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Comment Re:One person's myth is another person's fact. (Score 1) 580

Proven? Where? Even if it were true that commenting is useful in some situations, are you certain it universally increases productivity? Given your degree of certainty, why did you omit the study that supports your point?

It is my experience that code commenting encourages people to not read code. Commenting an API is a great thing, since it aids encapsulation. Commenting class-internal methods might be a bad thing, since someone who is trying to understand how a class works really ought to be reading and understanding all of the code. Also, lets not forget that code is a _human_ language; the code itself says what it is doing. Finally, programming has changed a lot over the 'decades' you speak of. Are you sure that the habits that were formed when people were programming pascal in a waterfall development process are equally applicable to C# in an Agile environment with an IDE that can instantly jump to any method declaration?

I'd humbly like to encourage you to be a little more analytical an open minded about your coding practice beliefs. It's also my experience that there typically is an inverse relationship between how good a programmer one believes oneself to be, and how good of a programmer one actually is.


PhD Candidate Talks About the Physics of Space Battles 361

darthvader100 writes "Gizmodo has run an article with some predictions on what future space battles will be like. The author brings up several theories on propulsion (and orbits), weapons (explosives, kinetic and laser), and design. Sounds like the ideal shape for spaceships will be spherical, like the one in the Hitchhiker's Guide movie."

Comment Here's an idea (Score 1) 660

Let's invent a machine that is based on mathematical logic, that can only interpret simple instructions, but executes those instructions precisely and with no ambiguity. Then, since human language is fuzzy and full of ambiguity (like human minds), lets invent languages that are extremely specific, so that it will be easy for us to tell our new machines what to do. Finally lets go through the laborious task of translating our fuzzy ambiguous thoughts into these rigid, well qualified languages...

...now we've accomplished all that, lets take all our hard work and undo it. Lets back-work a bunch of fuzzy ambiguous language over the well-specified one, creating a mish-mosh of two languages: logical human and illogical human. That sounds like a good idea, because what we really need is to say everything, and then say it again badly.

Commenting is highly overrated, and a lot of people have been indoctrinated by teachers that have little work experience. The adherence to code commenting stems partially from it being a first-pass attempt to avoid the shortcomings of a waterfall development process. Now we can do better. We prefer functionality over documentation. Well written code should be transparent to a seasoned developer. If it is not, see the two qualifications in the previous sentence. Commenting usually just mis-specifies what's going on, lets people get away with writing sloppy code, and encourages people to not read code that they ought to.

The main exception to the above is the documentation of API interfaces, which is really an extension of the concept of encapsulation. In this case, the developer really shouldn't have to read the code in question (though in practice one always winds up having to read a little).

Comment Re:Bullshit! (Score 1) 421

Yeah, the parent is wrong, but you, anon, are a troll.

The fundamental basis of perpetual economic growth is increasingly efficient production, so that even if resources are limited, we use them more effectively. This has nothing to do with trade. Given a free market, any trade should increase _utility_ and trades will continue until utility is maximized. Look here.

money is a limited resource

No, money is not a resource at all. Nor does the fed modify the money supply by printing money. The money supply is expanded and contracted through interest rates. When the interest rate is low, inflation will be high, your money will devalue more quickly, and the hope is that this will increase welfare within the whole economy.

The reason we're in 'this mess' is because we have markets at all. If you read your history, you'll find that there's a very repeatable pattern in all markets of booms and busts of non-normally distributed magnitude. These booms and busts are also accompanied by public figures decrying the irresponsibility of speculators and the blindness of regulators. The people who make the biggest deal of a bust usually are the people who are vying for political power.

There is no mess. This economic downturn is part of business as usual. Now if you want to talk about growing volatility, then we might have something to discuss.

Comment Trust me, the problem is not quantum foam. (Score 1) 421

You could also say LTCM blew up because some guys from Goldman downloaded their tradebook, called their buddies, and everybody traded against it until the fund imploded. See this book.

Or you could say that by using Black-Scholes on historical data that one is incorporating the possibility of a given position being attacked. You'd be wrong if you did, though, because Black-Scholes assumes a Wiener process, which is in turn based on the normal distribution. This means it ab-initio excludes runaway processes like the market turning on you.

The problem is that most models extrapolate future price as a function of current price and history, when in reality prices are a function of current price and expected future price in the market. Expected future price is difficult for academics to get a handle on, so instead they make models on tractable subjects that have nothing to do with reality... then everybody acts surprised when reality doesn't behave according to the model.

When you take economics classes, you hear that if you behave well, in the next life you'll become a physicist, but if you behave badly, you'll be reborn a sociologist. Problem is, markets _are_ a sociological construct. But I guess I should be a little more to the point: All of this game theory crap, along with CAPM, APT, GARCH, DDM, etc is just a bunch of ivory tower bullshit.

Comment Re:Perspective (Score 1) 675

Interesting point about the big 3 automakers. I must admit I'm not the biggest fan of traditional economics, but there is this theory of Monopolistic Competition that speaks to how companies may influence consumers / dictate prices when they face limited competition. In addition to the big 3, it seems like it has some relevance to this situation with media content providers, whom also seem to be facing a deluge of new competition.

Basically, the idea is that when there's a lot of competition, you do what the consumer wants at the price the consumer is willing to pay, or you go out of business, but when you face little competition, you have leeway to dictate terms to the consumer. Obviously, if you're a company making a transition from the latter to the former scenario, you might experience discomfort.

Submission + - The end of US Internet freedom?

clang_jangle writes: That's the claim made by the Inquirer in an article reporting some ominous observations about the FCC's impending rules regarding net neutrality.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided that it will police the Internet to make sure that the large ISPs — telecom and cable companies, mostly — do not force a two-tiered Internet on the American public.
However a group of prominent law professors has warned the FCC that buried in the fine print of its proposed Net Neutrality rules are potential loopholes that if left open could be exploited by the ISPs in connivance with the entertainment cartels to undermine the future of Internet freedom.
Columbia University Law School professor and Free Press board chair Tim Wu told the Washington Post about the letter after submitting it to the FCC.

The letter the profs submitted is available here (PDF warning).


Is There a Future For Mature Games On Wii? 186

digitalfever writes "There are more than 50 million Wii systems worldwide. Logically, the audience for a wide range of games and interactive experiences should be rather big, but based on the evidence so far, either that's not true — or publishers have been hedging the wrong bets. No one has conclusively proved the case for (or against) the viability of mature games on Wii, but 2009 was a litmus test on a number of fronts, including the DS. The results aren't encouraging. "

Comment Re:I don't see how you can make this work. (Score 1) 560

>This is like going back to the old days when great works of art were only made by artists with wealthy patrons.

I suspect that being canonized as a great work of art probably also had something to do with those wealthy patrons. Thinking of record companies, maybe not much has changed... But that's neither here nor there.

>This means that you would have to charge an exorbitant amount for that first copy.

Speaking within the software realm, make your product not tied to your redistributable. MMOs, games hosted on servers, software as a service, selling support for software or expertise, etc. are all examples of how to deal with this. And yeah, custom software has always been expensive.

There's not an easy answer in every situation. That's why, at least as far as I can see, the people who can figure out how to monitize difficult products will be the people making money.

But, hey, you don't have to agree with me. I'm not making the rules here; the crowd is. If your product is infinitely redistributable, chances are you're not getting paid. Its probably better to just accept reality & deal with it. All I think we've seen so far is that fighting the digital masses on this is a losing battle. My only real point is that the battle is probably also unnecessary.

Comment Re:Dear Slashdot (Score 1) 560

You are not paid because you work hard. Hard work has no inherent financial reward.You are paid because you have something that other people want that is scarce. If what you produce is infinitely redistributable, then you can expect to get paid only for the first copy.

Don't worry, though, you can keep your job as a programmer. I'm in the same boat you are, and I'm not scared. For whatever business you're in, you just need to create your program such that it doesn't depend on people not copying your distributable. Just assume they will, and move on. It's up to you to work out a business model that works in the environment you're in. _That_ is what you get paid for.

I don't think anything has changed in terms of people's values. If people around here are looking for a bloodbath, they're looking for it against people (and lumbering corporations) who are resisting change, resting finding new ways to do business, and ultimately resisting progress.

Comment Re:Sigh... (Score 1) 560

I guess this might stop piracy, if firms get better at distribution and DRM faster than pirates get better at distribution and cracking. Actually, it sounds like an interesting economics problem if you take financial incentive into account, but I digress..

I think its worth noting that society doesn't really need to stop piracy either way. Artists can still make money by playing shows. Video game manufacturers can host portions of their games online. Given enough time, anybody can come up with a business model that doesn't depend on copyright.

Comment Duh. Thanks for that. (Score 1) 152

That mother nature actually manages to keep each one of the billions of 2-meter strands of DNA in a person's body untangled is a little beyond me. I mean, I've got a couple degrees, and I still routinely spend 20 minutes at a time untangling guitar chords. And I don't even want to think about the mess that lives under my computer desks... Not to mention, have you ever been on a sailboat? Mother of god!

Comment Re:Wow (Score 1) 1073

Nyah, I think most people here are operating at a finer level of granularity than you are. They're differentiating between types of educations, some of which are much better than others. Trust me, there's no shortage of educated people on /. A lot of these posts are more like a treatise on exercise written by a fitness instructor who knows the difference between a good and bad fitness program.

Comment Re:Misleading stats (Score 1) 1073

Well, not exactly. Apparently American kids do not spend enough time on core subjects to compete internationally on standardized tests, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

My wife went through the Taiwanese educational system, and she deeply regrets having started to late (college) trying to be a dancer. She spent the years that one best acquires a sense of rhythmic coordination and muscle control (the language-learning years) cramming for tests. Not coincidentally, have you ever tried to listen to Asian pop music or watch 'the average' Asian movie or TV series? Of course, there is the occasional exception, but the overall quality of creative and artistic products is _much_ lower, and even the good stuff is usually an adaptation of something that originated in the West. Maybe 20 years ago one could blame this copycat-ism on economic disparities between the West and East, but not anymore. Western-ness isn't t nearly as fashionable as it used to be. Western kids learn how to paint, play instruments, dance, etc at the only age when people are really well suited to learn these subjects.

Anybody who has ever had a professional job should probably be aware that one learns roughly 80% of the skills one needs on the job. Yet the time learning these skills pales in comparison to the amount of time spent learning the other 20%: the 'foundation' skills that one acquires via the educational system. This is a terribly inefficient system.

Things are the way they are because HR departments need a filtering mechanism, since they don't have the time to interview everybody, and educators have the incentive to say that more education is required, since their paycheck is directly related to the amount of time that everyone spends in school. Societally, its a match made in hell.

If we, as a society, were really concerned with efficiency, we'd spend 20% of our educational time learning the foundation skills for our profession of choice, and 80% of our time learning (and producing) on-the-job as an apprentice. Instead, for the last century or two in Western countries, since people aren't starving at nearly the rates they used to be, we've become a lot more concerned with satiety than efficiency.

All this hubbub about standardized tests is really fairly meaningless unless one can extrapolate their results into overall economic performance. As presented in the economist article you listed, all we know is that Western kids have fallen behind on the acquisition of a set of more-or-less useless skills. When you say "compete at the global level," one ought to ask, "Compete at what? Taking standardized tests? Who wants to be good at that?"

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"Little else matters than to write good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer