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Comment Re:Features lacking in paper course materials... (Score 1) 372

But using a tool is not the same as engineering it, and engineering is not the same as science, and science is not the same as math, and math is not the same as philosophy. I'd argue that a substantial part of an undergraduate education involves developing an awareness of these distinctions.

And I'd argue the opposite: that a substantial part of the hardest problems we face today in our highly advanced, interconnected world come from arbitrary divisions between specialities, when in fact most problems cut across multiple specialities. And that rather than increasing this separation, we'd be far better served by teaching students how to integrate knowledge and approaches across multiple domains, and learning how to erase theoretical distinctions which do not in fact exist in reality.

For example: the hard division between "engineering" and "using" software has created atrocities like the current trend toward "usability-expert-designed" user interfaces which don't serve the needs of the actual users. We've seen this occur before our eyes in Apple iDevices, Windows 8 Metro and GNOME3/Unity, but it's especially visible in the open-source world. A project starts out giving voice to the users. Then voices start crying for more "Professionalisation", which means creating teams of experts, separating the experts from the users, and the users themselves into different "use case" classes, and then listening exclusively to the experts come hell or high water. Things which used to be simple become complex; multiple applications and devices are required to do what used to be a single task; workflows which cut across multiple theoretical "use cases" become difficult to impossible to manage. All because of this absurd and arbitrary decision to create distinctions and specialisations where there were none before.

This is exactly the wrong direction to go on, and on a blog like this, we really ought to know better. The whole idea of free software / open source is that there is no hard division between tool use and tool design. That's the point of it all. Don't throw this hard-earned wisdom away.

Comment Re:The funny thing at my university (Score 1) 372

At my university, the CS department are, counter-intuitively, some of the most reluctant to use our online capabilities and classroom presentation tech.

Why counter-intuitively? Dijkstra has been very vocal on this topic throughout his whole life. And you can hardly get more CS-y than him.

Yes, and that right there explains how come the Software Engineering world ignores people like Dijkstra in the Computer Science world. If you don't actually use computer systems, you won't get a feel for how they actually work - as opposed to how they 'should' work 'in theory' 'in a perfect world' of abstract mathematics which cannot not in fact exist in our physical universe.

Software Engineering desperately needs some solid theoretical underpinnings, as opposed to what passes for theory right now: Object Oriented Design and Rapid Development. But if the CS guys can't be bothered to actually use a computer, and check if their theories are relevant to today's problems, what's the point of listening to them? CS might have as much to do with computers as astronomy does with telescopes, but an astronomer who never touches a telescope isn't going to produce a whole lot of good science, are they?

And that's how we end up with things like the current Internet security apocalypse. Those who claim to know the mathematics of computation, and could solve the hard problems of security, consistency checking, etc, in their sleep, aren't talking to the people who actually have to shovel the bits into the compiler.

Why isn't academia seeing this hard firewall between practitioners and theorists as a bug, rather than a feature?

Comment Re:not the first one (Score 2) 498

In December 1981, additional laws were enacted clarifying permissible military assistance to civilian law enforcement agencies

That's interesting. So Posse Comitatus isn't a fundamental Constitutional principle at all and can be arbitrarily rewritten by Congress at whim. I presume a future Congress could "clarify" the Act further to say that the military doing anything in US domestic territory short of dropping a nuke is perfectly legal.

Comment Re:Hah (Score 1) 173

Leave it to a politician to explain how the IT field is going to disappear. "As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use",

Explain it to the politicians like this: Outsourcing your corporate IT needs to The Cloud is the information equivalent of outsourcing your beef needs to Tesco.

You might think that not having to pony up the cash yourself means it's a sure thing, but if you don't know your provider's track record, it could turn into a shambles.

Comment Re:just five longish words (Score 1) 538

would create so much entropy, it would be nearly uncrackable. Something like the names of the people who lived next door when I was a kid, in order of age

That's nice. Now do it 30 times with a different list of people for every website you visit. And change each of those every year.

The problem isn't so much keeping one password secure for life. It's keeping track of a separate, secure-for-life, password for every. single. data. service. you will ever interact with in your life. Because you can't trust any one of them not to save your password and use it to hack into the others.

Comment Re:Hmm... (Score 1) 199

Ok, lets infringe a bit of copyrights from around the world... think in the number pi.

Oh hi! It's Darren Aronofsky and Ang Lee at the door. They're having an argument about which one owns your number. Darren reckons he owns everything involving an electric drill, and Ang will settle for anything with a tiger in it.

Comment Re:AI Brain project (Score 1) 181

Why not focus on making AI BETTER than humans? Perhaps we aren't the best model to imitate.

How would we know if we've made something better than ourselves? Wouldn't recognising it as "better" require the ability in us to understand what it was trying to achieve?

From a certain point of view, vacuum has pretty much taken out the top evolutionary niche in our universe. There's more of it than anything else anywhere, ever. Do we consider it "better" than us? And if not, why not?

Comment Doesn't work in countries with transfer caps (Score 1) 505

Aww, you Americans with your unlimited Internet. You think everywhere is like that! It's so cute!

There's nothing "strangely territorial" about not letting strangers use my Wi-Fi in New Zealand. All our ISPs have monthly transfer caps in the tens-of-gigabytes range (I maxed my 20 GB limit out in three weeks this month). If we use more than the limit, we get charged - around $1 per gigabyte.

If I open my Wi-Fi for strangers to use -- even not taking into account legal liability from our new "Skynet" Three Strikes copyright law -- then I'm basically handing a blank cheque to the world, which I'll have to pay for.

*blink* Why would I do that?

Comment Re:Need for speed! (Score 1) 181

they should not be using a consumer-level OS and browser, but something a bit more realtime.


A Cyberdyne Investment Systems T-1989 Model 101 Tradinator (tm) rapid-response tactical securities infiltration, acquisition, monetisation and arbitrage platform. With optional cup holder and social-gaming connector.


Comment Re:So who won? (Score 1) 182

Company does a bunch of research work, and then says "Hey, we're now going to force everyone in the world to use our research work and pay us to do that, even if they'd prefer to use someone else's work for cheaper or free"

I forget, are we for or against authoritarianism? Depends who's paying the corporate standard committees, I guess.

Comment Re:Or we could... (Score 1) 735

And we have a perfect right to say "that's crap, and they'd have to duct tape me to the chair to get me to watch it" if appropriate.

Roger Ebert once thought as you do.

J. J. will show you the true meaning of the final episode of Lost. He is your master now.

It is pointless to resist, my son.

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