To Code or Not To Code

There is an interesting pair of essays about how universal “learning to code” ought to be over at Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code and a follow-up So You Want to be a Programmer. The first essay questions whether we really need more programmers, and whether learning some basic programming is that valuable a skill as compared to learning how to understand a problem and its solutions. The followup clarifies that what is being criticized is learning to code for the sake of knowing how to code, as compared to learning to code in order to solve a problem … Continue reading To Code or Not To Code

Interactive Learning Startup Top Hat Monocle Wants To Turn Your Homework Into A Tournament

This article about a company that produces classroom engagement technologies such as in-class polls, discussion forums, and homework tournaments is making my head spin. I can get behind the value of in-class polls or quizzes, where students get immediate feedback, and professors get an immediate sense of what they sank in or not. But this: Top Hat offers an SMS-based response system, while all others access its platform through the web. Students can ask questions during lectures without interrupting teachers and get instant feedback from other students. Why would we even bother all getting together in the same room, if … Continue reading Interactive Learning Startup Top Hat Monocle Wants To Turn Your Homework Into A Tournament

Conversation on Non-Coding Contributions to Open Source

An interesting but common discussion over on Slashdot of how to get started working on open source projects, particularly if you’re fairly novice, evolved into some even more interesting discussion of the merits of getting started by helping with documentation, what that even means, and some firsthand accounts of people’s problems with trying to get a foot in by volunteering to do documentation. Some chat about the same issue but with UI design as well. A pretty good read for students who want to build up more of a portfolio than just their coursework but want some practical advice on … Continue reading Conversation on Non-Coding Contributions to Open Source

Tablets for all

I’ve been thinking a lot about tablet computing in educational settings, partially because of some research I’m doing, and partially because of the splash of Apple’s announcement of iTunes U back in January which doesn’t seem to have been followed up by much. My gut reaction is that tablet computers are awesome, but for certain purposes. I absolutely love mine when I’m not working – vacations, weekends, messing around online in the evening. But when it comes to my teaching, I’ve yet to find ways that it really supports or helps me, and it makes me suspect that it isn’t … Continue reading Tablets for all

Personal Thermostats

My first reaction is that I need one of these wristbands that lets me control the temperature as I walk around a building. Oh yeah, and you can do other gesture controls with it too, but mostly it lets you not be freezing cold all the time. Except, it requires working in a smart building, not to mention a building with a more functional HVAC than I currently have. I am then struck by the fact that this sounds great until hit with the reality that different people have radically different temperature comfort zones. As the only person in the … Continue reading Personal Thermostats

Also, the lack of symmetry has always bugged me…

It is nice to see studies confirming that we’re not all as taken up with shiny new technologies and clever marketing strategies as it sometimes seems – here, a “youth marketing company” finds that, out of a sample 500 college students, 79% could not successfully scan a QR code. Only 19% did not have smart phones, and only 20% weren’t familiar with QR codes, so that leaves a large portion of students with the awareness and ability but lack of inclination to have ever figured them out. I suspect the comment about not wanting to download an app to handle … Continue reading Also, the lack of symmetry has always bugged me…

Google Reader design frustration

There’s been discussion about the changes to Google Reader (some of which was – wow, people are still using Google Reader…) and how it was going to have its social sharing features moved to Google+. I honestly didn’t have a strong opinion, because I have never used the social features of Google Reader and so long as I would still be able to keep my RSS feeds organized. In fact, I was fairly puzzled that Google+ and Google Reader played so poorly with each other so figured the move would be positive. However, now I am seeing comments about how … Continue reading Google Reader design frustration

Smartphones, Statistics and Spying

I absolutely love these hacking tricks where you snoop passwords from information leakage – this one from Georgia Tech using a smartphone’s accelerometer is an awesome addition. Short version: if your smartphone has malicious software on it, and you put it on the same desk as your keyboard, the phone can deduce what you’re typing from the vibrations. Yes, even if you don’t type as vigorously as I do (though only at close range – no need to panic). The press release notes that using the accelerometer is an improvement over using the microphone because, even though it is less … Continue reading Smartphones, Statistics and Spying

I see you

I have forwarded the linkĀ to this article that I got via Slashdot about how social media could render covert policing impossible to a number of people and somehow didn’t think to post it here (I must have pre-semester brain…). The idea is simple once you see it – with good quality facial recognition software, we know anonymity becomes challenging, and that is particularly true for careers, like undercover police work, that require strong anonymity and yet for which there is strong incentive to discover true identities, and high risk if they are found out. Though I do think the article … Continue reading I see you

Battery Hacking

I love stories of unexpected weak spots, like the discovery thatĀ Apple laptop batteries can be hacked to store malicious code and brick the battery. The weakness revolves around cracking a couple of passwords, one of which is a factory default – with the protection being patches that will reset the password and lock the battery’s firmware. From there, it doesn’t seem like the researcher who discovered the weakness has found any particularly damaging holes from the battery back to the rest of the system, besides having the battery lie about its state, so this probably won’t be the root of … Continue reading Battery Hacking