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Comment Re:Microsoft is doing what it's best at - Marketin (Score 1) 560

Is it fair to say that applets, beans, and swing are different versions of the same thing?

Applets are a method for embedding a Java component into a web page. Microsoft equivalent would be ActiveX or Silverlight.

Beans are a method to create components that can be manipulated by designers. Basically, Sun's answer to Microsoft's graphical Visual Basic GUI builders.

Swing is the Java GUI API. The windows equivalent would be the win32 MFC GUI classes, or whatever C#'s GUI API is.

An Applet could be assembled out of Beans which use the Swing API. In no way did one of these replace any of the others.

Comment Re:Oh come on. (Score 1) 794

What makes C++ difficult is C. That is

1) Deallocation of memory, bounds checking in arrays... is done manually

2) Lots of direct pointer manipulation. You can't abstract away the "how the computer is going to do this"

3) Multiple inheritance

Getting rid of those things gives you Java which is much easier to learn but doesn't have the performance. The question is why did you choose C++ in the first place if you don't want the excellent performance?

What makes C++ difficult is the pointlessly complicated syntax and type system. What makes it worse, is all the top C++ people from Djikstra on down sing the praises of how templates are going to save the world, whereas in practice no compilers exist which can handle them the "proper" way. The problem with C++ is that the language design would never give AN INCH on theoretical perfection to accommodate practical considerations. Djikstra's book talks about "programming units" instead of files, just in case you should happen to be storing your code someplace other than a file system. This kind of pointlessly baroque exercise is the problem, trying to make today's technology work better with hypothetical future technology that doesn't exist.

20 years on, and there still does not exist a compiler which can handle templates in the "proper" way that the books tell you they should be.

The good part about C++ is that it has a basically usable sub-language inside it, namely C. In my (limited) experience, as C++ is used practically it is basically just C with this syntactic sugar:
do_something(my_stuct*) ===> my_class::do_something()

Comment Don't put lipstick on a pig... (Score 1) 794

My opinion / experience, for what it's worth, is that the style of education can only do so much to turn out a good programmer. The smart, motivated students will be stuffing themselves to the gills with everything they can get their hands on. The resources online are incredibly abundant. There is MIT opencourseware, tons of books are made available by their authors free online, pretty much every other book is available via torrents. Not to mention hundreds of programming blogs, and sites like this. Even more importantly, the FOSS movement has triumphed in making so many programming tools available for free. Someone trying to learn a new mainstream language can expect to start by downloading a good, free IDE.

In short, I think that the good students have the resources available to make themselves into great programmers. The students that see computer science as a gravy train, and just want to scrape by with the minimum necessary to pass each class are never going to be great programmers. No matter how much the curriculum prods them towards greatness, as soon as they don't have a grade on the line they will stop working. I met way too many of these second class of student in my undergraduate career, and precious few of the first.

In Electrical Engineering, it is accepted that many of the graduates are going to be second class. The career path for these individuals is sales, technical management, and marketing/application engineers. Maybe it would be helpful to have a similar tacit understanding in Computer Science. Only the top 10% or so are actually going to be programmers, the rest should go into sales, management, IT, etc.

Comment Re:Software Development is actually an art (Score 1) 306

The grass is always greener on the other side. Software developers marvel at the much higher reliability that other engineering disciplines have in their shipped products. Other engineers marvel at the incredible cheapness of software development.

The practices commonly used in creating software reflect the most effective set of trade-offs given the realities of how the software is used. One of those realities is that software crashes don't kill people. In the case that a software crash can kill people, the development process is approached differently, and the software costs much more to produce.

Also, it may be a false dichotomy to contrast car design with software engineering. Software is an important component in a modern car (computer controller traction and fuel injection for example.)

Comment Sunshine can't be defended technically (Score 1) 461

Hrm... it is more like a technical justification than explanation.

The concept is that the sun is being eaten away by stable super-symmetry particles. More and more matter is decaying into super-symmetry particles. source.

Ok, fine. However, how in the world is dropping a gigantic atom bomb on the Sun going to change that equation? The explanation, that the explosion will be so energetic that it will break down the particles is silly. Even if you could somehow "ignite" the entire Sun hotter than the core is now, that would create a supernova. So, Earth is destroyed anyway.

Even besides the premise, there are so many little problems.

Those stupid rotating reflectors on the outside of the ship. Those things were so misguided -- if the point is to reduce heating, it doesn't matter which direction the light is bounced to. Just make the whole surface shiny.

The "greenhouse" for life support. Why not just carry consumables? The ship only needs to last months, not decades. Even if you were going to have that setup for some reason, why not use hydroponics and algae that would be far more efficient?

Maybe it is still possible to come up with an explanation for what the bomb was supposed to do that is consistent with the movie. However, I think it is pretty clear that this wasn't the intention of the script.

Comment Re:This should be a lesson... (Score 1) 780

I think this is one of those stories that circulates based on how things USED to work.

I've talked to old timer HDD engineers who say in the 70s you could actually put a paper with metal dust on it ontop of the platter, and gently shake it and be able to "see" the 1's and 0's as the metal bits aligned themselves with the magnetic fields. (This was apparently used as a diagnostic tool.)

I wouldn't go so far as to say it was actually possible to recover overwritten data back then. Only that I don't know that it was impossible.

Comment Re:Honeymoon is over (Score 1) 774

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Comment Re:RFID on identification scares me (Score 1) 154

My understanding is RFID is intended to only encode a small amount of data.

But, that doesn't matter. There are many hardware mechanisms for keeping data with you (just carry a USB flash in your pocket).

The challenge for what you describe would be having universal data formats for each of these things. Everyone would need to have the infrastructure in place so that, for example, every time you went to a job interview they were set up to process the same format of input file.

XML? JSON? Something new?

It is probably inevitable that true open, extensible, simple data formats will become universal. I agree with you 100% that this will have a huge impact on society.

Just, I think RFID is a separate issue.

Comment Re:you sir are incorrect (Score 1) 553

Can't change current without changing voltage.
Can't change voltage without changing current.

LED only has a narrow range of operating voltage.

However, LEDs have an extremely fast response time (imperceptible to human sight). This means they can be "flickered" on and off for varying amounts of time to simulate different levels of brightness. If our eyes were 1000x as fast it would look awful.

Flicker technique is more generally known as "pulse width modulation" (PWM). It is a simple way for digital electronics to generate analog outputs. (You just need to pass it through an analog low-pass filter / "averager".)

Comment x86 rules high and low end; ARM holds the middle (Score 1) 123

List of 8051 manufacturers.

An interesting phenomenon has occurred in instruction sets. Things have stratified into approximately four layers. Each layer is more expensive, takes more power, and has higher capabilities. At the high end are x86 CPUs which have stuck with x86 for software compatibility. Below the x86 CPUs are ARM processors. Below that are vendor specific instruction sets. And, at the very bottom, x86 again!

For really, really low powered hardware applications where you really don't care about performance, x86 is king. The kind of applications where you take a 16 MHz chip and under-clock it to 500 kHz to save power.

Comment Re:Powers of 2 (Score 1) 454

computers do math in binary (or, to be pedantic, hexadecimal).

I'll see your pedantically discriminating between binary and hexidecimal, and raise you pedantically pointing out that hexidecimal is just a display format for binary data.
We may as well say this comment is written in English*
*: actually Times New Roman

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