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Comment Re:Am I missing something? (Score 1) 203

Car owners are upset because they will surely need to have their cars recalled and have the chips replaced, and depending on which way VW makes the tradeoffs, may find that their cars drive badly after replacement or fail inspection after replacement or both. And also that the resale value of their car just plummeted.

Comment It was a failure on Carly's watch (Score 1) 7

Who can disentangle causes and correlations? I see a chart with lines going down, an arrow saying "Fiorina forced out," then lines going up. Shrug.

Looking at money is looking at things indirectly. What didn't happen on Carly's watch were great products, quality, a revival of engineering or innovation. Talk about Apple under Steve Jobs and lots of specific innovations come to mind--the iMac, iPod, iPad, the iTunes Store, and, certainly not least and in a way most surprising, the Apple retail stores. Now, seriously: can you think of one darn HP innovation since the DeskJet?

When a tech-oriented company starts to fail, the business types get their moment in the sun and promise to turn things around by paying attention to money instead of products. Then when it doesn't work, they say "we tried, but it was past rescuing."

Under Carly Fiorina's leadership, HP did not recover in terms of money, nor did it recover in terms of the underlying source of money, the innovation and products. She put "Invent" in the logo when she should have been putting it in the culture.

If Justin Fox wants to say that "Carly Fiorina was not the greatest CEO in corporate history. But she certainly wasnâ(TM)t the worst, either," that's fine with me. It reminds me of Dr. Wang grading his son's performance as President of Wang Laboratories as a "C."

Comment God damn it, what a tragedy the loss of HP is... (Score 5, Insightful) 273

The loss of HP, as it was from perhaps 1950 to 2000, wasn't just the loss of a brand or a manufacturer, it was the loss of an art form, a craft, a cherished part of engineering culture.

Their stuff was just so damn good, all of it.

A little detail that isn't often mentioned. In the 1980s or thereabouts, everything HP advertised was real. They never played the vaporware game, they never cheated just a bit on timing the ads. If you saw the ad in a magazine, it was finished, it was real, you could order it, it would arrive in a week or two--and it would work the way it was supposed to and meet all the specs. This, in a day when their competitors would run ads based on models or empty cases up to six months before the product was finished.

Using an incandescent light bulb as a feedback element in their audio oscillators was sheer elegance.

All their instruments were works of art. All of them had front panels that today's user interface designers ought to be studying. All the groupings made sense, almost every control was individually designed to perform its intended function. HP instruments looked good, felt good, were easy to use, and did exactly what they were supposed to do.

The first LaserJet was a revelation, and it worked perfectly, The first DeskJet was in many ways even more amazing--a 300 dpi printer for $600 when laser printers cost $3,000 and every other $600 machine was about 80 dpi if you were lucky.

HP's desk calculators were sweet, and the HP-35 was just a revelation when it came out. Everyone was proud of being able to do a square root, and here's this beautiful thing. Did everything a slide rule could do, everything, to ten-place accuracy when a slide rule would get you at most three. And, again unlike the competition--most particularly unlike TI--the math was impeccable, no glitches, no odd cases--they knew their numerical analysis and they got it right. RPN seemed weird, but at least it was consistent.The competition could never get this right--they would claim that you entered it "algebraically" but you would key in 30, then "sin" instead of sin(30).

The loss of the engineering days of HP was the loss of a whole discipline, a whole body of corporate memory on how to do things right. An irreparable loss of know-how. And it was engineering in the full sense of the word--these weren't self-indulgent overengineered toys, they were priced competitively and sold against competition in a real marketplace--and they were still so good.

Comment (Shrug) IÂll believe it when I see it. (Score 1) 93

IÂve been reading "Winklevoss Twins close to launching bitcoin ETF" stories since mid-2013. It has always just about cleared the last regulatory hurdle and it is always going to launch in a month or two and it is always "still on track." Slashdot just seems to be an amplifier of the latest publicity blitz.

OK, fine. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't. No particular reason I know to pay attention to it until it does.

Funniest thing I've read about it appeared in January, 2015: "We believe that anyone who believes that gold is an important asset to hold in their portfolio should seriously consider adding bitcoin to their portfolio. When we consider all of the qualities that make money money, Bitcoin when compared to gold matches or surpasses gold in every measure of money. This is why we and others call bitcoin 'gold 2.0' or 'digital gold,' Winklevoss explained in his email."

Comment Some "demo." Not. (Score 2) 235

When I saw that there was a demo, I figured it meant I would get to dictate a voice question and have SoundHound answer it.

Watch a video? That isn't a demo. If all you can do is watch a prepared video, nothing has been demonstrated at all.

You might as well say Maelzel gave a "demo" of his mechanical chess player. In a non-interactive video, you don't even know for sure it's a machine answering the question or a little man hidden in the cabinet.

Comment It never was INTENDED to communicate or educate. (Score 2) 327

The name of the product says it all. It is not intended for communication, education, or the thoughtful display of information. It's not supposed to facilitate critical thinking by the audience.

It's intended to give the presenter the power to cloud men's minds... to convince... to project the presenter's views into the minds of the audience as forcefully as possible.

The once-competitive product from a once-competitor was named Aldus Persuasion. Not Aldus Display, not Aldus Presentation, not Aldus Foils--Aldus Persuasion.

Someone once called word processors (in the early days before everyone had them) "automatic weapons for inter-corporation turf wars." Much the same can be said of PowerPoint.

Comment Why not test? I just don't get it. (Score 4, Insightful) 236

People used to do real tests with real people, in controlled situations, measuring response time, counting errors, videotaping what they were actually doing, finding out where people are getting stuck and using that feedback to redesign and try again.

This was common all the way back to the 1970s. People like Ben Schneiderman were doing formal research and writing textbooks in the 1980s.

Why do I no longer hear about any of this being done? Why is it all about the visual tastes of individual designers?

There's nothing wrong with beauty--the original edition of Inside Mac, 1983, said in so many words "objects are designed to look beautiful on the screen." But beauty and style are not the same as usability.

All of the insane "mystery meat" UI of today, in which you cannot find an affordance unless you already know where to click to make it visible, cannot possible be usable, even if some people enjoy developing the necessary skill set.

Without real testing, you always get the same things: the personal taste of the manager in charge, who is sure that what is natural for him is natural for everybody; or, the personal taste of the developer, who is sure that what is natural for him is natural for everybody.

Comment A brain-teaser or an honesty test? (Score 1) 496

If I were asked that question, I think I'd answer it well. Not because I would be able to figure it out quickly under pressure, but because this brainteaser is very old.

When I was a kid in the 1950s I read both it and the original intended correct answer (the North Pole) in a book of brainteasers.

When I got into high school, someone who was actually smart discovered that the answer wasn't unique and that there was an infinite family of additional answers all involving points close to the South Pole, and I read about that, too. I'm not sure where; I think it was in Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.

There must be million of people who know the answer, not because they figured it out by themselves, but because they read or heard the answer somewhere.

Of all the candidates who give Mr. Musk the correct answer, I imagine very few of them are solving it on the spot. I wonder how many of the others are honest enough to volunteer the information that they had already read the answer.

Or perhaps that's the point--perhaps it's an honesty test rather than a brain-teaser.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford