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Microsoft, Facebook Declare European Kids Clueless About Coding, Too

janoc Kids don't need to learn to "code" (212 comments)

Kids really don't need to learn to "code". Only trained monkeys working for few bucks/hour "code". Of course, Facebooks and Microsofts need such people too, but that really isn't what we should be teaching to kids.

Have them learn mathematics, abstract and analytical thinking, let them do actual science, experiments, let them tinker (and fail!), expose them to the computers and computer science too. That is much more important.

Whether the little Johnny or Susan can write a program for adding up a few numbers or make a web page when they can barely read and write yet doesn't matter - perhaps they will become an excellent physicists or chemists instead. Or perhaps get a Nobel for curing cancer, who knows. We will need all kinds of engineers and scientists, not only cubicle monkeys slaving for Microsofts of the future. Schools shouldn't serve only one industry - if the kids are prepared and interested, they will go in the computer science themselves, without having to "spoon-feed" them with it.

I simply wonder why these behemoths of companies sitting on so much cash don't run their own re-qualification/education programs? That would be a win-win situation for everyone. And it not some silly commie invention - Tomas Bata (the shoe tycoon from before the WWII) was doing exactly that - taking kids from the street and offering them education - and gaining qualified and loyal workers in the process. Of course, it is cheaper to whine about the lack of visas for foreign labour and poor school systems and demand that someone else solves your problems ...

about a week ago
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Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

janoc More BS (975 comments)

Unfortunately, the whole thing is again more BS.

The paper and the "independent researchers" (who are in fact working with Rossi) are quite well debunked here:
  http://shutdownrossi.com/e-cat...
  http://news.newenergytimes.net...

Arxiv is *not* a peer-reviewed publication - anyone can submit anything there. So having a paper on Arxiv doesn't mean that it is any good.

about a week ago
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Axiom Open Source Camera Handily Tops 100,000 Euro Fundraising Goal

janoc Re: It will never get built ... (31 comments)

Sorry, even $2300 isn't enough for a device of this complexity. And anyway, they don't have that money - the backers paid only $500, so they have to fund the work from that, not from the $2300 that they may hope to get at the end.

Also check out how much a commercially produced (including all economy of scale discounts!) camera components costs: http://www.red.com/store/camer... Believe me, that isn't 100-200%+ of margin there.

And the team lacking any engineers or anyone with a verifiable experience in building projects of similar size?

about two weeks ago
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Axiom Open Source Camera Handily Tops 100,000 Euro Fundraising Goal

janoc It will never get built ... (31 comments)

Oh and check out their team - "new media artistst", "filmmaker", "3D artist", "software developer" ... I don't see any electrical engineers, FPGA/signal processing experts, mechanical engineers ... Who is actually going to BUILD this camera?

This looks very much like CLANG (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/260688528/clang) 2.0 ...

about two weeks ago
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Axiom Open Source Camera Handily Tops 100,000 Euro Fundraising Goal

janoc It will never get built ... (31 comments)

The problem is that this device will never get built. 100k is a ridiculously low budget for the production of a device of this complexity. Just to have an idea of what is involved for a much simpler device with the same budget (a silly 3D printer): https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... Basically those guys have also asked for 100k, got them, spent a year on it - and went bust. At least they had the balls to admit it and are going to refund the backers. Going to an assembly house with less than a million in budget? Forget it, they won't even speak to you.

That leaves assembling these cameras in a garage, by hand. Which means soldering those nasty BGA by hand - good bye any reasonable yield, not to mention that those chips aren't exactly cheap.

Which leads to the second point - I have serious doubts about their BOM costs. If they are planning to sell the camera for $500, with the FPGA/SoC costing about $100 alone, that can't work out. The 4k camera sensor is likely in the similar range (probably more - 300fps 4k sensor? Those things cost hundreds of dollars just the bare sensor ...). Which leaves about $200-300 for everything else on the camera *INCLUDING THE MARGIN* to pay all their expenses/salaries (and they have a LOT of people on the team!). Then there are fairly expensive licensing costs for anything HDMI related, USB related (USB vid/pid costs alone around $5k!), EMC compliance testing and certification (obligatory if they want to sell it in EU/US, it is ~$10k/iteration depending on type of the device), case molds are few thousands each iteration ...

In short, unless they have an order of magnitude larger external funding as well this isn't happening. Period. They may have a prototype which perhaps works (who knows, the videos could be fake, all pictures are labeled "concept drawings/renderings", irrelevant testimonials about open source, etc.), but they have no idea how much the manufacturing is going to cost. And I doubt that this is going to be a charitable undertaking with the team paying for this out of their own pocket.

about two weeks ago
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Why Do Contextual Ads Fail?

janoc Re:Hardly surprising (249 comments)

That's because it is based on the gambler's fallacy - that the past outcomes of something somehow determine the future ones. The same voodoo is used for things like stock price prediction (look up "technical analysis"). It is mathematically a provable bullshit, but that doesn't mean people are going to stop using it ...

about two weeks ago
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Lost Opportunity? Windows 10 Has the Same Minimum PC Requirements As Vista

janoc Minimal config != usable config (554 comments)

Honestly, the minimal required configuration is more to appease the marketing department and industrial partners than any sort of practically useful information.

Anyone who has attempted to use Windows Vista/7/8.x on anything with less than 4GB of RAM knows that it is completely unusable. It might run in 1GB, but there is nothing left for any applications. Even 4GB is barely enough for some basic work. For any serious use one needs at least 8GB or more and a modern CPU - likely an i3 or i5 at least.

The other reason is likely pressure from Intel, because they want to keep selling their Atom CPUs. Which are both slow (when clock speed is concerned) and most of them are 32bit only due to various issues (some CPUs not supporting 64bits, mobos/BIOS/drivers not working/not available for 64bits, etc). The moment Windows was 64bit-only, Atom would be dead. It is the same story as downgrading the requirements for Vista so that it could be used on the machines running the integrated Intel graphics back in the day. It was practically unusable, but allowed Intel to claim it is compatible ...

about three weeks ago
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John Carmack's Oculus Connect Keynote Probably Had Samsung Cringing

janoc Re:What, no positional tracking? (88 comments)

That isn't actually true. You *will* get sick even with positional tracking, as many people found out when the DK2 Rift was released. Just look in this thread, for example:
  https://www.reddit.com/r/oculu... Positional tracking enhances immersion and potentially presence, but it is not really a fix for motion sickness. Unfortunately many people don't understand this.

The problem is deeper - you are correct that the sensory mismatch between what you see and what your sense of balance (inner ear) and proprioception (nerve endings in your muscles relaying the position of your limbs) are telling you is what causes the problem. However, that is not really tied to the positional tracking. It is fairly easy to demonstrate - many people get sick even with full 6DOF tracking using a very expensive big bucks tracking system, walking around in a CAVE, not using an HMD at all (CAVEs are usually far less motion sickness inducing than HMDs).

Most of the nausea problems are caused by poor application design - sudden accelerations are bad, because you don't expect them (it is akin to someone pulling the rug from under you!), motions not initiated by the user are bad (again, unexpected movement!), inappropriate navigation schemes - strafing, head bobbing, "aiming with your head" (not being able to look and change direction of movement independently - as in all FPS games that use mouselook), etc. All these things cause motion sickness. No amount of tracking wizardry is going to help you there unless the design of the application is fixed - and these problems are unfortunately in almost every single demo that was released for the Rift so far, despite there being 30+ years of published research on VR available.

Then there are problems that are often ascribed to motion sickness, but are not really - headaches, dizziness, eye strain. Those are often caused by a poorly adjusted HMD. This is where Rift suffers a lot, because unless you have perfect vision and your eyes are spaced exactly the same as the Rift lenses, you will get eye strain and headache after a while due to a blurry, out of focus image. This is why commercial HMDs have both dioptric adjustment (the two pairs of replaceable lenses really aren't a solution) and interpupillar distance adjustment (the lenses or even displays themselves can be moved closer or farther apart). Another issue with the Rift-like HMDs is with scenes where the textures and jaggy, not antialiased lines cause visible "beating" (moire) against the raster of the relatively low-res display, provoking a lot of visual discomfort - this was really bad in the DK1, DK2 reduced it a bit thanks to the higher resolution and pentile display. That's why dark scenes work best with Rift, because the dark pixel raster is not that visible.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

janoc Re:"Smart" is a misnomer (96 comments)

If it is the SmartBoard, then these things are usually connected to a Windows PC that runs the software and feeds the image to the projector. Most people run PowerPoint slides on these ...

Otherwise it is either a resistive touch sensor + projector and a few sensors (RFID or even magnets) for the markers. The newer boards use a camera instead of the resistive system.

about a month ago
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The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

janoc Re:Fundamental issues (182 comments)

Well, that's another issue. Unfortunately, most of the teachers don't really known how to teach and keep the students engaged. Putting the same crap they perform every day in the classroom on video doesn't really help anything. Very often it is not even their fault - they weren't actually shown how to teach in the first place!

That may sound surprising, but university teachers rarely get any pedagogical education/training - mostly if you have a degree, you are assumed to somehow know how to teach. So you do what you have seen your teachers do. And it sucks - perhaps your teachers sucked already and even if they didn't, you are certainly not them, only parroting what you think are their methods. Contrast this with highschool/elementary school teachers where pedagogical training/education is mandatory part of the qualification (at least in the most of Europe).

I was lucky to have been offered a training and it did help me a lot - intuition and flying by the seat of your pants can get you only so far. It isn't fair to the students neither. However, we were pretty much the exception and not the rule - most of my colleagues never had that training and some didn't even consider it useful ("I am teaching for 20 years, so I know how to teach. Waste of time!"). Guess who had most of the complaints. And some of these were the most ardent proponents of video lecturing and MOOC, thinking it will free them from the teaching.

On the subject of these e-learning and MOOC systems - I think that these are more a fad to sell the software to the universities and training institutions than anything actually useful. There is lack of any hard data and statistics showing that it is actually effective. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the concept was designed by a businessman or a programmer somewhere, not an actual teacher. Those are usually the last ones to be asked - the system gets bought, installed and then you are told by the university powers that your classes get videotaped and will be put in it. Geee, thanks. Even lecture over video conference system requires special preparation, a fully non-interactive class must be organized and done completely differently than a normal one if there is to be at least some chance for it to work. Right now it is more a money grab by the vendors than anything actually useful, apart from getting the content accessible for more people.

about a month ago
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The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

janoc Fundamental issues (182 comments)

There are a few fundamental issues here and people from both sides of the classroom tend to ignore them. I have some education as a teacher and did actually teach undergraduate and graduate classes at a Uni.

Students are surprised that these courses are often demanding, that there is homework, etc. Hello, these are university level courses, what did you expect? This ain't vacation or World of Warcraft, only with a free diploma at the end.

Teachers are surprised that their classroom-oriented methods don't work when put online. Surprise, recording a lecture on a video, slapping it online and expecting the students to not get bored from the droning and just give up on this is silly. Especially when various extrinsic motivation that keeps students staying put in the auditoriums (like having paid expensive tuition or actually being able to obtain a proper, full degree) is missing. Lectures are boring as hell even when in person, it is probably the worst way to teach/learn. Recording the lecture, removing the personal contact and slapping the thing online only makes it worse. No fancy "e-learning" platforms can fix that fundamentally broken model.

Unfortunately, many unis see the "e-learning", online courses and what not as a great way to save money - no need to pay for so many classes, so many teachers, teachers can spend time doing research instead of teaching, etc. Win-win, right? Wrong!

The technology alone won't make the students learn - the role of the teacher as a facilitator and guide to learning is indispensable. Give students Minecraft (or a tablet or some other technical gimmick) and they will spend 99% of the time fooling around because of the distractions. They need someone to actually show them the relevant bits, explain what is not clear and guide them through the classwork - that is what the teacher is for. Non-interactive video cannot really replace that. While the classic lecture is also horrible from this point of view, the drone at the blackboard can be at least interrupted and asked extra questions. With video this is difficult or outright impossible.

Another crucially important thing for both the student and the teacher is feedback - "Am I doing OK?" "What needs to be improved?" "How to improve it?" If the only "feedback" for the student are automatically marked quizzes or the final mark/score for the course/module, as is often the rule, that really doesn't help them at all - they have perhaps failed the course or received a poor mark already. They need the (formative) feedback while still working!

Also the feedback for the lecturer is important - very often the students don't get anything from the class, because the lecturer mumbles incomprehensibly, is not organized or overloads the students. However, the typical way to collect feedback are some satisfaction questionnaires at the end of the term/module - way too late to fix anything. And now add yet another layer of insulation between the lecturer and the students - the non-interactive videos - and the realistic amount of feedback both sides can expect becomes exactly zero ...

During my teaching I was trying to get away from lecturing as much as I could - which can be surprisingly difficult, with the university administration explicitly expecting you to lecture. Where I could, the classes were focused on discussion, group work and projects. I was even turning the classes completely inside-out - had the students read the classwork from the textbook, do the exercises at home and then the class was spent explaining what wasn't clear or needed more guidance. There is little point in spending class lecturing for hours stuff that the students can read faster and more comfortably in a book. It did work, for the most part - even though the classes I was teaching were "hard" stuff - like programming, basics of computer graphics, introduction to artificial intelligence, image processing. However, do this with an e-learning system that is explicitly structured around lecturing!

I find these online course systems as a nice way to brush up on some topics, but not really much more. As it is, it requires an extremely strong will and commitment from the student, for little gain. And it doesn't really help the teachers much neither - someone still needs to record those lectures, give out assignments (which cannot be reused from term to term - students are not stupid and will "re-use" the solutions too!), mark all those things, etc. All that in addition to their normal teaching load.

J.

about a month ago
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Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

janoc Poorly worded mess ... (387 comments)

If someone puts together R, Haskell, Cobol and Fortran and declares them unpopular my bullshit detector goes off-scale. That person obviously has no clue.

What exactly does make a language "unpopular"? That it isn't used to build whiz-bang websites or smartphone apps? Do they realize that languages like Cobol, Fortran and R are fairly specialized tools (data processing, math and statistics) and thus they will always live inside their little (or big) niche. Comparing these with something like C#, JavaScript, PHP, Swift is just retarded, it isn't even apples to oranges comparison. It is like declaring Matlab "unpopular", because there are no apps in Apple's AppStore written in it. About as relevant as yesterday news :(

I don't really get what is the point of this type of article. Good programmer must learn to adapt, if someone thinks that they will learn *THE LANGUAGE* and then live off it until retirement, they are either being delusional or extremely stupid. Learn the underpinnings of the field instead - logic, theory of computation, language theory, data structures and algorithms, structured/object oriented, functional and declarative programming (to at least know that there are other approaches than just the usual imperative code!). Those things are going to be way more useful for any programmer than learning one or two programming languages. That is something that you will typically do in a few days/weeks when you will actually need it - if you know the basics and have some programming experience under your belt already, picking up a new language (not becoming an expert!) is easy.

about a month and a half ago
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Put A Red Cross PSA In Front Of the ISIS Beheading Video

janoc Re:I forced myself to watch it (300 comments)

While I agree with your statement about removal of the video, the part on antisemitism in France is BS.

The recent uptick of antisemitism in France has nothing whatsoever to do with the ban on sale of nazi memorabilia (which is, btw, banned in Germany and many other countries as well), but with the war in Gaza. The people who attacked the Jewish stores and places of worship in the recent riots are mostly young Arabs (and there are plenty of them here in France due to the French involvement in Northern Africa, Lebanon, etc in the past) and various militant pro-Palestine groups.

I suggest that you practice your own advice - if you are not exposed to it (or too ignorant to actually know when to check the facts), shut the hell up.

about 2 months ago
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Wiring Programmers To Prevent Buggy Code

janoc Re:False Premise (116 comments)

Mod parent up, please, this is spot on. You do this sort of "research" when you need to justify that the expensive toys you bought are actually used for something.

When I have seen the list of sensors they are sticking on the user, this has nothing to do with anything even remotely practical (have you seen a typical EEG sensor cap or eye tracker?). All the researchers are doing is running the test subject through a battery of experiments and classifying few measured values, based on some correlations - in an artificial setting.

This completely ignores the complexity of the problem - such as the biggest problem being constant interruptions from managers and colleagues, distractions in a noisy cubicle, bad specs, poor/inadequate tools, and many other issues. What they are proposing is basically a Clippy on steroids with a ton of expensive sensors. Such papers are published a dime a dozen (google "assistive agents" for example), not sure why exactly this one got picked out as somehow interesting.

about 2 months ago
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Wiring Programmers To Prevent Buggy Code

janoc Re:Completely ignores bad specs... (116 comments)

Mod parent up, please, this is spot on. You do this sort of "research" when you need to justify that the expensive toys you bought are actually used for something.

When I have seen the list of sensors they are sticking on the user, this has nothing to do with anything even remotely practical (have you seen a typical EEG sensor cap or eye tracker?). All the researchers are doing is running the test subject through a battery of experiments and classifying few measured values, based on some correlations - in an artificial setting.

This completely ignores the complexity of the problem - such as the biggest problem being constant interruptions from managers and colleagues, distractions in a noisy cubicle, bad specs, poor/inadequate tools, etc. What they are proposing is basically a Clippy on steroids with a ton of expensive sensors. Such papers are published a dime a dozen (google "assistive agents" for example), not sure why exactly this one got picked out as somehow interesting.

about 2 months ago
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"BadUSB" Exploit Makes Devices Turn "Evil"

janoc Re:Reprogramming at the factory. (205 comments)

Except that the article *was not* about chips being reprogrammed at the factory ...

about 3 months ago
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"BadUSB" Exploit Makes Devices Turn "Evil"

janoc Re:and this is news why? (205 comments)

Yes? And how does that sort of tool help you install rogue backdoor? You can at best hide some files on the drive. Which you can pretty much do anyway, without any hardware hacking. It is not like you can convert the flash drive into a keylogger that will transmit captured data to NSA with it.

about 3 months ago
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"BadUSB" Exploit Makes Devices Turn "Evil"

janoc Re:ftdi, Atmel are VERY common in devices. I did i (205 comments)

Nope. While these chips are common both are way too expensive for mass-produced hardware. Practically every microcontroller has a version with USB interface today and most of mass produced gear doesn't use these - an FTDI bridge is around $1/pop at quantity, that's crazy for an $20-40 end-user price item.

Anyhow, FTDI chips cannot be reprogrammed - you can modify their settings, but the are only an UART/I2C/SPI-to-USB bridge, they don't do anything by themselves. And that something uses e.g. an Atmel AVR chip (actually really rare, they are very expensive for the capabilities they have) doesn't mean that the programming pins are *actually hooked up* to something that is USB-accessible. Some may have the DFU bootloader, but typically they would have the firmware locked. You are way more likely to find various ARM micros and cheap Chinese clones of MCS'51 series these days, but again, that the chip is programmable doesn't mean it could be reprogrammed by the host system!

about 3 months ago
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"BadUSB" Exploit Makes Devices Turn "Evil"

janoc Re:and this is news why? (205 comments)

I would love to see malware that will reprogram a mask-programmed blob in a common throwaway hardware. Or a microcontroller in a webcam that doesn't even have the programming pins (typically some sort of ISP or JTAG) connected to anything USB accessible (or not even connected at all, at best to some test pads).

A typical USB stick or a webcam don't have hardware to permit firmware upgrades, even though the silicon inside could be theoretically upgradable. Not to mention that the exploit would have to be written specifically for the target hardware - different processors, memory layout, USB interface, etc - all that would make it really hard to produce a generic malware. If you want to see what is involved in something like that, look at the article on hacking HDD controllers:
http://spritesmods.com/?art=hd... And that is a harddrive, which are produced by only few manufacturers, have relatively standardized interfaces and controllers. Now imagine having to do that sort of reverse engineering on every type of harddrive in common use if you wanted to write a reasonably effective malware (e.g. a data stealing worm). It is much easier to exploit some Windows bug or use a phishing scam than this.

So yes, this is potentially a threat, but panicking over your USB sticks or webcams going rogue on you is vastly overblown. This could be an issue for a very targeted attack where the benefits of compromising e.g. a keyboard of a high value target will outweigh the effort required, but not really anything else. And that assumes that the keyboard is actually able to be updated! It would be probably simpler to just send an operative in and install e.g. a keylogger ...

Oh and they mention the "BadBios" story ... Nobody was ever able to confirm that apart from the original very confused researcher.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Intentional backdoor in consumer routers found

janoc janoc writes  |  about 6 months ago

janoc (699997) writes "Eloi Vanderbeken from Synacktiv has identified an intentional backdoor in a module by Sercomm used by major router manufacturers (Cisco, Linksys, Netgear ...). The backdoor was ostensibly fixed — by obfuscating it and making it harder to access.

The original report is here (pdf)

And yeah, there is an exploit available ..."

Link to Original Source
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janoc janoc writes  |  more than 7 years ago

janoc (699997) writes "Apparently not only China is censoring Flickr. Flickr has recently introduced filters to filter out images deemed inappropriate. Unfortunately, the filters are now forced also on the German users (together with Singaporeans and Korean users). Photos marked "moderate" or "restricted" are invisible even to their own authors if they happen to be in one of the restricted countries. However, users from elsewhere can still see them just fine if they disable the "Safe search" feature in preferences — this option is not available to Germans anymore. There is a large discussion about this issue going on here: link."
Link to Original Source

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