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Comment Re:Ugh (Score 1) 169

Have you discussed this with the professor? I'm one. If a student told me what you're telling me, I would try to figure out some procedural change. Even if it's too late for you, you might help out the next group by speaking up.

Profs make mistakes, and changes have unintended consequences. I think we're going to see a lot of mistakes (as well as some revelations) over the next few years as people tinker with pedagogy.

Comment Re:A Mature Local Machine Product vs Immature Clou (Score 1) 346

i'm not surprised. Consider that Microsoft shipped Office 2008 (for OS X) without VBA. VBA was not restored until Office 2011. Given this kind of behavior, why on earth would anyone put themselves at Microsoft's mercy by developing *new* systems for closed-source apps using a proprietary langauge subject to change and removal? (I understand that legacy systems need to be maintained.)

Comment Re:R is easier (Score 1) 254

Do you have any idea what you're talking about? It's fine that you don't like the language, but the claim that it's only reliable from the command line just sounds stupid without an example. How about some concrete examples illustrating errors in the documentation or inappropriate coercion or inconsistencies between a script and the command line?

Your colleague needs to know that R functions have named parameters, the use of which avoids the problem he encountered.

Comment Re:R; apt-get install r-base (Score 3, Interesting) 254

What advanced stats do you have in mind that can be done easily in Matlab but not in R? And I think your assessment of the relative acceptance of the two is out of date. R awareness is growing fast.

The choice really depends on what you are doing. Matlab is industrial strength engineering software. R is a a powerful statistics oriented programming language. In my experience, R's statistical capabilities are a strength relative to Matlab. Data handling (such as reading a csv file without barfing) is much easier in R than in Matlab. Moreover, Matlab is quite expensive. This is fine in a professional setting, but a showstopper if you're a small operation. The poster can get a student license, but why not use Octave or R? The two languages are actually similar in many respects, see David Heibeler's page.

I know researchers who have ditched Matlab in favor of R/C++. It really depends on what you're doing.

Comment Re:Soooo... (Score 1) 255

I bought a Wacom that did not work on Ubuntu 12.04. The kernel version did not yet recognize the new Wacom release (version 5 or some such), so I ended up buying an older model that did work. It was probably something that someone more knowledgable could have dealt with, but that's the point. I couldn't easily deal with it.

I tried to contact Wacom. They don't care. If it had been a problem with OS X, I bet I would have had an answer.

Comment The flipped classroom is on the way (Score 4, Informative) 575

I think a debate about Khan's specific videos is beside the point. For years, people have been talking about online education and we got these dreadful videos of a professor lecturing, shot from the back of the room. Khan shows us a realistic vision of how online education can happen at reasonable cost. It will not necessarily replace the teachers, but it will replace a teacher who repeats the same material multiple times a day. And it will help to level the playing field.

People in universities are talking a lot about is the "flipped classroom", which means the lecture is online and clarification and working of problems occur in the classroom. This model is most obviously applicable to STEM classes, and if you haven't been following the developments, this site at NC State offers an overview of what's going on with one kind of flipped classroom and where it's happening. The University of Minnesota has recently made a huge investment in this kind of classroom.

Whatever happens with Khan specifically, he's energized a process of transformation that everyone knew had to happen eventually. Kudos to him.

Comment Re:Zuckerberg proves how smart he really is (Score 1) 423

Yes, people do say what you're saying, but I've always thought it was an investment banking marketing pitch. It's what the banker tells the shell-shocked founder as they leave the bar.

The truth is that Facebook will live or die on its product and its financial results going forward. A first-day stock price pop is just a transfer of funds from one set of pockets to another.

Comment Zuckerberg proves how smart he really is (Score 3, Insightful) 423

The press coverage of Facebook's IPO is completely idiotic. For years the investment banks have been sticking it to companies doing IPOs. If the stock gets sold at $38 and it ends the day at $100, that means the company *should* have raised more than twice as much as it did. And it means that the employees participating in the IPO also got shafted. The people who benefit in that scenario are the privileged investors who get to buy at $38 and sell a few hours later at $100.

If Facebook ends up close to $38 at the end of the day, it will be a rare example of the stock having been priced correctly at the start. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, but I have increased respect for Zuckerberg. Google had a different IPO process but also didn't give away a lot of money. They knew what the banks were trying to do to them.

Comment Re:LaTeX (Score 4, Insightful) 642

"More work fighting with the document preparation than the actual writing"

My experience is exactly the opposite: With LaTeX you write your document and let LaTeX handle the formatting. Word is much more oriented towards ad hoc formatting. It's true that beginning LaTeX users usually don't understand this, but it's because they're trying to use LaTeX the same way they used Word.

Comment Re:Irrelevant for the normal consumer (Score 1) 206

There are two issues addressed by class actions. First is compensating the consumers who've been harmed. Second is punishing miscreants and thereby providing firms an incentive for firms to behave correctly in the future.

I would argue that in most cases the individual compensation is too small to matter, but add up all the compensation and the incentives for a firm can be quite important. A successful class action suit puts all firms on notice that misbehavior leads to lawsuits and penalties.

It may not seem just that the class action attorneys get rich, but I'm not sure it's "just" that most of the rich are rich. It's just a consequence of the way the system works.

Comment Rstudio (Score 2) 146

If you do go with R, be sure to check out Rstudio (, which is a very nice front-end for R.

In response to the posters who tell you that R is low quality because it's open source, I can tell you that's nonsense. I have Stata, Matlab, and R on my machine, and access to SAS on a research server. There are times to use each, but all else equal I use R. It's not trivial to learn, but it's a powerful high-quality piece of software, widely used in the statistics community. Whether it's appropriate for your use depends on you and the task. But it's great software.

Comment Re:Sigh... (Score 1) 495

I got fed up with Firefox's creeping RAM consumption. I would have firefox and a bunch of other stuff running, then I'd launch Virtualbox and the whole machine would come to a grinding halt. I would check and discover that Firefox was consuming 2gb out of 4. Switching to Chrome fixed that problem. I love Firefox, but it simply wasn't working well. They say they've finally fixed the RAM consumption problem, but then they said the same thing a few versions back.

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