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Young Irish Scientists Win Award for Linux Project

emmett posted about 15 years ago | from the this-is-just-plain-cool dept.

Science 66

Trevor Johnston writes "Last week, three Irish students used a Linux box together with an old Basic programming language running on an Amiga emulator to display graphically the output of their own computer learning program. For their troubles they were awarded 'Best Use of Information Technology' at Ireland's Young Scientist Exhibition."

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See what open source can do... (1)

alekzandr (14721) | about 15 years ago | (#1339884)

It is just delightful to see this, graphics done in Amiga Blitz Basic, emulated under linux. What will they think of next? Alekzandr

Amiga... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339885)

Amiga users would claim this is proof that the Amiga is still alive and kicking :)

Re:3rd post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339886)

Why thankyou :)
(I posted #3)

So? (0)

jesser (77961) | about 15 years ago | (#1339887)

Their program isn't all that impressive -- it just chooses between two pre-programmed strategies by trying each one a few times.

Also, I noticed that the guy who submitted the article to slashdot was one of the winners.


Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339888)

This hasn't exactly been a slow day on slashdot, so they can't use that excuse for posting it.

Re:Amiga... (1)

PhaseBurn (44685) | about 15 years ago | (#1339889)

Amiga is definatly alive... my school uses Amiga boxes as a "Video Toaster", or in layman's terms, it is what pops up all the cool graphics onto the TV programs such as names and captions for news shows. I've reprogrammed them a few times, actually, and they're good little machines!

Not a big deal (2)

Skankmofo (12963) | about 15 years ago | (#1339890)

The award they were given has almost nothing to do with the tech. they presented. From their description, the whole contest sounds somewhat bland and menial.

The only interesting thing is the fact that they wrote it for Amiga, though they really didnt have to use it. They said that the only reason Amiga was used was because the programmer had experience in that area, not because Amiga was much better for what they were doing.

Also, the Linux program was written using C++.

Re:Behind closed doors... (1)

antisocial77 (74255) | about 15 years ago | (#1339891)

Ofcourse, one must consider the fact that it's probably a greater achievment if they actually DID do it drunk. Hell, I don't think I could get past "Hello World!" after 6 beers!

What's the big deal? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339892)

To save a lot of /. readers the trouble, I'll now post a summary of the the next 42 messages:

I was doing that with linux before I was 4 years old! (See related story [slashdot.org] )

Originality is what counts.. (3)

crlf (131465) | about 15 years ago | (#1339893)

As a teen myself, I have been to these kinds of Science Compititions (Timmins, my hometown, hosted the Canadian wide science compitition for high-school students last year). I find it disgusting when some kids actually fool their way up to the top by actually using other people's innovations. I once seen this kid that used a 3d modeller in windows, and recreated his hometown, claiming it to be some sort of "Virtual Map", that's about it. Nothing new there, sure, it looks cool, and the judges will gawk and of course they win the prize, ech, disgraceful to the informed community at large.

Anyhow, I really like the fact that these kids actually took their time and interest to develop something that although may seem a little redundant, they actually learn something useful and bring some perticular incite to others.

Keep it Up! :)

it's still nifty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339894)

if nothing else.

and it beats rob pretending to be Keanau Reaves in the Matrix (or maybe Regis Philbin on HWTBAM?)

Slashdot Grammar Strikes Back (0)

lorelei (120972) | about 15 years ago | (#1339895)

Awarded what? "To Award" is a transitive verb, and thus requires an object. One doesn't just award, or even award to. One awards something to someone. Why do I bore myself with such pedantry? Because Slashdot is becoming so dull and jejune that there's not much else to comment on. So let's all pick on Slashdot's never-took-a-writing-class style. And then wonder what site will replace Slashdot? Ars Technica?

my sausage is *quite* a novelty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339896)

at least that's what hemos tells me. were going to hawaii to get married, so look for more pics of the slashdorks soon.

Re:my sausage is *quite* a novelty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339897)

i'm already hot! i can't wait!


Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339898)

Uhhhhmm.... I doubt you (MR. ALLCAPS, THAT IS) would have any USE for ANY code, much less slash's code. (Because you're STOOPID!)

And what's this about "stolen code"? If the /. crew writes the code, it's theirs, plain and simple. If they want to release a version of it to other people under the GPL, that's their choice, and they're doing a service to the community, since THEY ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION to do jack shit, period.

Mild-mannered millionaire playboy by day, Anonymous Coward by night...


Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339899)

You know it does help your "aparent IQ" to actually remember that its /. (slash-dot) not dot-slash. Maybe your actuall iq is to low to realise it but ohh well its worth a shot....

I don't see how Linux is so important here. (1)

auntfloyd (18527) | about 15 years ago | (#1339900)

It seems like they based their choice of OS on the fact that one guy used it, and they had a free C++ compiler for it. So what? There are free C++ compilers for Windows, DOS, OS/2, pretty much anything, even if it is just a GCC port.

And what's the deal with the Amiga emulator? Why not learn how to use GTK? It's not that hard, and is much more impressive, not to mention easier, than hacking a bunch of Amiga and Linux programs together.

I really can't see how this was posted. Great for the kids and all, but really content-light.


Re:3rd post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339901)

No you didn't. I did.

Science Fairs (2)

Captn Pepe (139650) | about 15 years ago | (#1339902)

So these students have developed a rudimentary adaptive processing algorithm ... great! As a participant in science fairs all through middle and high school, I can say two things about them right away -- on the whole, little original actually gets done, but the mere experience of performing experimental research in what passes for a peer-review environment has produced quite a few outstanding student (and later, professional) scientists. Moreover, at each science fair, I invariably made an assortment of contacts that later proved important to my future career as a student and researcher.

So, anyway, don't knock them for reproducing ancient and well-studied algorithms. Instead, encourage them for trying to develop something at all, and hope they continue to do so.


Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339903)

Boy, I wish that some people would REALIZE that when they're ranting about someone's APPARENT IQ, and making errors left and right, that they are ACTUALLY the one that is TOO stupid...

Just a thought.

Stay out of Dublin, mate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339904)

or we'll knock your yankee lights out! J/K.

C'mon down and we'll have a pint o' Guiness or two (or more likely 7)


Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339905)



Re:Slashdot Grammar Strikes Back (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339906)

Why do I bore myself with such pedantry?

According to your user profile, you've already harassed Slashdot about grammar three times today. I think perhaps you need to become an 8th grade English teacher (assuming that you aren't one already).

I'm serious. Dead serious.

Re:What's the big deal? (1)

TheDuke (29612) | about 15 years ago | (#1339907)

Damnit, I really wish I had moderator points. That was funny as hell.

2 armed bandit problem (4)

gargle (97883) | about 15 years ago | (#1339908)

It has two methods with which to complete the task and by running a certain amount of games, the computer can work out which is the better method to use.

This is actually the 2 armed bandit problem: you have a 2 armed jack pot machine, and everytime you pull an arm, it gives a certain payoff, but the payoff is probalistic. So do you keep pulling the arm that has the higher average payoff? Or do you try the other arm? It's a tradeoff between exploitation and exploration, and the solution is surprisingly mathematically involved (see Gasoml [amazon.com] by Goldberg).

John Holland showed in the 70s that the genetic algorithm is a near optimal solution to this problem. So in a simple way, these students have rediscovered the essential issues of genetic algorithms.

Stop hogging the glory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339909)

You did not get third post.
You were not even close.
You should not be so quick to boast
when you were not even close.

Re:Behind closed doors... (1)

the_tsi (19767) | about 15 years ago | (#1339910)

I code on Jack Daniels all the time. Maybe sometime I'll learn to write a program that works. Gee, if I use their software I'd learn faster that my method sucks.


Re:Behind closed doors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339911)

piss drunk is the ONLY way to code x86 asm.

**BZZZT** Please try again. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339912)

What Slashdot failed to mention (And this is a BIG surprise) is that these Irish kiddiez ARE NOT IN FACT IRISH!

A quick look at the "Trevor Johnston" [farmsex.com] reveals that he is, in fact, a RECENT CUBAN IMMIGRANT. What does this mean? I think we all know that you can't immigrate from Cuba. So, you ask yourself, what does that mean? Well, it means, fair reader, that he was sent to Ireland by the CUBAN GOVERNMENT.

And, why, pray tell, would Castro want people in Ireland? Upon reflection, even the biggest simpleton will find the truth (though it apparently eludes emmett, whose left-wing leanings are well-known): that the commies are hatching a plot to DOMINATE SCIENCE FAIRS AROUND THE GLOBE!

Think about it: if only communists win science fairs, then only science fair winners will be communists. With every Part member being prize-winning scientists, the risk that the Reds will dominate the world grows far too strong, certainly for my tastes.

In conclusion, I am deeply saddend to see Slashdot, once a proud Republican news site reduced to printing Commie propaganda. I hope this 'emmett' character will get what he deserves for such un-American activities: forced labor in the salt mines of Utah, with all the other pinkos, like that horrid RobLimo character.

Re:2 armed bandit problem (1)

jesser (77961) | about 15 years ago | (#1339913)

A quick google search reveals a little bit of information [umass.edu] on the "n-armed bandit problem". This general problem is interesting. I wonder what kind of solution these linux programmers found.

Although I'm not familiar with the n-armed bandit problem, it looks like these kids took a very simple case of the problem: only two strategies to choose from, and the only possible outcome is catch the white square's trail within n moves, or don't catch its trail within n moves. (I may be mistaken here.. it's possible that they simply counted the number of moves each time).

Also, since they don't seem to switch between strategies during the game, why not run 10000 simulations each way first, store the statistical information (probability of catching, or probability for each number of moves), and then run the AI program on this statistical data?



Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339915)

CmdrTaco: Now you will pay OpenSourceMan !

OSM: I sense much fear in you ! Yes, you are afraid of Open Source !

CmdrTaco: Oh yeah ? Take him away !

( I just love the "take him away" phrase :)

Re:2 armed bandit problem (2)

gargle (97883) | about 15 years ago | (#1339916)

Yes, the problem is here much too simple to be interesting, but you can see them groping towards the idea of genetic programming, which is extremely interesting from a philosophical standpoint, and is also a powerful way of automatically evolving computer programs that solve difficult problems. There's a nice article by Salon here [genetic-programming.com] on the topic.

Re:Behind closed doors... (3)

technos (73414) | about 15 years ago | (#1339917)

I write code piss drunk all the time. (read: I've finished the sixer of stout and I've moved on to rum.) The problem seems to be the next morning, when I have to look at the uncommented lump of spaghetti who's purpose I only half-remember.

As a whole, 1/8 of the stuff I produce greatly exceeds my sober level; it is perfectly brilliant. 1/4 of it is marginally competent, my norm. The rest of it is not fit for the light of the CRT, and may be only slightly more intellegible than Vogon poetry fed through Babelfish.

Brilliant or not, I usually just 'rm -rf *' it; I never have the same grasp of it again.

Re:Slashdot Grammar Strikes Back (1)

locutus074 (137331) | about 15 years ago | (#1339918)

Awarded what?
For their troubles they were awarded 'Best Use of Information Technology' at Ireland's Young Scientist Exhibition."
One doesn't just award, or even award to. One awards something to someone.
For their troubles they were awarded 'Best Use of Information Technology' [an award] at Ireland's Young Scientist Exhibition."

Educational value of Open Source (2)

ikluft (1284) | about 15 years ago | (#1339919)

Open Source software and the Internet (which are dependent upon each other) make self-training like this possible. I think this is one way that Linux acts as an equalizer, making involvement in bigger projects available to younger people all the time.

Ten years ago, you'd have needed to be in a university to get the resources to tinker with that kind of project. Now it's in high school science projects. That's got to be progress...

I think this story is a fine example of what a benefit Open Source can be for Computer Science education.

Re:I don't see how Linux is so important here. (1)

luckykaa (134517) | about 15 years ago | (#1339920)

Why not learn how to use GTK?

I take it you've never used Blitz Basic. It really is a wonderful package for doing what the Amigas good at (i.e games with lots of fast moving graphics)

I'd love to see a verion of Blitz for Linux. Despiter its flaws (Full of arbitrary limits, and actually more cryptic when creating windows than the C interface due to lack of #defines) it really was fun to use.

Programming whilst drunk (2)

jfunk (33224) | about 15 years ago | (#1339921)

Lemme guess, you did that to increase your hacker purity test score?

I did, as well. Actually, you get another point for attempting to increase the score.

Ah, those high school days...

Try it stoned (1)

bongo2000 (141048) | about 15 years ago | (#1339922)

Programming is great craic when you're stoned.
Very slow but very sure.


Naivete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339923)

This doesn't tell anything about Linux because: 1. The other IT projects were apparently very crappy. 2. Because their program can use a simple method to choose between 2 alternatives, they conclude that extreme AI is a sure thing. 3. They chose C++ over symbolic languages for their `AI' program because that's what they knew, instead of doing the right thing, which was learning how to use the appropriate tool. They conclude C++ `proved itself'. Well, the only thing that was proved is that the algorithm was simple enough so that you could get by with C++. But their program doesn't scale. If you need to start adding a lot of fancy reasoning, C++ is a catastrophic choice (even if you're just porting an application already written in a symbolic language, not R&Ding it). 3. Nitpick: I doubt Amiga BASIC is the best for some quick simple 2D graphics. I think LOGO should still be it. And it's portable w/o requiring an emulator.

Re:Programming whilst drunk (1)

Colitis (8283) | about 15 years ago | (#1339924)

>Lemme guess, you did that to increase your hacker purity test score?

>I did, as well. Actually, you get another point for attempting to increase the score.

Gee, I thought the usual procedure for increasing the purity score was to do things like copulating with a domestic animal whilst in a land vehicle of more than 50,000 tons and the like. You pick up multiple points simultaneously this way, much more efficient.

Amiga RULES (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339925)

så äre!

Neal Stephenson's writings (2)

DragoonAK (17095) | about 15 years ago | (#1339926)

In a very early excerpt of 'Cryptonomicon' he addresses the idea of genetic programming. Somebody wanted a program to identify schizophrenic people over the Internet, so they bred programs using their ability to recognize mental disease in conversations. Of course, you can't just hook up patients and have them talk to consoles fast enough, so they also created paranoid programs. It was an interesting excerpt, and he's said it will be in the sequel to Cryptonomicon.

Of course, The Diamond Age also featured evolutionary design - the nanites, remember?

Re:Behind closed doors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339927)

Can tell you're a Merkin, since you think that 6 beers is enough to get pissed on, and this on top of the fact that American beer is similar to making love in a canoe. :-)

Re:Originality is what counts.. (2)

K. (10774) | about 15 years ago | (#1339928)

> I find it disgusting when some kids
> actually fool their way up to the top by
> actually using other people's innovations

Too true. I remember my physics teacher and
some jock types trying to get together an entry
for the same competition using Fractint. They
had no intention even of reviewing the
maths behind it, they were just going to run
it a few times and get some pretty pictures.
Thankfully, they didn't make it to the finals.

Anyway, congrats to the 3 involved with this.
If nothing else, they've made sure that
the Young Scientist awards have made it onto
Slashdot 2 years in a row ^_^


No big deal (1)

Sanity (1431) | about 15 years ago | (#1339929)

Without wanting to brag - I entered that competition 4 times when I was at school and came away with 2 first prizes, 1 third prize, one award from the Irish Computer Society, one from the Irish government, one from the Irish Institute of Physics, not to mention one highly commended.

But enough about me, I would guess that about one in every 5 computer related projects at the competition currently makes use of Linux. I don't see what makes this one so special.


This ain't fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339930)

I once mounted a Linux flopyy drive, shared it out through NFS. Mounted it on another Linux machine, created a swap file on the floppy and started using it. Extream distributed computing, eh? But nobody awarded me. But it was fun to see how floppy started rolling when I run X and all other memory consuming apps. This was 5-6 years ago, on a 486 PC with 4MB of RAM :)

Re:Originality is what counts.. (1)

Sanity (1431) | about 15 years ago | (#1339931)

There are often some really cool projects at this competition, I myself entered one which was a C toolkit for implementing Neural Networks, and another which was basically a completely new mathematical technique (see my homepage for more info).

Many of the projects at this competition make use of "non-mainstream" operating systems. I have seen several using FreeBSD, and many use Linux. Personally I did everything on my Atari Falcon which was in vogue at the time.

The thing is that these guys didn't really do that well, it is quite easy to get "Special Awards", which seems to be what they have won. I myself got several. What counts is the prizes awarded by the judges, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. I myself won 2 Firsts and 1 Third having entered 4 times. If these guys had won the entire competition, then that might have been news.


Re:**BZZZT** Please try again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339932)

You'll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Re:Originality is what counts.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339933)

The atari falcon was *never* in vogue...

Re:Originality is what counts.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339934)

I once seen this kid that used a 3


Apparently you didn't win the grammar award that year either

Guess I'm /. scum :) (1)

aTRaTiCa (141651) | about 15 years ago | (#1339935)

Well it impresses me that they were able to do it... but since everyone else on /. seems to think they could program it with their hands in their ass, I guess I'm just on the lower level of slashdot users. *feels his IQ drop 50%* *and feels his self-confidence drop 75%* :P

Re:Behind closed doors... (1)

aTRaTiCa (141651) | about 15 years ago | (#1339936)

Is making love in a canoe good or bad? I'm picturing it being good... I shall speak of this to mygirlfriend. (Sorry for the off topic post, but the pictures of Natile Portman that was posted in Chris' wedding are still making me horn-nay) :P hehehehe

The language (3)

Kaufmann (16976) | about 15 years ago | (#1339937)

I'm surprised that no one else has commented on this yet. Here we go.

Trying to use Prolog for this would have been a bad, bad idea. Prolog is for logic programming, which is great for theorem provers and any other such problem which depends on logical relations between a bunch of data, but entirely unappropriate for a graphical real-time game. Especially considering that the amount of AI involved in this problem was very small. Especially considering that graphical games require languages appropriate for graphical programming, and Prolog was definitely not designed with graphics in mind.

Now Lisp, on the other hand, would have been appropriate. There is a good reason why it is the language of choice for AI work, after all: it's easy to model most problems using Lisp. In fact, I'm developing a General Game Data Model (GGDM) for Scheme (on RiceU's DrScheme environment, which provides just about everything you can ask for - easy graphical programming, a simple network model, good multithreading support and a lot more), a simple extensible class library indented to turn all of these kind of problems into a simple matter of defining a few objects with behaviour defined on the fly. Anyone interested can email me.

As for C++... well, I can only guess what a mess the code wound up looking like. Maybe the boys care to open the source? ;)

Wait! New Software for the Amiga! (1)

bjb (3050) | about 15 years ago | (#1339938)

And why didn't I see this on comp.sys.amiga.announce? And I thought the platform was dead!

(it's meant to be funny, not flamebait)

The JOKE goes like this .... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 15 years ago | (#1339939)

American beer is like making love in a canoe.

They're both fucking close to water.

Fortunately American beers are no longer watered down.


Re:TACO vs. Open Source Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339940)

ummmm... i'm not the one who's been calling for the release of the slashdot source code. i'm not all that concerned about it.

my concern is the open sourcing of hot young actresses and that's pretty much where it ends for me!

Re:Not a big deal (2)

Sanity (1431) | about 15 years ago | (#1339941)

I don't think it is fair to say that the whole contest was bland and menial. Many of the projects entered over the years have really been on the cutting edge of whatever field they were investigating. As an example, one year's winner developed a new way to use chaos theory and magnetism to determine whether metal had been stressed, very useful in aircraft repair. For my part, I entered a project on Neural Nets, in 1993 which was a few years before they entered the public conciousness, and they year after I developed a new mathematical technique to map clouds of gas based on a similar principal (I discovered later) to that used to find Pluto.
Of course, in any contest like this you will get the publicity hounds. I remember a few (some guys one year copied a design for a device which rendered ultrasonic sound audiable out of a physics text book, and then dressed up in Batman costumes claiming it was a "Bat Detector"!).


Re:The JOKE goes like this .... (1)

aTRaTiCa (141651) | about 15 years ago | (#1339942)

Ohhh... Sorry for being dumb. :) My Yuengling lager never tasted like water tho ;) Oh well... thanks for explaining it. hehe

Re:Programming whilst drunk (2)

technos (73414) | about 15 years ago | (#1339943)

Hacker purity test? It's not one I'm familiar with. (I generally hate such things)

Know where I could find a copy??

But how alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339944)

But the Toaster is possibly the only practical use left for the Amiga hardware. Most other things, like the basic program used in this contest, can be done with emulation (half of the people I know who have used the emulation have never paid a dime for any Amiga software or the OS). For sure, the spirit is at least alive...

About the VT (and slowly drifting off topic) - there actually were "non-Amiga" versions sold. In high school one of the Mac [people] came to be and started gloating that the Toaster had been released for the Mac. I told him it was impossible. He showed me a picture and said, "Oh yeah? Then what's that big ugly box sitting next Mac there?" "Easy - an Amiga! The Toaster's an expansion card..." :-) There was even a stand-alone version sold - once again, a disguised Amiga CPU.


Bravo! (2)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | about 15 years ago | (#1339945)

To those three young adults, I have nothing but applause. They found a problem, looked at different possible ways to solve it, chose one that played to their strengths, worked it out, and presented it well.

And now for the brickbats to some of the posters I've seen here:

  • They should've (done it in LISP/run under a different emulator/used Windows). Look, they chose to solve one problem. They didn't need to learn a new language/find a different emulator/utilize an unfamiliar OS.
  • Aww, I was doing that when I was 4 years old! I'm glad you were doing that. Now, remember, that this was their project, not yours!
  • Big deal - how is this News for Nerds? How do you think we get nerds? By encouraging people who take what measures they can to solve problems that they find. As I said above, they looked at alternative solutions and found one that fit what they knew. It's things like this that has made the term "nerd" less of the taunt that it used to be, and more of an honor.

Again, my hat's off to these people, and I hope to see more from them in the future!

Re:No big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339946)

what makes it special is that one of the winners themselves submitted it, and it is a really slow news day.

Re:Programming whilst drunk (2)

jfunk (33224) | about 15 years ago | (#1339947)

Here [armory.com]

It's truly funny, yet disturbing (it's all *true*! :-)* ).

Re:Amiga... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1339948)

Well... it is...

Blitz Basic! (1)

patrikr (1360) | more than 14 years ago | (#1339949)

Cool, they used Blitz Basic in UAE.
I bought BB2 for my Amiga 500Plus years ago, and I have to say that it's definitely one of my all-time favorite programming languages & environments.
Super-fast compiled programs, inline assembler, pointers, etc...

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