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Comment Re:Scala (Score 2) 466

I'm presently reading Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James, a surfer-dude professor of philosophy from Harvard University trying to cash in on the On Bullshit surge, which sold surprisingly well for what it is. I don't totally agree with Mr James, but there are some great passages. We'll see after I finish the book.

That just screams "Ruby is dog slow".

Sorry, that screams asshole entitlement—but maybe just because I was reading that book yesterday evening, and having a shiny new book is a lot like having a shiny new toy.

At least we have a new snowclone: Three-word-cliche The-Shit three-word-cliche. Interesting, both "just screams" and "dog slow" are high on the list of the asshole lexicon. We all know it when we hear it.

Many scripting languages appear to be almost as fast as C not because it came easily (it never does with a scripting language) but because immense amounts of talent and clever optimizations were poured into the brew behind the scenes to perfect this illusion.

This isn't so different that the story of x86 vs ARM. x86 is reviled for having one of the worst instruction sets of all time, and after thirty-five years it's still holding its own. How many technologies born in a gutter manage that? True, Intel has poured more ingenuity behind the scenes to enable this illusion than any sane person wishes to contemplate. If Borges were an engineer, he wouldn't have written El inmortal, he would have just killed himself.

Nevertheless, bottom line, x86 is NOT dog slow. Aren't you happy they care? Is your little world complete now? I personally don't think the standard for inventing a useful scripting language ought to be Nelson Mandela's eighteen-year term breaking rocks in a rock quarry so that some entitled asshole enjoys the perfect crunch on the flower paths of his estate garden. Why should it be, when it's a simple matter to just call out to C or Boost when the need arises? No wait, that's what you hate most. That's the dog that cries slow in the night.


My how that sound chills the soul.

Comment the lecture I didn't receive (Score 1) 54

I first posed the question to my elementary school science teacher circa 1973 whether the dinosaurs weren't in some way usefully self-warming. I didn't have the vocabulary about homeostasis or mesotherms at that age.


So, young man, you're suggesting that the dinosaurs might have been mesotherms?

"Meso", everyone, means "in between" or "intermediate". So the idea here is that dinosaurs would be warmer than modern reptiles but not as warm as modern mammals—whales and cats and dogs and humans and horses—who maintain a fixed body temperature. By "fixed" temperature we mean within a narrow range, subject to regulation, or control. Among the regulatory abilities in humans are sweating when we get too hot, and shivering when we get too cold. (Does anyone know if whales shiver? Someone try to find that out for class tomorrow.) When our body temperature regulation fails we experience fever or chills. Chills are known to doctors as hypothermia, "hypo" meaning reduced and "thermia" meaning temperature; hypothermia means "reduced temperature". Fever and hypothermia are dangerous conditions that require prompt medical attention.

It's different when a lizard gets cold. For the lizard it's not an immediately dangerous condition; it just becomes sluggish until its environment warms up again. Now our lizard might be subject to predation—being eaten by a predator like an eagle or a snake—if it becomes sluggish at the wrong time or in the wrong place.

Mammals are the opposite in both ways: our temperature remains fairly constant regardless of our environment, and when our body temperature—not in our arms and legs and hands and feet, but inside our skull, our chest, or our belly—when this internal temperature changes, that's a big thing to worry about.

A mesotherm would be an intermediate creature, one who is able to generate enough body heat to remain active in a cold environment, which helps to avoid predation (remember that means being eaten), but isn't directly threatened by having a cold body temperature, if the food supply does not support maintaining a high activity level.

Something science has learned is that any organism that goes too long without food ceases to generate warmth internally. Now a large pile of dead plant matter—yard waste—can become much warmer than the surrounding environment, but this is due to smaller organisms with the plant matter which are busy eating the plant matter. It is also true that rotting meat will generate warmth from the small organisms inside the meat causing the meat to rot. Whatever the situation, if heat is being generated in a biological system, somewhere in that system there is some form of digestion taking place.

Now let's go back to the excellent question about dinosaurs could have been mesotherms. As young scientists, you are probably all wondering what is the evidence that dinosaurs were cold blooded or not. That's a very good question, everyone.

As a scientist, I wondered this myself. As a scientist we are trained to ask these questions whenever possible and seek as hard as we can to obtain the answers. Over my summer holidays—can you believe that?—I scoured all the science textbooks available to this school district, and I can't find a single sentence in any book explaining why dinosaurs are believed to be cold blooded, apart from their having a distant kinship with modern reptiles.

But then, think about this yourself. We know modern reptiles are much smaller than dinosaurs, who were waaaaay bigger than elephants. Large creatures often generate more heat than they want to have, which is why elephants have those giant, thin ears. All that extra skin helps them to transfer unwanted heat into their environment.

We'll be talking more about the relationship between heat and temperature in future classes. This is an important concept which is central to life as well as to modern machinery, which is why we eat regular meals and our cars visit gas stations. Heat and temperature are both connected to the concept of energy. That's a very important concept you'll be visiting year after year in your school education.

Unfortunately, it appears that all your textbooks—all the way until you leave school when you are much older—we written by the same idiot, who isn't a proper scientist at all. So we're all going to have to work hard to figure out our own answers to these important questions by thinking carefully in our own minds and challenging each other to support our opinions.

Does that sound like a good idea? Yeah, it does, doesn't it.

[Intercom buzzes.]

Well, my young students, I suspect that would be the principal's office summoning me to the guillotine for my immediate beheading.

I love you all, and I'll miss you so much. Good-bye everyone. It was worth it.

Comment Re:Well, no. (Score 4, Insightful) 249

From a business perspective, this move makes perfect sense. From an educated geek end-user's perspective, it really sucks. But what are you going to do?

First of all, I'm not going to purchase any of those fancy apps. I'm going to use my smart phone as for phone calls, photographs, maps, and web browsing. While it's truly a waste of a beautiful technology, it's merely inconvenient not to bother with all those invasive programs.

I consider the new security model worse than not having the apps at all.

Comment Re:Jesus isn't that influential (Score 1) 231

The Roman Emperor that converted to Christianity after being 'saved' is the real power behind Christianity...

Are you sure? I suspect the power behind the throne was really Helena, Constantine's mother. Or maybe Fausta.

In July, Constantine had his wife, the Empress Fausta, killed at the behest of his mother, Helena. Fausta was left to die in an over-heated bath. Their names were wiped from the face of many inscriptions, references to their lives in the literary record were erased, and the memory of both was condemned.

The record is unfortunately thin on which influencer wielded more power on gullible Constantine, but clearly Helena prevailed in this particular deed.

Consider also Aunt Jemima. She was a nobody—if she even existed—before some marketing genius slapped her mug on a bottle. If future archaeologists someday put together a landfill page rank, she'll be waaay up there.

Comment Re:Canada following Australia (Score 1) 417

Everyone will need to raise their pension ages and raise their taxes/cut spending.

Alternatively, we could roll back our immense gains in life-expectancy. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

The problem seems to be that human nature is willing to work very hard for $20 (if that pays for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) or for a $20 million xmas bonus (if that's your second vacation home) but we're all pretty slack-assed when motivated by any sum in between.

Comment I disable AdBlock for no-one (Score 1, Insightful) 134

These people would do as well to stand on a soap box on a public street corner to engage in gifted oration, then hand out leaflets to the crowd suggesting that people express their support and appreciation by signing up for a no-cost-to-your-pocket-book alcohol tolerance study at the local university (to more precisely characterize the vomit threshold for the advancement of medical science) , for which the orator himself receives a small referral fee.

Advertising, much like alcohol, is hardly known as a tonic to clarity of mind. I'll pass, thank you very much. I've far in extreme of the Mormons on the issue of what passes into my brain through my eye sockets. Alcohol only makes me vulnerable to the lizard housed within (he's not so bad, really, once you stare him down). Advertising, on the other hand, exposes me to spitting cobra exotoxins. The dead giveaway is the spinning iris of seduction: animated GIFs, Flash-based logo rotations, pop-ups, pop-overs, all resembling nothing so much as a vulture with the twitching tail of a live and highly agitated squirrel shit to the ischium out of the vulture's ass.

Shall I welcome this bubonic creature to peck at my eyeballs from the side of my screen? Even for "Four score and twenty" or "I have a dream"?

Nah. I don't think so. Not unless I've got a bag full of Shuriken ice picks and it's somebody else's HD monitor.

Comment Re:Open Source drivers? (Score 2) 134

I think the better (and more common way) is to simply boot into Windows to play your games.

If I only had to boot into Windows in order to run my games (of which I have none, because of what comes after "only") then I would surely do so. What I'm not willing to do is boot into the Windows EULA and revenue collection racket—please inform me on how to do one without the other if you know how—after its ape-like thumb collapsed the trachea on any vestige of consumer choice worthy of so much as a solitary big whoop.

If Ambrose Bierce had an entry in his Devil's Dictionary for the word "simplicity" (he doesn't, I actually looked) he would most likely have defined it as "expediting gratification by paying more to receive less" or some scalding variation upon that theme at the expense your precise invocation, and many more besides.

Comment given enough eyeballs, all claims are hollow (Score 2, Interesting) 191

This could all be fixed by issuing the original patent provisionally, and mandating a second, more thorough review by the patent office when the decorative sabre is first unsheathed.

Maybe the target of the action files an application for second-stage examination and ponies up a small fee on the order of $1000, then the patent office adds the patent to their public "notice of re-examination" board for sixty days to solicit any other public input. After the examination, the target recovers from the patent holder $250 for every claim shot down and another $5000 if the entire patent falls (the patent infringement action could permit the patent holder to exercise only certain claims, so as not to place themselves on the hook for the claim-reversal penalty award on every frivolous claim, but they still owe the $5000 penalty award if claims associated with the infringement action is reduced to the empty set).

Second-stage ratification doesn't need to be a big thing. It only needs to be as big as what the first-stage examination was originally presupposed to accomplish when this whole system was first set up, back when it was possible for a patent examiner to have his or her finger on the pulse of innovation to any extent at all, before human knowledge blue-shifted by a further six orders of magnitude.

To a first approximation, given enough eyeballs, all claims are hollow.

What we really need is a mechanical turk to challenge claims of novel art and claims of application (which should be separated). If the patent holder wished to instigate second-phase examination without filing against an adversary (so as to increase their litigational certitude before uncasking their powder), they would need to post $10,000 as a bounty fund. The public would be invited to submit arguments against any particular claim (much like a bug-tracking system). Maybe there's a $5 fee per hundred words (minimum $5) for each argument filed. The first argument (by filing time) to unseat a claim is awarded a $250 refutation bounty from the bounty fund.

Even better, people are allowed to pay $5 to click "me too". All the "me too" payments are funnelled to the person who originally filed the item (small profit, same day). All parties split the bounty (including the item owner) if that item scores (the incentive to be the fiftieth person to click "me too" is not attractive; by interpolation, the "me too" button functions as a prediction market).

I think we just need to bring a mechanical turk free market processes to bear on the patent approval system, and abuses would soon be dramatically scaled back.

If a company just wants to accumulate patents it could potentially waggle, nothing changes, and all the same press releases can still be penned (mentions of patents pursued would mean less, now being more frail in the waggling, but this is the usual erosion of sense anyone shrewd has long observed).

Comment parses like a teaspoon of sugar (Score 2) 129

I've been parsing this kind of press release for a long, long time now. I can pretty much tell what we're dealing with by how hard it is to state the advantage of a new approach in narrow and precise language.

That this blurb doesn't even disclose the error model class (error correction is undefined without doing so) suggests that the main advantage of this codec lies more in the targeting of a particular loss model than a general advance in mathematical power.

Any error correction method looks good when fed data that exactly corresponds to the loss model over which it directly optimises.

The innovators of this might have something valuable, but they are clearly trying to construe it as more than it is. This suggests that there are other, equally viable ways to skin this particular cat.

Comment suspicious circumstances (Score 1) 389

Snowden is going to be the first person in human history to have a suspicious death at the age of one-hundred and five.

There's a big difference between what these agencies do under cover of darkness, and what they do under the glare of a public spotlight. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after two decades in exile, whereupon he continued to criticise his homeland for another fourteen years, before dying of heart failure under suspicious circumstances at age eighty-nine.

There's a good reason they get mighty twisted about having their darkness aired: no more summary judgement, no more page 13 obituaries of A-list adversaries.

Hurricane Lolita:

I once read of an interview given by Roman Polanski in which he described listening to a lurid radio account of his offense even as he was fleeing to the airport. He suddenly realized the trouble he was in, he said, when he came to appreciate that he had done something for which a lot of people would furiously envy him.

No, Snowden's exile is something different: a life not envied, not one little bit. That much his button-down steampunk adversaries can manage under the broad light of day.

Comment the crutch of determinism (Score 4, Interesting) 125

I must respectfully disagree with you on every point you raise.

A randomised stack would cause certain types of bugs to manifest themselves much earlier in the development process. Nothing decreases the cost of a bug hunt more than proximity to the actual coding event.

Such an environment rewards programmers who invest more to validate their loops and bounds more rigorously in the first place. Nothing reduces the cost of a bug more than not coding it in the first place.

There's nothing that stops the debugging team from debugging against a canonical build, if they wish to do so. If they have a bug that the canonical build won't manifest, they wouldn't even have known about the bug without this technique added to the repertoire. If many such bugs become known early in the development process—bugs that manifest on some randomised builds, but not on the canonical debug build—you're got an excellent warning klaxon telling you what you need to know—your coding or management standards suck. Debugging suck, if instigated soon enough to matter, returns 100x ROI as compared to debugging code.

Certainly the number of critical vulnerabilities that exist against some compiled binary can only increase in number. So what? The attacker most likely doesn't know in advance which version any particular target will run. The attacker must now develop ten or one hundred exploits where previously one sufficed (or one exploit twice as large and ten times more clever).

If the program code mutated on every execution, you would have some valid points. That would be stupid beyond all comprehension. An attacker could just keep running your program until it comes up cherries.

The developer controls the determinism model. It's an asset in the war. There can be more when it helps our own cause, and less when it assists our adversaries.

Determinism should be not reduced to a crutch for failing to code correctly in the first place. Get over it. Learn how. Live in an environment that punishes mistakes early and often.

Comment even a gorilla must somedayshit or get off the pot (Score 1) 211

The Amazon share price demonstrates that investors anticipate profit from the Amazon business model at some point, which they will point very loudly when it begins to appear that growth has reached a plateau. (It's only mildly conceivable that this whole thing is a Ponzi scheme held afloat by successive ranks of the greater fool.)

By some weird co-incidence I breezed through The Everything Store by Brad Stone yesterday afternoon (and following up, just an hour ago, MacKenzie Bezos's misguided one-star review).

I wanted to get a better sense of the author, so I also watched Discussion: Author Brad Stone on The Everything Store, hosted by Daniel Siciliano, professor at the Stanford Law school, who turns out to be sharp, engaged, articulate, and charismatic. Brad largely stays on script with his own book.

Brad did take certain liberties with his book (small ones) of the kind an author is pretty much forced to take if he wishes to have a readership. Mr Bezos would not be so principled as to fact check his profit into oblivion. MacKenzie needs to get a grip on her entitlement double standard.

Brad regards his critical chapter as the one entitled Expedient Convictions. His recap was the best bit in the entire Q/A: "Amazon [aka Jeff] rationalise their customer focus to excuse a lot of things. This paper-thin rationalization is actually naked self-interest."

No shit Sherlock. He then goes on talk about how Amazon engineered their operation to pay no sales tax at the state level by claiming not to operate in any of those states, which is only true in the narrowest legal sense. Amazon runs huge operations in those states structured as legally independent subsidiaries (which are nevertheless totally under Amazon's thumb).

In the book Jeff is quoted as saying they don't use any services provided by those states, so why should they pay a sales tax? Their subsidiaries are using plenty of government provided infrastructure in those states to make those products and services possible. The whole story is just an accounting shell game. Their products come from somewhere, somehow. I don't think you find out at the center of the nested Russian dolls that the Amazon fulfillment center is a Xen machine instance on EC2. In mathematics, Mr Bezos, this analysis is known as the pigeonhole principle, which in layman's terms says you can't ethically pay tax nofuckingwhere on $74b dollars in revenue. But you know that already, don't you? And MacKenzie knows that you know that, doesn't she? Right, I though as much. Pity Brad got the influence of Remains of the Day on your regret minimization framework misplaced in time by about a year in his origin story. How will we ever trust another word this man says?

Which of those two errors concerns a million dollars or more? Bzzzt. Looks like Jeff wins the milliravi award for speaking with forked cheek.

Anyway, this story today is nothing new, and hardly the worst. Anyone interested can check out how Amazon sat on Lovefilm in the UK/EU. It was brutal.

Stone makes Amazon's internal culture sound like The Passion of the Christ which I think was dramatised by Stone somewhat, but hardly given the full Oliver (the answer to my fey verbal riddle is Natural Born Killers if anyone cares).

As I recall it from an early chapter, among the fringe whingers MacKenzie complains are insignificant and overrepresented was one Shel Kaphan whom Bezos himself described as "the most important person ever in the history of Amazon.com" as part of his great and commendable summing up of a valued resource so totally no longer needed.

Quick, someone hand me a gold pen, I want to stick it down my throat.

Comment you can't judge a theory by its quacks (Score 2) 339

Jules Verne envisioned the submarine. Does that make a submarine impossible? Does the concept sink on the basis of its sci-fi roots? Oh, lordy, what a fucked up standard of evidence on which to accuse any theory of being faith based.

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/pictures/110208-jules-verne-google-doodle-183rd-birthday-anniversary/ 8 Jules Verne Inventions That Came True]

The guy predicted pretty much everything but the click trap.

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