Errors, Side Effects and Unintended Consequences

Pretty broad subjects.  Difficult, too. in that they are largely unknowable. (If you knew there was an error, you would have fixed it!) Can a program be error free? Probably not. (Old joke: The only error-free program is one that is not used).  However, if you make a programming product that other folks use, you …

“Learn Brain Surgery in 2 Weeks — It’s Not That Hard”

Well, I made that up — I did not actually find that headline. However, I see a lot of the, “Learn ‘X’ in 2 weeks”, where ‘X’ is almost anything, French, Python, Java, cellphone apps, etc.  Folks sign up, go through the process and are happy that they can “speak some words”.  Possibly, even do something …

Programming “Petting Zoo” (Hour of Code)

I see that grade schools all over the world participated in an “Hour of Code” last week.  Lots of PR.  Kids had a great time. “Hey, I programmed a Star Wars game on my iPad!”  In my town, a person called, “information literacy instructor” said, “It’s all about critical thinking skills and logic.  They are …

Computers, People: Why can’t we just, well, talk?

Ever go to France with a guidebook and French-English dictionary and try to have a conversation with a native? (I’m assuming that you are a native English speaker and know little or no French).  “Why do they talk so fast?” 🙂 While it may be possible to order a meal or get directions, it’s impossible to …

Is a Washing Machine a Robot?

Sure, but it’s a little limited “going to it’s left”  🙂  How about a “spam filter”, or one of those remote controlled cars? Most references talk about entities that are autonomous and those that are not.  When I talk about the “robotics-revolution”, I mean robots with the following 4 broad qualities: 1. Something physical that can …

Does Joe Still Win even though he has to run 10 meters more?

Yessir!  When Sam is at 90 meters so is Joe.  They are tied. Remember that Joe (faster) runs 100 meters in the same time that Sam runs 90.  Because they both have 10 meters to go, Joe being faster, wins. That works, if you happen to “see” it.  How about using a more systematic approach?  Use the …

“Uh-Oh” Robots are about to take over our jobs! + a Puzzle

Scare piece 1,994 (this week), entitled, “The Rise of the robots: Is this Time Different?”.  Actually, it’s a good article and answers the question with a definite, “maybe”.  Always a good answer when forecasting the future. (redundant? Anyone forecast the past? just historians increasing their narrative’s punch.) The problem here is that a., the future is …

Can You Use a Stick Shift? Should You be able to?

How about arithmetic?  Do you need to be able to add, subtract, multiply, or divide by hand?  Remember how to do square roots?  (gotcha!)  Why learn — we have simple electronic devices to do that — and more accurately. Back to the original question.  Knowing how to run a manual shift is required only if …

Programming Languages (High Level)

Here, I’m talking about high level languages — not “machine languages” (binary numbers that interact directly with a computer) or even “assembly languages” (one-step removed, with mnemonics replacing the actual numbers.) Dealing with the low level languages is somewhat like reading those legal notices in the newspaper.  Doable, but who has the time and/or the ability …