Geeky Stuff

Kids today *can't* use computers [updated]


This excellent article, written by a teacher in the UK, breaks down the myth that today's kids are geniuses with computers and anything technology-related.

From my own perspective, I consider it to be a distinction between using something and hacking something. I know how to "use" a car, i.e. I can drive it. I cannot, however, "hack" it very much - I can't change the oil, I broke the lightbulb last time I tried to replace one, and the whole engine system is mind-boggling - I just don't have the time or energy to learn how to hack it. When I was growing up I was fortunate enough that there was a computer in the house from the time I was 9, and, after finally getting bored with just games & discovering a desire to know more about it, when I was fifteen I set upon discovering how to hack them - how to manage the operating system, the parts within the computer, upgrade things, customize the software (binary editors FTW!), etc; eventually I started to learn how to build web applications and that turned into my career. This level of interest has always been something only a very small portion of the public have had any inclination towards – most just want to turn on an internet-connected gadget, read crap on Facebook, maybe read email if they're really advanced, watch some cat videos, then turn it off again. Kind of like me and my car – I just want to drive it, it's not important enough to me to learn (much) more.

The difference is, I don't see this in itself being a huge problem. Note everyone needs to know how to strip down and rebuild a computer from the bare parts, just like not everyone needs to know how to take a car apart and rebuild it.

What does not to change is the conventional wisdom that the current generation are geniuses with technology, when really they're just hitting rocks against something until it makes beeping noises. Like me looking at the engine of our car.

Today's generation just has more shiny toys than the previous one, and it's now more acceptable to have them. When I was growing up you could be bullied for having a computer; today you'd be bullied for not having one, or not having the correct one.

As for the educational aspects, I agree 100% with what the author says, that "computer literacy" was quickly turned into "knows how to load Internet Explorer, load Microsoft Word and maybe print something"; for this I blame management at every level of business and government for accepting the marketing campaigns by Microsoft that this was all people needed to know. Heck, even at the computer science level in college the standards are abysmal. Ten years ago when I was a teacher's aid on a computer hardware 101 course in college, I should have flunked the final test for at least 1/3rd of the class because they didn't know a damned thing ("Can you tell me which part is the hard drive?"), and I distinctly remember one girl saying "I don't remember this stuff, but it isn't really important anyway."

So, no, not everyone needs to know how to build a computer, or how to write software, but don't for one minute believe that the current generation are in any way more technically capable than the previous one just because they have more toys.

Update: Someone who I respect immensely wrote a blog post a few years ago about his experiences working for AOL online tech support and a time when he reached a point of understanding that not everyone gets technology, this stuff is hard.

OSX Leopard - highest selling and best Mac OS ever


According to news today, Apple's latest version of OSX, code-named Leopard, is the fastest selling release of OSX they've done to date. This is good news as it brings a wealth of new features that developers have committed to working with, which should bring even better software to the market. Having used it for two days I have to say I'm very impressed - the improved UI is very good, the minor adjustments to the Finder are excellent, Time Machine should save my posterior a few times, and both iCal and Mail became much more useful. Good stuff all round, it's just a shame that so few people will get a chance to use it.

World's worst industry publication ceases


Sys-Con have finally put to rest what I’ve thought was an utterly horrible magazine, the ColdFusion Developer’s Journal. Between an utterly useless website that bombards you with 80% advertisements / 20% content, and a magazine with legally questionable practices (using blog articles without consent or payment), the ColdFusion industry is much better off without them.

Yes, the above is what one of the company’s sub-sites looks like. Yes, that is a pop-over advertisement for one of their magazines. Yes, that is an auto-play video advertisement. Yes, this is a really, really bad website, worthy of the next edition of Web Pages That Suck.

Amusingly, during the past year, when most of the really bad stuff came to light, a new magazine called the Fusion Authority Quarterly Update stepped up to the plate and utterly trounces anything SysCon has done in years. Good riddens to CFDJ, we’ve got FAQU now.


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