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Comment Re:Periods and commas. (Score 1) 420

British mathematicians (from primary school to professor) place the decimal point not at the base, but half way up, at the same level as the minus sign, the space between the lines of an equal sign, or the intersection of the small "x" used as a multiplication sign.

This seriously confused an Italian boy who joined my school at age 14 and eventually was the other person from my year to go to Cambridge.

Unfortunately, despite his intelligence when he was first tested to see what group he should be in, he mistook the dot for a multiplication symbol. He'd been to American schools a lot, since his father was a diplomat. So he answered such simple questions as what is 1.2 + 3.4 (which should be 4.6) as 14 (1x2 + 3x4).

At least the GP understands that confusion is the issue. He is not 100% correct, but it isn't nonsense either.

Don't forget that not only written and spoken are important, but that the limitations of the ASCII/ANSI character set(s) mean that we use "full stops" rather than "points", and similarly combine multiplication into the asterisk.

Comment Re:For the most part. (Score 1) 420

Interestingly, the x87 FPU has instructions for loading and storing BCD values, but internally computes everything using binary arithmetic. That lets you combine the accuracy of binary floats with the storage efficiency of BCD. To my knowledge, no one has ever wanted to do that.

That isn't very interesting, since it is the x86 (not the maths coprocessor) which has opcodes such as AAA and (see The accuracy is the same, the performance of arithmetic operations is worse, but the important advantage of BCD on old architectures - including even the 4.77 MHz 8088 - is that they only had at best 16-bit registers, so the most you could represent unsigned was $655.35 (more than enough for anybody). Allowing a packed byte for the cents, and another for ones and tens, etc, may not have been the computationally most efficient, but without an '87, it was better than strings!

PlayStation (Games)

US Air Force Buying Another 2,200 PS3s 144

bleedingpegasus sends word that the US Air Force will be grabbing up 2,200 new PlayStation 3 consoles for research into supercomputing. They already have a cluster made from 336 of the old-style (non-Slim) consoles, which they've used for a variety of purposes, including "processing multiple radar images into higher resolution composite images (known as synthetic aperture radar image formation), high-def video processing, and 'neuromorphic computing.'" According to the Justification Review Document (DOC), "Once the hardware configuration is implemented, software code will be developed in-house for cluster implementation utilizing a Linux-based operating software."

Comment Re:Asperger's syndrome. (Score 1) 579

I wouldn't be surprised if I had said syndrome, and I certainly have peeped with discontent often enough, but only at incompetent management.

But I'm going to disagree with both "maturity" and "creativity", although I'll stick fairly close to the latter.

Rather than maturity, what is important is the competence to be able to make a good estimate about when something will be finished (including documentation). Unfortunately the vast majority (80%+) of programmers aren't very good programmers when working in teams. I'll get back to that in a bit.

And rather than creativity, I find imagination, lateral thinking and problem solving in particular, to be more important. A similar 80%+ majority of programmers who's work I've had the pleasure to maintain are extremely creative in using the wrong tool for the job, etc. Again, competence is most important.

I'm going to make it more personal now: I'm unemployed and haven't worked with Delphi for more than 5 years professionally. Unfortunately that's where I put all my eggs. Although after 2020 I'll probably be able to find some maintenance work (just as the COBOL guys did in 1999, hehe), I'd like to be developing new stuff again. I had one agency who I had worked through to mutual profit regularly in the past, only for the incompetent agent to - after saying I couldn't get the job because my French wasn't good enough reversing that when I wrote her in French - then tell me I couldn't get the job because my Delphi experience wasn't recent enough DESPITE the version being asked for (5) being 2 years prior to the end of my professional usage (7), and this being clearly visible on my CV.

Somewhat ironically, for my very first Delphi job opportunity, when I'd waited for 32-bit Delphi (2), the job agency (a temping one back then) had been asked for someone with 5 years Delphi experience, so I didn't get that job either. My 10 years (at the time) Pascal experience counted for nothing, and I sometimes wonder if they ever found a bullshitter who claimed 5 years experience with a product which had existed for only a year. Competence.

The reason I stopped developing was stress-related. I was working for a seemingly friendly guy on a niche product (version 5) of which the source to version 4 had been lost. This was at half my usual rate, but with the understanding I might take the company over when he retired. I told him up front that although I am an excellent developer and test my own code, if I were to develop from scratch I needed a tester, and since he was the only other person, that meant him. The first thing I didn't know is that he was supremely competent at the art of fine bullshit, and for the first six months I hammered out functionality at an extremely fast pace, while he supposedly tested it. Actually, he only did so cursorily, and instead spent most of his time fighting the tax man on his evasion and bullshitting customers into upgrading to the new (as yet non-existent) product. But the second thing I didn't know is that he actually had a demo CD of a competing product, which I tested on a lazy day in summer to see what the opposition was up to. And this may be why this post gets moderated funny: the opposition were on version 3.0 of their product, and not only had a development team of about 100 for this product alone (recall we were about 1.1), but their functionality and data were both at least an order of magnitude higher, and similarly the price was an order of magnitude lower. Not only that, but their budget was, on researching, discovered to be 9 figures. Yes, that's a hundred million dollars. The only bright side is that presumably they used their own tools to develop this competing program. The name of their tools probably started with the word "Visual". Yeah. Laugh with me or cry for me ;)

But let me return to what is important: competence. I know what I'm competent at. I also know what I'm incompetent at, although I've learned the hard way. Note that competence is unrelated to brilliance: I've met many competent colleagues throughout my years in working on Delphi projects. I've certainly come across more incompetent managers than fellow developers, but given "promoted to their level"... that doesn't mean much.

That said, we are talking about the "best programmers" here, so we aren't talking about just one aspect anyway - but even then, competence comes top, in my book at least. But I've never met anybody without both strengths AND weaknesses, and that is where the team comes in.

For example, although I'm a supremely competent programmer (almost 30 years in total, 10+ with my favoured language Pascal BEFORE I used it professionally - apart from teaching it to undergraduates at Cambridge while I was a graduate student there writing a C compiler (in C) as a project - horrid language (tongue firmly in cheek - C++ is the horrid on)), I know that I'm not great at "exhaustive testing of my own code". Although at least I can match parentheses, so maybe there is a future in LISP. I've never found documenting difficult, but in Delphi documenting is rather easy anyway.

My competence comes not from my brilliance though, it comes from thinking before implementing. The reverse is an instant indicator of incompetence. If a programmer spends 8 hours a day typing code, he's doing something wrong. If a programmer spends at least an hour just thinking, not much more than an hour in meetings and discussions, perhaps half an hour documenting (on average), just 4 hours per day actually developing, and spends a few sessions a week on other things, be it a personal project "a la Google", or Monday morning and Friday afternoon focussing on something different (be it company rigmarole or reading trade magazines such as Dr. Dobbs.), and perhaps a couple of sessions testing the work of a partner dev if she finishes planned work for a day early, the programmer will be much more balanced.

To finish, since I seem to be rambling/ranting, I trust I've shown that I'm as weird as any of you, and please trust me that I am as competent as any of you. Although I need to get from 50 to 100 solved in Project Euler sometime, and I don't think it will be as easy as the 4 or 5 afternoons I spent to get to 50! I doubt any of you needs a Delphi Guru soon, but on the off chance, I'm available - if you don't mind someone weird ;)


Speaking With the Designer of an Indie MMO Project 104

PsxMeUP writes "Love is a persistent online first-person shooter that will let players build structures, permanently manipulate the environment and share resources — all in real-time. Action will be similar to a real-time strategy game as seen through the eyes of a grunt. The game is being completely designed by a man named Eskil Steenberg, and GameObserver had a chance to interview him. Steenberg talks about how all MMOs offer an egocentric experience where character growth is the most important aspect, and how he intends to change that. He also explains how mainstream MMOs have too many players, which basically trivializes accomplishments that have an impact on the entire server. 'If you imagine Civilization where you invent your stuff or build new stuff, imagine playing one of those characters on the ground doing that. And being able to do something minute in your world and see that impact in the major world,' Eskil explains, when asked what his game will be like. 'I want to scare people in a direction that is different from this sort of "me-centric" style of games. It feels that pretty much all games are going into that Diablo direction of collecting and building up my characters, and it's all very egocentric about creating your own powerful character,' he clarifies when asked how his game will be different from other MMOs. Love is well into development, and Steenberg has already posted some incredible gameplay demos. Levels, for instance, are all procedurally generated. The game also offers open-source tools, like UV editing — not a small feat considering the whole thing was designed by one man."

Comment No and yes. (Score 1) 611

Backup your internal HDD to an external one, and if your data is really important, have two externals and swap one off-site once a week. Is there any better advice these days?"

There isn't any better advice, but you ALWAYS have "really important" data.

The most likely things you are going to want to back up are documents and spreadsheets, pictures, videos and of course code. If you can't afford more than one external drive, or even don't want to spend anything at all, the big G (yeah, I'm a fanboy, but there are probably equivalent options) provides help. Google Docs for the first two: search for "google docs synch" and the first option is freeware (not that I've used it - nowadays I just use Docs itself). Picasa allows you to keep pictures unpublished, not so sure about youtube etc. And code you can mail to yourself, (g)zipped, although it might be on your home test/dev machine and also on your commercial web server.

Comment Re:How Pointless.... (Score 1) 219

That aside, isn't this patent a good thing? It means that only Amazon's products will be crippled with advertising inserted in this manner.

Patents get licensed. In terms of your description, $10 product would get sold for $6 by other publishers - $5 "up front" and $1 to cover the patent royalty.

Amazon has an interesting self-publishing business (forget what it is called and I'm certainly not going to advertise for them), but I can imagine them offering trade-quality books which aren't otherwise available (out of copyright, let alone print) at a discount if they can use 1 page in 20 for adverts.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" might be $10 if printed without ads, but less if the buyer chooses that option. Amazon could advertise it's own related goods (perhaps a Hornblower video, to suggest something not directly related but close enough) and provide a discount voucher (with unique code) either per book printed or per advert.

Of course, some time soon, printing on demand will become efficient for individual books. If Amazon wants a slice of advertising in any of them, then a patent "works" - but as far as I can see it is a business method.

In short: if they want to put ads in books printed to demand to cut end-user costs, fine. If every left=even page had an ad and books were free, I'd love it. But patent? Printed media have sufficient prior art for advertising, tyvm.

Comment For fuck's sake! (Score 0, Troll) 187

Internet in the Netherlands is already taxed with 19% BTW (VAT, not quite sales tax), let alone all the other taxes - Water is taxed about 6 times if you count 'em all (at least the rate is 6% after drinking water, what a fucking great silver lining that is).

I can understand the concept of having certain taxes being related to usage - no road tax unless you own a car etc. - but in the Netherlands you pay anything up to 50%+ income tax (which has been pre-taxed by employer's tax), and THEN everything you want after that is taxed extra already.

If - as a nation - you have fucking (50%+) high income tax, then fucking budget it to cover basic needs, like sewers and roads. If you have fucking (19%) high sales tax (more for cigarettes), then fucking use it to cover whatever is being taxed.

I can even live with the idea that old media and new media are part of the same thing, and thus some of the sales taxes on the lot of them might be spent disproportionately on ailing media. But the real problem for the "quality" print media is that every station in the major cities has free print media, which readers can consume during a commute and typically leave on the seats of buses and trams everywhere. and are getting sufficient print readers to encourage advertisers to read.

Fuck the Dutch and their fucking tax attitudes, though.

Comment Re:it's really bad (Score 1) 677

The problem with proofs has nothing to do with logic.

It is necessary to be able to understand proofs, but duplicating them under exam conditions means you have to memorize them by rote.

At a certain point (for me it was the Cambridge maths tripos part IB) you are going to get exposed to maths you have to do but don't fully understand.

People who can memorise the proofs but only understand them partially do better than people than those who understand the material better, but prefer to "solve a problem" and struggle to memorize a proof verbatim.


Submission + - YouTube Video Sends Guatemala into Crisis

Hugh Pickens writes: "When Rodrigo Rosenberg turned up dead on Mother's Day in an upscale neighborhood in Guatemala City, his murder was seen as little more than another execution-style shooting in one of Latin America's most dangerous countries. Now a video has emerged in which Rosenberg accuses Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom of orchestrating his murder. The killing has sparked civic unrest that threatens to topple the President of this fledgling democracy. "This is the most serious political crisis the country has faced since the signing of the peace accords" in 1996, said Anita Isaacs, a Haverford College political science professor who studies democratization in Guatemala. "The country is hanging on by a thread." In the 18-minute tape, a seemingly calm Rosenberg, sitting behind a desk and microphone, alleges that Colom, the First Lady and two associates were involved in murder, corruption and money laundering. In the video, Rosenberg declares, "If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom, with help from [presidential secretary] Gustavo Alejos.""

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