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Comment Bakoma (Score 1) 99

There is a pretty good looking editor for Latex called Bakoma. What I have never understood with latex is that it is hard to find an editor that does exactly what this website does. You type on the left and it appears on the right. But I want one step further. You also can edit on the right. To me this would be the best of both worlds. You can go all hard core for formulas and other complicated formatting but then you can go all WYSIWYG if you want. Oh and I want a spell check in both the the latex and WYSIWYG panes along with code completion in the latex pane.

Comment Re:Modest changes (Score 1) 50

I would love to see limits to what data companies can collect, store, and share. I would also love to see greater disclosure laws for companies, especially as they get larger. The best parts of big lawsuits like those against big tobacco were when many of their dirty little secrets came out. But with lobbying as it is now that's never going to happen.

As a public good I can't think of many situations where forcing large companies to disclose much of what they do would be harmful. If a company has to disclose how and where it makes money then other companies will discover opportunities from that and drive down prices. If one client can negotiate a better deal than other clients would see that and negotiate accordingly. Corporate profits would drop along with gouging. I don't see any magical reason that corporations have a special right to huge profits.

Comment Re:Modest changes (Score 1) 50

Actually I am not not referring to government as a big scary conspiracy. The knee jerk reaction to controlling information goes right down to the individual. One of the worst nightmares of any manager is that their underling is a golfing partner with that manager's boss. Quite simply they have lost information control. The manager has a project where things aren't going perfectly and they worry that the underling might say something like "That project is a disaster. Why just the other week we fell even farther behind." and in the other direction they might worry about the boss telling the underling things that they would rather withhold from their team. Also information is power in a boring sort of way. If a company knows their clients better sales will become easier.

But the big difference with government is that they are backed by the force of law. Just like a sales department the police find their job much easier if they have more information. If they can read everyone's email then they think they will solve more crimes. And like the manager with bad news they would prefer that the public not know that the financing for some project like a bridge has gone to hell.

About the only two places that I see conspiracies solved by opening up government information and closing our information are the dark places where lobbyists cajole the government into doing wasteful things and when media lobbyists try to cajole the government into taking our private information to make their lawsuits easier.

So instead of a smokey room with a bunch of guys conspiring I see a bunch of desperate officials thinking up ways to make their narrow jobs easier.

Comment Modest changes (Score 5, Insightful) 50

I suspect that by modest changes they mean that they are going to gut our rights. Anyone who works in government quickly learns that control of information is power. It makes them angry that they can't get more information and it makes them scared that we can get so much.

Exhibit #1: Egypt. They want to turn off Youtube for a month because of "blasphemy" what they really don't want people seeing is the growing discontent that is visibly displayed every day along with the misdeeds of the police; this will work of course because youtube is the only site on the whole Internet that hosts videos.

We don't need a new internet law we need something at the constitutional level that protects us from government spying while also enshrining our rights to force the government to expose its secrets.

Comment My Playbook Review (Score 0, Offtopic) 184

I bought my wife a playbook this Christmas. A playbook that I periodically charge and then put back (unused) on the shelf. I could make a long list of what does work well in the device but I will still sum it up as the layer cake of crap. To start with it was a huge effort to get her phone upgraded so that the two could talk. Then it was a long trudge through a labyrinth to get it configured to talk. Then it was a bit of an effort to connect the two. Then they are so slow as to be nearly useless when talking. Loading files onto it is slow. The interface is just not well thought out. There are many oddities; not bugs really but oddities such as when you are using it and charging it the charge % doesn't go up but it does seem to be getting a charge.

Everything is just confusing and awkward. Sort of like one of those early product demos where you have to keep guiding the person to what works and away from what doesn't. I consider myself pretty technically adept yet the total time from Christmas to functioning connection between a 9700 and the Playbook might have been 6+ hours and a number of weeks while my wife located someone who knew how to upgrade the handset OS in a company with 100,000+ employees; that same employee a blackberry "expert" took a crack at getting the two to talk but gave up. On my journey I don't think that I received a single useful error. I would install things like Blackberry Bridge and the icon wouldn't show up; just nada. I would then go on the internet and find some horrible but in the end correct advice. Yet BB tried all kinds of cool tricks like having QR codes where you point things at screens to get them to go to some next step. Yet BB would throw in a handful of stupid steps that more than made up for the smart step. Like one where I needed to have some kind of blackberry store account to download software that should be part of the OS. Then when you log in on the other device it says that you can only have one device connected to the store at a time. This is BS. Another bit of BS was there was one agreement where I had to scroll to the bottom to hit I agree. It took me around a minute of scrolling. I suspect that there is some hidden scroll-to-the-bottom button but a hidden button is a useless button.

Then I get BS steps like having to download the software via the cell network. I don't know what my wife's data plan is(if any) so I want to download via Wi-Fi but nope the BB wouldn't have any of that. This software is clearly being written by people who are not under control of anyone who has a single Steve Jobs bone in their body. They desperately needed someone who would say "No that is too many steps. Reduce it to two and ideally one." This person must be near the very top of the food chain not reporting to some lowly department heads. He must be able to say "No no no!" even if schedules are slipping. If you look at all the features as a simple checklist then the BBs that I played with are perfect. But when you actually look at the features almost none of them are "Finished" just in a technical state of "Completed"

The whole experience was horrible and I expect no more from the newest product. Unless they have reshaped how products are internally judged as complete then I suspect that the new phone will be fairly bug free but will bug the hell out of its users.

Comment Not usually a Stallman fan (Score 1) 649

Stallman has nailed this one big time. I see no reason why the 60 Walmart family members should earn what tens of millions of the bottom Americans earn. I would even go local with this one. That if in your region there is only one grocery store chain then it should pay much higher taxes than a new smaller chain looking to offer competition. The same with telcos. The big ones would be nailed and the new smaller hungry ones would have some breathing room.

This is not just about some commie redistribution of wealth but often smaller businesses are able to provide a more human type of business but if they are pressured into economies of scale then they are encouraged to not grow for growth's sake.

But I have a second suggestion. Salary / corporate income taxes should also be proportionate to how the employees are all paid. Pay low wages and the company along with the top executives pay a much higher tax rate. This even nails the small businessman driving around in a $100,000 car while his employees might have trouble feeding their kids properly. So the executive acting out of pure greed pays the employees more.

Comment Mr Anecdotal here (Score 3, Insightful) 212

Some caffeine from Green Tea keeps me programming, driving, studying, etc. Red Bull makes me wound up and literally makes my heart skip a beat every now and then. Straight caffeine pills just knock me out and a few hours later make me angry. So needless to say I limit myself to occasional green teas. (Matcha!)

If my wife has a coffee after 6pm she will have trouble sleeping that night.

My brothers can't operate with much less than 5+ cups of strong coffee per day.

So needless to say within my reach are a pretty wide set of reactions to caffeine. The drug I would love to see studied even more is Chocolate.

Comment Apple killed flash, Java next? (Score 1) 451

Steve Jobs took flash out behind the woodshed and flash didn't come back for dinner. I can say without a doubt that flash is dead, yet if I wanted to counter my own statement I could easily pullup a massive pile of stats that would show Flash on a huge percentage of machines and websites but I can see clearly that no even vaguely bleeding edge websites use it. Flash is just not where the cool kids are. HTML5 has almost entirely taken over all the basic requirements of making a dazzling website that dances about on your screen. I also won't argue that feature for feature HTML+Javascript is better. I know my HTML5 will work on the tidalwave of mobile devices and that is enough for most people.

That all said Jobs killed it because Flash bugs were making him look bad. So now we have round 2 and Java is the one on the Apple chopping block. I think we can all agree that Java in the browser is dead and killing Java on Apple machines might not seem like it is going to ruin things marketshare-wise but keep in mind that many top top top executives are running Apple machines (often to the chagrin of their IT people) these same executives will now resent Java at tiny more than they did before (which might have been zero).

But all that said, I am pretty sure that 90% of the Java being written these days is for the server side of things in large organizations and thus is completely unaffected in theory.

A simple example of how irrelevant such an Apple technology choice can be would be the penetration of Objective-C outside of the Apple ecosystem. I code Objective-C every day and would never consider using it one inch outside of the apple ecosystem. But Apple's move underlines my experience that Java is just not the "Hot" language it was; not dead just not "hot". The mathematical problem with not being the "Hot" language is that it is starting to be nibbled away at the edges without any growth to replace this nibbling. I am seeing Python replacing it as the defacto learning language much as I watched Java replace Pascal as one of the defacto learning languages of the pre 2000's. In science Python is taking over, in finance I am seeing the academic world switching over but not the business world; the business world has a full on love of all things Java.

But before you cast any stones these are all trends; you can yell Hey Mindcraft is Java and it is cool. But what I am saying is that the surface area of Java is retreating toward a core of the business world and it is severely losing its grip on the "programming 101" world; which is where hearts and minds are won. Also keep in mind that many of the kids who may have been learning Java in their programming 101 classes just had all their code die seeing that university students so love their Apple laptops. Hearts and minds baby.

Comment Classic MBA Crap (Score 4, Interesting) 351

Some MBA heard that x% of employees are earning a few dollars on the side and they realized that this could plug some budget holes (holes created by administration taking trips to Hawaii to learn the latest in ed-tech).

But in classic MBA style they forget about incentive where if they take that money then the work won't be done. I suspect that again in classic MBA style that they need to "centralize" and "quality control" information leaving the system.

This probably all stems from a requirement from some way overpriced anti-plagiarism software; even worse the pitch from said salesman might have documented (with great pie charts) that by doing this money grab the anti-plagiarism software would effectively be free.

Lastly by claiming copyright they get better control over information that makes them look bad. So if some student makes a video of a drunk teacher and puts it on youtube then the school system will demand that youtube take it down on the grounds that they have copyright. I would love to see them trying to apply this to teachers with blogs, twitter accounts, and writing op-ed pieces for the local newspaper. These fools forget that there are a zillion places to put a drunk teacher video that will oddly enough defend the students' first amendment rights.

To me this is just another great lesson for the kids that they learn that the educational system exists not one spec for them but entirely for the administration. In Ontario, Canada the school board got completely screwed by the government (before they screwed the government) so now like petulant children they are trying to keep the teachers from extra-curricular activities. They are now arguing that holding back these services won't harm the children. Whoa, wait a sec. Losers.

Comment Information leakage (Score 4, Insightful) 103

I really want a ban on places like Malls being able to install stuff that watches for my phone's unique identifiers to watch me move through the mall and returning to the mall. And I want a total ban on my phone company sharing anything about my movements or calls with anyone including police without a warrant and "trusted third parties" I don't trust any third parties so their aren't any "trusted third parties"

Comment Science done right (Score 2) 89

Taking chances, dancing near the fire, I love them. This is science done right. I am glad they didn't listen to some risk adverse nitwit who would rather have a useless "successful" mission than a risky useful mission. This why we have curiosity tramping around on mars with a computer with 2G of storage on it. It probably was the only computer to be able to pass all the bureaucratic tests as opposed to some simple physics tests. But if it fails not a single stone could be cast at the guy who picked it.

Comment Yes and no (Score 2) 432

"Brogramming" (horrible term) and highly engineered programming are both great solutions to different sorts of problems. The key in choosing which is how well mapped out is your destination. If you are building a banking system where customers will engage in known transactions resulting in a known data stored in the database then the backend of this system obviously demands a very carefully engineered solution. But for that same solution the front end should be pretty damn freeform. People should try a bit of this and a bit of that feeling their way to an awesome UI. The back end engineering will dictate what data needs to come in from the UI and what data needs to go out but a great UI comes from a combination of requirements, gut feelings, fiddling, artistic balance, etc.

Then after the UI is ready for polishing you might go back to a more engineering approach and try AB testing where you watch the speed at which a user uses the system along with other measures such as number of mistakes.

Personally I find that people who hate the free form programing tend to be those managers who just don't trust their employees. They want to lay everything out in a design document that then locks everyone into a my-way-or-the-highway approach. This is a great way to get your best programmers to find another company to work for. Also my best programming has come from those times that I went down 5 dead ends and the 6th was really cool. But the 6th naturally evolved from what I learned in the first 5. There is no way that it would have ever have been conceived in a design phase.

There are many things that can cause inertia that are not directly related to the code. A simple example would be unit testing. (I love unit testing) but if you are going to completely redo your system then much of your unit testing goes out the door. Your carefully written documentation is garbage. Your design documents are all garbage, and any work you have done in planning version 2 or more is trashed. This makes drastic alterations much more costly than just the programming. But the reality is that you should never produce a bad product because the paperwork got in the way of switching it to a good or great product. This is sad because often if all that needs alteration is the UI where a well engineered code base should have fairly good UI abstraction and thus a new UI should involve little fundamental/programming work.

Really which is used and when it is used comes down to great managers. They will focus the freeform programming on organically finding cool ideas while not chasing rainbows and at the same time making sure that the fundamentals are well engineered. Within any team of programmers there are usually those who prefer one or the other anyway.

Comment Top down vs Bottom up (Score 2) 200

Obviously a large project has to have an overarching design and direction but a great example of a failed top down aviation design would be the Space Shuttle. They designed many of the larger systems in oddly specific waves of a wand and then left it to engineers to actually invent them. A really great example of this failure were the cryopumps for the liquid hydrogen and oxygen. This things had to pump a swimming pool of fuel every few seconds and were beyond anything anyone had done before. Yet they had to fit into a specific space and last 25 flights or more. But what happened was that they pumps could not be built to last more than a flight or two and thus became part of the servicing between every flight. The problem was that they were buried deep inside the engines and were a royal pain to replace. This plus a zillion other similar high level decisions resulted in each shuttle flight turnaround taking forever an costing way too much.

So if you look at the Space X people they are doing the opposite and seeing how good an engine they can build and then plopping a spaceship on top of that. This is how functional companies that don't have too much MBA management bloat engineer things. But my guess is that instead of Boeing just designing a better airplane with composites and seeing what interesting things could be done they made a long series of "executive" decisions and then told outsourced engineering teams to make square pegs fit into round holes. This would be as opposed to a healthy back and fourth where a high level goal is set, the rubber meets the road engineers give their feed back that changes the high level design which results in more feedback until you have a solid high level design that the engineers are fairly certain they can design.

I suspect nearly every programmer here has had a taste of this when some MBA type demands a costly feature that when all is said and done will be used by one person to very little benefit; all because there was no real feedback mechanism to say "whoa there dumb feature."

Comment Long standing bet (Score 5, Insightful) 138

I have had a long standing bet as to how long it would take for someone to really nail most of the routers out there. It has always puzzled me how something like Linux or Windows can have a vulnerability of the week which is (usually) patched by most users in a flash. Yet there are many very old d-link, linksys, etc routers out there doing their thing without being massively attacked.

The closest that I have seen to a good widespread attack was when a certain DSL modem would crash when script-kiddies were attacking NT machines and the same attack jammed up that model DSL modem. That wasn't really an attack and it didn't amount to much.

So my bet still stands with modification: there will be an attack, it will be soon, it will be a worm, and people will (mostly) be blissfully unaware of (why is my internet so slow) it and certainly be incapable of dealing with it. Thus it will come down to the ISPs to deal with it which should be interesting to watch.

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Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson