A rich problem


OK, I don’t do this often but I’m going to share my latest get rich quick scheme.  Everyone can do it and it’s perfectly legal.

I was inspired to share after watching this video yesterday.  It’s a lesson in Mathematics, Business, and Consumer Studies in itself.

It’s the 99 at the end that got me thinking.  The Canadian penny has been removed from circulation (or at least is in the process) and so prices have to be adjusted accordingly.  This information from the Canadian Mint explains the rounding rules for cash transactions.  The key is cash transactions.  If the transaction ends in .03, .04, .08, or .09, the transaction is rounded up to the next amount that is payable by the remaining currency.  (nickel, dime, quarter, dollar)  If the transaction ends in .01, .02, .06, .07, the final bill is reverted to the lower amount payable by the same currency.

Remember the signs on gas pumps when self-serve became popular “If you pump pennies, you pay pennies”.  Be careful if you’re paying cash.

My first inclination was to hoard until this appeared on Storage Wars.  “A Canadian penny?  That’s a hundred dollar bill all day long”.

If you’re not paying by cash and using debit or credit instead, the exact amount is paid.  So here was my plan.  I would come ready to pay both ways depending upon the final bill.  If it was going to be rounded up and I get charged the extra pennies, I would pay with debit or credit.  If I could make a penny or two by paying cash, I would pay cash.  Mental math was put on trial but you also have to wait for the taxes to be added so I just waited until the cashier gave me the final total.

It seemed to make sense and I tried it, lasting for like one or two days.  By then, it had become too much effort with not much benefit and I realized I could make more money collecting bottles from the ditch while walking the dog.

It really wasn’t original either.  A conversation at Tim Horton’s let me know that others had this plan too.  I wonder if they still are doing it.

Anyway, the wealth of the situation may not be a personal wealth but I think it would be a fun and relevant activity for a Computer Science program.  Write a program that obeys the rules and pays either by cash or debit/credit depending upon the total.  You’d just need some test data.

How about a class bringing in their grocery receipts for a week.  On second thought, it’s probably not a good idea as students would be bound to compare.  The worst would be to find out who buys Heinz ketchup and who buys French’s.  But, in reality when you think about it, it’s not the complete total that’s required.  Just the digits after the decimal.  That would be easily collected and put into an CSV text file.  Perhaps lastname, value.

Then, the program would run and determine the total paid if by cash or debit/credit and how much the savings/cost would be.  Total the value for the class.  What’s the net effect if everyone used cash or if everyone paid with debit/credit or if everyone paid with the best possible option?  It seemed like a fun idea so I whipped up my own in Small Basic.  I didn’t have a class of receipts so just generated some random numbers.  Not surprisingly, I ended up almost even in the process.  So much for getting rich quick.  As I was contemplating this, I realized that it would be a nice exercise in a spreadsheet not dissimilar to what Brandon Grasley did here.

I guess the bottom line is that sometimes the best problems are all around us.  We just have to think them through.  That’s far more interesting and relevant to Canadians since the demise of the penny.  If you’re an American reader, you might want to get prepared.  Word is that you’re thinking of following our lead.

OTR Links 04/27/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A scorecard?


There used to be a time when you didn’t need a scorecard to determine what would run on your computer.

If you had a Windows computer, then you ran Windows programs.

If you had a Macintosh computer, then you ran Macintosh programs.

If you had a Linux computer, then you ran Linux programs.

Nice, neat, wrap it with a bow and call it a plan.

Then, for me, it got a little murky.  I had inherited a Macintosh computer but I really didn’t like the Macintosh software.  Sure, it had Microsoft Office on it, but the Macintosh version of the software lagged badly in comparison to the Windows version.  I did some digging and found that running a Virtual Machine let me run Windows on the computer.  After a bit of playing around, I got it to work.  There’s a difference between working and working well though.  Or, perhaps at the time, the software wasn’t the greatest.  I was happy in the knowledge that I could do it.  I had a Windows computer along side the Macintosh so it just turned out to be an academic exercise.

Later, when I started to make Ubuntu my favoured operating system, there still was a need every now and again to run a Windows piece of software.  Sure, I could reboot the computer and run in native Windows mode.  However, I had done some digging and found that Wine was a wonderful utility that did the trick for me.  After a while, it became hard to know what was what so my “scorecard” was a folder called “Windows software” so that I could differentiate Windows software from Linux software.  

Enter the tablet world.  We were back to first principles here.  The iPad runs iOS software and smart people get it from one place – the Apple App Store.  Android tablets are similar and smart people get their software from one place – the Google Play site.  Both iOS and Android have incredible applications just awaiting installation.  And, it that doesn’t fill the need, there’s always the web where some websites become applications.

While I’ve always differentiated the use between my computers and my iPad, it was Zoe who talked me into going to a computer store a couple of years ago and buying a bluetooth keyboard/case for it.  Now, I can use it like a regular computer albeit with a smaller keyboard.  It requires a bit of balancing to get the true “laptop” experience but works wonderfully when perched on a table.

One piece of technology that I haven’t used seriously is the Chromebook.  We borrow some from the Waterloo board for onsite registration devices for the BIT Conference and I got to get my hands on Jamie Casap’s Pixel while helping him set up for his keynote a few years ago.  Nice devices (Jamie’s was really nice) but why would I want a separate device when I could just run the Chrome browser on my computer?  

Then, as she said “curiouser and curiouser”.  

The Chromebook became a device that didn’t require continuous internet ability.  You could run some of its applications in standalone with no networking.  Now, this gets really interesting.  Just like a tablet with limited storage, you couldn’t download every application available.  But, for the discriminating user, downloading a selected set of Chrome applications makes a great deal of sense.  The operative point here is “Chrome applications”.  If you do a search on the Google Play store, you’ll realize that’s only a subset of all that’s available.  There’s also all those Android applications…

Then, I read this article this morning.  “A million Android apps are apparently coming to Chrome OS“.  It comes with more than just speculation, but a screen capture.

I suppose that we should have seen this coming.  Both Android and Chrome OS have Linux roots and I’m sure that there have been very smart people at Google thinking and working through this for some time now.  Imagine all of your favourite applications running on a laptop with a real keyboard and not an add-on.   The approach looks incredibly sound to me and the beneficiaries will be those who like to combine the best of the web with the best of the local applications.  It’s pretty exciting when you picture the possibilities, particularly in education where these devices are proving to be very affordable and very functional in the hands of students.  And it’s not just for schools with their tight budgets, but for homes with their budgets.  It is not only attractive for initial purchase and the functionality afforded but also when it comes time to upgrade.  If all this comes to fruition, it will make shelling out the big bucks for a traditional computer a tough decision.

Is anyone keeping score?

OTR Links 04/26/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Skills … and then more skills


Lifehacker yesterday shared a story where they quote and reference an article from “former Stanford dean and author Julie Lythcott-Haims” about eight skills that you should have by the time that you’re eighteen.  There’s got to be a sketchnote in there, Sylvia.

I looked up and down the list and found it difficult to argue with the points.

The original list came from a Quora post “What are the skills every 18-year-old needs?”

I’ll admit clicking through to the Quora post is interesting because it’s here that she really fleshes out her thoughts on the skills.  It’s part of a book that she wrote.  The skills are important and would make for a great poster in every secondary school classroom.  Maybe even a modified word wall?  You know how to create one if you read this post.  “Interactive Word Walls

I shared it and plunked it away in my Readings Flipboard and then moved on to the next article in my early morning reading.  My work here is done.

Not so quick, Mr. Reader.

I got a challenge.  iCoder1978 had his hand up.

I’ll confess; I don’t typically go into the comments section with the same enthusiasm that I do with the original article.  Often, when I do, it’s just for the entertainment value of anonymous posters going on about something completely off the wall.  Sadly, there are times when spammers get in and try to sell things so it’s not necessarily a regular part of my reading routine.

In this case, I guess I should have.

In addition to the eight in the article, there are so many other good ideas that reinforce how difficult it is to be a parent or an educator.  Here I cherry picked another eight from the comment section.

  1. Hear an opinion or worldview different from your own, and actually listen to it without interrupting or losing your damn mind
  2. Assess a casualty and perform basic first aid
  3. Learn how to spell/use proper grammar in written business or professional communications
  4. Create passwords stronger than “123456″
  5. Have knowledge of human reproduction and contraceptives as well as emergency contraceptives
  6. Change a car tire
  7. Forgive and move on
  8. Understand and utilize the core elements of good table manners

And a bonus …

  1. know how credit cards and loans work.

I stand redirected.  In this case, there are considerable bits of wisdom in the comments. 

There’s just an incredible wealth of information and advice between the original article and the comments.  If I’m doing a lesson on Life Skills or Guidance, I think I would be tempted to introduce the article to the class and then break up into small groups to analyse the skills and comments.

Just be warned – the internet commenters didn’t disappoint – there is some advice/comment that’s a little less than helpful.

So, a tip of the cap to Jangal Nara for directing me to the comments.  It was well worth revisiting for the comments.

OTR Links 04/25/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Whatever happened to …


PCGlobe?

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

This was one of the first curricular pieces of software that this Computer Science teacher installed on the Unisys Icon network in my classroom.  Sure, it was a DOS application but it ran nicely in the DOS emulator that sat on top of the QNX operating system.  It only required 16 colours and CGA graphics.  For nostalgia, check out:  http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=971

Once installed, I ended up sharing the computers with the Geography teacher for a unit so that his students could explore the software (and the world).

In my Computer Science class, we worked it for every angle that I could think of.  

  • It was one of the first applications we used that actually put the trackball to use as a mouse emulator in DOS;
  • With the hands of a surgeon, we could name a country (middle European worked nicely) and try to put the cross hairs over a country to get the details from the application.  You could see it move from pixel to pixel.  Switzerland was always a favourite;
  • We borrowed a print atlas and encyclopaedia from the library and compared the answers from there to the electronic version for accuracy and depth of information;
  • It was probably the first in-depth application of a database that students experienced electronically.  Sure, they had worked with the goofy 10 entry examples in class but here we had the world;
  • The database actually led to a project.  Dividing students into groups, they used some of the information there (and from the traditional atlas) to build our own “comprehensive” database, stored it in ASCII format, and then wrote some programs to query that database.  It led to some authenticity to their coding;
  • We talked about the importance of a database administrator for keeping the database accurate.  Sure, the database was good the moment that it went into production but population and even countries and their borders would change by the time it shipped.  It’s even more important today.  Check out the two screen captures below from Google Maps and Bing Maps of downtown Amherstburg.  Provincial highway 18 used to run through the town; now it’s Country Road 20.  One for the nostalgia fans!

  • It served as inspiration for one of my first computer curriculum writing projects – “PCGlobe Across the Curriculum”.  We milked the information there for every idea and cross-curricular concept that we could;
  • We had used PCGlobe 3.0 and 5.0 and they worked nicely.  A later version, PCGlobe Maps-N-Facts, wasn’t purchased.

At the time, it was a truly ground breaking application, opening doors for ideas and implementation is classrooms other than Geography.

I think it’s also a perfect example of something being made obsolete by followup technology.  The internet with its back end ability to make changes, political and geographically, almost instantly made installing a static atlas just a fond memory.  Now, “See how borders change on Google Maps depending on where you are“.

Today’s teachers will either:

  • remember using PCGlobe as a tool in their classroom – it might even have been used at an education faculty;
  • or, remember using PCGlobe as a student.

So, a few questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • what does an atlas/encyclopaedia look like in today’s connected classroom?
  • when you need the information traditionally delivered by an atlas/encyclopaedia, where do you look?
  • has your district licensed a product that you use regularly for this purpose?  If so, what is it and would you recommend it for others?
  • in today’s world with changing political situations, who do you trust for the latest, non-biased results?