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Comment: Testing is not verification. (Score 3, Insightful) 157

by Brannon (#47781675) Attached to: Software Error Caused Soyuz/Galileo Failure

This is probably something that is well understood by the engineers who are building robot surgeons (and maybe even by those building driverless cars), but it certainly isn't well understood by the overwhelming majority of software engineers and it's just a matter of time until the unwashed hordes of C++ monkeys are unleashed unto critical systems.

Bridges aren't designed and tested by "trial & error"--if they were then half of them would fall down within a few weeks. Neither are buildings or pacemakers or computer chips.

There are some scary problems with how [many if not most] software engineers see the world which don't bode well for a world where software can kill:
(a) by and large they've had essentially no exposure to any method of verification other than "trial & error"
(b) they have insufficient reverence for cause and effect because most of their bugs have really low cost (as in, nobody dies)--therefore they aren't mentally trained to make disciplined decisions.
(c) arrogance: unlike every other kind of engineer, software engineers rarely encounter the boundaries of their knowledge. A civil engineer knows when to call a materials engineer, a mechanical engineer knows when to talk to an industrial or chemical engineer, but a software engineer spends their entire lives inside a carefully constructed virtual world where they can't really do that much damage.

Comment: "Programmers" shouldn't write critical software (Score 5, Insightful) 157

by Brannon (#47781457) Attached to: Software Error Caused Soyuz/Galileo Failure

There's almost no overlap between the skills & techniques necessary to write & verify critical software (e.g. when lives or huge amounts of money are on the line) vs. what is considered to be "programming". Modern software engineering's approach to reliable system design is about where hardware engineering was fifty years ago, and about where civil engineering was 100 years ago.

SQA is a joke. Reliable systems are made using way more robust techniques, including: (a) a severely restricted state space, (b) redundancy, (c) formal proofs, (d) fully (and formally) specified interfaces, (e) random simulation, (f) several different types of coverage, (g) physics-based analysis, etc.

The failure of the software community to understand this distinction is why I'm scared to death about the coming world of driver-less cars and robots performing surgery. How many people are going to be killed by C++ in the next decade?

Comment: People are different, that's why. (Score 1) 276

by Brannon (#47716647) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

You can't imagine why anyone would want to live in a big city, but apparently you think small cities are okay. Somebody else in this thread can't imagine why anyone would want to live anywhere other than suburbs. I'm sure somebody else is going to pipe up saying we should all live on farms, or on boats. Do you see the trend?

Part of me would love to counter your smug condescending critique of big cities by telling you all the ways that NYC is superior to whatever strip mall shit hole you live in; but the problem is I don't really believe that NYC is superior. Instead, I think that different people value things differently.

It's a big world, there are lots of different ways to live.

Comment: That's an absurdly close-minded view (Score 1) 276

by Brannon (#47716547) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

You think people only choose to live in cities because they haven't noticed the internet or television?

People attach different values to different things. People who love living in cities (I'm one of them) place a lot of value on "walking culture", "proximity to varied attractions", "interacting with a potpourri of people", "having a smaller environmental footprint", etc.--and less value on having a large home or a big car. I can totally understand someone else valuing those things differently and reaching a different conclusion. It's a big world and there are a lot of different ways to live.

> "cannot adjust to living any other way than like cattle"

What is it with suburbanites that they feel personally attacked (to the point of lashing out with childish hyperbole) by anybody anywhere choosing a different lifestyle than themselves?

Seriously dude, hop in your car and drive 35 minutes to your 'neighborhood' Applebee's, order some jalapeno poppers and relax.

Comment: I don't understand your concern (Score 2) 249

by Brannon (#47673919) Attached to: Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

1. There's nothing stopping someone from creating their own curated portal which links directly to the per-app download page within Apple's App store. These portals could have reviews & social media or whatever. Why haven't these sorts of portals emerged?

2. Android doesn't have the walled garden--are the Android app stores wildly easier to use or better at promoting good vs. bad content?

Comment: Companies can't create a diversified talent pool (Score 5, Insightful) 265

by Brannon (#47324501) Attached to: Tech Workforce Diversity At Facebook Similar To Google And Yahoo

out of thin air. The internal demographics of these large companies reflect the demographics of graduates in the relevant fields. The right answer is to get a more diversified college population in computer engineering and computer science, which requires getting more K-12 interest in those fields amongst underrepresented groups. And that's exactly what the big companies are doing--investing in programs that will build a more diversified pipeline of future employees.

The comparison against MLB is outrageously stupid. African-Americans were already playing baseball in high numbers in separate leagues; MLB just started poaching players from those leagues. Are you claiming that there are some all-female or all-black companies full of millions of computer engineers that Facebook could start hiring from tomorrow?

Comment: You are critically wrong about two things: (Score 1) 659

by Brannon (#47006315) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

1. The Tesla recharges 180 miles in about 30 minutes, and getting better all the time. Other electric cars are catching up and there are emerging standards for DC quick charging.

2. Your driving pattern is not typical so it isn't at all predictive about the future of electric driving.

Comment: All indications point to battery electric. (Score 1) 659

by Brannon (#47006299) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

Batteries halve in cost/kwh & kwh/kg about every 10 years. DC fast chargers are legit--Tesla can already charge at >5 miles/minute (120KW, planned increase to 135KW) with a rapidly growing charging infrastructure. Hydrogen refueling is just not enough of an improvement (neither is battery-swapping BTW--which always sounded ridiculous to me).

New economies of scale are starting to kick in, lots of new battery tech in the pipeline. Government regulations for 55mpg+ is only realistic with hybrid or full electric cars. It's already way cheaper to operate an electric car than a gas car--think about that. People who own electric cars love them. The Model S was named best car in the world by about a million publications.

We are just waiting for the gap in capital cost (vs. a gas car) to narrow and then it's game over for combustion driving. For those of you who haven't lived through a technology revolution before--this is what the beginning of it looks like. Maybe 20 years until >50% of all passenger miles driven in the US by new cars are driven under electric power.

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