Monday, 8 September 2008

Experience and Learning

From Jonathan Drori: Why we don’t understand as much as we think we do

Jonathan asked four questions near the beginning of his talk:
1. A seed weights next to nothing. Where does the stuff of the tree come from?
2. Can you light a little torch bulb with one piece of wire, a battery and a bulb?
3. Why is it hotter in summer than winter?
4. Can you draw the orbits of the planets?

Surprisingly, I was able to answer all questions correctly, honest! How about you?

The take home lesson of this talk is that learning is more than just collecting experience. Intuition, our collection of experience, is often wrong!

Watch the video to find the answers to the questions above. Near the end of the talk, Jonathan throws two more questions to us:
1. How does an aircraft's wing create lift? (ensure you also explain how planes can fly upside down.)
2. Why is the sea blue? (and why is it blue on cloudy days?)

Friday, 5 September 2008

Google Chrome speed

The general comments from the Web is that G-Chrome has a decent speed. But my little experiment did not support that.

I have a javascript implimentation of Lempel-Ziv compression. I applied that to a file of pure ASCII text of 363382 bytes. Here are the times that each of these browsers took to complete the task:

Mozilla Firefox 23.765s
Microsoft Internet Explore 7.0.5730.13; 37.812s
Google Chrome 138.046s

Google Chrome is the slowest by a large margin.

However for the decompression:
Mozilla Firefox 0.625s
Microsoft Internet Explore 7.0.5730.13; 0.671s
Google Chrome 0.115s

Google Chrome is the fastest by a large margin.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

G-chrome - its implication for learning

The 800-pound G has launched its browser, albeit beta 0.2 and has attracted a lot of attention.

First, the bad news. For learning technology developers, we have one more browser to check in order to ensure that our products are compatible with. Can we test against Google Chrome in lieu of Safari? Probably not!

The potential good news.

Google Chrome has built in Prism functionality. By a single click, a shortcut is created on the desktop for the current web application. This is useful for courses if such application, when created, can also store the user credentials. If yes, students access to courses will be greatly simplified. At the time of writing, Google Chrome does not store any user credential.

Google is also working on a technology called Google Gears which makes a web application into an offline application by storing data locally at the client's harddisk. When such application is installed, the access of some local resources by javascript have been relaxed to allow much smoother and streamline interaction with the application. Again, at this point in time, I don't see signs that Google Gears has been integrated into Google Chrome.

The real good news.

This is a recognition of the importance of Javascript as a significant programming language and that the current Javascript virtual machine is not fast enough. While Google is not the first to do that, (Apple is making significant advances on which Google Chrome is based and Mozilla organisation is also implementing significantly faster virtual machine for its Firefox 3.1 browser), the emphasis on speed in Google Chrome's launch did throw some weight behind such an important issue.

After some preliminary reading, the improvement makes to the virtual machine by these open source effects (Apple, Mozilla and Google) are complementary and not mutually exclusive. Hopefully, someone will pull them together to give us a really fast and robust Javascript virtual machine.