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Comment: Re:Supreme Leader (Score 1) 177

by inline_four (#48648265) Attached to: Hackers Used Nasty "SMB Worm" Attack Toolkit Against Sony

You're asking two questions:

Why would North Korea attempt this, if it was indeed them?

North Korean society is not as isolated as it once was, in part thanks to smuggled IT, especially on the borders. North Korean population is starting to watch South Korean television and generally consume international news sources more and more, which means North Korean leadership is either finding themselves the ones at a certain informational disadvantage, not quite knowing if they are sitting on a powder keg of dissent, or they feel they know what's going on and want to reign public opinion in. Either way, showing they are still a player on the international stage, even with something so ridiculous as a "made you look" kind of stunt, probably does the job, sad as it is.

How would US investigators know that it is North Korea, if it was indeed them?

Not everything is being disclosed. It's possible that the investigators or those in charge of public relations on the western side are overplaying strength of evidence. In some way, if there is a desire to tie this to North Korean, then this is a perfect opportunity, regardless of whether it can proven or not. In that way, it makes sense from an international relations point of view. At the same time, there may well be counter-intelligence shedding light on this, that the western authorities don't feel they can disclose. What's peculiar about that, is that situations like this give governments good information without ability to act on it for fear of erasing an intelligence advantage somewhere else. This was the case with the Rosenbergs. At the time of their conviction and execution, intelligence officials knew of their innocence, but the evidence for that was obtained through covert means and could not have been used, thus the tragic events were allowed to unfold. In the end, it's very hard for anyone not involved in this to parse out what's really going on.

Comment: Re:More filtering? (Score 1) 239

by inline_four (#48536097) Attached to: Google Hopes To One Day Replace Gmail With Inbox

It should probably use all of those data points. Sometimes people want to branch off the main thread of discussion. Letting users create a new thread by changing the subject is a nice intuitive work flow.

Part of the problem is that a lot of standards around email are very old and focus on the mechanics of composing, transmitting, and accessing individual messages. If you're in the business of modernizing or even simply creating a normal modern email client, when it comes to more recent concepts like conversation threads, HTML, address books, calendar integration, documents, and other collaborative workflows, things aren't so clear. On the one hand, there are guidelines and room to innovate, on the other hand some ecosystems proliferate specific patterns that don't work at all in other ecosystems, but both are called email. The calendars are handled in Google domains vs Exchange are not the same, while solving same basic problems.

I had an interesting experience at my company this year. We switched from Exchange to Gmail and many people were initially excited about the possibility of using their own email clients of choice. It was always known that even if this was possible, many of our normal workflows would require using web interfaces beyond the native client. But even with that caveat, in the end our IT decided not to open IMAP to us for fear of end-user problems or complications they did not want to be responsible for.

Comment: Re:Microsoft? (Score 1) 147

by inline_four (#48347143) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Data Warehouse Server System?

DBs are not for chewing data -- they're for giving you just the data you need so you can chew on it. You use the right tool for the chewing job once you have the data. (Some DB pre-chew is fine in situations where it's efficient and easy -- group by's, mostly.)

Seems like there aren't many responses here talking about columnar databases. This a class of relational databases very well suited for data warehousing. I have been working with Vertica, which is a proprietary technology, but the license terms are much more favorable and fair than what you get out of Oracle (they aren't comparable anyway). It's a mindset change when you get into columnar databases, but on the whole they can be simpler than what you get trying to tune a traditional relational database for big data warehousing purposes.

You will still need to think about your ETL and reporting technologies. This can be difficult depending on the nature and stability of your data and reporting customers' needs. On the whole, some things to think about are adherence to standards, not being afraid to operate multiple data marts, separating different reporting functions into different applications (internal vs external, raw data extracts vs analytics, etc.), and look at some map-reduce technologies (some shared-nothing databases give you that under the hood for free, some make it explicit, like Hadoop).

Comment: Re:Different part, same number? (Score 1) 357

by inline_four (#46635955) Attached to: An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

This is barely a real problem. As someone else mentioned, it's not difficult to use revision numbers. Even today, there are inventory systems that understand compatibility between aftermarket manufacturers and OEM. I worked on a rudimentary system like that myself -- it's not rocket science. But there may be two things in this particular story that are worth looking into:

Firstly, did GM or its suppliers intentionally reuse a part number to obfuscate the change in design tied to known safety issues. Not saying they did. Maybe they didn't, but it would be great to clear that up in open court.

Secondly, is there a standard industry practice to reuse part numbers in general, where part numbers become misleading in relation to fit or compatibility? There is sometimes incentive on the part of manufacturers to publish obfuscated specifications or withhold this kind of information altogether as an anti-competitive measure against small repair shops (in favor of dealer networks) or to undercut aftermarket manufacturers' ability to improve on original designs.

Comment: Re:Bring on the wearable interfaces. (Score 1) 453

I used to not have to go to too many meetings and the ones I attended were often superfluous and not targeted -- just like what you're describing. Right now I find myself in a role that requires me to attend and lead a lot of meetings. Some days, all I do is talk and listen to others. There is a skill in getting the most out of a meeting and assembling them such that they are productive and minimally invasive to other people's workload. A badly prepared meeting is terrible and can often be handled with chat, email, or phone. But I've also been in many 30 minute face-to-face conversations, often in front of a whiteboard, that quickly revealed important information, honed in on some bigger reality or idea than what any one participant had coming into it, or prevented a huge mistake -- all in a timely manner in way that could not have been done any other way. Meetings like that need the right people in the room, no other people in the room, and everyone to be focused and open-minded. Acting smug or bored as though this time spent is not real work sabotages it for everyone and indeed turns into a waste of time. But it's not the fault of the meeting, but of the individual unwilling to work with others.

Comment: Re:No shocker there (Score 1) 440

by inline_four (#44762127) Attached to: What Works In Education: Scientific Evidence Gets Ignored

I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics.

Sounds about right - as a programmer, I've always been appalled by how math is taught. If we taught programming the way we taught math, every program would be unmaintainable. Think about it:

- One letter identifiers for everything. Algebra teaches you to always use x, y, z for variable names. Calculus teaches you to do it for function names. If you run out of those, use greek letters, or just start making up symbols. - Everything is named after who discovered it, not what it does. Pythagoras's theorem, Newton's method, L'hopital's theorem, Cartesian co-ordinates, Euler's number... - Formulas are always crammed into a single line, without being spaced out. And without any in-line comments. You're forced to try and understand the entire formula in one shot, rather than piece by piece.

MatLab is a perfect example of why mathematicians shouldn't program. You can look at the source to certain functions (like calculating Euler's number) to see this in action.

I disagree with much of this. Naming things after discoverers is no worse than what's going on now with names for important libraries, frameworks, or products. Why should I make celery part of my architecture? I like tomatoes better anyway. Single-letter symbols can be confusing when used to denote specific things, but when applies to abstractions, computer science does the same thing. A good example of the latter is the contrast between common style conventions for Java class names as opposed to generics arguments. In mathematics, especially applied mathematics like engineering, more concrete variables are often given subscripts or longer variable symbols. Here's a good example.

Comment: Re:Another good point (Score 1) 276

by inline_four (#44119215) Attached to: Join COBOL's Next Generation

Interesting point. My organization is probably neither on the forefront nor stuck in the past when it comes to enterprise architecture and development process. But what I'm witnessing is a desire to empower teams while maintaining a coherent operations structure. We want the best of both worlds -- flexible resource allocation and scaling, yet individualized development environments designed to fulfill needs of teams focused on specific areas of the whole enterprise before getting their stuff to a bigger integration point. Going ever deeper down the VM rabbit hole is how we plan to do it.

Not all organizations have the same needs, but this additional tier of virtualization is an interesting proposition. On the one hand, it has a lot of potential. On the other hand, we are already struggling to understand what goes on in our production environment during critical performance times or when troubleshooting complex problems or incidents. Are we overengineering it? Time will tell.

Comment: Re:He has a point (Score 1) 376

by inline_four (#43901043) Attached to: Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas?

There are kids today going to middleschools around this country who can't read. There are kids today going to school. For free. And whether or not they meet the acadamic standards we expect from them - FWIW, "can't read at grade level" doesn't mean the same thing as "can't read" - We have very close to a zero illiteracy rate among legal citizens in the US, a quality unprecedented in human history and only even matched by a handful of countries today.

I suppose a lot depends on your definition of illiteracy. When I said "can't read", I meant "can't read". As in, cannot make sense of a paragraph of text and the school system is not going to help them. I know this because I work in the education industry and my wife is a teacher herself. We're not talking about "doesn't meet grade standard". We're talking about generations of kids leaving each successive grade further away from being able to succeed, nay function, in society and the schools still pouring all resources into additional assessing of kids without additional teaching. Was this your experience in school? It wasn't mine. Because I was fortunate enough to have been shielded from those schools by adults in my life who put me on a different path and made sure I stayed there. We're not talking about better schools and worse schools. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of forgotten kids without a future. If you want to compare that with the Middle Ages and say that our job is done, I call BS. People are suffering, so our job is not done. And what used to exist even less than a century ago, was a network of personal training through apprenticeships that all but guaranteed some decent living standard. This does not exist anymore.

please don't pretend that you understand the hardships of others from behind a lawnmower. I see you missed that at self-debasing humor, despite the winking smiley. Yes, I have it easy. I know that - Pretty much my entire point. We all have it easy. Even the homeless guy living beneath the overpass (an overpass! The luxury, he has a roof over his head covering a few thousand square feet!), thanks to our society of consume-and-dispose, has no shortage of goods and even money - Not only can he afford to eat, but drug overdose counts as the leading cause of death among the homeless! You bought any illegal drugs lately? They ain't cheap.

No, we don't all have it easy. Some of us do. You're speculating about the rest despite your smiley. Ever worked a minimum wage job for 60 hours a week outdoors without additional prospects? Ever got sick and couldn't do anything about it? Ever live with constant fear of the next day?

I don't claim everyone has it as easy as a white middle class DINK living in the burbs. Not everyone can afford a house and a family and more toys than they can keep out of storage at a time. But getting the necessities to stay alive has never come any easier.

Is that the bar you'd like to set for ourselves as a society? That we barely keep our destitute breathing?

Comment: Re:He has a point (Score 1) 376

by inline_four (#43894791) Attached to: Too Many Smart People Chasing Too Many Dumb Ideas?
Your own example of an easy life notwithstanding, when I look around, I see people living in the streets, people who don't know how they'll ever get out of debt, people without access to education, people without access to healthcare. There are kids today going to middleschools around this country who can't read. Not to be harsh, but your point that "we've won" shows that there are many among us who don't know what's going on and don't want to know because it's just too depressing. I'm not saying we should all dedicate every waking hour and every last bit of strength to selfless servitude, but please don't pretend that you understand the hardships of others from behind a lawnmower.

Comment: We don't know what the actual bias is. (Score 1) 1121

by inline_four (#43307971) Attached to: USPS Discriminates Against 'Atheist' Merchandise
While it does seem that the experiment was conducted properly (with the right controls and a decent sample), what we don't know is what the take-away actually is. The experiment group was one sort of "provocative" branding and the control was neutral branding. The one big take-away is that there appears to be some bias in USPS. It may be that atheism is indeed the principal subject of the bias, but there may be other explanations. Is there a general bias against politically or sociologically charged messages within branding? Are there different rates of biases against different kinds of messages? Does that bias appear local, uniform, or tied to certain major hubs? As always, more research is needed.

Comment: this is a slightly flawed comparison (Score 1) 346

by inline_four (#42414431) Attached to: Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word: an Even Matchup?

Sure, we can debate and compare pros and cons of Google Docs and MS Office, but the really interesting conversation seems to be emerging about architecture and features:

  • Who is responsible for storing and managing content?
  • Who is responsible for managing the workflow around the content?
  • What standards are needed and supported?
  • Who are the content stakeholders beyond content producers?
  • What are my budgetary constraints?

It seems that each of us figuring out the right solution for the task at hand should run through the above questions and arrive at something. It may end up being grabbing something off the shelf (free or otherwise, proprietary or open), it may mean building up a constellation of tools, or it may mean something heavily home-baked. Each approach can be valid depending on the circumstances. The world is still changing and organizations are still adapting. Sometimes low barrier to getting started on collaboration is important. Sometimes longevity of standards is important. Sometimes controlling presentation patterns is important. Etc, etc.

BTW, something was said about stylesheets and ODF-based tools not having that support. ODF supports XML-based stylesheets in terms of persistence. As far as GUI, LibreOffice and OpenOffice make it fairly easy to manage said styles. Making these styles interoperate with CSS (within reason) isn't terribly difficult. ODF being XML-based and truly open (unlike docx) is one of the main reasons I personally reach out for it more times than not.

Comment: Re:Anybody using Ada? (Score 1) 165

by inline_four (#42377349) Attached to: Ada 2012 Language Approved As Standard By ISO

This is quickly turning into yet another language holy war, but why not? It's fun.

I really cannot agree. Historically, one of the most common ways to pwn a machine was to exploit buffer overruns. Languages such as Ada and Java are virtually immune to that sort of exploit.

Sounds like you agree completely: Ada addressed a need in the 1980's that doesn't exist anymore; almost all our languages these days are type safe, and many have excellent static type systems that run rings around Ada's.

the amount of time and effort to make a secure, robust application is more or less independent of the programming language used. The difference lies in where you spend your time.

Here too you are pretty much saying what I'm saying: in statically typed languages, the compiler catches a lot of stuff for you, in dynamically typed languages you need to write more tests to achieve the same level of fault detection, and it ends up taking about the same amount of time overall. That means that statically typed languages are good for production but not prototyping, while dynamically typed languages are good for both prototyping and production, and furthermore let you transform a prototype into a production system gradually by adding tests. Anyway, use statically typed languages if you like, but Ada's static type system is really obsolete and unnecessarily cumbersome. (And please don't use "strong typing" when you mean "static typing".)

Having come from a long personal history with statically typed languages and then landed in a Python project (using it in a variety of ways and systems), I would say that while there's certainly a difference in workflow and approach, it's not as drastic as one might think. As much as people espouse Python's dynamic nature, ever more professional teams adhere to rigid principles that include lots of static analysis (unit testing, dedicated static analysis tools, REPL, etc.).

And at the same time, I saw lots of leaky abstractions and twisting of the type system by some of the frameworks, bleeding of run-time needed components into configuration and other artifacts not visible to the compiler and so on. And so conventions arise and the stack grows with ever more sophisticated frameworks.

The fact is, modern computing is both easier and harder. It's easier because we have amazing advances in hardware and software available to us. There are tons of libraries, frameworks, and components that can be put together in lots of interesting ways. Operationally, there are myriads of tools available as well. But it's also harder because making sense of it all isn't so simple and because the pace of development that is expected of us is higher too. Many organizations have built up a higher appetite for risk in dealing with the latest technologies in search of an edge. This isn't only typical of start-ups, as the pressure is on for everyone now. The next great database, analytics engine, server, framework, or language could come equally from Microsoft or Google, as well as from some unknown 17-year-old's home in Netherlands.

The principals of building successful systems now are rooted in computer science and good operational practices. Languages are important, but not the be-all-end-all of a team's success. Openness to alternative approaches and a willingness to look under the hood to understand what you're producing are equally important. Don't get me wrong, I love static analysis and compilers and good type systems are the place for it. It can be done elsewhere, but feels icky to me. But icky or not, it won't stop me from solving the problem at hand if I can help it.

Comment: Re:Been happening for hundreds of years. (Score 1) 544

by inline_four (#42301281) Attached to: Is Technology Eroding Employment?

He also couldn't get millions of books for free or get online education on just about any topic he chose. His home may have contained asbestos, his wooden furniture might have killed him, his food contained DDT, his waterways were polluted, and there was far more poverty and deprivation in his time.

While it seems clear that social programs cost money, their actual benefits aren't always so easy to ascertain. It's not so clear to me that American food industry is in any appreciable way better for the consumer. Yes, there are cheaper foods today than in the past, but it appears that "good" food is not accessible to many. What is accessible universally are foods that are pretty scary when you start following them to their source. Many people are choosing not to eat meats now due to questionable practices (not all illegal) of industrial farming. While it's not all bad and there are many aspects of this industry that have been improved, I wouldn't call this issue solved.

Yes, we have more people with health insurance today, but is this system working? Premiums are rising, while coverage is dwindling. We're attempting to intervene with legislation, but it's early days yet to tell how it'll play out in the end.

Poverty is an interesting concept. I've seen studies that show that we've collectively raised our expectations for what must constitute a minimum standard of living in this country. I won't attempt to delve into it myself, but certainly it's a very complicated question, one that stems from not just comparison of purchasing power over time. There is something to be said for "softer" metrics like sense of happiness, fulfillment, security, and realizing own potential. Again, I am not out to condemn the world we live in and put some abstract notion of the past I never personally witnessed as an ideal we've lost forever. I'm just saying it's a really difficult thing to analyze and solely focusing on money would be a mistake.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. -- Albert Einstein