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Comment Re:That would help logistics too (Score 4, Informative) 159

Except you can't, because some countries use the weird 104-key layout and the rest of the world uses the wonderful 105-key keyboard.

Well, at least they could reduce the number of physically different keyboards to about 3 - ISO, ANSI and JIS - rather than have a different model for every country with suitable key caps.

Also, maybe then we could get a patch to fix the hideous mutated chimera of UK and US layouts that is Apple's current UK keyboard (I mean, how the hell? I'd get it if they'd just taken a US keyboard and changed the "#" label to "£", but they've gone to the trouble of re-shaping the Enter key... and then still just changed the "#" label to "£", missing all the other US/UK differences....)

Comment Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. (Score 1) 370

If you weren't using computers and programming between 1976 and 1984, you probably can't intuitively grasp how things actually were,

Nobody was advertising computers on prime-time TV much, and they certainly weren't advertising big-budget games and online services targeted at the mass market. The kids buying (or pestering their parents into buying) those early "home" computers were the nerds who'd seen them in electronics magazines etc. and read the reviews (which, at the time, used half of their column-inches to discuss how good they were for programming). Sure, there were kids who couldn't have a home computer because their family couldn't afford one, or because the Commodore PET at the orphanage had been stolen to pay for drugs... but at the time there were many, many kids who could have had a computer, if they'd made it a priority, but didn't because they weren't remotely interested in computers and Facebook hadn't been invented yet.

I got one mainly because I'd been hooked on programmable calculators and wanted to take the next step. To afford it, I flogged virtually every half-decent, non-essential possession I had (not claiming too much hardship here - at least I had the stuff to sell - point is it didn't just magically appear after a hint to Mum & Dad). Oh, and as for that "BASIC programming book" it was missing from the set of photocopied manuals I got with my Superboard II so I had to suss it out from a couple of examples, a list of keywords and a couple of pages of "Illustrating BASIC" serialised in a magazine that I had a couple of copies of (I did eventually find a copy of Kenemy & Kurtz in the school library - god knows how it got there - and that was a brilliant book). When you wrote programs you saved them to cassette tape and crossed your fingers. "Editing" code mainly consisted of completely re-typing the line you wanted to change - maybe your system had some sort of kludgey "line editor" to help. Later on, you got to save up money for things like an assembler, decent text editor, FORTH, Pascal and eventually C - the latter two being complete non-starters unless you had a floppy drive (which, at the time, cost more than the rest of the computer).

In short, not many kids in the late 70s or early 80s stumbled into programming because they stumbled onto something called BASIC on this box that they'd been given to play games on (not that you'd get a 1980 personal computer purely on the strength of a game of "Star Trek", "Hunt The Wampus" or a Scott Adams text adventure). Later, maybe, when the first generation of kids had written some games for them to play, but not then.

I remember, circa 1981, "acquiring" a copy of a new game that had (for the time) a massive advertising campaign consisting of quarter page adverts in colour in a computing magazine... it was a huge inspiration on the grounds that, (a) it was pretty crap, and (b) if they were prepared to publish that crap, they might publish my crap. So I threw together my own crappy game in a weekend and, sure enough, a few weeks later I was published and slightly richer: Never got to join the ranks of those teenage computer game millionaires who learned to drive in Ferraris, but I did stretch to a 70cc scooter. There were plenty of opportunities for anybody who could do simple programming at the time, and even those of us who didn't join the lucky few who hit the jackpot could, with a bit of application, make useful money. Certainly, my first computer was the last time I had to rely on the Bank of Mum & Dad for stuff I wanted.

Fast forward to today: if you care to look that "basic-free" Mac actually comes with Python, Perl, PHP, Ruby and bash scripting as standard. The browser has Javascript built-in. For a free download you can get XCode with C, C++, Objective C and Swift, along with a complete IDE - including the "Swift Playgrounds" that Apple have been working on specifically to provide an "instant gratification" tool for learners. All the documentation and tutorials you can eat are available free online. A Windows PC is, arguably, not quite so loaded out-of-the-box but offers similar opportunities. Heck, you can even download BBC Basic for your phone... Oh, and the kit costs the same number of dollars as it did in 1981, if not less, despite (a) inflation and (b) the kit being several orders of magnitude more powerful.

Any kid who is genuinely interested in programming will put in the minimal effort to find the huge wealth of resources available today - far beyond what we could dream of in the 80s. ...however, they're unlikely to knock out a crappy computer game in a weekend and make instant money, or secure a well-paid job on the basis of 6 months of self-taught BASIC skills. Oh, you can write apps and, once in a while, someone will pull a "Flappy Bird" and go viral - but the odds of that are up there with winning the lottery (NB: I don't think Minecraft was a weekend job).

TLDNR: there is no problem with the availability of programming resources, and if kids can't find them then they're probably not motivated to learn coding - plus, we're not living in the 80s with a fledgling IT industry incubating in garages offering endless opportunities to self-taught programmers.

Comment Re:Elon Musk was high as shit in that interview... (Score 1) 1042

Do you know how hard it is to keep exponential growth going for any length of time?

Hang on - I thought that the end of the world was nigh because, if humanity were destined to expand exponentially for the next 1000 years, there would be so many trillions of people living in the future that the odds of us "finding ourself" amongst the few billion humans alive today would be negligibly small... I'm confused - which bit of pseudo-statistics attempting to extrapolate an unfalsifiable claim from a single data point should I believe?

If you extrapolate from zero data, the logic may appear valid but the uncertainty of the conclusion is infinite.

I suggest that Musk has SpaceX send an expedition to the far side of the sun to look for that bloody teapot - the chances that the designers of his simulation didn't add an easter egg are truly negligible and that would be an obvious choice...

Meanwhile - when is someone going to arrest all of these so-called "lottery winners"? Everybody knows that the odds of you winning the lottery jackpot are as near to zero as makes no difference, so these people claiming to have won millions are clearly liars and any big houses, yachts and sports cars they posses must be stolen.

Comment Re:Is anyone else (Score 1) 497

They were scientists, he is a huckster.

...for a huckster, he's put a remarkable number of actual satellites in actual orbit, not to mention nearly cracking the booster recovery problem. Now, I know that's not exactly rocket science... oh, hang on, yes it is.

I guess he has scientists on the payroll to do the math while he drums up the money: or has he ever claimed he designs all the rockets himself?

True, the guy has a reality distortion field of 2.83 Jobs but, then, Apple ended up pioneering (which isn't the same as inventing) half of the worthwhile things in the modern personal computer industry without Steve knowing which end of a soldering iron was hot.

Comment Re:No return trips? (Score 1) 497

That's the problem. They are cutting corners to make their flying death trap cheap. That will get people killed.

They're not flying people, yet. Meanwhile, customers get their satellites and ISS supplies launched cheaply in return for a slightly higher risk of loss, while SpaceX get paid to beta test their rockets.

If their failure rate doesn't drop with time & experience, they will have a problem - but its early days yet. Meanwhile, NASA have been talking about recovering boosters for 40 years, SpaceX have done it.

Ok, yeah, the Mars trip looks like its missing a few details so far, but they're not selling tickets just yet.

Comment Re:Java is not C-based (Score 1) 401

The only thing that is relatively C-like in Java is the syntax

...and if you take that as the definition of "C-based" then every language mentioned in TFS is "C-based" apart from Python. Silly article.

Also silly because the hard bit of learning a new "language" is not the language per se (all the languages discussed are multi-paradigm with a procedural/OO slant - no Lisp/Smalltalk/Haskell in that list) but the framework(s) and APIs associated with a new platform (which is usually why you are switching language).

Comment Re:A real comparison? (Score 1) 286

Replacing a battery isn't cheap but it is a very very straightforward thing. Unlike replacing an engine, which your transmission isn't engineered for.

What pile-of-shit ICE cars are people buying that need new engines/gearboxes/clutches every few years? Are you using a time machine to go back to the 1970s and buy the lemons they made then? Or are you basing your experience on cars that were already 8 years old when you bought them?...and on what planet are Teslas etc. zero maintenance?

My last car survived 12 years or so of my less-than-tender care & imperfect clutch-work (whats this I hear about oil changes?) and was running perfectly when I got rid of it (but someone re-modelled the rear and it wasn't worth fixing). One before that got so old that things like door catches were breaking (a more can-do mechanical person than me would have got another 5 years out of it). Before that: 2CVs with indestructible mechanics (and only slight tendency to explode) but, sadly, water-soluble bodywork. Current car 6 years old and nary more than an oil change. OK, so my gran used 3 packets of anecdotal evidence every day and she lived to be 96, but I don't get the impression that my experience is that unusual.

Most of my maintenance bills have been for tyres, wipers, windscreen chips, Air Con recharges etc. Last time I looked, EVs have all of those. I'll give you that an EV with regenerative braking probably goes through less brake pads. I'm sure Ludicrous Mode takes its toll on the tyres, though...

Comment Re:Sounds like author hasn't been sick enough (Score 1) 294

You should try a UK NHS hospital. You'd be lucky if you got a room alone - oh wait, you wouldn't, because you do get such a room when they think you are about to die.

Or they just think you might have norovirus.

My experience is that they are like floodlit madhouses, 27/7.

But if you ask nicely they'll usually give you some sleeping pills...

Actually, after personal experience of both, I've come round to firmly believing in shared wards. The single room wasn't because of imminent check-out (unless there was something they weren't telling me) - just the temporary luck of the draw. Single rooms give you altogether too much time to feel sorry for yourself, whereas on an open ward you have endless distractions and there is almost guaranteed to be someone who has it far worse than you, to put your woes into perspective (in one case, I even got to press the emergency buzzer for a nurse who collapsed on the job). Worse case, if you really are the worse-off person in the room, then you can enjoy your self-pity with the warm glow of vindication.

Turning off equipment because the lights are annoying you is probably a bad idea, though.

Comment Re:Slow news day? (Score 4, Insightful) 294

So, it has come to this. An article on Slashdot about covering up blinking lights.

Blinking lights were great before some bright spark invented those bloody ultra-bright blue and white LEDs and electrical equipment designers started indulging their fantasies of making their devices look like the mothership in Close Encounters, right down to the sunburn. Meanwhile, us slashdotters are getting older and starting to feel the effects of decades of staring at flickery screens...

Seriously guys, if the status light is casting visible shadows then its just out-and-out sloppy design. I've even had this on a HP monitor: ridiculous dazzling blue power light on the front of a monitor, with option to disable the light (so obviously people have complained) ...meaning you can't tell if the monitor is switched on at all.

And, yeah, I thank god for those little stand-up cards in hotel rooms saying "Here at PlasticHotelCorp we passionately believe that inane motivational slogans are a great substitute for actual quality" which are ideal for standing in front of the various TVs, clocks and other power lights opposite the bed.

Comment Re:well... (Score 1) 148

Using a dictionary and 2-3-4-5 word phrases is much more useful.

If you really must, use "Correct%Horse$Battery#Staple" and just put "%$#" on the post-it stuck to your keyboard - but XKCD is basically correct - we're telling people to use Pa55w0rdZ that are easy for machines to crack and difficult for humans to remember (and generate).

Can't passwords just die? When you only had a couple of passwords and "fludbunk37" was sufficiently strong they were fine, but now I've got dozens of passwords like "UoFytNd7vB9qqK". Now- since I'm completely reliant on my computer to remember my passwords - why, when I create an account, can't I just paste in a public key and subsequently log in via challenge/response like I can do with SSH?

Comment Ob HHGTTG: (Score 1) 254

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.

Douglas Adams - the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Comment Re:Probably a website. (Score 1) 133

Perhaps a nice interactive science website with VR would be a better way to spend the money

Or if it is going to be a physical museum, then the majority of exhibits need to justify their not being on a web page. That means really hands on, tactile exhibits designed to give an experience that you can't do online.

And... "history of computing"? I don't think kids are going to be interested in the nostalgia of their parents' generation and coo over cases of Apple IIs and C64s, or queue up to play genuine Pong the way middle-aged nerds do.

Here's a silly, possibly off-topic suggestion that probably wont't survive 5 minutes further thought: have you seen those ads for "Build-a-bear workshop" where sprogs construct their own soft toys? How about "build a PC workshop" for older kids - parent pays $x (seriously - tot up the cost of a visit to a theme park or the median Xmas present bill) and kid gets guided through the process of assembling their own PC from a selection of whatever cheap/surplus/reclaimed parts the budget will cover (or, if you're an incurable capitalist, premium parts at extra cost) - maybe 3D-prints some custom bling for the case (3D printing a whole case would probably take too long & be too expensive) & chooses & installs an OS & software (open-source, of course) & proudly carries the result home.

Comment For a more critical take... (Score 1) 212

For a slightly more critical take on this than the Torygraph, there's an article in The Register that actually digs in to the subject a bit and has dug out the actual government report (which is pretty silly but doesn't quite seem to involve fleets of detector vans randomly snooping on WiFi at random).

NB: This is all because of the "iPlayer loophole" - people have been able to watch catch-up TV on iPlayer without a license and, while technically you're meant to have a license to use the Live Streaming features of iPlayer its pretty unenforceable. They're trying to have a crackdown to appease anti-BBC astroturfers and you're now going to need a TV license to use iPlayer (oh, the injustice!) If you wonder why iPlayer doesn't simply ask for a name, address and TV license number, or require a user account, then you're a very silly person who is trying to apply logic and rationality to politics.

Personally, I assume that they're going to record people's WiFi and sneak the results into the SETI@Home work queue to examine for signs of intelligent life. So, you're OK unless you're watching BBC4 :-)

Comment If its real - its theatre. (Score 1) 212

It's going to cost more to field these specially-equipped detector vans and the crews to operate them than they will EVER receive back in license fees.

You didn't get the memo: the point of the detector vans was always to make people believe that there are detector vans and that they'll get caught if they watch TV without a license. The real enforcement was always done by comparing the list of people who have bought TV receivers with the list of addresses of TV license holders, or knocking on doors or sending nasty letters and hoping they'd confess. Its widely suspected that the old detector vans were either fake or ineffective, but even if they were genuine (the theory was vaguely plausible, with old-style TV sets) I doubt the "business plan" was ever to have enough vans roaming the country to directly catch significant numbers of offenders.

Comment Re:call an ambulance (Score 1) 153

That's sounds funny when you say it, with the big gap in your front teeth.

Funny how people always bring up the Big Book of British Smiles thing when the free healthcare issue comes up: guess which part of the British health service slipped through the nationalisation gap and isn't universally free at the point of delivery? OTOH that means we only traumatise self-conscious teenagers by making them wear mediaeval torture devices in their mouths if there's a serious danger of them biting their own noses - not just so they can grow up with a mouthfull of ivory tombstones.

Meanwhile... crooked teeth vs. being so worried about the cost of an ambulance that I tried to drive to the hospital while having a heart attack. Let me think...

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