ssh, guitar, touchscreen, what's not to love? (hackaday.com)

tjones writes: The nice folks over at hackaday have found the ultimate nerd guitar. It's running gentoo on an embedded 500MHz geode chip to act as a MIDI controller. 24 frets stand tall over a touchscreen, and the demo video show that it shreds! The creator has promised to release the source code, so C++ hackers should have plenty to play with. Which leaves only two questions, when is it going to available? And how much does it cost?

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