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Comment: A precedent from another profession (Score 1) 240

by Marginal Coward (#48142381) Attached to: Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

From TFA: "Other professions, like medicine, the law, and engineering, have values and a professional ethic, where certain things are valued for their own sake." Evidently the author is unfamiliar with common law, in which the law evolves over time via practical application, much as programming languages evolve and mutate. This is contrast to statutory law, which is created from whole cloth, much as one might create a new programming language which has roots in other languages but is fundamentally different from any of them.

If the analogy is apt, "warts" presumably appear in the law. Lawyers, judges, or legislators might wish to remove them. However, practical considerations such as disruption of some existing body of law might prevent that. Also, warts are, by definition, subjective. So, one man's wart might be another man's treasure.

Going back to programming, the use of pointers in C++ is both a wart inherited from C, and a useful feature that can't be removed without fundamentally changing the language. Thus, we have C++ templates for smart pointers, which seek to ameliorate the wart without actually expurgating it.

Comment: Re:Pointless arguments year after year (Score 2) 276

by Marginal Coward (#48104563) Attached to: No Nobel For Nick Holonyak Jr, Father of the LED

Many years ago, I attended a lecture at my university that was given by William Shockley who received a Nobel prize along with others for their invention of the transistor. It was striking to me how the faculty reacted to him. They were truly in awe, and treated him with something close to reverence. I've always imagined that they received him that way because he received the Nobel prize, not because he invented the transistor, though it's just a feeling.

Shockley was a controversial figure toward the end of his life, including when I saw him, for his views on the relationship between intelligence and genetics, which were (are) considered racist. I didn't know anything about his views about that in advance. But before the lecture started, a group of minority students entered the lecture hall very dramatically and stood in front of the podium with arms crossed, facing the audience, staring straight ahead. Of course, they were peacefully expressing their displeasure about his views. A buzz went around, and folks like me who didn't know what was going on soon heard an explanation from someone nearby who did.

Shockley didn't speak at all about those views, and instead focused on the transistor and other appropriate topics. Suddenly, in the middle of the lecture, I noticed that the body language of students who were standing up front had changed. Instead of silently expressing their disdain for his views, their posture had softened and they were listening to his lecture with interest, just as I was. Except they were standing at the front rather than sitting in the seats.

If it weren't for his invention of the transistor - and possibly his receipt of the Nobel Prize - the world would little note nor long remember Shockley's views on the relationship between intelligence and genetics. Which, to be honest, seem kindda dumb for a man of his breeding.

Comment: Re:The Nobel Prize Committee blew it (Score 1) 276

by Marginal Coward (#48104367) Attached to: No Nobel For Nick Holonyak Jr, Father of the LED

Sure, but what if a red LED is a natural evolution while blue LED, once thought impossible is the true revolutionary idea?

Exactly right. A (high-brightness) blue LED must have been desired shortly after the red one was invented in 1962, but it wasn't until 1993 that one was created. So, it must have been a pretty difficult physics problem to solve.

That said, since blue LEDs are a variation on a theme, they seem more like an "invention" than a fundamental breakthrough, like other Nobel prize winners such as the transistor. For example, is a blue LED as fundamentally different from a red LED as a transistor is from a vacuum tube?

Comment: Customers for Wi-Fi enabled thermostats (Score 5, Funny) 103

by Marginal Coward (#47980741) Attached to: Popular Wi-Fi Thermostat Full of Security Holes

Finally! Wi-Fi enabled thermostats have found a set of customers who have a genuine need for them: security researchers. But if the thermostats were truly secure, even that small market would dry up. After all, who wants to play a game that can never be won?

Personally, rather than buy a Wi-Fi thermostat, I've been training my cat to adjust the thermostat just before I come back after three-day weekends. In all honesty, I haven't had much luck with that so far, but I'll get the cat trained eventually, I know I will. Just gotta keep trying.

Now that you mention it, though, I've really thought through the security implications of owning such a highly trained cat...

Comment: Re:Does the TrueCrypt License (Score 2) 270

by Marginal Coward (#47947417) Attached to: TrueCrypt Gets a New Life, New Name

I think you're onto something. Perhaps *that's* why the secret formula for Coke has never been open-sourced, but remains locked in a vault in Atlanta to this very day. Likewise for the secret Krabby-patty formuler. Just think what havoc Pepsi and Plankton could wreak with the TrueCrypt code...

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.