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Comment I regularly teach programming to English majors (Score 2, Insightful) 346

For about 10 years, I have been teaching Inform to students (mostly English majors) in courses that combine writing with media production. I start them off with HTML and CSS (just to get them familiar with the level of accuracy required of any kind of coding). I've also taught Flash, but this fall I will probably drop it to make more room for Scratch.

The point is not to make these English majors into professional programmers, but rather to familiarize them with fundamental processes such as iteration, versioning, scaling, beta-testing. To someone who has never written a computer program, even very simple concepts such as if-then statements and variables can be completely baffling. I notice that students who play old-school text adventure games are at first very unforgiving about the limitations of the parser, but after they've programmed their own short games, and watched their beta-testers come up with reasonable vocabulary words that they expected the programmer to have implemented, students are more ready to appreciate when a text-adventure author has done a good job anticipating the user's actions. This is a lesson that, I hope, translates to their encounters with other interfaces, making them more willing to take beta-testing seriously, in the future, when they might be writing the copy for team that includes programmers.


How Should a Non-Techie Learn Programming? 346

CurtMonash writes "Nontechnical people — for example marketers or small business owners — increasingly get the feeling they should know more about technology. And they're right. If you can throw up a small website or do some real number-crunching, chances are those skills will help you feed your family. But how should they get started? I started a thread with the question on DBMS2, and some consistent themes emerged, including: Learn HTML + CSS early on; Learn a bit of SQL, but you needn't make that your focus; Have your first real programming language be one of the modern ones, such as PHP or Python; MySQL is a good vehicle to learn SQL; It's a great idea to start with a project you actually want to accomplish, and that can be done by modifying a starter set of sample code (e.g., a WordPress blog); Microsoft's technology stack is an interesting alternative to some of the other technology ideas. A variety of books and websites were suggested, most notably MIT's Scratch. But, frankly, it would really help to get more suggestions for sites and books that help one get started with HTML/CSS, or with MySQL, or with PHP. And so, techie studs and studdettes, I ask you — how should a non-techie go about learning some basic technological skills?"
Wireless Networking

Submission + - The Price of Staying Connected at Hotels 1

theodp writes: "Wireless Internet access is hardly a rarefied luxury — it's free in cafes, parks, fast-food chains, campgrounds, and even gas stations. But you can still pay dearly for Wi-Fi access in upscale hotel rooms, where daily access can run between $9.95 and $19.95. 'Not all guests use it [Wi-Fi],' explained a publicist for Thompson Hotels, 'so to include it complimentary in the rate no longer makes sense with the consumer wanting the most attractive rates.' The fees are 'exorbitant,' counters attorney Randall Stempler. 'It should just be built into the rate, like electricity.' BTW, Thompson made HotelChatter's 2009 'perp-walk' of Wi-Fi offenders. Got any additions?"

Comment Re:*Not* telling the story can work too (Score 1) 131

I agree that the lack of information and agency helps the player bond with the PC. Don't forget, though, the effect of Breen delivering his propaganda speech, and the little vignettes like the woman waiting for her husband, or the guy babbling in the train station. Those are atoms of narrative that do advance the story, chiefly by setting the scene, thereby providing a context for the action that follows.

Breen's narrative doesn't so much tell the story as give us a story to work against, but it does play an important part in establishing the ethos of the world your'e about to explore.


Oldest Human Hair Discovered In Fossilized Poop 50

goran72 writes "A new study has suggested that strands discovered in fossil hyena poop found in a South African cave could be the oldest-known human hairs. According to a report in National Geographic News, researchers discovered the rock-hard hyena dung near the Sterkfontein caves, where many early human ancestor fossils have been found."

Obama Staffers Followed Palin's Email Lead On Inauguration Day 407

theodp writes "Using Yahoo's free e-mail service to conduct government business was good enough for Sarah Palin. And now the Washington Times reports that Obama staffers turned to Gmail on Inauguration Day to conduct their business. Those wishing to contact members of the incoming Obama administration were instructed to contact staffers at until official White House e-mail addresses became available."

The Role of Video Game Immersion 40

GameSetWatch has a story questioning whether modern game developers are putting more effort into immersion than they should, sacrificing other aspects of the game that are more important for an entertaining experience. Quoting: "Look at popular Wii games, and at casual games. These are generally rules-emergent games, with no pretense of 'immersion.' Arguably, Nintendo chose not to compete in the technology-driven 'realism' field with the Wii, and most casual games are 2D, not 3D. The high numbers of buyers and players of these games suggests that a significant proportion of the audience — if not the majority — wants to play games, not immersive 'simulations.' Put another way, is the immersive simulation (Star Trek Holodeck, Matrix) only the desire of some of the hardcore fans? ... It seems there's a significant number of adults who want to play a video game for a while to relax, to have their attention diverted from ordinary life. They don't want to be immersed in some simulation, some dream-fulfillment — if nothing else, they don't have the time for it!"

Comment Re:Not mainstream? (Score 1) 93

Regarding older text games:

They would not however be computer games as there isn't generally an AI involved. I'm not sure if there are any, at least of the older generation, that do include a computer player.

Huh? Will Crowther's original Adventure (c. 1975) included dwarves that wandered through the maze and initiated combat. Don Woods expanded Adventure and released it (1977) in a form that included a pirate whose behavior was a little more complex. The thief of Dungeon/Zork (1977) is more complex still. They most definitely interacted with the player and moved through the shared environment, using instructions in the form of code executed by a computer. The command line parser definitely required a computer to work.

You can see the source code for Crowther's original Adventure discussed here:

Classic Games (Games)

The Return of (Old) PC Graphic Adventures 93

KingofGnG writes "Though they belong to a genre already considered defunct and inadequate for the mainstream video game market, adventure games have a glorious past, a past that deserves to be remembered, and, of course, replayed. At the center of a good part of this effort of collective memory, there is ScummVM, the virtual machine which acts like an interface between the feelings and the puzzles from the good old times and the modern operating systems. As already highlighted before, the ScummVM target has grown immensely over time, going from the simple support of the 'classic' adventure games par excellence published by Lucasfilm/Lucasarts, to a range that includes virtually any single puzzle-solving game developed from the beginning of time up to the advent of the (Windows) NT platform. The last video game engine added to ScummVM within the past few days is Groovie, created by the software house Trilobyte for its first title released in 1993, The 7th Guest ."

Majel Roddenberry Dies At 76 356

unassimilatible writes "If there was ever a sad day for nerds, it's today, as Majel Barrett-Rodenberry has passed away. The widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is best remembered as the gorgeous Nurse Christine Chapel from the original series, the pesky and officious Lwaxana Troi from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and of course the ubiquitous voice of Star Trek computers in movies, TV, and animated films (who hasn't used her voice as a system sound on their PC?). Majel also attended Star Trek conventions yearly and was a producer of Andromeda. Fortunately, Majel just finished her voice over work for the computers in J.J. Abrams' latest Trek movie. I have to admit, this made me sad, just having caught up on the entire TNG and DS9 series on DVD."

Survival-Horror Genre Going Extinct? 166

Destructoid is running an opinion piece looking at the state of the survival-horror genre in games, suggesting that the way it has developed over the past several years has been detrimental to its own future. "During the nineties, horror games were all the rage, with Resident Evil and Silent Hill using the negative aspects of other games to an advantage. While fixed camera angles, dodgy controls and clunky combat were seen as problematic in most games, the traditional survival horror took them as a positive boon. A seemingly less demanding public ate up these games with a big spoon, overlooking glaring faults in favor of videogames that could be genuinely terrifying." The Guardian's Games Blog has posted a response downplaying the decline of the genre, looking forward to Ubisoft's upcoming I Am Alive and wondering if independent game developers will pick up where major publishers have left off.

Submission + - Crowther's Original Adventure Source Code Found!

drxenos writes: I don't know how many of you are fans of old-school text adventures (interactive fiction), but Will Crowther's original Fortran source code has been located in a backup of Don Wood's old student account. For fans like me, this is like finding the Holy Grail. link: n/browse_thread/thread/607acaf1a279d4dd/bd53b672a1 85d177#bd53b672a185d177

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