Friday, October 12, 2012

Open Book Exams

I am surprised that schools are still conducting examinations the old usual way.

As explained here, life is not about memory capacity anymore. It is about sieving memory. Finding the needle in the haystack is not a good enough analogy, as the smart guy will just deploy a metal detector.

I suppose a tougher challenge is not merely opened books, but how to allow the use of the world-wide web in examinations without the ability to contact another live human being. Even intelligent databases or systems that allow asking interactive questions should be permitted.

Perhaps here is an opportunity for Google - how to duplicate a section of the www such that everything in the world's knowledge repository can still be fully accessed but short of human assistance and contact. Besides schools, the military and prison authorities would be interested.

We all know that we are quite helpless during the few moments we are without Internet access. But we don't want to be too dependent on it. Imaging surviving an air crash in good shape but only to die because in the jungle you can't Google for Newton's laws or on methods to make fire or collect water.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Scripting FTP in Windows PowerShell

What was supposed to be a straighforward task took me more than an hour.

I out-file my commands to a text file:

"ftpUserName`r`nSecretPassword`r`nDIR`r`nQUIT" | out-file ftpCommands.txt

And then:

ftp -i -s:ftpCommands.txt

But it did not work.  It says:

331 Password required for f.

and after a while:

User cannot log in.
Login failed.

It turns out that the default encoding for Out-File is Unicode.  That added two bytes to the beginning of the file ftpCommands.txt.  Somehow, the -s option of ftp does not open the file in the Windows way but treated the file literally byte for byte.

By explictly adding -Encoding ASCII to the Out-File command solved the problem.