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Comment Re:It's a cult, plain and simple. But not all bad. (Score 5, Interesting) 330

My AA story...

In college, I attended an AA meeting as a requirement for a Psychology class. I wan't an alcoholic or even on the path to alcoholism; I just needed to fulfill the requirement and "attend an AA meeting" was the easiest way to do that.

The first thing I noticed was that all the people in the meeeting (there were maybe 40 attendees) had replaced alcohol with coffee and cigarettes. The second thing was that all of these people seemed to care about each other. A lot. It wasn't anything explicit or obvious; it just seemed to radiate from everybody and it generated this vibe that was incredibly warm and fuzzy. I didn't announce why I was there, so unless they asked me the other attendees just treated me like another anonymous alcoholic. And they treated me like I was their son or their brother. It felt really, really comfortable and nice. At one point, I actually thought to myself "it's too bad I'm not an alcoholic, because it would be great to hang out with these people every week."

I left that meeting on an emotional high. The only way I can describe it is that it was like finding out you had a whole branch of your family that been searching for you for years, and now you've been reunited and your new family just accepts you with -- not just open arms -- but with a tangible joy that you've finally joined them. It was awesome! And then I got about 50 feet out the door and said to myself "You just got hooked by a cult!"

I was shocked because I had always assumed that I was 100% absolutely immune to cults. I had read stories about people who were brainwashed into joining them and thought that I -- with my intelligence and my skepticism and my stable family life -- could never fall for something like that. But I had only been there for two hours and they had hooked me. Had I been less intelligent or cynical or more lonely maybe I wouldn't ever have realized what was happening.

But more importantly (at least for the report I had to write for my Psychology class), I understood how AA works. It's a cult. A brain-washing, mind-controlling cult that uses the same psychological techniques as Jim Jones or Heaven's Gate to control people, and then uses that control to help them conquer their addiction demons. It's atomic fission harnessed to light up a city rather than to destroy it. And it works because we're social animals and our brains normally respond to social cues at a level far beneath our concious thought. Unless we're actively guarding against it, we can all be manipulated this way. Even you.

Please note, I'm not in any way claiming that AA is bad or that they use social power to do anything other than try to help people. People's need for social interaction is just a fact, and AA uses this knowledge as the starting point to help people stop drinking. Knowing that you have several dozen people who care about you, who would be disappointed if you had a relapse, who look to you as an example of success, or who would be happy to talk to you if you just need help resisting the urge; that knowledge might make the difference between you giving in to your addiction and you staying sober for another day. That's a good thing and if AA works for somebody then that's great.

So I completely agree with AC's suggestion that AA is a cult; but I disagree that this is in any way a bad thing.

Comment Re:Anyone? (Score 4, Interesting) 256

Yes, although there are dozens of lines of code omitted (ENVIRONMENT DIVISION), and in my experience COBOL's direct printing and console commands were never used. You either wrote to a file and used a third-party reporting tool to print or you interacted with the screen using CICS. But I imagine if the commands were really never used they'd have been deprecated by now, so YMMV.

Comment Re:Yes (Score 2) 311

I found it! (And I've looked a couple of other times in the past to no avail.) I did a GIS for "IBM RealCD", thinking to post a link to the picture-less copy and a separate link to some GIS results of the interface, and the RealCD pictures were from a heretofore unknown mirror of the site. (Way back in the day, I used to have this site bookmarked; I was bummed when the domain lapsed.) But enough about my google-fu...

Some relevant pages: (The rest of the site is excellent, too.)

Comment Re:Yea... teach them history... (Score 5, Interesting) 200

Last year I wrote a simulator of a VERY simple computer. It had four instructions, 16 bytes of memory, and 2 registers. There were no branch instructions; literally the only thing you could do was write a program to add two (8-bit) numbers together. (And it would set the error bit if the result was bigger than 255.) I gave it an interface of nothing but (simulated) LED lights for the registers and memory, and then (simulated) push buttons to select a memory address and poke a value into it. It looked like a relic from 1956.

I then explained it to my then 9 and 11 year-old sons (who both are teaching themselves to program), explained base-2 math, explained how the "computer" worked and the four instructions they had available, gave them a whiteboard, and tasked them with writing a program to add two numbers.

They went NUTS! They were discussing theories, pointing out errors in each other's ideas, and getting excited when they fixed bugs. And they were doing it with a maturity level way beyond their years. They loved it. And I think that part of it was because it was simple enough that they felt in control of it. I also had the memory lights turn green as the instruction pointer advanced, so they could watch the program running. (It was slow enough that they could follow it and watch the registers change.) Granted, my boys love history, so that may have sweetened the deal for them a bit. But I was shocked at how easily they picked it up and how much they enjoyed it.

I'd like to expand it to the point where they can watch a stack operating, and see pointers and offsets getting used, but I just haven't had the time to follow up on it. But it confirms (for me) that the idea of starting at the beginning might be the most effective way to teach programming. (I also taught programming at a local trade college for a few years, and I noticed how much harder it was for the students to pick up--say--OO programming concepts when they had never had to deal with the problems that OO concepts were designed to solve. Trying to simplify it even more for elementary school students seemed mis-guided.)

The very best part of the story was six months later touring the Mercury Redstone program blockhouse at Kennedy Space Center (I know it's not technically on the KSC property, save your breath). They had an old Sperry-Rand computer with a console full of lights, and both boys lit up and told the (confused) tour guide "I KNOW THIS! I KNOW HOW TO PROGRAM IT!". It nearly brought a nerdy tear to my eye.

P.S. If anyone is curious for more information I'd be happy to share. It wasn't very complicated, but I think it has a lot of potential.

Comment Re:Spacecraft (Score 1) 722

You're absolutely correct, except it's a home network so it's not relevant.

The router is "spider" (Apollo 10 LM), because of all the wires coming out of it.
My daughter's XO is "gumdrop" (Apollo 10 CM), because she thought it was cute.
My oldest son's laptop is "libertybell7", because he's fascinated by the Mercury program.
My other son picked "odyssey" for his mac, because the hard drive blew up.
My media server is "telstar".
And so on.

My kids and I actually spent a fun morning coming up with names for all the machines, and they learned a lot about the space program in the process. But to further support your point, I hadn't realized how poorly I stuck to my own naming convention.

I'm a good father, but a bad network administrator.

Comment Spacecraft (Score 4, Interesting) 722

Windows Boxes: Soviet spacecraft
Linux Boxes: American spacecraft
Mobile Devices: Space probes
Wonky Mac: Odyssey (Apollo 13 CM)
Wonky Print Server: Ariane5 (French rocket which blew up)

I used to use the phonetic alphabet, but it was too boring.

/And yes, the poll is deeply, fundamentally broken

Comment comments (Score 5, Interesting) 218

Did anybody read the comment thread in the second link? It appears to be nothing but 15-year olds, but the overwhelming sentiment is *against* George Hotz and *for* Sony. I find it depressing when I talk to normal people who cheerfully use iTunes et al with no idea what DRM is. But seeing a whole gang of young people vehemently defending Sony against those mean, mean pirates is just demoralizing.

And why are they defending Sony? Because Sony was forced (by the scurvy pirates) to issue a useless update that prevents them from using their PS3 for 30 minutes while it's downloading and installing. So Sony does something useless and annoying, and the 15-year olds blame the pirates for it.

I hate to say this, but we've lost. The public has accepted HDMI. They've accepted devices locked in firmware. They've accepted Blu-Ray. They've accepted the iOS app store. They've accepted the Kindle. In 5 years the PCs from the big vendors will have locked firmware to "protect the user experience" and to prevent "hackers and pirates" from "compromising the security of the system" so they can download child porn and terrorist handbooks. In 10 years the only way you'll be able to run FOSS software will be to buy an unlocked "corporate" PC for an absurd amount of money and possibly only after "registering" your unprotected box so the authorities can monitor you for illicit activities. For a big company this won't be any issue at all (they already have policies to prevent their employees for using the servers for non-corporate activities), but for the home user it will be an enormous barrier.

Stallman was right. I'm depressed.

Comment Re:Yay! (Score 3, Insightful) 845

Honestly your post looks like someone who was set in their ways and simply unwilling to do things differently.

Would it be unsporting to point out that you responded to an anecdotal argument ("Repeatedly my iPhone has been wiped when connecting to iTunes") with an anecdotal argument ("I have never had my phone wiped by connecting to iTunes"). If you're going to accuse the GP of being unwilling to do things differently, you might want to try doing something differently.

I have never owned an iPhone, and therefore conclude that Apple has never sold one. Did I do that right?

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