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Comment: Re:30 years ago.... (Score 1) 198

by Jeremi (#49778387) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

So yeah, it's not as easy as just throwing a GPS on your locomotive and calling it good.

Still, even a partial solution (e.g. one that matches the train's GPS location, if known, against a table of specified maximum-safe-under-any-circumstances speed limits for that location) would prevent a train wreck in certain cases (such as the recent one that prompted this article). I'm all for full PTC, but I don't think the perfect needs to be made the enemy of the good here.

Comment: Re:Time to find better engineers (Score 1) 198

by Jeremi (#49778353) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

If the engineers' concentration is so fragile that they are going to be distracted by a camera, they are obviously not the right people to be operating complex machinery.

They suffer from a condition called "being human". It causes occasional failures in an otherwise operational controller-human, some very small percentage of the time. Even the highest-quality controller-humans have a non-zero failure rate.

Maybe we should just replace them with automation and run the trains remotely. They could keep one engineer per train to engage the manual override in the event that someone hacks the control infrastructure and tries to do Bad Things(tm) to the trains.

That is actually a pretty good idea, and it's more or less what PTC is intended to do, at least as far as the "avoid accidents" part of the job is concerned. Automating things further than that is also possible, although probably not really necessary.

Comment: My first Windows (Score 1) 386

by spaceyhackerlady (#49759189) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was the first version I used to any significant degree. It looked so high-tech, though to 2015 eyes it looks like something from the old stone age. It did some cool stuff. It also gave us General Protection Faults, the predecessor to the Blue Screen Of Death.

For a long time I recommended Windows 98 to non-technical users. Some people claimed there was a USB implementation for Windows 95, but after careful study I have come to the conclusion they were mistaken. My first exposure to Windows 95 was an early alpha (I worked for the evil empire at the time) that crashed and required reformatting the hard disc after attempting to reconfigure the mouse.

I was intrigued by some of the other options out there. I sent my resume to Quarterdeck - I thought DESQview was neat - but only got a thanks-but-no-thanks postcard back.

...laura

Comment: Re:*shrug* (Score 1) 386

by Alioth (#49757337) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

So did the Acorn Archimedes (the computer the ARM CPU was originally made for). RiscOS even had things like anti-aliased fonts by then, and certain user interface concepts that didn't show up elsewhere until Mac OSX came out.

However, the PC and Microsoft was already massively entrenched, and the news was huge - finally the computers most people actually used at work were going to catch up with the Mac, Amiga, Archimedes and other machines.

Comment: Re: *shrug* (Score 1) 386

by Alioth (#49757327) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

But anyone could tell that Windows was going to be huge. The PC was already dominant and Microsoft was already nearing monopoly position in the PC market (and IBM compatibles at the time had fallen in price such that they were price competitive with the Amiga) and the upgrade path for most people was not to buy a whole new computer but just add Windows.

I remember the news at the time. It was huge. Finally, the PC that nearly everyone was using was catching up to the Mac, Archimedes, Amiga etc.

Comment: Re:The Betrayal (Score 1) 381

by tylikcat (#49754509) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

A research student was just by talking to members of our lab, and this is pretty much the argument I made. (And I wasn't making a Java bashing session, I was making a joke, though the two are not mutually exclusive.)

I'm not fond of Java, but it's a perfectly serviceable language and I'm not against writing code in it. I think I'm a little suspicious of the instructional language model, just because my observation has been that for most people it's around language three that they start realizing that learning new programming languages isn't hard and that it's not the language per se that's important. (I really realized this when I heard that Python was being widely adopted. I actively like Python - and I'm really dubious about it being a useful instructional language in a classroom setting. Even though I have run a Python club at times.)

Comment: Re:The Betrayal (Score 1) 381

by tylikcat (#49754417) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

Mm, yes and no.

The U of WA was my home institution - but it was also where my father taught, and I didn't take my degree in CS. Partially because so many people had known me since I was cutting my teeth on the department machines when I was five, partly because I wasn't super keen on the curriculum... and I had other interests as well. But then it was the the mid-nineties, and my fiance wasn't big on following me around the world, and so I acquiesced to my destiny and became backend server girl at Microsoft. (Until I was the right combination of vested and bored that I returned to research. I'm now doing Neurobiology, via Computational Biochemistry, which is less profitable but awfully entertaining.) ...but there were courses I would have taken were not Ada a prerequisite.

Comment: Re:The Betrayal (Score 3, Interesting) 381

by tylikcat (#49749947) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

*grin* I weirdly managed to completely miss Pascal. Cut my teeth on Fortran* because it was what my father's grad students were using - though I then picked up Modula2, out of a book written in German, which I didn't speak because my father was convinced it was the Next Big Thing and figured if I learned it I could teach him (thanks, Dad). My undergrad institution was all about Ada ridiculously late, though... Picked up C++ at the beginning of my professional life, back in the mid-nineties, though these days I use more Python than anything else. I've written my share of Java. It wasn't horrible, I was more amazed that it kept being kind of subliminally annoying without being downright awful.

* Which keeps still being relevant - okay, I'm in the sciences now - though I often deny knowing it. I think I took it off my resume in '96.

Comment: The Betrayal (Score 2, Insightful) 381

by tylikcat (#49749809) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

"...turning on a generation of coders."

I'm glad to hear someone finally having the courage to admit this. Especially considering how widely it has been adopted as an instructional language and how many young people were betrayed by their institutions and communities at the very start of their programming careers.

But I'd also like to hear more from the many people who've risen above these challenges and gone on to become developers even so. It may be hard. It may be traumatic. But it's good to remember that it's possible to rise above it.

Comment: Re:The one question (Score 1) 107

People looking at the car have to be able to tell that that car is an electric vehicle and not an ICE, in order to properly appreciate how the EV owner is saving the planet. By making it ugly, they can also allow the owner to sacrifice further by not driving a good looking car.

That's the cynical answer.

The actual reason that EV cars often look strange is because the designers are trying to make them as aerodynamic as possible in order to extend their range.

As battery power density becomes more adequate, maximizing aerodynamic efficiency will become less of a priority, so in the future you can expect designs that make efficiency tradeoffs in order to get a better look.

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