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Comment: Re:It's a (Score 3, Insightful) 18

by hey! (#48470135) Attached to: Fly With the Brooklyn Aerodrome (Video)

piece of crap with propellor

That's the interesting part.

This is what engineering is about: meeting a need cost effectively. The point of a toy RC airplane is to have fun. Traditionally it was expensive fun that didn't last very very long before you crashed. Having fun for longer with less $$ outlay == better engineering.

Comment: "Steam" is only half the salary equation (Score 4, Insightful) 253

by hey! (#48469173) Attached to: Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam?

Specifically: the demand curve half of the equation. The other half is the supply curve. A platform can have *no steam whatsoever*, but so few programmers that the salaries are reasonably high.

Consider Delphi programming. I see Delphi positions come up once in a blue moon -- it's not used much any longer. But those salaries run from $80K to $110K plus. Sometimes you see a Delphi position come up in the mid 40s, but I suspect they're government positions.

I've seen listings for COBOL or PoweBuilder programmers both in the $60K to $110K plus range. You can bet when a company offers $110K for a PowerBuilder programmer it's because it's having a hard time finding one.

Comment: I blame it on the Moon landing. (Score 3, Insightful) 469

by hey! (#48467757) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

July 20, 1969 was, possibly justifiably, the biggest national ego-validation event in human history. The problem was after that when it came to national achievement, our eyes were firmly pointed back in time. We no longer do things "because they are hard". We're more focused on cashing in on the achievements of past generations.

When you tell Americans we have a backward mobile telephone system, a technologically primitive electric grid and distribution system, and Internet connectivity that lags behind the rest of the developed world, the reaction is usually disbelief. How can that be? We put a man on the Moon -- although by now it should be "grandpa put a man on the Moon."

Comment: Re:Ross Perot is awesome! (Score 1) 121

by hey! (#48467433) Attached to: How the World's First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap

He was also a conspiracy theorist who had the money to indulge his paranoid fantasies.

He had the phones of his own employees tapped. He hired private investigators to spy on his friends and family, and to dig up dirt on friends of his children he didn't approve of. He went beserk when he found out the designer of the Vietnam Memorial was an Asian American, calling her racial slurs and hiring lawyers to harass the veterans who supported her.

This is a man who thinks that both the Carter and Reagan administrations conspired to hide the presence of hundreds of POW in Southeast Asia.

I often tell my kids "there's no kind of dumb like a smart person's dumb." It's a warning against arrogance. Smart people can get too used to being right when other people around them are wrong. But in truth there is a worse kind of dumb: rich person's dumb. That's because money can give ideas instant credibility with people in a way arguments cannot. There's a strong inclination in this country to idolize rich guys.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't time be better spent... (Score 2) 474

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) 370

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) 329

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: Not quite true (Score 1) 306

by Zeinfeld (#48430745) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Whether the term is enforceable or not is debatable and almost certain to be rendered moot. Unlike US Republicans, UK Conservatives do actually believe in the rule of law and honest business practices (sort of). There isn't any party who believes that screwing the consumer is a constitutional right. There will be a bill passed.

A rather more direct question is whether the hotelier was entitled to collect the charge under the credit card agreement. And that is unambiguous, he isn't. A credit card merchant cannot use a charge card to recover a disputed charge. It does not matter what the purported contract term was or if it is enforceable. The credit card agreements are designed to prevent cardholders from dishonest merchants. So the consumer will get their refund and the hotelier will find themselves facing a 30 quid chargeback fee.

The only option for the hotelier to recover would be to take the matter to court. The most he could win is the hundred pounds, if he lost he would likely be out the legal costs which could be a couple of thousand. Small claims courts don't usually award costs but they might well do so in this case. Judges tend to detest bullies.

Comment: Re:Half the story... (Score 2) 246

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: Ask the credit card for a refund (Score 1) 306

by Zeinfeld (#48430547) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Its more than that, without regulation you end up with a lemon-law market.

Lots of times the difference between an honest product and a dishonest one only becomes apparent years later. If the product is safety equipment you only find out if the hard hat works when someone drops the brick on your head.

The libertarian theory that self interest will drive people to make honest products has turned out to be utterly false. In fact it turns out to be quite difficult for a company that intends to do the right thing to do so. I once had to get a guy fired after I found he had goosed his response rates for customer support calls by deliberately setting the phone tree up as a maze.

People do all sorts of idiotic short sighted stuff. This hotelier for example got his pants in a twist over a bad review and now he has probably sunk his business completely.

Rational choice is not an empirical fact of human behavior. It is a modelling assumption that tends to give good results in certain cases. But it does not hold for corporations because the interests of the corporation are not identical to those of the employees. All those banks who go belly up because the traders get big rewards for raking in profits and face no consequences for a loss. I don't gamble with my own money but if you want to give me $100,000 to gamble with I am happy to take it to Vegas, find a roulette wheel and let you take 100% of any losses and 90% of any gains.

Comment: Re: OMG! (Score 1) 555

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) 555

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.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.