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Comment: Re:The US needs a constitution (Score 1) 575

by slew (#46753645) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Yet, you don't get to choose a Apple laptop with an AMD instead of and Intel processor, a Samsung handheld computer with an A7 processor instead of a Exanos or Qualcomm. In life, things come in sub-optimal bundles and you pick your poison.

The problem is that we often only have a few choices even in a commodity market because of economies of scale. The economics of spending billions of dollars to develop high performances CPUs have dwindled the field to a majority player and a consolation player. Likewise, in the US, there aren't an excess political resources to fund billion dollar campaigns where only 1 person wins, so there is only about 1.1 political parties. When you scale things back you get more diversity, (e.g., local politics or SoC chips), but at the top of the food chain, it's not much freedom and not much service...

Comment: wrong analogy (Score 1) 115

by slew (#46736351) Attached to: CSIRO Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food

Imagine trillions of years from now on a planet far-far away, some technician named Vort assembling computer subroutines from a small number of libraries (known as the Legacy code) that dropped from a space probe billions of years before he was born.

Vort's creating "organic" software to get one of his jobs done, one that's just like Vort's ancestors created using these well-known components that always seemed to do the job. It's really expensive to assemble components this way because the Legacy codes are very inefficient, and you need to string together lots of calls to get all the requirements you need for the job, but it's known to be a sustainable process and even if nobody understands it, Legacy code doesn't have any "secret ingredients".

Back a few decades ago, Vort recalls there where two movements that tried to change the way code was assembled to get a job done:

One was to actually modify software to have it do what you wanted it to do, but the purveyors of this black magic were evil companies that wanted to keep these modifications to themselves and you could never be sure what type of modification they made or what side effects they had.

The other group was called the Open movement which wrote all new code free of the original Legacy libraries, but offered them to everyone so that they could see for themselves. Sadly although there were many experts among the Open group, normal users of open code did not have the expertise to validate the new code so it was just as mysterious as the Legacy code. Contrary to popular belief, the new open code has been used at most less than 10 years (meaning tested less than 25 years), the Legacy code has been tested for 1000's of years...

Nope, Vort, will continue to use the original Legacy code. None of that modified code for Vort, also, none of that open code created from scratch. Vort would continue to use Legacy code...

FTFY, you may be an OPEN code advocate, but you are a LEGACY food advocate, not an OPEN food advocate.

Comment: Re:Professional responsibility (Score 1) 236

by slew (#46732051) Attached to: GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

I'm an engineer but I don't have a PE license so what kind of "professional responsibility" am I supposed to have? The answer is none.

In a few localities, it is actually illegal** to call yourself an engineer or offer engineering services if you don't actually have a PE license (akin to practicing medicine or law w/o a license even if you graduated from medical or law school).

However, the odds are you probably don't live in one of the few remaining localities that have these restrictions on the use of "engineer" in a job title, but you should be aware that in most localities, simply by practicing engineering often puts you under the jurisdiction of the local board and local/state boards usually have some rules for people that are "exempt" from licensing, but able to practice the profession. Therefore, even if you are not required to be licensed, you might have some professional responsibilities, you may simply be ignorant of what they are (and ignorance of the law is generally not a valid excuse in a court of law).

**About 20 years ago, I was working for a company that was bought by another company headquartered in another state where it was illegal to have the word "engineer" in a job title w/o that person being a licensed P.E. A year after the merger, the company was cited by the state board as employing non-engineers w/ engineering titles and as part of the penalty/settlement was forced to change the job titles of nearly everyone in my department (e.g, from applications engineer to technician level 3, or from engineering team manager to technical team manager). I remember one of the newly minted technician level 3s disagreed with this decision and stupidly quit in protest.

About a year later, the state changed the rules slightly where we were allowed to be called application engineers again (because apparently a large electronics industry employer based in the state convinced the state board it was generally known that mere applications-engineers weren't allowed to sign-off on actual designs). Of course, for a job title that was say a lead engineer, or principal engineer or a partner engineer, I think many of those still require being P.E. Licensed.

Comment: Re:this again... (Score 1) 289

by slew (#46722917) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Today, the two pesky loose ends that are likely to change everything are dark matter and dark energy. What we need is a theory that explains these phenomena and an experiment to test the theory.

If it turns out we need astrophysical levels of dark energy to initiate such an experiment, maybe you'll forgive me if I take a few steps back...

Comment: Re:Heinrich Hertz - 1875 (Score 1) 289

by slew (#46722887) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Wow, he invented the rental car way back in 1875 !

FWIW: Sandor Herz (aka John Hertz) wasn't born until 1879, but he was friends with Edward Teller (Mr H-bomb) and funded lots of research (mostly defense related). BTW, Sandor didn't invent the rental car idea that bears his name, but he did found the yellow-cab company...

Here is one of Sandor's most popular quotes...

I’d like to hire a ship and send back to their own countries the men who are complaining about American conditions and American institutions. Every one of these fellows has a better opportunity here to lead a happy and prosperous life than he had in his own country, wherever it may have been. The best thing that ever happened to me was that my father went broke in the mountains north of Buda-Pest and decided to make a new start in this country. I came here as a foreigner, and this country not only tolerated but encouraged me. It will do the same for every other immigrant who is willing to work to succeed.

Comment: Re:Until warp drive is invented... (Score 1) 289

by slew (#46722699) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Although your theory is neat and clean, the reality is probably different.

When things get too neat and clean, there are diminishing returns. Sciences stagnate under reduced funding, industries consolidate which cause trade secrets proliferate reducing the velocity of discoveries. When the situation is less ordered in the world (say after a war), the pace of discovery during rebuilding is greatly advanced.

Sometimes a tear down of some old stuff to make room for the latest shiny stuff. Thinking of a non-eventful plateau period waiting for some new Einstein to be born is a very sanitized way to think about it. Sometimes it takes a rebirth after a major world war.

Ironically (or perhaps fortunately), this reality isn't likely to be an efficient way to stimulate a renaissance in discoveries (as the net cost of wars generally put the whole thing in the red due to the effects captured in the parable/fallacy of the broken window).

Maybe it means we are often simply a complacent species that perhaps needs to be kicked in butt occasionally...
Or, maybe it just means that comparing the rate at two isolated points in history isn't the best measure of the pace progress.

Then again, excluding folks that like to draw graphs that linear extrapolate to the right in a hockey stick and have never heard of a double logistic function, there might be some other ways for statistical experts to interpret this data...

Comment: Re:Sex discrimination. (Score 1) 672

by slew (#46720707) Attached to: Google: Teach Girls Coding, Get $2,500; Teach Boys, Get $0

Offering incentives to get people to work in areas out of their comfort zone or to get people to teach others so they can enter an area out of their comfort zone should not be discouraged.

That would be like offering free housing to police in a slum area to bring attention to problems in the inner city.

Actually, in the current US economy, it would be more like offering incentives to women to get into the fracking industry... (don't read that f-word wrong)

Comment: Re:Sex discrimination. (Score 1) 672

by slew (#46720631) Attached to: Google: Teach Girls Coding, Get $2,500; Teach Boys, Get $0

FWIW, the idea of group/collective guilt (bullshit or not) is not simply a mantra of a victim lobby or a group of rabid Tumblr feminazis, it is likely simply just a higher degree of expression of a generic sociological/psychological human behavior.

Interestingly people with the lowest degrees of expression of these types of human behavior tends to suggest those people might be borderline psychopaths that don't feel any empathy at all or perhaps exhibiting behavior associated with repression and/or projection (e.g., blame the victims).

As with most things in life, a happy medium...

Comment: Re:Fuck him and the rest of the Republicans (Score 1) 1109

by slew (#46700481) Attached to: Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law

Yep, sure is. Ever filled out a job application that asked if you were a fascist or a communist?

Although I'm not old enough to have had an application that asked if I was ever a member of a communist party, a colleague of mine is old enough and once when I was over at his house, he showed me the carbon-copy of such an application he filled out...

Oh yeah, that was an application for a US government civil service job (not military, or top-secret), although he told me that was a common question on many Job applications of the day (he said the grocery packer job he applied for had the same question, although he didn't have any actual proof of that in hand).

Comment: Re:Bu the wasn't fired (Score 1) 1109

by slew (#46700391) Attached to: Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law

IANAL, but it is my understanding, there are sometimes some quasi-legal or even illegal elements in many severance package. At least in California...

.. you cannot sign away your rights to disclose fraud, or other illegal activities

.. you cannot waive federal or state employment discrimination claims including FMLA and Older workers protection act

.. you cannot agree to terms that violate public policy (maybe fostering a culture of intimidation about political beliefs or perhaps related to the law that firing people based on their political beliefs?)

I'm sure the lawyers writing the damn things up attempt to tip-toe around these potholes, to make it non-obvious to the recipient of the severance agreement or at least make them think twice about disclosing certain things, though. My guess that in this case, there is probably just an "understanding" that he wouldn't push the issue any more, but I don't think that a company can simply have an employee sign-away a company's legal liability in an employee severance package, because that appears to me that any such clauses of the contract would not actually be enforceable (at least in California).

Comment: Re:Potential FAA issues (Score 2) 269

One potential loophole is to attempt to use the exemption (91.321 Carriage of candidates in elections)...

Say, have any potential passengers sign up to be candidates in an election for some public office (create a town in the middle of nowhere called 'Airpool' and everyone who signs up to run for mayor is now part of the club where they can access flight sharing).

Of course these folks aren't doing that, but there are of course probably some more realistic loophole in the code...

Comment: Re:Most undergrad educations are the same (Score 1) 127

by slew (#46634019) Attached to: State Colleges May Offer Best ROI On Comp Sci Degrees

Maybe, most undergrad educations are the same, but a degree from Harvard says you got accepted to Harvard.

There was a follow-up study (Dale-Kruger) to a interesting study a while back that more-or-less concluded it's more important that you apply to Ivy school, but even if you don't get in, still go to a decent school. Krueger and Dale found that for students bright enough to win admission to a top school, later income "varied little, no matter which type of college they attended." In other words, the student, not the school, was responsible for the success.

In fact the data actually suggested that it didn't even mater that much if you even were admitted into that elite school, only that you had the ego/self-confidence to apply to an elite school.

Comment: Re:The best the SCOTUS could do is wipe software p (Score 1) 192

by slew (#46631651) Attached to: Supreme Court Skeptical of Computer-Based Patents

AFAIK, There is no "trade-secret" law to weaken that is independent of misappropriation of business information through theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage.

Note that a trade-secret is not protected from reverse engineering and is limited in time until it is common knowledge to the people that could use it profitably.

Comment: Re:Kickstarter is not an investment (Score 1) 535

by slew (#46598381) Attached to: Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

Couldn't Kickstarter just act as the majority investor and vote based on a poll of people who contributed?

So Kickstarter becomes the sole investor, with a 51% share or whatever of voting power, they put up a poll to all who contributed saying "Should we allow the Facebook acquisition?" and if 70% of contributors say no, Kickstarter blocks it?

Yes kickstarter could change their charter to do this, but I'm guessing they don't want to because under most state laws, being a mutually-owned company, they would be on the hook to seek/verify *accurate* information about the companies that they invest in and potentially provide some of that information to the (non-accredited) investors. Instead Kickstarter does not seek and does not provide information. Information is provided simply by the project directly to the backers often simply through unverified facebook accounts. Kickstarter is not involved in any way in the information loop and I doubt they want to be so as to encourage a large number of projects and to keep their butts out of the litigation chairs.

GSV is an example of a closed-end mutual fund company that did something like this. The problem as I mentioned is that the investors are not investing in the companies like Facebook, but in GSV. It would be like investing in Kickstarter, not Oculus. For ever Oculus, there are inevitably duds, and this is why closed-end mutual fund companies like have a pretty poor performance record.

New regulations are being drafted that might change the landscape of crowdfunding over the next few years, but reducing reporting requirements for investments under the $500 level and allowing for more solicitation/advertising. Who knows, maybe if the regulations are liberal enough some organization like kickstarter might take that plunge (but I doubt it). Remember, with this route, you don't get rewards, you get equity and with startup ventures, often equity is less valuable than toilet paper. For example, the "c-level" staff of a startup venture for instance could take a business trip to Hawaii with your funds as a team building exercise and it's likely you wouldn't be the wiser... There's a reason that they restrict this stuff to sophisticated investors that have staff to audit finances and select key management staff and board members.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.