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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2353 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Moore's Law has ten years to run, predicts physicist

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: And not a moment too soon!

As Niklaus Wirth says: Software is getting slower faster than hardware is getting faster.

Word 2.0 was a very capable word-processor, and ran happily on my 25 MHz 80386 machine with 4 MB of RAM (I really splashed out on that machine :-) ). Word 2010 would require rather more. More in fact than the processing power and memory of the good old Cray Y-MP. That is worrying.

GUIs of course do need more resources, but the above example suggests you can run a full-blown GUI-based word processor in 1,000 times less memory than we seem to need today. If you look at the memory footprint of something like FLTK, which is so small you can afford to link it statically for easier distribution, and compare that to some other tools, you cannot help but question the efficiency of some code.

Much of the best coding is going on in the embedded-systems world. You really have to conserve resources in that arena.

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Nvidia: What would you do with a petaflops super?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: So much for being a global company.

I must say I was a bit miffed at not being able to take part. I have several ideas of what to do on a petaflop machine, but as I am not a US or Canadian resident (excluding Quebec (mais pourqoui?)) I cannot send them in. AMD had similar rules for their "what would you do with 48 cores?" competition. There may be some law in the US requiring this, so nVidia may be obliged by law to include this rule. Pity.

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New satellite will blow your socks off - and spot them from spaaaace

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: Right, so I will need even more RAM

"FFS - get yourself a high end graphics card! 256 cores + 1TB memory (or more) + proper parallel coding using CUDA. £300 will get you the dogs-danglies in the commercial world. If you want mil-aero specification - GE-IP have them for reasonable prices.

Image processing - visible, infra-red, microwave, radar, or all combined is exactly what CUDA on these high end graphics cards was designed for."

I assume you mean 1GB not 1TB of memory. If you can supply me a 1TB memory graphics card for £300, I am happy to give you a £300 tip :-). My images start at about 1GB, and end at 1.5 TB (for now). So they will not fit in my graphics cards (with the additional data needed during processing.

Regarding image processing and CUDA: For quite a few image processing problems you are right, in this case you are wrong. Connected filters that we use have a strictly data-driven processing order, which does not work well in CUDA. Indeed, because the outcome for every pixel depends on every other pixel (potentially), parallelization itself is hard (see the first method with can be found here (warning, pdf)). On 64 cores I am now getting about 30x speed-up. I am trying to adapt this to CUDA (or OpenCL) in collaboration with the CSIRO in Sydney, Australia, but we have not got it running yet.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Right, so I will need even more RAM

I am just testing a new compute server for processing remote sensing images (64 cores 512 GB of RAM). My first runs already use up to 480 GB of that, and chug through a detailed analysis of 3.5 Gigapixel image in just over two minutes (was nearly an hour). The new images will be 2.2x larger for the same area covered.

I WANT A TERABYTE of RAM!!!

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Twelve... classic 1980s 8-bit micros

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

I had an Enterprise 128

that was my optional title which was somehow removed (did I offend? ;-) )

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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These are not often mentioned, but they had quite a following. It was a neat machine, with Z80A and 128kB of memory expandable to 4MB, two asics controlling memory, sound and graphics. The memory worked at twice the clock frequency of the CPU, so the controller and CPU did not interfere (one had the even clock ticks, the other the ODD. Nice machine to play around with. Decent Basic, and word processor on board, very expandable. Linked it up to my Dad's daisy-wheel typewriter (what a racket that was

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Iran cuts off oil plants hit by mystery data-destroying virus

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

My guess: Windows ME

in which case you do not need to introduce a virus to have data and files going AWOL

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Six of the best ways to mess up IT change management

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Simply

Let the government handle it. That seems the most sure-fire way of messing things up.

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Enterprise apps to bring bespoke BACK FROM THE DEAD

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Bringing back bespoke BACK FROM THE DEAD!!

Bespoke zombie processes?

Sorry couldn't resist

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Suspected freetards to face piracy letters in 2014

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting infographic

It suggests bucks can be passed arbitrarily.

Useful, that.

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Look back in Ascii: Computing in the 1980s

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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How things have changed

We just did our first experiments with a 64 core machine with 0.5 TB of RAM. Great days back then, but boy are we spoiled now.

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Turing's rapid Nazi Enigma code-breaking secret revealed

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Interesting stuff.

A scan will be needed

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting stuff.

Might set these papers as study materials for our students.

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Getting rich off iPhone apps is b*llocks, say UK devs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Some of these people should have done maths and not engineering

"Yes, but thats like saying "I've had a really clever idea - the sun is a large energy emitting source".

Its completely damned obvious.

The only people "making money" are those who actually aren't counting costs in the first place - ie someone writing something in their evenings or whilst sat at their desk being paid to do something else ;-)"

Agreed, it is obvious, but politicians need people to point out obvious things to them. Frequently.

And of course the pointing out the bleeding obvious must be done by qualified people like professors and engineers, or else the politicians might look silly.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Some of these people should have done maths and not engineering

Was it not exactly the point of the professors and engineers that you have to sell a lot of apps just to break even?

Furthermore, what they appear to be saying is that you need a lot of investment, and that the idea of getting rich quickly from an app slapped together in a few weeks/days of coding is a pipe dream. That seems to make sense.

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From the Department of WTF: New USB tampon flash drive

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Somehow

I do not think this will make a good mother's day gift

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Asus: Ice Cream Sandwich Transformer Pad out in May

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Tempting, very tempting

I have liked the format from the start. I will give this a serious look indeed.

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Google founders, James Cameron, go asteroid mining

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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So when they want to find interesting new asteroids

Do they just google for them?

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Mine is the one with "Turn Left at Orion" in the pocket

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Nanodot memory smashes RAM, sets new speed record

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: See... i knew i was stupid.

Conceding you are stupid (or that you do not know something) is a clear sign of intelligence.

Politicians never make such concessions

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: maybe i'm stupid

why do you think we have fast caches for chips? Imagine the entire memory working at the speed of the CPU. That would be awesome.

At the moment, I have to think hard about cache friendly processing orders. Getting it wrong can incur a 10-fold speed penalty, easily. If have a set of for-loops to traverse an image, having the x-coordinate loop outside the y-coordinate loop is tens times slower than the reverse, because of the way images are stored (row by row). A step in x moves to the next element in memory (= cache hit with standard read-ahead), whereas a step in y steps a whole row of data further, yielding a cache miss.

Such simple cases are easily sorted out, but some image processing has data-driven processing orders, very frequently requiring odd memory jumps. In these cases getting rid of latency is a godsend. Also, think of multi-core: ensuring cache coherence is a pain. Older Cray machine had no cache, and the memory worked at the speed of the CPU. This is much simpler and yields much better parallelization.

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Biologists create synthetic DNA capable of EVOLUTION

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: and to think...

Clearly none of you have read the opening page of "Good Omens" by Pratchett and Gaiman properly!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pirate

WHAT?

Nobody welcomes our XNA-based overlords?

After all, we all know how this ends in SF films

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Killers laugh in face of death penalty threat, say US experts

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Can you imagine 70 years or so in a prison,

knowing you aren't getting out?

Good point. I sometimes wonder if even for the likes of Khadafi or Saddam Hussein, being put in prison for the long haul and being treated as if you were ordinary would not be the worst possible punishment for those types.

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Battlefield Earth ruled worst film EVER

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

I must have an unerring instinct for avoiding these bad movies. I have not seen a single one of them (so I will have to take other peoples' words for the lack of quality), except a few dislocated fragments of Highlander II, whilst flicking around channels as it was on one of them, couldn't be arsed to stay on that channel for obvious reasons. Even in my state of boredom at the time that film did nothing to make me want to see it.

Not that I have not seen some cringeworthy films in my time. I saw "Once upon a time in the west" in a showing at my student union donkey's years back. It had some good bits, but so many silent, LOOOONG drawn out scenes, and pointless close-ups of people looking constipated as they are waiting (endlessly) for the other to draw first. I felt like shouting "Come on, shoot the guy, get on with it!" but I kept my peace for the sake of the other people watching. Afterwards, it turned out about 80% of the audience felt the same way.

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Mayor Boris' Chinese vote master stroke backfires on twit clone

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Good old Boris!

You can rely on him for comedy at least, ans politicians you can rely on on any topic at all are rare enough.

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Fusion-io shoves OS aside, lets apps drill straight into flash

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Hmm

Were are getting a compact little monster for giga-pixel and later tera-pixel image processing coming Monday: 64 cores, 512 GB RAM, 6 1TB disks in RAID, and a 320 GB Fusion-IO card. I do not think I will let my students loose on this API just yet. First let them code in a transparent portable way, and only then (maybe, just maybe) check whether this API has any benefit (which I doubt).

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Swiss, German physicists split the electron

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Hmm, I wonder what the fundamental particle of rabid control-freakery is called?

I prefer the Politicion. It comes in three quantum "flavours": Labour, Conservative, and Libdem. When observed before an election, the three flavours are distinctly observable. After an election Conservative and Labour turn out to be identical in terms of greed, incompetence, and all other observable quantum properties, and Libdem vanishes.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: The seperation of spin . . .

Yes, but creatively. We might of course find that politics is nothing but spin, and taking spin away leaves nothing but emptiness (or a residue of hot air at most).

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Oakley: 'smart' sunglasses ready to shine

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

But are they peril sensitive?

Well, are they?

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PLANET-SWAP shock: Stars grabbed dirtballs from other clusters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Cue planetary racism: we do not like your type here, you do not belong here really!

But maybe planets of a certain age have gained wisdom, rather than becoming stupid with more authority (as Lu Tse said in "Thief of Time")

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Austrian village considers a F**king name change

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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And in Austria you can stay in Camping Hell

In the Zillertal to be precise. At least they are honest, one might say.

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China's bullet trains to get face-invading cameras

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: One way the software may work better

Au contraire! Some criminals do regularly get their nose bridges realigned. Not necessarily voluntarily, I'll grant. As I recall a usual start of such a procedure is "What yer lookin' at?!!"

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Quite simply really

In true style, you should wear a Guy Fawkes mask, shouldn't you?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: The problem...

Conveniently, a criminal is defined as anyone recognized by the system as being a criminal. Hey, look! Our system makes no mistakes!

What? Do you say our system makes mistakes? That is criticism of the Party! You must be a criminal!

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POWERFUL solar flare belched at Mars rover Curiosity

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Unfurl the solar sails and pick up a tail wind!

If only it could ;-)

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SpaceX Dragon gets green-light for launch to Space Station

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

A toast to Elon Musk and his team! They will be first on Mars, I bet.

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Global chocolate crisis looms

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Childcatcher

WON"T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!

and those that haven't grown up

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Himalayan glaciers actually GAINING ice, space scans show

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Then lets take the financial incentive away

Unfortunately, politicians only know how to take financial incentives away by taking the finances away. This does change the scientific outcome, in that there is less science. Please do not give the powers that be any ideas

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Good news for snow leopards.

The real beasts that is, not the OS (which by all accounts was and is doing well).

Also good news for the scientific debate. Basing theories on shaky data is like building on quicksand. Better data are always a boon.

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So what's the worst movie NEVER made?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Re: The Teletubbies

Unfair! The Predator's brains would implode after watching just one episode of teletubbies

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: retelling of Heart of Darkness

"This too was one of the dark places of the world"

That start of storytelling by Marlow is just great. It is very hard to top. Then there is the crazy case of the lone French cruiser shelling the amorphous jungle while its crew members are dying at a rate of fifteen a day from disease. They still keep to their task of shelling the "enemy" who is totally invisible.

So my question has to be: Does Heart of Darkness need retelling? I am not against retelling and reshaping stories (that has been going on through history). Even great stories can grow in retelling, and retelling can get people to read the original. The original in this case is very powerful indeed. Much as I liked Apocalypse Now, I still prefer reading Heart of Darkness. Does it need retelling in SF?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Valiant effort for a really poor film script!!

However, you risk going over the top and becoming hilariously funny. The simpler method would probably be simply giving Michael Bay a very big budget and whatever you do do not interfere with his decisions. The man has an unerring instinct in getting it wrong. He could be considered the Bergholt Stuttley Johnson of cinema.

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Euro climate probe Envisat silenced, boffins baffled

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

This is your satellite help line

For communication problems, press 1

For launch failures, press 2

For attitude problems, press 3

For software failure, press 4,

To speak directly with some guy who knows nothing about the problem either, press 0

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Is your satellite dish pointing the right way?

Have you tried rebooting the satellite?

Did you try switching it on and off?

Have you tried reinstalling Windows?

How old is your software? I am sorry, we do not support that version anymore

<CLICK>

Seriously though, excellent engineering to keep something working for 10 years, we are so used to things failing just outside of warranty.

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Life on Mars found – in 1976

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Boffin

Isn't life a physical process?

The presence of pink noise is not a proof of life. Many physical processes (including life, in my book at least) produce forms of pink noise. If a white noise random source is effectively filtered by some damping process you will typically get similar effects.

If they were really sure of their results, would they not submit this to Nature or Science? I will read the article more carefully, but I have my doubts.

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Judge: Checking Facebook at work is not a crime

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Childcatcher

Re: WHT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO

WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!

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Death Star dinosaur aliens could rule galaxy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Question:

What were these guys smoking?

I want some

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: FTL Velociraptors

And a packet of peanuts I trust

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German scientists link two labs with ‘universal quantum network’

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Maybe because

people who do not believe in carbon dating are outdated?

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Japanese bank palms off customers with biometric ATMs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Looks like you need their whole hand

Ever been to Japan?

It is just about the safest country on this planet. Tourists getting mugged in Japan is unheard of. In Tokyo half the bikes I saw parked there were unlocked (no kidding). If this scheme is going to work anywhere, it is in Japan.

Incidentally, it is possible to use Doppler laser scanners to check blood is flowing in veins of the hand, to check it is a real hand (I do not know if these scanners support this).

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Employers' group: New comp sci GCSE driven by vendor agenda

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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We have similar problems in the Netherlands

Initially, ICT courses at schools were really a mess, consisting of rote learning which shortcut key did what in MS Word or even WordPerfect (shudder). Now things are improving slightly, and some programming is entering. The results are very mixed however, and many think VB is all there is. As an experiment, I allowed one student (of Technology Management specializing in IT) to hand in one assignment in VB rather than Java. It was a total pile of crud, without any structure, sensible object hierarchy (or proper comments). In fact he had simply searched the API for soe suitable library calls, and lashed these together in one monolithic lump. He had managed to create an app that sort of worked with minimal effort, but I would not call that programming.

I am not saying that VB is bad per se. After all, I have seen many horrible examples of code in any language you care to name, and well-structured pieces of x86 assembly in my time. My point is that this boy had not learned any programming discipline. What is needed is a programme which gets the enthusiasm of kids fired, and teaches them rigour in analysis and implementation (and pick one (or two) of many suitable toolboxes out there). Not an easy task, perhaps, but we are trying as a university to reach out to teachers to show them what is possible, and have some of our students develop stuff for use in the classroom. There is a small, but steadily growing band of teachers who are really developing good materials out there.

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