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Comment: I'll join the chorus: Mac. (Score 1) 385

by aussersterne (#49289585) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Laptop To Support Physics Research?

Get a nicely configured MBP and be done with it.

It's the most common platform in research and academic settings for individual use these days, which means that there is a social dimension to the available support (i.e. people around you can help with problems). Meanwhile, the platform is narrow enough and the OS and hardware tightly bound together enough that one-off bugs and edge cases are exceedingly rare (which is not the case for Linux).

And Apple has very reasonable quality control in both hardware and software.

Having done a Ph.D. and dealt with the pressures and complexities that come therewith, I'd say that the overriding concerns should be reducing the PITA factor, keeping downtimes short, eliminating unexpected behavior and gotchas to whatever extent possible, and buying in to the largest on-the-ground support network (i.e. installed customer base) that you can find with identical hardware/software.

All of these things point to Mac for academic research settings.

Comment: You're right and wrong. (Score 2) 320

You're absolutely right about incentives and grant money.

How you tied this to the Nobel Prize is beyond me, so let's drop that.

The incentives are all about grant money and outside (the campus) capital. As a result, the science takes a back seat to market economics, market-ing (both of corporate partners and of academic institutions themselves, which increasingly operate in a competitive marketplace for enrollments), management concerns, investors, etc.

This incentive structure is increasingly becoming the norm well beyond U.S. shores.

So the problem isn't that science is increasingly wrong, it's that scientists are increasingly doing labor that may *involve* science, but that is in fact product-oriented R&D driven by short-term investment timelines and economic and investor-friendly optics, and whether any of it is good *science* is secondary or tertiary to whether it's profitable, whether directly or indirectly.

Let the scientists go back to doing science first and money-making (whether to support their own tenure lines or to support corporate profits) second or even better, third, fourth, or fifth, and you'll find that the ship rights itself.

Comment: Mr. Moynihan should have read on the (Score 1) 375

by aussersterne (#49162227) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

problems of epistemology, including in science.

Note that there are no shortage of facts whose veracity depends on nuanced facets of context and condition, some of which are disputed.

For example, fact or not: "Linux is a difficult operating system to use, and is a better choice for geeks and hackers than for regular users."

Or how about:

"Android is an operating system written by Google."

Or how about:

"The Bermuda Triangle region has seen an unusually high number of ship and plane disappearances over the years, and may be a particularly dangerous place to travel."

Because unless Google's algorithms are very, very nuanced in their approach, each of these is going to be seen as carrying high levels of factuality based on the preponderance of content out there, particularity in high-authority sources.

Of course, statements like the first and third are too complex for Google's rankings to evaluate and rank, and it can only work with very simple assertions on the order of "Milk is white," or "Obama is a Democrat," the it's going to do practically nothing (good or bad) at all for the rankings, since facts with this level of consensus are generally undisputed, even by those that promote falsehoods.

Comment: This shifts the weakness in Google's rankings (Score 3, Interesting) 375

by aussersterne (#49160739) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

from gameability (in short, SPAM) to politics. Rather than punish above-board or non-predatory websites, it will punish both subversive and innovative thought that runs well ahead of social consensus. Sure, it will also eliminate willful misinformation, but it turns Google into an inherently conservative, rather than socially innovative, force.

Can't say I think it's better. Probably not any worse, but certainly not panacea.

Comment: Sociological problem: CYA (Score 5, Insightful) 158

by aussersterne (#49148335) Attached to: Invented-Here Syndrome

Part of the problem is the CYA issue.

If you're writing the code, you sound like a laborer ("I have to..."). If it breaks, it's your fault and you're on the hook publicly.

If you present a third-party component in a meeting, you sound like a manager ("I propose that we..."). Once three or four other people in the meeting have concurred, if something breaks it's the third party's fault. A ticket or two are initiated, it's someone else's problem and everybody gets to cast blame somewhere beyond the walls of the company.

Rational behavior, regrettably.

Comment: You're absolutely right. The desktop is over. (Score 1) 393

by aussersterne (#49071329) Attached to: PC-BSD: Set For Serious Growth?

I have no idea why people are arguing with you about this. The evidence (not least from the desktop computing industry) is everywhere, with catastrophically declining sales over the long term, offset by increases in mobiles and tablets—which, incidentally, Linux has already won, though in large part by leaving the distro community behind.

Linux could actually conquer the desktop in the end—a few years down the road when desktop computing is a specialized, professionals-only computing space. The users of other desktop operating systems are slowly bleeding off to mobile and tablet.

But this can only happen, ironically, if distros and devs stop trying to conquer the desktop in the present. If they continue down the path they're on, the long-term desktop community, which would be a natural fit for the Linux of yore, will probably be on some other OS. (MacOS? Surely not Windows at this point.)

Comment: Are the job description and your actual requiremen (Score 1) 809

by aussersterne (#49048685) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

That is to say, did you call for applications from *deeply* experienced people that know esoteric systems X, Y, and Z and that have previously worked with New Hot Language Q and Languages Of The Week I and J?

Or did you ask for unusual gurus that understand and have a *broad* range of experience with a wide variety of fundamental computing concepts and theory and can apply them correctly while rapidly getting up to speed on new environments and/or languages?

Because you're complaining about not getting the second group, while most of the job listings posted in industry are the first group.

There is often little overlap between the two, and HR departments and managers seem to default to looking for the first even when they actually need the second.

At a more prosaic level, if you specifically need someone that is going to understand general purpose encryption tools, you can also put that in the description.

A lot of the frustration with "not being able to get talent" in tech comes down to not asking for (or being willing to hire based on) what is actually needed. Instead, everyone is in CYA mode and making job listings and hires that are buzzword-rich and, thus, easily quantifiable ("he hit the right series of checkboxes, it's not my fault that he sucks, I did my part...")

Comment: Re:How about just don't buy a phone from the carri (Score 1) 100

by aussersterne (#49045179) Attached to: Starting This Week, Wireless Carriers Must Unlock Your Phone

Try NET10. If you got in last year, you could get 2GB + throttling to 3g HSPA unlimited everything for $40/mo., month-by-month (no contract).

New signups right now get 3GB + throttling to 64kbps unlimited everything for $45/mo., month-by-month (no contract).

AT&T's 2-year contact for 3GB is currently $80/mo.

NET10 GSM plans use the AT&T network, so the coverage is the same and the phone compatibility is the same.

Comment: How about just don't buy a phone from the carriers (Score 4, Interesting) 100

by aussersterne (#49043037) Attached to: Starting This Week, Wireless Carriers Must Unlock Your Phone

in the first place?

There are some FABULOUS devices coming out of China these days, readily available on eBay and Amazon, with high specs, Android KitKat or Lollipop, and sold at half the price or less vs. offerings from the carriers.

Just got a Huawei Honor X1 and am using it with an MVNO in the US. The retail price of the new off-contract phone from China, purchased on eBay, was about what the two-year on-contract retail price of a similarly specced Android device is in the U.S. The MVNO contract, with "unlimited" data (throttling to HSPA+ after the first several GB every month) is less than half the price of a similar contract at a major carrier.

There's no reason to buy on-contract phones any longer.

Comment: Yup, bewildering management. (Score 2) 294

by aussersterne (#48995839) Attached to: Radioshack Declares Bankruptcy

They seem to have decided a number of years ago to try to be Best Buy, only in 1/20th of the floor space, with higher prices, and while ensuring that they rebadge any major brand products to bear their own, woefully antiquated and little-known brand badges instead, to ensure that consumers would gravitate to Best Buy instead, where said major brands with which consumers were familiar continued to remain on display.

It started to make zero sense sometime in the late-1980s and it just got worse and worse from there.

I still buy parts, diagnostic equipment, and accessories for many tech items in the house. Just now I buy them on I just bought a pack of about 30 DPDT switches the other day for $5.00 or so. I don't need 30, I just need one. I'd have just as well paid Radio Shack $2.99 for a switch and had it the same day—only the local store doesn't carry that stuff any longer.

Comment: Mom-and-Pops don't survive in America (Score 3, Insightful) 294

by aussersterne (#48995829) Attached to: Radioshack Declares Bankruptcy

because suburbanites and flyover folks won't shop in them. Mom and pop and competing national chain open on the same block, the entire crowd flocks to national chains, particularly in smaller communities. Hell, they're even proud to have them. Getting a Wal-Mart means they've arrived, it puts them on the map.

The only place where Mom-and-pop shops still survive are in heavily blue urban areas, where they continue to do well. That's no accident.

Comment: Same, with Olympus. (Score 1) 422

by aussersterne (#48995795) Attached to: What Happened To the Photography Industry In 2014?

I've been shooting with four thirds since it was released, and I have the same great lenses that remain perfect as they day I bought them.

This year I finally upgraded my body (to an E-3) for the first time in years. Logged over 150k actuations on my E-1 previously.

So I bought one body and zero lenses in a decade.

Once all of the pros and semi-pros and serious shooters have made the switch from film to digital, and are fully satisfied with the quality they're getting, and once all of the snapshot shooters have a camera that is automatically included and upgraded each time they get a phone (which everyone has), there's just not a lot of growth market left.

The switch from digital to film was a one-time boom until parity was reached in quality, and now it's done.

Comment: That's the point. Nine times out of ten, you don't (Score 1) 422

by aussersterne (#48995779) Attached to: What Happened To the Photography Industry In 2014?

WANT greater depth of field. You want LESS.

That's what the non-photographer public senses when they talk about the difference between "professional photos" and "snapshots."

In a snapshot (small camera), everything in the picture is in sharp focus, which makes the photo about the "scene" and distracts eyes from any one particular subject.

Shooting at f/2 on a tiny sensor, you get only snapshots.

Shooting at f/2 on a DSLR, only the subject (the person, the face, the rock feature, whatever) is in focus, and everything else is slightly blurred, which brings attention to the subject of the image, and at the same time blurs out distracting, unimportant details in the background.

Here's a good example from Google Images:

On a small camera or a smartphone, only the photo on the left is possible. In fact, on the smallest phones/cameras, you won't even get that much blur in the background; nearly everything can be razor sharp.

Generally, that's not good for subject work—only for scene work.

"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite." -- Bertrand Russell, _Sceptical_Essays_, 1928