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Comment Re:"Choose the best answer" (Score 1) 663

To understand many policies related to education, you have to think like a lawyer. A huge number of decisions don't take under consideration what's best for the students or society, but what reduces their liability.

Many questions are poorly designed, since they're the work of mediocre professionals. The bureaucrats know and expect this. Thus, they require the test-taker to choose the "best" answer (often a subjective concept), thus relieving themselves from having to cancel questions or admit the existence of flaws in exams.

Comment Re:Wrong - Slam the ABS Brakes (Score 1) 756

Modern ABS responds fantastically fast. (...) Slam on the brakes and steer. That's what ABS are for. They almost always lead to shorter stopping distances than cars without ABS, and you can avoid the deer on the road.

Not true.

I was once driving a 2010 Dodge Avenger (rental) in moderate rain, and decided to turn right into a gas station. I saw there was no one behind me and hit the brakes harder than usual, under the illusion that the ABS would react properly. Note that I was not turning at this point. That car simply refused to properly actuate the brakes until I did what the OP called threshold braking. This came to me as second nature, because my car back home doesn't have ABS brakes. But I was surprised at the absolutely horrible braking performance on the 2010 Avenger. For a while, it felt like the brakes had malfunctioned and I was not braking at all. If I actually had to stop suddenly, I would've been screwed.

So in effect, it doesn't matter if your ABS firmware is modern or not. Performance is very dependent on the make and model.

Comment The N9 is absolutely fantastic (Score 5, Interesting) 435

I bought one for myself, another as a gift and I'm thinking of buying two for my parents.

It has seamless Skype and SIP integration, so you can type in a number and choose which service to use from a drop-down box, all from the standard interface. Messaging is all integrated, with SMS, Google Talk, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The UI looks great and is very smooth. The phone runs Linux on a 1 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM, so you can do a lot with it, with true multitasking and a lot of features. Application development is really nice, since it's all based on Qt. And you can imagine how neat it is to run Linux on a phone, and use apt-get to install stuff.

I have no problem with Nokia making Windows phones. It's nice OS, even if it's lacking apps (in particular, no Skype and no SIP stack). But cancelling Meego was madness from a business perspective. Elop killed an amazing product, and what is in my opinion the best mobile OS out there, for both consumers and developers.

Comment It depends who you know and where you're applying (Score 1) 173

1) Is a Ph.D in Biological Sciences frowned upon by technology companies, or is it out-weighed by the Ivy League tag?

If you're applying for a job at a company where you don't know anyone, your CV will end up in the hands on an HR person. I'm not in your field, but I think there's a considerable chance this person won't be able to see how a PhD in biological sciences connects to a CS/applied math job. The Ivy League tag will (on average) give you an edge, I suspect that to the uninformed eye, it might still look like you're applying for a job out of your field. Note that this doesn't make things impossible. They just make things more complicated, and you'll have to do some explaining on your cover letter.

If you use your connections to refer you to a hiring manager, then you'll skip HR and things will be easier in every respect. This is what you should always try to do, even if you get a PhD in CS.

2) How big of a role does the type of Ph.D play in the hiring process in the U.S., compared to what you actually did (thesis focus, publication record, software)?"

For a pure research position, your publication record is what matters (and people publish more in the US than in Europe). For an industry job, your work experience weighs in and people want to know what you can do (your publication record is important to show you can produce innovative ideas, but the industry generally requires a strong component of practical, hands-on experience).

Comment Re:Had to be asked. (Score 2) 134

Mercy me the Slashdot audience is getting dumber.

While the Slashdot audience isn't as geeky as it was 10 years ago, this is a perfectly legitimate question that everyone (even you, the Great Ball Packer) has asked upon first seeing this problem.

Also, while fast sphere packing algorithms are of practical interest, I think your involvement with this problem makes you overestimate their importance.

Comment Re:In other words, we should give up. (Score 1) 2247

The Department of Education was created in 1979. Are you seriously suggesting that we wouldn't have public education anymore if it were removed?

Most people refuse to think quantitatively. The general population doesn't even realise that Ron Paul's "radical" $1 trillion in budget cuts are actually insufficient.

Comment Re:Americans have a lot of discretionary income (Score 1) 911

Now you might say that such a device is still a toy and you might convince me that your right. But that also means that my new HDTV is really nothing but a toy ( a more expensive, less versatile toy at that!).

Indeed, your HDTV is also a toy. In my mind, if it's designed for entertainment, then it's essentially a toy.

I might buy that... but then a whole lot of people are buying these toys. Maybe we shouldn't use 'toy' as a pejorative term.

I completely agree. I have no problem with Apple selling iPads, or with the people who buy them.

Comment Americans have a lot of discretionary income (Score 2, Interesting) 911

Desktop computers and laptops are designed to be workstations. The iPad was designed to be a toy, and that's how most people use it. That's how Apple markets it, and that's why people buy it.

What Apple and Steve Jobs realised very early in the game is that Americans have a lot of money to spend on toys that look good. Even though most Americans spend their day using computers for work or entertainment, that doesn't make them geeks. They don't need significant computing power, create very little content and only use a very small set of hardware and software resources that are available to them.

The remarkable thing is that most Americans are wealthy enough to spend $500 to buy an iPad. And even though most people could save that money and use it to buy something more useful later, they will spend it on discretionary purchases if the product is considered fashionable enough.

Comment Re:It's not that big of deal (Score 5, Informative) 334

You can always use the c interface (which itself is weird, considering matlab's roots in fortran...)

The reason the C interface is weird is because MATLAB stores multidimensional arrays in column-major order, like Fortran. C, on the other hand, uses row-major order. However, if you work with linear algebra, then you'll appreciate the column-major layout, because it coincides with the order returned by the vec operator (which is used all the time in computational linear algebra, and stacks the columns of a matrix).

but then you'd have to learn c. Matlab is a tool for physicists and engineers, not computer scientists. They don't necessarily want to take the time to learn c, or they'd have done that. Some do, anyway, of course, but usually what they produce will be one off functions for a specific goal, not entire libraries suitable for sharing.

I work with digital signal processing and use MATLAB almost on a daily basis. The reason DSP engineers use MATLAB is not because they don't know or don't want to know C. In fact, a good DSP engineer must be very competent at writing clear and efficient C code, because that's what he needs to actually implement algorithms on hardware. Modern high performance DSPs are so complex that coding things in assembly is completely out of the question.

The reason MATLAB is so valuable is that it allows one to prototype things extremely fast with minimal performance loss (if you know what you're doing). Of course you won't have a MATLAB environment running on a DSP, so you'll eventually have to write the C code. But since most of my time is spent developing algorithms instead of actually implementing them, MATLAB lets me be much more productive.

Comment Re:Too weird (Score 3, Interesting) 174

Other OEMs that don't make similar deals may get sued by MS for using Android.

I believe this is pure speculation on your part, because MS made no indication that it intends to sue hardware manufacturers because of software patents (Android related or not!). My understanding is that Microsoft is not a patent troll. Microsoft completely understands that software patents are a minefield, and use their large portfolio for protective purposes against companies like Apple.

In my opinion, Microsoft's move has the following intent:

1) It ensures that HTC can manufacture Windows Phone 7 phones (or whatever they will be called). HTC is not only Microsoft's largest partner in mobile phones, but they make handsets with the fastest hardware (which WP7 will probably need to run Office smoothly). It would be a disaster for Microsoft if HTC was forced to remove features from their products because of Apple's lawsuit, especially with WP7 being so close to being launched.

2) It practically guarantees that Apple will not be successful with its patent trolling against HTC (Nokia is on their own, but their portfolio is already huge). If Apple had even some degree of success, they would've been encouraged to pursue further legal action using software patents.

3) MS capitalizes on Android's success.

I believe the motivation for OEMs to license patents from Microsoft actually comes from Apple, and not from Microsoft. So from my perspective, it looks like Apple's attempts at intimidation have backfired.

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