Find the Right External Keyboard

My MacBook Pro (15-inch, late 2016, with Touch Bar) is a very nice computer. The one thing that has somewhat bothered me is its keyboard with flat and closely spaced keys. I suspect it works well for hunt-and-peck typists. It is not a bad keyboard; it just is not the best for me for extensive typing. (I learned touch typing in school.) Typing on the computer’s keyboard has been slower and less accurate than I could type on my 2012 MacBook Pro. So, I have been looking for an external keyboard.

I have a very nice old Matias TactilePro keyboard. It works well with my new Mac when connected. Its qualities serve as a baseline for desired keyboard characteristics. However it is wired and requires a dongle to connect to the new computer. And, its weight and lack of bluetooth make it unsuitable for portable devices. A keyboard similar to it would be a good place to start.

Good keyboard sources are Matias as well as Logitech. Their websites provide keyboard models and specifications, while retail websites provide models carried and (sometimes) local stock. Websites and personal experience give me desired keyboard characteristics, such as keys working well that have locations easy to feel, bluetooth connectivity, numeric keypad, and backlit keys.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a keyboard is to type on it. I headed to local retailer Micro Center because they have a good selection of Matias and Logitech keyboards in stock and have helpful salespeople. I looked at, typed on, and felt several keyboards before I selected Matias Wireless Aluminum Keyboard with Backlight.

The keyboard types very well. It has the key combinations and special keys normal for a Mac keyboard. It connects easily with my Mac and stays connected. There have been no missed keypresses or delays in typing. My accuracy with it is very good. It has one button pairing with up to four devices. I really like the keyboard.

Itch to Blog Fixed

I have an itch to blog again. An upgrade to my MarsEdit blogging software seemed like a good opportunity, but the path had curves. The software would not connect to the server. I updated plugins and ran into a glitch trying to update security software provided by my hosting provider A2 Hosting. After asking A2 Hosting for help, David P, “WordPress Specialist and General Awesome at A2 Hosting”, fixed the glitch and continued to help.
MarsEdit still would not connect. I could use the web interface for posting, but I do not like doing that. David P found an app at WordPress.com. It works, but works like a single page web browser. I searched for other Mac blogging software and found that MarsEdit is by far the best choice.
Meanwhile, MarsEdit’s developer Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software, also provided several suggestions over a period of days. He reported a strange network problem between my computer and the server. The problem was a “rogue” rule in my network monitoring software. I deleted the rule and MarsEdit now works!
I thank David P and Daniel Jalkut for their help; I consider them both “general awesome”.

With Online Resources, Do We Still Need Computer Science Teachers?

Many online resources help people learn parts of computer science. Code.org is one example. Universities have MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) aplenty. Just put MOOC into your favorite search engine, like DuckDuckGo, to find examples. More resources keep coming. This prompts some to wonder whether we still need computer science teachers.

Alfred Thompson, wrote this CSTA Blog post titled “Do We Still Need Computer Science Teachers?” (CSTA is the Computer Science Teachers Association.) He points out that online resources work for people who can learn for themselves. But,

“For every person who can learn on their own there are thousands who cannot. They need that personal touch.”

Thompson points out that teachers can explain in many different ways and give personalized hints without giving away answers. Further,

“We adapt the curriculum around our students. Is one class more interested in story telling than games? Fine, change the projects. More interested in graphics than console applications? Change the projects. Is everyone in the class doing the same project boring for students and teacher? Fine. Let’s all do something different.”

Automated computing systems are still not good at doing these things. We still need computer science teachers. We need them more than ever with the increase in computing’s importance in our society. His blog post has more. I suggest you read it here.

New Piano Brings High Definition Sound

University music departments’ used piano sales started started my wife and I thinking about upgrading our piano from the small used one we bought some 35 years ago. Wayne State University’s sale was near, so we checked out multiple pianos a couple of days ago. Pianos now come in several shapes and sizes. Our salesman (Paul, from Evola Music) helpfully led us through the many choices. He played and we played and listened to uprights and small grand pianos. A 51 inch tall upright stood out with a full, rich sound. The keys have a luxurious touch that can play a much wider dynamic range than our old piano. We purchased the piano; it was delivered the same day.

At home, the piano’s sound continually amazes. We have experienced sounds we did not know a home piano could make. And, the piano is more fun to play because of its sound and keyboard touch. We certainly have been playing the piano more often. Wow. The experience reminds me of the first times experiencing a new and better sound system. Or, the first times experiencing high definition television (HDTV) in your home.

The piano is a Kawai K-500, in case you would like to check it out.

Get Computer Science into Schools Through Other Classes?

Mark Guzdial posts about Computer Science Education in his Computing Education blog. (I subscribe to email that updates whenever he posts.)  His recent post “Get CS into Schools through Math and Science Classes: What we might lose” is one of his many posts that I like.

Mark Guzdial lists three reasons not to pursue CS through the math/science model (see the post for detail):

  1. Can science and math teachers help us broaden participation in computing?
  2. Do we lose our spot at the table?
  3. Do we lose significant funding for CS in schools?

Math and Science students certainly can benefit by learning CS concepts and CS approaches to modeling and problem solving.  And there is a need in the natural sciences for abilities to analyze data sets in ways CS can help. (See bioinformatics.) However, the benefits of separate CS courses are unlikely to be realized by including CS-related units in other subjects.  Expecting teachers, whose primary interest is in one subject, to teach a secondary subject within their courses is unlikely to lead to adequate coverage of the secondary subject, specially when they are measured by how well their students learn primary subject areas for standardized tests. This approach marginalizes the importance of CS.

The answer is to grow Computer Science courses in our K-12 schools.