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Comment Kids couldn't care less about language wars (Score 1) 370

When I was a kid I was exposed to BASIC (I owned a ZX81 and a C64) at home and Pascal at school, but what really hooked me was what could I do with them that was mostly entertaining, and just minimally useful. With the Commodore, it was a hacking a couple of games typed from a magazine. With Pascal was generating relatively nice graphics with for-loops.

Programming is a tool, and it should be thought as such: teach them how to tackle a problem with an algorithmic approach, e.g., how we can enumerate all possible combinations of who-seats-next-to-who in the classroom, using some constraints (Joe wants to sit next to Eddy)... whatever.

Teach a lazy kid how to make a computer work for him, and you've created a programmer. [Insert Bill Gates' quote here]

You may want to avoid clearly obsolete-wrong patterns ("GOTO is Evil"), but other than that, any language is good. Eventually, they'll find their language of choice, but they would likely keep the basic set of skills that built back when they learned.

Comment Re: Zenbook UX305 (Score 1) 237

Avoid Zenbooks.

They have a very slick design and a good battery life, but are well known to mount crappy SSD with a proprietary interface. It seems they not last very long (see comments in the link below), and because of the proprietary interface, a replacement SSD is 2-3 times more expensive than disks with comparable size. Mine died a few weeks ago and I found way more convenient to buy a special adapters to mount a cheaper disk, even if it creates a small bulge at the bottom of the laptop.

I would discourage also the Macbook Pro's because of the fair amount of work that's required to have a reasonable percent of the hardware working fine. In particular, with Linux you would lose one of the main advantages they have that's battery life.

I'm going to buy myself an XPS13 Dev edition, even though I don't think it has the absolute best hardware.

Comment Solar flares? (Score 1) 297

OK, the subject is a bit of a click-bait, but I started thinking about it after I had to fix no less than four different devices within three weeks apart. I strongly suspect that I'm just strongly biased by my "local" sampling. Nevertheless, the fact that the devices were rather unrelated (an almost new compact flash, an SSD, a spinning 3.5' and a spinning 2.5') made me wonder: did anybody noticed a similar pattern recently? Now, if you excuse me, I have to sign a petition for stopping pool drownings by preventing Nicholas Cage to appear in movies.

Comment "Cyber-attack", sure (Score 1) 71

Of course, the TV was hacked by a group related to the enemy of the day.
Too bad that most of their passwords were written on post-its clearly shown during their transmissions, even after the hacking happened. It seems the "ISIS supporting group" are more likely a bunch of wanna-be hackers that defaced many other websites that shared poorly configured servers and minimal IT resources, such as the Swizerland Boyscout website.

[Source: Paolo Attivissimo's website (in Italian)]

Comment Re:Actually one of my beefs (Score 1) 293

It is true that users don't bother much with the granularity of permissions, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't know the reason a given permission is required in the first place.
F-Droid tries to address this, for example. For each permission, there is a short explanation that the developer (I presume) has to write on why it is required.
Not perfect, but it's better than Google Play, in my opinion.

Comment "Good evening Mr. Gates,I'll be your server today" (Score 1) 324

It's clearly old stuff from few years ago, but it's insightful to see the different software requirements and specifications.
For example, the NIGHTSTAND Wireless Exploitation/Injection Tool has a

standalone tool currently runnuing on a x86 laptop loaded with Linux Fedora Core 3

while exploitable targets include:

Win2k, WinXP, WinXPSP1, WinXPSP2 running Internet Explorer versions 5.0-6.0

The GINSU software application to control the hardware implant BULLDOZER or the software one KONGUR:

supports any desktop PC system that contains at least one PCI connector (for BULLDOZER installation) and Microsoft Windows 9x, 2000, 2003, XP, or Vista.[...] If KONGUR is removed from the system as a result of an operating system upgrade or reinstall, GINSU can be set to trigger one the next reboot of the system to restore the software implant.

So after all, Microsoft is not really helping them, if they have to protect themselves from system updates :)

Comment Re:Whats so special about water? (Score 1) 57

Nothing absolutely special about the two, but definitely special in combination.
Let's say that water and rocks are very good ingredients on their own, assuming we're interested in variations of 'chemically based' life:

- water has interesting physical properties (you mentioned most of them), but one of them is its dielectric constant, very important for facilitating catalytic conditions (self-replicating molecules?)

- these physical properties allows it to solubilize minerals and a fair range of organic molecules at the same time, useful for catalyzing chemical reactions.

- it is somehow reactive either in reversible ways (hydrogen bonds) or by directly participating in chemical reactions (i.e. oxydation of energetic molecules = generating chemical energy)

- rocks could catalyze the spontaneous formation of chemical precursors or building blocks of life...well, as we know it? yes, but it means it happened at least once.

Now, the important key is obviously the catalysis, i.e. making chemical reactions easier and quicker. Doing that in a low-energy context (i.e. the temperatures found on modern or archaic Earth), makes it much easier for randomly created molecules to survive long enough to have a chance to self replicate.

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