EppsNet Archive: Computers

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

13 Oct 2017 /

Although I can’t claim never to have said these things myself, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say either a) “It was working fine 10 minutes ago,” or b) “It works okay on my machine,” I would be comfortably retired by now.

Thus spoke The Programmer.


What Does a Programmer Do?

8 Oct 2017 /

I was asked to give a talk last week to a high school computer science class on “What Does a Programmer Do?” (I’m indebted to Jim McCarthy for the “lords and ladies of logic” section.)

 

Programming is problem solving.

Programmer

At the highest level, the problem that programmers solve is that people want to be able to do things with computers that they can’t do. And by computers, I don’t mean just the kind of computers you have on the desks here, I mean phones, watches, cars . . . more and more different kinds of devices are running software.

So one good thing about being a programmer is that pretty much every field of endeavor now uses software and data.

You can work at a tech company like Microsoft or Google or Twitter or Facebook, but you can also work in healthcare, finance, education, sports . . . you can work on cancer research, you can write video games . . . everybody uses software and everybody hires programmers.

Programming is a good job if you want to be learning new things all the time, if you don’t want to do the same things over and over.

The dark side of this is that it can be daunting trying to keep up with the pace of technological change. It can be overwhelming.

I was asked once in an interview, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned in the last week?” If you haven’t learned anything in the last week, it’s hard to answer that question, let alone if you haven’t learned anything in a month or a year. It’s easy to let your career slip away from you.

Programming has been a good job for me because I’ve been able to make a living doing things I like and things that I’m good at. I’ve always liked solving problems and building things.

To me that’s a good job: you do things you like and things that you’re good at. I don’t think most people can say that. Most people seem to be like “I hate Mondays,” “Thank god it’s Friday,” “Thank god it’s Thursday because it’s almost Friday.” If you spend a lot of time doing things you don’t like and you’re not good at, that’s a bad job.

As a programmer, you’re given problems to solve and a set of tools with which to solve them. You need to be able to figure out “what do i need to do, what do I need to learn, to be able to solve these problems with these tools?”

Self-reliance is good. Persistence is good. Floundering is bad. Know when to ask for help.

Asking for help is a no-lose strategy. Worst case, you ask for help and someone can’t help you or won’t help you, but you’re not any worse off than you were in the first place.

The demand for programmers exceeds the supply and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map, and 25 percent of Americans think the sun goes around the earth. Those people are not going to be programmers.

In a time of ubiquitous software and intellectual lethargy, programmers are like the priests in the Middle Ages. We are the lords and ladies of logic. We’re in charge of rationality for our era. We’re bringing common sense and sound judgment and aggregated wisdom and glory to everyone.

That’s our job.


What Would We Do Without Consultants?

2 Feb 2016 /
The Dark Side

Digital technology? You mean, like — computers?


Proofread Your Own Work

15 Dec 2015 /
Proofread

FYI, if you meant to type “invest in education” but actually typed “incest in education,” which you might do because the ‘c’ and ‘v’ keys are right next to each other, a spell checker will not catch that as a mistake . . .


Time Passes and Love Fades

7 Oct 2015 /

You’re Now the Local Computer Expert

17 Oct 2014 /


Teaching Computer Science

1 Sep 2014 /
School

Tomorrow is my first day as an AP Computer Science teacher at Corona del Mar High School. It’s a volunteer gig through the TEALS organization.

Only about 10 percent of U.S. high schools offer computer science classes and at most of those schools, it counts as an elective, like Home Ec or Wood Shop, not as a class that can be applied toward graduation like math or science.

The most popular AP exam in 2013 was US History — 439,552 students took the AP US History exam. Only 31,117 students took the AP Computer Science exam. That’s about the same number as the AP Art History exam. I don’t want to denigrate the study of art history, but given the ubiquity of computers and software and programming in daily life, the study of computer science seems more likely to enable a person to be self-supporting and to contribute to the common good.

I’ve heard people say that computer science should be taught in every high school in America. That may be a good idea, but no one ever says where all the qualified computer science teachers are supposed to come from. The TEALS vision is to put high-tech professionals like myself in schools to teach computer science and to teach teachers to teach computer science.

I’m happy to have the opportunity but I’m also scared, I might as well put that out there. What am I scared of? Like everything else, that I won’t perform to expectations and that I’ll be exposed as a phony.


People Who Don’t Want Me to Know Things

12 Jul 2014 /

What I want to know is why there are so many people who don’t want me to know things . . .

Trudeau's book Natural Cures Updated Edition

And that doesn’t even include all the things that people “won’t tell me.”


Raising Our Kids

10 Jul 2014 /


The Cure for Missing Attachments

10 Jan 2014 /

I wrote an email in Outlook 2013, concluded by saying “Details are in the attached doc,” then clicked Send without attaching the aforesaid document.

I must not be the only person who does this, because when I clicked Send, this dialog box appeared:

Attachment reminder

Obviously, Outlook is looking for words like “attached” or “attachment” in emails that don’t contain an actual attachment. It turns out that this behavior can be turned on or off in the Outlook Mail options:

 Mail options

I have to admit that I don’t remember if “warn me” is the default option, or if I turned it on at some point in the past and forgot about it.


It Would Be Important to Get There and There is Probably a Way

8 Jan 2014 /
Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart

Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often say, “Well, it’s just over on the other side of that canyon. So all we have to do is go.” It is always surprising to me that other people would expect me to tell them how we’re going to get there directly. That it is not enough to say, “Well, it would be important to get there and there is probably a way. Let’s go.”


Pictures of Food

7 Aug 2013 /
"The Basket of Apples" by Paul Cézanne

“The Basket of Apples” by Paul Cézanne

Years ago, if you wanted to show your friends a picture of your food, you’d have to break out the palette and the easel and paint one. Time-consuming!

Nowadays, with the likes of Facebook and Instagram, it’s just point and click!

Another way life gets better and better thanks to computers . . .


Do You Want to Take the Human Race to the Next Plateau?

28 Jul 2013 /
Geoffrey Moore One on One, DEMO Fall 2011

Geoffrey Moore (Photo credit: The DEMO Conference)

In 1986, Steve Jobs famously challenged John Sculley, asking him if he wanted to keep on making sugar water or help Apple change the world. While that did not quite work out the way either of them intended, the challenge itself still holds. Do you want to spend your next decade developing more digital distractions to amuse people while they stand in line at Starbuck’s, or do you want to take the human race to the next plateau?


From Science Fiction to Everyday Life in Just a Few Years

25 May 2012 /

This is the world we live in now. It’s one where computers improve so quickly that their capabilities pass from the realm of science fiction into the everyday world not over the course of a human lifetime, or even within the span of a professional’s career, but instead in just a few years.

— Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against The Machine

Intelligence in the Cloud

12 Mar 2012 /

IBM Watson, the Jeopardy champion, runs on 90 IBM Power 750 servers, with eight 3.5 GHz cores per server.

Currently on Amazon EC2, eight extra large compute instances will cost you $2.40/hour. If you want to run 90 of them, you’re looking at a shade over $200/hour.

This brings up a couple of questions:

  1. For what tasks could artificial intelligence be as good or better as a highly trained person at $200/hour?
  2. What would this mean for society?

Thanks to David Patterson at UC Berkeley for bringing this to my attention.


Tom Knight and the Lisp Machine

8 Mar 2012 /

A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.

Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: “You cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.”

Knight turned the machine off and on.

The machine worked.


Race Against the Machine

19 Nov 2011 /

We don’t believe in the coming obsolescence of all human workers. In fact, some human skills are more valuable than ever, even in an age of incredibly powerful and capable digital technologies. But other skills have become worthless, and people who hold the wrong ones now find that they have little to offer employers. They’re losing the race against the machine, a fact reflected in today’s employment statistics. . . .

There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.

— Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against The Machine

Scott Hanselman: Brain, Bytes, Back, Buns – The Programmer’s Priorities

Posted by on 28 Oct 2011

Scott Hanselman: The Technical Friend’s Essential Maintenance Checklist for Non-Technical Friend’s Windows Computer

Posted by on 25 Aug 2011

Dilbert: New Server Names

12 Jun 2011 /

Dilbert.com


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