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Comment Hardware Failsafe: Never Trust Software (Score 1) 383

There's nothing creepier than showing up for your weekly radiation treatment just to find out there's a delay because they're "installing a Windows upgrade". When I asked the radiologist if there was any failsafe in the device, he assured me there was. When I asked if there was a radiation detector positioned behind the patient that was capable of shutting off the beam if it detected too much radiation, he said "no, nothing like that."

Medical radiation equipment should be designed with a secondary, independent piece of hardware capable of measuring pass-through radiation and shutting off the equipment. Doctors should demand such designs. Do you face much worse risks in your daily life? Sure. But your local Toyota dealer did not swear an oath to "first, do no harm."

Comment Your App Will Suck Anyway: So Use Java (Score 2, Funny) 310

The Java repliers are right on the mark. Trying to use app-independent portability layers ensures apps of any complexity will suck. By "suck", I mean "compromised at every turn by lowest-common denominator design decisions". Your app will end up using threads on an O/S designed to make multi-processing beautiful (Linux), or end up using multiple processes on an O/S designed to make multi-threading beautiful (Windows). It'll be clueless about the nifty GUI features that exist on a Mac but not Windows, and vice versa. Knowing up front that your app is going to suck allows you to, in all good conscience, choose a language that highly adapted for creating apps that suck in this manner. When I fire up a Java app on Windows (and I ALWAYS know it's a Java app the minute it finally manages to lumber onto the screen), I know I'm going to get the same sucky behavior if I fire that app up on a totally different platform (well, assuming I can manage to figure out whatever obscure infinite-megabyte downloads are needed to get the right "runtime engine" for the given app). Really, the only way you can make your app suck even more and be even more portable is to just go ahead and make it a web "service". That has the added advantage that nobody really expects anything but poor performance and clunky UI design from the get-go. But if for some reason you can't have your app suck as bad as a web service, then Java is definitely the next-suckiest way to achieve that portability that your end users don't give a crap about, but you hope will make your life easier.

Comment Re:You don't even know what patents are for (Score 3, Insightful) 252

Now anybody can see what you did and how. Patents are as much a learning tool as they are an economic engine.

That's the sentence where you stuck your foot in it. How many hundreds of thousands of programmers on the planet? OK, now how many programmers search the patent database for ideas they can buy before coding? 100,000? 1,000? Can you name me even 10? Where is the Eclipse plug-in for searching the patent database for relevant algorithms? Where is the panoply of web startups offering an online search tool that locates the patented algorithms that will help you get your next project done faster if you license them?

When it comes to software, patents have had half their faces blown off. They no longer function at all as a learning tool, or even as an economic engine for a hard-working programmer/inventor to profit from their non-obvious invention/algorithm. With much of their original, intended functionality rendered useless, patents (most especially in the realm of software) have long since passed the point where they offer society more costs than benefits. They are almost entirely the tool of large companies, lawyers, and those who sell services to inventors gullible enough to believe we still live in an age where patents work the way you describe.

Comment Early detection doesn't always improve outcomes (Score 5, Insightful) 123

Non-oncs generally don't understand that a whole lot of cancer is "clinically irrelevant". That is, it would never go on to kill you. Thus, as early detection gets better in most areas, you detect a greater percentage of cancer that was never going to hurt the patient. However, once you see the cancer, you are duty-bound to slash/burn/poison (Susan Love's famous chapters) to cure it. Statistically speaking, you know you are actually harming some patients, but it is a dilemma -- you hurt all the patients in order to serve a greater good for some percentage of them. A good example is the growing backlash against general PSA screening. Even just a biopsy for prostate cancer can't be 100% risk-free, but the treatment is really risky, assuming you're not enthusiastic about being impotent and/or incontinent for the rest of your life.

So don't get too excited about increased early detection of cancer. Currently, it is usually a double-edged sword that brings suffering to some percentage of patients who would have avoided it before the new test existed. An exciting development would be a detection test for distinguishing cancer that's just sitting there from cancer that's on the move and likely to kill.


Ray Ozzie Calls Google Wave "Anti-Web" 256

TropicalCoder writes "Ray Ozzie says that Google Wave is 'anti-Web,' by which he seems to mean that it is too complex for its own good. In the video he complains about its complexity in relation to Microsoft's Live Mesh: 'If you have something, that by its very nature is very complex, with many goals... then you need open source to have many instances of it because nobody will be able to do an independent implementation of it.' That's its weakness to Ozzie, apparently — that this complexity that can only be overcome by open source. While he heaps high praise on the Google team that came up with this, he feels that the advantage of Microsoft's approach is that ' decomposing things to be simpler, you don't need open source.' The Register's author summarizes it like this: 'In a way, this is classic Microsoft meets what is emerging as classic Google. Microsoft gives you an integrated stack but all the moving parts are anchored on a single company's vision. Google frees you to work out the bits yourself, but you must rely on your own smarts or those of your chosen tools.'"

Submission + - Ballmer Inflicts Brain Damage on Windows Devs (

RonBurk writes: "That was the punchline in my 5-minute Ignite Seattle talk that got the most laughs. But the message was a serious one: that it is easy to be incompetent and never realize it. The psychology of incompetence offers some disturbing explanations for why the current state of software development doesn't seem to be getting much better."

Comment 1 botnet, 1 angry geek (Score 4, Interesting) 278

Scenario: the wrong geek gets 2 strikes, gets mad, and fires up a botnet (or just happens to have, say, $20,000 laying around to rent an existing one for a few runs). The botnet causes a significant percentage of users in some country to start getting their "strike warnings". As a result, the fallacy of the idea that IP addresses identify human beings is exposed (or the fallacy that ISPs invest the slightest effort in controlling botnets, if you like).
User Journal

Journal Journal: Cartesian Programming

Descartes would have been a programmer if he were alive today. The unpleasant little fellow didn't think too much of the intellectual ability of others, and was always inclined to solve problems on his own. This has led to my definition of Cartesian Programming.

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