I teach a second programming course in C++ with a heavy emphasis on the STL (containers and generic algorithms). I just wondered what people think about the situation today. Personally I think C++11 has cleaned up a lot of problems, making it easier to use, but given all those who work with C++ for a living, I wondered what they thought today as compared to then. Are people using C++11, does it matter at all?
Love to share the responses with my students! They are always curious about what practitioners are doing these days.
profBill writes: My son is applying for med school and his venerable Thinkpad T43 is getting a little flaky. He needs a new machine for his upcoming studies. The question is, what is the best, one computer to get someone for professional school where programming is not a big issue? His understanding is that what he needs is a machine that will allow him to watch lectures online (I guess med students can't get to all their classes regularly), write papers, do spreadsheets, read slides, do email. Pretty basic stuff. My inclination is to get the new Asus 1201n . Very portable, good battery life and enough power to do the basics. However, they are underpowered compared to a Macbook or the like. Assuming you aren't trying to do lots of games (and med students mostly aren't), what would you suggest? Real laptop, beefy netbook, even a desktop?
profBill writes: Richard Lenski , a National Academy of Science biologist at Michigan State University, has been working for more than 20 years to track a single strain of E. Coli and how it evolves. Divided originally into 12 populations, he discovered that one population evolved the ability to utilize citrate, a trait that had yet to be observed (see the abstract for more details). The folks at Conservapedia, particularly Andrew Schlafly, took exception and demanded, in typical offense-oriented lawyerly fashion, copies of all the data.
A back and forth of letters ensued, and it seems clear the Dr. Lenski has more than defended himself. This is becoming quite a cause célèbre on the internet in recent weeks. The folks at rationalwiki have documented the The Lenski affair for your enjoyment. There are a number of other places that are commenting on it as well.
profBill writes: As a fifty something professor who teaches introductory computer science, I am very aware that the 20 somethings in my class are much more at ease with computers than any other generation. However, does that mean they are more adept at using those computers? Apparently not, according to the researchers at University College of London (http://www.bl.uk/news/2008/pressrelease20080116.html). Their research indicates that while more adept at conducting searches, they also show "impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs". Moreover, this behavior "(is) now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors".
The panel makes two conclusions: That libraries (and I wonder what a library will be come the future anyway) will have to adapt, and that the information processing skills of todays young people are lacking.
The question is, why are those skills lacking and, if they are, what can be done about it?