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Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline?

necro351 No Computers; Just Math (223 comments)

If you are truly going to be offline, you are screwed. Even in the pre-internet days I still had to go to the library, the book store, the school, the software store (there were such things), whatever, and connect with people. Basically, it was never long before you had to go back to the source, whatever it was. If you are really going to be offline, you need to go after pure math, not even fundamental CS. I would go check out a couple college courses on topics in math that interest you (cryptograph algebra, topology, theory of comp, complex analysis, real analysis, etc...) and grab the books from those course listings. Read the books and work diligently through the exercises. That you can really do offline, though you may still get stuck on a problem, but you write a letter to a professor and ask, even if you are not matriculated, he'd love it.

about a month ago
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Interview: Ask Eric Raymond What You Will

necro351 What about the new wave of proprietary programs (w (126 comments)

So it seems these days the most effective method of DRM is a network interface, like that used by Facebook, Google, Pinterest, etc... You cannot run your own instance of Gmail or Facebook, and you certainly cannot see or modify the code. At the same time all these companies are pressuring us to push our data into their servers by not supporting or coming up with solutions that let us continue to control/manage our data on our own machines and private networks. What can open source do to stem that tide? What about open source licensing? Could webkit or mozilla have slowed down the encroachment of Chrom/ium and its pro-Google agenda if it had more defensive licensing terms like something similar to the GPL? How do we convince hackers to hack on open-source 'website programs', like an open Gmail or an open Facebook (e.g., Diaspora)?

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

necro351 Language is the answer to your question... (876 comments)

...and I do not mean programming language, though that can help.

There is not a big gain (any gain?) to seeing a square with arrows instead of "if (a) {b} else {c}" once you get comfortable with the latter. I think you hinted at the real problem: complexity. In my experience, text is not your enemy (math proofs have been written in mostly text for millennia) but finding elegant (and therefore more readable) formulations of your algorithms/programs.

Let me expand on that. I've been hacking the Linux kernel, XNU, 'doze, POSIX user-level, games, javascript, sites, etc..., for ~15 years. In all that time there has only been one thing that has made code easier to read for me and those I work with, and that is elegant abstractions. It is actually exactly the same thing that turns a 3--4 page math proof into a 10--15 line proof (use Louisville's theorem instead of 17 pages of hard algebra to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra). Programming is all about choosing elegant abstractions that quickly and simply compose together to form short, modular programs.

You can think of every problem you want to solve as its own language, like English, or Music, or sketching techniques, or algebra. Like a game, except you have to figure out the rules. You come up with the most elegant axiomatic rules that are orthogonal and composable, and then start putting them together. You refine what you see, and keep working at it, to find a short representation. Just like as if you were trying to find a short proof. You can extend your language, or add rules to your game, by defining new procedures/functions, objects, etc... Some abstractions are so universal and repeatedly applicable they are built into your programming language (e.g., if-statements, closures, structs, types, coroutines, channels). So, every time you work on a problem/algorithm, you are defining a new language.

Usually, when defining a language or writing down rules to a game, you want to quickly and rapidly manipulate symbols, and assign abstractions to them, so composing rules can be done with an economy of symbols (and complexity). A grid of runes makes it easy to quickly mutate and futz with abstract symbols, so that works great (e.g., a terminal). If you want to try and improve on that, you have to understand the problem is not defining a "visual programming language" that is like trying to encourage kids to read the classics by coming up with a more elegant and intuitive version of English to non-literate people. The real problem is trying to find a faster/easier way to play with, manipulate, and mutate symbols. To make matters worse, whatever method you use is limited by the fact that most people read (how they de/serialize symbols into abstractions in their heads) in 2D arrays of symbols.

I hope helping to define the actual problem you are facing is helpful?

Good luck!

about 10 months ago
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UK Retailer Mistakenly Sends PS Vitas, Threatens Legal Action To Get Them Back

necro351 Jesus vs. Kant (617 comments)

Kant: Q: If everyone did not return merchandise mistakenly mailed to them, what would happen [approx. categorical imperative]?
A: Probably the cost of shipping and retail would go up slightly to pay for more expensive insurance to account for the potential of sending the wrong item. Order processing and shipping would employer slightly higher paid people. Overall, we'd expect to see less shipping errors from all retail companies and shipment companies. Overall, a slight price increase on the cost of goods, less shipping mistakes, and not much else.

Jesus: Q: Would you like it if someone else did not send back a package to you that you mistakenly sent them [golden rule]?
A: No, that would suck.

Two different moral systems go in different directions here. Still, I think Kant would probably mail the Vita back. Nobody wants to be a dick.

1 year,6 days
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Ask Slashdot: What Makes You Uninstall Apps?

necro351 Hard sells (243 comments)

The reasoning behind why paid apps are less likely to be uninstalled is because the buyer feels "attached" to their purchase. This reasoning is exactly wrong and agreeing with it actually makes it easier to miss the larger point. I would argue the reason almost all of us uninstall apps are because they take more than they give. For example, games asking for recommendations before the honeymoon wears off, apps that change the rules half-way (e.g., ask for more system privileges in an update), apps that just ask for personal info up front but offer no real use (WiFi buttons with e-mail access), apps that sell you intangible things that you can only get at through the app (e.g., background tracks to rap against). All of these apps take more than they give. Furthermore, apps that try to hide this relationship are especially hated. So we uninstall apps that take more than they give, and how long it takes us to uninstall them depends on how well the app can hide this inequity. Apps that do a poor job of hiding the inequity at all never get installed.

Conclusion: word of advice to app developers: You want to put out apps that give more than they take, and ask for what they take up front. Deception in this regard is hated and is punished. No "please review me" prompts, no upsells, no in-app business, no fake currencies or intangible goods. Oddly, I don't care about ads, the relationship there is up-front to me, I pay for the app by looking at its ads, but others might find them too distracting.

about a year ago
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Britain's Conservatives Scrub Speeches from the Internet

necro351 hyperbole.txt (234 comments)

Apparently using the common practice of putting up a robots.txt to ask crawlers to stay away for better political messaging control is actually an Orwellian thought-control power grab. Obviously Cameron was talking about other news/archive sites keeping a permanent record of his speeches, since that is the only way it could work for any party in power. Do we really expect a politically motivated website, of any party, to keep an honest and complete record of its positions and speeches for indefinite periods of time for public scrutiny?

The way this headline read, I half expected to hear about Cameron's administration sending take-down notices to bloggers for dredging up campaign promises, but no, his party's website just updated its robots.txt, sheesh!

about a year ago
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Hollywood's Love of Analytics Couldn't Prevent Six Massive Blockbuster Flops

necro351 Threshold Ticket Prices Filter Consumer Masses (1029 comments)

I haven't gone to see any of these movies not because I wasn't _mildly_ interested, but because it wasn't worth $14--$17 times three: the cost of bringing myself and my family. That is a lot of cash to see a "meh" movie. It wasn't long ago that movies used to cost $6 a head.

Perhaps the geniuses in Hollywood should use their analytics to actually pick per-movie MSRPs: something they can do with Google's analytics, after they've already bought the movie and are just trying to maximize their investment. Or if that would piss off customers, then just decide to roll out movies such that 3D is the same price as 2D as a special "bonus" or promotion, to effectively bring the price down on movies that you are afraid aren't going to do as well as you thought pre-production.

about a year ago
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MS To Indie Devs: You Have a To Have a Publisher

necro351 Re:Alternate perspective from an indie dev (463 comments)

Either we were reading different messages, or we understand English in different ways.

Nice false dichotomy. Pretty crafty for a non-native speaker. You are learning the internets well!

Microsoft hasn't changed the deal for Indies, it's trying to improve upon it to attract more developers and is very helpful all around.

Sure, but who cares? Microsoft's policy toward indie devs may be improving upon what it was 5 years ago when they were leading the pack among consoles, but this article is about how the other consoles are surpassing Microsoft in its friendliness toward indie developers, for example, by publishing this new Oddworld game. This article is relevant because in other news Microsoft plans on imposing obnoxious DRM restrictions that chase the typical player of an indie game away from a system and there have been reports of developers having problems working with Microsoft that they don't have with other consoles. The gamasutra guy in the link above, and you my friend, are both missing the point.

Bottom line: the notion that MS is improving on what it was 5 years ago is just not good enough when its competitors are going beyond that to attract indie dev talent and indie game players. MS is getting outflanked by Sony pretty hard right now...

about a year and a half ago
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MS To Indie Devs: You Have a To Have a Publisher

necro351 Re:Alternate perspective from an indie dev (463 comments)

This guy basically says: "look, everything is like it was before, its all cool at MS." Which is fine, but irrelevant. It is irrelevant because Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and Google/Android do not just keep doing the same thing, they change the terms of their contracts with indie developers over time. So why compare MS to how MS was 5 years ago? We should compare how MS is to its competitors _now_. If you follow that line of reasoning, it seems MS does not want to allow a company to release this Oddworld title for their console because they do not have a publisher recognized by Microsoft, but that is not a problem for the other consoles. Times are changing and MS is trying to turn back the clock to 5 years ago, and further with their ratcheting up of DRM controls.

about a year and a half ago
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Canadian Couple Charged $5k For Finding 400-Year-Old Skeleton

necro351 Emergent Effects (601 comments)

This is another case of legislators not looking at very basic emergent effects. This article takes a big step toward making this law, and its consequences, widely known. This law, combined with widespread awareness of it, will obviously have chilling effects on archaeology in Canada. Regardless of what you think is right or wrong, or who should pay, the simple fact is that forcing the property owner to fund a proper excavation of these sorts of artifacts effectively means artifacts found by property owners during a construction project will be repeatedly reburied while no authorities are notified. If we do not want that, we have to change the law. You cannot change human nature.

about a year and a half ago
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The Canadian Government's War On Science

necro351 NEWS: Terrible Journalism Undermines Argument (474 comments)

The first four paragraphs of the second linked story consists of the author basically rationalizing her terrible journalism. She makes a terrible error in misquoting a Candian official: “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value.” instead of: “A new idea or discovery may in fact be interesting but it doesn’t quality [sic] as an innovation until it’s been developed into something that has commercial or societal value.” which is closer. Never mind though, the author doesn't skip a beat and goes directly onto jumping innocent conclusions in a dark cyber-alley.

Why is this article one of the (just) two lemmas in the submitter's argument that Canada's current government is trashing publicly funded research?

about a year and a half ago
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Eric Schmidt: Google Will Continue Investing In UK Even If Taxes Raised

necro351 Silly people and their profit! (122 comments)

Yes. Everyone knows that all rich people liquidate their profit into cash and immediately burn it all in large heaps on golden-plated yachts. These Richie-Richersons! They just cannot help polluting our skies with their filthy money can they?

about a year and a half ago
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FBI Considers CALEA II: Mandatory Wiretapping On Every Device

necro351 Make Arguments Much? (318 comments)

URP DURP One guy did this thing and he's American, so... URP DURP

Houston, we have a Genius...

about a year ago
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Ender's Game Trailer Released

necro351 Slashdot really has changed... (470 comments)

They finally make an Ender's Game movie and it gets 34 some odd replies on Slashdot? Wow, the audience here has really changed...

about a year and a half ago
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Cubans Evade Censorship By Exchanging Flash Drives

necro351 Not comparable (171 comments)

Every time someone posts about some awful dictatorship like Cuba, someone on Slashdot invariably equates them to the US. I like putting freedom in "scare quotes," that was a nice touch, but also really lazy. You basically did not have to substantiate or prove your point at all, yet you still got 3 points, phenomenal. I am sorry, but having to swap forbidden books using flash drives dwarfs whatever first-world problem crawled up your posterior and made you feel like you could ever possibly understand what it is like to live in a mind-controlling, life-or-death, blighted country like Cuba.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Block Noise In a Dorm?

necro351 Real advice from fellow ADHDer and past undergrad (561 comments)

I also was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and have gotten by without drugs (which you may or may not value) for my whole life. My technique is to change my environment. You cannot make the people in your dorms less noisy, but you can go somewhere else. For now, you can go to that quiet basement in the physics building, or the graduate study lounge on the third floor of the math building, or that anonymous study area in the Library with all the lockers where the students come and go talking of Michelangelo (but you don't notice because there are a hundred of them). I found all the little quiet spots on my campus when I was an undergrad, and knew how to hop from one to the next if an unexpected distraction arose. Long-term you will want to move into an apartment and get a car which will give you further capability to control your environment. Later on when I was a junior I moved into an apartment but always remembered and occasionally used my old haunts on campus. Changing my environment has been the best and most effective way I have found to get work done. Good luck.

about 2 years ago
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Victory For Apple In "Patent Trial of the Century," To the Tune of $1 Billion

necro351 Re:it's nokia that should sue samsung (1184 comments)

Well, in addition to being familiar with these court cases etc... I have been watching Star Trek TNG on Netflix and have already worked through five seasons, so therefore I am also an expert like you on design patents. I can tell you that as I have been watching episode by episode I have kept a keen eye out for likeness and similarity to Apple's devices. The interfaces in Star Trek are static, the buttons don't move around, they are always in the same position. All of the table-top displays are more like those thick videophones people were trying to sell in the late 90s, and nothing like an iPad is today. Their powerful computers hang out of the sides of the wall and have static interfaces always beneath a display. The idea that the interface and display are the same is definitely not realized.

They do have 'tablet' like things, but you rarely see what the display looks like. If you do see one of these tablet displays, it is almost always used to play a recorded video and really looks quite different from the iPad. I am not trying to rain on your parade, but the idea that Apple's design patents are invalid because of Star Trek's prior art is based on a degree of similarity between the "devices" that simply isn't born out when honestly and objectively watching the series again. Star Trek is inspiring, but far from prior art, very far.

more than 2 years ago
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Classroom Clashes Over Science Education

necro351 Pissing in the wind (493 comments)

This is Slashdot, and it is obvious the typical political viewpoint leans far left of center here. Thing is, that is exactly the problem. This place is an echo chamber and all these posts reinforce the same viewpoint. This is why climate change is so obvious to some people, and so suspicious to others: it is highly politically charged. I still remember when the climate change indoctrination started back in the late 80s and early 90s. It was, and has always been driven by politicians who are, you guessed it, very left of center, like the posters here. You could ignore this, and look to peer reviewed articles, and extremely young conference proceedings and journals to convince yourself its about 'truth' and not politics, but, I'm sorry, you would be very wrong.

Typically empirical scientific knowledge is wrong, very wrong initially, less wrong later on, but almost always wrong. That's just the way it is, we all learn about it in school. Not all empirical scientific knowledge is equal, far from it. Knowledge that has been applied in very awesome and useful ways (physics, chemistry, biology) is readily accepted and taught in classrooms. This knowledge is hundreds of years old, widely and usefully applied, universally accepted, and predates and/or is orthogonal to existing political modes. Knowledge whose primary application is motivation for economy-shifting industry regulations with a far-left slant, which is tremendously young, and which is fraught with funding conflicts of interest is going to receive incredible scrutiny and skepticism. When I was still a Ph.D student I remember my advisor had never mentioned climate change one minute, then he won a huge NSF grant about green energy, and it was his thing. New York politicians push this funding to liberal professors, who generate results, which is then published in state-funded conferences, etc... Astro-turfing can be accomplished with public money _and_ industry money.

These are all very good reasons to not teach climate change in the class room, it is _not_ settled science, it is obviously politically charged, and it oozing with astro-turfing money and feel-good campaigning. Now for a kid to be expected to challenge his _teacher_, in a classroom where all the other kids just want this annoying arguing kid to shut up and sit down, is _not_ how the opposing view point should be expressed. Its not fair to the viewpoint, or the kid, or the rest of the classroom. There was a name for kids that stood up and bitched with the teacher: (annoying) dorks. The teacher shouldn't be indoctrinating students in questionable and controversial knowledge and relying on students to challenge him. Most students aren't equipped to debate the teacher, nor brave enough, nor inclined enough to do the necessary research. This is why the teacher should stick to old, widely accepted knowledge and not cutting-edge highly politically charged astro-turfed climate change.

Funny thing is, the article this all came from made its viewpoint obvious when it compared evolution (circa mid-1800s) to climate change in legitimacy. You guys are Fox Newsing yourselves and you don't even realize it.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Book For 11-Year-Old Who Wants To Teach Himself To Program?

necro351 Repeat Question, same _WRONG_ answer: Python (525 comments)

Its not about the language, its about the project. When I was young I wanted to make the most amazing 3D game ever. My hero was (and still is) John Carmack. He used C, OpenGL used C, and pretty much anything fast used C (or C++). There were scripting languages, like Perl, which were even used for some games (e.g., Frozen Bubble), but if you wanted to get serious, you needed to learn a language that lets you directly manipulate memory and devices. I _wanted_ to learn C because I wanted to do my project right. Ultimately, when I was in 12th grade I used flex, bison, and C++ to make a C compiler for SPIM based on what I learned at a local university. That experience wouldn't have happened in perl. Disclaimer: I use all the languages, python and perl mostly for scripting. My point is C is a great first language, if you want to build something best built in C, which is actually a _lot_ of stuff.

So I guess what I'm saying is your question is being asked by the wrong person. Its your 11 year-old that should be asking about what tool he can use to get his job done. If you want to entice him into programming, then you are asking the wrong question. Maybe you guys should work on a project together, in which case, you can select the language that should be used and teach him what he needs as he needs it. My Dad and I did a lot of carpentry together because he tried to entice me into that when I was young. I found it boring, but he tried. I learned some stuff, but didn't go into carpentry. Hopefully it will be different for you and your son. Good luck.

more than 2 years ago
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Indian Government To Track Locations of All Cell Phone Users

necro351 Wrong (151 comments)

What are you talking about? If you have a tuple with 8 bytes each, that is still only 24GB for just the data. In terms of storage, buy a machine with 128GB of RAM that asynchronously writes back to a RAID volume, what's the big deal? Maybe networking would be more of an issue, but that is probably very solvable too.

more than 2 years ago

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