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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Engage 5th-8th Graders In Computing?

alvinrod Re:Visualization (133 comments)

I definitely agree with this. You can even give them some scaffolding and have them make something simple like pong, which you can use to demonstrate the concept of objects by adding multiple balls to the screen at once or making the paddles change size. You can even discuss some simple algorithms like determining how the ball should bounce or how to determine if a player missed the ball.

If you can get someone interested in coding and give them some to demonstrate some core concepts that have easy solutions you'll likely find that many start seeking out additional knowledge to build on what they already have in order to add stuff to a simple game. When I was young and first started learning to code, typing in some simple programs to make basic games is what got me interested enough to learn more in order to modify them or make my own changes to the games.

You could also ask the class about what kinds of problems that they would want to use a computer/smartphone to solve. Invariably someone will suggest something simple enough to make a quick app. There are some people who aren't terribly interested in computers or programming for its own sake, but if you show them how it can be used to solve real problems that they face, it might get them to take more of an interest.

7 hours ago

Game Hack-A-Thon Attracts Teams At 500+ Sites Worldwide

alvinrod Re:Unity? (31 comments)

To some people, having the engine is liberating and allows them far more creativity. If you're someone who has an amazing story to tell and an interesting idea for a game, but have very little programming experience, being able to bring your grand vision into existence is going to be a lot more difficult and may prevent some from even trying. We're not telling budding authors to construct their own typewriter and build their own press after all.

At the same time, engine design itself is certainly important, but it's a different kind of creativity. It won't appeal to everyone, but I've found that showing people a basic engine and discussing enhancements or improvements is a good way to get them more interested. If you have a simple engine and let them run into the limitations, they might feel compelled to put in the effort to poke around at the engine itself whereas if you had them start from scratch it might be overwhelming.

Part of the learning process is giving people education in manageable chunks. Obviously there are some who can handle more than others, but even the most brilliant and diligent of students can be overwhelmed.

3 days ago

NVIDIA GTX 970 Specifications Corrected, Memory Pools Explained

alvinrod Re:Consumers? No just whiny fanboys (113 comments)

While that's a reasonable argument (and true) there are some people who do have cause to complain if they would have changed their purchasing decision based on having the correct information at the time of their purchase.

Honestly, even something like that 970 is overkill for me. I've still got an 8800 in my old machine that runs plenty of games just fine, especially many of the older ones that I'm finally getting around to playing.

4 days ago

Secret Service Investigating Small Drone On White House Grounds

alvinrod Re:What's the problem? (146 comments)

What if the goal was merely to see how the security team would react?

I'll agree that it's unlikely that this is anything other than a lost drone with no nefarious intentions behind it crashing/landing on the grounds of the White House, but to completely rule out any ulterior motive, especially for individuals running security isn't reasonable. If nothing else, it should at least force them to come up with a policy or security measures. Sometimes a pure accident has some beneficial outcomes.

4 days ago

Behind the MOOC Harassment Charges That Stunned MIT

alvinrod Re:What power? (376 comments)

There may have been a perception of power which may be enough. Either way, it's incredibly stupid for someone in his position to get involved at all with a current student. Even if everything is consensual and above board, there will always people people who wonder or look at it suspiciously and it certainly has the chance to blow up in a person's face.

Given that everything apparently happened over the internet, there should at least be enough of a paper trail to sort out what actually happened or even have exact records of what was said.

about a week ago

Illinois Students Suspected of Cyberbullying Must Provide Social Media Passwords

alvinrod Re:The only correct answers: (323 comments)

Chose the latter, and the response you'll likely receive is:

"Fine. Your expulsion is effective immediately."

To which the response should be, "Fine. You can expect to hear from my lawyer next week."

Once the school district is facing a huge lawsuit the problem will go away rather quickly and the idiots behind such policy will quickly find themselves looking for new employment. There are plenty of news reporters that would love to run wild with such a story, and the various social networks or social media sites will certainly go nuts over it.

about two weeks ago

Steam Broadcasting Now Open To Everyone

alvinrod Re:World's most useless feature (93 comments)

The expression "a picture is worth one thousand words" comes to mind. Sometimes it's far easier for a video to highlight something than it is for us to read a text description. For example, navigating a 3D environment in order to locate some items for yet another idiotic fetch quest, especially if we're new to that environment and it's not entirely clear where everything is at yet.

about two weeks ago

Tesla To Produce 'a Few Million' Electric Cars a Year By 2025

alvinrod Re:Tell me it ain't so, Elon! (181 comments)

On the other hand there are plenty of sites now where you can contact a previous owner directly, and if you really wanted make arrangements for someone to deliver the vehicle to you. It's really just an evolution of checking the listings in the paper and calling the person or driving to their location yourself. The only difference is that there's no centralized entity that's in anyway responsible for the sale itself, it's just connecting buyers and sellers.

about two weeks ago

Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

alvinrod Re:Use of language isn't unique (154 comments)

Actually, prairie dogs have been found to have a fairly complex language system: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/20/132650631/new-language-discovered-prairiedogese.

Sure it's not as advanced as human language, but we're only reaching the point where we ourselves are capable of determining just how good the languages of other creatures actually are. There's a lot of it we can't even begin to understand because we haven't been able to fully understand the context and we can't exactly sit down with most animals and exchange language. With our ability to better study animals and perhaps create an environment where we can always monitor their behavior to better understand the context in which language is being used, perhaps we'll come to find that they're more developed that originally imagined.

about two weeks ago

Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

alvinrod Re:In other news... (154 comments)

Actually there's a huge problem. All of the participants have grown up in a world where language is frequently and predominantly used to to communicate. They would really need to find a group of individuals who haven't used language or have a much more limited language. Without language, I would imagine that individuals would be forced to learned by imitation and therefor may be significantly better at it than people who are not.

As you point out, it's not something we can easily test, but the conclusions that are being drawn while there are still so many potential confounding variables are really getting ahead of themselves.

about two weeks ago

Hackers Leak Xbox One SDK Claiming Advancement In Openness and Homebrew

alvinrod Does it really matter (86 comments)

Does it really matter if the SDK is available so long as there's no way to run that code? I'm not really up on the latest consoles and how close they are to finding exploits to allow code execution, but it would seem rather premature to claim that this is some great victory. If nothing else it's better that people are spending their time on things like this rather than Launching DDOS attacks against the companies online services.

about a month ago

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

alvinrod Re:As with all space missions: (200 comments)

The notion that people believed the world was flat is a myth. The Greeks had worked out the earth was spherical almost two thousand years prior to Columbus's voyage. Globes had been made be various different groups of people for hundreds of years prior to Columbus's voyage as well.

What Columbus argued was that the circumference of the world was much smaller than had been estimated (he was wrong about this) and therefore the distance to India would be much shorter than most speculated. The reason the islands he landed on are referred to as the West Indies is because Columbus initially thought that he had made it to India.

His voyage wasn't pointless, but it was based on some bad assumptions. He certainly discovered something new (one could argue that the Vikings or other groups found it first, but apparently they didn't disseminate that information very widely) but it was more of a happy accident than anything else.

about a month and a half ago

Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

alvinrod Re:Does the job still get done? (688 comments)

It's not necessarily a problem. If you only need some small percentage of the actual human labor, you could simply reduce any one individuals work in order to allow for more people to share the burden. For example, if we drop the work week to 30 hours, suddenly you can employ 33% more people in order to accomplish the same amount of work. This of course assumes that there are others capable of doing that work and that's questionable to some degree.

If we do reach a point where it's possible for most people to lead a comfortable life without needing to work, that's hardly a bad thing. As long as the system incentivizes people who are able to work to produce something and add value to society, there isn't a huge problem. It's the shift from the current system to such a future that makes the road a lot more rocky. Perhaps in the interim there will be a heavy service economy where people act as maids, butlers, etc. and the people who can do the remaining 10% of the work pay the remaining 90% to do all of the menial tasks that they'd rather not do.

We might also greatly increase the number of educators. If we have surplus labor, we could focus on adding more teachers so that the next generation can build even better contraptions to make life even easier for everyone. If we ever get the point where we have AI so good it can replace educators in a one-on-one role we've probably reached the point where no one actually needs to work.

about a month and a half ago

French Cabbies Say They'll Block Paris Roads On Monday Over Uber

alvinrod Re:Win hearts and minds (295 comments)

But why draw more attention to yourself if it's only going to make people think worse of you?

There are ways to approach this that can open a dialogue and help society come to terms with the issue in a way that's reasonable for all parties involved. This approach is not the way towards achieving those goals.

about a month and a half ago

Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

alvinrod Re:They're a resource, not a "problem". (307 comments)

Most of the studies on pair programming that I've read have suggested that this is a bad idea. The person who knows what they're doing might not have the patience for someone who doesn't and the person who doesn't know what they're doing might just go along for the ride. A lot of the early studies (Laurie Williams and Charlie McDowell) found that it's better to pair people of similar ability levels, the idea being that two individuals who are less skillful will be able to struggle and grow together rather than having one person dominate everything.

Unless you can match up people who have the patience to work with a novice with those who want to learn rather than just get a grade, it's a bit of a recipe for disaster.

about a month and a half ago

"Fat-Burning Pill" Inches Closer To Reality

alvinrod Re:Magic Pill - Self Discipline (153 comments)

Anyone can eat what they want and maintain a reasonable weight. Either limit the portion or actually do enough physical exercise to burn off the excess calories consumed.

about a month and a half ago

Fraud Bots Cost Advertisers $6 Billion

alvinrod Re:How do the criminals make moeny? (190 comments)

Basically they host a website and sign up with Google or some other company to display ads. Google shares some of their revenue that they receive from the companies that pay to have their ads displayed. The people committing the fraud use scripts, bots, or some other automated program to fake visits to the site and clicks on the ads, which increases the amount of money the person running the site receives.

Imagine it as if were a company that would pay you if you filled out a survey about your interests and you handed them hundreds of fake surveys in order to get more money.

about 1 month ago

Apple Accused of Deleting Songs From iPods Without Users' Knowledge

alvinrod Re:is the claim they're triggering a fake reset ne (250 comments)

The problem in this case is that Real is trying to get their reverse engineered version of Apple's FairPlay DRM to work. The reason their music files can't be added through iTunes is because iTunes closed the loopholes that Real used in order to essentially clone the functionality of Apple's DRM-scheme. If the music files in question were DRM-free, this issue wouldn't exist. However, because they sold a bunch of music and Apple didn't want to use Real's DRM scheme, Real tried to reverse engineer FairPlay, which worked for a while until Apple fixed the loopholes and suddenly Real was left back at square one, trying to sell DRM-encumbered music that couldn't be played on most devices.

Real is just trying to sue to get some money because they're just a slowly dying company at this point. They've just slowly been bleeding money and eventually will end up declaring bankruptcy or selling their brand name, though I'm not really sure whey anyone would want it.

about 2 months ago

Woz Downplays the Significance of Apple's Startup Garage

alvinrod Re: Apple cult (77 comments)

What's done it for me were the damned ads that make noise. I used to leave advertising on, even though I could disable it so that they could get some revenue from my traffic. I understand that hosting isn't free. But now that a lot of the ads make noise, I've had to turn it off. That kind of behavior is annoying. How can a tech site be so out of touch with its user base that they'd ever permit something so obnoxious. Keep the ads quiet and tasteful and I don't have a problem with them and I'll gladly leave them on so that the site can make a little bit of money.

about 2 months ago

Pizza Hut Tests New "Subconscious Menu" That Reads Your Mind

alvinrod Re:I wont read TFS (186 comments)

Which is ideally why you'd conduct an experiment where you have the algorithm give a certain amount of people a pizza that they are unlikely to enjoy or perhaps just something that's randomly chosen in order to see what percentage of people still say they love the pizza simply because they think the computer picked something that they would enjoy.

It's not exactly a difficult problem to overcome, but I can see why they might not care. If it makes 98% of people happy, either the algorithm is good enough for most cases or it says more about how the human mind operates more than anything else.

about 2 months ago


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