My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Friday, December 21, 2012

patent blues

Give the software patent industry a big, fat raspberry.

Back around 1987, I told a friend who asked me what kind of computer to buy that I didn't like Microsoft for the way they were muscling and hustling the industry.

He asked me if he should then avoid Microsoft, and I admitted that the offerings from Atari and Commodore and the rest of the alternatives, while I liked many of the companies, had the detriment that they were under-represented in the kind of software he needed.

He asked about Apple, and I said, if I didn't like Microsoft, the only reason I didn't hate Apple was that they weren't in the predominant position that Microsoft was.

I told him, I would not like to live in a world where Apple had a defacto monopoly.

Prescience, or what?

So, what did I advise him to do?

Buy the computer for the software he needed, and if he needed more than one, buy more than one.

(If only people had been willing to do that back then, buy the Apple for the kids, for the computer-aided art, etc., buy the IBM compatible for Lotus and WordPerfect, buy Sun for the servers, and learn enough about how to use their computers that they would know to hold their noses when the smelled the stench of anything Microsoft produced.)

It's still good advice, except that I'm going to add Apple to the hold-your-nose category. Buy Apple or Microsoft if you absolutely have to, but don't breathe too deeply, and go to a bit of extra effort to avoid having to.

So, what do I recommend now?

Learn Linux and BSD and the applications that work on those machines. Replace your Apple and Microsoft products as you find reasonable alternatives. Go to a little extra effort to avoid the data-traps Apple and Microsoft lay for you.

Can we trust Google and RedHat? Yes, sort-of, now. More than Apple and Microsoft.

But, and this is the key idea to understand here, systems are dangerous things when they are advocated. (There are historical, psychological, and mathematical reasons for those dangers, and the history goes back well before the beginnings of what we know call the computer industry. Way, way back before that.)

Purveyors of systems, when they get overly anxious to be the one-and-only system, should all be avoided. Google may seem great for now, but once they establish an effective monopoly, give them no more than ten years and they'll be doing the same things that rot out all the good companies, the same things that undid all the good Microsoft and Apple ever did. (Notwithstanding that they do have a better track record than either Microsoft or Apple at this point. Much better track record.)

Any single company that gets that large is going to have this kind of problem.

It would be nice if the Free/Libre software movement could stabilize and provide the technological underpinnings to an industry where there would be lots of small players and lots of consortia, but if Linux-based OSses take over the world, and if the EFF (great players that they are) become the only advocate, we ultimately head for the same problems.

One system to rule them all. That always leads to an evil result.

(Having a triumvirate of Google, Apple, and Microsoft is not a good long-term plan, either, although it's good for now and the next couple of years or so.)

Why must this be so? Why are human systems always going to go south?

Turn the question around: How do you expect humans, even if we can lengthen our life-span to a thousand years, to build anything close to a perfect system?

That kind of perfection literally takes an eternity to achieve. And it should not surprise us that this is so.

Systems are okay to make. In fact, they are good to make, as long as our hubris doesn't prevent us from letting them go when it's time to move on, and as long as our hubris doesn't prevent our systems from getting along with our neighbors' systems, too.

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Courtesy is courteous.