2015-06-04

Ramblings on Depth and Breadth in Introductory Science Teaching

About a week ago, I was having dinner with a friend, and the topic of teaching in various science disciplines came up; he got his degree in biology, while I got mine in physics. One of the things that we both noticed in our undergraduate careers was that introductory physics classes tend to go fairly deep right away, focusing only on a few broad topics, whereas introductory biology classes go much more for breadth, with the depth coming in specific topics in later classes. It took us a little time to think of why this might be. I think we came up with a reasonable explanation, so follow the jump to see what that explanation might be (along with extensions of it).

A few warnings are in order. One is that although I've gone through a full undergraduate course sequence in physics, I have only taken one introductory biology class in my undergraduate studies, so I'm essentially comparing an insider view of one subject to an outsider view of another; worse, my insider view of physics was built over 4 years so it is fairly fresh in my memory, whereas my outsider view of biology came in a single semester 4 years ago, so my memory of it is rather fading (though it is augmented by the problem sets and exams that I saved on my computer). Therefore, some things I say about biology might as well come from my posterior. Given all this, if you see that I say something horribly wrong about biology (or physics, for that matter), tell me in the comments! The other is that this post may seem rambling and incoherent at times; that's because this is more of a brainstorm than anything else.

2015-05-31

Featured Comments: Week of 2015 May 24

There was one post that got a few comments this past week, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: Kubuntu 15.04 "Vivid Vervet"

An anonymous reader said, "I agree with you, kubuntu is still not stable and cannot be recommended for production."
Commenter jongleren countered, "It might not be stable. I like it though on my vivobook. And it looks great! And it is much faster than kde4. So promosing at least."
Another anonymous reader had this suggestion: "I had similar issues on a notebook with nVidia graphics when using the nouveau driver. Installing the proprietary nvidia driver fixed it."

Thanks to all of those people for those comments. This coming week, I do plan to have another post out, given that I may have a little more time to write such a post. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!

2015-05-25

Review: Kubuntu 15.04 "Vivid Vervet"

This month has been quite busy for me with classes. Now that the semester is finally over, I have a little more time, and that means I have enough time to do a review. It has been a few years since I've reviewed Kubuntu, the officially-supported variant of Ubuntu that uses KDE. Moreover, Kubuntu now features KDE 5 (I know the KDE naming and numbering system has become a lot more complicated, so this is, as a physicist might say, an intentional abuse of notation) as stable for the first time, so I figured I should try this version. I tried it as a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. (It should become progressively clearer through this review why there are no pictures.)

2015-04-21

Review: Linux Mint Debian 2 "Betsy" MATE

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
It has been over a year since I've reviewed Debian-based Linux Mint. Since then, some major changes have occurred. The most notable is that Debian-based Linux Mint is no longer a rolling-release distribution but is largely based on the upcoming stable release of Debian (version 8 "Jessie"), though it should continue to get updates for major applications like Mozilla Firefox. Given its shift to a new stable base, I figured it would be time for another review. I checked out the MATE 64-bit edition (due to certain issues with the 32-bit version not being able to detect multiple processor cores) on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. As with the previous review, I am linking to it and only highlighting changes.

2015-04-13

Review: Sabayon 15.02 KDE

This weekend has been a little slower than usual for work, so I have a little more time to do a review. Several weeks ago, I downloaded the latest version of Sabayon and kept it for a time (as now) when I'd be free to do a review. Moreover, looking through the archives of this blog, I realized that it's been almost 3 years since I've looked at Sabayon, so a fresh review is long overdue.

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
For those who don't remember, Sabayon is a rolling-release distribution based on Gentoo, though unlike its parent, it does not require users to compile packages by hand. It used to have a strong multimedia focus and a bit of a heavy metal-type image, but since then, it has broadened its focus to be a good general-use distribution where things work out-of-the-box. Moreover, its main focus used to be KDE, but now it offers a variety of DEs too.

I don't know exactly when this change happened, but now Sabayon is only usable on 64-bit systems, so take note. I tested the live version of the KDE edition on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. This review is a bit short for two reasons: one is that I am mainly pointing out differences compared to my previous review, and the other is something that will become clear by the end of the review.

2015-03-23

Review: Korora 21 "Darla" Cinnamon

Main Screen + Cinnamon Menu
I wanted to do this review a few weeks ago but didn't get the chance until now. Anyway, although I have reviewed Korora a few times before on this blog, I have not reviewed its Cinnamon edition until now. I particularly wanted to try the Cinnamon edition mainly because I seem to have bad luck whenever I try other distributions with Cinnamon, so I wanted to see if that would change here. As usual, I tried it as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

2015-02-09

Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.12 "Ascella" Xfce

It has been a while since I reviewed Manjaro Linux. In fact, my last review of it was almost 2 years ago. Since then, I have seen a lot of news about how much it has grown and how good it has gotten. I figured I should give it another review.

Manjaro Welcome + Whisker Menu
For those who don't remember, Manjaro is a distribution that based on Arch Linux. It maintains a rolling-release base, and it is compatible with most Arch repositories, though some of its repositories are its own. It officially supports KDE and Xfce, though community editions exist for other DEs as well.

Several weeks ago, I tried to test it using MultiSystem, but the live USB didn't boot. This time, though, it worked using UnetBootin after following this set of instructions. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

2015-01-15

Review: Linux Mint 17.1 "Rebecca" Xfce

Main Screen + Whisker Menu
Recently, the Xfce edition of Linux Mint 17.1 "Rebecca" was released. It and the MATE edition are notable in featuring...Compiz! This really caught my eye, so I wanted to review it. There are several other changes too, so I figured that it would be worthwhile to review the Xfce edition rather than the MATE edition, given that I already tried the MATE edition of Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" not too long ago. Note that Ubuntu-based Linux Mint is sticking only to LTS releases, so a major release will roughly coincide (lagging by a month or so) with the Ubuntu LTS release, and then decimal point releases will be put out every 6 months or so and be given a new code name while still sticking with the last LTS release as its base. As far as this review goes, I tried this as usual as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

2015-01-04

Featured Comments: Week of 2014 December 28

Happy new year 2015! This past week, there were two comments on one post. I will repost both of those.

Review: CentOS 7.0 GNOME

An anonymous reader said, "Both CentOS and Scientific are straighforward recompilations of RHEL, with trademarks, logos, etc., removed. It's no surprise you found them much alike, because they are essentially identical. Flash and any other closed source non-FOSS products violate Red Hat's policy on FOSS, and leave it -- and the customers it indemnifies -- vulnerable to law suits. Ditto CentOS and Fedora. While RHEL/CentOS can be tweaked to make it an acceptable desktop (at least for my purposes) both are quite obviously enterprise products, and marketed as such."
Commenter Kamlesh Sheth had a suggestion (which I had already tried): "you can easily tweak centos to delight by following www.dedoimedo.com".

Thanks to both of those folks for commenting on that post. I am back at Princeton now to take my final exams this month and start research for real. Again, this means that my post frequency will be at least once per month, but I can't guarantee a higher frequency than that, and I can't guarantee specifically what I will post. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!

2014-12-29

Review: CentOS 7.0 GNOME

A little over two months ago, I reviewed Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME. The results weren't too pretty. A commenter on that post suggested that I try CentOS 7 to see if the problems are related to the whole Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)/CentOS 7 family or to Scientific Linux 7 specifically. This review aims to do exactly that.

For those who don't remember, CentOS is essentially the free (as in beer) community branch of RHEL. It used to be a separate distribution whose developers took great pains to expunge any mention of RHEL from every part of the distribution, as they did not want to officially license the RHEL trademark. Now, though, CentOS is officially part of RHEL, which should hopefully make life a bit easier for the CentOS developers.

I tried CentOS 7.0 GNOME on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. (As will become clear soon enough, there are no pictures in this review, and for the same reason, this review will be relatively shorter. Suffice it to say for now that the distribution basically looks identical to Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME from screenshots.)