Alltså, det är inte sant … nu står jag här igen!!! Jag trodde jag skulle slippa verkstaden ett tag nu men tror ni inte att det har blivit ett nytt fel på bilen. Stön !!!

Fast jag måste erkänna att det är nya fel varje gång, det märks att bilen har gått en del och börjar bli gammal.

Den där härliga känslan

Visst är den trevlig, den där känslan man får när bilen säger ”PANG” när man startar den. Alltså inte ”PANG” som i ”jag är en explosionsmotor som fungerar som jag ska” utan som ”opps, nu blev det något stort och dyrt fel”. Speciellt när det följs av dofter som indikerar att något inte är som det ska vara. Kort sagt en perfekt start på dagen …

Sigh, two services I like are shutting down

Zite and Rdio are shutting down … sigh. I have used Zite for several years and it has been my favorite way of discovering news on the web. A while ago they were bought my Flipboard and now the service is shutting down. They suggest that I should change to Flipboard but I have never liked the user interface so I’m not enthusiastic about their service, I also took a quick look at how Flipboard work today and from what I could see it’s not as good as Zite is. So I’m probably going to skip Flipboard completely.

I’ve never liked Spotify, I think that both the user interface and user interaction is pretty bad. I used to have a premium account but I cancelled it when I found Rdio. The user interface of Rdio has been fairly clear and easy to use. It has also been easy to discover new music, etc. But they were recently bought by Pandora (which doesn’t work in Sweden) and they are shutting down Rdio.

So I’m currently back to Spotify again (I got three month of free premium with my new phone).

Should everybody learn to program?

Being a teacher in Computer Science I’ve taught many students how to program (actually I view it as I helped them learn themselves how to program). Most of these were studying Computer Science and usually either knew how to program (or at least they thought they knew how to program 🙂 ) or were motivated to learn programming. But I’ve also taught students that did not study Computer Science and but were required to take a programming course – many of these students see no reason for learning how to program. They are interested in whatever subject they are learning not CS/programming and think that it would be better use of their time to take another course.

I’ve also seen/heard people say that ”you have to be a genius to learn to program”, ”nerds don’t have a life”, ”I’m too stupid to learn programming”, ”I have no use for programming”, etc. But they rarely know what programming is or what a programmer do! So why do they have this image of CS and programming?

I think we can blame ourselves, we being programmers and CS people in general. We tend to talk about programming/CS in a jargon that leaves all non-programmers (and several programmers) with that ”dazed” look of total confusion. It’s like listening to some aliens that have learned to use human language but use words and expressions in a way no normal person would. We have failed showing people the usefulness of programming and that it does not need to be complicated.

One group that should take special responsibility for this is the one I belong to myself: the CS teachers. We have completely failed to take into consideration who we are teaching. We have been teaching programming and problem solving from a CS perspective, using ”boring” examples from math or other typical CS examples, giving little thought to the fact that most people have no interest in CS or programming per se. Most people want to solve their problems, not some abstract problem that a CS Professor dreamed up in the office. We have failed in showing them the usefulness of programming!

But there are other problems also: why should people know programming? Because they can solve small specific problems they have in their daily life. But there is an important part missing here: in what environment should they do this? Should they use Eclipse, NetBeans, or XCode? I don’t think so. Or should they use environments like Scratch, Alice, or Agentsheets. No, I don’t think these are the right tools either. In fact I think of any environment today that lets me easily solve simple problems programmatically, one that is ubiquitous to the general public.

The only environment I’ve seen/tried that was aimed a bit in this direction was HyperCard. It was in no means perfect but it allowed me to quickly put together a ‘stack’ to solve a specific problem, it was not fast, it was not beautiful but it got the job done and it was not something you passed on to others (not a problems since it was my problems I as solving). I don’t know of any such tool today (yes, I know about LiveCode/RunRev and SuperCard but haven’t tried them for years).

Back to the original question: Should everybody learn to program?

Yes, I think that programming knowledge can be useful to a lot of people. No, I don’t think people should learn to program Java/Python/Perl/C/C++/Haskell/etc (we want people to learn to problem solve, not learn syntax). Yes, I think learning how to solve problems is useful to anyone (which is actually what programming is all about). No, I don’t think there is a way today for people to take advantage of programming in their daily life.

I think that an interesting twist to the question is the idea of Computational Thinking which has gained some following in the research community. As I understand it this is not about programming per se but about the methodology of problem solving used within Computer Science. I don’t know if this is what people refer to when they say that everybody should learn to program: learning how to solve problems. If so, I’m all for it.

And as soon as that ubiquitous programming environment becomes available then the answer is ”Yes, everybody should learn to program”

iDisk – the speed demon (NOT)

One thing that MobileMe account includes is an iDisk, a ”cloud”-based disk that conveniently can be mounted on your desktop. You can use it to store various files, etc. Once in while I hear the advice that ”use your iDisk to backup your critical documents” and it does sound very tempting.

But, then I start to wonder where these people live. Because iDisk is too slow to be of any practical use whatsoever. A few hours ago I started an incremental backup that took more than 2.5 hours to complete – although the complete size of the files is just 385MB.

Despite knowing the answer I decided to do a quick test. I opened the iDisk in the Finder and dragged the 385MB folder to it, leaned back and waited, and waited, and waited, and then … waited a bit more. Finally, the first pixels on the progress bar were colored to show that something had been transferred. So I continued working for a while, then I looked at the estimate time remaining and decided that I didn’t want to wait 10+ hours to see this copy operation complete. So I quit the copy operation and did some calculations based on the ”time remaining” value and got a transfer speed of:

9 kilobyte per second. YES, kilobyte !!!

And this number is actually better than the incremental backup I did (1.9) but that might have involved other operations than just copy … but it’s in the same region. This is just plain silly.

I used sftp to copy the same data to a server in town (can’t really be compared to sending the data to Apples servers but still … ) and got a transfer speed of:

1.2 megabyte per second

Once again, it’s not fair to compare a local copy like this to using Apples WebDAV server but it’s at least an indication that someone at Apple need to do something to improve this.

And no, it’s not just me – there are a lot of people here in Sweden with similar experiences. And it’s not a temporary thing, it’s been like this since I first started to use MobileMe (, whatever).

”Lifestreams” – ska det va’ nåt

Det tycks bli allt mer populärt med olika ”lifestream”-applikationer, dvs webtjänster som samlar ihop det som en person publicerar på olika sajter och presenterar det på en sida. Två exempel på sådana tjänster är (som även ger dig en OpenID identitet) och FriendFeed.

Jag har lekt en del med några av dessa tjänster för att försöka komma på om det är något som egentligen fyller någon funktion – det går ju faktiskt att prenumerera på olika feeds från de tjänster som en person använder. Men dessa samlingstjänster gör det lättare att hitta de tjänster en person använder och se vad de publicerar. En annan fördel är att de ofta har någon form av ”vänner” funktionalitet, dvs man kan se vilka personer en person tycker är intressanta (om du följer med vad person X gör så kan du titta vilka personer X tycker är intressanta). Det gör att det blir ganska lätt att hitta nya personer som är intressanta att följa.

Men det finns ju nackdelar, speciellt två stycken:

  • Presentationen är inte den bästa, detta är ju tjänster som lämpar sig för att snabbt titta efter vad som händer men jag tycker det är ofta svårt att snabbt göra detta.

  • Det borde finnas någon möjlighet att filtrera vad man vill se från en person. Det finns en del personer som har massvis med tjänster, t.ex. olika positioneringstjänster och även om det kan vara kul att vad mina personliga bekanta är så är det inte lika intressant att se hur en person åker runt på olika ställen i Los Angeles.

Kort sagt: samlingstjänsterna gör nytta – men de kan bli bättre.