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Comment CS is "hard" (Score 1) 293

CS is "hard". It is like learning a science, language or math. Yes you can get a crash course in it like learning a language from an audio book, but the skilled people usually have had years of exposure and (Self) instruction. You won't leave learning mathematics to the last year of high school as preparation for a Degree in the subject.

I would argue the mental challenges and understanding to "get" programming is just as large as calculus.
My experience of UK school and degree level programming courses is that since programming wasn't a core course throughout school (age 5+) it was only the self taught computer programming enthusiasts ("nerds") who stood a chance of scoring highly on high school or degree level programming courses. This became very evident at (Physics Degree) level where I participated as a student and later as a TA on the computational physics compulsory core courses. You had people with little/no previous experience who struggled to grasp the concept of variables, arrays, IF statement, and FOR loops and the other extreme with people who could complement the course work in 50% of the allotted time and were using operator overloads and pointers with free abandon.

Solutions: Teach computer programming as a core course throughout school. Just like English (writing) use it as a "tool" in every subject, such as MATH, Science. Bring back home computers with BASIC (or any other language) as the turn on prompt to stimulate curiosity and accessibility form an early age (bundle a quick basic with windows would be a great start).

Comment Re:can't trust these electric cars! (Score 2) 476

Not always, gas and desil cars have had problems over the years requiring multi-viscosity oils (W winter rating), additives to diesel to prevent gelling, batteries with cold crank amp ratings and engine block heaters. Many decades of R+D has help iron out the issues with gas and diesel cars in very cold weather and yet people still have cold morning start issues when the car is no longer in top condition. you could argue instead that with a hundred years of issues we should have stuck with the horse.....

Comment Re:It's all about keeping interest (Score 2) 226

Agreed. I started programming with BBC Basic on an 8bit home computer (UK). The initial motivation was to copy the "free" game listing out of a magazine to get my own game, then start poking around the program to make the game more interesting or do something "cool"/personalized.
Then the progression was moving to Basic on The Archimedes range of ARM workstations (UK) and writing desktop programs, defiantly fun to make your own desktop program back in the day with lots of "wow" factor.
Progressing to PC's and using early visual basic was the same.
Then came Labview which was a big switch from traditional line based code programming but gave it's own rewards when you started interfacing (easily) to machines and instruments, e.g. I/O to oscilloscopes, lasers, power supplies etc. to quickly construct a fully automated experiment was then the wow factor. I had resisted programming in C and similar languages because the strict syntax and structuring requirements were a big road block to (initial) quick and functional programs. However that changed in recent years when cheap micro processors eval boards such as the TI launch pad came with C++ environments. The pay off for learning C++ was to have my own custom microprocessor firmware and electronics working as I wanted. This is where audrino has the big attraction due to the simple programming environment.
I would suggest that these days controlling a microprocessors board with I/O to physical devices and writing "apps" for cell phones is the big pay off in wow/interest for new programmers.

Comment GCSE and A levels (Score 1) 117

I don't recall programming at my UK schools as part of core/compulsory curriculum in the 1980's and 1990's. However those who elect to study GCSE and/or A level computer science in middle/high school were required to learn programming as part of the 2 year course and programming project(s) had to be turned in that accounted considerably to the final mark.
A quick Google gives that present GSCE computer programming project is 30% of final mark.
I taught myself programming at home aged ~8 an onward. I took GCSE and A-level computer science at night school, at an earlier than normal age, and in addition to my high-school courses. When I reached (UK) college Physics there was compulsory programming courses and people without skills had to play catch up.

Comment Arduino is popular but overpriced (Score 1) 273

I do a fair amount of home and work microprocessor/hardware dev. and every time I research I keep coming to the conclusion that the Arduino and it's expansion shields from the usual vendors are WAY OVERPRICED.

An Arduino and Ethernet shield costs more than a 2nd hand dual core PC box with windows licence.

The RasberyPI by comparison seems very well priced, though I haven't had need for one. The OP is correct, if he needs a screen , user input and portable nature a (2nd hand) cell phone (android) is a good basis. Since the USB OTG IO expansion costs as much as a budget (2nd hand) android cell phone again it is not a great deal.

I would suggest a TI Stelaris launchpad kit that has USB host / slave functionality for $13 (!)
this little guy has "80MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 CPU with floating point, 256Kbytes of 100,000 write-erase cycle FLASH and many peripherals such as 1MSPS ADCs, eight UARTs, four SPIs, four I2Cs, USB & up to 27 timers, some configurable up to 64-bits. "

Another item of interest for projects that I have developed is this Bluetooth to serial TTL for $9:

For all most of my (PC based) projects to date I have gone with:
A) the (cheaper) MSP430 launchpad:
B) Or for "medium" speed / quality analog I/O use a national instruments usb I/O card ($170):
C) And for something a bit faster use a Rigol Osc. starting at $300 with usb and Ethernet interfacing.

Comment sell them and buy new.... (Score 5, Informative) 160

SPECfp2006 rate results:
e8600 34
i7-3770 130
x4 the performance

...sell the E8xxx series PC's in boxes for$100 a peice with windows licence
and use the $1400 towards buying Qty.4 lga1155 motherboards (4x$80), 4 unlocked K series i7's (4x$230) and 4x8Gb of DDR3 RAM (4x$40), 4x ~3-400W budget power supplies (4x $30) = $1520

Use a specialized clustering OS (linux) and have a smaller, easier to manage system, with lots more DDR 3 memory and lower electricity (and AC electricity) bill....

Comment What happens when the merge? (Score 1) 151

What is going to happen when this binary pair of brown dwarfs ultimately merge?
Will the combined mass be enough to start fusion and a main sequence star?
Will it have a period of instability resulting in high energy particle or "solar flare" emissions that could have implications to our solar system?

Comment Re:latest log (Score 1) 79

1736 GMT (12:36 p.m. EST)
A NASA official says three Dragon thruster pods are required to approach the International Space Station.
1726 GMT (12:26 p.m. EST)
The Dragon spacecraft's Draco thrusters are mounted on four pods. Two of the pods contain five thrusters and the other two contain four thrusters. According to SpaceX, the pods are positioned to provide complete control of the spacecraft's direction of motion (X, Y and Z axis), as well as orientation (roll, pitch and yaw).

1710 GMT (12:10 p.m. EST)
SpaceX has released the following statement:
"Falcon 9 lifted off as planned and experienced a nominal flight. After Dragon achieved orbit, the spacecraft experienced an issue with a propellant valve. One thruster pod is running. We are trying to bring up the remaining three. We did go ahead and get the solar arrays deployed. Once we get at least 2 pods running, we will begin a series of burns to get to station."

1702 GMT (12:02 p.m. EST)
Engineers are working to bring up the two other Dragon thruster pods (Nos. 2 and 4).

1650 GMT (11:50 a.m. EST)
Dragon has extended its power-generating solar panels.

1640 GMT (11:40 a.m. EST)
"Thruster pod 3 tank pressure trending positive. Preparing to deploy solar arrays," Musk just tweeted. At least two thruster pods are needed to deploy the power-generating solar arrays, which stretch 54 feet tip-to-tip.

1622 GMT (11:22 a.m. EST)
SpaceX says one thruster pod is working, and two are "preferred" to deploy solar arrays. Four thruster pods are on the Dragon spacecraft. "We are working to bring up the other two in order to plan the next series of burns to get to station," a SpaceX spokesperson says.

1612 GMT (11:12 a.m. EST)
NASA spokesperson Pat Ryan says flight controllers in Houston and at SpaceX's headquarters in California are studying whether they may need to change the sequence of rendezvous burns to approach the space station. "It is a possibility that part of the response to the issue may be a rearrangement of the planned burn sequences for the Dragon spacecraft," Ryan said in a televised update from mission control in Houston.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk is tweeting updates on the situation. His latest update: "About to pass over Australia ground station and command inhibit override."

Musk is referring to an attempt to recover at least one of the three disabled thruster pods.

Dragon uses 18 Draco rocket jets to control its orientation and change its orbit to approach the space station.

1606 GMT (11:03 a.m. EST)
"Holding on solar array deployment until at least two thruster pods are active," Musk just tweeted.

Comment Re:latest log (Score 1) 79

1543 GMT (10:43 a.m. EST)
SpaceX founder and CEO just tweeted: "Issue with Dragon thruster pods. System inhibiting three of four from initializing. About to command inhibit override." Solar array deployment was delayed while engineers attempt to regain attitude control of Dragon.

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