Re: Blah to Bloomberg

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He apparently went on to say something inane about "disruption".

If he were really serious about disruption he would have suggested that it's time for Stanford to shut down and be replaced entirely by MOOCS.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 1:42 PM
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Stanford is not to be MOOCed, Stanford is the one who MOOCs other colleges.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 1:43 PM
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Barf.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 1:46 PM
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MOOC not lest ye be MOOCed.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 1:46 PM
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Give him this, though: Bloomberg is right that NYC is way cooler than Sunnyvale,and that it's easier to find dates with non-lameos. Probably not the right thing to say at Stanford's commencement, but really, fuck Stanford.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:06 PM
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Man, I was concerned about the toxic culture of the startup industry, including the sexism that is the air in which it swims, until I realized that Michael Bloomberg is saying that startups can be composed of straight men and lesbians. Thanks, Mayor Mike!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:23 PM
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Bisexuals too! Everything's coming up Milhouse!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:24 PM
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including the sexism that is the air in which it swims

I'm blaming lack of coffee/frustration with AngularJS/living in not-New York for this oddly poetic stupidism.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:24 PM
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I thought Stanford students went to Mountain View for their fun.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:28 PM
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but really, fuck Stanford

If you're going to channel the TOS, spell it right!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:30 PM
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Snarkout, if the only available date is a girl named Siri, it is straight women in the startups who lose out the most. Let's use some logic here people.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:30 PM
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I thought Stanford students went to Mountain View for their fun.

You mean they don't just have fun delivered to their dorms? What's all that tuition paying for anyway?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:31 PM
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Vaguely relevant. It's not actually a very good article--he probably should not, in fact, quit his day job--but it does drive home some things.

And so despite my esteem for the high challenge of writing, for the reach of the writerly life, it's not something anyone actually wants me to do. The American mind has made that very clear, it has said: 'Be a specialised something -- fill your head with the zeitgeist, with the technical -- and we'll write your ticket.' I don't have the courage to say no to that. I have failed so far to escape the sweep of this cheap and parochial thing, and it's because I'm afraid. I am an awfully mediocre programmer -- but, still, I have a secure future. More than that, I have a place at the table. In the mornings I wake up knowing that I make something people want. I know this because of all the money they give me.

I've only taken baby steps towards that fearful-but-secure future, but I can dream.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 2:53 PM
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I've only taken baby steps towards that fearful-but-secure future, but I can dream.

That hits a bit of a sore spot for me. Articles like that make me feel an odd combination of envy and nausea (though less than they would have five years ago).

On Thursday night I got an unexpected email. It was a job offer, and these were the terms: $120,000 in salary, a $10,000 signing bonus, stock options, a free gym membership, excellent health and dental benefits, a new cellphone, and free lunch and dinner every weekday. My working day would start at about 11am. It would end whenever I liked, sometime in the early evening. The work would rarely strain me. I'd have a lot of autonomy and responsibility. My co-workers would be about my age, smart, and fun.

I've done computer work for about 14 years and have never gotten an offer like that, don't know anybody that has a job like that (that I know of, at least), and (mostly) wouldn't want to get that job offer.

I live in a city that doesn't have much of a tech/start-up culture, and I like it here. For a long time I assumed that I'd have to move at some point for work and count myself lucky that I haven't. Reading articles like that makes me think that I may have made a mistake, and that I should have moved to a more lucrative city at some point. But I also know that, (a) I don't want to be in a social circle in which that kind of cash is normal or assumed and (b) I'm not even sure I want to make that much money. I mean money is nice and I don't want to present myself as indulging in self-sacrifice since I'm doing fine. But . . .

To be this highly employable is to feel liquid, easy, as if you can do no wrong. I know that I have a great job guaranteed in any major city. And it's hard not to give a thing like that moral heft. It validates you is what I mean; it inflates your sense of your own character. . . .

My job doesn't feel like that and I expect that there are more programming jobs in the country that feel like mine -- interesting but often tedious and not particularly portable work in a decent office environment -- than like his.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:21 PM
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I can't read that without laughing at the author. Great, you'll make lots of money. But secure? (Like in fifteen years when you're a mediocre programmer with stale skills?) And the hours? Is he thinking he'll work 11-7 and be done for the day? I do know folks who have really cool programming jobs, with lots of flexibility and good pay, but they actually seem to be good at what they do (ie present at tech conferences, get interviewed by tech media, etc.), and I'm pretty sure they work hard for their compensation, and I know they wouldn't say it's not stressful.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:37 PM
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One more note

It's not actually a very good article

True. It's a little too long, leans a little too heavily on cliches, and doesn't feel particularly perceptive. But, obviously, I think it does a good job of evoking his feelings that this current job and career feel bizarre and unearned.

I do think he's exaggerating in various ways.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:43 PM
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I can't read that without laughing at the author.

Yes, that's reasonable. Perhaps I should add, to my comment above, the note that even if there's a large dollop of fantasy in what he's describing it's a remarkably consistent fantasy and one that I've seen, on and off, since I first started doing computer work.

Part of what's so jarring about that article -- from the outside, is the way in which it evokes, say mid-nineties Wired magazine. It feels like a while since I've seen something that describes start-up life as anything other than stressful and demanding (though, again, it isn't something I follow.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:48 PM
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Yeah, the security assumption is the most clueless sounding part. Your field is secure until it's not, and not recognizing that makes the fall that much harder if it happens.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:57 PM
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My old writing partner and I wrote a Chuck spec that included a Google stand-in whose campus included a cereal bar and a therapeutic petting zoo. Not sure if that has been outpaced by real working conditions yet. (Then the show ran a small arc featuring an Apple stand-in, and we scrapped our spec.)


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:58 PM
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It reminds me of the Angry Dad Simpsons conversation when Lisa asks about a business model and the startup guy asks how much stock it will take to end the conversation right there.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 3:58 PM
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My cousin was recently clumsily accosted at a gas station in SF by a middle-aged guy saying he'd buy her an Audi, then, at her disregard, saying "Do you know who I am?!", referencing two online companies as his work. The name he gave later checked out in connection with those companies. Her mother was present at the time.

Expropriation of wealth, anyone?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:03 PM
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It does seem like the availability of programming jobs has exploded in a way that doesn't really make a lot of sense. I know more and more people leaving academia for implausible-sounding startup jobs that pay implausible-sounding amounts of money.

On the other hand, I'm getting a lot fewer recruiting emails from finance companies than I was a few years ago.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:04 PM
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This is probably the right thread to complain -- Sally just expressed an interest in taking a programming class this summer, if I could find anything. Literally everything I can find in the city is full already. I haven't boiled the ocean yet -- I might still find something -- but man, get interested more than a week or two ahead of time, kid?

Also, I have no idea what an intro to programming class should be. Java? Python? Something else?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:10 PM
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Idris.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:13 PM
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Over the weekend my kid saw one of my old computers in the basement and wanted to take it apart to see everything inside. It had a floppy drive! When he asked what that was, I told him I had no idea.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:14 PM
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Elba?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:14 PM
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Sql. Everyone needs a DBA.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:14 PM
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I would say Python, because I no longer have any interest in programming as a thing-in-itself or on optimizing speed or elegance or anything. Python lets me code up something quick that works, and then I can forget about it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:19 PM
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Java? Python? Something else?

Jump on the MOOC bandwagon:

https://www.edx.org/course/harvard-university/cs50x/introduction-computer-science/604

(I actually think that is a perfect first programming course for someone who is smart).


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:21 PM
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On the other hand, one guy I work with who's probably leaving soon for a startup and is super-enthusiastic about programming and always asking me about whether I saw such-and-such on Hacker News is also really into Python.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:21 PM
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Hacker News is so awful.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:23 PM
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I don't really know what it is. Occupying the niche that Slashdot did 15 years ago, or something?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:26 PM
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Learning programming probably is the one place where a MOOC actually makes much sense.

Actually, I taught myself programming via an online C++ tutorial that somehow compiled and ran code on the server side, back in 1996 or so.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:28 PM
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I sort of taught myself SAS, except for pestering people who knew shit. Keeps me off the streets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:32 PM
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Sally should start with Logo. It's the only way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:37 PM
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Also sometimes I think about the massive, enormous amounts of money I left behind by leaving-ish the tech industry when I did, and how probably the bubble will have burst again by the time I'm out of school and looking to get back into it-ish. Then I think "I should think about other things". Earlier, there was lightning!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:38 PM
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Literally everything I can find in the city is full already.

What others have said--jump on the MOOC bandwagon, and to supplement that and give some more in-person structure, post a flyer at a local university offering decent money for a student to check in with her once a week to keep her on track. You might even be able to get that kind of mentorship for her for free, by checking out meetups like Ladies Who Code or Girl Develop It. (I'm pointing to the explicitly gendered ones because I think there's been a focus recently on institutionalizing mentorship for girls and women to get into programming.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:42 PM
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35: I had that. All it did was draw circles.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:53 PM
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Definitely Python. Possibly I'd be a decent programmer today if I'd started with Python instead of C++.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:54 PM
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I will vote for the first language not being that important, as long as it's a relatively high-level modern language. It's more important to find a combination of lecturer, book, and problem sets that make programmatic thinking and problem-solving interesting. Bonus if the problems aren't just toy problems but examples of something you might actually want to do independently of learning a lesson about some CS concept.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 4:59 PM
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36- I was biking in that. I should really stop staring at the radar trying to predict when there will be a window, and just leave work before it starts raining.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 5:33 PM
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23: Life Hacker had a post about kids and coding with a lot of links that you might find helpful.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 5:37 PM
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I am not a parent, but when I hear "kid" and "summer course" I also hear "preferably outside of home some of the day."


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 5:46 PM
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Tough timing, Lizardbreath. Bonsaisue just did a python class through coursera and got a lot out of it. Check out her version of asteroids


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 5:53 PM
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I could get a job like that if I wanted one. There are a lot of places throwing money at developers right now. But it wont last, and a lot of peeps will be out of work once the music stops. I've been through that cycle before.

Python is a good choice for getting started with programming. Although I might go with the web stack (HTML/JavaScript/CSS) because it gets instant visual results that you can show off. Not sure if camp is the best way to learn, as opposed to just geeking out in front of the computer for hours on end.

My kid is learning to code using Scratch, which is good for leaning the basics, although not actually useful as a coding tool outside the scratch environment.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:10 PM
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Although I might go with the web stack (HTML/JavaScript/CSS) because it is a confusing agglomeration of demented path-dependent decisions that are irrelevant to the process of learning to program and impossible to understand unless you've got a grasp of a solid chunk of the entire history of the internet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:13 PM
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a Google stand-in whose campus included a cereal bar and a therapeutic petting zoo

One of my former companies had a (temporary) petting zoo at its offices earlier this year.

(It was for "Bring Your Kids to Work" Day. Still.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:20 PM
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For simple graphics programming, Processing is great and very easy to learn. (And it's a subset of Java, so it's also useful that way.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:22 PM
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(And it runs in a web browser!)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:25 PM
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and how probably the bubble will have burst again by the time I'm out of school

Could we arrange for this to happen by August, maybe?


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:27 PM
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Python is an excellent starting language that's well represented in "I do pointless stuff on the web that I get overpaid for" circles. (Ruby is the main other popular language in that niche; I think Python is a better purpose language and is more likely to help her e.g. do science stuff or make stupid Arduino toys if she discovers she likes coding.) LB, if you can't find anything for Sally, I have a friend who does stuff with NYC's Ladies Who Code and may be able to shake the tree for you when she gets back from her honeymoon.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:31 PM
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is more likely to help her e.g. do science stuff

Yep. Recently I had a complicated Mathematica notebook that was being weirdly numerically unstable for no apparent reason, despite a couple of days of fiddling with it to try to make it behave, so I rewrote it in Python. There were pretty simple NumPy or SciPy replacements for all the Mathematica functions I was using. The whole rewriting process took an hour or two and then it all ran beautifully. Take that, Stephen Wolfram!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:37 PM
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Check out her version of asteroids

Fun.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:41 PM
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LB should see if Ladyada offers programming classes! Sally learning from Ada('s employees, I guess) would be swell.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:48 PM
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Also essear and snark are so right. Python is lovely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:48 PM
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Clearly LB's child should learn Racket.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:53 PM
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The programming class I took one summer I guess when I was in junior high used Logo, but no turtle. For our final assignment, we made a text adventure game.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 6:55 PM
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nosflow's suggestions seem to share a common theme scheme.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:00 PM
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I am surprised that Nosflow hasn't suggested anything from the ML family. No love for F#, Neb?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:04 PM
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a confusing agglomeration of demented path-dependent decisions that are irrelevant to the process of learning to program and impossible to understand unless you've got a grasp of a solid chunk of the entire history of the internet.

This isn't wrong, but it is overstated, and Python's got baggage in that regard as well. There is a perfectly good subset of HTML5 and JavaScript out there that can be used without too much insanity. CSS, maybe less so, but its not all terrible.

My point about the web stack is that its good to learn because it allows you to make stuff that people can see and use almost immediately. Python is good for system-level scripting, but I don't think kids will find that command-line all too engaging in the age of iPads and whatnot. Kids want to write programs they can show to people... "look, I made file that converts a comma delimited text file into another format" isn't all that exciting. Although maybe there are some game development packages out there which would make it more enticing.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:12 PM
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This isn't wrong, but it is overstated

Oh sure. I just have been burned by trying to teach the web stack to people with no programming experience.

maybe there are some game development packages out there which would make it more enticing

There definitely are.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:16 PM
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There's Pygame; if that's the sort of programming that Sally is after, the recommendation of Processing upthread is a good one. (I wouldn't personally recommend JavaScript as a good place for beginners who wanted to learn more about coding in languages other than JavaScript.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:16 PM
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Somebody suggested Processing up there, which isn't a bad thought. You can run it on an Arduino, which is cool, because then you can make it control LEDs and servo motors and stuff.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:17 PM
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a confusing agglomeration of demented path-dependent decisions that are irrelevant to the process of learning to program

Like data statements that originated for use with punch cards?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:17 PM
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nosflow's suggestions seem to share a common theme scheme.

Idris is closer to being in the ML family than it is to being in the Lisp family.

I've never used F# but I hear nice things about it but Sally could just go with the classix, i.e. ML. I hear Ocaml is nice too! ML or Scheme would both position her well to read various mind-bending things by Oleg Kiselyov.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:19 PM
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I just have been burned by trying to teach the web stack to people with no programming experience.

Do you think it was the code stack, or the people? In my experience, some people can learn this stuff quite quickly, and some people never will.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:20 PM
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Let me be clear: I've never used Idris and it's a terrible choice for a first language.

Racket is actually a sincere suggestion. ML isn't a bad one either, tbh, though there'd be more overheard prior to Getting Things Done compared to Python.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:21 PM
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though there'd be more overheard prior to Getting Things Done compared to Python

"I can't program in ML anymore. I can't! The voices! Can't you hear them? They're telling me to do terrible, terrible things, anonymously with closures."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:37 PM
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66: some of 'em learned it just fine. But come on, explain javascript timing without sighing audibly, try it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:39 PM
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At this point the bottleneck is more finding a class with open spaces rather than being fussy about what language it's in.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:41 PM
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I could get a job like that if I wanted one. There are a lot of places throwing money at developers right now. But it wont last, and a lot of peeps will be out of work once the music stops. I've been through that cycle before.

But do you have a better suggestion for, just to pick someone at random, a 32 year old grad school dropout with no real employment history, no demonstrable in-demand skills, and no references?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:42 PM
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What's wrong with the MOOC + outside mentor/tutor suggestion, LB?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:43 PM
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They're telling me to do terrible, terrible things, anonymously with closures.

Closures which return multiple times from the same invocation!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:46 PM
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72: Structural support -- she's thirteen, and I'm not particularly competent to hire a programming tutor (and it'd be an immense hassle). I mean, the MOOC idea is generally a good one, but it seems as if taking a class would be an easier way to get off the ground.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:50 PM
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73: THE VOICES


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:55 PM
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Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my job search continued to fail and I'd made a real attempt to work in tech. At the time when I got my first interview after six months on the market, I'd basically written off getting work in my field and had started to up my mooc/self-teaching work. But I dropped that to work on interview prep. The job I got is either the last or the second to last I applied for.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:57 PM
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But do you have a better suggestion for, just to pick someone at random, a 32 year old grad school dropout with no real employment history, no demonstrable in-demand skills, and no references?

Can you code?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 7:57 PM
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71: I was in that position, sort of. Except I left on good enough terms to use my professors as references. I got on with state government, which probably isn't as easy now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:16 PM
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74: I think the links/connections in 37, 42, 51, and 54 would help with that support. From an outsider's PoV, it does seem like there's a fair amount of enthusiasm for "let's get girls/young women into coding!", and NYC is probably a good place to find that. Why not kick the can to Sally and ask her to find something?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:17 PM
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Ladies Who Code are apparently down with Coq, so, y'know.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:22 PM
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Blah to Bloomberg

Boy, there must be a lot of volumes in that encyclopedia. (The EB 11th edition wins with ODE to PAY.)

Or Blum to Bloomberg. At the cemetery we were doing some genealogical program-related activities involving finding and photographing gravestones. The key one we were looking for was the Blumbergs but we could not find it until we realized it had been completely consumed by the yew* planted on it. But a plunge into a foliage yielded the reward of finding they had porcelain portraits on their headstones which might be of help (trying to find out if they were real cousins or just cousins of expediency when it came to "signing for" some of my wife's family when they were granted entrance into the US in the late '30s).

*How widespread is the custom of having a yew planted directly over the grave?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:30 PM
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Yew just might be surprised.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:32 PM
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Anyway, I never heard of planting a tree over a grave.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:35 PM
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Like data statements that originated for use with punch cards?

You're not gonna malign Fortran, are you? I might have to muster up some sense of group loyalty and defend it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:40 PM
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84: I was thinking of SAS.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:42 PM
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Which is a very common thought for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:48 PM
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Fortran? More like Fordorks, amirite?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 8:59 PM
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Fartran would maybe work better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 9:13 PM
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Huh Huh


Posted by: Butthead | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 9:17 PM
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I respect your opinion, Moby, but I have to disagree.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 9:27 PM
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My point about the web stack is that its good to learn because it allows you to make stuff that people can see and use almost immediately. Python is good for system-level scripting, but I don't think kids will find that command-line all too engaging in the age of iPads and whatnot.

This is what Django (or Pylons, or web.py) is for. That way you get the best of both worlds.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 9:35 PM
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So this is, in an odd sort of way, on-topic for this thread...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-17-13 9:48 PM
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Bootstrap is specifically aimed at people of Sally's age:

http://www.bootstrapworld.org/

Dunno if there is a course near you, but it is worth a look. The people behind develop Racket, as recommended by neb.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 1:01 AM
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I don't think the choice of programming language or technology stack is remotely important when learning to program. Core programming skills are transferrable to any language or stack. The important thing when starting out is to have an intrinsic motivation--something that you want to make the computer do, or something that you want to find out about how it works. You have this great idea for a video game, or you want to make a web site where you and your friends can put cool stuff, or you want to make a beautiful 3D fractal demo. Programming involves endless attention to detail and absorption of information and you need a strong goal to motivate you to do the work.


Posted by: Gareth Rees | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 4:18 AM
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There is a woman on the bus eating a raw broccoli stalk. The hard part that I never eat cooked. She has nothing left but a mass of stringy bits that she is sucking the edible bits from.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:20 AM
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I don't think the choice of programming language or technology stack is remotely important when learning to program.

This inspires me to go for the reductio ad absurdum: Sally shouldn't learn a programming language this summer. Get her paper and pencils and Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming books. Once she gets through them, programming will be a cinch!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:23 AM
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FWIW, at work, when I need to do anything quickly, 90% of the time I do it in python. The other 10% of the time, it's usually just a shell script.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:24 AM
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96: My Dad tried to get me to learn C direct from Kernighan and Ritchie. This at the point where I had barely mastered simple BASIC. I'm still traumatized and can't stand the language. Partly because it produces ugly looking code with all the curly braces and shit, but mostly because K&R is impenetrable to a 12 year old.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:30 AM
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That's how I learned to program (except it was Donald Alcock in my case, not Donald Knuth), so it will work for some kids. But my observation about the relative importance of language/stack versus motivation comes from teaching programming to undergraduates. Students who were motivated to write programs in their spare time, to achieve their own goals, learned how to program; students who only did the classwork, no matter how diligently, did not.


Posted by: Gareth Rees | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:34 AM
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This inspires me to go for the reductio ad absurdum: Sally shouldn't learn a programming language this summer. Get her a Turing machine.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:36 AM
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That's how I learned to program (except it was Donald Alcock in my case, not Donald Knuth), so it will work for some kids.

To be clear: I was joking. I don't know the Alcock books but from Googling they seem to be pretty elementary, so maybe they'd be an option. I don't think Knuth would be; his books require a fair amount of mathematical maturity. More than I had at thirteen.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:02 AM
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I advise against starting people on toy or educational languages. What I've seen happen is they spend a Summer or semester or whatever learning it and are then told "By the way, no one uses this in the real world, for doing useful work you need to learn this other language." and that right there kills their interest. Explaining that the principles are the same is often not effective.

That's why I think Python is about right. It's good for learning and it's practically useful. I think one of the biggest interest killers is the delay between starting out and being able to do something useful and/or cool. With Python that delay is about as small as it gets.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:20 AM
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On the other hand, as 100 suggests, you can't go wrong with a Turing machine.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:21 AM
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The important thing when starting out is to have an intrinsic motivation--something that you want to make the computer do, or something that you want to find out about how it works.

I'm not in her head, but I don't think she's there. What I think is going on from what she's said is that she's generally mathy, and planning on engineering in college (due to a visit from a English guy who works with Buck, the current dream is aero-astro engineering at Bristol University, of all places. This sounds implausible to me, but it's also far enough away that she'll change her mind by then.) So she's figured that at some point, she's going to need to know some programming, and she doesn't want to come in knowing nothing about it the first time she needs it for something academic.

This sounds to me as if she's being generally sensible, but the bit I quoted above is something that I was inchoately concerned about -- it doesn't sound like the sort of motivation that ever led anyone I actually know to learn to program.

Possibly I will talk to her about finding a near-term, achievable goal, and then learning enough programming to accomplish it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:29 AM
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95: Are you allowed to eat on Pittsburgh buses?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:36 AM
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105: No, but I'm not the bus cop and she wasn't making a mess. Just really gross to watch.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:39 AM
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104 My sister and her husband are both CS graduates from Bristol and he is still the bastard operator from hell a senior sysadmin there. So if she still wants to do this in a few years get in touch.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:48 AM
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104: does she like building things? If that's why she wants to do engineering the Processing/arduino route could be great. You can make awesome things almost immediately.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:49 AM
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106: Maybe her principled personal quest to have lower show food costs despite having a well-paying job has spilled over to her bus behavior as these things are wont to do.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:52 AM
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the current dream is aero-astro engineering

There are lots of fun things to program in this space: any kind of simulation of a physical system (think of programs like Lunar Lander) will lead to a bunch of interesting programming problems. There's representation of time, position and motion; simulation of Newton's laws of motion; different kinds of numerical integration (Euler vs. Verlet vs. Runge-Kutta); collision detection; graphics; and so on.


Posted by: Gareth Rees | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:54 AM
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106: And, yet, you couldn't look away, right?

This brought back memories of the Broccoli Girl in college. I remembered she earned her nickname not by eating broccoli, but because she laughed at my friend when he was eating broccoli.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:54 AM
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When I eat raw broccoli stalk I eat the whole thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:54 AM
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109: She had a CMU ID.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:56 AM
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108: There are Arduino based Quadcopter kits available that look like a blast. I am tempted to buy one for myself, though they are a little spendy ($500 and up).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:05 AM
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she's generally mathy, and planning on engineering in college

Because of actively wanting to do engineering? When I was in school most of the teachers and counselors pushed any kid with mathy/sciency interests in the direction of engineering because they didn't seem to be aware that math and science were themselves viable career options.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:05 AM
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Sadly, it is not possible to get her a Turing machine, only things which to varying extents model them.

I don't think the choice of programming language or technology stack is remotely important when learning to program

So it's decided: she'll go to Ladies Who Code and get started with Coq.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:25 AM
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114: yes. Zardoz will be playing with one of those in a couple of years whether she wants to or not.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:27 AM
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Sadly, it is not possible to get her a Turing machine, only things which to varying extents model them.

Nonsense! Get her a Turing machine, and in no time at all she'll be making her very own interactive Standpipe's blog app.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:41 AM
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115: Eh, she's thirteen, who knows. At this point, she wants to be an astronaut (yes, I've talked to her about manned space flight being dead). And she's been enjoying the 'Engineering' class her school has (it's sort of an academic version of shop), where they get to use power tools, like mad. She really really likes physically building stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:53 AM
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Q: Do you like Turing machines?
A: Why you dirty man, I've never Tured.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:55 AM
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119: Well, essear has declined all suggestions to build a death ray, so there's a niche there waiting to be filled.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:56 AM
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Getting ahold of a Turing machine is easy enough, its the infinite tape that's hard to come by.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:56 AM
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Huh, and somehow I hadn't seen 108. Processing/Arduino, you say.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:56 AM
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119: She should make one of these. I keep wanting to make one even though I could never sleep in something that small.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:57 AM
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Also, I can't make things that complicated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:01 AM
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123: yeah, and that might be a different set of classes; do you have Maker Faire contacts you could ask about it?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:05 AM
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I can only understand about 3/4 of the words in this thread, but are you saying that if I did some basic programming course and spent $500 I could build some kind of programmed helicopter drone that I could make do my will?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:07 AM
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Is your will limited to flying/hoovering in the air within a relatively limited area?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:08 AM
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Er might be a different set of places offering classes/a set of classes that are less likely to be completely booked.

My first pass at googling wasn't effective, but something-something-nyc-hackerspace-something. There seem to be kid/teen-specific hackerspaces, even ("pixel academy"?).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:08 AM
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I've actually spend a good deal of time fucking around with helicopter drones lately. Quadcopters actually. I've been going with the sub $100 micro-quad models, and mounting keychain cameras on them and whatnot. But I think there is an Arduino-based quadcopter in my future.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:12 AM
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I'm thinking you could rig one relatively easily to drop eggs on people's heads, Halford.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:13 AM
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Or, if you are loath to waste eggs, muffins.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:13 AM
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"pixel academy"

Located in Vauxhall.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:15 AM
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I was thinking maybe I could position one to see if this asshole cop is hiding by this stoplight on the way to work, another to check freeway traffic, and a third to harm my enemies.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:18 AM
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Hackerspaces generally revolve around building physical objects that involve electronics of some kind. Sounds like they'd be a good fit.

NYC Resistor is the main hackerspace in NYC AFAIK: http://www.nycresistor.com/

Drop them an email and see what they suggest.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:19 AM
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I've been going with the sub $100 micro-quad models

They're that cheap? My son was just asking for one last night. He wants to make it look like an eagle and scare fish.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:20 AM
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136: there are a bunch of very well reviewed (but tiny) ones on amazon for like fifty bucks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:25 AM
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I'm simplifying a more detailed plan.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:25 AM
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I definitely am not going to something called "hackerspace." I want a simple online course that will give me the keys to being Dronemaster.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:26 AM
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I want a simple online course that will give me the keys to being Dronemaster.

You don't even need to take a course. Just buy yourself a Parrot.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 9:02 AM
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They're that cheap? My son was just asking for one last night.

This is the one I'd recommend as cheap/easy to fly. You will need some spare parts for when it crashes, though. Extra rotors and whatnot.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 9:05 AM
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136: there are a bunch of very well reviewed (but tiny) ones on amazon for like fifty bucks.

Now I'm tempted.

Whenever I see people playing with RC copters it looks like a ton of fun, but I suspect that if I got one I'd use maybe two-three times and then put it away and forget about it.

But if they're cheap enough maybe I should get one anyway . . .


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 9:13 AM
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Having one remote control helicopter is a hobby for children and sad old men. Having a squadron of 100 drones you could send into the air at one time and control from your laptop to do battle with crows and seagulls and destroy your enemies seems a worthy goal. This is the only time I've been excited about programming since Logo.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 9:49 AM
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If they had little claws that could grab your lawn chair and carry you from place to place through the air, that'd be even better. Especially if there were swooping involved.

Also:

do battle with crows and seagulls

Surely you mean war owls?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 10:11 AM
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142: I had a little $150 RC copter at my last job. It was a lot of fun but also very challenging. (Then again, I bought one of the more advanced models. The cheaper ones are much easier to fly, but can't do as much.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 10:15 AM
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All right, I just bought the drone shown in 141. Someday it will be in a museum as the first ever operational member of HalfordGlobalStrikeCommandCrowandSeagullBattleForce.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 10:29 AM
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143 is right. Drones in the sense of small aircraft steered with a remote have been around since the 1950s, as I can testify. They used to be called "model planes", and it's surprising that the forces of evil didn't think up a use for them a generation ago (that said, cocaine smugglers were using them off boats to land cargoes about twenty years since.) But it's the advanced comms technology that's new, not the actual toy helicopters.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:02 AM
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146: will they big rigged with speakers to play Ride of the Valkyries?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:07 AM
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Big = be


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:07 AM
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146:Does it sound silly to think that a typical neighborhood could have hundreds or thousands of drones flying around?

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/06/texas-says-no-our-tacocopter-future


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:10 AM
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Missing from that description is the payload, in lawn chair units, preferably.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:10 AM
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Toy helicopters have been around, but toy quadcopters are a genuinely new thing. They require a level of processing gyroscopic input and using it to control and coordinate the speed of various propellers that it really isn't practical in an analog device. Using a cheap, on-board micro-controller to take care of the math opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:13 AM
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150.1: Yes, Kevin Drum, that does sound silly.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:15 AM
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But it's the advanced comms technology that's new, not the actual toy helicopters.

Also, light-weight, rechargeable battery technology. Used to be you had to deal with liquid fuels, which is a pain in the ass.

These days, batteries are cheap and light. Their main limitation - which is why we won't actually see tacocopters anytime soon - is that they don't actually last for very long. A typical quad-copter flight time is about 10 minutes, if you are lucky, before its time to swap out the battery.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:18 AM
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Is a five minute radius enough to have sufficient customers to support a taco shop? It depends on the airspeed velocity of a tacocopter, laden and unladen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:22 AM
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155: What do you mean? An African or European tacocopter?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:25 AM
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OK, this is a lot to take in. 150 sounds like I have to move fast on building the Halford Air Force before the regulators and worrywarts step in and take away my control of the skies. Perhaps I can develop an in air drone-to-drone recharging technology to keep my strike force ready to go.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:32 AM
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Weight of the taco would be a huge factor. You won't be getting extra sour-cream if you are toward the outer edge of that radius.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:33 AM
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If technology isn't advanced enough for a tacocopter maybe we need to look at earlier methods for precise munitions delivery. Has anyone looked into the legalites of a tortillery barrage, or perhaps even a huachinango a la veracruz missile?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:34 AM
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This actually looks pretty usable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:42 AM
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If you are really interested in exploring the DIY drones universe, I suggest DIYDrones.com.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 11:56 AM
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And then there's this place, a block from my house. If you want to go high-end.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 12:13 PM
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I'm holding out for a Canadair CL-227 Sentinel, armed with some kind of machine gun.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 12:48 PM
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DIY drones is pretty great, if intense. It doesn't look that hard to get one up and running, and presumably 100 wouldn't be too tough.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 2:15 PM
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Huh, I hadn't looked there since they started selling kits. Those look sweet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 2:23 PM
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This is the one I'd recommend as cheap/easy to fly.

How would you compare that to this one, in the same price range which is also reviewed as being easy to fly? I'm curious if there's anything specific that you look for as a good/bad sign in the description?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 2:30 PM
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The DIY Drones ground rover also looks pretty sweet. I could put like four of those in my backyard and have them drive around and chase the feral cats.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 2:32 PM
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Halford, you might like this video about Parrot's AR drone.


Posted by: torrey pine (YK) | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 4:40 PM
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the comments about recreational use of drones are frivolous and amoral, halford, if nobody told you that until now


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 4:59 PM
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How would you compare that to this one

I haven't flown any of the WLToys series. They have a decent reputation, but tend to be ugly as sin. That particular model is actually one of the least bad looking ones.

I like the Walkera one because its a bit smaller, which is important because I do a lot of my flying inside my apartment. I do think the WLToys might be a bit sturdier, though.

However, if I was going to get a WLToys quad, I'd get the 959 instead of the 949. The 959 is a little more expensive, but comes with a camera attachment, and its also possible to get a water gun attachment.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 5:58 PM
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Wittgenstein did aeroengineering. And taught Turing. (Useless facts about midcentury UK academia. Woo!)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:01 PM
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This particular Walkera model is also quite tempting because, for a little over $100, it has a camera that can broadcast real-time video to your iPad over WiFi.

Alas, I won't be getting one unless an Android app becomes available.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:04 PM
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well, okay, maybe the toys should be used as just toys indeed, not for killing people indiscriminately over the other sovereign countries


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 6:39 PM
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If Halford were a true evil genius, he wouldn't be alienating the feral cat population. Its always important to have the feral cats on your side.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:37 PM
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Cher hasn't retired yet?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:48 PM
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That was maybe off topic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:48 PM
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86 to 176


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 7:51 PM
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176 to 86 also works.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:04 PM
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Walkera: Massively Open Online Perambulation


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-18-13 8:17 PM
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||

Software Bleg

Can anyone recommend good books and workbooks for Excel. I want to develop my skills and need some practice drills I can do at home. I'm also confused by the layout in the newer versions.


|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 4:35 AM
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||
So I was waiting at the bus stop with some older people, and they were reminiscing about growing up in a Russian Jewish immigrant home. The oldest brother had become a doctor, and moved away to another city to practice medicine. Whenever he'd call home, his parents would always speak to him in Russian, which he knew, but found odd, as they didn't speak it much at home. So word got back to him that his parents didn't actually like speaking Russian that much, now that they were in America. The next time he called, he mentioned this and asked whether they could stop speaking Russian going forward. "Oh, of course," his parents replied, "it's just a minor misunderstanding, don't think anything of it." And then they hung up.
Except that the older sister heard her parents' side of the conversation, and she reported that what they actually said at the end was "Alright, we need to get to that party."

Pretty droll anecdote, huh? Or at least convincing? Except it is all from the dream I had just before waking up. Did I make it all up myself for the dream or is it some ancient joke that I've totally forgotten? Weird.
||>


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 6:16 AM
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User guides to software are usually disappointing IME. Can you manage pivot tables and plotting histograms in Office 2010?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 6:47 AM
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180: I've heard good things about the Excel courses offered by local community colleges. Maybe check their course materials and see what they're using?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 6:48 AM
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Best way to learn how to use software, I've found, is to type what you want to do into the YouTube search function, and then watch whatever video seems most useful.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 7:19 AM
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182: No. I can't do histograms. That's what I want to learn.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 7:45 AM
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181 reads a bit like the start of one of Woody Allen's Kafka spoofs. You could also capitalize "party" at the end there and go on from there.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 8:47 AM
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Much of the struggle with using software is finding the words (first broad, then detailed) to describe goals.

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Histogram-in-Excel

I found that exporting from Excel to PP was extremely limited in the previous incarnation of Office, so using the spreadsheet tools in PP was the best solution to many common problems (though the volume of data that PP's spreadsheets can handle is far less than even Excel's puny limits). I've been lucky and not needed to use 2010 yet; can it handle (sort and plot, say) datasets with millions of rows without crashing?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 8:56 AM
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180: What level/aspect of Excel? I was able to improve in practical Excel pretty quickly by reading through and practicing with the "List of Worksheet Functions" in its help file, focusing on the function categories "information", "logical", "lookup and reference", "math and trigonometry", and "text". But maybe you're after different skills than I use.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 10:23 AM
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Oh, histograms. I do that pretty primitively, with the countif function; I think you need a plugin for Excel to do it innately.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 10:25 AM
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Belatedly for Lizardbreath: if there isn't a NYC Hacker Scouts yet, there are people interested, maybe you can make something jell.

Also, check out Project Euler and Rosalind for puzzles designed to be solved with programming. They *start* easy, but get hard quickly, but they're real problems and nicely laddered.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 11:15 AM
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Also belatedly for LB, you could try asking the folks who run Hacker School. That's not the program for her, but it's run by some of the kindest and most selfless people I've met, and I bet they'd know of any opportunities that exist in NYC that might still be open, or something she could do online.

If you have an email I could send an intro and cc both you and one of them, or you can email either Nick or Sonali at the domain above (email is really just name @ domain).

Alternately, this course just started, and it's based on HtDP, which is a very well regarded book for introducing programming. It's done a language which is eminently impractical, but, if that's not a concern, I bet the course will be good.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 1:41 PM
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Well, essear has declined all suggestions to build a death ray, so there's a niche there waiting to be filled.


Filled!


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 2:14 PM
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You people have all talked about things that are over my head. I am a "beginner." I don't use much more than the sum function most of the time.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-19-13 4:02 PM
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23: I'd say Python is a good choice - it's an interpretive language that's somewhat easy for a beginner to debug, it has a powerful set of features that make it easy to read and manipulate text files, and it is commercially valuable.

Also, I note that the course sral mentions in 191 starts off in an artificial language, but the second half of the course is supposed to split off into various tracks involving real languanges, including Python. I don't know how much of Python it will cover, but it sounds like it might be a possibility.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 06-21-13 1:25 PM
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Also, I note that the course sral mentions in 191 starts off in an artificial language

I believe that the "teaching language" used in How to Design Programs is a teaching version of Racket.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-21-13 1:29 PM
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Anyone have any thoughts on this MOOC?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-13 1:54 PM
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196: Looks like it could be interesting and worthwhile. Not sure how well the "mechanical" (i.e., instructorless) aspect will work, but the stakes are pretty low. Results may depend on what kind of peer group you get to be part of.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 06-21-13 4:56 PM
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196: It looks fine to me. There is no reason to believe that Sally can't learn to program the way every competent programmer I know learned (had reasonably private access to a computer, wanted to make it do something, e.g. amuse or annoy a sibling, parent, government).

`Reasonably private' just because you spend long periods with absolutely nothing working and you can't tell why and it did last week and it's really embarrassing to have everyone see. When all our results were on a shared lineprinter, for instance, so Sally should be fine.

And complete starter kits for Arduino robotics and programming are in Radio Shack! And under $100! The giant breadboardy Teach Yourself Electronic kits were nothing so cool.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-21-13 10:08 PM
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re: Excel

I'm also confused by the layout in the newer versions.

So is everyone else. Microsoft thoroughly en-fucked Office in 2007 when they introduced the so-called 'fluent interface', i.e. the 'make it impossible for people who know how to do shit, to do shit, all without helping the people who never knew shit in the first place' interface.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-22-13 1:58 AM
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So -- quadcopter question/lament. I got this thing. The instruction manual was literally incomprehensible, and searching around for online tutorials did nothing. Basically, how do you get the remote controller to sync up with the copter? The controller just seemed to beep noisily forever and blink red, for like maybe 30 minutes of trying. Then, after randomly fooling around moving the toggles in different directions for a while, the thing took off into the air, flew over a neighbor's yard and crashed into a ravine.

So, I guess my question is -- what should I read before getting the next quadcopter? Is there some way to actually learn how to do this?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:15 AM
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This thing is what I purchased.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:15 AM
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200, 201: The way the controls usually work is, left stick is throttle and yaw (if it'll do yaw), right stick is pitch and roll. The left stick should flop all the way down and have some resistance when you push it up; you bring the throttle up slowly and the thing lifts off. IIRC you switch on the controller, then the copter, then wait a couple of seconds for the copter to sync and center its controls.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:28 AM
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Pitch, yaw, and roll. Yaw is controlled by moving the left stick left and right, pitch by right stick up and down, roll right stick left and right.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:31 AM
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Oh yeah, and check to see if the thing has a gain option; the 'copter I got was set to high gain by default, which meant that you had to be very very precise with inputs. Switching it to low gain made it much easier to fly.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:34 AM
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That's very helpful, thanks (though my thing didn't just sync up nicely). This is probably ridiculously obvious, but how do you transform tumbling upside down along various axes into moving left/right, up/down.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:36 AM
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Use an algorithm.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:39 AM
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Sure! Throttle up to lift off and ascend in general, throttle down to descend. Pitch forward (up on the stick) to move forward, backward to move back. Same thing with roll, only it goes left and right. Mix pitch and roll to curve one way or another. Yaw lets you spin left and right without moving if you're hovering, or make sharper turns if you mix it in with pitch and roll.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:43 AM
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First, I would recommend starting indoors, so the thing doesn't get lost in a ravine. Focus on making it go up and down, then worry about forwards and back, then side to side. Be prepared to kill the throttle at any time, should things start to get out of hand.

Second, the radio usually connects after about 5 seconds or so. If you are are having trouble starting it up, the problem could be that the throttle wasn't started in the all the way down position. The thing won't start unless it starts at zero throttle, for safety reasons.

Third, Josh is right about the control directions, but probably don't want to mess around with yaw much. Its best to keep the quadcopter facing away from you, so that whenever you push the stick to right, it will go right, and to the left, it will go left. If the quadcopter is facing you, it will do the opposite, which is pretty confusing. So just keep it facing away from you.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:43 AM
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Halford never played Flight Simulator?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:44 AM
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Oh, duh. I see what the answer is, sorry.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:45 AM
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I guess Josh and Spike will be rescued when the rest of us are enslaved by Halford's robot helicopter armada.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:45 AM
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210 before seeing 207 and 208, and it turned out to be wrong! OK, onto the next purchase. Pretty soon the kid will inherit nothing but broken quadcopters.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:47 AM
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If you are tumbling along various axes, its possible that one your your propellers is on upside-down or in the wrong spot. One pair of propellers goes clockwise, the other counterclockwise. They have different shapes, and if you put the wrong shaped one in the wrong spot, it causes tumbling.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:47 AM
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Wait, I had no idea that quadcopters looked like ladybugs. That is so great! (Mara would completely love one since ladybugs are her thing, but then I'd have to get two and the idea of warring $50 quadcopters is compelling but not quite compelling enough.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:49 AM
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213 -- no, that was hypothetical tumbling based on my misunderstanding of what Josh was saying. My own quadcopter just flew up way into the air, and then crashed down into the inaccessible ravine by the freeway, I believe without tumbling.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:51 AM
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Apropos of nothing, with a payload of 300 to 400 grams, it takes about 20 Walkera QR X400 Quadcopters to lift a red panda.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:58 AM
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How many does it take lift a disabled Quadcopter out of an inaccessible ravine?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:59 AM
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They're heartless; they leave the weak and infirm behind.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:01 PM
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Man. This thread got awesome when I wasn't paying attention. Next time, Halford, mount the timed charges on the quadcopter before trying to fly it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:54 PM
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then I'd have to get two and the idea of warring $50 quadcopters is compelling but not quite compelling enough.

As the owner of 2 $50 quadcopters, I can say yes, yes it is compelling.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:12 PM
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How hard would it be to train a not particularly patient 7-year-old to use one?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:15 PM
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What methods would you be willing to use?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:16 PM
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My not-particularly patient 7 year old tends to crash it one time, and then doesn't want to fly it again until the next time I bring it out. I do have fun chasing him around the house with it, though.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:17 PM
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222: Positive reinforcement and swearing under my breath.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:18 PM
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Preparing him for the robopocalypse. That's good parenting.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:20 PM
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Guess I might as well take the opportunity to point to this thing, which I invented to reduce the damage caused by crashing my quadcopter around indoors.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:20 PM
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I do have fun chasing him around the house with it, though.

Yes, this is what I want to get the hang of, before unleashing 500 drone-operated quadcopters to pester my enemies.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:21 PM
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226: Wow, that's something. Construction technique is? 3-D printing?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:39 PM
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Yeah, 3-D printing. My wife won't let me buy my own 3-D printer, so I send the designs off to shapeways.com, they print it, and send it back.

If I do that enough, maybe my wife will cave and let me buy my own 3-D printer.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:42 PM
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Printing a new wife might also work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:43 PM
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226 is great. Perhaps I will order one. You realize you could add front spikes for a weaponized version, right?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:48 PM
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Microsoft thoroughly en-fucked Office in 2007 when they introduced the so-called 'fluent interface'

God, this is so true. It's like they grouped functions using 11-dimensional pin the tail on the donkey.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:52 PM
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I work in disarmament. That might get me canned.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:52 PM
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229: Nice. Was going to ask about the material selection, but found the Material Hub. So, "White, Strong & Flexible" was about the stuff rather than about you (or Bart Conner).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:54 PM
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I printed one in black, and ended up with little black marks all over my walls.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 2:00 PM
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Maybe your stance was too wide.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 2:02 PM
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My stance is quite narrow, thank you very much.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 2:04 PM
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If you're interested in getting a fancy camera-equipped quadcopter for free, look around in the woods around the former location of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River. A filmmaker friend of mine lost one up there when he was documenting the dam removal last year.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 3:23 PM
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Another place to look would be on top of the courthouse in Marion, Ohio.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 4:55 PM
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I work in disarmament. That might get me canned.

And yet here you are, helping a non-state actor named "Robert Halford" acquire micro air vehicles to harass his neighbors...


Posted by: torrey pine (YK) | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:10 PM
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239 - If Halford stumbled busted his what-you-may-call-it he could lie on its floor 'til his body turned to carrion.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:16 PM
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Carrion, my wayward son?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:33 PM
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|| There is a God. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/351921/bolton-plans-tour-early-primary-states-robert-costa |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:45 PM
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I'm just going to go bet on Hillary now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:49 PM
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Dammit, not liking any of the 2016 choices. Amy Klobuchar needs to run.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:54 PM
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Democracy has failed.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:34 PM
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And here is the solution to the failure of democracy. SWARM.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:09 PM
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This one is also pretty good. Perform music for me, my darlings!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:10 PM
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