I give a lot of computer buying advice. Usually it’s a friend or relative sending me a link asking if this or that computer is okay. Sometimes I’ll get a request to “tell me if you find any good deals.” I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and the process I go through is pretty much the same for everyone…so here it is! Follow this worksheet to figure out what kind of computer to buy.
Repairing computers can be extremely expensive. If you use services from Geek Squad, Office Depot, or Staples, you’re sure to pay a LOT of money. Is it worth it? For the most part, I don’t think so, but here are the few cases where you definitely should fix your computer.
When I setup a new computer, I go through a process of downloading and installing certain programs to make the system more secure when I surf the Internet. These programs won’t make your computer into a Fort Knox against viruses, but they will definitely raise your defenses higher than most people. In short, I make sure my operating system is updated, install five programs, and then make a few changes to my browser.
Since the last post on computer programming with kids, I've looked at three sofware packages that help you develop apps for Android or iOS: Kivy, Gideros, and Corona SDK. My first impressions follow. Of the three, Kivy is the least user friendly. I'll have to investigate further to find out how the code differs from the Lua programs, but it sure looks less inviting. There is no real user interface. You write up your code in Notepad, then execute it to see what you've got. This could be really awesome if it looked more like Gideros Mobile.
In the weeks since my oldest child began to use Alice, I have bought an Arduino and talked a lot about making and programming robots. This activity and discussion about microcontrollers is positively influencing the older two kids' interests in programming and electronics. Just last night, we pulled apart two old disk drives to see what we could salvage from them. We ended up keeping a couple motors, an LED, and lots of tiny screws that might come in handy one day. Today, they wanted me to hook up the Arduino and make some LEDs light up. There is opportunity to be seized here! Now that my daughter has finished her science presentation, I have a feeling that she is ready to move on from Alice. Today, I looked into several computer programming languages to find one that could be good for her to start off with.
In the past couple months, I've begun to teach my kids how to program. I have three young kids. The oldest is 9. I want to teach them to program because I learned how to program at an early age. While others had the good fortune of learning piano, I was messing around on Apple IIe computers learning Logo and BASIC in elementary school. A few years ago, I tried to have my oldest learn Logo. It did not work out too good. I guess it came down to lack of interest. She asked about it a few times, but never really got into it. For this second go around, I decided to change my approach to emphasize self-direction and initiative on her part. My role would be to facilitate her learning to program any way that grabs her interest. To find some programming tools for kids, I searched for "programming for kids."