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Comment IT Department is obsolete (Score 1) 453

50 years ago, companies had a secretarial pool of young women that could be assigned where ever was needed to type things up for easier duplication. 25 years ago, every executive had a secretary as that skill became critical to operations and moved throughout the company. Today, executives might have an assistant to handle clerical tasks (at the point of the business usage), but typing and communication is a critical business skill and everyone emails and most carry a Blackberry or other mobile communication device.

20 years ago, an IT Department made sense, it was "new" technology, with the server room being similar to the mainframe with central control. At this point, Network Support and Help Desk can be centralized and outsourced, just like office supplies are ordered from a centralized location, but Technology as a strategic resource? No department should be without technology in the department.

In 10 years, serious spreadsheet crunching should be the purview of everyone, as should basic database querying. Needing an analyst to gather your spreadsheet is like needing a secretary to type your emails.

Comment It's probably not a conspiracy... (Score 1) 466

It's probably the fact that the people who decide what to do with the government, and the people who research piracy and its effects on markets, don't really talk to each other, or even like each other for that matter. Some 25 drone in marketing is compiling the stats in spreadsheets that nobody looks at. By the time it moves up the line, the story seen at the C-level isn't "most piracy occurs pre-release," the story is "we need to work on pre-release security, but only the FCC can plug the analog hole."

The people talking to people in Washington are hired guns, and the person doing the hiring couldn't be further in the organization than the drone crunching the numbers.

Comment There is a UNIQUE GPL Aspect (Score 1) 186

If I contract Company X to provide me with component Y, and I go about my business, all is fine. If Company X stole Y from a third party Z, Z sues myself and X. In all likelihood, some degree of damages gets awarded (ignoring that if Z is small, we simply run out their legal budget and then sue them for a frivolous case), and X has to pay for their damages, and I have to pay. Very rarely will an injunction be issued to stop me from doing business, as the courts will assume that compensation will work. In the case of a patent, they get the injunction, and we probably pay 3 times "fair value" for it to go away, but life moves on.

In the case of GPL, there are ZERO monetary damages, combined with possible multiple owners and statutory violations. The distribution without a license means I either comply or get sued for violation, but there is likely nobody to negotiate or settle with.

In the case I outlined, Company X screwed up, an employee there took a short cut and supplied me with Y, and Y is critical to my business. Perhaps through no fault of my own, I now have a tainted product. There are no monetary damages to award, because the GPL'd product is "free." There is no single IP owner to work out a license with, because it's a convoluted mess. This means that the only remedy is an injunction that stops my business, or my complying with the license, which might be prevented by other components.

Innocent Company me gets caught in the cross hairs. While you are right that I derived benefit, because we are in the world of injunctions and not compensation, even my indemnification is worthless. If I get sued for $500,000 for non-compliance, and I'm indemnified by X, I can claim from X, but there is no solution other than stop.

That's why the GPL and similar licenses are terrifying and viral. If the component stole proprietary code, there would still be damages, but the damages would be worked out by the courts in financial terms while we all conduct business, so we can sell our widgets without concern, we just have an open ended liability. That is MUCH less scary than an injunction with no ability to resolve.

Comment Re:Developers need to do the math (Score 1) 590

Right, the people that sell used games always sell them, and people that don't bother... don't bother...

Wondering weather to lease a car or buy one? Dirty little (public) secret: fair lease price is

Price of Car today - NPV(expected value of car at end of lease)
Convert that to a amortized loan at the "interest rate" used by the lease company, and you have your lease payment. You are "borrowing" the expected decline in value of the car over the life of your lease plus the interest. On the leasing agent's books, that's how it is treated, each payment is split between the interest rate and the pay-down of principle so after the full length of the lease, there is no principle on their books.

Reason leases are "cheaper?" When you finance a car, you finance the full value of it, then you sell it when you are done. When you lease a car, you are only paying for the 40%-60% that it will depreciate over the life of your lease. If your "trade-in" plus down payment was more than the NPV of the car at the end of the lease, you'd pay less.

For someone that buys a game and leaves the box on the shelf, they are paying full value. For someone that trades it in, they have the trade in value in mind.

Of the universe of people willing to pay $60/game, some are willing to pay it regardless of resale. Some plan to resell for $20, and will only buy @ $60 if they can resell for $20, and some would buy at $60 whether they could resell at $20, but prefer to resell.

For gamers, there are plenty of 20-30 year old single men with disposable income who don't care, but may trade it if it is available. The companies could grab that $30 sale by offering it discounted, which they will do in time, but not as fast as the secondary market does it.

Do they "lose" potential revenue? Absolutely, remove the secondary market and they will sell more... because then they get 100% of the $60 sales, 100% of the $50 sales, 100% of the $40 sales, etc. The initial sales at $60 would drop somewhat, because the people only willing to buy for $40 - $59 disappear (they can buy now because they can resell for $20), but conceivably you pick those people up @ $55, $50, $45, and $40 as the price drops. So if the price point for his buy @ $60 sell @ $20 guy is $50, then they lose "$10" on the first sale (they pick him up at $50), but make at least $30 when the secondary buyer buys at $30.

Comment Fortran is also REALLY simple (Score 1) 794

For a Freshman seminar (now 12 years ago), we used Fortran 77 because that was the last version that GNU had (at the time) a compiler for. We were doing really simple modeling, and the limitations of a then 20 year old language weren't a problem, we weren't building UIs, just crunching numbers. Fortran 90 cleaned up most of the Syntax and made it as friendly as Pascal, which is probably the cleanest teaching language for it's simplicity. Later version supposedly added object oriented and other modern niceties.

Wrapping Fortran in Python seems simple enough, the languages are all fundamentally the same. But if you leave your logic in Fortran for sciences, where you have 40 years of libraries, you can certainly use Python to build a simple enough UI, but why NOT learn Fortran, it's damned simple, works, and teaches the basics. All the modern syntactic sugar pulls away from the basics of programming.

Comment Re:Some spokes would help... (Score 1) 1385

Why is everything replace. Getting rid of the Fort Lauderdale -> Tampa and Orlando flights would free up airports for more long haul flights, where air travel excels. Intercity travel isn't a bit problem, but it's part of your sprawl problem. To fix sprawl, you need mass transit, which only really works in a hub and spoke model. When everyone worked downtown, mass transit worked to get people there, as we built cities around the car, we move out of expensive downtown areas, which broke mass transit, and brought us sprawl.

Intercity travel helps regional business, making it more practical to conduct with easy travel. Because trains are inside the city, that enhances the downtown (downtown Miami is now connected to Fort Lauderdale through West Palm via Tri Rail, plus Orlando, Tampa and other cities via high speed rail. That enhances the Miami downtown, which helps make mass transit MORE viable by making downtown office space more valuable. The more you enhance the hub, the more valuable it is to be on a spoke.

If 50% of Dade County worked in downtown Miami, mass transit is an easy solution. When people are spread out, you can't really do mass transit, just buses, and buses suck (slower than car because of stops, stuck with traffic with cars). Enhance the downtown cities and you will see more businesses there.

Older suburbs were established around a downtown with a train station into the major city. Modern suburbs become sprawling exurbs, where people don't enter the city.

If you want suburb -> city commutes resolved, you need to get the businesses back into a downtown area, which this helps. It's an extra reason to be in Miami if you are easy to reach for business if you can quickly come in from Naples/Tampa/Orlando.

Comment Some spokes would help... (Score 1) 1385

Look, South Florida is a weird exception because it's economically tied to the Northeast Corridor while geographically isolated. However, even in Florida, a bunch of areas would work. We used to drive to Orlando (4 hours @ 55 MPH), instead of fly (1 hr) because by the time you got to the airport, boarded, flew, landed, and got a rental car, it was a wash. Replace that with a high speed rail line that you arrive at 20 minutes early, not an hour, and you have a 2.5 hour trip by rail that ought to be cheaper than flying. Combined with shuttles to the Theme Parks (like all the hotels run in Vegas) or cabs, and you could take a bunch of vacation travel off the turn pike.

How about a Fort Lauderdale -> Naples high speed line, connected to Miami-West Palm Beach via Tri-rail. I live 10 minutes from 595 and it took me two hours to get to the business park district outside of town. We've done plenty of meetings in Naples where a quick rail line into downtown and back would save time, gas, and aggravation... you can't do anything while driving, you can read a book, work, etc., on a plane.

South Florida is only connectable via Rail to Naples/Fort Meyers/Sarasota and Key West (if we wanted to modernize the keys economically, they need a real connection, I don't know that we do, however), and Orlando/Gainsville. Maybe a line up to Jacksonville and Tallahassee would be helpful as well. You're never going to beat air travel to go from South Florida to the rest of the country, but we are WAY more connected to the rest of Florida than we were 30 years ago.

There are concentrated hubs where city-to-city travel makes sense. The old NYC-Boston shuttle (pre 9/11) rocked because you showed up 3 minutes before your flight... there was a flight every hour. 9/11 security didn't destroy the shuttle, but it made it WAY less convenient and isolated Boston from a major city... A Boston->NYC high speed rail that could take you from downtown Boston to downtown NYC in two hours would really re-connect Boston to NYC... since getting to Logan, the 1 hour shuttle, plus getting downtown from Laguardia was about 2 hours anyway. You could also connect Hartford to both cities, etc.

Those are plenty of routes that get frequent business travel that might move from driving to the train, since two hours on the train can include 90 minutes of billable work, and you could include high speed internet on the train... that compares favorable to driving and possibly air travel.

The Interstate system created TREMENDOUS economic growth in the US... these are the types of infrastructure projects that can produce wealth... Far better than bigger and bigger Amtrak subsidies that do nothing but indirectly subsidize the shipping companies that own the rail.

Comment Massachusetts Law (Score 2, Informative) 1079

I graduated in 2001, so this MAY have changed, but back then, the law was:
Campus Police have municipal powers in buildings owned by the college/university. So that covered the buildings, but not the public roads. To get around this, the CPs were deputized by the County they were in as Sheriff Deputies, which gave them legal authority throughout the county, with a tacit agreement with the normal police to only use it on the campus, or related buildings (basically the Fraternity houses were privately owned, this gave them responsibility). During the city harassment of MIT fraternities (a pledge at one died, the licensing board started threatening licenses of all the independent houses over minor infractions, pretty much continued until 9/11 when people forgot about it), the MIT CPs had a problem...

The had municipal authority in dorms... they had Sheriff powers in Cambridge Fraternities as Middlesex Sheriff Deputies. But they couldn't do anything in the Boston fraternities. After heavy lobbying, they also were deputized in Suffolk County, so they could patrol there. As fraternity risk manager, this was a GREAT thing, because while the city was harassing us, the school nominally supported us (they did a poor job, but tried), so we'd call the CPs at the first sign of trouble, and usually Boston PD wouldn't bother us because the CPs were on the scene.

The utter irony... neither Middlesex County nor Suffolk County really exist anymore... they counties exist as regional designation, there is no county-level government, everything is either unified with the city or administered by the state. So while they were deputized as Sheriff's deputies, I'm pretty sure we didn't have a Sheriff or a Sheriff's department... all of Suffolk County Sheriff Deputies appeared to be CPs of Boston schools.

Comment Dual car families (Score 1) 652

Most families with children have two cars. One spouse drives the family car, one has a car for commuting... the latter is frequently the husband with a small coupe or sedan, while the former is a mini-van, SUV, or large sedan, sizes depend on family size.

If we simply got those commuter cars replaced with electric cars, we'd get a lot of carbon emissions off the road, since frequently the larger car is driven fewer miles on a daily basis, plus long hauls.

I see driveways with Corvettes and Escalades all day... swap out the Vette with a Tesla car, and you've done something... the Vette isn't driving more than 200 miles/day.

Comment South lost do to lack of early coordination on gun (Score 1) 398

The North won the war of attrition by dragging out the conflict until their superior manufacturing gave them more guns. They also held the Navy, which provided the ability to blockade and keep the South from fully trading with Europe and arming itself.

The South started with more soldiers, officers, and munitions, because southerners were disproportionately represented in the military then to (when the "standing army" was basically an officer corp that you conscripted soldiers for).

Each southern state confiscated the Federal weapons caches in their territory, and held it for their defense. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia did most of the fighting, with the deep south states providing limited troops to the border. Had Lee had all the munitions and troops at his disposal and went on the offensive, the war would have ended quickly with a southern victory. If DC and Maryland fell to CSA control, Tennessee held, and Kentucky captured, you'd have likely had a quick resolution.

Instead the south hoped that the north would grow tired of its war of conquest, and in time, the superior population and manufacturing base gave the northern army the ability to persevere.

Comment What about a little sanity in this? (Score 1) 1306

Parents teaching children their beliefs is a fundamental right of parents. Evolution, taught properly, doesn't conflict with most religions in this country. However, telling 2nd grades that they are descended from monkeys interferes with parents explaining their views to their children, which is normally more nuanced that a literal read of the Bible (note, two creation stories are given, and much of that part of the Bible only makes sense non-literally)

Could we NOT teach evolution until middle school or high school? Could we take a more nuanced approach in middle school?

"Evolution is FACT" is dogma, and science-ism, and only slightly more helpful than fundamentalists wanting to teach creationism?

The MOST important thing in science, in my opinion, is the scientific method, and understanding how we verify data and theories. Once you start pounding the podium and demanding that an idea you don't like NOT be taught, you aren't conducting science (research, formulate hypothesis, conduct experiment, gather data, reach conclusion), you're transmitting dogma. For those NOT pursuing a field in the sciences, understanding the scientific method IS CRITICAL... how many managers don't understand the need to test something before committing it, and therefore don't understand how you verify a theory... a process that is the SAME in the science classroom as testing a marketing strategy.

Facts are important, and evolution is a critical component of our understanding of the world. But at the impressionable ages that parents are concerned about, they aren't learning "science" with evolution, they are being told "we're from monkeys, the Preist/Preacher/Iman/Rabbi is a liar."

Evolution is a theory... it is our currently best theory to describe life, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. When you start codifying science into law, you lose the purity of science and enter the same realm of politics. When you outlaw questioning evolution, as some have done, you're dogmatically enforcing a theory, who knows, maybe someone will develop a new one and you've outlawed questioning. Same problem when you talk of scientific consensus. If 1 million scientists "believe" one thing, and one rogue scientists proves otherwise, science requires that we follow the correct rogue, not stay loyal to "consensus." Science is determined via scientific method, not polls and surveys.

It's more important that we preserve the method of science than if we teach particular information to children. Much of what I learned in school is oversimplified, or simply superseded by newer knowledge. We can teach in biology about antiviral medicine, not cling to dogma that antibiotics treat bacteria, you have to "get over" a virus.

Comment The problem is growth... (Score 1) 267

Non-normalized databases are fine, and might be faster, for small sites, but when things scale, the sloppy databases (or worse, sloppy frameworks like Ruby's Active Record) just cause problems.

A scalable, normalized database means consistent data, when you have multiple applications hitting it.

For a web forum, sure, a relational database may be the wrong tool, because all you care about is speed on new stuff, the archive can crawl, etc.

However, what happens when your web forum adds some actual data, and then a few years down the road, you need new tools to talk to that data? You can abstract everything through code, and post into your webserver and let Perl/PHP manage it, but then that's a new piece of legacy code to maintain.

I keep all my stuff in a PostgreSQL database, and build Schemas with Views for web apps, etc. So when a new piece of functionality is needed, it's kept segmented off. So you can Prototype a Ruby app, maintain a PHP Web App, and even build custom tools in VB or other environments that talks directly to the database for manipulation. The spreadsheet guys ALWAYS loved when I could setup an ODBC connection, and they could pull real time data into Excel, instead of needing to go through a web interface and grab CSV pulls. Hell, I had a simple Excel spreadsheet that went out to my PostgreSQL database, got the necessary data, prepped it (all in Excel), and then stuck the data into Quickbooks via the SDK (using VBA of all technologies) to prevent needing to double enter.

If you were on a real GL powered with DB2 or Oracle, you could do even fancier things.

RDBMS skills are a good thing to develop. The overhead is pretty minor for starting off, and it gives you great flexibility down the road.

Now, if you have a technology REASON to want a non-relational database, go nuts, new tech can do new things. But if it's a refusal to learn relational theory, pick up a good book and learn the mathematics behind it.

Alex

Comment Re:Saturn V Urban Legend (Score 1) 922

I hope you're not referring to the "we lost the blueprints to the Saturn V" urban legend.

According to a friend that did a stint in high level strategy at NASA, that's not really an urban legend. When the project was shelved, the documents were more or less destroyed.

Well, frankly, your friend is full of shit. If the documents were destroyed, then how are current space historians retrieving them from the archives and studying them?

Honestly, I wouldn't know... but given that his work there led to his entering his PhD program, I presume he isn't full of shit. This was a brief comment over beers, not a detailed explanation of NASA's inner workings. You sir, are a rude person, for no reason. You intentionally took a pedandic interpretation of my comments and wrote them in an insulting manner, for what purpose?

As I said, the plans are archived. It's all the intermediate documents that are gone. There is a world of difference between getting the archived prints and all the memos and notes that would help you make decisions. You can't go out and buy COTS 1060s part (maybe the Aspestos flame retardation), and you need to substitute it, but you don't have the intermediate notes for the spec, so you have to recreate the work.

1960s prints + 1960s parts + 1960s machinery would get your a Saturn V.
Looking today, and making the appropriate substitutes would be impossibe without reverse engineering the process which is more work than designing anew, so they are designing anew.

Also, engineers of today don't have the same skill sets as back then. I never learned drafting, the core of engineering then.

Presumably you learned CAD then - which is the core of engineering today. (Not to mention the thousands of Boeing engineers are their CAD workstations just a few dozen miles from me would debate you as well.)

I picked that as an example because that was the one the profs used to laugh about... mostly that none of us could draft anything on paper.

My point is, what was focused on in the 60s isn't focused on now, and I wouldn't assume that a modern engineer would have an easy time recreating what was done 40 years ago. Plenty of "difficult" math might be recorded (easily whipped up in Excel today, let alone real software), while thoughts and processes that are obvious to an engineer of that era might not be documented.

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