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Comment: The black box is a trap (Score 1) 141

by msobkow (#49151699) Attached to: Invented-Here Syndrome

The problem with black-box programming is that it's a trap. Far more often than anyone cares to admit, the black box implements functionality in an unreliable or inefficient manner. When you're dealing with code that you wrote yourself, you can correct that behaviour of the "grey" box. But with a third-party black box, all you can do is file a bug report and hope that someone can not only replicate the problem, but that they'll give it high enough priority to fix it before you retire or your project is cancelled.

The worst culprit for black box problems are frameworks of all kinds. Some say you're not a "real programmer" until you've written your own framework. I firmly believe that's true, because what is a reusable code base on a large project except a custom framework?

The difference between a custom framework and an off-the-shelf one is that your custom framework is designed and coded with your project in mind, to service the bulk of your project's needs while maintaining enough flexibility to deal with the exceptional cases of your project. A third party black box framework is pretty much never designed that way. It was designed to serve the needs of someone else's conceptual or real project, then tweaked and adapted to serve needs it wasn't originally designed for, and finally unleashed on an unsuspecting world as "the next big thing."

A pox upon frameworks, I say. Design a solid object model, code to it, use it, and get over the fact that you're going to have to write some code.

At least if you wrote the code, you can fix it. Without worrying about whether some upstream integrator will deign to consider your "fix" worthy of integration to the mainstream code. Without having to wait for someone else to replicate, analyze, prioritize, schedule, implement, and test a fix for your problem.

Realistically, any half decent custom framework isn't going to be more than 10% of your total code base anyhow. "Framework" is just a fancy term for what was called for decades "application library."

Comment: Was it ever alive? (Score 1) 129

by msobkow (#49151621) Attached to: Can the Guitar Games Market Be Resurrected?

I knew a lot of people who had the controllers for those types of games over the years, which they'd either bought along with their consoles in bundles, or been given by relatives. But not once in my life did I ever see anyone actually play games like "Guitar Hero." Not once.

Yet I knew over a dozen people who had the controllers.

I wonder what percentage of those overpriced components sat gathering dust, never to be used after the novelty wore off in the first couple of weeks?

Comment: The *first* thing I uninstall is McAfee (Score 2) 149

by msobkow (#49150231) Attached to: Lenovo Saying Goodbye To Bloatware

The first thing I uninstall is McAfee. That piece of crap wedges in a VB script interpreter that breaks many of the software installers I have to put on my machines to make them useful. THE worst anti-virus product ever.

It also claims that SAP/Sybase ASE is infected, and deletes critical files from the install.

Comment: "Mr. Spock" is everywhere today (Score 3, Insightful) 354

by msobkow (#49149645) Attached to: Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83

I find it gratifying to see that Mr. Nimoy is being remembered on every website and feed that I've visited today. And not merely remembered, but remembered by more people than I've ever seen pay tribute at the same time. Even the passing of Robin Williams wasn't marked with as many posts and comments.

RIP, Leonard.

Comment: Sickening (Score 1) 180

by msobkow (#49145673) Attached to: Facebook Puts Users On Suicide Watch

It's absolutely sickening how many trolls have responded to this topic with comments about people "just wanting attention" or the world being better off without them, and other such tripe.

The absolute cruelty and judgementalism of people who've never dealt with chronic depression or mental illness is just shameful.

This is the "intelligent" commentary of slashdot nowadays?

Man has this place ever gone down hill. How I long for the days of harmless "trolls" posting comments about Natalie Portman and hot grits, which did nothing more than annoy instead of being outright mean, spiteful, and hurtful.

Comment: After which managers toss the "bad" estimates (Score 2) 327

by msobkow (#49143587) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

My experience has been that management comes to the developers for estimates. They provide those estimates to the end users. The end users bitch, whine, and complain that they need it to be done in half that time.

Management then comes back to the dev team and tells them they've agreed to get the project done in half the time that was estimated.

Then both management and the user community bitch when their "estimates/targets" aren't met, and who is blamed for the issue?

The developers.

The developers always are to blame for computer problems, never the bad specs, the conflicting specs, the unknown variables, the use of "new technology" that some vendor flim-flammed onto the department/team, or anything or anyone else.

Screw 'em. Now that I'm retired, I'll never have to give anything more than the most vague ballpark estimate of how long it will take me to do something ever again. Instead, on my pet project, I just bullet point some of the things I intend to work on next -- and even that is subject to change. The lack of stress and the freedom to live my life according to my own whims and needs has proven an invaluable source of improvement in my "quality of life."

What a shame I've never encountered a job that would let you do that.

Comment: Journalism has already been crowdsourced (Score 1) 251

by msobkow (#49134889) Attached to: 5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

Journalism has already been crowdsourced. All you have to do is look at the number of blog postings and discussions at any website that references "news" articles (including Slashdot) to realize that.

Newspapers are already being forced into a co-operative model to apply the resources needed to do true investigative reporting, like the most recent HSBC scandal. None of them have enough staff left on the payroll to do it by themselves.

Software and IT have much the same problem, though the "crowd" is a bunch of cheap overseas labourers instead of the general public. But the end result is the same -- highly paid skilled professionals replaced by cheap mob mentality grunts working on the "million monkeys" theory of producing quality.

The legal profession has been impacted big time just by the ability to do keyword searches of article databases instead of paying junior staff to do the legwork of researching relevant cases for the lawyers in a firm. Most new lawyers are finding it hard as hell to get into any real firms to gain experience as a result, much less ever be offered a partnership.

Note that not one of these changes required anything as earth-shattering as "AI" -- just automation and distribution of common tasks.

Comment: Re:Strategy games? (Score 1) 148

by msobkow (#49133251) Attached to: Artificial Intelligence Bests Humans At Classic Arcade Games

It's not even a good example of image recognition, because the images to be processed don't have to be "understood" to be used. On top of that, the graphics of the games in question were very simple and primitive compared to what image recognition software deals with.

Add to that the repetitive nature of old video games that were based on 99% reaction time and 1% strategy, and you can just flat out colour me "unimpressed" with this "research".

Back in University, my AI project was a game player (a simple strategy game whose name I forget.) As it turned out, the entire game mapped down to a pre-determined set of decisions, so after playing only a dozen games, the "AI" would win every time, and that was just with a simple weighted-algorithm system of play. Some problems are just eminently suited to "AI" is all that I ended up learning from that project, but it was a useful lesson on the difference between optimizing a decision tree and actual "intelligence".

Until someone comes up with a system that can deal with bad and erroneous inputs as well as humans, I will continue to be unimpressed. Yet at the same time, I don't consider it necessary for a computer to be able to think and understand per se to be considered an "intelligence." It just needs to be able to make decisions and choose between alternatives faster than it's human counterparts in order to be useful, and to reduce the number of errors compared to it's human counterparts.

I have little faith in "neural networks." They place too much emphasis on emulating simple biological components and not enough on the "art" of understanding. Neural networks basically take the approach that "if it's big enough, we'll maybe get lucky and it will start to think." That's not "solving a problem." That's "playing the lottery."

Comment: Re:Instilling values more important (Score 1) 684

Paypal is a scam company now. It wasnâ(TM)t really a scam company when it was originally founded. It broke new ground in paying for stuff on the web when the web was in its infancy. It was also had to deal with massive scams coming from the other direction, faux customers.

Bitcoin companies seem to be having a much worse problem with being scams than Paypal did, at least until it was sold off by the founders to EBay at which point, yes it turned in to an obnoxious, kind of a scam company.

It should also be noted 9/11, the Patriot act and the 2008 crash all happened in there which made Paypal increasingly obnoxious in reaction to crushing Federal scrutiny of and intrusion in to financial transactions.

Comment: Re:Instilling values more important (Score 2, Interesting) 684

Point her to the Elon Musk TED talk. When asked how he did so many amazing things, one of his more insightful comments was he learned physics, and he learned how to approach things from the bottom up the way a physicist would. If you learn something at a fundamental level you can do amazing and new things. If you learn stuff, shallowly, from the top down, you often end up copying others which is both less amazing and less valuable.

Also has pretty good lessons for all the wanna be startup founders in Silicon Vally who are doing Uber of . . . or AirBNB of . . ., me too companies.

He also covers doing big, hard things for the benefit of humanity part pretty well.

Comment: Re:He is linking homeopathy to astrology (Score 1) 318

by squiggleslash (#49127359) Attached to: Use Astrology To Save Britain's Health System, Says MP

I can't speak for the French, but I've noticed the US having a lot of homeopathic crap in the children's medicines aisles of the major supermarkets and drug stores, usually with the homeopathic angle hidden in small print, and "natural", "non-drugs", "Ages 0+" and other language over the rest of it. If I didn't know what homeopathy was, I can say it'd have been highly likely I'd have bought some of this stuff while our baby was colicy, just because anything with drugs is generally marketed as unsuitable for anyone below 2-5 years old.

I'm not sure "gullible" is the right term. "Desperate" and "Lacking critical information needed to make an informed decision" is a better term. I wouldn't be surprised if 90% of the 90% of pregnant French women who "use homeopathy" have no idea what homeopathy is, and are simply taking something marketed as being "safe" because it uses "natural ingredients".

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux