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Comment What is old? (Score 1) 165

The OP talks about getting a system that he can easily get his "old" grandparents up and using, because they are too "old" to grasp systems that are relatively cutting edge.

Just how old is "old" in everybody's mind? I know this is /. so I expect the answer to be an embarrassingly small number.

I am 70, and I am the technical guru for my family and friends, who are mostly younger.

Comment Re:and expensive (Score 1) 395

Right on!

I spent most of my career in Silicon Valley. Lived in San Jose most of the time, Sunnyvale for a short while. Worked in different places in Sunnyvale and Mountain View with a short (very) stint in Redwood City. None of the jobs I had were customer-facing, and I always had flexible hours. Carpool hours on the freeway ended at 9am in the morning and at 7pm in the evening, so I arranged my commute to be at the office by 930 or 1000, and I left after 1900. That gave me a 20-mile commute in about 25 minutes. On the rare day I needed to be there earlier, the commute time went up to 60 - 90 minutes.

In those days, the car got refueled once or twice a week, and I drove 20000+ miles a year. Since retiring I moved to a much smaller place. Now I refuel the car about once a month and drive less than 15000 km a year. That is a huge difference!

Perhaps I should also chime in that, for me, cities have never been the answer. I do not like to even be in them, much less live in one. One thing I really, really liked about Silicon Valley, and that I have not seen otherwise mentioned in these comments, is that from all those towns in Silicon Valley a short drive of less than an hour can take you out into some pretty empty and very beautiful countryside. I liked to go out and walk the trails, and that is how I recharged. Try Grant Ranch County Park outside San Jose.

Comment Re:Is this post a troll? (Score 1) 285

In 2006 I did get Telecom "all you can eat" plan, and they definitely *did* oversell their bandwidth at that time. I only started getting reliable service when I switched providers, in 2009 iirc. Since there is internet by cable in only 2 cities, and I live in neither of them, I will happily consider that there is no internet by cable in NZ - and there is certainly not any where I am.

In 1999 I moved into an entirely newly developed neighborhood in San Jose, CA. I thought that surely I would find better internet service there than where I had been before. Sadly, that was not true. Couldn't get DSL until 2001, again iirc.

Comment Re:Is this post a troll? (Score 1) 285

I had very similar experience. In the US until 2006, I never had faster than 1 - 1.5 Mbps with DSL. In NZ, I got service that was a good deal faster until the provider oversold its service and sometimes I was doing good to get 0.15 Mbps. Now I see 12 - 15 Mbps pretty regularly, and it is not all that expensive. Of course, I no longer know what I could get with DSL at my old address these days. There is no internet via cable here.

Comment Re:Legal in your country. (Score 1) 285

I have not worried about this issue in years. But back in the day when owning a foreign-made camera was far less prevalent than today, one was advised to get a customs sticker on the device before leaving the US to be able to prove that the camera was taken out, not purchased while on the trip. Has the law changed at all, or is it just a "why bother"? I really don't know.

Comment Re:In the end? (Score 1) 115

You did not read the article. The balloons have limited "steerability" in that they can be raised or lowered by signal, allowing them to move in differently-directed air currents at different altitudes. The plan is that when the balloon starts to falter, it would be "steered" over a collection center (multiple instances around the globe), where it would be "collected" and its payload become reusable. Sounds almost doable. In any event, there are not supposed to be lots of balloons randomly falling to earth, and they will not fall in the sea, either, if Google can help it.

Comment Re:Tech specs (Score 1) 115

One of the videos I watched about this said the wireless service would be "3G-like", but gave no specs. It is clear that it is not WiFi as we know it at home.

When I read about this, I first wondered how it was going to play out with the effort of the NZ government to bring "ultra-fast broadband" to most of the country. That has been going on for several years and offers to continue for several more years before anyone can actually sign up. Even so, the government effort is only targeted at 75-80% of the potential users in the country. So much of NZ is remote and rural, that deploying physical internet infrastructure is a huge undertaking. After reading more about Project Loon, I realize it is not meant for NZ alone, but if it works it might be a cheaper way to have attacked the problem for NZ in the first place. Good luck to this effort. If it proves to work, I might well sign up.

Comment Re:Actually, consumers didn't mind DRM (Score 1) 212

I will stand by what I said because the people you know and the people I know are far from "most" people. I still think most people will not even be trying most of the things you list. The only thing on your list that I have encountered is region-coding on DVDs. I have a player that plays all regions equally. Most of the things you mention are not things that ordinary people do for the most part unless they are egged on by a techie such as yourself. I consider downloading copyrighted stuff to be unethical at best and criminal at worst, and avoid doing it - not to mention that where I live the data costs for downloading are pretty stiff.

Comment Re:Actually, consumers didn't mind DRM (Score 1) 212

Who doesn't sell ebooks to non-US residents? I am a non-US resident, and have bought ebooks from Amazon and other places with almost no trouble. But I tell them where I live, and I abide by the various licensing issues that come up. Once I had a problem trying to buy a book while travelling on a cruise ship. I think it was because they know I reside in X and the cruise ship wasn't X. After I got back home I could buy the book with no trouble. Once I bought a book that I really wanted after figuring out that it was sold where I live under a completely different title. It was the same book.

Last Christmas I used Amazon's ebook gifting mechanism to buy an ebook for a friend in California. When he tried to redeem the coupon, Amazon said that he couldn't because the book had been bought in X and he was not in X. It did offer him the option of trading in the coupon for a gift certificate, which he did and then used to buy the book in California. Convoluted, but it worked.

Comment Re:depends on what you're going into (Score 2) 656

And it is very important to understand O(x) concepts. When you did not understand you built code with an O(n**2) dependence and n got very large in your production installation one night at midnight and you wind up spending the wee hours frantically trying to find a different algorithm so the system can actually do useful work in reasonable time again -- you will understand what I mean.

Comment Re:depends on what you're going into (Score 1) 656

Excellently said!

I would recommend that a person wanting to do serious software development, they should study some core subject and then do a minor of CS for learning progarmming skills. If one then starts developing software to solve problems in their core subject, they will use the math knowledge from that subject to inform their work, and will likely do better than someone who just did straight CS.

In general, doing the advanced math operations is seldom if ever needed. What is important is to gain an understanding of concepts so that aspects of the problem at hand might be addressed in a more rigoroud manner. Linear algebra and discrete math are the main topics a developer should know because they come into play in understanding complexity of algorithms and such.

Comment Before home computers (Score 2) 623

In 1960, as a freshman at Carnegie Institute of Technology, I was given the opportunity to enroll in the first undergraduate programming class offered there. I thought it would be interesting and something that other people were not doing. The class was taught by Alan Perlis, a well-known thinker about programming and languages. (He later was the first winner of the Turing Award.) We learned to program the school's IBM 650 in SOAP (Symbolic Optimizing Assembly Program), which optimized the layout of the program instructions on the magnetic drum memory so that the next operation was ready to pass under the read/write heads just when the previous instruction had finished (a mind-blowing concept that later was useful when programming CDC machines with multiple functional units and independent execution). Later came an early form of FORTRAN. By the time I graduated, the school had changed machines and was mainly using a form of Algol. I only took the one course as a freshman, but I fell in love with computers and software, and found a way to incorporate programming into my chemistry degree, working with the resident theoretical chemist.

My graduate work was in computational quantum chemistry, and I had a part-time job in the university computing center. Gave me the opportunity to dabble in lots of different things. We got one of the earliest CDC 6600 supercomputers and learning how to get the most out of that beast was a challenge.

By the time I was done with my chemistry PhD, it was pretty clear to me that computing was where I should spend my career. The university was starting a Computer Science department in 1968, and I was invited to be one of the first faculty. I taught mainly in programming languages and programming techniques. I was mainly self-taught. I had long-since left academia before I got my first home computer, a C64. In 1984 I had a chance to buy a FatMac at the Apple employee store, and the rest is history.

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