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Comment "The Way of All Flesh," by Samuel Butler (Score 2) 796

This book is more irreverent and more subversive than Mark Twain. And it is very funny and an entertaining read. It's especially good if you happen to be feeling annoyed at your parents.

He said: "Oh, don't talk about rewards. Look at Milton, who only got â5 for 'Paradise Lost.'
"And a great deal too much," I rejoined promptly. "I would have given him twice as much myself not to have written it at all."

Surely nature might find some less irritating way of carrying on business if she would give her mind to it. Why should the generations overlap one another at all? Why cannot we be buried as eggs in neat little cells with ten or twenty thousand pounds each wrapped round us in Bank of England notes, and wake up, as the sphex wasp does, to find that its papa and mamma have not only left ample provision at its elbow, but have been eaten by sparrows some weeks before it began to live consciously on its own account?

All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it- and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will allow. He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most; God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.

Never learn anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for it shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend your time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful to you than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if you do not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any time by those who want them.

Nothing is well done nor worth doing unless, take it all round, it has come pretty easily.

Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether they are good things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the world were to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the things that are being wrought by prayer.

And, best of all:

[Mendelssohn] wrote "I then went to the Tribune [a room in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence]. This room is so delightfully small you can traverse it in fifteen paces, yet it contains a world of art. I again sought out my favourite arm chair which stands under the statue of the 'Slave whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino), and taking possession of it I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours..." I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave himself for having sat two hours on that chair. I wonder how often he looked at his watch to see if his two hours were up. I wonder how often he told himself that he was quite as big a gun, if the truth were known, as any of the men whose works he saw before him, how often he wondered whether any of the visitors were recognizing him and admiring him for sitting such a long time in the same chair, and how often he was vexed at seeing them pass him by and take no notice of him. But perhaps if the truth were known his two hours was not quite two hours.

Comment Matches my limited mid-sized-company experience (Score 4, Interesting) 185

I worked for over a decade at a midsized company, founded in the late sixties, whose business was the manufacture of $30,000-$100,000 high-tech products. The development process included internal firmware, quite a lot of interesting and non-obvious mechanical and optical engineering, and driver software.

To say they were casual about intellectual property was putting it mildly. The mindset seemed to be, basically, that they copied good ideas from the competition and expected the competition to copy ideas from them. (I do mean IDEAS though, nothing more). They felt their business success depended on getting needed products to market in a timely way, and that it was all about good execution of ideas, not exclusive possession of ideas.

All of us software people put copyright notices on our code because we just thought it was good practice, but nobody told us to do so or send out memos on how to do it or monitored us to make sure we were doing it right.

I created a mini dust-up once when the head of marketing told me to send the complete source code to one of our software drivers to another company--a 200-age listing--and I said sure, but that I wouldn't do it without written directions from an officer of the company. He was furious that I would even question his directions and insisting that it was inappropriate for me to demur because it was no big deal, and I replied, sincerely, that I didn't think it was a big deal, either--in context it really wasn't--but that nevertheless I thought I needed to have that level of authorization, and that since it wasn't a big deal it shouldn't be hard to get it. It's not that he was being a PHB, either--the point is that nobody in the company quite got it that maybe you didn't just send out half a pound of listing on a casual say-so.

For a while, there was one mid-level manager who liked patents and embarked on a semi-systematic effort to get things patented, and recognize engineers by posting framed notices about the patents that they had gotten--there were maybe about ten such frames on the wall by the time he left. But it was not part of the corporate culture.

I don't remember ever hearing about the company suing or being sued over a patent except for one case, where it was embroiled as a party in a lawsuit involving some software components they had purchased and licensed from another firm.

Comment Sounds like a possible "disruptive technology" (Score 1) 210

...the kind that starts out regarded by the established players as almost a joke, who ignore it because its not what the important customers are asking for, just some bargain-hunting fools... then the low-end, joke product develops its own specialized market, gradually improves, starts eating the lunch of the big guys, and somehow they fade away.

The Ford Model Twas regarded as such a piece of junk the "Ford joke" became a genre in itself, and people published entire BOOKS of nothing but Ford jokes. "Does your Ford make a racket?" "Oh, no, only when it's running" etc.

Comment It's all good. (Score 1) 1

This sort of dispute ends up in many cases with very judiciously-phrased final, stable wordings. And it's no sillier than academic disputes, which often involve the deployment of ego and reputation to decide things like whether Pluto is a planet.

"Odium ignorantum
Est odium infantum;
Sed odium doctorum
Est odium ferorum."

(The ignorant fight like children, Ph.Ds like wild animals).

Comment How did they want it returned? What did they say? (Score 2) 617

The story stays Zavvi says "We have tried to contact you on numerous occasions to give you the opportunity to return this item to us (at our cost and no inconvenience to yourself)."

So let's use some common sense here. Assuming they were telling the truth... if a company called me and explained the error, apologized, issued no threats, but ASKED me to send it back, offered to send me a prepaid return sticker, and offered to schedule a pickup if I didn't want to take it to a dropbox, I wouldn't fuss. To me, it would all be about the amount of work I'd have to do to return it. Make it easy for me to do, sure I'd do it.

The legal threats are stupid. Their percentage of returns acting nice will be as large or larger as the results of acting nasty. And if they take legal action they'll not only occur expenses, they'll turn every one of those customers into enthusiastic broadcasters of ill-will.

Comment You should learn MORE THAN ONE. (Score 1) 3

I think it is very important to get exposed to several different computer languages, fairly early in the game. And I don't mean different like C and C++ and C#. I mean really different, languages that drive in the richness of ways you can express algorithms.

Few things are as tedious as the language snob who thinks that whatever language his comp sci course used is best, or the one that has the largest number of job openings is best.

I don't know what would be a good set to suggest, and I am most familiar with antiques; but if we assume that one of them is going to have C-like syntax, then I would suggest, as mind-stretchers: assembly language--of course; some language in which "loops" are not central to the language, examples being APL or FORTH or PostScript; some language in which symbols rather than numbers are paramount, such as LISP or SNOBOL; some language in which indentation is significant, such as MUMPS or Python.

Comment And you don't need a one-way mirror... (Score 4, Interesting) 161

At one now-defunct Fortune 500 company I worked for, they were sort of reluctant to apply any informal techniques like watching users try to use software (without instructions or coaching), because they had a nascent Human Factors group that wanted to build a facility with one-way mirrors and video cameras, and they kept telling everyone that you needed to have a facility like that in order to learn anything.

On numerous occasions at numerous companies I've simply corralled someone, anyone, who had not yet used the software, and asked them to try to accomplish basic tasks with it. "Please forgive me for not helping, I just want to see how far you can get without help. I'll help you if you really get stuck." And then I've watched them as they tried to use my software.

I always learned a lot from this, and I learned it very quickly, and a lot of what I learned was really trivially easy to implement. You can so easily miss the blindingly obvious when you are familiar with the software yourself.

The worst advice--well, maybe not the worst, but bad advice--tended to come from people giving advice that they imagined was on someone else's behalf. You really do NOT know what things people are going to find easy or difficult until you actually watch them try.

Comment Reminiscent of Titanic's "watertight" compartments (Score 2) 76

Vanguely reminiscent of Titanic's "watertight" compartments, which were watertight at the SIDES, but open at the TOP. I believe it was "unsinkable" in some technical understanding of the word. That is, a localized hull breach that filled only one compartment would not have sunk the ship. But water could spill from one compartment to another when the ship was tilted, and thus the entry of water was not confined to the compartments where the leak was. Or something like that...

Comment PDP-11 is easy--they must not be paying enough (Score 2) 5

The official job posting doesn't mention a salary; neither does the informal posting. It acknowledges "Yes I know this is a hard-to-find (existing) skill." It doesn't say whether the compensation is commensurate. When pointy-haired bosses say that workers with certain skills are not available, what they often mean is that they are not available for the salary they feel like paying.

The PDP-11 was an extremely popular machine and remained so up to at least the mid-1980s. I remember the RSX people at DECUS griping about being high-hatted by the VAX people, and a slightly bitter funny song, "He's got the whole world on his VAX." Someone who was in their twenties at the height of the PDP-11's popularity would be in their fifties today.

And it's not an arcane architecture, it is crystal-clear, logical, and symmetrical; it set the pattern for a number of popular microprocessors, including the Motorola 68000, and the posting says plainly "We will also consider programming experience with other assembly language." Frankly, anyone with ANY experience in assembly language programming could pick it up in a couple of weeks.

I'm in my late sixties, retired, not interested in working full time or moving, but I can't believe their problem would be difficult to solve IF they offered appropriate compensation.

Comment "The RT noise is distracting people..." (Score 2) 381

And whose fault would that be, exactly? For five months, Surface MEANT "Surface RT." Did someone hold a gun to Microsoft's head and say "Release Surface RT first?" Did someone hold a gun to Microsoft's head and say "Do Surface RT in the first place?"

Remember that portability was supposed to be one of the primary design goals for Windows NT, and it originally ran on, IIRC, Digital Alpha, IBM PowerPC, SPARC promised (but never delivered), etc. etc. If they'd stuck to their design goals, every Windows application could have been offered for Windows RT. Did someone hold a gun to their head and say "Forget portability, break your promises, ditch every platform but Intel?"

And then, having deliberately burned their bridges to everything but Intel, did someone hold a gun to their heads and say "Now release a product that isn't viable now that those bridges are burned?"

Comment Re:Lawyers (Score -1, Troll) 234

The yellow color was intended to evoke Mongolia--racism in the most literal sense--because Mongolia was the site then famous as the site where a lode of the highest-quality graphite had been discovered.

So yellow pencils could not have been patented--I hope--but whoever made them first might very well have had a legitimate claim to trademark protection as "trade dress."

Submission + - Apple's Gamble On Fingerprint Scanners May Take A While To Pay Off (

An anonymous reader writes: In reality, fingerprint scanning can be unreliable and difficult to use. The problem with biometric technology is that it is hard to know how it will perform outside of controlled conditions. Fingerprint scanners often wear out over time, and when they come into contact with water, sweat, and dirt, they don’t perform nearly as well. The elderly, which makes up some of Apple’s most dedicated fans, and those who do manual labor are known to have worn-down prints that are difficult for machines to read. The problem then isn’t that Touch ID will let others in, but will keep you out.

Comment The "fragility" posts seem a little off to me... (Score 1) 201

...because of surface-to-volume and scaling considerations, the smaller these things get, the less fragile they get. I dropped my iPod Mini (rotating drive) at least as often as I dropped my current flash-memory iPod and never had a problem. Yes, battery life is an issue. Quite possibly, service life might be an issue (bearing wear).

Seagate is claiming 400 Gs maximum operating shock. I, um, gee, well truthfully I have no idea what that means in practical terms but it seems like a big number to me. They are claiming 80 Gs for the first desktop drive I looked at.

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