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Comment: Re:Why is it cheaper in China? (Score 4, Insightful) 530

by JanneM (#47404693) Attached to: Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

But an assembly line manned by robots? Why should that be cheaper in China? Is capital that much cheaper?

Even if wages and other costs were equal, the location advantage is substantial. It's not that it's cheaper in China, but that it's cheaper in the huge manufacturing hubs. You have suppliers and manufacturers for just about every single component you need without long-distance shipping, and a deep pool of design and manufacturing expertise working in the area.

That's not to say you can't manufacture efficiently elsewhere (we have plenty of recent examples such as the Raspberry Pi), but that the advantages has as much to do with the concentration of resources as with the cost of labour and regulations. And of course, as this inudstry becomes ever more automated, it no longer matters much for jobs where it happens any longer.

Comment: Re:Always a balance (Score 1) 100

by JanneM (#47167829) Attached to: Google Announces 'End-To-End' Encryption Extension For Chrome

OpenPGP was right in all ways except one: you can't even explain what it does to your grandma, let alone get her to use it.

Never mind grandma, I can't use it. Decided I'd try it this spring. Spent an afternoon reading manuals, blog posts and howto's, until I realized this is complicated and brittle enough that I'm likely to mess things up and compromise any security as a result. Better to avoid it, and behave under the assumption that people are bulk scanning and analyzing everything i send or receive.

Comment: Re:Sounds like IT incompetence (Score 3, Insightful) 564

People make mistakes. Everybody makes them, everybody does it all the time, and they do it even when they should know better, when the consequences are high, and when they've received training specifically aimed at avoiding those particular mistakes.

Aviation, process and other industries know this by now, after many, many hard-earned lessons. They know you have to design your interfaces under the assumption that people will screw up, push the wrong button, or misread the situation. The general software industry, on the other hand, seems amazingly resilient against accepting this simple fact.

Comment: Re:This may be crass but... (Score 2) 283

It's easy to say we want to make the rural areas as attractive as the big cities. Notably, I've yet to see any credible ideas for actually achieving it.

Big cities are amazing. Because of network effects and the efficiencies of small distances and dense accumulation of resources, competing directly is extremely difficult. It's like deciding you want to make a new, fledging social network as attractive to users as the current big ones. The only thing you could feasibly do in both cases is to push it as a niche for special interests.

Comment: Re:Very cool - but where do you get the chip for $ (Score 1) 138

by JanneM (#46963781) Attached to: A 32-bit Development System For $2

"I don't know anyone who just has a serial converter just lying around unless they're an engineer"

This is not a first project for anybody. Chances are high that you've already played with Arduino a fair bit, and built your own on breadboard as well. In which case you most likely have a USB-serial cable or board already, in order to program them.

Comment: Re:A good sign (Score 0) 177

by JanneM (#46945159) Attached to: Programming Language Diversity On the Rise

"Which platforms were Java and Obj-C specific to again?"

The wording was unclear on my part; you pretty much need to use Java to develop for Android, and Objective-C to develop for IOS. Those platforms use those languages specifically, not that they are used only on those platforms. You can use a few other languages to develop Android or IOS apps if you insist, but with more pain, less support, and you'll normally still have to write minor parts in these languages to make it a complete application.

Comment: Re:A good sign (Score 1) 177

by JanneM (#46944175) Attached to: Programming Language Diversity On the Rise

"I'd error on having 3 languages in the shop and that's about all that you'd need for most things."

That sounds on the low side to me. One low-level, hardware-linked language (C or C++); one dynamic language (Python, Ruby); a functional language (Scala, Scheme, Haskell); one for numerics (R, Matlab/Octave); one embedded language (Scheme, Lua); client-side web (javascript); database access (SQL); and of course the platform-specific major languages you can't get around: Java, C# and Objective-C. I'm sure you can add other categories to the list as well.

Comment: Re:Activist investors (Score 1) 208

by JanneM (#46944055) Attached to: Stanford Getting Rid of $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock

The endowment is there to serve the university. And the university is plenty sensitive to its public perception; that affects both enrollment as well as donations. It's not a stretch to say that a fairly large proportion of both current and former students and faculty view global warming as a threat and coal as a bad choice for producing power.

Making these people happy is vital for the universitys bottom line - not to mention that "the university" consists of people that themselves share many of these values. So yes, they are acting in the best interest of those the endowments are there to serve.

Comment: Publiation costs (Score 1) 72

by JanneM (#46934447) Attached to: The Exploitative Economics of Academic Publishing

It's worth noting that while many open access journals charge for publication, so do many closed access journals. I can't find the link now, but a comparison a few years ago found that the average cost was actually higher across closed journals than open access ones. And of course, they "double-dip" by also charging libraries and readers high fees for carrying the journals.

Comment: Re:No way I could trust a self-driving car (Score 1) 98

by JanneM (#46905953) Attached to: Volvo Testing Autonomous Cars On Public Roads

Have you ever seen a stupid driver try to merge onto a freeway with their turn signal on and their foot on the brake? Or see three cars bumper-to-bumper trying to merge onto a busy freeway as a pack?

The beautiful thing is, self-driving cars will see this, due to their extensive sensor coverage. And they will have recordings available of the whole incident for later examination. It will be completely clear who was following all the regulations and exercizing judgement (the self-driving car) and who was driving irresponsibly or dangerously (the human driver).

Once self-driving cars hit the road in any numbers, it will become really, really expensive to try to be a jerk in traffic. No speeding. No lane cutting. No tailgating. No weaving. No nothing - just follow the traffic flow and the law to the letter and spirit or you will get reported. And of course your insurance rate will like go up, simply by being a human driver.

At which point there's of course little point in driving yourself any longer; you drive in exactly the same way as the self-driving cars, and you get there at the exact same time. But you have to sit there and drive, while the people around you are busy reading the morning news or throwing irate fowl at pigs.

Comment: Re:Hard to detect (Score 1) 608

by JanneM (#46838411) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

I did some research, and in order to pick up a TV level signal 100 light years away, we could built an antenna the size of Rhode Island in space.

You make my point :) 100 light years is still really in the neighbourhood. The vast majority of detected planets lie outside that range - that new possibly earth-like planet if five times longer away.

It assumes that you actually have an island-sized structure in space, and it assumes that any civilization is currently blasting radio signals in the same wasteful way as terrestrial TV. We don't have anything approaching your detector, so even at 100 light years we'd miss it, and, as I argue, civilizations are unlikely to beam out strong radio waves in that manner.

I would like to see what kind of detector we'd need for a more realistic scenario. Say, detect things within 1000 light years, and when radio use looks more like our digital low-power and directed radio devices.

Comment: Hard to detect (Score 1) 608

by JanneM (#46836451) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

A civilization would be quite hard to detect. The best chance is probably radio emissions, but even that has a fairly short practical limit. And it's noteworthy that our emissions are dropping today, as we increasinly use the spectrum for low-power digital systems rather than analogue "scream at the top of your lungs" broadcasts. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine that we'd be effectively silent in another couple of generations, as we push toward more effective transmission technologies.

We could probably have dozens of other civilizations in this sector of the milky way and we'd never know it.

Comment: Re:Expensive (Score 3, Insightful) 109

by JanneM (#46830407) Attached to: "Going Up" At 45 Mph: Hitachi To Deliver World's Fastest Elevator

The problem with building really tall buildings is how to transport enough people up and down without using up the floor space on elevators rather than rentable area. Silly fast elevators may well be worth the money if it results in more silly expensive top-floor rent income.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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