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Comment: Re:How is that startling? (Score 1) 413

by david_bonn (#48479589) Attached to: Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

Someone has already implemented a pretty good algorithm for generating congressional districts.

While it does ignore geographic features, the algorithm has the virtue of extreme simplicity and does seem to produce quite reasonable results in all but a few cases.

Comment: Re:10x Productivity (Score 1) 215

by david_bonn (#48413865) Attached to: Do Good Programmers Need Agents?

The "10x productivity" idea is somewhat silly anyhow - sure, some people are quite productive, but mostly if one guy is 10x another, the other guy just sucks.

It is more like 10000x rather than 10x.

First off, we humans are just barely intelligent enough to write nontrivial computer programs in the first place. I believe strongly if humans were on average ten percent less intelligent we would still be stuck on the towers of hanoi and bubblesorts. Of course, what "intelligence" means in the context of computer programming is highly idiosyncratic and not very well understood. Finding those people with the right cognitive toolkit for solving a particular set of coding problems can make a huge difference in the success or failure of a company. Or at least a product.

Second, I've lost count of the number of times where I've ran into someone (or some enormous team of people) who labored on some project for years and then ran into some dude (nearly always a dude, sorry ladies) who solved exactly the same problem in a few weeks. Or less. For an infamous example consider the history of the Xanadu project versus the early http servers and Mosaic. Yes, yes, I know Xanadu was trying to do something totally different than the WWW did. Of course, WWW worked and Xanadu never did.

Third, a lot of the real value add is the "Aha!" type of insights that translate large, intractable problems into easily solvable ones (see again Xanadu/WWW). The people who can provide those kinds of insights are rare and precious. The whole purpose of the enterprise is to solve problems, and if you aren't finding and taking vicious shortcuts to solve those problems you aren't doing your job.

In the end I absolutely agree in the sense that writing software is largely a creative enterprise, not an engineering one. And the people who write software need to be managed and compensated as creative people are, not like they are replaceable parts. Because that is the other point where software authoring is so different from other enterprises -- coders are often extremely specialized, to the point where managing coders, especially talented, productive coders, becomes largely a problem of matching tasks to appropriate talent.

Comment: Re:good to have backups (Score 1) 139

by david_bonn (#48288819) Attached to: World War II Tech eLoran Deployed As GPS Backup In the UK

I don't think either Iran or North Korea has the launch capacity to put the 1000+kg that they would need to put a nuke into orbit.

Agreed that a nuke in LEO would play merry hell with GPS and lots of other satellites. But I can't really see North Korea or Iran being crazy or stupid enough to piss off their remaining allies (or sort-of-allies) like China or Russia. Of course, we are talking about North Korea and Iran...

Comment: Re:good to have backups (Score 1) 139

by david_bonn (#48287367) Attached to: World War II Tech eLoran Deployed As GPS Backup In the UK

The GPS satellites are in pretty high orbits (around 20000km if memory serves). I don't know if anybody has an anti-satellite weapon that can target a satellite that high. For that matter, the WAAS satellites are in geosynchronous orbit and even harder to shoot down.

You would also have to shoot down several GPS satellites in quick succession to produce a significant gap in coverage. Since the Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons are based on orbital launchers (for obvious reasons) the countries in question would have to do five or six satellite launches in a relatively short time window.

It would probably be far, far cheaper to jam GPS signals than to shoot down the satellites.

Comment: Re:I say we all panic (Score 1) 349

by david_bonn (#48281219) Attached to: Suspected Ebola carriers in the U.S. ...

very limited stockpiles of the protective gear that you'll want to wear when treating an ebola patient.

Autoclaves run really fast. The longest is waiting for the things to cool down before handling.

Yet standard procedure seems to be to dispose of protective garments after a single use. I suspect also that they discourage re-use of protective garments because of the risk of tearing and pinholes.

Comment: Re:I say we all panic (Score 1) 349

by david_bonn (#48276909) Attached to: Suspected Ebola carriers in the U.S. ...

Y'know, six weeks ago I was in the "run for the hills, this is the end" school of thought.

Then I actually educated myself. And honestly, the whole scene in Texas, even given how incompetently handled it was, indicated to me that there was zero risk for a major ebola outbreak here.

Now I am more concerned about second-order effects. There aren't that many isolation units, air ambulances, and (apparently) doctors, nurses, and paramedics adequately trained in use of protective gear to treat more than a few dozen ebola patients in the whole United States. What will happen if (or when) we have those few dozen cases concurrently? There is also the concern that air ambulances used to transport ebola patients to treatment centers will not be available to transport other people who need life-saving treatments, like organ transplants. Also, doctors and nurses who test positive for ebola after treating an active case obviously can't treat people with heart attacks or deliver babies. There is the additional bonus that there are very limited stockpiles of the protective gear that you'll want to wear when treating an ebola patient.

One of the things that this whole series of events point out is that if you do think you have ebola, don't go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms are set up to deal with cardiac events, trauma victims, and generally people who are going to die in a very few hours if they don't get medical treatment right now. Not someone with an infectious disease. That guy in Texas who went to the emergency room with a high fever and told them he was from Liberia? Not gonna die in an hour so give him some pills and get him out of there. It wasn't a mistake, it was policy.

Comment: Re:congratulations america, theyre still winning. (Score 0) 339

by david_bonn (#48250399) Attached to: LAX To London Flight Delayed Over "Al-Quida" Wi-Fi Name

Heart disease kills 600 million americans a year. thats 150 times the number of people who died in the world trade center

Given that the U.S. population is around 300 million, the only way we could get to 600 million deaths heart disease deaths per year is by importing 600 million people per year and force-feeding them bacon. Lots of bacon.

Comment: Re: Michael Savage (Score 2) 372

by david_bonn (#48219763) Attached to: NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

No, a flight ban would be all airlines just temporarily suspend all flights to the three West African countries until the epidemic has subsided enough, only then the flights can continue. During the epidemic only military flights can fly into the affected countries, with tightly restricted passenger and cargo access. That way health care supplies etc. can be sent to the affected countries, and health care workers can fly between countries and back (after a 21 day waiting period) to whichever country they came from. Other travel restrictions may apply as well, but the sooner it's done the better, before the epidemic is completely out of control. The dimwits in this administration have it backwards.

And who would enforce the ban? Last I checked the U.S. constitution doesn't give the government the power to ban foreign airlines from flying to a foreign country.

From a practical standpoint, I'd point out that there really aren't that many military transport aircraft in the world, that a great many of them are American, and that they are blocked out literally months in advance. Would your 21-day waiting period also apply to aircrew? That will really bollix things up.

I strongly suspect (but do not know for sure) that the 3000-odd US Military personnel on the way to that part of the world are depending on civilian air transport for much of their logistics. Certainly MSF and other NGOs do so. I also strongly suspect that going to a purely military transport system for Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea would greatly reduce the flow of emergency aid to these countries at precisely the time that their needs are so large.

We should also be careful what we wish for. I am sure that if we institute some kind of silly travel ban from ebola-infected countries, a large number of countries around the world are going to enact a similar ban -- I say "similar" because the major difference is that they will also ban travel with the United States, home of the most ebola cases outside of Africa.

Comment: Re:Protocols (Score 2) 421

by david_bonn (#48124219) Attached to: Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

I think a lot of what is going on is that healthcare workers in rich western countries have very little actual experience with an 80% fatal infectious disease.

While they may have training on protocols for dealing with such a disease, they undoubtedly are too busy to actually practice enough to keep current.

With the exception of SARS (and SARS didn't get most places it quite positively could have), we haven't had a real, o my god outbreak in living memory in the western world. So our health care professionals are going to be a little out of practice.

Yes, people die from the flu. Most doctors and nurses get flu shots. Most doctors and nurses are neither extremely young nor extremely old, so the worst case outcome if the get the flu is that they get the flu.

Comment: Re:The Conservative Option (Score 1) 487

by david_bonn (#48098845) Attached to: Texas Ebola Patient Dies

So, I can use one passport to go in and out of Cuba, Africa, Iraq, or wherever, and use the US passport for going in and out of the USA. How would they track that?

The United States government has no constitutional power to ban travel of its citizens, except in specific cases (for example, when the government reasonably believes an individual is trying to evade prosecution -- it isn't exactly clear they would even have legal authority to stop you from leaving if you were going to join ISIL though, although they would probably throw you in jail and sort it out much later). This has been beaten to death by the Supreme Court since the 1950's. The Trading With the Enemy Act prohibits U.S. citizens from spending money in Cuba, but the United States government has no authority to prohibit its free citizens from traveling there.

The State Department does issue travel advisories, and if you have any brains at all, you will at least check those out before traveling anywhere sketchy.

Comment: Re:Why do people still care about C++ for kernel d (Score 5, Insightful) 365

by david_bonn (#48058749) Attached to: Object Oriented Linux Kernel With C++ Driver Support

One of the real powerful things about C, especially for writing an operating system, is that a good C programmer can look at a piece of C code and have a pretty good idea of the machine code being generated. In the presence of C++ inline functions, implicit type converters, copy constructors, and assignment operator overloads that ability goes right out the window. If you were managing a project that involved lots of small contributions from a large and widely distributed group of developers that inability to see what a small patch does would be fatal.

On a more subtle level, C++ rewards a well-thought out design that doesn't change very much, and mercilessly punishes a design that is produced incrementally in an evolutionary fashion. Given how Linux has developed over the years, C++ would have been a brutally punishing language for Linux.

I like C++, I've used C++ in quite a few projects. I will probably use C++ again. But I can easily see why the Linux kernel is not a great place to use C++.

Comment: Re:Inverse Wi-fi law (Score 1) 278

by david_bonn (#48058585) Attached to: Marriott Fined $600,000 For Jamming Guest Hotspots

this holds true across the board for hotels.
cheap hotels give free breakfast, nice hotels charge a small fortune
cheap hotels give free parking, nice hotels charge a small fortune
nicer hotels (like the gaylord mentioned) charge a resort fee of $25 per day for basically no services at all.
cheap hotels though are competing on stuff like free wifi, free breakfast, etc
where the nicer hotels are competing on location, beautiful facility, etc.

i still don't understand though the $1k fee. i have stayed at that gaylord many times. its not a $1k fee for internet, ever. more like $20 per day (unless your marriott gold or platinum, then its free).

Sort of.

I've seen some really horribly disgusting free breakfasts at cheap hotels -- so I don't think it is fair to compare "free" and awful and "spendy" and palatable. And some higher-end hotels include breakfast in the tariff, as long as you aren't getting it delivered to your room.

Whether parking is free or not seems to depend on location. If your hotel is in San Francisco or Manhattan you will pay an arm and a leg for parking whether you are at a Super 8 or a Ritz-Carlton.

I do agree about cheaper hotels giving out free wi-fi and the higher-end hotels charging for it.

And resort fees are almost always a rip-off.

To restore a sense of reality, I think Walt Disney should have a Hardluckland. -- Jack Paar