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Comment: Circularity-"reliable sources" trusting Wikipedia (Score 1) 146

by dpbsmith (#47570449) Attached to: An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax

It's a real problem, because Wikipedia's trustworthiness depends on its verifiability policy. Everything in Wikipedia is supposed to be traceable to a reliable source. Unfortunately, Wikipedia itself has become so trustworthy that supposedly trustworthy sources are becoming too uncritical about trusting Wikipedia.

Back circa 2004-2005 a respected editor added a statement to an article saying that Rutgers had been originally been invited to join the Ivy League but had declined. This interesting, plausible, and credible statement was in the article for a while, but was eventually challenged.

The editor originally had trouble providing a good source, but eventually came up with a newspaper article in a New Jersey newspaper, one that would usually be considered a reliable source. Other editors were inclined to accept, this, until one of them realized it was a fairly recent article, contacted the reporter, and asked for the reporter's source.

The reporter replied that he had read it in Wikipedia and used it (without attribution).

Now, it's not clear whether or not the statement is true. The last I knew, the editor said he had gotten it from an old issue of the "Targum," the Rutgers University newspaper, which would probably have qualified as a reliable source, but since he was unable to provide volume, issue, date, or page numbers, the statement was not verifiable at that time and was removed.

But it is an clear example of circular reference--an unverifiable statement almost being kept in Wikipedia, based on support from a "reliable" source that had gotten it from Wikipedia.

Comment: The "Your mileage may vary" problem (Score 1) 541

by dpbsmith (#47524885) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

Bodies vary. No two surgical procedures are the same.

People are always saying something like "a hernia repair is nothing," when what they mean is "MY hernia repair was nothing."

Even if YOUR LASIK went well... ...even if MOST LASIKs so well... ...even if ALMOST ALL LASIKs go well... ...you have to multiply the probability by the consequences.

First, start thinking about what a 1% chance means. For example, I've had blood drawn literally hundreds of times, and donated blood dozens of times. The phlebotomists always tell me I have "beautiful veins." It's nothing. Nothing at all. Then one day, for absolutely no reason I could tell, I was having a blood draw for some tests, didn't hurt, didn't feel clumsy... and ten minutes later there was a big black and blue lump that didn't go away for days and hurt enough to be annoying. That was probably an example of a "less than 1% chance" where the risk showed up.

The thing is, a 1% chance of getting an annoying bruise is no big deal. But a 1% chance of lousing up one of your eyes is.

Given a refractive error that can be completely corrected a) without surgery (i.e. a lens) or b) with surgery, one should be cautious about choosing surgery. It is, after all, UNNECESSARY surgery.

Comment: Re:Chain effect (Score 5, Interesting) 300

by dpbsmith (#47456529) Attached to: Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

Indeed. I worked in a Fortune 500 company--I arrived in the middle of a new CEO's "three-year turnaround plan," and shortly thereafter he was replaced by another CEO and shortly thereafter the company collapsed with stunning speed.

One of the things that was interesting was seeing the effect of a layoff from inside. It isn't just morale, although since layoffs were done on the "night and fog" principle--they didn't post lists of those laid off--for about two days after each layoff, all worked stopped as everyone else in the company spent their time telephoning everyone they knew to see if they were OK.

But there was also an immediate, precipitous problem with any kind of customer support or service. The air was full of overheard conversations. "Let me put you on hold. Uh, Marie, this customer wants to order a license for a vestibulator spracket. Who handles that?" "It used to be Bob, but he was laid off yesterday. Uh, Lewis, do you know?" "No idea, maybe his manager would know. Let me see, his manager was Kelly Sundstrom." "Oh, she's no longer with the company..."

No joke. Customers wanted to buy stuff and couldn't. Customers with service contracts couldn't get gear fixed. The stock price went up because at that time Wall Street seemed to love layoffs, but there were, actually, reports in the IT press about customers being disgruntled at bad service, and Wall Street never seemed to connect THAT with the layoffs.

Comment: "Anonymous Coward" in another thread nailed it (Score 1) 300

by dpbsmith (#47456399) Attached to: Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

here.. Satya Nadella said that he would "reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision" and this poster translated it:

"reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision = layoffs"

Comment: "The Shadow and the Flash," Jack London, 1903 (Score 1) 238

Science-fiction comes true. Sort of. Jack London (better known for "The Call of the Wild") published a story in 1903 entitled "The Shadow and the Flash," online here. The plot in part turns on the concept of a perfectly black pigment. It is a good story--much better than you'd guess from a summary. As to the optics London was either confused or exercising creative license:

"'Color is a sensation," he was saying.... 'Without light, we can see neither colors nor objects themselves. All objects are black in the dark, and in the dark it is impossible to see them. If no light strikes upon them, then no light is flung back from them to the eye, and so we have no vision-evidence of their being.' "But we see black objects in daylight," I objected. 'Very true,' he went on warmly. 'And that is because they are not perfectly black. Were they perfectly black, absolutely black, as it were, we could not see them ... with the right pigments, properly compounded, an absolutely black paint could be produced which would render invisible whatever it was applied to.'"

Uh, no. But it sounds plausible. Wonderful descriptive touches: "When you are near me I have feelings similar to those produced by dank warehouses, gloomy crypts, and deep mines. And as sailors feel the loom of the land on dark nights, so I think I feel the loom of your body."

Two brothers who feel sibling rivalry to a homicidal degree, are both amateur scientists with private laboratories. (Well, OF COURSE they are, who isn't?) They decide to seek the secret of invisibility, one by developing a perfectly black pigment, the other by becoming perfectly transparent. Both methods are flawed. The title refers to the flaws. The brother who paints himself with perfectly black paint, unfortunately, still casts a shadow. The brother who becomes transparent, apparently does not refract light but does disperse it (???), so intermittently evokes bright rainbow-colored flashes.

It is a much better story than it sounds from that description.

Comment: End users experience the products, not the culture (Score 3, Interesting) 204

by dpbsmith (#47440697) Attached to: New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture

I'd much rather hear him say:

"I use Windows 8.1 on a desktop and it sucks. Windows 9 is going to be good on desktops and we are not going to release it until it is.

AND, we are going to play fair with users and make sure that every security patch we develop for Windows Embedded Industry is also SQAed on and made available to all Windows XP users. It may not make us the most money but it's the right thing to do."

Corporate culture? I am an end-user, I don't care what Microsoft's corporate culture is, I care about its products.

+ - Today in year-based computer errors: draft notices sent to men born in the 1800s->

Submitted by sandbagger
sandbagger (654585) writes "The glitch originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles during an automated data transfer of nearly 400,000 records. The records of males born between 1993 and 1997 were mixed with those of men born a century earlier. The federal agency didn't know it because the state uses a two-digit code to indicate birth year."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Sawdust is a classic, classic food adulterant (Score 1) 1

by dpbsmith (#47364949) Attached to: There's More Fiber in Fast Food Than You Realize

For example, H. G. Wells' novel, "Tono-Bungay," published in 1909, about the marketing of a patent medicine.

"The child made no end out of the [wood] shavin's. So might you. Powder 'em. They might be anything. Soak 'em in jipper,â"Xylo-tobacco! Powder'em and get a little tar and turpentinous smell in,â"wood-packing for hot bathsâ"a Certain Cure for the scourge of Influenza! There's all these patent grain foods,â"what Americans call cereals. I believe I'm right, sir, in saying they're sawdust."

"No!" said my uncle, removing his cigar; "as far as I can find out it's really grain,â"spoilt grain.... I've been going into that."

"Well, there you are!" said Ewart. "Say it's spoilt grain. It carried out my case just as well. Your modern commerce is no more buying and selling than sculpture. It's mercyâ"it's salvation. It's rescue work! It takes all sorts of fallen commodities by the hand and raises them. Cana isn't in it. You turn waterâ"into Tono-Bungay."

Comment: When GM canceled the EV-1... (Score 1) 4

by dpbsmith (#46999943) Attached to: Is The Future Actually Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Not Electric?

...they said it was because, they said, hydrogen fuel-cell technology was better and all but ready. Remember the Hy-Wire? Demonstrated in 2002, and promised for showrooms by 2010.

What? You DON'T remember the Hy-Wire? Funny about that.

I just don't get it. We're not even close to having good nationwide ubiquitous infrastructure support for pure electric cars yet, and we're going to get that a long time before I can pull up into the corner Mobil and fill 'er up with hydrogen.

Comment: Scripts and scores for musicals are the same way (Score 2) 252

by dpbsmith (#46945513) Attached to: $200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

It's not unprecedented. I don't know the legal details but anyone who's ever been an in amateur production of a musical will tell you that Music Theatre, International will not sell you a script or a score. I believe the statement is that you have rented them. You are warned to make any markings lightly and in pencil and to erase them completely before returning them.

Comment: How do you get decision-makers to follow it? (Score 2) 52

by dpbsmith (#46864869) Attached to: Book Review: Designing With the Mind In Mind

It's nice to hear about UI research, but at the moment _nobody seems to be making use of the UI research that's already been done._

Consider, for example, the current fad for "mystery meat" UIs (affordances that can't be seen and thus can't be found unless you already know where they are). What's with that? Haven't designers read "The Design of Everyday Things?" Heck, haven't they read the 1983 edition of "Inside Macintosh?"

Comment: It's still a solution without a problem. (Score 1) 129

by dpbsmith (#46819959) Attached to: Lytro Illum Light-Field Camera Lets You Refocus Pictures Later

It's still a one-trick pony, and not a trick that many people need to do very often. Sure, a professional may invest in any number of specialized $1,200 tools to get images under special situations. It's just the idea that this revolutionizes the field of photography, or that _everyone_ needs this to get good pictures of Tommy blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, that's crazy.

I cannot think of a single time in my life when I wanted to press the button once and get two different images, one with subject A in focus and subject B blurred, and the other with subject A blurred and subject B in focus.

If this camera could take "deep focus" pictures, a la _Citizen Kane_, in which all objects at all distances were in focus at the same time, that would be mildly useful and a lot of amateur photographers would like it, even if the effect were a little boring. But, as nearly as I can tell, it can't.

Comment: The announcer's delivery! (Score 1) 146

by dpbsmith (#46778359) Attached to: Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

"Viewers today are more likely captivated by the refrigerator-size computers and 1960s hairdos." No, the very first thing that struck me was the once-familiar announcer's "authoritative" style of delivery. Among other things, the voice often drops by about a musical fifth on the last word of the sentence.

This is not only standard for announcers (Edward R. Murrow being one example), but you even hear it in movie dialog.

I keep wanting to know some name for the change. It was not instantaneous, but it seems to me that it occurred over not much more than a decade or so. Walter Cronkite had a transitional voice style--somewhere in between what you hear in this movie and a more natural, conversational delivery such as you hear today. (Or, at least, I hear it as natural and conversational--maybe fifty years from now it will sound mannered and affected, too).

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw

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