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Comment Re:Gun-free zone? (Score 1) 1164

Gun-free zone means a zone, smack in the middle of a country bristling with guns of all descriptions (at the insistence of gun-rights advocates and "proud" of it), where the rule is that you're not allowed to bring guns ... which then then isn't enforced at the gate.

So, yes. This guarantees that any borderline psychiatric case can and will pick up a gun (because we're not allowed to vet people in too much detail before they get their hands on lethal hardware), and can proceed to walk into an area where guns are considered not part of daily life and start unloading.

Your suggestion: "More guns ... so we can have a proper shootout when someone pulls a gun."

Instead of strapping a gun on any adult and child just in case some other American with a gun decides he wants to pull the trigger for a bit, why not actually enforce no-gun policies on campus?

Besides which ... what are we talking about? Everybody goes to town about a few shootings now and then we have significant and sustained casualties every day from heart disease (i.e. overweight people due to indiscriminate production, marketing, and consumption of fat and sugary food), respiratory problems (lung cancer caused by smoking), road accidents, falls, and with assault with firearms coming in last.

Comment Not if you understand where he's coming from (Score 1) 142

Just consider this: Facebook's popularity is waning among the latest generations of teenagers.

See e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... and http://www.zdnet.com/article/y...

People are (at last) getting tired of facebook. That means: less growth, a user-base that isn't rejuvenating at the same rate as it could, and the spectre of *gasp* declining numbers of acebook users.

Bad news for a company that just supplies a fashionable fad (as opposed to something that people actually need) and which derives revenues from advertising and resale of its users'(private) information for marketing purposes don't you think?

So it's time for a little executive involvement in keeping those warm bods signing up.

"We're getting a smaller slice of the cake? Well then .. let's make the cake bigger!"

Aha! We need more Internet users!

Cue Zuckerberg's public appeal to the UN: "more Internet users please, it's practically a Human Right!"

Besides, it's the easiest way to get more Facebook users and it doesn't cost Facebook a dime (it's supposed to be tax money that pays for increased Internet access you see).

Seen this way it's the most natural thing for mr. Zuckerberg to do. And food, shelter and healthcare? Meh. He's not active in those markets, is he?

Comment Sloppy work ... need to protect the data too (Score 2) 126

Yes, the Volkswagen affair starkly highlights the fact that data from consumer products is insufficiently protected, leaving a window of vulnerability.

Protecting e.g. the code of the motor management system is a good first step. Leaving it at that however is sloppy work, as evidenced by the Volkswagen affair.

A more comprehensive protection would entail protecting the actual data with copyright safeguards too. Especially emission data. This data is, after all, proprietary and commercially sensitive data. Such data merits a high level of protection.

With adequate legal protection on the data itself, irresponsible and needlessly alarmist publication of unconfirmed, undigested and potentially misleading data can be prevented.

Of course there would be adequate means of raising questions and concerns with the manufacturer, on a full disclosure basis of course.

Let this be a warning for all of us: with the coming "Internet of Things" we must have DMCA protection for the data produced by devices too or risk a deluge of unauthorised, unconfirmed, and possibly alarmist data publication. We need legislative action today! Vote pro-business!

Comment Don't tinker ... get something that works (Score 1) 212

In this case I'd check in any DIY urges at the front door. You want this to work and work reliably, right?

Get a system from a reputable make and have it installed by a firm that's been doing this for awhile. This means that the central part will have a battery (in case someone cuts the mains), will be protected by tamper detection (in case mr. burglar tries to disable your alarm system), will probably have a UPS for your modem, ADSL modem, cable modem or whatever (mains again plus blown fuses), and perhaps a backup channel for alerting you that uses mobile telephony (in case they cut the cable or the phone line first).

Get a system with motion sensors, glass breakage detectors, and smoke detectors that can send alerts to your mobile phone.

Also have a few IP camera's plus a recorder installed so that you can actually check up on your home in real time if you get an alert.

That way you'll be able to actually call the police (or the fire brigade). They'll respond when you tell them you have seen the burglar / fire live on camera.

So ... err ... make a choice between a hobby project and a system that just works (and covers a few beginner's mistakes in installation).

Comment Re:Ordinarily, yes, it works out. (Score 1) 137

@ Hognoxious

It's generally allowed in the US. But for it to be worthwhile (i.e. to get interesting projects) you have to offer something interesting. Various consultancies have people of the calibre of (run of the mill) assistent profs. under contract.

Such consultancies also offer support services. E.g. people able to do the grunt work in projects (e.g. datacollection, production of drawings, coding up solutions and algorithms in end-user proof software, writing documentation, training, a helpdesk). Students are often used for drudge work in such projects but the quality of their work can be flaky.

Consultancies usually also offer continuity like replacements when the principal consultant falls ill or is otherwise incapacitated and credible guarantees of support for the next 5-10 years. Consultancies are usually able to bring in experience gleaned from other projects, and are often able to offer related specialities, aid in applying for patents, deployment on a client's specific hardware, or interfacing with a client's specific software, etc..

You've got to be pretty good as a professor to compete with that, or to be offered a consulting project while some other consultancy is hired to do the routine work. Usually you need to have a good or excellent reputation in your field when compared to other professionals .

Or you can try to undercut regular consultancies on price (you already have a day job) ... but I doubt if you really want to do that.

Comment Ordinarily, yes, it works out. (Score 3, Interesting) 137

A researcher's "utility function" is usually something of a weighted sum of research opportunities, access to inspiring colleagues and talented students, academic freedom plus non-interference from outside the academy, and salary.

Usually private industry can outbid universities in terms of salary but lags behind in terms of academic freedom, access to talented colleagues.

However, usually there are sufficient (good) academics who opt for a poor (typically for post-docs and junior assistant professors), modest (assistant to associate professors) to adequate (associate and full professors) salary (depending on whether or where you can get tenure) in an academic atmosphere over a more highly paid job where you're just another employee.

It mostly works out in the long run. Of course there are blips when you get patented ideological nutcases like gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and even core staff are pushed out. But mostly it evens out. Even for valuable tech subjects.

Very good professors (full, associate, and assistant) often manage to combine academic work and consultancy (especially at technological institutes). Especially when they aren't bogged down by their teaching workload.

Comment Re:Account should not try to "get knowledgeable" (Score 1) 87

Yes and no.

I agree that an accountant should not aim for the same depth of detailed knowledge as a developer (unless he means to be one himself, in which case he should stop being an accountant), and shouldn't try to descend to code level. That's not his job-skill, so he should respect that and depend on developers to tackle that aspect of the work instead of trying to butt in.

An accountant should thoroughly understand where his job ends and where that of a developer begins (since he's the one with the opportunity to cross the line). As you say, he has a different contribution to make to the team.

On the other hand there's nothing wrong with an accountant getting to understand a little about what developers are doing. Like what makes a website tick and what developers are doing. Programming isn't rocket science after all, and mostly consists of getting lots of stupid details right quickly and reliably. Getting a feeling for how a website actually works could be quite helpful (as long as he remembers to think about (and ask for) functionality, not implementation).

My suggestion to this accountant is to look at up to three past projects that went well, and three that went wrong, and figure out what the root causes for success and failure were in terms of what business process was served in each case, what was asked for and how (organically grown versus properly specified and designed), and how the team that did them worked.

Comment In short ... (Score 1) 417

The example you gave is a bit extreme, in two ways. First off, the task is pretty darned simple, and I'll admit that anyone who takes more than 15 minutes doesn't know his tools. As to spending 8 hours: that's something you see with fresh-out-of-school people who're afraid to ask questions and haven't cottoned on to the cost of their time to the company. It happens.

Not knowing particular tools can also happen, but people with higher education usually catch on in short order. That's what they're trained for.

As to not hiring Masters or PhD's for programming on the other hand: that depends on the kind of programming you do. If your company's work has a lot of stupidly simple jobs like adding columns to a database table, then apparently your company it shouldn't be looking for programmers (as in software engineers) at all. It should be looking for code-monkeys.

Not hiring anyone with a bit of education makes actually sense in that case.

Comment Correct ... as born out by 2011 research (Score 1) 417

A pointer to solid evidence for what you say can be found e.g. this post:


Which point to this article http://blogs.sciencemag.org/sc... which cites this article http://sciencecareers.sciencem... , which cites this researcher Matlof in this paper: http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/...

The long and the short of it: "It boils down to cheap, compliant labor." -- Norman Matloff.

Comment It simply IS (Score 2) 417

I have no idea what the definition of "runaway" has to do with anything, but changing conditions in the ocean really are happening.

Just like decreasing ice-caps, sea-level rises, and increasingly chaotic weather. And threatening changes in major ocean currents .. like the atlantic conveyor belt (see e.g. http://www.carbonbrief.org/blo...).

And they could be mand-made to ... and in all probability are. Except in the US of course. There they're just "God hugging us closer".

Comment Ueber is redundant ... but doesn't realise it yet (Score 1) 330

Ueber consists of two separate parts:

- An app-and-server cab flagging service

- A batallion of unlicensed (and licensed) taxicab drivers that fall somewhere in between employees and and independent drivers.

The flagging service is nothing special; any company can set one up in any city. There's also nothing specifically "Ueber" about that, and I expect it to get stiff competition.

Then there is a horde of drivers, some unlicensed some licensed taxicab drivers, whom Ueber contracts to conduct rides. The worrisome part is that it's unclear whether they're qualified, insured, fit, etc. and whether they're employees or not. Fact of the matter is that Ueber both dodges the responsibilities that come with having employees and gouges drivers more for their flagging service than they'd be if they were truly independent.

It's that part of Ueber that's predatory, legally questionable and which is therefore under attack.

Then there's quality control, insurance, and liability. Which is where Ueber falls short and practices unfair competition with respect to other taxicab drivers.

We have government agencies that regulate taxicabs, make sure they uniformly adhere to certain minimum standards and won't simply abduct and rob their passengers. Without first having to look up a driver's "reviews".

There's nothing at all "irrelevant" about a government agency that does that, and it's worth having.

If Ueber wants to be a taxicab company, fine, but it will have to play by the same rules as everybody else: licensed drivers only. The fact that it's burning a load of venture capital to bend the rules is no reason to support them.

You are in a maze of UUCP connections, all alike.