teaching machines

Naming Things

Often in my introductory programming classes I will share a snippet of code that is unnamed or vaguely named. I ask the students to interpret the code and choose better names. This past week I gave them this snippet: public static double ?(double x, boolean b) { if (b) { return x; } else { return x […]

On Data

People talk about all the stuff we’re going to be able to do once computers are fast enough and storage is cheap enough. Sadly, I don’t think technological advances will gain us much. Taken to the limit, the digital world of computers is just the analog world that we already have. And there’s nothing easy […]

The Programming Gene

My wife and I read to each other. We ran into this the other day in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe: So I went to work, and here I must needs observe, that as reason is the substance and original of the mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by reason, and by making the most […]

iMessage “DoS” Attack

I would be surprised if I’m the only student in this program who thinks small hacking pranks and minor harmless attacks on unsuspected folks are both fun and educational. This weekend I learned AppleScript, which for the Mac OS X-impaired folks, that’s a really nice scripting editor that comes standard on all OS X machines. […]

Grup

One of my colleagues has sparked our students’ interest in IRC. He and the students have been suggesting I swing by their channel, especially since I’m occasionally the topic of conversation. I applaud my colleague’s barrierlessness, but my dreams of things to do with my family and of things to code and of grant proposals […]

PHP Spotting

I saw this snippet of PHP on a window in a downtown business:

The Muppet Who Was a Computer

Our machines our unswerving. They do not judge our commands. Their faithful obedience is a feature and a bug.

Recurring recursion

Recursion is a concept that fascinates people, even non-computer scientists. All the same, I’ve decided to stop teaching it in my introductory programming course. I’d rather wait until I can motivate it with self-similar data structures. Nevertheless, recursion is pervasive. Who can’t help but wonder at the following phenomena? Isle Royale The largest lake in […]

A man on the bus

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a gentleman was talking with a friend of mine on the bus about some troubles he was having with modern technology. I thought the incident would make a nice limerick: I once met a man who was miffed ‘Tween email and him was a rift When he pressed the @ key Number […]

IEEE-754 sighting

I was walking through our local transit system’s headquarters yesterday when I saw what I presumed was someone dividing 0 by 0 in the marquee software: When I showed my non-programming wife, she politely chuckled and moved on with her business. On questioning, she confessed she didn’t think much of it — just a cute […]