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Comment: Re:Sick (Score 1) 116

Well, this "richest country in the world" business is somewhat misleading. It means the country with the greatest aggregate economic power, not the country where people tend to be the best off. You need to look at several measures before you can begin to understand the thing that's mystifying you.

By total GDP the US is by far the wealthiest nation in the world. It has almost twice the total GDP of the second country on the list, China. By *per capita* GDP, the US is about 10th on the list, just below Switzerland; so by global standards the typical American is wealthy, but not the wealthiest. On the other hand the US ranks about 20th in cost of living, so the typical American has it pretty good.

Where things get interesting is if you look at GINI -- a measure of economic disparity. The most equal countries are of course the Scandinavians, with Denmark, Sweden and Norway topping the list. The US is far from the *least* equal (Seychelles, South Africa, and Comoros), but it is kind of surprising when you look at countries near the US on the list. Normally in most economic measures you see the US ranked near advanced industrialized countries in Europe, but it's neighbors on the GINI list are places like Turkmenistan, Qatar, and El Salvador.

What this means is that we have significant classes on either end of the scale: the *very* wealthy and an economic underclass. Now because of the total wealth sloshing around in the US, the US underclass has it pretty well compared to the underclass in, say, India. But what this doesn't buy is clout or respect. "Poor" households in the US usually have TVs and refrigerators -- a fact that seems to anger some people, who see the poor in the US as ungrateful people who are too lazy to improve themselves. But a study by the OECD suggests that they don't have the *time* to improve themselves. In a ranking of countries by time spend on leisure and self-care the US ranks 33rd, at 14.3 hours lagging almost two hours per day behind world leader Denmark (big surprise). But remember this is an average; it doesn't represent the time available for the poor.

Most Americans seem to think that poor people spend all their time sitting around waiting for handouts. This willfully ignores the phenomenon of the working poor. After selling my company, I volunteered on a lark at a charity which refurbishes old furniture and household stuff and furnishes the homes of poor people, and I found poor people to be neither lazy nor ungrateful. Let me tell you I have never met so many people who work two or sometimes more jobs. Particularly shocking were the number of women who took their children out of abusive relationships, and then have to work a full time job, raise three or four kids, without a car and in a neighborhood that doesn't have a grocery store. You don't know what gratitude is until you've given a poor, overtaxed mother beds when her children have been sleeping on the floor for months.

When some smug, ignorant and conspicuously well-fed media head starts whining about the poor having refrigerators, it makes me want to punch them in the mouth.

Comment: Wasn't this the main point of "Agile"? (Score 1) 275

by hey! (#49142597) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

Find a compromise between predicting too much of the future and just managing a project by the seat of your pants; get into a rhythm where you check how good your estimations and learn to get better at them.

Of course you can't develop every project this way; I've used Agile and it's worked for me. I've used waterfall and it's worked for me too. You have to try to be sensible; you can't completely wall of other people's need to know when you'll accomplish certain things, nor can you build a solid plan based on pure speculation. You have to have an intelligent responsible way of dealing with future uncertainty, a plan to cut it down to size.

I've even had the good fortune at one point of winning a $750,000 grant to build a system for which no firm requirements had been established. It was kind of an uphill-flowing waterfall: we knew how long it would take us and how much it would cost but we had no firm idea of what we were supposed to build. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it was; but my team was *successful* and built a product which was still be used and supported over a decade after the grant finished.

What's missing from many programming estimates is honesty. It's a matter of ethics; you can't take people's money and say maybe someday you'll deliver something useful to them. People don't have unlimited time and money to accomplish all the things that need to be done in the world. It's an honor being entrusted with people's aspirations, and a serious responsibility. It's hard, even nerve-wracking, but you've got to care enough about the impact of your planning on other people to make the effort to do the very best job you can.

And what I've found is that if you do make the effort you can do a surprisingly good job of estimating a project if it's in an area and with technologies you're reasonably familiar with. If you look closely your specific predictions will often be way off, but if you care enough to be brutally honest the pleasant surprises tend to balance out the unpleasant ones.

Comment: Re:Lawyers rejoice!! (Score 3, Insightful) 114

by hey! (#49113889) Attached to: Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware

The loss of time and effort to figure out whether this is going to cause a problem and then the time and effort to get rid of it.

That loss is obvious not much on a dollar per user basis, but if you add up all those users it's enough to incent Lenovo to do something so scurrilous. That's precisely the situation which class action lawsuits exist to redress, and according to the article that's the kind of lawsuit that has been filed.

Comment: Re:Read the EULA... the lawsuit has no merit. (Score 5, Interesting) 114

by hey! (#49113845) Attached to: Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware

The issue isn't whether EULAs are *potentially* enforceable. The question is whether *this* EULA is enforceable.

In general there is no contract unless their is some kind of exchange of "considerations". Typically the consideration is the privilege of using the copyright holder's software. But, if you can show that users don't want to use this software, and that it is installed for the benefit of a third party, there is no exchange of considerations between the end-user and the copyright holder, and therefore no valid contract.

Comment: Re:Good grief... (Score 1) 670

by hey! (#49113465) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge

CS people are better educated than the average person, but many of them are still surprisingly ignorant about scientific topics.

Including computer science.

I once sat in on an introductory CS lecture in which the associate professor teaching the course was explaining the requirements for lab assignments. First explained that the students were required to write down and turn in specifications and objectives for each program they wrote. I was very pleased and impressed; I thought this was a good habit to encourage.

Next the professor went on to illustrate things that should or should not be in the specifications. "For example," he said, "you should not specify that the program must halt. That's because it's impossible to tell whether any program will halt."

I could have cried.

Comment: Re:disclosure (Score 2) 437

by hey! (#49108455) Attached to: How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests

You're raising a red herring issue. It's not that all papers have to disclose their funding: it's that he was required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, which in this case would have included his funding sources. In essense he committed a mild form of scientific fraud. That doesn't mean he was wrong, it does mean he was deceptive.

That's a pittance.

Which is pretty much what he's worth. He's not an astrophysicist. That doesn't mean he can't publish. Some scientists have illustrious careers without having a degree in their field. Hank Stommel comes to mind. But those guys publish important papers that draw funding from within the field. This guy's career is totally a product of having the "right" position.

That's not true of other climate change skeptical scientists, who manage to have a career without politically motivated patronage. But their work isn't so quotable, because they're tugging at the loose threads of the scientific consensus. Their research doesn't show that the scientific consensus is wrong, because they can't do that in scientific terms -- yet.

If you want to overthrow the scientific consensus it's an uphill battle. It's supposed to be. Otherwise you'd have to give advocates of perpetual motion and creationism equal status, which they haven't earned yet.

Comment: Re:Shallow and ignorant (Score 1) 187

by hey! (#49098817) Attached to: Why Sony Should Ditch Everything But the PlayStation

True, but to the degree Sony ties one product line to another it's clear that Sony itself is trying to yoke those divisions to each other for marketing purposes. And to the degree that's true, Sony would be better off spinning off those divisions.

Why? Because this kind of synergy is the kind of thing that seems to make compelling sense inside the company, but is obviously insane to anyone *outside* the company, especially consumers, who see the strategy for what it is: overly complicated and obviously restrictive.

It's different if you enjoy a monopoly in one area. If you could only buy a game console from Sony, then anyone who's a gamer would consider buying a Sony smartphone to play his games. But if you deduct all the gamers who don't have a Sony console, or who have more than one console, and compare what's left to the size of the smartphone market and Sony's share of *that*, it seems a bit farfetched to beleive that an exclusive yoking of Sony consoles to Sony phones is going to drive significant sales to Sony phones or to Sony consoles.

Comment: Re:My own rapid test... (Score 1) 27

by hey! (#49098691) Attached to: Rapid Test For Ebola Now Available

Here's what I'm guessing: in practical terms the test in question won't tell you any more than your bleeding eyeball test would, if we're talking about people with obvious hemorrhagic fever symptoms who have recently spent time in an Ebola hot zone.

The reason that something like this is needed is that *early* symptoms of Ebola are pretty much identical to influenza or any number of other viral illnesses. So you have someone coming from Liberia with the flu, you give them the quick finger stick test and send them on their way if it's negative. If it's positive you isolate them and perform an expensive, time-consuming "gold-standard" test like PCR or neutralization.

And in case anyone is wondering, using a test like this for screening asymptomatic people coming from Ebola areas would almost certainly be futile. If there's no symptoms yet there won't be enough antigens to trigger an antibody test like this. At present there's no test that will catch recently infected people who aren't showing symptoms. Anyone exposed to Ebola have to monitor themselves for fever for a few weeks.

Comment: Re:Texas is a Republican state (Score 1) 149

by hey! (#49095219) Attached to: Federal Court: Theft of Medical Records Not an 'Imminent Danger' To Victim

There ain't no such thing as a 99% anything state.

The actual breakdown in Texas is 47% Republican to 35% Democrat. This illustrates something I've observed around the country: political control comes from holding consistent marginal advantages over your opposition. While the *politics* of two states may differ dramatically, the *population* of those states aren't likely to be quite that different. There are plenty of liberals in Texas just as there are plenty of conservatives in Massachusetts.

The way this works is that if you have enough of a margin over your opposition to win a string of elections, you accrue the advantages of incumbency and name recognition. This gives you an advantage over your opposition much greater than your numerical advantage, because most people are low-information voters who just go along with what they're familiar with.

I believe that *any* state could potentially be flipped, if you piss off those low information voters enough. And there's nothing like complacency to breed arrogance in a political party.

I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them. -- Isaac Asimov