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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names 773 773

Jamie points out this interesting article about how hard it is for programmers to get names right. Since software ultimately is used by and for humans, and we humans are pretty tightly linked to our names (whatever the language, spelling, or orthography), this is a big deal. This piece notes some of the ways that names get mishandled, and suggests rules of thumb (in the form of anti-suggestions) to encourage programmers to handle names more gracefully.

Comment And if every vegetarian had to grow their own soy (Score 1) 477 477

You'd find San Fransisco packed with latte-drinking tree-hugging crystal-rubbing raging carnivores.

Yeah, food production sucks. That is why 99% of the population from any industrialized nation opts way the heck out of doing it, and instead leaves the messy, dirty, and depressing labor to machines when it can and poor immigrants when it can't. Then we idolize the good old days when we were all farmers, because 16 hour days most of the year and periodic starvation when the whether turned poor sound so freaking nostalgic.

Incidentally -- growing vegetables kills animals, too. Do you eat vegetable products? Are you familiar with the word "tilling"? Do you understand that the process entails taking an automobile which is larger than a tank, attaching multi-ton blades to it, and then repeatedly jamming these blades into natural animal habitat? Sure, nobody died to make your soy burger... tell it to the fieldmice.

(Organic, low-intensity farming also kills animals. If you have a plant in an environment that is anything other than hermetically sealed it is a race between human and Everything Else to eat the plant -- diseases, parasites, bugs, rodents, larger herbivores, etc. If you want to win the race, you have to kill Everything Else.)

Comment Average Joe much more capable with lethal arms... (Score 2, Interesting) 197 197

...than you give him credit for.

We're able to give fairly unexceptional 16 year olds sticks which weigh about 12 ounces, fit in the palm of your hand, have exactly one button on them, and have the rule "anything extending in a ray from this hole to the horizon when the button is depressed dies". The overwhelming majority of them understand the safety precautions -- there are only four.

1) Never point the stick at anything you do not intend to kill
2) The stick has two states. In one, the ray coming out when the button is pressed is lethal. In the other, no ray will come out. Always assume the stick is in the lethal state.
3) Anyone capable of pressing a button is capable of operating the stick. Accordingly, never let anyone who you don't trust to not kill someone touch your stick.
4) You should receive additional instruction to use your stick in an effective manner.

And we didn't need a High Holy Cult of Gun Safety to accomplish that, now did we?

Although it might be kind of fun. You look like you have the makings of a great marksman, young one. For your first lesson, I'm going to hand you a lethal weapon and blindfold you, then put you within arm's reach of six people. You're going to learn to use that lethal weapon safely and effectively. Did I mention that you're under attack by a practice drone? *zap* Well, what are you waiting for, shoot him already. We can talk about the basic properties of your lethal weapon later, for now, either you'll have the right instincts or we'll all die horribly.

Comment "Good investment" requires beating competition (Score 1) 404 404

In the event of an emergency, which would you rather have -- your fiddly NASA-inspired technology or a 1 cent plastic jug filled with tap water and a piece of reflective metal to signal the search party? NASA will tell you to take the water and metal. No, seriously, they do desert survival exercises (as does the Army, the Boy Scouts, etc) and its always the same advice: if you have water, survival is a matter of sitting your butt down exactly where it is and waiting for rescue. All that requires is any reflective piece of metal -- shiny things in the desert are visible from the air all the way to the horizon.

The anti-pattern is thinking that your supplies make you invincible or well-prepared and then you go do something stupid like walk away from your last known location, to perish when you find that you were not nearly as well prepared as you thought you were.

Now what are you going to do with the 250 million I just saved you? Well, that would be enough to provide actual drinking water to every citizen of a midsized nation who doesn't have it. Desert optional.

Or I suppose you could have dreams of one day, in the far future, having something which kinda-sorta resembles something you read about in a science fiction novel.

Decisions, decisions.

Comment They expect to prove... (Score 1) 167 167

... that good PR achieves better results in maintaining and increasing funding than providing scientific value does.

NASA's brief is not science -- science is a rare but happy side-effect which they use to justify their budget.*

The reason they exist is to funnel taxdollars to favored companies, largely defense contractors, and congressional districts.

* No intellectually serious person could suggest that the shuttle program is an effective use of R&D dollars. NASA *loves* the shuttle. In terms of press mentions gained per billion dollars spent it is their best investment since going to the moon. Plus if you have the shuttle around you've got to be able to use it, which justifies spending several hundred billion on an equally purposeless space station. Construction began in '98, is projected to complete in 2011, and if things go according to plan they'll be using it until 2016, after which it is "please insert 100 billion to continue".

Oh, and check this out -- NASA is pleading for extra money to keep the Shuttle running so they can actually *visit* the Space Station they built so as to have something to do with the Shuttle!

Comment Double meh (Score 2, Insightful) 470 470

Why worry about a lost bomb which a first world nation can't get to without a major national project. First world nations don't need lost bombs to achieve nuclear capability.

You worry about nuclear material when it can be had for a case of cigarettes and a bottle of vodka by any idiot with a truck to cart it away. Though the seabed makes for a much better movie plot.

Comment You forgot the copious amounts of sex (Score 5, Funny) 65 65

Granted, Firefly was not exactly shy in the innuendo department (one of the main characters being a prostitute and all). However, if it were like BSG, every named female character would have been shown having sex by the end of the season. With, if I remember correctly, an exception for President Roslin. Having difficulty thinking of another female character who didn't.

This is to say nothing of what they did to Six, which was so exploitative as to make this Republican feel tinges of wistfulness for when we had a viable feminist movement for condemning that sort of thing. I think I know what the meeting sounded like:

Writer A: "Needs more sex."
Writer B: "Its a show about a bunch of fighter pilots, what are we going to do, have one of them jump an engineer in the closet?"
Writer A: "Did that first episode already."
Writer B: "So you just want me to write in an adolescent male sexual fantasy?"
Writer A: "Wait... I like the sound of that. Can you make it a character?"
Writer B: "You mean an actual sexual fantasy as a recurring character?"
Writer A: "Exactly. Except, make her real. Ambiguously real. Because ambiguity spells deep, except with more letters."
Writer B: "That's going to get pretty boring after a few years of it."
Writer A: "Threesome with Lucy Lawless."
Writer B: "... *sigh* This is going to be SO un-PC."
Writer A: "Nonsense! We'll have naked white chicks, naked black chicks, naked Asian chicks, it will be an entire United Nations of naked chicks."
Writer B: "I think I'm going to be ill."
Writer A: "I call that empowering!"
Writer B: "Is Bill Adama ever going to get 'empowered' onscreen?"
Writer A: "Are you crazy? Teenage boys don't tune in to watch middle aged men do it."

Comment The reason GameStop, etc are pawn shops: (Score 1) 446 446

You are in business selling Commodity X at the market-clearing price of $55. You can buy it from Supplier A or Supplier B. Supplier A charges $30. Supplier B will accept $5 in store credit. Choose wisely.

The reason every PC game company is abandoning retail:

You are in business selling Commodity X at the market-clearing price of $55. You can sell it through Channel A, where you keep $53 of every sale, or Channel B, where you keep $30 of every sale. Channel B's primary business line is in undercutting you in providing Commodity X. Choose wisely.

The reason every PC gamer could care less:

You must consume Commodity X. Your demand is inelastic with respect to price, because your need for X is great and your disposable income is many, many times the cost of X. The only time you care what the price of X is is when you justify pirating X because it is too expensive.

The reason every PC gamer should care more:

Within 5 years, you will not be able to buy X. You will rent access to X, or you will buy exposures to X, but both of these will be controlled by servers with access controls which will be transparent to you and almost foolproof at avoiding circumvention. (c.f. WoW) You will wistfully long for days when you could actually purchase X. The companies will laugh in your face and refuse to sell you X. You will rent X anyway, and whine about it.

Comment Funny but back in the real world... (Score 1) 446 446

Go into any game shop which sells PC games. Ask them how to pay for a WoW subscription with cash.

"Buy a WoW card."

Now do it in Asia, which is just America plus 3 years:

"Buy a prepaid virtual currency card which you can use with all your favorite [Steam, etc]-enabled games. Or, alternatively, you can load money onto the pre-paid Visa we sell for just a buck."

Comment Exactly right. Look where the money is in PCs (Score 2, Insightful) 446 446

Take a look at the sales charts. Here's 2007:

World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade (Blizzard Entertainment) - 2.25 million
World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) - 914,000
The Sims 2 Seasons Expansion Pack (EA Maxis) - 433,000
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward) 383,000
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (EA Los Angeles) - 343,000
Sim City 4 Deluxe (Maxis) - 284,000
The Sims 2 (Maxis) - 281,000
The Sims 2 Bon Voyage Expansion Pack (Maxis) - 271,000
Age of Empires III (Ensemble Studios) - 259,000
The Sims 2 Pets Expansion Pack (Maxis) - 236,000

Let's see. Either we can be WoW and monetize through recurring billing, which we get 96 cents out of every dollar (as opposed to 25 cents from selling boxes). Or we could crank out casual-friendly $20 expansion packs to sell at WalMart for development budgets in the 6 figures.

Or we could try selling boxes of AAA games. The vast majority of these will fail to hit the megasuccess they need to to recoup our investments as game budgets are getting close to the 9 figures mark. Meanwhile our audience is being corrupted by the expectations set by games like WoW or consoles who can afford budgets of Ungodly Amounts Of Money because their monetization strategy can easily recoup them.

The renters, pirates, and used-game buyers will complain that we charge too much if we sell AAA games, though... On second thought... screw 'em. We sell data, not boxes, and we will control the data.

Slashdot will be pissed off. Screw 'em. They don't pay us anyhow.

After an instrument has been assembled, extra components will be found on the bench.