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Comment: CS is only practical by accident, but that's okay (Score 1) 209

by Tenebrousedge (#49357453) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Makes Some Code Particularly Good?

Computer Science is [a] a misnomer, and [b] more properly a subset of mathematics. I might characterize it more as giving you tools to reason about code rather than teaching coding practices. It is not generally meant to be a practical education. There is always time to learn the practical stuff, and the practical stuff changes often enough that it's not necessarily worth teaching.

I'm in the opposite camp: I'm self taught, and know a bunch about deployment and the intricacies of source control, and refactoring, but very little about, oh, algorithmic complexity or parser/compiler design. The theoretical stuff isn't quite as useful on the day-to-day as the practical knowledge, but it's much more useful when trying to learn new things. Similar to how you don't necessarily need music theory to play guitar but if you want to transpose a piece of music or pick up a new instrument, it would be pretty useful. Composing a piece of music might be more like writing a compiler. In both cases you'd be relying heavily on theory.

If you thought you were signing up to learn how to be a programmer, you've made a mistake, but it's not so bad as you think. The stuff you're learning is useful, even if it doesn't seem like it. I feel like I could stand to know quite a bit more about it myself. And the lesson is, that you need both parts, and you'll miss whatever you don't have, but you miss the practical stuff all the time, and the theoretical stuff only when it's really, really important.

Comment: Linux and Windows (Score 1) 178

by Tenebrousedge (#49322395) Attached to: Gaming On Linux With Newest AMD Catalyst Driver Remains Slow

It's actually okay if 99% of consumers don't care. They are okay with the most basic computing devices. It's cool if you don't think that Linux's features are worthwhile too, but the thing is, if you're already a programmer then having complete control, scripting access, and the source code to your OS is quite useful. Clearly Windows does some things that Linux does not, but that does not mean that each is not useful in its own sphere.

Microsoft pretty much does suck though. Windows as an OS is maybe not quite as good as its software ecosystem, although it does have certain advantages. Microsoft managed to completely overhaul its sound and color rendering systems for Vista without any problems, whereas the contemporaneous roll-out of Pulseaudio is shall we say not remembered fondly. Now if they'd stop fucking up their UI they might end up with a half-decent system.

I think proponents of both systems should be fairer to the other camp. Criticism should not involve denigrating the other party. And especially in this particular rivalry, I feel like the days of hostility should be behind us. I don't think the systems are converging per se, but I think we've passed the point where either party is out to destroy the other, and developers of both systems are learning from each other.

Comment: Costa Rica (Score 0) 316

(I think my previous comment was eaten by /.'s tubes. If this ends up being a re-post, I apologize, feel free to mod it to oblivion)

I lived in Costa Rica for a couple years, most recently about eight months ago. They have a phrase, "pura vida" which could maybe be translated as "the good life", but it's used as a greeting and farewell phrase as well. It's also used as an answer to, "How are you doing?" On the one hand, it seems remarkable that they would be happier than anyone else; broadly speaking I expect people to have the same general experiences anywhere. On the other hand, I spent a few months in Panama and then returned to CR for a holiday, and when I picked up a pizza that I had ordered, the guy said "Have a nice day," that is, "pura vida". And he meant it sincerely. At that moment, the difference in attitude was shocking; I had been used to Panamanians (although I prefer the sobriquet Panamaniacs :P) basically looking at me as a business opportunity at best.

The average Costa Rican does not have a computer, although cell phones are relatively common. Computers are quite expensive, enough to make an import business profitable, but very few people can afford one. There is a 100% import duty on cars, so those are expensive too. They also do a license plate restriction on driving, at least in San Jose. Most have electricity and relatively clean water, although they do have an issue with dumping raw sewage into almost all of the rivers. I wish I could more effectively describe the impoverished living conditions; if you have any specific questions please feel free to ask.

On the other hand, people sure don't care about working hard there. My friends in San Jose tell me that the weekend starts on Thursday, and everyone including the boss is late on Fridays and Mondays. There were as I recall a couple clubs where you paid a $10 cover and drinks were free. If there was paperwork that needed to be processed by the government, let's just say the Vogons would be proud of the Tico bureaucracy. If you needed to have your car repaired by a certain date, the Ticos will of course be delighted to tell you that it will be ready then, but no amount of inducement or cajoling will actually make it ready by a given date. Things happen when they happen, and no one is in a hurry to get anything done or to go anywhere â" they call it operating on "Tico time".

However, all that said, I'm a little skeptical of the article. Most of Costa Rica is really rural, and I would be surprised if the national power grid actually extended to all corners of the country. I don't think that the average Tico really cares about environmentalism; to some degree it's a first world problem. The Costa Rican government on the other hand knows that the country basically has no industries; the farming isn't great and I believe tourism is the biggest part of the economy. Costa Rica doesn't have all that much to tour, either: there are no mayan or aztec ruins, and almost nothing in the way of indigenous culture. I heard something about painted oxcarts being a thing, but never saw one. Contrast with Panama's amazing diablo rojos (the buses or the costumes [staticflickr.com]). So some while back they hit upon the idea to market themselves as a destination for "eco-tourism", which involves convincing the rest of the world that they have some sort of unique level of biodiversity. It may even be true. However, they really need to promote the image of being green and eco-friendly regardless of the truth.

If I could make a decent living there it'd be hard not to go back, even though the world is full of things I have never seen before. Whether or not the Ticos are the happiest people, I think that I can safely say that happiness for me is two-for-one mango daiquiris at the Lazy Mon. Pura Vida!

Comment: Costa Rica (Score 4, Informative) 316

I lived in Costa Rica for a couple years, most recently about eight months ago. They have a phrase, "pura vida" which could maybe be translated as "the good life", but it's used as a greeting and farewell phrase as well. It's also used as an answer to, "How are you doing?" On the one hand, it seems remarkable that they would be happier than anyone else; broadly speaking I expect people to have the same general experiences anywhere. On the other hand, I spent a few months in Panama and then returned to CR for a holiday, and when I picked up a pizza that I had ordered, the guy said "Have a nice day," that is, "pura vida". And he meant it sincerely. At that moment, the difference in attitude was shocking; I had been used to Panamanians (although I prefer the sobriquet Panamaniacs :P) basically looking at me as a business opportunity at best.

The average Costa Rican does not have a computer, although cell phones are relatively common. Computers are quite expensive, enough to make an import business profitable, but very few people can afford one. There is a 100% import duty on cars, so those are expensive too. They also do a license plate restriction on driving, at least in San Jose. Most have electricity and relatively clean water, although they do have an issue with dumping raw sewage into almost all of the rivers. I wish I could more effectively describe the impoverished living conditions; if you have any specific questions please feel free to ask.

On the other hand, people sure don't care about working hard there. My friends in San Jose tell me that the weekend starts on Thursday, and everyone including the boss is late on Fridays and Mondays. There were as I recall a couple clubs where you paid a $10 cover and drinks were free. If there was paperwork that needed to be processed by the government, let's just say the Vogons would be proud of the Tico bureaucracy. If you needed to have your car repaired by a certain date, the Ticos will of course be delighted to tell you that it will be ready then, but no amount of inducement or cajoling will actually make it ready by a given date. Things happen when they happen, and no one is in a hurry to get anything done or to go anywhere — they call it operating on "Tico time".

However, all that said, I'm a little skeptical of the article. Most of Costa Rica is really rural, and I would be surprised if the national power grid actually extended to all corners of the country. I don't think that the average Tico really cares about environmentalism; to some degree it's a first world problem. The Costa Rican government on the other hand knows that the country basically has no industries; the farming isn't great and I believe tourism is the biggest part of the economy. Costa Rica doesn't have all that much to tour, either: there are no mayan or aztec ruins, and almost nothing in the way of indigenous culture. I heard something about painted oxcarts being a thing, but never saw one. Contrast with Panama's amazing diablo rojos (the buses or the costumes). So some while back they hit upon the idea to market themselves as a destination for "eco-tourism", which involves convincing the rest of the world that they have some sort of unique level of biodiversity. It may even be true. However, they really need to promote the image of being green and eco-friendly regardless of the truth.

If I could make a decent living there it'd be hard not to go back, even though the world is full of things I have never seen before. Whether or not the Ticos are the happiest people, I think that I can safely say that happiness for me is two-for-one mango daiquiris at the Lazy Mon. Pura Vida!

Comment: Alaskan Farming (Score 1) 572

I was born and raised in Alaska. It's still a short growing season no matter what happens, and the light at the polar latitudes is less intense. Also, it's still cold there even when you add in AGW, so you still need cold-tolerant crops. Also, there's very, very little in the way of topsoil in these regions. Consult a map of permafrost extent in the Arctic, and mark off any land shaded in blue as being unsuitable for farming for the next millennium or so.

Generally speaking, we're still better off growing crops in the current latitudes.

Comment: Panama City (Score 4, Insightful) 366

by Tenebrousedge (#49292321) Attached to: Uber Shut Down In Multiple Countries Following Raids

Panama City has essentially zero licensing restrictions on cab ownership. You can always catch a taxi...except that sometimes they won't take you more than a couple blocks because of congestion. You tell them where you want to go before you get in so that they have the opportunity to tell you to fuck off, and that happens as often as not. Generally speaking in those cases you're probably better off walking anyway. The taxis themselves are almost always roadworthy, though!

Anyone who wants to support Uber should spend some time in Panama City, as an object lesson on the reasons for taxi regulations.

Comment: Re:It's Not Political Bullshit (Score 1) 415

by Tenebrousedge (#49278435) Attached to: Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science

First, in order for this to counteract the positive feedbacks cloud cover would need to increase in proportion to CO2: this is not observed. Also, incoming rays don't warm the Earth much, as the atmosphere is transparent in the visible spectrum. On the other hand, it's more or less completely opaque in the IR, so the negative forcing effect of cloud cover would have to be extremely powerful to negate the effects of the entire atmosphere. It is a plausible counter argument, but my understanding is that the science is against it, and beyond that I can only refer you to the literature on the subject.

Comment: It's Not Political Bullshit (Score 1) 415

by Tenebrousedge (#49273019) Attached to: Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science

Horseshit. Also irrelevant, if they're not climate scientists. This is a claim that makes sense only if you have no understanding of the underlying science. It's impossible for rising CO2 levels not to warm the planet, feedbacks aside, and the H2O feedback (the most important one) is almost certainly strongly positive. There is a little bit of wiggle room, but given that H2O is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 and that there are huge reservoirs of it over 70% of the Earth's surface, and that air can hold exponentially more water as it warms, you have to invent an insanely strong negative feedback effect to counteract it if you want to disprove climate change. There is no such effect.

Your appeal to authority is wonderful but what you actually need are facts. Please try again.

Comment: Re:On Owning Ideas (Score 1) 386

For example, you can't copyright a mathematical formula, which is essentially a thought or idea. However, you can copyright a "work", that is a complex, concrete set of ideas.

Mathematical formulae are not ideas, they are facts. Some of them, like the value of pi, are inherent to the fabric of the universe. Others exist independently of the universe. Having established a sound philosophic basis for copyright, mathematical formulae would be excepted because there is no element of creativity; mathematics is discovered, not created.

First, ownership is essentially a legal concept. Therefore, you can "own" anything the law says you can own.

It's not clear that the concept of ownership is meaningful in the context of ideas. The law describes a variety of rights broadly referred to as "intellectual property"; it said otherwise at other periods in history. Therefore we cannot rely on "the law says so" as a justification. Fortunately the law itself provides a justification, as in the Copyright Clause. However, it's not clear that the rights of the author are more important than the rights of the public, and most pertinent to the current discussion, there is substantial evidence that suggests that the current law is not having the intended effect.

You are selectively interpreting that quotation to suit your preconceptions. While it is inarguable that any aspect of society is under the purview of law, the law is blessedly free from the necessity of having anything to do with reality. No one can argue the power to make a law governing copyright, however the reason to do so is very much arguable, as Jefferson makes clear:

Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

You have three problems. First that there is an equal if not better argument to be made for the rights of society over the rights of the creator. The second problem is the empirical record, which marks this era as having substantially more copyright lawsuits over the rest of history, but not necessarily any greater powers of artistry. Finally, there are the practical concerns of actually enforcing copyrights in the era of the Internet, which may be insurmountable. To me, these things mean that intellectual property was wrong in principle and execution, and that any hope of policing it is misguided and impractical. I await your thoughts on the matter.

Comment: On Owning Ideas (Score 5, Insightful) 386

Jefferson on intellectual property:

It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors. . .If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

I highly recommend reading the entire letter; if nothing else Jefferson was an excellent writer. Then if you would oblige us with a counter-argument, I am sure it would be gratifying.

Comment: Re:Not your morals != amoral (Score 2) 253

I am aware of the Open Source / Free Software split. I also know that MIT/X11 is not a copyleft license. Let's not confuse this issue with facts. I don't really care what license they're releasing it under. That Microsoft can do this, not to a chorus of enraged howls, but to people pooh-poohing it as "too little too late," means that software freedom has won. I'm just saying though, it's probably a little premature to take RMS behind the shed. Winning is one thing, but there's no kill like overkill. Personally, I wouldn't cry if proprietary software stopped being a thing; I get paid either way.

Comment: Not your morals != amoral (Score 1) 253

Just because it's a morality that you disagree with does not mean he is amoral. He is an extremist — that's why he's useful. He makes any other Open Source advocate seem like a moderate, when in fact the software industry has changed radically in the last 15-20 years.

RMS may be a crackpot, but he's a very influential crackpot. The largest software vendor in the world just open-sourced their core programming platform. Do you remember how loony Open Source used to be? No one is laughing at the "freetards" any more. RMS may still be risible, but he may yet have the last laugh.

"Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." -- Alexander Graham Bell

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