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Comment Reader's Digest Condensed Books (Score 1) 207

"Wouldn't it be great if you could read a novel in an hour or two?"

You used to be able to. Reader's Digest used to publish Reader's Digest Condensed Books. In effect, they did the speed-reading for you. I have to say that they did a very skillful job of the editing, too. Very impressive. But not really that enjoyable to read.

They don't seem to be around any more.

Comment An emerging ideographic world language? (Score 1) 111

I've seriously wondered if the gradual adoption of more and more standardized icons and emoji is slowly creating an ideographic, common world written language.

I know that a few "fast forwards" and smileys here and there is a long way from verb tenses, and I don't think I've seen people use a string of several symbols to create a meaning that's different from the sum of its parts. But we're only a couple of decades into the process.

Submission + - SPAM: Why do (seemingly all) GUI's appear to miss occasional click events?

dpbsmith writes: I've noticed this under Mac OS X, Mac OS 9, Windows, and Android. It's not frequent, and it's not reproducible, but it happens... perhaps several times a week. I will click on a hyperlink or a UI screen control, and the UI will highlight the control, showing that the first layers of the system received the click and are confirming receipt. Then nothing happens. So far... every time... when I click a second time, the expected action occurs. Perhaps for this reason, it doesn't get reported to SQA or taken seriously. But it bothers me. Why does this happen? It shouldn't! And, in fact, how can it possibly happen? By the time the system has given visual feedback confirming the click, it should be safe in a queue somewhere and ought to get processed. (For the record, it most recently happened to me using Android on a Samsung smartphone, in a hyperlink in a text message that, when clicked, is supposed to open the Glympse application).

Comment "good news is ... 30 days to downgrade..." (Score 1) 370

"The good news is that you have 30 days to downgrade to the previous version of the OS."

Imagine the average retail user, not expecting an upgrade, not prepared for an upgrade, so perhaps no recent backups and (if it's a home user) perhaps no backups at all. No IT department scan to check application compatibility and peripheral compatibility.

(And does this unsolicited upgrade check to make sure the computer meets Windows 10 system requirements?)

An installation on top of an existing installation, jumping two versions in between (8 and 8.1). But at least going in the direction Microsoft wants, and therefore probably SQAed as well as Microsoft knows how to SQA.

Now suppose the user attempts a downgrade to Windows 7. Another system installation on top of an existing installation, and again jumping over two versions, but this time going in the direction Microsoft thinks is unwanted and unimportant and probably has not tested quite as thoroughly.

What do you think are the chances it works _well_ afterwards?

Comment "However, the turbine never came..." (Score 0) 318

Jokes aside, what kind of reporting is this? "The turbine never came..." What on earth was happening, then? If there was no turbine, what was moving the water? If there was a turbine, why didn't it pull the water into itself?

It's sort of like saying "He fell off the roof, sixty floors up, and thought he was going to be killed when he hit the ground, but the ground never came."

Comment But wasn't Cringely sorta-kinda wrong? (Score 1) 194

It's hard to parse the terminology, spin, etc. but Cringely's words were "IBMâ(TM)s reorg-from-Hell launches next week: IBMâ(TM)s big layoff-cum-reorganization called Project Chrome kicks-off next week when 26 percent of IBM employees will get calls from their managers followed by thick envelopes on their doorsteps. By the end of February all 26 percent will be gone." As I read it, he was talking worldwide. And as I read the current news, it doesn't sound as if that happened. Or did it?

Comment Patent USD11023, Design for a Statue (Score 4, Interesting) 127

This is what a design patent is like:

"Be it known that I, AUGUESTE BARTHOLDI, of Paris, in the Republic of France, have originated and produced a Design of a Monumental Statue, representing 'Liberty enlightening the world....'

The statue is that of a female figure standing erect upon a pedestal or block, the body being thrown slightly over to the left, so as to gravitate upon the left leg, the whole figure being thus in equilibrium, and symmetrically arranged with respect to a perpendicular line or axis passing through the ead and left foot... The right arm is thrown up and stretched out, with a flamboyant torch grasped in the hand.... The head, with its classical, yet severe and calm. features, is surmounted by a crown or diadem, from which radiate divergingly seven rays, tapering from'the crown, and representing a halo."

That protected Bartholdi against anyone making copies of the Statue of Liberty for fourteen years.

Comment Management politics... (Score 2) 568

Donald Knuth's great work is called "The Art of Computer Programming."

There's really no answer to this question, but it may help to consider the motivations and interests of the people who use the names. There is a cluster of meanings that hover around the word "engineering" and around the word "art." Programmers fall somewhere in between the two. The search for absolutes is meaningless.

If you consider a symphony orchestra, it performs an economic job. It has to deliver cost-effective music on schedule. Performances contain defects; people need to decide on the acceptable level of defects. The performer are highly skilled operators of machinery like cellos and celestes. There is a management hierarchy; individual contributors, middle management (the "first seats,") upper management (concertmaster, conductor) etc. etc.

Yet few would call musicians "music engineers."

At the other extreme, the person who decides what heating and cooling systems need to go in a new building, and how the pipes and ducts should be sized and routed, exercises a great degree of creativity, but few would call them "HVAC artists."

What can be said is that management wishes that programming were more predictable, more standardized, and less dependent on individual heroics by non-interchangeable, talented individuals. Management is apt to fall for any smooth talker who claims to be able to organize the work of programming to be less like art and more like engineering.

Wishing, however, will not make it so, and the CMM Level 5 firms will continue to produce both good and bad work--healthcare.gov was the product of a CMM Level 5 organization. And meanwhile, both bad and good work will continue to be done by "undocumented, chaotic, ad hoc, reactive" manner by small teams of good people who give a damn.

I always preferred to be called a "programmer" because I have always felt that "engineer" sent a signal that I was working for someone who didn't really understand the nature of my work. I think a violinist would prefer to be called a "violinist" than a "chordophonic engineer."

Comment Yes, and no. They were nice. Let's not exaggerate. (Score 4, Informative) 220

There are many examples of fine old technology that can be admired for the ingenuity that went into devising non-digital solutions, and that depended on being precisely made.

Slide rules were nice. They were a working tool for just about a century, very roughly 1870 to 1970. There are always some virtues to old technology that are lost when it's supplanted by new--the discipline of keeping the characteristic in your head and never losing track of the order of magnitude, the freedom from the illusion of precision.

They were only mildly status symbols, at least at MIT during the 1960s. There was a certain amount of discussion of the comparative merits of Keuffel & Esser (wood) versus Pickett & Eckel (aluminum), whether it was better to fold the scales at pi or at the square root of ten, and so forth. Plenty of people got by with cheap slide rules. I never heard of any cases of slide rules being stolen.

Keeping them properly lubricated, keeping the scales aligned, keep everything tensioned just right so that the slide and the cursor would move easily when you slide them and then stay put when you stopped pushing was a bear. More than once, people were embarrassed when the slide would actually slip out of the slide rule and clatter on the floor.

When I saw my first HP-35 pocket calculator, $295 IIRC, I said "There, at least, is something that I'd accept in place of a slide rule--if you promised me it would last for decades and never break.

Yes, I feel some nostalgia for slide rules--but let's not exaggerate.

Oh, by the way--that "2 x 2 is 3.96" joke above is wrong. On an exact answer like that, on a well-made slide rule if you put the index of the C scale over 2 on the D scale--and you can get it so that it looks perfect, and the eye has darn good vernier acuity--the 2 on the C scale will be perfectly aligned with the 4 on the D scale. You would read it as "4." You couldn't possibly read it as 3.96, 3.96 is two full scale divisions away from 4.

The problem comes when the answer lies between two scale divisions. For example, 3.98 and 4.00 are two adjacent marks. You would be hard-pressed to tell whether an answer were, say, 3.99 or 3.993.

Comment Re:And we believe Gartner? Why? (Score 3, Insightful) 113

In 1990 or thereabouts Gartner predicted that OS/2 would become the dominant operating system within about three or four years. It wasn't a throwaway statement, it was a detailed report with a chart and table showing the exact percentages and numbers of installations for MS-DOS, Windows, Mac, UNIX, and OS/2. Windows was going to fade very quickly.

But that's the way it is with predictions. People will pay for them and just don't seem to care about the accuracy of past predictions.

Comment Re:Am I missing something? (Score 1) 203

Car owners are upset because they will surely need to have their cars recalled and have the chips replaced, and depending on which way VW makes the tradeoffs, may find that their cars drive badly after replacement or fail inspection after replacement or both. And also that the resale value of their car just plummeted.

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