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Comment: Re:Wouldn't time be better spent... (Score 2) 467

by hey! (#48448467) Attached to: Cops 101: NYC High School Teaches How To Behave During Stop-and-Frisk

... teaching the cops how not to alienate the people?

No, for two reasons.

First stop and frisk is based on the "broken windows" theory, which in general is sound: people take behavioral cues from what they perceive as social norms. If they look around and see people breaking windows and jumping turnstyles they'll figure everyuone does it. But stop and frisk plus being "proactive" is a case of two ideas getting together and having a bastard child. Instead of signalling what the social norms are by keeping the streets orderly, the cops are singling out individuals upon whom they will impose those norms. It's a crude exercise in behavior control, and inherenly alienating.

The second reason is Campbell's Law, roughly stated: the more you rely on a single measure to control social processes, the more that measure and the processes it controls will be corrupted. In 1995 the NYPD adopted CompStat -- a process improvement strategy based on measuring performance and holding police units like precincts accountable for their numbers. It's not a bad idea, depending on the measures chosen and if you have a critical attitude toward those measures, but the number of stops made is an inherently terrible metric. It's not a measure of success, it's a measure of activity, and is an easy number to control; if your numbers look bad you can always head out and start stopping peoiple.

There's a lot of debate over whether NYPD cops have "quotas", but it's quibbling. There doesn't have to be a quota if everyone knows bad things happen to the precinct when the numbers are low and good things happen when the numbers are high.

Comment: People worry too much. (Score 1) 367

by hey! (#48446699) Attached to: Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

It's OK if some people like different things than you.

French people liking to discuss politics online doesn't make them snobs. It just makes them people who like discussing politics online. And I know some very smart and politically involved Americans who are suckers for a cute dog video. Perhaps they'd be up for more poliltical discussion if every two years they were deluged with sly, dishonest, soul-suckingly stupid political advertisements. In France, with a population oif 63 million, presidential candidate spending is limited to 30 million dollars. My state has 1/10 the population of france, and the two leading candidates inthe last Senatorial election spent 85 billion -- and that's in an off year. So we Americans get exposed to a lot more unsolicited political communication than the French do.

But let's suppose that all things being equal, the French enjoy a good political argument online more than Americans do. So what?

I think resentment -- or even excessive concern -- over people who like different things than you is a sign of insecurity. When someone gets to the point where they insiste everyone join their side or be branded a fool or a snob, that's defeinitely someone who's seeking the safety of the herd.

Comment: Re:Unnatural aspect ratio (Score 1) 326

by hey! (#48441543) Attached to: Eizo Debuts Monitor With 1:1 Aspect Ratio

There's no such thing as a "natural" aspect ratio, because sitting with your eyes glued to a monitor isn't what we evolved to do.

Years of designing software have taught me one thing, which is that interfaces have to suit the task. When I'm writing or reading, I like a vertically oriented monitor. When I'm watching a movie, I like wide aspect ratio monitor. When I'm programming, I like a moderate aspect ratio landscape monitor, but very, very big. Bigger than I'd want to read a book on or watch a movie on.

So every monitor used for every kind of task is necessarily a compromise, but some monitors may be just the thing for a certain task. Maybe there's a task or mix of tasks where an 19" x 19" sqauare is a good compromise, or a single task where it's ideal. They seem to be pitching it at CAD users. I can see that. I've got my bridge drawings in a rectangular area on screen, but I still have another generous rectangular area for property sheets, tool palletes etc. When I'm working on my tower I arrange things into vertical rectangles.

Or this thing could be a nutty idea in search of a use. But there's probably one out there.

Comment: Re:yeah. Except RAM, CPU, and bus bandwidth (Score 1) 101

by hey! (#48434165) Attached to: Intel Planning Thumb-Sized PCs For Next Year

Well, branch prediction doesn't get you much when most of your CPU cycles are going unused. Caching stuff in RAM can be a big win -- under certain circumstances. If adding more RAM means you can increase the probability of a cache hit significantly, good for you. But the fundamental fact remains that if a system is performing well enough, making it more powerful has limited practical utility.

I speak from decades of experience working with database sytems. It's wasteful to take a shotgun approach to performance improvement. You need to find where the bottleneck is, then widen that.

Comment: Re:If it can transcode high bitrate/any file type (Score 1) 101

by hey! (#48431101) Attached to: Intel Planning Thumb-Sized PCs For Next Year

One aspect of optimizing systems is that you don't get any performance boost by adding a resource you already have a surplus of.

Most database servers built from low end technologies have CPU cycles to spare. That's beause boatloads of CPU power is cheap, but I/O bandwidth is expensive.

Comment: Re:Half the story... (Score 2) 244

by hey! (#48430623) Attached to: Does Being First Still Matter In America?

And why had we been developing the engines in the first place?

The "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech was given, if I recall correctly, in September of 1962. This almost a year and a half after Alan Shepherd went into space on Mercury-Redstone 3, and some four years after the Mercury program had been conceived under President Eisenhower. The purpose was to rally people around a goal that had already consumed almost 2 billion dollars and would consume well over a hundred billion dollars (in today's terms). But why was this important, and important to do fast?

Because putting a man on the moon would be the biggest, most decisive victory in a propaganda war that had been raging for nearly a hundred years.

If you read what people were saying from a hundred years ago, it's clear that many people thought capitalism was doomed. It's hard for people under 50 to believe, but "socialism" was a word associated with futuristic stuff, and progress. These attitudes toward the future of capitalism persisted into the Cold War and were a major thorn in the side of US foreign policy. When India adopted its constitution in 1950 that constituion declared India to be a socialist nation. Socialism played a major part in the foundation of the State of Israel, an Israel's first president David Ben-Gurion was a "Labor Zionist". And across the middle-east, the force radicalizing young Arabs wasn't fundamentalist Islam, it was Baathism -- "Arab Socialism". Across the world, capitalism was seen as an antiquated system imposed by colonial powers to keep people backward and subjugated.

Then on July 21, 1969, the leading capitalist (albeit welfare state) nation in the world put a man on the Moon. It put a stake through the heart of notion that capitalism is an antiquated, reactionary system. That's probably a hundred billion dollars well spent, considering what was at stake.

Looked at one way the goal itself did nothing practical for us, it was all the things we had to learn to be able to achieve it. But it is still amazing to me that nearly fifty years later people around the world see Neil Armstrong taking that last step as a kind of milestone in human progress.

Comment: Re: OMG! (Score 1) 554

by hey! (#48430299) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

And the generations since then have been suffering from this idea that raising the young of the species is less important than filing TPS reports.

You know men can raise children too. And some of us chose to put our careers on hold to spend more time with our kids. I did. When my oldest got to high school I decided to put my career on hiatus to spend the remaining years I could with them. Before that I workng 50-60 hour weeks and spending about 1/3 of my time traveling, and though my flexible schedule allowed me to stay involved with my kids when they were younger, my window of opportunity to spend a *lot* of time with them was closing. Quantity time *is* quality time. It communicates your priorities like nothing else.

Comment: Re: OMG! (Score 5, Interesting) 554

by hey! (#48427925) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

Waay back in the day when my wife was a grad student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by an odd fluke the sysadmins and programmers of the Vax/VMS systems they used for scientific data processing were women. Possibly their inability to grow beards disqualified them from Unix jobs. Anyhow, the nickname for them was "data dollies".

Of course there was a long, long history of women in scientific computing. The mom of one of my high school friends graduated from Wellsley during WW2 and worked programming the Harvard Mark 1 -- which meant (although I didn't realize it at the time) she must have worked with Grace Hopper. And of course there were the female code breakers of Bletchley Park. There were a lot of opportunities for smart women to do innovative things in WW2 while many of their equally brainy male counterparts were being fed into the war effort like scraps into a meatgrinder.

Anyhow, I don't think "data dolly" was meant to be as patronizing it sounds to us today. It was a cultural anachronism, like the drinking and smoking on the TV show Mad Men, which appears to us gauche but strangely fascinating. The common assumption back then was that even an intelligent, highly trained woman would quit her job when she got married to raise some man's children. My generation was the first to view automatically assuming that as patronizing. This new attitude was in its day called "radical feminism" -- which was a not too subtle way of associating us with Communists. But of course insensitivity is a two way street. A lot of older women felt insulted by the implication that they'd thrown their lives away.

Comment: The answer is yes. (Score 2) 197

by hey! (#48422091) Attached to: Is a Moral Compass a Hindrance Or a Help For Startups?

IF: you have a moral compass.
THEN: having a moral compass is a help to your achieving your ends.

On the other hand,

IF: you don't have a moral compass.
THEN: not having a moral compass is a help to your achieving your ends.

In other words the question is meaningless unless you stipulate "help or hinderance to what". Also you need to specify the behavioral flexibility of the people in question. Someone who is strictly immoral -- that is to say he never does anything moral if he has an evil alternative -- would have to be irrational. The eviler alternative is not always the rational choice.

Also moral/amoral doesn't capture everything about somebody's thinking and character. Some people are amoral and shortsighted. Others are amoral but can see the long term value of curbing their behavior. On the other hand some people are strictly moral but rigid and unimaginative. Others are highly moral and creative. To a creative person an obstacle is often an opportunity.

Ultimately you are who you are: goodie-two-shoes or amoral bastard or something in between. Whatever you are you have to make that work for yourself.

Comment: Re:absurd generalizations (Score 1) 71

by hey! (#48420687) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

I certainly remember when Klein's bikes came out; he was a few years ahead of me at MIT. I don't know if the larger tubing idea was actually his; he was part of a group of students working on an aluminum frame. The relationship of diameter to stiffness had neen known for centuries; I think Euler originally worked out that the bending stiffness of a beam is proporitional to the moment of inertia of its cross section. I expect a lot of engineers realized the potential of aluminum. What stands out about Klein is is entrepreneurial energy.

My take on the bike in question is that it's interesting in that it shows the potential of the tools used to make it, but not quite as interesting in terms of what it shows about the potential of wood as a material. I'm hoping that somebody, someday will come up with a very interesting and surprising wood bike that really makes the most of the material and probably won't look much like a conventional bike.

Comment: Re:cost/price per kW hour comparison is nonsense (Score 1) 515

by hey! (#48415525) Attached to: Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

True, but if we look at the societal cost (ironic, I know), storing the energy in the grid isn't free. It's paid for by traditional energy customers.

I totally buy the argument that you can store your excess solar energy in the form of unburned fossil fuels, then retrieve that energy later by burning those fuels. At least until the day people are demanding withdrawals of energy at higher rates than the traditional electricity generators can't supply. But we shouldn't think of putting a kWh into the grid then "retrieving" it later as free.

Comment: Re:absurd generalizations (Score 2) 71

by hey! (#48415471) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

I'd take your post more seriously if you didn't make absurd generalizations like "steel is very stiff and wood is very flexible." From that alone it's obvious you understand nothing about materials.

Alright then. Woods have a Young's modulus (along the grain) of around 3-12 GPa. Typical construction steels have a modulus of around 200 GPa. Therefore a steel beam will be stiffer than a wooden beam of identical dimensions. However, I do realize that *some* wooden objects will be siffer than *some* steel objects. For example an oak beam with a 10x10" cross section will be stiffer than a steel bar of the same length with a 0.25 x 0.25 inch cross section.

There, is that pedantic enough for you? Or do I have stipualte that I'm talking abotu Southern Red Oak (10.2 GPa) vs S275 steel (210 GPa) at temperatures of less than 600C?

Comment: Here's a curious fact about wood. (Score 1) 71

by hey! (#48414823) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

While a piece of steel is obviosuyly much stronger than a piece of wood of the same dimensions, if we stipulate equal *weights* rather than equal dimensions, the piece of wood may be stronger. The "specific strength" (or "strength to weight ratio) of some woods like balsa are greater than most steels.

That means that the applications of wood overlap the applications of steel somewhat. Some places where you need a little steel you can use a lot of wood and the result will be equally strong and weigh about the same.

Of course ultimate strength isn't the only issue. Steel is ductile and wood is brittle; that means steel has much more forgiving failure modes than wood. Steel is uniform and every piece of wood is different. Steel is equally strong in every direction and wood is weaker across the grain than along it. Steel is very stiff and wood is very flexible. But still it's interesting that wood is not totally obsoleted by steel in every application. Tall buildings would require wooden columns of impractically immense dimensions but we still frame low-rise buildings primarily in wood. We use steel for crossbow limbs but so far as I know nobody has used it for longbows, which are made of wood or fiberglass.

Every material has its limitations, but the ultimate limitation is the ingenuity of the designer.

Comment: Re:Can someone expolain what's so great about HTML (Score 1) 133

by hey! (#48413965) Attached to: HTML5: It's Already Everywhere, Even In Mobile

Well I'll tell you, from the perspective of someone who managed a development team, what the big deal is. It's managing information overload.

Suppose you're maintaining an Android App. No problem, you just need to know Java and the Android SDK, which is very well thought out and amazingly easy to use. Oh, but now we need a server tier to our system. Well, you could learn PHP, but to keep things simple you stick with Java and go Java EE, which is not so hard to learn these days. You decide to use a RESTful interface, which Java EE supports well, so you don't have to learn the ins and outs of Servlets. Now management says you've got to run on the iPad and Blackberry as well, so you learn IOS and QNX -- I'm assuming you're a genius, so it's not that hard for you. Oh, and there should be a web interface for desktops. You could learn Java Server Faces, but you really need to learn HTML to do that anyway, and you have that nicely thought out RESTful interface, so you decide to go with HTML and jQuery or Dojo so you can serve up a slick Rich Internet Application experience. You also need to master several different application frameworks to provide things like mapping on each end user platform. But it's no problem for you, you're a genius.

Fine, but now think about what it would take to hire your replacement to maintain your software.

I once worked for a small app developer that over some years developed an app that looked a lot like what I've described above, although the specific technologies were somewhat different. The fact that the project had accreted so many dependencies didn't faze any of the five of us who worked on it. All of us either had advanced degrees in CS or more than ten years of experience in the field. We were very successful for our application domain so a larger company bought us out. But even though they'd spent millions of dollars to acquire the product they gave up on it within three years. It wasn't because of competition -- there was none. It wasn't because customers didn't want to buy the software -- they did. The problem was the new owner was never able to assemble a team that could master all the technologies needed to maintain and support the system.

People have been trying to use HTML as an application platform almost since it came out. The first CGI specification came out something like twenty years ago. HTML5 is a recognition that HTML plus Javascript is an application platform, and the W3C put in a bunch of stuff like offline local storage that recognizes this.

This doesn't make HTML5 the ideal platform for writing Android, iOS, QNX or Windows applications. But if you had to target two or three platforms that coincidentally support HTML5, it's certainly worth considering these days.

Comment: Re:strange conclusion (Score 1) 123

by hey! (#48408765) Attached to: Electric Shock Study Suggests We'd Rather Hurt Ourselves Than Others

people shock themselves because they dont want to be viewed as someone who would shock someone else... its an attempt to save face and acquire resources by pretending to be nice, which can have the same results as being nice, as long as the facade is kept.

The ways you modify your behavior because of what other people will think is still part of who you are. In fact I think it's a major part of your personality.

When all else fails, read the instructions.

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