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Comment (Shrug) IÂll believe it when I see it. (Score 1) 93

IÂve been reading "Winklevoss Twins close to launching bitcoin ETF" stories since mid-2013. It has always just about cleared the last regulatory hurdle and it is always going to launch in a month or two and it is always "still on track." Slashdot just seems to be an amplifier of the latest publicity blitz.

OK, fine. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't. No particular reason I know to pay attention to it until it does.

Funniest thing I've read about it appeared in January, 2015: "We believe that anyone who believes that gold is an important asset to hold in their portfolio should seriously consider adding bitcoin to their portfolio. When we consider all of the qualities that make money money, Bitcoin when compared to gold matches or surpasses gold in every measure of money. This is why we and others call bitcoin 'gold 2.0' or 'digital gold,' Winklevoss explained in his email."

Comment Some "demo." Not. (Score 2) 235

When I saw that there was a demo, I figured it meant I would get to dictate a voice question and have SoundHound answer it.

Watch a video? That isn't a demo. If all you can do is watch a prepared video, nothing has been demonstrated at all.

You might as well say Maelzel gave a "demo" of his mechanical chess player. In a non-interactive video, you don't even know for sure it's a machine answering the question or a little man hidden in the cabinet.

Comment It never was INTENDED to communicate or educate. (Score 2) 327

The name of the product says it all. It is not intended for communication, education, or the thoughtful display of information. It's not supposed to facilitate critical thinking by the audience.

It's intended to give the presenter the power to cloud men's minds... to convince... to project the presenter's views into the minds of the audience as forcefully as possible.

The once-competitive product from a once-competitor was named Aldus Persuasion. Not Aldus Display, not Aldus Presentation, not Aldus Foils--Aldus Persuasion.

Someone once called word processors (in the early days before everyone had them) "automatic weapons for inter-corporation turf wars." Much the same can be said of PowerPoint.

Comment Why not test? I just don't get it. (Score 4, Insightful) 236

People used to do real tests with real people, in controlled situations, measuring response time, counting errors, videotaping what they were actually doing, finding out where people are getting stuck and using that feedback to redesign and try again.

This was common all the way back to the 1970s. People like Ben Schneiderman were doing formal research and writing textbooks in the 1980s.

Why do I no longer hear about any of this being done? Why is it all about the visual tastes of individual designers?

There's nothing wrong with beauty--the original edition of Inside Mac, 1983, said in so many words "objects are designed to look beautiful on the screen." But beauty and style are not the same as usability.

All of the insane "mystery meat" UI of today, in which you cannot find an affordance unless you already know where to click to make it visible, cannot possible be usable, even if some people enjoy developing the necessary skill set.

Without real testing, you always get the same things: the personal taste of the manager in charge, who is sure that what is natural for him is natural for everybody; or, the personal taste of the developer, who is sure that what is natural for him is natural for everybody.

Comment A brain-teaser or an honesty test? (Score 1) 496

If I were asked that question, I think I'd answer it well. Not because I would be able to figure it out quickly under pressure, but because this brainteaser is very old.

When I was a kid in the 1950s I read both it and the original intended correct answer (the North Pole) in a book of brainteasers.

When I got into high school, someone who was actually smart discovered that the answer wasn't unique and that there was an infinite family of additional answers all involving points close to the South Pole, and I read about that, too. I'm not sure where; I think it was in Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.

There must be million of people who know the answer, not because they figured it out by themselves, but because they read or heard the answer somewhere.

Of all the candidates who give Mr. Musk the correct answer, I imagine very few of them are solving it on the spot. I wonder how many of the others are honest enough to volunteer the information that they had already read the answer.

Or perhaps that's the point--perhaps it's an honesty test rather than a brain-teaser.

Comment Microsoft was proved to be lying about this. (Score 2) 90

They were just saying this was true to resist antitrust actions. The Department of Justice said bundling IE was illegal "tying." Microsoft claimed that IE was an integral part of Windows and that it was impossible, for technical reasons, to unbundle it and allow competition on a level playing field from other browsers.

Edward Felten proved to Microsoft to be lying, in court, in 1998, in a live demo, by removing IE from Windows without breaking Windows.

Comment What exactly ARE we seeing in that "flythrough?" (Score 1) 45

Flythrough video -- I have no objection to enhanced pictures but I do want to understand exactly what I am looking at. There can't possibly be enough parallax for any traditional stereo imaging.

Where does the depth information in a video like this come from, and what has happened here--has the image been basically digitized and then completely regenerated by shifting every image pixel in it according to its distance from the virtual "camera" position?

Comment I don't know whose comfort they're considering... (Score 1) 194

...when executives use euphemisms like "right-sizing." (I have never heard of a company that "right-sized" by hiring more employees). Even "layoff" is a euphemism because a "layoff" means a temporary suspension. "We'll have to let you go" means that you want to leave and they are reluctantly but graciously acceding to your wishes.

They may be trying to make themselves feel more comfortable by pretending they aren't doing something hurtful to their employees.

As for how it makes employees feel, I wish I could find the origin of a wonderful quotation... but someone, possibly W. Somerset Maugham, once said "Don't hand me a turd and tell me it's a profiterole" (creampuff).

Comment Enhanced images have always had a downside (Score 1) 28

The use of enhanced images, illustrations, artists' conceptions, and diagrams in science education cuts both ways.

Even when I was growing up (in the 1950s) my first impressions of astronomy were formed by illustrations of the solar system--shown from a point of view outside the system, with the orbits displayed as brightly colored, ellipses, and the planets on a scale a thousand times larger than the scale of the orbits.

Something like this helps the child understand what it is that astronomers discovered, and what the spatial relationships actually are. That's good. On the other hand, it leaves them completely unprepared to see Jupiter or Venus out in the backyard on a clear summer night.

And it leaves them unable to appreciate the discovery, the sheer intellectual achievement of someone like Kepler. He figured that out? He didn't have any picture of ellipses? Just from measurements of positions of bright little dots of light that look like they're pinholes in a dome a few hundred feet away? Doing three dimensional trig with nothing but pencil and paper?

My first impressions of Halley's Comet were highly magnified photographic time exposures made by big observatories. The tail, viewed with my eye on the printed page, was bright and probably subtended thirty degrees of visual arc.

I don't think there's any layperson in the world who hasn't been disappointed and upset by their first view of a real comet in the real sky. It should be a wonder, a miracle, a creepy sort of thing--your left brain knows it isn't really a portent, but your right brain is sure it is. Instead, it's like a Peggy Lee refrain: "Is that all there is to a comet?"

What a thrill it ought to be to recognize the Andromeda Nebula with the naked eye. But not if you were expecting a sort of Fourth of July fireworks Catherine wheel instead of a faint smudge.

Understanding the scientific results is worthwhile, but it is almost more important to understand the bedrock experiential reality, and the discovery process.

I know that Jupiter has moons because one night I saw four little stars all in a line right next to it, and next night I saw them again but they'd moved. There is something terribly important in the direct experience, the personal verification. Good buddies, Galileo and me. I've seen something in the sky that wasn't moving around the earth, and so I know Galileo was right.

Last year I finally got around to buying the right kind of telescope for what I wanted to do, a wide aperture low-power "richest field" telescope. With it, I've seen the Andromeda Nebula for myself better than I've ever seen it before.

Boom! No guessing, no squinting, no waiting for a perfectly dark night, THERE IT IS. I'll have to take someone's word for its being a spiral. But I've seen it, me, with my own eyeball. Big faint oval, small bright center. No time exposures, no false color, no computer processed CCD imagery.

It's there, it's really there, I've seen it with my own eyes, not in a planetarium, not in a book, and the light from that sucker had to leave two and a half million years ago to get here just for me to see it. Wow.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.