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Comment: Re:We might as well use robot officials (Score 3, Informative) 239

by ghjm (#49254613) Attached to: FAA Says Ad-Bearing YouTube Drone Videos Constitute "Commercial Use"

There are a number of Youtube videos of people flying hobby drones well above 10,000 feet. Above 10,000, several safety measures go out of effect - airline passengers can remove their seat belts, airliners can exceed 250 knots, etc - so a hobby drone at 10,001 feet is much more dangerous than a drone at 9,999. Above 18,000, all flights must be conducted under IFR and pilots are no longer required to see and avoid - so they stop looking out the window and get busy with other tasks. So a hobby drone at 18,001 feet is yet more dangerous still, as well as being a whole new level of illegal.

You can bet your bottom dollar that hobby drone operators know none of this.

The FAA, for very good common-sense safety reasons, wants like hell to put a stop to this. However, Congress legislated away the FAA's power to actually regulate or provide standards for hobby drones. The FAA can't say "don't fly them above 10,000 feet" because they are now prohibited by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 from *any* rulemaking regarding model aircraft. And according to the Act, the model aircraft can be *up to 55 pounds* - and it seems like FAA concepts like "controlled airspace" don't apply. The only requirement is that if you are going to fly within 5 miles of an airport, the operator has to provide prior notice - *not ask permission* - from the airport's air traffic control.

During the period 1958-2012, the FAA was solely responsible for aviation safety and airspace regulation, and maintained a profoundly excellent safety record. From 2012, there are now two agencies responsible for air safety - the FAA for manned aircraft, and vaguely-defined "community-based set of safety guidelines" for recreational drones in the same airspace. Common sense says that this can't, and won't, work - so basically, Congress has decided that we will wait until a drone takes down an airliner, then over-react and probably outlaw all hobby drones everywhere. And probably blame the FAA.

This is what passes for policy-making in the US today. It's really very sad.

Comment: Re:Modula-3 FTW! (Score 1) 492

by ghjm (#48907827) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Well, I was programming in the 1970s, so this is recollection for me, not history. And you've got it wrong in either case.

The famous port of the Unix kernel to C was in 1972/73, not 1970, and at that time, C was still a private language within Bell Labs. The K&R book "The C Programming Language" was published in 1978, but C didn't gain much traction outside Bell Labs until Microsoft and Borland released compilers for it in the mid 1980s.

In the period from 1965-1970, computer science was taught using ALGOL, and between 1970 and 1980, it was taught using PASCAL - mostly the UCSD p-System. The Christmas shopping season of 1977 was the first time you could buy a computer and take it to your house, and these machines were programmed using interpreted BASIC and hand-coded assembler - nobody in microcomputers had ever heard of C. The first compiled language for microcomputers that had any widespread success was Turbo Pascal, released in 1983 for CP/M and DOS. C did not make any serious inroads into microcomputer popularity until the mid to late 1980s.

This wasn't just some random thing - there were good reasons for it. Many of the microcomputers of that era didn't have curly brace keys, so there was a version of C where you could type (* and *) instead of { and }. But more to the point, compiling Pascal is incredibly faster and easier than compiling C. Pascal does not have a preprocessor, header files or multiple passes - the syntax of the language lends itself to being fast and cheap to use on extremely minimal hardware architectures.

Some of the features of Turbo Pascal - like the "with" statement and the set operator - have never been duplicated in any other language. Trying to paint Pascal as an also-ran to C is both historically and technically incorrect.

Comment: Re:Modula-3 FTW! (Score 1) 492

by ghjm (#48900873) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

> Why do we need yet another language, that has no particularly useful features?

You do understand that Pascal was first released in 1970, right? Many Pascal programmers in the 1970s asked the same question - why do we need C, with its dangerous string handling and obtuse preprocessor, if it doesn't solve any new problems?

> I used Pascal in some college courses, and felt that my productivity went down by about 50% compared to C

I felt the same when I switched from Pascal to C. I had to spend half my life squinting at curly braces and trying to track down what the origin of some multi-level-#defined thing was. It is normal to feel a reduction in productivity when changing languages, but that doesn't mean the new language is worse.

Comment: Re:CurrentC does not solve for the Customer (Score 1) 631

by ghjm (#48255915) Attached to: Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay

The plan is presumably to offer heavy discounts on purchases for a couple years to get everyone to start using it, and then take away the discounts once it becomes "normal." They're betting consumers are too dumb to realize that 20% off some DVDs isn't worth losing credit card liability protection forever. I'm not sure they're wrong.

Comment: Re:Bad way to conduct policy (Score 1) 131

by ghjm (#47913671) Attached to: The FCC Net Neutrality Comment Deadline Has Arrived: What Now?

At least they went through a rulemaking process. Some agencies (recently FAA, FDA) figure if the issue only affects a narrow interest group (pilots, drug makers) that they don't actually have to bother with public comments or even actually writing the rule down before starting to enforce it.

Comment: Re:Classic... (Score 1) 85

by ghjm (#45760329) Attached to: Kdenlive Developer Jean-Baptiste Mardelle Has Been Found

The word "refactor" has been insanely successful in getting managers to approve rewrites. Before the Agile Manifesto, when programmers wanted to take a completed function and write it again, they would ask to "rewrite" it. The manager would ask what's wrong with it, the programmers would say, "nothing, really" and the manager would decline the request. Now, the programmers ask to "refactor" the function, the manager asks what that means, and the programmers give a confused answer whose only consistent message is that whatever-it-is is urgently needed. So the manager says, "okay, I guess."

The first case leads to crufty codebases that are hard to add new functions to. The second case leads to writing the same functions over and over and getting nowhere. It's not clear to me which is better, but it is clear to me that substituting the word "refactor" for "rewrite" has changed the world.

Comment: Re:iTunes (Score 1) 519

by ghjm (#43728641) Attached to: iTunes: Still Slowing Down Windows PCs After All These Years

The Windows HAL is certainly not the greatest API ever, but somehow everyone other than Apple manages to have their device detection work by callback or event sink, not by polling. If Apple really is polling for USB presence, then there's really no way you can blame that on the Microsoft API, which does provide better ways of doing USB device presence detection.

Comment: More Tim Ferriss damage (Score 1) 317

by ghjm (#43089101) Attached to: Best Buy Follows Yahoo in Banning Remote Work

A couple months ago, we had the (likely made-up) incident of the programmer outsourcing his job to China. That story was widely told in corporate boardrooms, along with mentioning Tim Ferriss. Now they have all just read The Four-Hour Work Week and have come to the conclusion that anyone who wants to telecommute is trying to rip them off (which is what they already secretly thought anyway).

Comment: Re:Bumpy times ahead (Score 1) 295

by ghjm (#41608851) Attached to: Steve Ballmer: We're a Devices and Services Company

> If you're gonna have to learn a new OS why does it have to windows?

Because only Windows runs all the applications you depend on. If your business runs on Quickbooks, then it runs on Windows for the foreseeable future. (Though not necessarily Windows 8. Many businesses are still running Windows XP today. You won't be forced to Win8 for several years - and who knows what might happen in the next decade.)

Comment: Re:Good riddance. (Score 1) 313

by ghjm (#40999449) Attached to: Adobe Officially Kills New Flash Installations On Android

That would make sense if they were producing revenue for it. But for a free giveaway, the faster they can kill it, the sooner they can fire the one remaining developer who knows anything about it.

tl;dr - keep Flash on your Android device for as long as possible, because Stan really needs that job.

Comment: Re:PC analogy (Score 3, Interesting) 278

by ghjm (#38296498) Attached to: EFF Asks To Make Jailbreaking Legal For All Devices

It needs to be more sophisticated than that.

For example, in the automotive industry, you DO NOT void your warranty (no matter what the dealer tries to pull on you) by installing a K&N air filter. But you DO void your warranty by reboring the cylinders and putting in oversized pistons. This is all regulated and the manufacturers don't get to just decide you void your warranty if you sneeze inside the car, the way computer industry manufacturers do.

What we need here is common sense regulatory involvement. Apple needs to be told to quite the ridiculous arms race and just let 0.01% of people run weird software on their hardware - just like GM needed to be told that bolt-on upgrades don't void the powertrain warranty.

"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so." -- Artemus Ward aka Charles Farrar Brown