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Comment: Re:"Beneath Apple DOS" was available then (Score 1) 211

by call -151 (#45406397) Attached to: Apple II DOS Source Code Released

My memory was that the scrolling Terminator listings were assembly source code from Nibble magazine. I'm not sure what particular program, but it was a very recognizable format even when it just flashed on the screen briefly. I think there was some checksum code that came with the printed Nibble magazine that could you could check to make sure that you'd typed in things correctly. So I was probably one of the few people in the theatre who was amused that just as the Terminator robot was about to hunt and kill something (or whatever it was), he appeared to be doing a quick check to make sure that the "Hunt and Kill Something" code that had been typed in from the magazine was typed correctly.

The internet is good at these types of things: here is a site with screenshots from the Terminator movie and indeed it was Nibble magazine source code, and the checksum program was KeyPerfect. The source appears at a quick look to be for some kind of disk utility, perhaps a RAMdisk or something. The code seems to be named OVLY (overlay?) and I recognize VTOC as a virtual table of contents on a disk sector.

Comment: Re:"Beneath Apple DOS" was available then (Score 2) 211

by call -151 (#45406337) Attached to: Apple II DOS Source Code Released

My memory was that the scrolling Terminator listings were assembly source code from Nibble magazine. I'm not sure what particular program, but it was a very recognizable format even when it just flashed on the screen briefly. I think there was some checksum code that came with the printed Nibble magazine that could you could check to make sure that you'd typed in things correctly. So I was probably one of the few people in the theatre who was amused that just as the Terminator robot was about to hunt and kill something (or whatever it was), he appeared to be doing a quick check to make sure that the "Hunt and Kill Something" code that had been typed in from the magazine was typed correctly.

Comment: "Beneath Apple DOS" was available then (Score 1) 211

by call -151 (#45406097) Attached to: Apple II DOS Source Code Released

There was Beneath Apple DOS, a fabulous book from the time which was invaluable for figuring out what was going on. My understanding was that Don Worth and Peter Lechner disassembled the shipped code and sorted out how things worked, with great explanations. Those were a great guide and helpful for writing all kinds of software. I suspect that a similar effort these days would not be resolved without legal intervention- I have no idea if they even asked permission or if it would have occurred to people that you might want to ask. (This PDF of the book says that Apple was not in any way involved in the book, did not endorse it, etc right on the title page.) Then again, the source code for important parts of the ROMS at the time (Woz's Sweet16) was distributed with the computer in hard copy manuals. I learned a great deal from reading the Sweet 16 source for that and also from Beneath Apple DOS. Beneath Apple DOS wasn't full source code, but it did explicitly identify what blocks of code did what in a way that made it easy to understand what was going on and how to change things.

Comment: National Science Foundation disruption (Score 3, Informative) 1144

by call -151 (#45056843) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Does the US Gov't Budget Crunch Affect You?

As a researcher in mathematics, I am fortunate to have a great position and supportive research environment. I still get a paycheck and my day-to-day life continues more-or-less the same, but there are a number of thoughtless consequences indirectly for me, mainly due to the National Science Foundation being currently unfunded. My NSF grant money was delivered some time ago to my grants office and I can spend money as usual for my postdocs and students, so it isn't affecting me there directly. Instead, we have the following consequences:

  1. The NSF webpages are down. That means no reports on existing grants can be filed, not a big deal. But it also means that no new grant submissions can be filed. There are many deadlines in the fall and this is usually a very busy time for grant submissions. I expect that deadlines will be shifted, but that is a huge hassle as in my fields, generally there are once-a-year deadlines and there is a big buildup and plan to time things around the deadlines. Deadlines are carefully distributed throughout the year to avoid congestion with grants offices and to avoid proposing researchers getting overwhelmed. That is all out the window with no idea about how things will be resolved.
  2. No NSF review panels are meeting. In my fields, being asked to do a panel is both an honor and a serious burden. It is a lot of work to read proposals, often in related areas not exactly in areas of primary expertise. Twelve people are asked (per panel) to consider dozens of proposals, each hundreds of pages long (total, most of the important stuff is in about 50 pages.) These are essentially volunteers, top-level researchers from around the world who feel it is important to choose wisely which researchers are funded. Panels are scheduled to meet at the NSF with travel arrangements made by them. Generally it is a very intensive time with tight timelines. All of that is on hold. No new panels are being scheduled, existing panels are in limbo despite people having already read proposals and begun to evaluate them, and panels that already met can't have any further progress on funding decisions. Scheduling panels is a pain and there will be massive congestion and chaos once things get going again, assuming there is again a budget.

To my mind, these are a big disruption. For people in the lab sciences whose funding is disrupted, projects that have been ongoing or building up can be seriously affected. For people whose funding record will have a big role in their hiring, tenure, and promotion situation, this is a huge stress-inducing situation.

Blegh. This is a completely unnecessary disruption to thousands of scientists and researchers. Science research funding in the US has always been a pain, even when things go smoothly. Excellent researchers have left for Europe over the years due to frustrations with the NSF system, and things like this will exacerbate that problem.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant system is even larger scale and is also totally on hold, with consequent disruptions. And with the life sciences, uncertainty in projects can be more problematic as it is often harder to put things on hold. I feel sorry for people whose funding needs to be renewed, is under consideration, or needs adjustment now as this is a huge hassle.

Comment: Re:Alternative Metrics (Score 4, Insightful) 273

by call -151 (#44840593) Attached to: Study Shows Professors With Tenure Are Worse Teachers

Good summary, speaking as another tenured faculty member. There are a number of things which are not addressed in the study which complicate any analysis:

  1. Younger tenure-track faculty tend to rarely teach introductory courses as large lectures in institutions I have been at. Generally, young, untenured faculty are given teaching reductions during their probationary periods to focus on research and getting grants, which are the primary determinants of whether or not they get tenure.
  2. Tenured active researchers who are enthusiastic and productive about their research generally teach less overall and are less likely to teach intro courses. There are some active research faculty who relish the large-lecture environment and the "showmanship" aspects that it entails, but in my experience those are not typical and most researchers prefer to teach upper-division and graduate courses.
  3. From the study The freshmen who got the biggest boost tended to be less academically qualified students, judged by SAT scores and such, in the hardest subjects. To me, this indicated that the talents being measured are reflective of more basic level information, and perhaps related to improving student organization and study skills. Some adjuncts are excellent at giving the structure and feedback that weak students need (their livelihood may depend upon such skills) whereas other faculty may not have the patience to help get poorly-prepared students up to speed, and their livelihood depends upon other skills such as research, mentoring graduate students and postdocs, and so on.

The first two points result in a biased sample- tenured faculty teaching intro classes may well be dominated by "dead wood" faculty who have to teach more because they are no longer as productive in research, and are more likely to teach intro courses. I have been in departments where one strategy to get unproductive faculty to retire is to assign them to large intro lectures for non-majors. That is not a recipe for learning success and may be sufficient to bias the results downward as seen in the study. It appears there is just one institution in the study (Northwestern, a private university in the American midwest) and if that is a common practice there, that makes the whole thing pretty moot.

Another point is that it does take a while for junior faculty to find their teaching footing, particularly in the large lecture-theater classes. Often, small changes in administrative or organizational methods have a big impact on how happy the students are or how much time they put into the class. With greater instructional experience, particularly in large lectures, it is not surprising that a seasoned adjunct instructor may do better by these metrics that a hotshot excited untenured researcher, no matter how enthusiastic the latter is.

Comment: excellent criticism from knowledgable rail expert (Score 2) 533

by call -151 (#44558511) Attached to: Elon Musk's 'Hyperloop': More Details Revealed

There is a great discussion from Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations. Alon is a mathematician who is very knowledgable about transit issues and rail alignments in particular.

In stark contrast to most media (which seems incapable or disinterested in addressing the engineering issues and is basically repeating a press release) he has a number of specific issues:

  • The cost per mile of construction estimates are way too low, probably by a factor of 10.
  • At the planned speeds or even a fraction of them, the alignments would result in much higher passenger G-forces than any existing transit (although lower than many roller coasters) (.5g allegedly for Hyperloop, although it isn't clear how they could keep it that low, versus less than half that for Shinkasen and less for European HSR.
  • The throughput is completely unrealistic
  • The energy use estimates are not fair comparisons
  • The increased speed would not result in significantly faster times than traditional HSR to downtown destinations, due to Hyperloop ending in Sylmar, quite a distance from LA.

Comment: sharelatex and scribtex good options (Score 1) 160

Two good options I'm surprised that haven't been mentioned are sharelatex and a former rival (now subsumed into sharelatex) scribtex Both are a "Google Docs meets LaTeX" solution that work well for various settings. I've had good luck using them with student collaborators who may not want to learn all the ins and outs of LaTeX for a joint project but who can edit text, draw figures, etc. and learn at least some of LaTeX without just starting with a blank page. They work well with the main features being that they are TeX-aware and the collaborators can just edit online and then typeset to PDF online without having to install TeX, style files, BibTeX, various graphics packages etc. on their own machines. The "diff" capability and the "revert to version of July 15" features are great when working with less-than-expert-LaTeXers as there are inevitable screwups and it has served me well both for writing academic papers with students and for collaborating on research grant proposals with people who give blank stares when the word "github" comes up. It is a great improvement over the "one author has the token and people email each other the latest version" method that is quite common and usually results in a couple of screwups along the way.

Comment: Re:TeX for Math (Score 1) 300

by call -151 (#43386653) Attached to: Extended TeX: Past, Present, and Future

Absolutely- the proper typesetting gave airs of polish and correctness. The effect is long-gone now, but I do remember seeing mathematical preprints, typeset nicely in TeX, which had as the first line something to the effect of: "Warning: although this looks like a final result, do not be fooled by its appearance. It is really preliminary and should be gauged as if it were haphazard handwritten scribbles rather than polished typeset mathematics." These days people are used to seeing all kinds of mathematical tripe typeset nicely (perhaps generated automatically, in fact) so those kind of disclaimers are no longer needed!

Comment: details matter, unclear (Score 1) 44

by call -151 (#43124053) Attached to: NSF Audit Finds Numerous Cases of Alleged Plagiarism

It's hard to tell from the summary or article what is going on here. I suspect a decent fraction of these may be people submitting proposals under different programs for similar or overlapping projects. Sometimes a scientific project will kind of fall between programs and people will submit more-or-less the same proposal to two different parts of the NSF, hoping for funding from one. Given the low funding rate and the great deal of uncertainty about funding (thanks, oh-so-functional Congress!) it is pretty common for people to submit to multiple programs or to have several co-Principal Investigators, each with a component of a larger-scale project. And people definitely recycle their earlier proposals, funded or not. There are also often required sections on ``broader impact'' that are important in many fields that may not have much in common with the specific proposal and may be copied from other proposals. To me, there is a huge difference between ``self-plagarism'' or duplication, between recycling a broader impact statement from a colleague, and between outright plagiarism, unknown to the person who is being copied, with genuine scientific theft of ideas. From what is described, it sounds like they aren't yet distinguishing between these cases.

There was a good description on the arXiv about good plagiarism detection methods and tuning parameters for efficient detection of duplication and plagiarism, applied to a good part of the body of arXiv submissions. That algorithm is run now, which is why you see those ``article has significant text overlap'' messages, detailed here.

Comment: Re:Why tenure? (Score 1) 193

by call -151 (#43052045) Attached to: The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

Thanks, and I agree that many associate profs do just continue full-strength out of momentum and self-motivate. The system and general academic research culture encourages complete devotion to your research and you get used to it. Going into academic research is a terrible idea if you don't truly love what you do, and get your own internal rewards from research success as well as the external ones.

Glad you like the username, I have fond memories of the Apple ][, though that was a while ago. I have a lot of brain cells still (uselessly) remembering old commands...

Comment: Re:Why tenure? (Score 1) 193

by call -151 (#43050849) Attached to: The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

Not quite accurate- the progression at least at US academic research institutions is typically as follows:

  1. grad student, under supervision of a senior faculty member, 4-6 years typically of hard work. Many from here do not get research postdocs and leave academia, if their research isn't strong enough or they aren't interested.
  2. postdoc, 3 years at another institution, under supervision of a senior faculty member typically, often people do more than one postdoctoral position at more than one institution. Hard work, has the potential to significantly broaden experience. Many from here never get any other options beside additional postdocs and leave academia.
  3. assistant professor: potential for eventually getting tenure at that institution. Typically considered for tenure in the sixth year. Lots of pressure to get grants, be productive, show work independent from advisor and postdoctoral mentors. Those who do not get tenure leave academia or head to a lesser institution to possibly get tenure there. Often, if people are not being very productive, they leave after three years rather than risk being rejected for tenure when the time comes.
  4. associate professor: congratulations, typically getting tenure results in a promotion to associate professor. This job is basically permanent. There is strong pressure to get grants and be productive if interested in getting promoted to full professor. Some people burn out at this point and do not continue to get grants and be productive, and become "associate professor for life." Sometimes they are moderatey productive, sometime they are bitter, sometimes they become more teaching-focused, sometimes they do some research but not dramatic research, sometimes they become more involved in running the administrative aspects, etc.
  5. "Full professor" (technically, the title is "Professor" but many people use the word "full" to emphasize that it is not assistant or associate) has been considered for promotion from associate prof and been promoted. Generally not a rigid timetable, often about 7 to 10 years past associate, with most institutions requiring big grants, big results, big recognition, etc. for promotion to "full" professor. Even after promotion to full, people are so used to working like crazy for so many years and interested in getting further recognition, grants, etc. that they are still going full bore, despite there not being explicit pressure.

Adding up time in years, roughly: 5 as grad student, 5-8 as postdoc, 5 assistant, 5 associate, means that typically full prof has 20-30+ years in the field as a researcher. Stronger people make proceed up through the ranks more quickly but that is about typical. And at each stage, many people leave or get stuck.

Comment: Re:Speaking of the ACM and access, (Score 1) 60

by call -151 (#43049899) Attached to: Editorial In ACM On Open Access Publishing In Computer Science

The ACM is pretty terrible on this front and compares very poorly to other professional societies, for example the American Mathematics Society. AMS has more reasonable fees, much more reasonable copyright assignment for their journals, charges less for their journals, does not have some difficult-to-use online journal system, and in fact their modestly-priced journals and books effectively subsidize the rest of their operations. The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics is also good by all these measures. Both of them are much smaller than the ACM. The ACM has a glossier magazine, though, so there is that.

Comment: Re:The harsh reality (Score 1) 193

by call -151 (#43049631) Attached to: The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

"Impact factors" are an important part of the old dead-tree for profit publishers efforts to persist. The most common one, Thomson JCR, is itself run by a for-profit publisher with strong incentives to maintain the illusion that the only high-impact journals are the for-profit ones. In fact, to be considered for the JCR entry, the journal must actually pay real money, and many open-access/inexpensive journals can't afford to pay or have chosen not to participate. So the ranking is then more biased toward the traditional model. Further, the metrics for "impact" are somewhat dubious and many authors and publishers are aware of the metrics and make strong efforts to game the existing system based upon citations. As I mention in another comment, many open-access journals are self-conscious about having low standards, and accept only the very-top quality papers, and as a result don't have many articles appear each year.

Comment: validation versus distribution (Score 2) 193

by call -151 (#43049521) Attached to: The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

As mentioned in the other recent academic publishing story, there has been some progress but it has been slow. One thing that I am hopeful about are "epijournals" which separate the review from the distribution by serving as overlays to the remarkably successful arxiv preprint servers, at least in many areas of math and physics.

There are a number of issues here, many of which have been brought up often before. A few to recap:

  1. Prestige: As a fully-promoted researcher who isn't worried much about prestige, I am free to only submit articles to journals which are either open-access or are reasonably-priced (for example, many of those run by universities or professional societies, rather than by for-profit organizations.) Which I choose to do, and have made clear for many years via the Banff Protocol and now the CostOfKnowledge petition. However, when collaborations with junior researchers lead to publications, I am willing to submit to some of the other journals, as for the co-author, the prestige may be important for them getting a job, tenure, promotion, or grant funding.
  2. Standards: Oddly, many of the open-access/free electronic journals have standards that are much higher than many of the for-profit journals. The second and lower tiers of for-profit journals will often publish less-than-impressive to just plain terrible articles and have much lower standards than the typical electronic ones. They have economic incentives to publish many articles, and there are sites devoted to exposing various sham journals or editorial failings of journals from Elsevier, etc. I think that many of the electronic free journals are worried about not being prestigious enough and so they tend to have high standards, significantly higher than many for-profit ones. I've had things that were rejected by good electronic journals that were accepted quickly and with high praise to middling traditional journals.
  3. Author-pays model: there has been a proliferation of "open-access" publications, some of which are outright scams, see Beall's list of predatory "open-access" publishers. Often, these journals have names very similar to existing prestigious-to-middling journals, which complicates things and has made many authors naturally suspicious of various open-access journals as a whole.
  4. Institutional culture: it takes a while for things to change. There have been a few mass resignations of for-profit journal editorial boards to start more-or-less identical less-expensive or free versions which are basically identically, but not nearly as many as I have hoped. Tim Gowers' efforts and the recent White House memo in the USA are progress but of course there is still a long way to go.

"The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." -- Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards