No, Every Kid Should Not Learn to Code

Apple has announced another series of “Hour of Code” workshops it some of its retail stores, doubling down on the idea that every child should learn to code. Many people roll out this idea that all kids should be taught to code, but it’s simply wrong.

Sure, learning to program computers and create apps is a useful skill, but coding isn’t for everyone. A good app has code, but it also has intuitive design. Why isn’t Apple running “Hour of Design” workshops for kids? As the arts are essentially absent from education these days, kids aren’t learning about these skills, and only learning to code is only one element of the creation of apps.

While learning to code is useful for skills such as logic and reasoning, only some people have the mindset for this type of thinking. Suggesting that it is essential is leading more and more kids to be pushed in a way that might not suit them.

Teach kids lots of things, but give them more options. I’m surprised that Apple, who truly does care about design, doesn’t broaden their focus. They’d sell just as many iPads – perhaps more – to kids who want to learn creative skills.

Who’d Have Thought that Microsoft Would Come Up with a Good Desktop Computer Design?

Microsoft yesterday introduced their new desktop computer, the Surface Studio. With a 28″ display that has only slim bezels, the device looks very nice. Unlike the iMac, which has very wide bezels (about one inch on the top and sides, and about three and a half inches on the bottom), the Surface Studio display seems to float in the air. Some of my colleagues have said that the two arms holding up the display are “ugly,” but they don’t bother me. Another friend said the base – which houses much of the computer’s innards – is ugly, but that doesn’t bother me either. It both holds the guts of the computer, and stabilizes it.

Surface studio

It’s interesting to see that Microsoft is not only coming out with an innovative design for a desktop computer, but that they’re targeting creative pros, which Apple has all but ignored in recent years. (To be fair, Apple is announcing new Macs later today, and one can hope for some changes to high-end Macs, but I honestly don’t expect much other than updated laptops.)

If you look at the current iMac, you’ll notice that the design has hardly changed in twelve years. The first iMac in this form factor was the iMac G5, released in August 2004. I had one of those for a couple of years, and I liked it a lot. It was innovative for it time, much better than the previous iMac with the hemispherical base. While Apple has improved the guts of the iMac, and notably its display, that form factor – a display mounted on a curved aluminum stand – hasn’t changed. There aren’t a lot of ways to change this, but reducing the overall size of the computer by shrinking the bezels would be a good start; I find my 27″ iMac to be quite imposing, and shaving off a few inches in width and height would make it less so. (I’ve even been considering switching to a 20″ iMac for this reason.)

The real innovation in the Surface Studio is its ability to fold down to a 20 degree angle. I don’t do any graphics work, but I can see how that would be interesting to designers and other graphics professionals. Frankly, I would like to have that to edit text; I like to change positions in my work, and not be locked into sitting the same way all the time. Having a display that folds down would allow me to look at some of my work differently. Also, the 3:2 aspect ratio is interesting; it’s not that different from Apple’s 16:10 aspect ratio, but I don’t need the width; I don’t watch movies on my iMac. Most of my work is with text, hence I would benefit from more height and less width.

The problem with the Surface Studio is, of course, its price. At $3,000, it’s a pretty expensive animal. And it’s not that it’s especially fast, or comes with the best innards. It’s not available with an SSD, and the base model only includes 8 GB RAM. The top-of-the-line model with a 2 TB hybrid drive, the faster processor and GPU, and 32 GB RAM costs a whopping $4,199. (Susie Ochs over at Macworld has a good comparison of the specs of this new Microsoft computer and the current iMac.)

It’s not for me – after all, it runs Windows – but I’m impressed by the design and new functionality. I hope this is enough to awaken Apple, who has been selling the same type of iMac for a dozen years. Making it a bit thinner doesn’t change the overall form factor, and it is perhaps time for Apple to take the lead in new design again.

It’s interesting that it’s Microsoft of all companies that comes out with a computer that looks more modern than a Mac.

The Data Storage Conundrum

We all need to store data: our documents, photos, music files, video files, and more. As time goes on, we have more and more data to store. In addition, we need to backup all that data. I have often said that is not a question of whether a hard drive will die, but when it will.

As such, developing a strategy for storing data can be complicated. You have data on your computer, and if you have a large music and/or video library, you most likely ha additional data on an external hard drive. In addition, you need backups for all that data. The best backup strategy includes multiple backups: one or more Time Machine backups, clones of your startup drive, and redundant backups of your media. Because never forget that one back up isn’t enough: you should always have at least two, in case you lose your original data and you find that your backup is corrupted.

I have a 27″ iMac with a 256 GB internal SSD, and a 4 TB external drive for my media. I also have an additional 2 TB drive for other data: software installers, archives, and other miscellaneous files.

I use two Time Machine drives to back up my startup drive and my music library. I have two redundant backups for my media drive; this means that my music files are backed up both by Time Machine and these redundant backups. My video files, mostly rips of DVDs and Blu-rays that I own, are only backed up twice. As for that extra 2 TB drive, it, too, has double backups.

All this comes at a price. I have lots of hard drives. I have a total of five units, four of which each hold two hard drives. Two of these units are connected to my Mac by a Thunderbolt, and the other three are USB-3 drives.

I would love to simplify this. I would love to have, say, one unit to store all my data, and another unit to back it up. But it’s not that simple. I’m not comfortable with a RAID unit, because the data is not recoverable unless the hard drives are in the exact same RAID unit. In addition, RAID units are noisy. Since they have so many drives, and processors, they need fans. All of the hard drive units I have are fanless, and the only noise they make is that the hard drives spinning. My drives in the shelf unit with boxes in front of them to dampen the noise.

You can buy enclosures that hold multiple drives and don’t use RAID, or configure a RAID unit as JBOD, or “just a bunch of drives.” In that case, each drive appears as a single drive on your computer, whereas a RAID unit shows all of the storage as if it were one drive. But these devices have the same problem: they have fans, and they are noisy.

Another option is using network drives. They would allow me to use either a RAID unit or a multiple-drive enclosure in a location other than my office. However, the limitation of network speed would be problematic at times. Gigabit ethernet may sound fast, but when you’re copying a lot of files, it’s not. Both Thunderbolt and USB-3 are much faster. As such, any device that is connected to a computer will copy files more quickly. This isn’t a big problem for, say, incremental backups, where only new or changed files get copied. If these happen over the network in the background, it doesn’t slow much down, and since these generally run at night (with the exception of Time Machine backups), I wouldn’t notice them anyway. But when you do need access to large files, it is slow. In addition, I would have to run an ethernet cable into another room, because Wi-Fi isn’t fast enough.

So what’s the solution? For now, I haven’t found an ideal solution. Perhaps larger hard drives will make all of this easier: instead of meeting, saying, two 4 TB drives, one 8 TB drive would be enough. So I could cut the number of drives I use in half. But I still need at least two separate drives for Time Machine backups, and at least two separate drives to backup my media files. So I’m not even sure that larger drives will make that much of a difference. Because of the fragility of hard drives, storing data really is a conundrum.

HP’s new logo is the awesome one it never used

HP is launching a global brand offensive today with the ultra-thin Spectre 13 laptop, and one of the subtler changes the company is making is to its logo. Where last year’s Spectre x360 had the full “Hewlett-Packard” written out, the new 13-inch model has just four minimalist slashes making up the “HP” wordmark. HP says it’ll be using this logo solely on its premium laptops.

Hp logo

I can see why designers may like this logo, but if I didn’t know it was HP, and saw it in the wild, I wouldn’t know what it’s supposed to be. I wonder about the logic of using a logo that is so unrecognizable. If they’re only using it on “premium laptops,” then the users will know what it means, but when other people see those laptops, will they think it’s some kind of symbol from Star Wars or something? Or will they equate it with James Bond, when they learn that the laptop model is the “Spectre?”

Source: HP’s new logo is the awesome one it never used | The Verge

Amazon to Ban the Sale of Dangerous USB-C Cables

Amazon is banning the sale of USB-C cables that don’t meet specifications. As Ars Technica reports:

Amazon has added shoddy and non-standards-compliant USB Type-C cables and adapters to its list of restricted products. This means that third-party marketplace sellers can no longer sell USB Type-C products that aren’t compliant with relevant USB standards.

USB-C cables are required to use the 12″ MacBook, as well as some Google Chromebook devices. As I previously reported, a Google employee has been testing cables and reviewing them on Amazon, highlighting which ones are compliant, and he even had one fry his laptop.

What I would like to know is how Amazon is going to certify these cables? If I buy one sold on Amazon, and it still damages my MacBook, can I claim redress from Amazon? It’s a good thing that Amazon is being more stringent, but unless they can guarantee the the cables sold on their site are safe, I’ll still hesitate.