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Computing in school — comparison with water.

20170319 (2017 March 19 Sunday)

I teach computer science, not computer products. We need to stop pushing products.

Schools should be teaching computer science and IT, not products. At this time computers are set up as office tools, and many IT-support departments work in opposition to teaching computer science and IT. We look to the companies that sell software to teach us about software.

This is like asking Evian to help with pupils swimming classes, just because they make a lot of money selling water. Yes we can ask them to provide money, but often they, instead, send a crate of bottled water, and we get the pupils to try to swim in it.

There is nothing wrong with a bottled water company sponsoring a school. However we should not be using their water. It has been shown that bottled water costs about 1000 times more than tap water, in most places in the world the tap water is better than more than half of the bottled water, and in blind taste tests people can not tell the difference. The argument that it is provided for free to schools is irrelevant, this is a marketing ploy to create dependence (“first one’s free”). It is not about price, it is about education. Another thing these companies do is to move in to a region, and start pumping out water, so that there is none remaining for the local population. They then step in with a solution “buy our bottled water”. In parts of the world with a strong legal system there have been court cases (e.g. in the USA), but the companies have argued that it is not there fault “it was a bad year, it did not rain”. The fact that this was not devastating in the past, because there was not a big company extracting to much water, seems to be irrelevant. In other countries it does not even go to court.

This is exactly what is happening with computer software. We need to teach students to be responsibly empowered, to use computer in the way that will enhance there lives, and not be dependent on big corporations.

Therefore Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Google, Facebook, … should have no place in the classroom. We should start this by not promoting them. We should then start removing them, so that pupils can learn, better, how computer work and how to use them.


This is what happens when I go to pay at the shops — despite carrying a large rucksack (bag).

20160906 (2016 September 06 Tuesday)


Would you like
to have a bag

I would not like it,
Mr shop.
I would not like
to have a bag.

Would you like it
Here or there?

I would not like it
here or there.
I would not like it
I would not like
to have a bag.
I would not like it,
Mr shop

Would you like it
in a house?
Would you like it
with a mouse?

What is a computer virus?

20160901 (2016 September 01 Thursday)
Let me answer what turns out to be a simpler question. What is a virus checker?

Let us imagine that your computer is a house, and it is under attack from criminals. Maybe a little, maybe a lot, just like a normal house.

You decide that you need to secure your house, so you by the most sophisticated intruder detection system. It will photograph, scan, fingerprint, anyone approaching the house. If it recognises a person, and that person is in the criminal records database, then it will not let them in. All other people are allowed in. If the person is wearing gloves and a mask then they are not recognised and are let in. If they have not get been caught, then they are let in.

Alternatively you get a lock, and issue keys to the few people that you want to access your house. You may get a cheap lock or a very good lock. Ever way you probably will not come home to find that your neighbours kid has wandered in, and is sitting watching your TV.
Therefore stop trying to detect viruses, and protect your computer properly.

Today I was asked “What changes would you make to the [IT] national curriculum [for the UK]”

20150826 (2015 August 26 Wednesday)

Today I was asked “What changes would you make to the IT national curriculum”. So here are my answers:

  • It says “use 2 or more programming languages, at least one of which is textual, to solve a variety of computational problems …”. I would add that the languages should be different, though I have not worked out how to define different, but C# and Java are too similar, C# and Visual Basic are too similar, C and C++ are too similar.
  • Next I would add “use 2 or more operating systems, at least one of which is textual, to solve a variety of computational problems …”

Web access not working, but internet is — on “3” ( mobile

20150217 (2015 February 17 Tuesday)

2015 early

My web access stopped working recently, although the rest of the internet services where working ok: ssh, imap, dns, etc. It was affecting all web browsers on the phone, and tethered computer.

So I phoned tech support at They sounded surprised when I told them “web access in broken, but the internet is working”. On the first call we tried many things, mostly to do with the web-client (browser). But then eventually we reset the APN (Access Point Name), this fixed it for a time, but not for long. I ended up having to reset the APN regularly, and often it did not work. The process was something like: power off, reset APN, pray, turn internet off and on again, test, and repeat.


Today I phoned again. After many wrong paths, we tried to delete the APN, but this saw not possible, so we added a new one. This is the configuration we set for the new APN: Name=3 WAP,

So far it is working.

Software, In the beginning.

20140504 (2014 May 04 Sunday)

This article only concerns the world of computers. If you never use a computer then this is of no use to you, stop reading now. But if you do then read on.

In the beginning [of the world of computers], there was Software, and the software had Freedom, and the Software was Free. The Software had freedom in the beginning. Through Free Software all computations were made; without Free Software no computations were made that have been made. In Free Software was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

“Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them.

When users don’t control the program, the program controls the users. The developer controls the program, and through it controls the users. This nonfree or “proprietary” program is therefore an instrument of unjust power.

Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free pizza”.
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).
The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Do we need Free Software — How can we bring about a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually fulfilling human presence in our computers? — part 0 Introduction — part 1 Where are we now? — part 2 How did we get here? — part 3 What is possible now? — part 4 Where do we go from here?

A single rule for apostrophes.

20140109 (2014 January 09 Thursday)

a sad apostropheApostrophes don’t have to be complicated. Normally we are taught several rules and many exceptions, and are expected to remember them. I have one rule and some examples. (If you already know how to do apostrophes then skip this post, unless you are teaching.)

Rule: Use apostrophes for contractions, that is when a word or words are made shorter by removing letters, use the apostrophe as a place-holder for the missing letters.

Examples simple contraction:

  • it is → it’s
  • it is → ’tis
  • do not → don’t
  • will not → won’t
  • can not → can’t
  • are not → aren’t
  • of the clock → o’clock
  • Holloweven → Hollowe’en
  • cat-of-nine-tails → cat-o’-nine-tails
  • will-of-the-wisp → will-o’-the-wisp
  • it was → ’twas

But not all contractions.

  • gymnasium → gym
  • advertisement → ad
  • etc.

Rule: Use apostrophes for contractions, that is when a word or words are made shorter by removing letters, use the apostrophe as a place-holder for the missing letters.

Examples possession:

  • John his ball → John’s ball
  • the cat its ball → the cat’s ball
  • Sarah hers ball → Sarah’s ball
  • the bus its wheels → the bus’s wheels
  • its ball → its ball
  • his ball → his ball
  • her ball → her ball
  • their ball → their ball

These seem a bit odd in the long form, nobody uses them any more, we always use the short form. However they are useful to help us remember where to put the apostrophe. (The history in this post is made up, it is just an aid to memory.)

We don’t have an apostrophe for Plurals, there is no contraction.
Rule: Use apostrophes for contractions, that is when a word or words are made shorter by removing letters, use the apostrophe as a place-holder for the missing letters.


  • cats → cats
  • dogs → dogs
  • buses → buses
  • TVs → TVs
  • LEDs → LEDs

So what about plurals, possession and words ending in s? The answer is the same.

Rule: Use apostrophes for contractions, that is when a word or words are made shorter by removing letters, use the apostrophe as a place-holder for the missing letters.

Example plurals and possession:

  • the cats there ball → the cats’ ball
  • the girls there ball → the girls’ ball

If a singular noun ends with an s-sound (spelled with -s, -se, for example), practice varies as to whether to add ‘s or the apostrophe alone. A widely accepted practice is to follow whichever spoken form is judged better: the boss’s shoes, Mrs Jones’ hat (or Mrs Jones’s hat, if that spoken form is preferred). In many cases, both spoken and written forms differ between writers. — (paragraph taken from wikipedia)

Years 1990 to 1999 that is the 1990s, the 10 years between 1990 and 1999, but for some reason Americans write 1970’s.

Now for the other anomaly:

Individual letters and numbers when pluralised have an apostrophe.
12341567189 has 3 1’s, not 3 1s, or better 1 appears three times.
abcdaefgahi has 3 a’s, not 3 as, or better a appears three times.

There are a few other exceptions, however this is the simplest system I could think of. One rule that covers over 90% of it, and a few exceptions. If you go by the other systems then these exceptions are exceptions to exceptions to exceptions.

If you do not learn the exceptions then you will be well ahead of every one else. If you need to look up an exception I recommend the Penguin guide to punctuation. Its rules are simple (though the rules on apostrophise, are not as simple as mine), take the result and fit it into your newly learnt model (or just look it up each time, until you learn it).