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Comment Re: Decreased Costs (Score 1) 1043

While it's true that the educated and comfortable aren't really capable of understanding the plight of the poor, they're also in a position to think about these issues in an analytical fashion absent the desperation that comes with poverty. For instance, views on foreign aid to Africa have been changing recently. This is the result of studies that have shown that while well meaning, the aid keeps those receiving it from achieving self sufficiency.

So should we never question the types of aid that we provide in this country? Welfare is both a safety net and a web in from which the poor rarely escape. Are we not creating the same sort of dependence here at home that we do with foreign aid? Is there not a better way for us to be spending that money to help turn these people from perpetually non-productive members of society into contributors? I think we can all agree that our social safety net should act more like a trampoline to help people bottom out and, with a slight jump on their part, return to a height where they can stand on their own two feet.

As such, I think it's our duty as privileged people without the day-to-day concerns of figuring out how to survive to continually question whether the money we're spending to help poor people is being spent in their best interests...albeit with a bit more tact and empathy than GP.

Comment Re:What's good for the goose (Score 2, Interesting) 573

I'm done making a distinction between the people who serve and the people who command. I don't support the troops, not anymore.

The actions of our military would not be possible without the complicity of those who serve. At this point, the misdeeds of the military are well documented and anyone serving is giving their tacit support to those misdeeds by enlisting. The US political system is fundamentally flawed and unlikely to change things. If we start directing our ire at those in the military, perhaps the specter of shame and disdain will cause future enlistees to reconsider their choice to join up and a lack of "boots on the ground" will curtail the obnoxious behavior of the military in a way that no amount of voting or political activism can.

I do agree that some of the treatment of veterans is wrong and I do sympathize with them, however it's an issue that I won't support for the above reasons. Unlike Vietnam vets, all current vets have voluntarily sided with a government that they had no right to believe would treat them ethically. They've chosen their side and it's in opposition to mine.

Note that everything I've said above applies equally to any white-collar worker in the defense space. If you work on weapons systems or in the intelligence community, you've sided with people I consider morally bankrupt and I consider it your ethical duty to extricate yourself as soon as responsibly possible.

Comment Re:Then Fire Him (Score 1) 509

I don't have a problem with him not knowing how to do his job, I have a problem with him not understanding what his job should be. His whole argument is begs the question, do the dots even need to be connected?

We can live with a certain level of unconnected dots. Terrorist attacks may go up, but they're such an insignificant danger to us, that an increase in terrorism won't register when compared to the things we should actually be afraid of. The absolutist thinking behind needing to prevent the bad guys from doing bad things at all costs is what needs to change. We need to switch to a mindset of needing to prevent as much as is possible within the rules of our society.

We need someone in his job who understands that it's okay to fail if the failure happens for the right reasons.

Comment Re:Inevitable inference (Score 1) 641

It seems to me that scientists have judged animals as guilty of being unconscious until proven conscious.

Except that, in this case, chimps have been proven to be conscious. They've been taught sign language, are able to articulate feelings and desires and have shown the ability to understand concepts that are quite sophisticated. They're not at the level of normal humans, but their IQs correspond with moderately-retarded humans who do have legal rights.

Their lack of legal rights, at this point, cannot be attributed to any lack of proven consciousness. It's specifically their lack of personhood that prevents them from having rights. While that might seem like a synonym for intelligence and consciousness, it isn't currently.

Comment Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (Score 2) 328

I suppose that's the difference between now and ~20 years ago. Back then, the TI-81 had no way to load a program apart from typing it in manually. The TI-85 had a data cable, but that only allowed a program/data to be transferred between two TI-85s. If the calculator had simpler ways to load programs, there would have been huge potential for abuse. But we had to write the programs ourselves.

And it really isn't possible to write a program to perform a task without truly understanding it. It's a lesson that I learned during the course of my CS education. Whenever I've struggled to write code, it means that I haven't asked enough questions and I don't understand what I'm writing to the necessary level of detail. The challenge of writing code for a living isn't the writing part...writing code is easy. The challenge, when working on something really difficult, is asking yourself and others the right questions to solidify your understanding of what needs to be coded.

Comment Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (Score 4, Interesting) 328

Yes they can, but is that a problem?

When I was in school, my math classes required the use of a graphing calculator (it was a private school, so they required students get either a TI-81 or TI-85). I discovered the TI Basic features and thought that I could ensure myself high test scores by simply writing programs that could solve all the types of problems that would be on the test--this wasn't illegal, provided we wrote our own programs. The first few times I did this, I fully intended to use them during the test, but I found that it was usually just quicker to solve the problem myself, though I'd occasionally check my answer using my program. It was basically impossible for me to instruct the calculator on how to solve the problem without fully learning how to do it myself. And it became clear to me that simply writing a program was the best method for me to study for tests. Prior to that, I would cram before the test and sometimes it would be sufficient and sometimes it wouldn't. But in writing the program, I could very easily tell when I was done studying and it took far less time than the traditional method. And, unlike cramming, programming was fun!

From the interest that I gained in programming TI Basic, I decided to take an intro to CS class the summer before my freshman year of college. That led to my majoring in CS and the fulfilling, enjoyable and well-paid profession that I've had for the past ~15 years.

I'm very grateful that my math teachers in high school didn't see things they way that you do.

Comment Deployment logistics (Score 2) 473

The hardest thing for me is that there are so many different environments and the code needs to work in all of them. There's integrated dev, qa, staging, end-to-end testing and production and each of them are subtly different. When deploying code, the logistics around how to get it to the right place at the right time in a working state can be really hard. A simple Google search for branching strategies will show that there's numerous ideas on the best way to shepherd a team through the code freeze, regression, deploy and MR phases.

Things get even more complex in an elastic environment where you have to autoscale. A simple call to a database can then require service discovery, master election and a whole host of other technologies/techniques that adapt to the fluid conditions of an elastic environment.

So from a code perspective, you always have to built abstract interfaces to non-specific infrastructure. A simple file loading turns into loading a URI that loads via the proper strategy (file://, s3:// or even something custom that reads from a db). A caching layer may be distributed in production and a simple in-memory hash in development, so that has to be abstracted too. Making sure your db queries are performant can also be difficult when your local database is nowhere near the scale that exists in production.

We've had some limited success using vagrant/chef for development environments to make them more similar to the downstream environments (i.e. developers actually run multiple VMs with individual functions as we have in our prod environment), but there's a limit to how much you can run on an individual machine.

Naming is the easy...just get a thesaurus and understand that it's important. Though it does remind me of one of my favorite quotes about software development (credit to whoever said it originally...I'm too lazy to look it up):

Half of programming is naming; half is figuring out responsibility boundaries; and half is rewriting because you named your god-object wrong

Comment Python (Score 4, Insightful) 465

I have a friend who works for a company that does gene sequencing and other genetic research and, from what he's told me, the whole industry uses mostly python. You probably don't have the hardware resources that they do, but I'd bet you also don't have data sets that are nearly as large as theirs are.

You might also get better results from something less general purpose like Julia, which is designed for number crunching.

Comment Re:Campaign team (Score 2) 501

The whole point is that they weren't contractors, or at least that they were individual contractors rather than a single contract firm. Romney went the contract firm route and his tech operations went down for the count 30 minutes into election day. That and the guy in charge of Obama's tech was ex-Twitter and made decisions that scaled really well.

In 2008, there were techies who volunteered to work on the Obama campaign who were told to go knock on doors. The 2012 campaign realized that that was a tragic misuse of skills and put a ton of effort into DevOps on AWS and centralized data services so that they could deploy an app written in any stack. That let them organize small, decentralized teams to code individual projects in whatever stack the developers were comfortable using. Romney outsourced the whole thing to contractors. Come election day, the Obama team had people manning the phones all around the country coordinated by software running in AWS. Romney had his entire team at the TD Garden in Boston. 30 minutes in, the spike in traffic led Comcast to believe that they were being DDoS'd and they cut off all connectivity. It's impossible to say whether anything would have been different had Romney's setup worked as well as Obama's did, but the fact that Obama's team had very few problems both on election day and in the months leading up to it was a significant advantage.

Back on topic, the site that was setup to take campaign donations likely had the same class of traffic as healthcare.gov does. Had Obama brought in the head of that project as a FTE with a workforce consisting of a few FTEs and mostly individual contractors and they could have designed a far superior application running in AWS for probably 1/10th the price. By bringing it in-house, he could have avoided the entire process of bidding for the contract, saved a ton of money and had something that actually worked.

Comment Campaign team (Score 3, Insightful) 501

I find it interesting that the team behind the technical aspects of Obama's presidential campaign were so capable (more here...it's a great read) and yet he still chose the tried and false alternate model of outsourced government contractors to handle this.

A methodology more similar to what was used on his campaign would have been far more successful and cost significantly less.

Comment Re:Sure. (Score 1) 791

MicroUSB absolutely sucks compared to lightning. The one and only way that microUSB is better is its openness. Lightning, on the other hand, can charge significantly faster (IIRC, 33%...12W instead of a max of 9W for microUSB), is more durable and is easier to plug in. MicroUSB was unsuitable for the simple reason that they were getting too much flak for how long the iPad took to charge over the 30-pin connector. Switching to microUSB, which is actually a step down in wattage, would have exacerbated that problem.

Before calling on Apple to switch, the alternative needs to be even moderately competitive with Apple's proprietary version. But it's likely to fall on deaf ears as Apple clearly sees power consumption as a competitive advantage. The charge on my iPhones (I've had 3) consistently last between 1-3 days, depending on usage. The charge on my Androids (I've had 4) never really lasts beyond a day, and is usually dead by afternoon. It's clear that Google and Android manufacturers don't see this as an issue and Apple does. Google is content to focus on speed of the OS over resource consumption. And manufacturers seem to see quad-core CPUs and other power drains as a competitive advantage. These decisions have their rationale and lead to microUSB being an acceptable cable to live with, since users are forced to charge their phones every day overnight. But you can't expect Apple, who has made different decisions with regard to their OS and hardware to abide by a sub-standard connector which makes the trade offs they've chosen to make nearly worthless.

Comment Re:What a waste (Score 2) 452

That room full of insightful, creative people gets their money from venture capitalists/angel investors. The only role the stock market has is making it easier for venture capitalists to exit from successful investments. Without the stock market, there could still be investment made in early stage companies, but investors would have be more discerning about what they invest in because they'd have to make their money back through company stock buy backs, dividends or acquisitions.

The way that investment happens would most certainly change but, in some ways, it would change for the better. There would be far fewer photo-sharing apps and other such nonsense that really doesn't need to exist. And I'm still not convinced that tying our retirement savings accounts (401(k), IRA, etc) to the stock market is such a good thing. The stock market continues to go up and up, in part, because of the millions that flow into it each month from workers saving for retirement. This has a Ponzi-ish feel to it...in the same way that Social Security will run into problems when the baby boomers retire, the market will also start to decline as withdrawals from retirement accounts outpace contributions. The whole thing feels like a Social Security that Wall St gets to skim large amounts of money off of.

The stock market is A mechanism for investment. It's not the ONLY mechanism. We should be able to separate stock market criticisms from the ad absurdum argument against all investment.

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