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Comment From The Front Lines... (Score 5, Insightful) 166

Although this study is good for grabbing headlines, the analysis seems a little bit shallow. For one thing, the focus is on STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering) disciplines, As someone who teaches at the college level in both a STEM field and a traditional humanities field, I am well aware that different areas require different methods. For instance, if one is teaching the basics of computational cognitive modeling, then some interactive segments are necessary. However, things work entriely differently if one is teaching, for instance, the history of the philosophy of mind. Another issue I have with the study is (as best I can tell -- I cannot access the original paper) that they do not control for lecturer effectiveness. To put it simply, we all know that some people are better at lecturing than others. That being said, even when teaching say, Cartesian Dualism, there are steps that can be taken to make lecture classes better. For instance, it is widely known that most humans have an attention span of between 10 to 20 minutes. So, it is simple enough to give everyone a break every twelve minutes, or so and tell a story, or some historical anecdote. Similarly, the Socratic approach, asking for input from students throughout the class and then encouraging discussion, can also make lectures much more effective and enjoyable. These are some of the things I do. That being said, I have known people who just drone on in a monotone, in lecture classes. Folks such as that can be utterly tedious. My point here is that unless the effectiveness of the teachers is taken into account, this study cannot be trusted.

Submission + - BBC Reports 'Vishing'

Dr_Ish writes: According to the BBC, there has been a sudden surge in 'vishing'. This is phishing, but using the 'phone. Apparently old folk in the UK have been targetted and are especially succeptible. Today might be a good day to call your grannie and warn her about such things.

Submission + - British Olympics Cyber-Threat

Dr_Ish writes: The BBC is reporting that the opening ceremonies of last the Olympics last year were potentially subject to a cyber attack that could have cut all the lights and power. Of course, it did not happen. However, the interesting question is whether this is real, or whether this is a FUD [Fear Uncertainty, or Doubt] story promoted by GCHQ to help shore up their shredded credibility.

Comment Go To The Top (Score 2) 341

If they are a publicly listed company, then they will probably have 'Investor Relations' information posted somewhere. This is often the fast route to the top of the corporate ladder. Look at the Board members and VPs and determine who would be most likely responsible. Then try and send them an e-mail. Many e-mail addresses are not posted, but are easy to guess. Try the obvious ones systematically (e.g.,, etc, until one does not generate an e-mail bounce. I have had good luck with this method with major corporations, as a mere customer. It has even worked with senior political figures in the US government. If this does not work, then try sending an e-mail to the generic 'Investor Relations' e-mail, do not say too much, but ask to be passed on to the relevant person. Using this method, I was able to get to the top of the BP ladder during the Gulf Oil Spill. Needless to say, I was unable to persuade BP to stop acting like jackasses, but at least I got my concerns heard. A final strategy is to file against them in small claims court. This is often cheap and easy to do and does not require a lawyer. There are usually limits to the amount you can claim, so just file for a portion of the bill. No matter how many lawyers they have, they hate to have to have them show up (usually at US$250+ per hour) and argue the case. Good luck!

Comment Old News (Score 1, Interesting) 162

While there have been advances since the 1980s, as best I can tell most of this report is yet more A.I. vaporware. It is easy to put out a press release. It is much harder to do the science to back it up. How did this even get posted on the/. front page? If this stuff was true, I'd be happy, as most of my career has been working with so-called 'neural nets'. However, they are not neural, that is just a terminological ploy to get grants (anyone ever heard of the credit assignment problem with bp?) Also, there have been some compelling proofs that most neural networks are just statistical machines. So, move on. Nothing to see here folks, etc.

Comment Please Spread the word and plan to attend! (Score 1) 1

Hi all, This should be an informal gathering of local Slashdot fans. However, please do not forget to say that you will be attending. This will be needed so that we can claim our free t-shirts. Also, do not forget to spread the word! However, time is getting short. Everyone who wants to get a shirt needs to be signed up by the 29th of Sepr.

Comment How I solved the problem... (Score 1) 320

When I upgraded from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 I ran into exactly this problem. It was a total pain. I looked around the Ubuntu forums, but found very little of anything helpful. I also looked at the Dell Mini 10v forums (as this is the affected computer), but again found nothing. While doing this though, I got increasingly annoyed with both the freezes and the Unity desk top. So, I installed KDE. What do you know, I no longer see the damn bug and I have a desktop that is much more suited to my needs. If you are having this problem, it might be worth giving it a try. Easy to follow instruction can be found at

Submission + - Ubuntu 12.04 a disaster? 5

Dr_Ish writes: When Ubuntu moved from version 10.04 LTS to 12.04 LTS, the process looked pretty slick. There was no need to do a complete re-install, save all those files, etc. However, it seems to be slowly emerging that the transition may be far from smooth. Ubuntu forums are currently flooded with reports of system freezes and crashes. To make matters worse, no solution has been offered, other than generic suggestions about updating drivers and the last. Although the move to the Unity desktop was already controversial, this could be the nail in the coffin if the Ubuntu ascendancy. That being said, it may be a boon for alternative distros, like Mint, if Ubuntu does not address the issue rapidly.

Comment When Will Publishers Get It? (Score 4, Interesting) 168

This seems typical of the world of publishing today. Many publishers are merely money making machines, with little regard for either students, or knowledge. Unfortunately, as publishers adopt more and more predatory practices, they end up pissing off both students and professors. There is one major academic publisher in my field Cengage (who operate under many other names), whose books I now refuse to use. They update editions every three years, doing little more than changing page numbers and changing the order of exercises. Each new edition comes with a substantial price hike and force me to rework sections of my classes. The result of this? I now have the equivalent of an on-line text I have developed myself over the years. So, they have lost the business.

It is the very same publishing houses who are mean about sending us desk copies and charge us for them, if we do not adopt their texts. Again, they end up as losers, as there is no incentive to use their texts. They also get pissy when we sell the books that they send to us, without our asking. This again is silly. In the State in which I teach, professors have not had a pay rise in four years, so a few bucks to buy lunch was a welcome perk. Stopping this perk does not make us like them any more.

That being said, not all publishers are like this. Some keep their editions for a long time and do not change much when they bring out new editions. A good example of this is Oxford University Press. So, when I need to use a text for a class, all the business goes to OUP. This is the correct way to do business in publishing. It should not be about quarterly results, but rather about building and maintaining long term relationships. The technological innovation described in the post is just yet another step in the wrong direction. Eventually though, publishers will have to work out the errors of their ways, or perish./p

Comment I signed -- here is why. (Score 5, Informative) 220

I have signed the boycott petition. It is great to have such an opportunity. The reason I signed is because I work at a State university and as such I am a public servant of the State. Doing research is what I am paid to do by the people of my State. However, once research is completed, it needs to get published. I can post it to various sites, but that does little good -- as others have noted, publication in a 'good' place matters. That is what gets visibility. So, I send a paper to a journal. The editorial assisants then send the paper out to referees. The referees are also usually other professors, frequently work at other State institutions. The referees produce reports and make recommendations about whether the paper should be published. However, referees also work for free. If the paper gets accepted, there are usually some changes that need to be made. No problem. Thus far, the whole process is State funded and nobody has made a dime, other than their salary.

The next step is where the the trouble starts. Before the paper will be given final acceptance for publication by the journal, I am required to sign over the entire copyright to the publishers! Thus, far in the process, they have done nothing. Yet, from this point on, they get to profit from my work and that of the referees.

Publishers will provide .pdf versions of off-prints to the authors. How much does that really cost? However, the .pdf files are getting increasingly limited. The .pdf of my most recent paper include my name as the person who downloaded it. I don't know whether the .pdf files will stop printing after a certain number of copies. If the is technically feasible, I bet they do.

If someone wants to read my paper, they must have access to a library with a subscription to the journal. Subscriptions to journals are massively expensive. Should a member of the people of my State want to have access to my work, if they cannot find a library with access, then they must pay the journal publishers for the right to do so.

What is laughable is that the publishers now also do things like offering an option to have the paper available on-line for free. However, to exercise this option, they want *me* to pay them a large fee. This is a crazy set up. They have added little yet get all the cash.

In all fairness, different publishers have different policies on all this. Elsevier (along with Kluwer) just happen to have both the most restrictive policies coupled with the highest prices. However, if I want to get my work out there, or get a promotion (I already have tenure), then I have to play the game the publishers run with fewer morals than a mafia protection racket.

These then are the frustrations that made me sign the anti-Elseview petition. It is makes me mad. The petition shows that I am not alone in this. Perhaps one day Congress will do something useful and outlaw the practices of the publishers. However, as the publishers use their ill gotten gains from the work of others to pay high priced lobbying firms, I doubt this will happen any time soon.

All that being said, there is one tiny plus side. We professors are pretty smart cookies. There are many ways of getting access to materials, even if the library does not have a subscription. This means that there is a thriving set of back-channels that the greed of publishers have created. More than that, I am not prepared to say.

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