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Comment Re:Heh (Score 4, Insightful) 305

One thing I've noticed is someone who is very good at a tech job isn't just twice as productive as someone who is lousy at it; the discrepancy could easily be 10x; or it could be that he produces positive progress and the lousy guy produces anti-progress. This is clearly true for software developers, but I've seen it happen with network administrators too: small cadres of happy, super-productive admins outperforming armies of miserable tech drones.

But the thing is if you don't understand anything about (a) the technology or (b) human beings, how do you get a worker to be more productive? You make him work longer.

I'm not talking about striking while the iron is hot. When opportunity produces the occasional 80 hour work week, that's a totally different matter than having no better idea of what to do than setting unrealistic goals and leaving it to workers to make it up through sheer, unsustainable effort. Too often in the latter case you end up producing the semblance of progress. Yeah, I finished the module but someone's going to have to throw it out and rewrite when it blows up in the customer's face.

Comment Re:Wait for the results. (Score 1) 114

Well he *is* going to test the hypothesis. But he has to test the *procedure* as well on a smaller scale before he uses it on his research subjects.

People underestimate how much of science is like this. Advancing science isn't just a matter of creating more theoretical knowledge; a lot of the time it's about advancing know-how.

Comment Re:Not normal driving. (Score 1) 402

And, I'm sorry, but the driver with his right turn signal on who swoops across two lanes and turns left ... or the ones who think they can use the oncoming lane because there's something in their lane ... or who randomly brake because they can see a cat a half mile away ... or cyclists who do crazy and random shit ... or any number of crazy things you can see on a daily basis ... all of these things will create situations in which the autonomous car utterly fails to do the right thing.

Your pessimistic prediction is based on a misunderstanding of how autonomous cars are programmed.

You're imagining that the autonomous car's programming is based on a legal model -- i.e. that it is assuming that other cars will always follow the law and do the right thing according to the DMV handbook. And you (correctly) infer that a program based on that assumption would often fail in the real world, since other drivers sometimes do crazy or illegal things.

Fortunately, Google's engineers aren't stupid, and they understand that problem also. Which is why they don't program their cars to rely on that assumption. Rather, they program their cars to assume only that other cars will follow only the laws of physics -- for example, they can safely assume that a car will not accelerate from 0mph to 150mph in one second, but they cannot safely assume that a car will stop at a red light.

Approaching the problem at that level is not only more reliable (since unlike the driving code, it's impossible to break the laws of physics) but also easier (since the laws of physics are simpler and easier to quantify than the US driving code, and they are MUCH easier than trying to predict human drivers' psychology). An autonomous car avoiding other cars on a real street isn't much different than a bot avoiding enemy missiles in a video game -- in both cases, the program knows the missiles' current positions, their velocities, and the possible ways in which they could accelerate/decelerate/change-direction if they chose to do so -- and it plans and executes its own actions accordingly. It's not trivial, and it's not guaranteed to avoid every possible accident -- but it's not rocket science, either. Remember that to succeed, the car doesn't have to be God-like in its abilities, only an order of magnitude or so better than the average human driver.

None of this is to say that the autonomous car doesn't need to understand the rules of the road -- but its understanding of the law is used to guide its own actions, not to make assumptions about the actions of the other cars.

Comment Re:Poor example (Score 1) 402

I imagine that most people occasionally get into this sort of Mexican standoff with a car, in which neither driver is quite sure whether the other driver is going to go first or is planning to wait and go second.

When two humans are involved, the standoff can be quickly resolved with a hand gesture (not the one-fingered kind; I mean either a "thank you" wave if you want to go first, or a "go ahead" motion if you want them to)

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to put some kind of display on the front of the autonomous car that would allow it to communicate something similar? There is no reason (other than minimizing cost) for a self-driving car to be inscrutable.

Comment Re:duh? (Score 1) 82

You can use different kinds of evidence different ways. Credible anecdotal evidence can disprove some things, or it can suggest other things, but for the most part can't prove that one thing causes another.

Example: Suppose my friend Larry gets lung cancer a few years after he quit smoking. This disproves the notion that if you quit smoking you are guaranteed not to get lung cancer. It suggests that smoking causes long-term damage to the cells of the lung. It doesn't prove that quitting smoking causes cancer.

Randomized controlled studies are generally the most useful evidence points when it comes to trying to prove causation, but individual studies still can't do that. What you need is a pattern of evidence that includes RCTs and other, independent lines of inquiry.

Comment Just a money grab (Score 4, Insightful) 224

The only reason they are making any changes is because the FCC is considering doing something.

As a point for comparison where I live there are two cable providers, Cox and Comcast, covering different parts of the city. Cox has a data cap, but it is 2TB. Also that is a soft cap. If you hit it, nothing happens. They may call and complain at you if you do it too much, but that's all. It is there to try and keep people reasonable, and so they can cut off someone in truly egregious cases (I've never actually heard of anyone getting cut off).

Now somehow both these companies can make money, yet only Comcast charges for overages and yet has much lower caps.

It is just a money grab. While some kind of soft cap or throttling can be needed to make sure people play nice (we can only have Internet fast and cheap if people share, otherwise the backhaul is prohibitively expensive) low hard caps with overage fees are just used to try and make more cash.

Comment Re:duh? (Score 1) 82

The point is that the relationship between sleep and the strength of the immune system has been well know and tested for years...

For a certain value of "well-known" and "tested". You could actually read the paper abstract and see what was novel about this particular study.

Comment Re:duh? (Score 4, Interesting) 82

Knowing it in principle and knowing when to put that knowledge to work are two different things.

I used to catch *everything* that was going around, including some things most other people didn't. I got sick three, maybe four times a year. I always put it down to having a lousy immune system, until in one checkup I mentioned to my doctor that I'm a pretty loud snorer. "Better have you checked for sleep apnea," he said, and sure enough I had it, although only a relatively mild case. He prescribed sleeping on a CPAP machine, and since I've been doing that I almost never get sick. Maybe once in four years.

Anecdotal evidence, I know, but my point is this. Now that there's research demonstrating the impact of sleep on immune system performance it makes sense to make questions about sleep quantity and quality a routine part of health surveillance. I just happened to mention snoring to my doctor on one visit; if I'd been asked twenty years earlier it would have saved my employers a lot of sick time and me a lot of misery.

Comment Re:Here's the thing about disasters. (Score 1) 239

A win-win game is not the only kind of non-zero-sum game there is. Suppose I set up a game in which the amount I win is 1/10 of what everyone else loses. I win $100; everyone else loses $1000. If I add up the net gains in the whole game, what we have as a net loss of $900 for all players. It's not fair; it's not reasonable for the community of players to favor such rules, but nonetheless I'm still up $100.

Broken windows may not be a net good thing for the community as a whole, but it certainly is a good thing for the glaziers.

Comment Here's a question for you to think about (Score 4, Interesting) 174

Do those same techniques work on frequencies through all different mediums, or do they only work in the air? (this is a rhetorical question by the way).

Whatever you can get in the air, you can get more in a cable or fibre. Sorry, that is just how it is going to be. Find the fastest wireless technology on the market, and then compare it to what you can get over a copper or fibre. Do it at any given point in history, and you see that it is always behind.

There's a reason for that, and I gave the reason.

Comment Re:Free speech hundreds of miles out in the desert (Score 3, Insightful) 184

I'll bet a lot of people love the fact that all this "free speech" will be taking place hundreds of miles out in the desert...

You don't know people very well then. As Lord Macaulay observed in his The History of England from the Accession of James the Second,

“The Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”

You see it is not enough for prigs and busybodies that they're not involved in any way in the things you do that give you pleasure; their problem is with you enjoying something they don't enjoy, or perhaps understand.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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