Computer stuff

 What Nuisance?

  1. Netflix considers an accidental click or a movie you ditched after 5 minutes to be perfectly valid sources for recommendations.
  2. The Netflix equivalent of bad one night stands you want to forget. You had fun watching Naked Zombie Apocalypse but you’d rather not base future suggestions on it.

Let’s fix this mess.

Log in to your Netflix account, I recommend doing this on your computer or results may vary. As soon as you are logged in, follow the link to “Your Account”. Once there, look near the bottom for “Viewing activity”.

Here is the history, take out anything you don’t want affecting future recommendations.

The bad news is that even with a clean and shiny viewing history Netflix has a bit of “WTF” built right into their algorithm…

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This post is about violent video games. Well, one violent video game in particular and why Moms need to stretch their imaginations a bit on the subject.

Like it or not there seems to be a difficulty/danger/fighting itch that (many to most ) guys need to scratch from time to time. Every man I know understands this and knows it comforts and strengthens boys. The mothers I know TO A PERSON, do not. They aren’t being mean, they just really don’t get it. Boys have a natural mission: To protect and defend, To hunt with the hunters, and to stand up to individuals who pose a threat.  Mothers who hate this model of masculinity aren’t wrong to want a better world than this for their children, but they should know that they are treating their boys they way we treat neutered pets. As if perfect safety were an option for them,  as if we get to choose whether they will ever face danger. We do not. Boys know at a DNA level that they may face danger and hostility and that they will face challenges where their response might determine the success or failure of the most important endeavors of their lives. Depriving a boy of the way he learns to feel strong is not kindness, it is closer to shame projected onto another person.

Play is how young mammals get strong in the ways they NEED to get strong. To deprive an animal of the play it needs to grow up is not showing concern for its well being. If anything it is like the mothers and fathers who punished children for touching themselves or being curious about sex. Was that a good approach? Did that make children grow up stronger and happier? This may not look like healthy play to you but what does the play of wolves, bears or tigers look like? It’s all about being ready, and feeling ready to deal with with what is coming for you. The odds are most men won’t feel ready anyway no matter they do, but taking away the developmental step of preparing for violence and conflict (in a peaceful healthy situation) is like outlawing fire drills because they bring up scary thoughts.
There is so much you need to actively do to help your son be a good man. Share your values deeply and articulately but don’t shut down the boy wisdom given to him by all his ancestors. Masculinity has to feel strong in order to feel safe and it needs to feel safe in order to be gentle…and that’s a tall order…it’s not easy to feel strong. If you come between him at that..what have you done?

 Why Team Fortress 2 is unusual and good 

My son is 14 and LOVES Team Fortress 2. I play it with him as often as I can.

 The multiplayer genre of guys running around a 3d map shooting each other is as common as dirt with loads of examples, Call of duty, Battlefield, Halo, and LOADS more. They tend to be extremely predictable.
Team Fortress 2 came out in 2007. Think about that for a minute. This is basically a TEN year old game and it has a thriving, (if whiny) community. This is unique in video gaming and the nearest thing to it in this context is probably Minecraft which went alpha in 2009 and grew by word of mouth from there.
The things that make TF2 so different from the other games are also very different from each other. 
1. High speed violent complicated story problem
There is a win or lose objective and winning requires bravery and luck but mostly strategy, practice, good choices, good timing and working with others. The strategy side of this is deep
and complex: Class plus loadout, plus team plus map. There are not very many maps and this is because each one is a chaotic chessboard a mile long and if you do not know the map you WILL lose.

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In every class I teach, the medium is the PC. In every class I teach there is at least one student who still sucks at computing. I applaud them being game enough to choose the encounter, because it’s clearly a struggle. The problem is that almost all of these students carry their downfall into the room with them and ultimately feel no closer to their goal, or only a touch closer. 

What these students lack is Fluency. Computer Fluency is the constellation of core skills that comfortable users take for granted as a foundation into every computer task they approach. More and more, beginning computer classes are disappearing, not because they are unneeded but because curriculum planners see no market for them. Only truly humble students choose these classes and that’s too small a market to succeed. 

Here’s the real problem. Because fluency underlies all software use, if a person lacks fluency it doesn’t matter what computer course they choose, THAT CLASS will become a beginning computer class. It will just be a terrible choice for a beginning computer class. The center of gravity of that class dips to meet the skill deficit of these students. I have taught web design classes where people ask how many times to click an icon and don’t know the difference between a folder and a file. In class I am positive and encouraging but inside I’m thinking “I am so sorry you wasted your money on this class.” Because that student is probably NEVER going to get beyond their deficit to embrace the intended curriculum.  Continue reading

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We say “Computer Program” and naturally that sounds very different than “Theater Program” but the word program means the same thing. A list of things to take place in a certain order. Computer programs are built of algorithms. The program itself is a kind of meta-algorithm. 
 
Algorithms are an unambiguous set of instructions like:
  1. go in the house
  2. hang up your coat
  3. sit down
But what if I have a problem getting in the house? What if the door is locked? A nested algorithm is waiting at that event.
  1. find key
  2. use key to open door

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What would it look like if you attempted to sketch out a script for a real cat? Let’s leave out the some of the foundations like the guidelines for building the cat’s body in the first place and maintaining all the various physiological systems, or whether the cat is old or young, or sick or whatever. Just a generic cat on a generic day.
 
Cat {
Danger [A. Maintain alertness for danger – loop always
A1. If danger is sensed:
*Danger 1 – serious – run helter skelter away FAST far – hide. Watch & Listen. loop till:A2
*Danger 2 – moderate – run away fast moderate distance – hide. Watch & Listen. Loop till:A2
*Danger 3 – mild – skulk into hiding. Watch & Listen. Loop till:A2
A2 – no danger is sensed] Check B

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If you have just bought a new computer it probably has all sorts of unwanted third party software pre-installed (because it profits the manufacturer). For some reason, most people just live with it, sighing frequently and clicking “No Thanks” for the four thousandth time on stupid invitations to upgrade or purchase or enroll. This is a bit like buying a new car and finding the company has put little speakers everywhere to encourage you to only buy one kind of gas, or stop by Best Buy or only trust a certain make of car alarm. 

Others with older computers may be living with a digital equivalent of hoarding. There can be programs and files that are unwanted, obsolete or even malicious. This situation can mean that system resources are being squandered for no reason. Fixing this CAN mean a livelier computer. Outside of having good virus check/anti-malware programs there are programs to help unburden your computer. Here are three good ones.  Continue reading

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Think of it as three phases.

Planning / Organizing / Designing
Building/ Testing
Deploying / Maintaining
 

 Phase 1: Planning / Organizing / Designing 

 

A. Planning.

Every website is there to answer a need. Anyone who thinks they need a website should be able to say in not many words exactly why they need one. They should be able to list the things that the website is meant to accomplish for the business (or project, institution, or individual). The best websites are based on an absolutely clear understanding of the need. Therefore the planning period should be taken very seriously.
 

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Built to fail

As a software teacher/trainer I am amazed by something. Every company and institution in the US apparently has the budget to subsidize ~65% of their employees being shit with computing…forever… but only a few of them can scrape a budget together for training. And when they do, it’s designed by middle management in a way that almost always misses the actual problem in favor of some oversimplified guess about what is wrong.

Whenever I have taught corporate groups I sense about a dozen issues other than the one I am there to teach going unaddressed. And if I try to get at those problems I’ll be seen as not teaching the right subject.

Usually, power users are mixed into the same class as the weakest users. The result is that the material will be wrong for part of the group no matter what… unless you teach “right down the middle” in which case it might be right for nobody. Also, the power users are forced to sit through such basic material that it wears out their goodwill and\or the “baby” users sit through advanced material that makes them feel stupid and hopeless. All of this crystalizes the idea of training as ineffective in the mind of management.

To get it right, do better research on the problem you are fixing.

  1. Don’t be superficial or complacent about imagining what the problem really is. Details matter.
  2. Identify your “power users” and find out what they need to know and why.
  3. While you’ve got them, ask what they consider to be the baseline skillset for the software in question in the context of this office. Compare notes on these assessments.
  4. Ask them (and any IT support people) what problems the focus group of employees seem to get stuck on. The power users and IT staff get hit up regularly for help and they have a lot more data points than you will get by asking the group what they need.
  5. The group doesn’t really know what it needs. The problem is concealed in the mist above their comfort zone.
  6. If it is possible to have the trainer come in for a chat with some representative students ahead of time, they will be able to target the actual need far better.
  7. “But the cost!” It’s going to be expensive either way. Do you prefer an expensive success or an expensive failure? Besides, if you do this correctly you will be saving real money and increasing real efficiency. Doing it wrong is mismanagement.
  8. Consider a break with form. If the trainer is open to it, propose working with smaller groups with a shared problem and consider doing this in the area where the work is done rather than a classroom. The trainer will almost always spot problems and growing out of local issues which would not come up in a classroom.

 

 

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