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Comment: Re:OracleVSGoogle: Judge can program, you still fo (Score 1) 187

by sydneyfong (#48147849) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

clean-room reimplementation is legal

Clean room reimplementation is legal as long as the specification used by the implementors is free of copyright (and other I.P.) issues.

I definitely agree that some of the prior cases of clean-room implementation is at odds with the notion that APIs are copyrightable. To be honest, copyright law has never been logically consistent to me -- which is why I don't even pretend to have knowledge of it unless I'm arguing about legal topics on slashdot ...

Comment: Re:OracleVSGoogle: Judge can program, you still fo (Score 1) 187

by sydneyfong (#48138999) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

The "wrong decision" referred to the GP isn't about the trivial range check, but rather the notion that APIs are not copyrightable.

It would be really shitty if APIs were copyrightable, but, as the GP said, that has been the conventional understanding of copyright law for a long time.

It would be interesting to see how the story unfolds, but really, there's nothing funny about the notion of APIs being copyrightable.

Comment: Re:Obj-C (Score 1) 316

by sydneyfong (#48012707) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Swift Or Objective-C As New iOS Developer's 1st Language?

Furthermore, because of deallocation cascades, a release message in such schemes can have a very high latency

Right. When gc happens, good garbage collectors don't freeze the whole application for hundreds of milliseconds to scan through the allocated memory looking for objects to free.

Comment: Re:The FSF overreached with GPL v3 ... (Score 1) 183

by sydneyfong (#47920889) Attached to: Why Apple Should Open-Source Swift -- But Won't

It is legal paranoia. Just like how IT-types have network security paranoia and ban a bunch of software/tools that *could* *potentially* introduce security issues to the company network...

I mean, sure, if you spend time looking at an individual license it could be OK. But why spend the time to investigate? Just blanket deny, and if somebody thinks it's worth fighting the bureaucracy to use a damn piece of software, *then* it might be worth looking into making an exception...

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 309

by sydneyfong (#46978111) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Computer Science Freshman, Too Soon To Job Hunt?

What you say is true, but "not being the most brilliant people I know" is not necessarily "failure", and definitely not "the floor".

I know a bunch of really brilliant CS people as well. Almost all of them graduated with CS degrees and doing quite well. There are different kinds of "smart". The person who becomes a competent sysadmin at 16 is different from the one who drops out of college to found a successful startup, and is different from the one who gets a CS PhD and then a researcher job at Princeton.

The 16-year-old sysadmin probably can't do my job, at least not as well as I (software engineering), and I probably can't do her job well either.

There are different paths to "success", although I must agree that the value of getting a degree is diminishing every day, it's not necessarily a bad thing to do. It really depends on the circumstances of each case.

Comment: Re:Code is closer to legalese than math (Score 1) 161

by sydneyfong (#46325017) Attached to: The Neuroscience of Computer Programming

(Sorry for stereotyping but) you're a typical geek. You think that words can have a precise, context-free meaning, and whether something falls within the meaning of a word (or a technical term) can be done in polynomial time.

The real world is much more complicated than that.

Take for example, what is a male and what is female? You'd think it's easy enough to determine that if you have access to the genitals, but there's still difficult corner cases to handle. For legal questions, it can be even more complicated. Questions like "was there a contract?" "is this negligence?" "did the person have the 'intention' to commit the crime?" are simply too 'complicated' to have a deterministic algorithm for all the cases. And before you ask why there are so many lawsuits (I'd imagine many more than the number of people with an indeterminate sex), the fact is that for the vast majority of cases the question is pretty clear cut, and it's really the corner cases that seriously go to court for a dispute on issues of law (as opposed to factual disputes, eg. whether a person did indeed sign a contract, whether the accused did kill the victim, etc.).

Supposedly you can really write out all the anticipated cases in a super horrifically complex program. But then, even if we suppose we can resolve the controversial cases where the facts don't fit our intuition (eg. the many many many situations whether or not you can have an abortion), it defeats the other purpose, that the (general) legal principles should be understandable by a lay person. In fact, lawyers are human beings too (well, not going into the soul question), and if the solution is not understandable by a significant number of lawyers, it's not going to become law. That's where your argument comes in -- but honestly, when you're good at skill X, you'd tend to believe that skill X is all you need to solve the world's problems, until you realize that when you apply skill X outside of its usual domain, it doesn't work in practice. (Just check out the mad scientists cartoons/movies for how things that work in theory could go wrong) The fundamental flaw I see, is that people expect the law to *usually* work according to their *intuition*. Usually court decisions don't tend to go against common sense, and when it does, the legislature will "correct" the decision (at least for common law systems) so that the law is what people expect. The problem is, what people expect can be very self-inconsistent, and what people expect is usually optimized for the normal case, not optimized to reduce the awkward corner cases. If you have no idea what the "self-inconsistencies" of a normal human being is, try understanding a woman. (to please the feminists: or a man who's not a logician -- getting to understand the opposite sex makes you wonder whether everyone's brains are just full of inconsistencies)

And of course you can't just look at the law in its current state and simply declare it void because you have a supposedly better system "intelligently designed" by a genius. I'm not sure about you, but I personally would be very skeptical of any large "rewrite" of a system by a person who doesn't even understand what the system is about.

I do agree there could be a bit more inter-disciplinary research on how CS can assist in making law less complex, but ... from what I know and understand (not to say that it's a lot), I'm skeptical whether there could be any groundbreaking results.

I'd say, getting legislation to use a proper version control system, and if a git-blame could show all the people who voted for/against a particular law, it would already be a great win. :)

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.

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