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Comment coding and higher math (Score 1) 616

I got my first programming job only knowing basic algebra and trigonometry. I went on to study calculus, statistics and discrete math ending up with a Computer Science degree. There was precious little in any of these math courses that were useful to me as a programmer. I worked in data compression, image and signal processing, and pattern recognition. These fields required higher math but that is what mathematicians were for. They understood the how and why. My job was to determine the requirements and code it in a way that was robust, efficient and maintainable. There were a lot of programs I wrote where I had a general feel for how they worked but the math was way over my head. I say don't try to understand 'em, just rope 'em, tie 'em, and brand 'em.

Comment Re:Today's computer science corriculum is practica (Score 1) 154

Computer Science can be entirely theoretical. When I was working at my university as a system administrator we were replacing the 10base2 cabling with 10baseT. A CS professor took me out to lunch. He published many papers on networks in peer reviewed journals. I was explaining the advantages of 10baseT over 10base2 and was shocked when he asked me how ethernet coordinated different hosts transmissions. I explained how ethernet used collision detection and waited an increasing and partially random length of time before retransmission to avoid subsequent collisions (remember, this was when half-duplex routed rather than switched networks were the norm). Learning this he started explaining a mathematical model of how throughput would be impacted as congestion increased. I found it interesting that he knew all about networks at a theoretical level but didn't know how the network he used every day worked. Another CS professor claimed to have multiple chemical sensitivities and maintained that anything electronic gives off fumes that make him ill. I think he was a full-blown hypochondriac but he still taught computer science even though he hadn't been near a terminal or computer in years. Personally I like a mix of theoretical and practical.

Comment Flash endurance (Score 2) 125

A few years back I ran my own test. I had an unused 16 MB Canon SD card that came with one of my digital cameras (I bought a much larger one with the camera). Since it was unused I decided to see how long it would last. I wrote a script that repeatedly overwrote the entire card with one of several files of random data then checked it against the original. Each time overwriting, reading, and verifying the card took about 17 seconds. I had my first error after 120K writes. After that I got errors every 20K to 60K writes. Someone suggested I reformat the card and afterword it came out 114K smaller so I guess it marked some cells as bad. After this it went the longest stretch without an error, from write 1.9M to 2.5M without a single error. From this test one might conclude that there are a small number of frail cells that fail early on and the rest more robust that just keep going.

Comment But don't question the oligarchy! (Score 1) 553

The purpose of US public education is to produce reliable employees, loyal soldiers, and eager consumers. The only sort of critical thinking that will ever be taught would include a rigid set of premises that can not be questioned. As long as you don't color outside of these lines you can be as creative and critical as you want to be. I think the skill businesses worry about is problem solving not critical thinking. Given the constraints of a problem find a solution. It does involve some analysis but within the microcosm of solving the problem at hand.

Comment Sleeper cars (Score 1) 261

My wife used to drive a Ford Explorer. After she got a Mazda Miata she got 3 speeding tickets in the first week. She maintains that she didn't drive her Miata any faster than her Explorer and I have no doubt that she didn't. She learned the hard way that when driving a sporty car you get a lot more attention from law enforcement. I have been driving Miatas for years and long noticed this. When I drive my Miata through a nearby small town more than half of the time I notice a police car following me; usually all the way to the city limit sign before turning around. I know they are just itching for me to do something wrong so they can ticket me. When I drive through the same town in our Toyota Sienna I'm never followed; guess the Sienna is invisible to police. If you want to drive fast the worst car to own is a sports car. Sleeper cars are fast but look like bone stock ordinary boring car models and are what you need if you intend to drive fast.

Comment Obsolete skills (Score 1) 359

When I was in grade school math class always started with a sheet of arithmetic problems to quickly solve in class before we even started our daily lesson. The idea was that we needed daily practice because being able to quickly add, subtract, multiply, and divide was an essential skill. Now calculators and computers have made this ability obsolete because nobody is tasked with doing a lot of arithmetic by hand. In high school I learned how to calculate square roots by hand and how to use a slide rule which are more tasks that are obsolete. I'd argue that if a certain task can be accomplished with a key on a calculator than being able to do it by hand is also an obsolete skill. As an exercise to understand the concept you might work through a few by hand but once understood abstract and automate it. If we need to limit students to crippled calculators than perhaps we are teaching the wrong things. The one time I'll admit to cheating in college was in statistics. After an entire semester of allowing any calculator in class or for tests my professor informed us on the morning of the final exam that if we had an advanced calculator we were only allowed to use it as a 4 function calculator. If he warned us before the exam I would have been able to memorize the necessary formulae but his sudden requirement was so unfair that I cheated and used the statistical functions of my calculator with a clear conscience. Had I crammed for the exam and memorized the formulae for the exam would I still remember them today? Of course not and nor should I clutter my mind up with what is now trivia. I do see some advantage to standardize for classrooms but were it up to me I'd have kids use Wolfram Alpha on their phone, tablet, or laptop. Cheap, easy to use, and powerful.

Comment Computer Science vs. Computer Programming (Score 1) 546

Computer Science is one thing. Electrical Engineering is another thing, Software Engineering is yet another. You can study all of these things in college. Programming and coding are skills. Most people studying CS, EE, or SE pick up some programming along the way. In my experience most CS majors don't even like programming; they view it as a necessary evil. They don't want a job as a programmer unless perhaps if it is a stepping stone to a "real job." If you really like programming and want to do it than a lot of CS will seem like a waste of time. Personally I always enjoyed both theory and programming. I enjoyed learning theory and how computers and system software works and got a CS degree. I learned more about programming from a few Plum hall books than all my CS courses combined though.

Comment future-proof (Score 1) 509

Health care is probably the most future proof career. People are going to keep getting injured and sick and our aging population will have more health problems over time. Doctor, nurse, pharmacist, radiologist, physical therapist, etc. You really can't automate health care.

Comment Re:Fox News? (Score 1) 682

At many businesses it is standard operating procedure to purge all emails older than 90 days that they are not required by law to retain and this includes backups of email. The issue is more financial than anything else. Let's say Joe Blow gets caught downloading kiddie porn. Law enforcement subpoenas all his work email which since Mr Blow worked for Big Corporation for 15 years is a boatload. All the operators end up working for weeks restoring 400,000 emails from hundreds of backups then 3rd party consultants charge a few bucks to examine each email. All of a sudden Mr. Blow's behavior off the clock ends up costing his employer $millions. Is it possible that some of the purged emails ended up saved in other people's mailboxes or in backups of other MTAs? Certainly, but digging those up is someone else's problem. Getting back to the original issue. Is it really that surprising that the IRS would flag groups with "Tea Party" in their name as more political than not? Does anyone think that Tea Party groups are purely philanthropic? Indeed they should give extra scrutiny to groups with liberal terms like "progressive" and "justice" which as I understand it the IRS was already doing. While the Tea Party started as a grass roots group of wild eyed libertarians it quickly evolved as a way for money from big oil to stoke feelings of racial resentment among angry white men to convince them to vote against their own interests and for policies that benefit their wealthy puppet masters.

Comment Air Superiority fighter (Score 1) 417

Russia is strapped for cash. They would probably sell Canada a fleet of Su-27 fighters cheep. The F-35 is plagued with quality control issues, expensive, fragile and maintenance intensive. Mechanics and pilots candidly admit that there are entire systems on the plane that simply do not work yet. Su-27's carry more armaments, have greater range and can outrun, outclimb, and outmaneuver F-35's.

Comment College (Score 1) 655

I have a CS degree. I know people who don't have degrees who are great and make more than I do. I know people with degrees who can't do shit. There is a misunderstanding about what a degree means. An undergrad CS degree means that you know a little about several broad areas of computers. A little about programming, a little about data structures, a little about algorithms, a little about digital logic, a little about system software, a little about operating systems, and a little about how computers work. Someone who goes through the program doing the minimum necessary to get by will not know enough about any one area to be immediately useful to employers even if they did learn what they were supposed to. It is what they do above and beyond their degree requirements that define what direction they will go professionally. The degree says that even if candidate is a specialist in one area that (s)he knows the basics about the rest of the areas. This broader base of knowledge hopefully allows the degreed candidate to rise to new challenges better than someone who only knows the narrow requirements of their position. I taught one computer course at my university. One of the most frustrating things for me was when I was lecturing on a difficult topic and a student would raise their hand and ask if this was going to be on the test. What kind of stupid question is this? I guess they don't want to waste their time learning something that won't even be on the test! Even if it isn't on the test it could be something that they need to know to do their job in the future. Their first concern should be learning and the second should be getting a satisfactory grade; for the most part if they do the former the later won't be a problem. I think it is students like this that give people with degrees a bad name.

Comment Re:jerk (Score 1) 1440

Police can show discretion. So using a dedicated GPS for directions is legal but using a phone for the same purpose is illegal? While that may be the letter of the law, does enforcing it make roads safer? Is someone texting at a red light putting the public in significant danger or are they guilty of a technicality? Cops who enforce stupid laws just because they can give law enforcement a bad name and breed contempt for laws. Here is a real shocker. Did you know that you can be arrested for DWI even if your car is parked and you are sleeping it off? Having keys in your pocket means you are in control and the law makes no distinction whether your car is moving or stationary with the engine off. All I have to say is I don't know how police can sleep at night knowing they screwed up someone's entire future for no good reason and I can't believe that any jury would convict a motorist under these circumstances.

Comment GPL (Score 1) 201

The revenue model of the Free Software Foundation was basically give away software and charge for media and support (ok, with the Internet nobody really needs media). There is no requirement in GPL to donate any specific number of lines of code, the only requirement is if you distribute its software you have to give away the source. If Red Hat wants to be able to close the door to cloners than they should switch to the BSD kernel and be done with it. Everything Red Hat does to make it difficult for other entities to use their code goes against the spirit if not the letter of the GPL. Instead of licensing their distribution Red Hat shoulld give away the software then charge for support. That is how it worked before RHEL and is the way it should work today. Red Hat should be happy that other people are using their contributed code rather than feeling violated.

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