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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

rolandw Visual programming - look at Prograph (876 comments)

Visual representation of source code does not and will not work effectively. Equally, visual representation of the written word will not work effectively. Where images and text go together, either the text is used to explain the image or the image is just an illustration to go with the text, not a real representation.

This all changes when the code is visual, when the programmer programmes visually and there is no text involved other than for labels, names and attributes. This was what Phil Cox and colleagues realised when they produced Prograph, a visual, object orientated data flow language. Prograph was directly compiled into an executable - it was no pseudo coding system that merely generated C or Java, yet it could run interpreted (making it a dream to debug). In comparisons, clean Prograph code could be produced in about 20% of the time taken to produce the equivalent in C++ but ran only 5% slower. Isn't that what we are always looking for?

Sadly, the commercial exploitation of Prograph was not as successful (isn't it ever thus?) but the concept still lives on as Marten.

Thank you Jack.

about 5 months ago

Can you recommend a book on English grammar for an 11 year old?

rolandw Re:Have you heard of google? (2 comments)

Wow. Must RTFM when I next get to Amazon. Many thanks for the tip.

about a year and a half ago

The UK's New Minister For Magic

rolandw Re:What a sham (526 comments)

Actually there is lots of evidence that some homeopathy does actually work. Much of it is disguised as "normal" medicine and I bet you use it without knowing.

Interestingly there is equal evidence that idiots in charge really don't work very well. The number of British MPs with any sort of scientific or engineering background is paltry at best (check out the excellent Mark Henderson's "The Geek Manifesto" for more). Having said that, Boris was pretty damn hot at physics and maths as a teenager and should have gone into science so perhaps it doesn't help anyway.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding an IT Job Without a Computer-Oriented Undergraduate Degree?

rolandw Different backgrounds are good news (504 comments)

I've employed one psychology grad in an IT role and another in a development role. Nothing wrong with a psychology degree (providing you are naturally bright, hardworking and keen). I'm always interested in hearing from people with different backgrounds - those with fine & applied art degrees can be a good as a CS grad. Sorry, don't do any over-seas recruitment

more than 2 years ago

4 UK Urban Explorers Face Orders Not To Talk With Each Other For 10 Years

rolandw Re:Are they serious? (387 comments)

Can Boris please have an ASBO as well?

Might as well give on to Ken at the same time (just in case).

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Why the Lack of Worry about Populati

rolandw Religion (4 comments)

Religion gets in the way. No one wants to say "you can't have children" unless you are an irreligious despot. David Attenborough has cited clear evidence that the alternative is education of women. But this too is stopped by religion. Men running so many religions have no incentive to let women be fully educated. You need evidence? Look at the issues around women bishops.

But when the US still has states hooked on the creation thing and the Pope still frowning on contraception, I can see no chance of global population coming under control for the foreseeable future.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had it right - we need religion to help (some of) us understand what happens after we die. Sadly he never said that we need religion to control our numbers...

more than 2 years ago

Samsung ad makes fun of iPhone fanboys

rolandw Dumb animals (1 comments)

And some people are claiming to be offended by it. Am I rare is thinking that those queues outside gadget shops are just bizarre? Don't be dumb, you can get one tomorrow!

more than 2 years ago

Nokia and Microsoft Embrace in Smartphone Alliance

rolandw How not to do it (1 comments)

Mad though I think Nokia are to ditch three oses with loyal followers for one that many would run a mile from (open systems anyone?), no company in it's right mind would hold a big conference to announce such a tie-up and then release all the information in a press release several hours earlier. Nokia need to sack their press people after refreshing their board.

more than 3 years ago

Best Phone For a Wi-Fi-Only Location?

rolandw Re:Nokia N900 (289 comments)


about 4 years ago

Is Working For the Gambling Industry a Black Mark?

rolandw Why leave the UK? (467 comments)

I'm not worried about recruiting people who may have experience working in the gambling industry - in fact that would probably be a good thing. I'm more worried that you are thinking of leaving the UK. We find it hard to recruit really good juniors in the UK (small firm, not well known but with some great work and based smack in the centre of London) so why do you want to leave? You must be better than most - you already read /.

more than 4 years ago

Is Typing Ruining Your Ability To Spell?

rolandw and computer's ruin your ability to sketch (494 comments)

Computers are also ruining people's ability to draw. First of all 2D CAD removed any manual drafting skills and now rather than reaching for paper and pencil for a quick sketch people waste hours on some 3D modeller. Even diagramming is becoming the domain of the computer. Is it really quicker to do that quick flow chart on a computer than to doodle it out by hand? Is it really so much better? I still believe that all engineers and technicians should be taught the basis of sketching.

more than 4 years ago

HTML Tags For Academic Printing?

rolandw QUality PDF output from HTML (338 comments)

We searched for ages for a tool to produce high quality print output from HTML for exactly the same reasons before stumbling on Prince ( and haven't regretted adopting it. We use it from wiki pages, for technical and sales documents, for theses. It is CSS3 aware but the underlieing documents still work in most browsers.

about 5 years ago

Parallels Desktop For Mac Vs. VMware

rolandw Re:Virtualbox (195 comments)

When our business doubled in size we switched to VirtualBox from Parallels 3. Not only is it quicker but it is more stable and its support of different network interfaces and USB devises is clearly superior. We run Eclipse, Apache and all sorts of other development tools on it to do special Windows only development. We also use it as a main support tool. Also don't overlook the fact that you can have multiple 32bit VMs running at the same time - something that Parallels can't do.

MacTech dropped a clanger by not including VirtualBox!

more than 5 years ago

Computer For a Child?

rolandw Try an eMate (556 comments)

When my 18 month daughter waned to press the keys on my laptop as I worked I pulled out an eMate and set it up for her. Hours of fun drawing and scribbling ensued and now, some 4 years later, she's up to writing letters and email and the like. Sadly the eMate isn't that good at visiting CBBC or CeeBeeBies because there's no colour and no flash but its still working brilliantly.

There are plenty of eMates on eBay:

Jobs really screwed up when he pulled the Newton programme.

more than 5 years ago



Can you recommend a book on English grammar for an 11 year old?

rolandw rolandw writes  |  about a year ago

rolandw writes "My daughter was complaining that she didn't like learning French because she didn't understand the equivalent English grammar. Despite my own classical education (same as the UK's Prime Minister, but at least I know what "Magna Carter" means in English) I also struggled with English grammar until I was in my 20's. I'm now striving to explain it to her so that it sinks in; I have adult grammar books but nothing for a child. Can anyone recommend a good book to help her understand?"

OracleUSA - total failure in SF Bay?

rolandw rolandw writes  |  about 2 years ago

rolandw writes "The crew of Larry Ellison's 72ft wing sailed catamaran took an unfortunate swim when it buried it's nose in the swell in San Francisco Bay and flipped over. Luckily no one was hurt. With a falling tide, the platform was swept out to sea and was 2 miles outside the Goldengate Bridge before a tow could be made to work. Much, if not all of the boat appears to be totalled. Many thousands of man hours have been put into this machine and many millions of dollars — it represented the state of art of sailing in the USA.

But the biggest losers could include you — the Oracle customer. I'd expect your license fees to be going up next year to help pay for the rebuild."

Link to Original Source

BBC helps hack to the future

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rolandw writes "The BBC's Michael Sparks blogs about teaching kids in northern England about coding at "Hack to the Future"

"Last month, the BBC went into a school in Preston to help some children get started with learning to code in order to inspire them and help answer some important questions around children, coding and the BBC. I helped with the preprations and went along to assist BBC Learning. This post gives you a little background, describes how it happened, what happened on the day, and why. I personally find the video giving a flavour of the event inspiring and hope you do too."

I did!"

Link to Original Source

RIM give up the consumer route to market

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rolandw writes "The UK's Grauniad newspaper is reporting that RIM are essentially going back to basics focusing "its consumer efforts on targeted offerings that tap the company's strengths". This is because, as RIM CEO Thorsten Heins says, "We can't do everything ourselves but we can do what we're good at". We can all hear Apple and Google breath huge sighs of relief that they are no longer under threat from north of the border."
Link to Original Source

An iPad's train journey - on it's own

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rolandw (1105017) writes "As I was approaching my home on the train from London to the depths of West Sussex last night a fellow passenger asked me if the iPad on the table was mine. It wasn't but equally it was clear that it's owner was no longer with us. As a frequent traveller I volunteered to take it with me and try to return it or leave it with the train staff.

For some reason, the iPad was not locked. I opened it and shut down the end of the Scrabble game to see if the owner was marked in the address book. No clear sign of anything so I checked for emails. Plenty of emails coming in for Paul (as I now knew he was called), few going out. No emails with signatures so no sign of a telephone number but at least I had an email address if the worst came to the worst. However, armed with Paul's name. I returned to the address book and there he was — with no contact details. Like most of us, he had added in contact details for lots of his family. I picked Jen at random and called. "Hi, I'm trying to find Paul because he's left his iPad on a train". A sigh. "He's my dad. What a plonker" [1]. She gave me his number and I called. Paul returned my voicemail within 5 minutes and we arranged for its return.

This morning, holding the iPad, I leant out of the door of the train at the pre-arranged station and by 6:50am, Paul had his iPad back. He gave me £20 which I duly gave to charity (complete with Gift Aid which increases the donation by 25% thanks to HM Government) on-line.

There are a few lessons to be learnt. 1. Never leave your mobile device on a train — don't be "a plonker". 2. Always make sure that your device is clearly labelled on the outside just in case someone wants to return it. 3. You should set your device to lock — I could have done all sorts of mischief before giving it back, mischief that would have earned me substantially more than the value of the iPad.

Now, where's that polish for my halo?


11 years old on 11/11/11 and giving all to charity

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rolandw (1105017) writes "Roo Slater, a school boy from Pennthorpe School, West Sussex, UK, has 11 minutes and 11 seconds past 11 on the 11th November 2000 recorded on his birth certificate as his date and time of birth. On 11/11/11 at 11:11:11, Roo will be exactly 11. As it is also Armistice Day, Roo has eschewed all presents and wants everyone to donate £11 to Help for Hero's. For those interested in numbers, co-incidences or just think that this is rather a cool thing for an eleven year old to do, Roo is hoping to raise £1,111."
Link to Original Source

WePad becomes WeTab and opens for pre-orders

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rolandw (1105017) writes "For fairly obvious reasons, WePad GmbH have renamed themselves WeTab and are now accepting pre-orders via for their über-tablet. Although it promised camera, USB and an openness that is clearly missing from the market leader is it going to overcome the hype? will only ship in Germany; is that even legal in the EU? Regardless of its change, if this device gets into British schools, it's going to cause more than a few sniggers because of its name..."
Link to Original Source

Digital video camera for 7 year old

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rolandw writes "My soon to be 7 year old daughter declared an ambition to be the next Kate Adie (now there's a generation gap) and to make her own video news service. Eschewing all other presents, she has asked for cash for her birthday so that she can get herself her first camera. I've been charged to fit a camera that she can use to record both herself and her subjects, can connect to iMovie for editing, can use for replaying either on the camera or on a TV (all on her own I must add) to her as yet unknown budget. The camera has got to be pretty tough and reliable, seeing as it's going to knock about in her school bag, and, of course, simple to use. The budget is not going to be huge — maybe £150/$200. What would you recommend...?"

Google advertising Yahoo on Maps in London

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rolandw writes "There must be many cases where one on-line advertiser inadvertently advertises their competition for free but following the bruhar of Google releasing Streetmap in London we checked our own office address only to find a London bus emblazoned with Yahoo! advertising. If Google are sensitive enough to remove an image of a man entering a London sex shop then perhaps they might want to remove this..."
Link to Original Source

Paragliding dune buggy to across the Sahara

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rolandw (1105017) writes "This last week-end a small team led by former SAS Neil Laughton departed London bound for Tombouctou in Mali via the Sahara. This minimal vehicle has four wheels and a parafoil (or a big kite to you and me) enabling it to travel on the roads or through the air. It's powered by biofuel. If you are excited by the prospect of a new way to get to the office, hold on to your hats as there is a "road sport" version due next year!"
Link to Original Source

What dress-code is suitable for a development and

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rolandw writes "We are trying to determine our dress code. As a small development and IT services company based in central London in the UK we have 12 people working full time and are trying to project an image of professionality and reliability with creativity and technical ability. We have been debating if we should establish a formal dress code or not. A psychologist has told us "polo shirts say manual labour; shirt and tie says city boys; casual dress says IT". That goes against the likes of RedHat and others where a branded shirt is the norm. Most developers would prefer to wear their favourite T-shirt of the moment, jeans and sneakers but that doesn't work when a potential IT services customer visits.

Is our psychologist right? Are branded shirts the way to go? Are we nuts to even be worrying about it? What do you think?"

UK's Loughborough Uni demo Hydrogen motorcycle

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rolandw (1105017) writes "The Beeb have a piece about Loughborough University's hydrogen motorcycle and one of the UK's first hydrogen fuel pumps (presumably all developed by their excellent "Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering department Offering 50mph, the ENV will have a range of 100 miles on a 3 minute refill of hydrogen. By-products are warm air and "drinkable" water. It will be interesting to compare these hydrogen powered vehicles with the hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles as pioneered by such as the Morgan prototype "Lifecar" ( ) in the near future."
Link to Original Source

Hardware miles

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Iwanna Begreen (1105017) writes "Following yet another failure of a US designed, Chinese built laptop I am looking for a replacement. I have a new criteria: hardware miles. Its rather like food miles (buy food that has travelled the least or at least be aware of how far it has travelled). Being based in the UK this is rather hard. Has anyone else evaluated hardware based on how far it has travelled? Is there any laptop on the market in Europe that hasn't or the majority of components haven't travelled many thousands of miles before getting to you?"

The LeapHack contest - learn new skills on Feb 29

rolandw rolandw writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Roland Whitehead writes "Running a small enterprise software development company, I'm continuously looking for ways to keep the guys interested and looking for things to learn. I've recently come up with an idea that I hope will put a little fun into it, it being a leap year.
Based on the MacHack competition, I'm setting everyone a challenge to do something entirely new to them so that they learn something and challenge themselves. They can only do this on the 29th February. They can't do anything of any commercial value whatsoever but it really doesn't matter what it is. They will have to demo their work on the next working day, explaining what they have learned and trying to persuade their colleagues that what they have done is a really cool achievement for them. Everyone will rank the projects and the rankings will be added up. We have a moderator (me) who might add on ranking points to squash bribery, favouritism, commercialism or lack of ambition. The winner will be the person whose project has the best overall ranking; they will receive a suitable prize.
I mentioned this concept to a couple of friends in the industry and they thought it was a great idea and could they take part and do something similar within their own teams (with their own prizes). They've also suggested sharing it around. We've set up a page about the competition at Who knows what this might produce?"

Link to Original Source


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