On computer terminology

I see in many books certain attempts to ease the apparent pains of using computer terminology.

For example:

With the help of Tim Berners-Lee, the Internet became popularized with the creation of the World Wide Web.

This simple statement becomes this convoluted paragraph:

With the assistance of Tim Berners-Lee, a computer technology was developed that allowed computers to communicate each other through what became known as the World Wide Web, which people could connect to through new software such as America Online and CompuServe that came in floppy diskettes. Thus came the existence of the Internet.

Authors continue to be extremely cautious in introducing computer terminology in their writings. But the truth is, who doesn’t know what the Internet is these days? Who doesn’t know what software is? And when authors do use the terminology, they often surround it with these metaphors so as to try to compare it to tasks once done by hand. “The Internet, like a pair of telephone wires, …” “With the advent of the microprocessor, computers once the size of rooms became smaller than the ‘a’ in this book…” This is the virtual world we’re talking about here. There is no substitute for these things.

No. Heck, no. If you’re going to include words like “axle” and “spigot” in a book and don’t bother defining them, then don’t bother with “die size” or “parallelization” either. Suck it up and make people learn the jargon. Don’t talk to them as if they were elderly people.

On Anki: 14 months on

Since January 27, 2015, the first set of cards that I had inputted on Anki, I have learned 550 kanji. No, not just stared at for 5 minutes… LEARNED!

When I first heard about spaced repetition, I thought the forum posts were too good to be true. But they prescribed the same advice: Anki. Anki. Anki. Study every day. Mine the crap out of Japanese and fling it into Anki. And I haven’t had any complaints about the system ever since that day, not because I’m an optimist who only looks at the positive side of “good” things, but rather because it’s (1) a scientifically proven model that accurately works with, not against, the dynamics of the brain, and (2) because once you set it up, you can study from wherever the heck you want. I study on my phone because it’s the most convenient, but I have to input new notes on the computer because it would take an eternity and a half doing it on a tiny phone with an even tinier keyboard.

(more…)

On the current state of learning how to code

Since 2012, numerous organizations have proliferated to teach people of all ages to begin programming. A famous example is Hour of Code.

Back then, when I was eight or so, I did not have those opportunities. You couldn’t Google “programming for kids” and have something more functional than Scratch come up. And Python was not so popular back then, much less geared toward beginners. Consequently, I had to put up with VB.NET until such resources came about, and people actually started caring just a bit about youngsters who wanted to seriously pursue coding.

But after all that – the hours of code have passed, you’ve mastered the docs after poring them over – what now? How would a nine-year-old ever start doing anything more constructive with coding than “Hello World” and bubble sorts and turtles without lurking forums and having some autonomy?

On prodigies and starting things at an early age

Back in the 70s and 80s, we got people who picked up a certain hobby at very early ages. But in this overprotective day and age, the opportunities for such things to be learned so early in life are dwindling, because the means to learn them so early are “more” illegal now, and the systems involved in such hobbies have become increasingly complicated, convoluted, and expensive.

Do you not know how many hobbies have fallen apart due to this? Photography, aviation, ham radio, and heck, even computing. Society tells us that we can’t take pictures without a $600 camera, fly a plane without tens of thousands of dollars just laying around, talk to someone 12,000 miles away without being subject to massive regulation and buying equipment easily worth $1,500, and make a simple program without enclosing it behind a layer of abstraction or reading heavily on an operating system’s API.

Back then, life was much simpler.

I’m not saying that I wish I lived in the nineties, because it had a whole new set of problems; I’m saying that people should have just as many – or more – opportunities now than they did before, despite the necessity for the newbies in life to take more time to “catch up” to mankind’s recent inventions.

Do I have a grandfather who flew planes? No. An uncle who grew up as a hacker, or who enjoyed making games in BASIC or assembly? No. A father who has plenty of money to blow on a hobby? No! Then what the heck am I supposed to do?

There’s one thing you get for free when you live in this universe, and you get it one second per second at absolutely zero cost to you: time. You have 2,207,520,000 seconds available to you during your entire life. Currently, I have used 22.8% of that number. But even then, time is immortal. I may not have the money, but if I just keep working, and working, and working toward a goal related to a hobby, I will come to it. The energy placed becomes purer and purer, because it is not energy due to anger; it is energy driven by passion, but fueled by time, not money.

Therefore, I have come to a conclusion: age does not matter. Its physical effects may place a burden on humans, and the surrounding environment lives on due to (and depends on) time, but such limitations will not last forever. Perhaps one was simply not able to learn or engage fully due to such circumstances and limitations.

But if they do not emerge because they are good at something in particular at an early age, then where will our prodigies emerge from? The recesses of an “even playing field” referred to as standardized testing? Such testing I detest, because it means nothing. It does not test competence in anything in particular, except what you sit down on a desk to do at school: algebra and English. Boring. Where is my multivariable calculus? Where is my C#, my JavaScript, my fluency in Japanese and Spanish, my loyalty, my talent, my devotion to a multitude of things, my passions, my hopes, my dreams and my desires? I do not see them on this multiple-guess sheet; I guess they do not matter nowadays.

At my high school, many are represented: the girls, in dance; the boys, in band and sports; and the programmers and hobbyists and the intelligentsia? Where are we? Do we not do service in our works, helping our classmates in homework? Are we not good enough? Is this a popularity contest? Why are we not respected? Why are we not represented or recognized?

I wish I could say I could go off to somewhere and do great things with people like me. But I can’t. I have to talk to people over the Internet who are twice my age and deal with lowly, average people down here and lowly, average problems.

And now you say the problems rests in my ego? Now I have become the enemy. Nonsense. It is not I who am your enemy; it is my humanness, my mortality, not my soul.

You wanna become a prodigy? You’re a prodigy for finding this blog, congratulations, now go away. You wanted to do C# and not VB when you were nine? Congrats, you did something, now go get a time machine and try to do it better. You wanted to win a contest? Congrats, you won the contest in my book, now burn my book and try 0th place next year.

I hate contests. I hate tests. I hate when people try to judge my life, because it takes away the pride and thus security that I can bestow myself with.

And without security, can you say that such things are really improving our lives?

On the state of Ace of Spades

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/11/apr/spade/ace6.jpg

Once upon a time, Ace of Spades was a really nice game, a crossroads of sorts between Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft (or so they said). Its 90s-style graphics simply made it more appealing to gamers, both hardcore and in those countries that still use Pentium III computers. Ben Aksoy, the really nice guy he was, updated the game twice a week, and in no time we went from 0.15 to 0.75. The forums thrived, new open-source server software was in the works… until the Fire Nation attacked.

(more…)

On the Hour of Code

The Hour of Code sure has alleviated quite a few hurdles in the early stages of learning how to program by introducing “engaging” courses for people between the ages of Really Young and Really Old. But what does that mean for programmers like me who are already competent in the field?

(more…)