Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment young eng's heap success; old eng's bleed failure (Score 1) 278

Comparing software engineering to regular engineering is an unfair comparison when regular engineering is built upon hundreds, if not thousands, of years of experience.

Yes, and wherever that experience is lacking because the progress and rate of change are related by a differential equation, what type of engineer manufactures the expanding putty? The Roman engineer or the von Neumann engineer?

The reason an older programmer is slower than a younger one is because of the number of answers he has to the question "what could possibly go wrong?".

Young engineers heap success. Old engineers bleed failure.

Comment all your UX equity R belongs to us (Score 1) 688

After I buggered with the classic restorer and other bits, it's not killing me.

The underlying problem seems to be that the UX people pretend to represent a consensus, but we seem to constantly get a consensus of platforms, rather than a consensus of users.

This is far from a great interview, but the basic idea deserves some thought: Searls on the Intention Economy

The only way out of this mess is to create a marketplace of pull. When we have the capacity to advertise for what we really want in how our UX behaves, only then it will be fully revealed that there's no master ring to bind them all.

Claudia Caswell: Why do they always look like unhappy rabbits?
Addison DeWitt: Because that's what they are

So then, why do all desktop UX updates since the adhesive iPad resemble psoriatic haemorrhoids?

Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered? Anyone ...

Comment physical permanence is overrated (Score 1) 399

your Pebble watch will be ridiculously obsolete in less than 5 years

You doing it wrong. My Pebble watch is a substrate to run my custom watch face, which I need because my body runs a bespoke circadian rhythm. The equity here lies in the software, not in the physical object shackled to my wrist. Like every technology we've barely figured out how to build at all, it will shed some baby teeth before the permanent molars grow in.

If only the timer on my kitchen stove allowed me to reprogram it to mesh with my cooking practice. Once it goes off, it figures it needs to shriek at me once a minute until kingdom come, or thirty minutes, whichever comes first. I set it when I'm preheating the oven, then a call comes in and I'm tied to my desk, and it's off in the kitchen having a minute by minute hissy fit. Other times I have it set so that it's not more than two minutes ahead of the smoke detector. But the dumb thing doesn't know the difference, because in fine minimalist design tradition, one size fits all.

I suppose could use the timer on my wrist, but then anyone else who wanders into the kitchen is operating blind. A public timer works better in a shared kitchen. The real problem here is that the embedded stove timer is the wrong implementation of the right solution.

If the damn thing would shriek at first activation, then once every five minutes, and on the minutes != 0 mod 5 it would gently warble, we'd have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, it's a fixed-function non-reprogrammable device, which will probably outlive my tenancy in this abode.

Physical permanence is overrated.

Comment Re:vac pump can't raise liquids atmo pressure (Score 1) 360

The air pressure sets a limit on the height of both suction pumps and siphons.

For such a pedantic dialogue as this thread, I was hoping to see someone write "the air pressure and internal fluid tension set a limit ..." before I reached my pettifogger deFUDer saturation point, but it was not to be.

Comment Re:Maul (Score 1) 217

Yea, this inverter isn't very bright and violates the first rule of splitting with an axe (after wearing steal toed boots), don't let go of the axe handle during your swing.

No, the first rule of using an axe is to either use an axe with a long handle, or a hatchet, but never anything in between.

I'm not much worried about my toes wielding a long-handled axe, but I am worried about more distal objects (and people) in the plane of the swinging motion. Medium-handled axes are for crazy people who never much liked walking around in the first place, or who get an unbearable itch to perform a District 9 pedicure.

Comment Re:They don't pay attention to Coverity (Score 1) 379

You'll kick yourself later if you hit a bug that was revealed by a warning which was ignored.

Yes, it's called highsight bias, and there's an entire subfield of psychology devoted to its study, and a related subfield of behavioural economics which applies cost/benefit analysis to the human self-kick behavioural reflex arc.

There are educated self-kicks and there are also blind mice self-kicks.

Comment how about this random pin? (Score 1) 1037

If we're randomly sticking pins into phrenological mutuality, how about this one? (my personal favourite):

Catholic sex abuse cases:

In 1994, allegations of sexual abuse on 47 young seminarians surfaced in Argentina.

In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Gro(Slashdot alpha sucks)r resigned from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal. Since 1995, over one hundred priests from various parts of Australia were convicted of sexual abuse.

From 2001-2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, has "considered sex abuse allegations concerning about 3,000 priests dating back up to 50 years" according to the Vatican's Promoter of Justice.

Pederastic institutions tend not to poll well. The only surprise is that it took this long.

Coincidence? I think not.

Comment electrical engineers nearly get it (Score 0) 179

The keyword here is nearly, which means it can be broken.

OMG, I can't believe this tripe snipe got voted up to 5. This kind of thinking would set mathematics back by nearly 200 years.

Infinite doesn't mean what you think it means (continuum hypothesis undecidable in ZFC).

Continuous doesn't mean what you think it means (just for appetizers, the Weierstrass function, Cantor function).

If you're an EE who has never taken a course in measure theory, a unit impulse is not what you think it is (Dirac delta function); "Formally, the Lebesgue integral provides the necessary analytic device.")

Is the Dirac delta function nearly a function? I guess it must be, because it certainly isn't a function by any formal definition that doesn't look like Spock chess compared to naive algebra (subsuming, for starters, all that came before circa 1850), yet it takes you to where you want to go, regardless, so long as the first step on unfolding your algebraic briar patch is an implicit integration.

Sometimes "nearly" is employed to mean "without first having to enter into abstruse thickets that probably wouldn't change a damn thing anyway, but I don't wish to speak as carelessly as calling the Dirac delta function an actual function because those daft EEs might just start to believe in the fiction".

Comment propogation of advanced human technology (Score 1) 392

This is a naive estimate—typical of wide-eyed wanderlust—looking at one tiny piece of the problem.

I'd say a population of about a million is necessary to maintain working contact with human technological culture, and pass this working contact on to the next generation. There's a bit of a gap between a Wikipedia article on metallurgy and a guy who has practised the profession for several decades.

In anthropology, often when a smaller population contracts major technologies are lost, not because they are forgotten, but because there isn't enough bread of expertise to sustain the technological cycle.

Comment good engineering RIP (Score 1) 277

Now a days you don't have to worry about [small sky falling], but you do have to worry about [large sky falling].

Once upon a time, real engineers solved the solvable problems in whatever order solid solutions presented themselves, so that presently unsolvable problems evolved into greater relief.

I thought it was a good system. Good engineering, RIP.

Comment Re:Sudoku's complexity (Score 3, Interesting) 44

A huge amount of it is in the presentation, and how the player conceptualizes the puzzle, and how much of the problem can be handled automatically by visual processes.

It's not just that. The puzzle solvers essentially adopt their own rules for what consistutes a valid solution step.

Once I started completing most five stars puzzles in twelve minutes or less, I started to mainly work the "insane" category. My preferred method is to logically eliminate a single digit placement: this digit can't go here in this box. In the insane puzzles, one often gets to a place where are few digit placements one can reasonably crack with an inference chain without going more than three levels deep.

At that point, it's pretty easy to get completely stuck for ten minutes looking in all the wrong places. That same situation can often be "solved" in under a minute with a four colour pen and the willingness to posit and backtrack. Normally this is against my personal code.

Once upon a time I compiled Knuth's dancing links and threw some "hardest ever" puzzles at it that came up in a quick Google search. One of the first such puzzles I tried solved without a single backtrack step: at each point where the algorithm made a guess, it happened to guess right. There were only three or four or five such junctures of valence 2 or 3. I think I had slightly modified how it sorts the list based on my own intuition about the potency of guesswork, but still, it made a completely mockery of the whole "difficulty" notion. Purportedly one of the hardest of all puzzles (by a certain metric) and Dancing Links goes Rain Man without so much as scuffing its eraser.

When I challenged myself to solve five star puzzles in under ten minutes, there was a complex dance inside my mind to keep track of where I'd shaken the tree already, and what part of the tree needed to be revisited based on recently completed digits. At the slightly faster pace, my mistake production would skyrocket: somehow my double-checking circuit and my "what next" circuit became competitive.

Also, the critical junctures became too thin on the ground, and the punishment for my errors too great, so I lost interest in pushing it any further. It was always for me an excercise in observing my own solution strategies and mental capacities/incapacities.

I think the only way a puzzle-setter can get consistent solution times for a hardness category is by patiently training the puzzle solvers to appoach the task in a certain way, rather than just doing their own thing. I certainly knew with each puzzle setter that I could exploit my familiarity with previous puzzles set at that level of difficulty if I followed the main sequence.

From time to time I would spot an advanced inference early, and then the puzzle would melt away posing no further difficulty whatsoever.

Comment nobody expects the insta-pimpover (Score 1) 465

They didn't realize that corporations want value for their investment.

That's like saying a woman doesn't realize her date wants "value" for picking up the dinner check. No, what they didn't realize was that Pepsi was going to waltz in and set the prostitution dial to 100% from the very first "hello".

You seem to think no show has ever turned a profit that depicts an interesting subculture without the insta-pimpover move.

Comment Re:Not a watch (Score 1) 97

What Apple can learn is to manage expectations. Pebble lost credibility because they promised a lot and then could not deliver.

I don't agree with this narrative and I never have.

When your Kickstarter goes viral and you score a 100x multiple on your modest proposal—a proposal which involves custom electronics hardware—you face a monumental problem: having to put a one year warranty on a beta++ prototype you shepherded into mass production with a virgin organization in building mode. You're not exactly a six-sigma shop that never gets a simple ignition switch wrong. The American government isn't going to step in to tide you over if an unexpected recall of 2.5 million vehicles tips your balance sheet into the red.

I bought two Pebbles, and presently one is dead and the other has an issue with garbling the display where I can't always read what it says, and sometimes when I can read what it says, the time isn't correct, because it hasn't successfully updated for 10 minutes.

The dead watch (which went from functioning perfectly to hardly functioning at all in the space of a day) is a more advanced case of the same problem. It still seems to function in many respects, but the screen just flashes garbage with here and there a surprise appearance of a proper image. At this point, the correct screens are so rare it's impossible to navigate any watch menu (unless I use my other watch as a guide dog for the blind).

On the one that still barely works, some of my watch faces are more garbled than others. I've done plenty of micro-electronics troubleshooting in my time, and this looks a lot like loss of signal integrity between the CPU and the display chip due to an insufficient voltage margin. It could be as simple as the battery not responding to current transients as quickly as it once did, so that you see a bounce brown-out that barely dips enough to induce a few corrupt bits on a data signal. You're oh so close. Close, but no cigar. It only takes one wrong bit per screen update to ruin everything, if it's the wrong wrong bit.

Back when People was slipping schedule, people complained bitterly that other companies manage to bring products to mass production a lot faster than Pebble. These people are idiots. If Pebble experiences a 20% failure rate in the field of their delivered product, and has to honour it's warranty on all these failed watches, what exactly is Plan B? Fold up their tent? As it turns out, they did raise some venture capital. VCs don't come along with a fistful of dollars to throw into an RMA pit.

Given their economic and technical parameters, I thought Pebble did just fine in delivering what they did deliver. After a certain point, though, I actively disliked their communication policy. They handled the issue of the colour additives messing with their plastics rather atrociously.

I made one attempt to get my failed Pebble replaced and the communication dried up on their end. By the time I figured out I wasn't going to get the next response, I had become too busy in my own life to pursue it, and I was beginning to notice my other watch glitching and becoming erratic. I figured I would wait until it was bad enough to declare it officially failed, and pursue replacement of both watches in tandem. Based on when I received my watches, I'm guessing I have about a month left on my warranty now.

If they honour their warranty (and the replacements prove more reliable than the first two) I'm still a big believer in the Pebble platform. I couldn't do what I wanted to do with these watches until the 2.0 SDK came out and that has only been out since my watches became unreliable. No point investing in the new API until I find out whether I'm going to have working watches or not.

No matter what Apple invents, it's simply not going to be as open as what I'm willing to invest my time into.

If Pebble turns this into a seventeen email exchange with a week-long delay after every volley, I'm just going to walk away from my Pebble investment, like any other investor who dabbles in a risk bearing portfolio.

Pebble's original delivery problem was inherent in how Kickstarter works. There is no such thing as an electronics production plan where 1x, 10x, and 100x production volumes share identical schedule lengths. Every order of magnitude is a different fish. Sometimes a volume bump permits you to leap over roadblocks. Sometimes the volume bump makes it harder to sleep at night, out of fear that the whole thing turns into a GM ignition switch.

Because Kickstarter feeds on momentum, no adult in the room ever shows up to point out that the subscription euphoria is putting the project onto a negative delivery ramp: that addition subscribers are having the net effect of delaying the product for everyone.

Pebble could have afforded to have a 30% return rate on a production run of 1000 units if a subsequent production run was already well subscribed and they had by then ramped up their production process to a much higher success rate.

They certainly couldn't afford a garish return rate on 80,000 units all delivered at once.

Scenario A: Somebody hands you the keys to a $10,000 econobox and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're a little nervous, and exercise more caution than normal.

Scenario B: Somebody hands you the keys to a $100,000 Range Rover and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're a little nervous, but you take it extremely carefully and all goes well.

Scenario C: Somebody hands you the keys to a $1,000,000 Ferrari and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're more than a little nervous. The first time you tap the gas pedal, it jumps back six feet. You attempt to shift it into drive to pull forward and start again, and something makes a thunking sound. Is it supposed to sound like that, or did you just trash the tranny? You're not so familiar with this kind of car.

How long is it going to take you to back the Ferrari out of the drive way? Half as much time because the car is 10x more powerful?

Sorry, Kickstarter idiots, life doesn't work that way. Yet it seems to be what most unthinking subscribers presumed in rallying behind the myth that Pebble over-promised and under-delivered.

I just wish my two watches worked reliably enough to be worth rolling up my sleeves and custom programming them as I originally envisioned back when I first subscribed.

Slashdot Top Deals

This is a good time to punt work.

Working...