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Comment: Re:How's that work in the rain? (Score 2) 490

Kitsap County gets 49 inches a year, and averages 153 sunny days. So it's fair to say most of the time the weather is crappy, and from what I understand that tends to kill wireless performance.

Yes, it does. However, most of the rainfall is more like a heavy mist than a serious downpour, and doesn't trash your wireless performance that much. My own experience is that snowfall and ice build-up on the antenna have been a bigger problem than rain.

Comment: this is a solvable problem (Score 5, Informative) 490

... and this guy doesn't need to sell his house.

You can buy point-to-point wireless internet solutions which will give you up to 5km of range and around 50mb/s of bandwidth for $300 or so per end, so $600 total.

If that is his house, he has a bunch of trees around it which will block line of sight so he needs a tower-type antenna mount which he can buy for about $1000.

So all he needs to do is make arrangements with someone to be the other endpoint and he is in business. For less than $3000.

I'm not making this up. I managed to do this in a remote part of Washington state (where I still do not have a landline phone, the last time I checked CenturyLink wanted more than 25 grand to put in the phone service, even after I pointed out that I had put in extra copper wires they could use when I put in power to my home site) over sixteen years ago. My out-of-pocket costs were less than five grand.

Comment: This is about avoiding discrimination lawsuits (Score 1) 292

by david_bonn (#49220801) Attached to: Do Tech Companies Ask For Way Too Much From Job Candidates?

What is going on is that companies are afraid of being sued for discrimination and so they write job descriptions that no one could possibly fill. That way they (theoretically) will be able to defend themselves when they hire whomever they want to and don't hire that other person because they "weren't qualified".

In practice this isn't really very effective, but lots of HR people believe it is.

My two favorite examples of this were a requirement of having a grad-level CS degree and being a graduate of the University of Hawaii ... ironically UH didn't have a CS program at the time, as the person writing the job description knew. The other one was requiring five years of experience in Java ... in 1995.

Comment: Re: What about military satellites (Score 1) 178

by david_bonn (#49217553) Attached to: MH370 Beacon Battery May Have Been Expired

So the one hand it's inconceivable that Western powers can't tell an iridium signal from anywhere on earth. But on the other hand you admit Malaysia couldn't track widebody airliner flying across the country.

While I wouldn't equivocate the professionalism of american and Malaysian militaries, I think it shouldn't be surprising that neither is well equipped to succesfully deal with random, unpredictable scenarios that they've never encountered before.

It doesn't seem that unreasonable to me, If the transponder is off (somehow) air traffic control can't see the airplane. Military radar can, but until an emergency is declared or until the plane does something really weird any military is unlikely to do anything (re: Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Mathias Rust, &c). By the time they figured out the plane was missing the plane was long gone.

Having said that, this whole thing stinks.

A 100-ton airplane doesn't crash, even in the ocean, without leaving a lot of debris. A lot of stuff in a plane floats and by now some of that debris would have washed up somewhere. No debris has washed up.

A lot of the information about the aircraft's course and altitude changes after it ceased most communications turned out to be incorrect. Whether someone is lying or just clueless is unclear.

How and why the satellite data unit was shut down and later restarted is also unclear. Given that the unanimous consensus is that you cannot even do that from the cockpit (you have to get into the electronics bay, accessed by a hatch from the galley in front of business class) either there was a major malfunction or something really bizarre happened.

I haven't yet heard a good theory that explains what happened, but the least bad theory is that the plane was somehow diverted and probably ended up near the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Why and exactly how that happened is at best poorly explained, but the lack of debris indicates that the plane did not crash.


Comment: Re:pandemic (Score 1) 247

I'm thinking about '28 days later'. How long can one hide from the growing population of the diseased? The foraging option given in most stories will become exponentially difficult as food spoils and shops are looted by other survivors. Just like the movie, the best option is leaving town. This means the most valuable part of doomsday preparation is not gas masks and dried food but an exit strategy. If no authority has repaired infrastructure and established order after 5-7 days, it's time to exit any highly populated areas.

This strategy is going to work so well when you encounter the well-armed residents of small towns who are unlikely to welcome strangers who might be carrying a fatal disease and who are unlikely to have practical survival skills that said small town needs (strangers with survival skills, that is).

Comment: Re: Of Course (Score 1) 247

I doubt the modeling took into account that here in the South we defend our homes via the second ammendment against foreign invaders, tyrannical government AND zombies!

... which is nice except for the fact that Montana has a higher rate of gun ownership than any state in the old confederacy, and the third-highest overall (after Wyoming and Alaska).

Comment: back in the day... (Score 2) 102

Back when I was an undergrad in that program they limited themselves to 100 undergrads. EE was a separate program.

And the CS department was in a very dumpy building right across from the Student Union building that was a notorious firetrap.` That was a couple of buildings ago. If I remember they remodeled their current building (the old EE building) in 2003.

Comment: Re:Hmmm .... (Score 2) 347

by david_bonn (#49142877) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

A couple of observations.

There is a hellacious difference between an estimate and a deadline. A lot of the problem is abusing estimates and quietly or unconsciously turning an estimate into a deadline. The process for producing the two is totally different, or at least should be.

One very good manager I had would never directly ask me for an estimate. He would ask me how long it would take to figure out how long it would take to code x. If you can make a reasonable estimate of the size and complexity of the problem you are trying to solve you can begin to make a reasonable estimate of how long it will take. Without that information you are pulling numbers out of your ass.

One other good manager I had emphasized to me that estimates were, well, estimates. It was as big a problem if I always overestimated as it would be if I always underestimates.

Comment: Re:Cripes, what could possibly go wrong? (Score 4, Interesting) 421

by david_bonn (#49111503) Attached to: What If We Lost the Sky?

Some idiot is just going to do it.

It wouldn't surprise me if some consortium of obnoxious rich people (billionaires who own substantial amounts of Florida real estate are good candidates) and a low-lying country (my bet is on the Maldives) are just going to go distribute aerosols in the upper atmosphere.

The thing is, the actual volume of material you need to get into the stratosphere is not very large. A small jet flying eight or ten hours a week could do it. The problem is that most small business jets don't fly high enough to get effective distribution.

So you'd need to re-engine a gulfstream or two -- that's the big capital investment.

Someone could do this and not even need to ask permission.

Comment: Re:A precaution when done ahead of time. (Score 1) 311

by david_bonn (#49069247) Attached to: Nuclear Plant Taken Down In Anticipation of Snowstorm

A highly recommended, if a bit dated, book is _Normal Accidents_ by Charles Perrow. The sections on nuclear power plants are hair-raising reading.

The NRC used to have a rather frightening periodical called _Nuclear Safety_ which was also such hair-raising reading that it has been discontinued.

My observation is that accidents at nuclear plants seem to follow a power law, like earthquakes, where more severe incidents a less frequent. To me that means the people who argue that we really haven't had a "bad" accident yet or make special-case explanations for Chernobyl or Fukushima are missing the point -- we haven't had enough time yet to determine if far more catastrophic accidents are possible or not. A study of less major accidents, and accounts of the major ones, leads me to believe that we have just been very lucky so far. A great many of the accidents at nuclear power plants fall under what Feynman called "failure of design" where the system is not behaving in the way the engineers who designed the thing expected it to. That means we shouldn't have very much confidence at all in our ability to predict the probability of a catastrophic accident.

Some of the accidents and screwups at nuclear plants described in Perrow's book are just plain loony. One of the reactors at San Onofre was installed 180 degrees out of alignment and it took Southern California Edison seven months to notice. To correct this mistake they reversed the wiring in the control room. And such mistakes are by no means unique. At another plant overpressure in the reactor coolant led operators to somehow redirect hot, radioactive water into the drinking-water system at the plant -- what is a mystery to me is how can the two systems (reactor coolant and drinking water) possibly be connected? What is even more alarming is that there are such a bewildering array of ways for things to go wrong that there is very little commonality that lets us figure out how to do things better (not connecting drinking water to reactor coolant wouldn't be a bad start, and making sure the people building the plant read the plans wouldn't hurt either).

Comment: Re:Ppl who don't know C++ slamming C++ (Score 1) 200

by david_bonn (#48894921) Attached to: Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded 2015 Dahl-Nygaard Prize

I've spent over a decade writing C++ code professionally for financial, insurance and CRM systems. So Stroustrup made a half-baked badly designed partially-OO langauge that has set back the evolution of real OO back at least two decades, and he gets an award? A kick in the ass would be more appropriate.

I have lost count of the number of times I have ran across a mess of C++ code where someone was trying to implement Smalltalk-style semantics in C++. Which doesn't work.

C++ rewards good design but brutally punishes poor designs. And most C++ coders aren't very good at designing clean class hierarchies. This means that most large C++ programs end up being insane vats of code goo after a few years.

Oh, and pet peeves...

The class mechanism in C++ is used to implement several incompatible concepts that would be best separated. One of these is "objects". Objects ideally are almost always used in pointer or reference context, use inheritance, and all public member functions and their destructor should be virtual (a class with a virtual function and a non-virtual destructor is a memory leak waiting to happen). Objects should almost never use operator overloading. Another concept is "values". Values use the copy-constructor and assignment operators, should almost never use inheritance (because getting a virtual assignment operator to work sanely is hard, and a virtual copy constructor isn't really possible) and might use operator overloading. Any case where these two concepts mix is very rarely good.

On the other hand, I can bill $1000/day telling people in painful detail that they have a screwed up mess of code. So C++ is at least rather lucrative for me.

Comment: Re:Not a fan (Score 1) 304

by david_bonn (#48892629) Attached to: Government Recommends Cars With Smarter Brakes

If the safety feature enables the brakes when a crash is 'imminent', it takes away the driver's discretion during the times braking is not advisable.

During icy conditions, when I'd rather kill that deer instead of my family, or when a piece of black plastic blows across the roadway, are three that come to mind.

I have lived in 15 years in an area with a lot of deer, some elk, and some moose. Usually there are about 200 deer kills per years in the county. And there are notoriously icy and snowy roads in the wintertime.

About five years ago I hit a deer going about 45mph just outside of town. The deer came from the passenger side, hit the right front corner panel, and bounced up and left a basketball-sized hole with the deer head sticking through right in front of my face. The county sheriff said (and I agree) that if I would have been going 5mph faster I would have been killed. So I am all for such features.

And oh, if you are worried about icy roads your hi-tech car will almost certainly have anti-lock brakes and should have skid control (since that is just a software feature of your anti-lock brakes). So your fears about spinning out of control aren't very likely.

Comment: Re:A Boom in Civilization (Score 1) 227

by david_bonn (#48853511) Attached to: Sid Meier's New Game Is About Starships

Why is war an assumed mandatory condition for space travelers? This is patently absurd (though perhaps fun in a game). Don't ya think we would have already located some extraterrestrials if there were wars going on in space? Or is this war thing predicated on humans being out there?

We are entrained to believe wars are inevitable, due to differences in opinion or scarcity of material. May I once again posit that war is not a natural result of being human, but rather one put upon mankind by strong, selfish, sociopaths that profit from it?

There is so much we don't know that we can't really assume one way or another. Face it, we don't even know if interstellar travel is even possible (and it is not at all clear that it is possible with our present technology, and reasonable travel times require technologies that we don't know about).

The Earth seems to be at just about the minimum size needed to have plate tectonics, which is needed to keep the planet habitable long enough for complex life to arise. If that is the case most of the "habitable" planets out there are quite a bit more massive. The downside to that is an intelligent species on even a slightly more massive planet will find space travel of any kind to be quite a bit more technically challenging than even we find it. They might even find it challenging enough that they cannot or will not even try at all. So even with us finding lots of "Earth-like" planets we still might not find extraterrestrials. So I'm not so sure we'd have located those extraterrestrials.

In a similar sense, while planets are probably common, really nice planets (with the right combination of reasonable gravity, low axial tilt, a big but not too big hydrosphere) might not be that common at all. They might, in fact, be damned rare. Certainly in that case such planets would be worth fighting over. Yes, if we have super-advanced technology, we can probably terraform a planet. But I'd hate to watch the terraforming process that would create reasonable 1 gravity on a world that was twice as massive as earth. And even a terraformed planet wouldn't be as nice a place to live as Earth still is.

To communicate is the beginning of understanding. -- AT&T