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Neat! An "open in maps" option would be nice to get directions.

Yeah! Awesome to hear! I was already thinking about adding that because sometimes some driving or public transit is needed to get within walking range haha

Neat article. It's good to see non-programmers get some of the value that FOSS brings.

I have a fancy aluminium unibody laptop and the latest shiny phone and all that, but I also keep a couple of netbooks at home on which I run archlinux + xmonad. I do almost everything in the terminal; I wrote a lot of my own tools to e.g. read twitter, my email, manage my todo lists, etc. In a high level language with a wide variety of libraries like Python, it requires very little effort to get stuff running if you're a programmer, and you quickly get a nice foundation to customize your own software and workflows. You can get things to integrate in ways that would be nigh impossible to do with other software. For instance, on one of my netbooks, my terminal's color palette changes with the time of the day (i.e. dark on white at night, white on dark during the day) and time of the year (green + red colorscheme on Christmas day!), which in turn propagates to all of my terminal apps to achieve a consistent look. It's absolutely useless, but tons of fun!

The only non terminal program I use is surf, a minimalistic tabless web browser which helps you focus and not get too distracted. All in all, I really like my setup - it'd be impractical to use it at my job, but I could see myself using it exclusively at a different stage of my life. At the end of the day, most of what I do is write {code|prose}.

I have a side project to clean up my setup and release it as an open source project for other people to use, but time is lacking. Although really, most of the fun comes from building your own environment. A good source of inspiration (despite the silly name) is the /r/unixporn subreddit - the screenshots there tend to encapsulate nicely the kind of basic yet pleasant aesthetic that such a setup can offer. For many years, everyone wanted their Linux desktop to be as flashy as what the professional OSs were promising (remember Compiz, Beryl, Project Looking Glass, etc.?) - but I think a Linux environment is best when it plays to its own strengths.

A couple nitpicks regarding the article because I'm a nerd :)

> Instead of relying on rich kids in a Googleplex somewhere, Slow Computing works best when we’re employing people nearby, like Jamie McClelland, to adapt open tools to local needs. He’s my farmer; May First is my CSA.

Does the author realize that there is a non-negligible overlap between contributors to the software he praises and the rich kids from the Googleplex?

>Despite its scale, the original amateurism of Linux is alive and well; once, when a student was helping me set up my computer for a lecture at his college, he told me that he’d helped design Ubuntu’s icons.

What a gauche formulation that needlessly diminishes the work of the student.

Not a nitpick: Sudo room in Oakland is great. If you're in the Bay Area, check it out. I started going there when I lived in Oakland a couple years ago because noisebridge was too far away and becoming too... unfriendly, and I was not disappointed. One of the main things I miss about living in Oakland for sure.


>Does the author realize that there is a non-negligible overlap between contributors to the software he praises and the rich kids from the Googleplex?

Probably not, but it shows how fashionable tech worker hate has become. You don't usually see digs like that at "rich doctors" in articles on our heath care system, despite American doctors being the highest paid in the world: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/02/amer...


I mean, it's a possibility, but "probably" seems a little strong.

Your post does remind me of my favorite engineer joke:

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."


If this was real life I'd take the bike too. I mean, something like that actually happening would seem pretty suspicious. I'd think it was a candid camera thing or a pretext to lure me somewhere to rob me.

Fair.

That joke is awesome, don't ever remember hearing that one.


That insight alone would make you a better manager than 90% of the ones out there.

I have a keyboard without key inscriptions. I prioritize aesthetics over other people being able to use my keyboard (and using a non-conventional layout, most people would be confused by my keyboard anyway).

An equally valid reason, I use the Bluetooth Apple keyboard for the same reason.

The Wolfram Language is quite cool. Sure, it's a shame it's proprietary - but it has a lot to offer, a few neat ideas, and makes for great, visual demos such as the ones featured in that talk. The fact that you can get cool things running in a few lines of code, like the 3D stack of edges, is appealing - I don't think there are many languages out there that allow you to do things like this in a few lines of code, and with such flexibility.

(it is quite a shame that Wolfram always has to assert how great they are, how revolutionary it is, how they invented everything, how unlike anything else ever done before their work is. It's off putting. Let your work speak for itself, and leave the meta comments out. But I digress.)

I like the "tweet a program" concept. One issue with kids growing up mostly on mobile phones is that it makes them less likely to try to see what's inside and program it themselves. One solution some have attempted is to have IDEs directly running on tablets/phones, but those tend to be fairly clunky. Allowing people to experiment with computation in unconventional manners, e.g. over Twitter, strikes me as an interesting path. I had a similar project a couple years ago where you would tweet concise instructions to a bot that ran them into a virtual machine, for which the output was a 32x32 pixel image buffer and would get tweeted back to you. If you've played with forth salon or shadertoy, it's the same idea but with a language optimized so as to get cool results in <140 characters. Sadly, like many of my other bots, Twitter shut it down.

But yeah, given their aspirations for education etc., some open source components would be nice. It strikes me as a great exploratory/prototyping language, although it'd probably be hard to maintain large codebases of it due to the fuzziness of the instructions and a certain opacity in the backend.

All that being said, the tail end of the talk (about immortality and the singularity and the box of trillion souls - basically, when the paragraphs don't have code examples anymore) does fall into the standard techno-religious singularity crackpot speculation where things sound vaguely scientific - just enough to give them an air of credibility - but where the terms used are fuzzy and slippery enough to be manipulated into whatever direction the speaker wishes while maintaining an illusion of rigorous reasoning.


[deleted]

>Very much agree. And Wolfram used to be a university professor; he darned well knows how to give credit to others when it is due.

And he should know that science is supposed to be done by collaboration, transparently sharing information, not by peddling proprietary libraries. But he doesn't care, and he never has.

Here's a good write-up about it from 2003: http://chem.tufts.edu/science/Shermer/E-Skeptic/SkepticsOnWo...


There's also this classic:

"A Rare Blend of Monster Raving Egomania and Utter Batshit Insanity" http://bactra.org/reviews/wolfram/


I'm assuming there isn't any video and audio recording of that Caltech debate?

I dunno, a lot of us got our start on TI calculators, and their input was comparatively awful.

But they had a small environment and a hierarchial menu of the various key words and common functions. And it worked pretty well.


That's a good point! I also started programming on a graphing calculator.

One difference is that calculators were very limited in what they could do. No camera, no GPS, no internet connection, the screen was monochrome and 80x80 or so pixels... so the very limited language and input methods worked fine.

But on modern day devices, you want to build complex apps that can interact over the network, use the various sensors on the device, display rich media, manipulate video/images in real time, etc. The programming environment has to allow for all of this, which is the tricky part.


This is unfair to him, let him move on from previous 'mistakes' people are too harsh on him.

16-17 is a little too old for Scratch. I've run dozens of Scratch workshops, and they've managed to deeply engage the students, but they work best with kids under 13 or so. Web programming, RPG Maker/Game Maker, Python/Ruby, Processing, and Arduino are some platforms that work better with teenagers.

The ones who care about building stuff in an environment that's more or less the only one of its kind, and where the definition of a successful research project isn't "we published a paper" but rather "we enabled a product that hundreds of millions of people will use more so than any other object in their life".

It seems like one of the root causes behind dreadful situations such as the one described in the article is that the various groups of actors in the system (students, school officials, teachers, parents, etc.) aren't in tune enough with each other. There are many nodes in the graph, but it's quite sparse.

Quotes from the article:

> "She’s referring to a series of chalk memorials that were drawn by students all over the Gunn campus after Cam’s death. Rather than leaving them up as a reminder of (or, school officials feared, an homage to) suicide’s lasting effects, the administration unceremoniously hosed them away within hours. The students were left feeling wronged, their voices and feelings silenced."

> Lisa hasn’t found the grief counselors provided by the school to be of much help. “They kind of, like, force you to talk to them,” she says, “but you don’t know them, and they don’t know you, and every time you get a brand-new person.”

> Kathleen Blanchard, the mother of Jean-Paul, who died in 2009, has some simple advice for parents: “Talk less. Listen more. Listen deeply.” She’s speaking at a community event to an auditorium full of parents who are wondering what, if any, signals she saw in her son. “He sent out signs to people by phone and online,” she says. “He even let people know that he intended to take his life. But they didn’t understand.”

There's a reason why pedagogies like Montessori/Waldorf/etc. schools tend to work well. The educators who designed those systems understood the importance of having tight feedback loops and small social groups for children to develop into fulfilled, productive citizens.

Having teachers who get to know the students over several years, in small classrooms, with healthy parental involvement, and school officials that are in tune with what's happening really does help. It's the kind of stuff that just seems like commons sense when you see it in practice, and yet the vast majority of our schools are diametrically opposed to that. It's really enraging: we know what the properties of good schools and good teachers are, and what the properties of bad schools and bad teachers are - and yet we ignore all of it and perpetuate a model that hasn't changed much in the past 200 years. Modern schools - and particularly middle and high schools - are a toxic environment in which it's surprising that some kids manage to flourish at all.

Like 'tokenadult said, it's unclear whether there is a statistical significance to the suicides. But hearing the students interviewed for the article, it's evident that they are deeply unhappy. When you observe the social structure they spend their lives in, with Silicon Valley overachiever culture added on top, it's not hard to see why.


'arzugula (who replied to 'dragonwriter with an appropriate post), your account is shadow banned.
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