* Posts by mhoulden

207 posts • joined 8 Dec 2009

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Raising a stink in court: Innocent poo banditry warehousers win $2.2m

mhoulden
Holmes

Re: Please, El. Reg.

Either the picture of a gavel that's there now is a replacement, or someone really needs to go to the proctologist.

3
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Sunday Times fires off copyright complaint at Snowden story critics

mhoulden
FAIL

As the article mentions, even in the UK "fair dealing" allows limited sections of copyrighted works to be quoted for review purposes. Dave Gorman mentioned this in Modern Life is Goodish when he was told he wouldn't normally allowed to show a magazine cover, but he could put it up to say "what a dreadful cover" because then it would be fair criticism. (He may not have been entirely serious about not being allowed to show it). "We state that we have a good-faith belief that..." has to be a lawyer's way of saying "I think...". If they were sure, they'd say so.

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DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

mhoulden
Mushroom

Personally I'd quite like an option on Linkedin that says "You may not attempt to contact this person by Linkedin, email, phoning his employer's switchboard, carrier pigeon, semaphore, Morse code or any other means of communication invented now or in the future if you are a recruitment consultant trying to earn commission on a job that you can't fill. If you do, you will forfeit your first-born child, be forced to walk down the street ringing a bell and wearing a sign that says 'Unclean - recruitment pimp', and be required to hand over all the commission you have made to the people that you have recruited". Even though I've made it clear on my profile that I'm not looking for a job, some of them still contact me just in case.

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Why voice and apps sometimes don't beat an old-fashioned knob

mhoulden
Alien

Re: Don't panic

Why do you think the marketing execs were put on on the B Ark?

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City of birth? Why password questions are a terrible idea

mhoulden
Boffin

"Hello. You have reached the answering machine of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the first telephone. If you've invented another telephone..."

(From the Celebrity Answerphones round on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue a few years ago)

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Today, the US govt must explain why its rules on shutting down whole cell networks are a secret

mhoulden
Black Helicopters

Whatever criticisms there are of how we do things in the UK, the MTPAS scheme does at least make some of its rules public: https://www.gov.uk/resilient-communications. The rules are a bit out of date and a have a few inaccuracies: for example they refer to BT, Kingston Communications, and Cable and Wireless for fixed line telecoms but not Virgin Media. I'm pretty certain there'll also be a non-public version, but at least this is better than the US version.

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What's Meg Whitman fussing over: The fate of HP ... or the font on a DISRUPTIVE new logo?

mhoulden
WTF?

Presumably the empty minus sign is supposed to signify that there's nothing left when you remove the company's core business. It'll be interesting to see how they trademark it. I know the Bass logo of a red triangle is one of the oldest trademarks around, but these days they have to be a bit more distinctive.

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Give us a week to GUT Superfish, begs Lenovo CTO

mhoulden
Terminator

Wouldn't it be nice if one of the actions taken was dismissing whoever was responsible for signing the contract with Superfish in the first place? I know selling aggregated data to advertisers is one of the main ways some companies make money, but Lenovo should really have found out how they were gathering it.

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Scary code of the week: Valve Steam CLEANS Linux PCs (if you're not careful)

mhoulden

The Adobe Acrobat Reader installer does that as well. Incredibly annoying if there's a chance you might need to reinstall it or run it on another machine later.

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Lizard Squad gang moves from PlayStation, Xbox Live attacks to Tor

mhoulden

Re: Lizard Squad...

Given that the gaming networks attack happened on Christmas Day, I think you can guess how much of a life these people have.

8
1

Heyyy, you seem to be trying to post a DRUNK PICTURE. You know your boss looks at this?

mhoulden
Flame

Personally I'd like something that pops up a warning, "Caution: what you are about to post is an urban myth/has been stolen by an obscure radio station desperate to boost its profile/is a cheesy motivational homily that will make people on your friends list feel nauseous. Do you wish to continue?" At least when these things did the rounds by email people had to put in a bit more effort.

5
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Facebook's plain English data policy: WE'LL SELL YOU LIKE A PIG at a fair

mhoulden

Before we start the tired old trope of "if you're not paying for it then you're the product", perhaps the advertisers might like to think about where they get their money from. It might sound obvious, but it comes from the people who buy what the advertisers are selling. This can be a high risk game: a poor advertising campaign can kill the product or even the company.

Hoover found that offering free flights was very expensive. New Coke and Dasani quickly disappeared after bad publicity. Susan Boyle's record company could really have chosen a better hashtag than #susanalbumparty. More>Than Insurance were fined for flyposting with their first "Where's Lucky?" Campaign. Overuse of pop up adverts means that almost every browser has a built in pop up blocker.

Using data mining techniques to make adverts more "relevant" means that people who see them are more likely to be better informed about the product, but also more critical. It's not surprising that El Reg doesn't allow comments on sponsored articles because you know people who use the item will just list its shortcomings. If a company's only profits come from displaying adverts, they get a bit stuck if people don't buy from them.

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10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register

mhoulden
Facepalm

Re: Code for London: 020

I had a similar problem in Leeds, with 0113 vs 01132. However the people that got through to me were expecting a newly opened mental hospital rather than a pizza takeaway. After a month or so of calls at all kinds of strange times I eventually got fed up and had my number changed.

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Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International

mhoulden

Re: "would never have occurred to us" ... Really ??

What are the chances catering is provided by someone like Eurest and the menus are the same bland and overpriced stuff that you get in most staff canteens?

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Blighty's mighty tech skills shortage drives best job growth in years

mhoulden
Boffin

Is it really a skills shortage, or is it a shortage of employers willing to train people with the right aptitude? Technical skills are very specific but if someone understands the underlying principles there's no reason why, for example, a decent C# programmer couldn't be trained in Java, or someone with experience of Excel macros couldn't learn the more advanced VB.Net. Of course the problem of training is that sometimes people get trained up and then move elsewhere, but the employer could offer decent terms so that they don't want to leave. Offshoring and short term contracts avoid having to pay for staff training, but they have the risk of knowledge being lost when that particular piece of work comes to an end.

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Yes. App that lets you say 'Yo' raises 1 MEEELLION DOLLARS

mhoulden
WTF?

Why? Oh.

4
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LEAKED: Redmond not allowed to sell 'Nokia' smartphones after 2015

mhoulden

Re: Sensible of Nokia to keep Here...

Definitely feels like Nokia is missing a trick (and probably quite a bit of cash) by not making Here Maps available for iOS and Android. It obviously wouldn't be free, but maybe a fiver for the app and one map pack and then a pound or so for additional maps would be a reasonable amount. It's certainly something I would pay for.

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100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

mhoulden

I'd like to see the "Traffic Droid" on Tuesday's Complainers trying to cope with one of these. Would he scream and wave his rulers and red cards at the offices they're controlled from? I can imagine them retaliating by automatically uploading videos to Youtube of him behaving like a clot to see how he likes it.

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Apple wheels out sueball cannon, again

mhoulden
Facepalm

As ever, I think the lawyers should be locked in a room to work out their differences while the grown-ups can concentrate on doing something productive. I know it's the American way to drag your competitors down with endless lawsuits that cost a fortune regardless of the outcome, but ultimately the money comes from the cost of the product and the people who buy them. It feels like it would actually be cheaper if every handset included a $10 lawyers' levy and a ban on companies suing each other for devices that do the same things and look similar.

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Creepy Facebook urges users to pester friends about their SEX LIVES

mhoulden
Big Brother

As Vincent Hanna said on Blackadder:

'And now for the result of our exclusive exit poll, which produced a 100% result for... "Mind your own business, you nosy bastard."'

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Dixons and Carphone Warehouse confirm £3.7bn MEGA-BORG

mhoulden
Devil

Boring Name

Should have gone for Curry House instead.

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Twitter jitters: Investors turn into quitters as shares hit the sh...

mhoulden
Facepalm

Deja Vu

Twitter's business model reminds me of Deja News from the old days. They also had the idea of trying to make money out of a discussion network (a web front end to Usenet), in their case by trying to turn it into a shopping site with Usenet posts as reviews. At the time "if you're not buying then you're the product" hadn't been coined but that was clearly the idea. However, as they found, a product is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. Even with the advanced data mining and aggregation techniques that we have now, there's a limit to how much money you can make by showing people adverts. Eventually Deja News sold off the shopping stuff to one company and the rest of the company to Google, where Google Groups is pretty well hidden unless you go looking for it. Unless Twitter does something different, I can see them ending up the same way.

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Dell charges £5 to switch on power-saving for new PCs (it takes 5 clicks)

mhoulden
FAIL

Money for Old Rope

Windows 7+ comes set up to use the balanced power profile anyway unless you change it, so I'm not entirely sure why Dell charges extra to make sure it's switched on. Actually I think tricks like this are part of the reason why laptops and tablets have become a lot more popular than desktops. Most people just want something for browsing the web, checking up on email, or catching up on work. They don't want to have to connect all kinds of things or be faced with a load of options that they might not understand. Much easier to buy a sealed box that's likely to do more or less everything you want and just needs plugging in to the mains to be ready to use. People with more specialist requirements (like gamers) are more likely to either build something themselves or go to a more niche supplier that lets them specify exactly what they want. Dell's real market is large corporates wanting to order hundreds of machines with maintenance contracts so I think they're trying to discourage consumers by making it as awkward as possible without actually telling them to go away.

1
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Gay marriage foes outraged at Mozilla CEO flap, call for boycott

mhoulden
Paris Hilton

It's difficult to tell what would keep everyone happy. Maybe if he just worked there part time?

5
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As WinXP death looms, Microsoft releases its operating system SOURCE CODE for free

mhoulden

Re: Trend?

FAT 16 has a theoretical maximum of 2 GB but it is very inefficient with a sector size of 64 KB (the 32 MB limitation was removed in DOS 4.0). However the main reason RAM and storage space were limited is that in the early 90s they were very expensive. I remember in 1992 a generic SIMM costing about £30 - £40/MB. In 1995 Seagate's first 1 GB drive was $849. RAM manufacturers overestimated the demand for memory when Windows 95 was released, so there was an oversupply which brought the prices down a lot.

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mhoulden

Re: Trend?

Actually 6.0 was pretty buggy as well. The combination of DoubleSpace and SmartDrive could cause a lot of problems with data loss. They got it more or less right with DOS 6.22, but it was supplanted by Windows 95 (and DOS 7.0) just over a year later. MS-DOS 8 came with Windows ME, which should have been a warning.

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Mozilla takes Windows 8-friendly Firefox out back ... two shots heard

mhoulden

Re: TWO shots?!

From what I've seen in a few online forums, Firefox Metro is about as popular as Microsoft Bob, so I'm surprised there weren't more.

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Battle of Bletchley Park: TNMOC chief calls for review of museums' Mexican standoff

mhoulden
Mushroom

Re: Oh the irony

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

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Margaret Hodge, PAC are scaring off new biz: Treasury source

mhoulden
Meh

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear? I'd be very interested to know which companies have said "We would like to come to the UK, but that nasty Mrs Hodge might make us look silly." I have a feeling they could be counted on the fingers of one foot.

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El Reg preps relaunch of Cash’n’Carrion online merchandise emporium

mhoulden

I remember El Reg used to do a mug that said "My job was outsourced to India and all I got was this lousy mug", and it was slightly alarming to see a very similar one appear on the BNP website. It might be an idea not to bring it back to avoid exciting the loonies.

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Lyrics upstart Rap Genius blacklisted by Google for Justin Bieber SEO scam

mhoulden

How about blacklisting every lyric site that has a pop-up inviting me to send a song to my "cell" as a ringtone? I thought the ringtone industry died in about 2005 with the advent of phones that can use MP3s, but it looks like they haven't quite gone away.

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Facebook to BLAST the web with AUTO-PLAYING VIDEO ads

mhoulden

Re: Thank you Facebook

I'm sure the advertising and marketing companies would like people to believe that they're all powerful and the people they advertise at are the product, but this isn't strictly true. For a start, advertising costs money. Places like Doubleclick or Facebook generally charge one fee to display the advert in the first place, and then another for the number of interactions or "conversions", which might be views ,replies, likes, retweets, favourites or clicks. They get charged even if the reply is "Get this claptrap off my timeline. I'm never going to buy it and I'll tell all my friends not to bother as well".

The money to pay for advertising comes from the companies being advertised, and ultimately from the pockets of the people (or products) being advertised to. You can analyse, data mine, aggregate and intrude until you're blue in the face, but if the "product" doesn't buy what you're trying to sell them, the subject of the advert generally doesn't stay on the market for very long. If a platform relies on advertising for most of its funding, it can have serious problems if the advertisers decide to withdraw. ITV found this a few years ago when advertising budgets were massively cut during the 2008-9 recession and a lot of their income disappeared.

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Twitter's shock block unlock deemed cockup, gets a lockup

mhoulden
FAIL

Twitter didn't like people blocking those promoted tweets then? I know there's a mindset of "you are the product if you don't pay", but there's a limit to how much you can irritate people with new methods of advertising before they get fed up and go elsewhere.

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So, what is new in SQL 2014, exactly?

mhoulden

Re: That's SQL *Server* 2014

I can't help wondering if the author is one of those people who complains that "Microsoft" isn't working when he has a problem with Word

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Smut-spreading copyright trolls told to return cash extracted from victims

mhoulden
Windows

Re: Prenda law would appear to not just be guilty of fraud.

The judge who came up with the Star Trek judgement also advised investigations by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and for possible racketeering under the RICO Act. I think they're waiting for the civil cases to finish before criminal investigations take over, but it's probably safe to say they're not done yet and it's not going to end well.

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New! Yahoo! logo! shows! Marissa! Meyer's! personal! touch!

mhoulden

That took a whole weekend? I'm guessing 2 minutes in MS Word Art and the rest of the time doing whatever Silicon Valley execs do instead of going to the pub. Nice work if you can get it.

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Windows NT: Remember Microsoft's almost perfect 20-year-old?

mhoulden

Re: Mythology

I remember a story in Personal Computer World in about 1993 where someone was pleased to see "NT Magazine" on the shelves. It was only after he got it out of the shop that he realised he'd bought a copy of the Nursing Times.

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Microsoft adds Visual-Studio-like text editor to SkyDrive

mhoulden
Megaphone

Re: With or without..

Don't forget THE POINTLESSLY SHOUTY MENUS.

Actually I found you can switch that off. For Visual Studio 2012, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\General in Regedit and add a new DWORD value called SuppressUppercaseConversion with a value of 1. In VS 2013 it should be at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\12.0\General. Or there's a few all caps menu option extensions you can install. Once it's been tamed a bit I find VS 2012 is actually quite good.

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Russia's post-Snowden spooks have not reverted to type

mhoulden
Black Helicopters

I like the idea of a typewriter having a street price, like dodgy spivs are inviting people to go down alleyways and look at their wares. "For our special customers we have an IBM Selectric, or if you ask very nicely, I might be able to do you a deal on a Smith Corona."

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Jackboot dangled over NSA's throat for US spy dragnet outrage

mhoulden
Big Brother

Re: God I love the Justification....

"Are you a foreigner?"

"No."

"Can you prove it?"

"No."

"Then we assume that you are."

This approach is also a reason why immigration policies really need to be less hysterical. Introduce rules that are "supposed" to be used only on people from abroad and apply them to everyone just in case they might not be telling the truth.

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Only 1 in 5 Americans believe in pure evolution – and that's an upswing

mhoulden
Boffin

Intelligent design/creationism vs evolution is always fun, even if it generates more heat than light. I've never understood who designed the designer and why, if they are so intelligent, my eyes are imperfect and I need glasses.

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Five bods wrongly cuffed thanks to bungled comms snooping in UK

mhoulden
Alert

Re: "Intercept product"???

"Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating. "

Using another marketing term, if we assume 5 nines reliability, that still means a 0.001% error rate. Some will be innocent people being falsely accused while others will be guilty people being let off. Even if the reliability rate remains the same, the more data is collected, the more mistakes will be made. However the reliability rate seems to be tending more to 9 fives instead as more and more people are required to handle and process oodles of useless information about innocent people just going about their daily business. Quite apart from the civil liberties issues, this is a massive waste of time and money that could be spent on something more useful.

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Ad man: Mozilla 'radicals' and 'extremists' want to wreck internet economy

mhoulden
FAIL

Where does Randall Rothenberg think advertising revenue comes from in the first place? It isn't magicked out of thin air or donated by benevolent companies from some secret store of cash. The money ultimately comes from end customers, and part of the purchase cost goes on trying to get them to spend more money. The advertising industry has a strange sense of entitlement: "we want your attention so we can try to sell you things", but as a consumer I reserve the right to invite them to go forth and multiply if it's something I know I don't want and certainly don't want to pay for.

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T-Mobile to let US customers swap phones twice a year

mhoulden
Holmes

Doesn't that depend what you use them for?

2
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Rest your head against a train window, hear VOICES in your SKULL

mhoulden
Mushroom

What's to stop some evil-doer hacking into the system and getting the carriage to vibrate itself to pieces by playing its resonant frequency as loudly as possible? Or even the brown note?

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Apple 'iWatch' trademark filing hints Cook's make-or-break moment looms

mhoulden

Re: What's a watch?

Of course the battery life of a watch is usually measured in several years (or indefinitely if you have a windup one or something like a kinetic or solar powered one) whereas most smart phones need charging every day or so. If they could do a smart watch with a battery life of a month I might be interested, but much less than that isn't practical.

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mhoulden
Boffin

Re: Ahh..I see....oops

You mean it isn't a contraption designed to check the value of variables while you're debugging? Disappointed.

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NSA: We COULD track you by your phone ... if we WANTED to

mhoulden
Mushroom

Re: Semantics

On the subject of lawyers, what would happen if enough people brought a class action suit against the NSA and the telcos for breach of privacy? It would probably make Jarndyce vs Jarndyce look like the small claims court.

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CRINGE! Home Office wants to know whether your boss BEATS YOU

mhoulden

Re: What a silly question!

They may not be physically prevented from doing so, but very long hours are expected at some places. Places don't offer on-site facilities like laundries, evening classes or even beds out of the goodness of their hearts. Why not do all that stuff at home? Simple: you won't be going home until it's too late to do much there.

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PM Cameron calls for modern, programmable computers! (We think)

mhoulden
Boffin

Education policy tends to alternate between reformists and traditionalists, and at the moment we've got a load of traditionalists in power. In due course I'm sure we'll get some more reformists with their own ideas of how things should be done.

The current ICT exams were held in the last couple of weeks so I had a look at a few Edexcel past papers to see what sort of things they were examined on. Unfortunately the subject matter is both antiquated and tedious. The January 2012 paper involves basic use of word processors, spreadsheets and databases. The June 2011 short course higher tier paper includes questions on ROM, RAM and CPUs. Important to know, but not exactly the most exciting things to learn. It also includes one question that is downright incorrect: "John illegally copies music from a CD given to him by a friend. He can be prosecuted under [which act]?". The correct answer is none: copyright infringement is not a prosecutable offence.

The full GCSE paper has questions on graphics using turtles, and designing flow charts. The 1980s called: they want their tedious questions back. I know turtle graphics are suppose to introduce people to the idea of vector graphics and sequences of instructions, but there are better ways of doing so. In most GUI-based languages, if you want to draw a circle or a rectangle, you call a Circle() or Rectangle() function. While it is a good idea to sit down and work out the best way to handle process flows, you certainly don't need all the little shapes used in flowcharts. Possibly the start and stop, database and decision ones, but not the user input, paper output or offline storage ones. I've worked with hugely complex systems with process flow diagrams that cover lots of A1 sheets of paper, but they don't use half the symbols the GCSE ICT flowcharts do.

One problem I think ICT has is that it's trying to do everything "computing". Imagine if lessons in the use of a pen and paper were separate from English classes, or colouring in was separate from Art. Sure there's a place for learning the basics, like handwriting classes before you go on to write stories in English, but after that I think it would be better to use computers in other lessons just as a tool and leave the ICT classes for specific "computing" tasks. Using a word processor to create documents for a fictitious event is incredibly boring, but it has more use if you had to write up something in English or even foreign language classes. Teaching the use and misuse of spreadsheets in maths would help people understand their uses a lot better than budgeting for a make-believe party. As for computer graphics and DTP in art...

Freeing up ICT so it didn't have to cover "applied" uses would make it a lot more interesting. Politician-type "coding" can be pretty unappealing as it's basically algebra. Making programming interesting could involve something like designing a basic game or a web-based library catalogue. Networking could involve a class project to take a collection of PCs, hook them up together to share files, and get them sharing a single connection to the Internet, with appropriate security. Doing databases as simple data entry and form design can be even more boring than having to design Powerpoint slides. With appropriate teaching you could demonstrate when to use a spreadsheet and when to use a database instead, which might even help to get away from the "Excel as a database" idea that's far too common. Explaining IT security in terms of what not to share on Facebook (even more important with Prism) and how to avoid dodgy websites would be a lot more relevant than the idea of being infected by computer viruses on floppy disks

This all takes a bit more imagination than the old "computer studies" curriculums that have been around since at least the 80s. Assuming children start at infant school from 4 and stay on until at least 16, that's a very long time for technology to change. It is important to learn the principles (I see people making the same mistakes on Facebook that email users did when I first got online in 1997), but trying to apply "traditional" values doesn't really work. When I started at school there was one BBC Master for the whole school, and when I finished we had networked PCs running Windows 3.1 and Netware.

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