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Comment No more lucrative DUI prosecutions = driver req'd. (Score 1) 337

The average payment to the state from a DUI prosecution is something around $10K when all the fines and such are tallied up. There's the initial fine, court fee, mandatory driver re-education course fee, court-mandated counselling fees, fees that allow first-time offenders to be "rehabilitated" (woo-hoo! just $2,500 for total absolution!), fees for un-suspending a license, fees for re-taking a drivers' license road test ($250 to drunk drivers, $30 for everybody else), rental of a mandatory in-vehicle breathalyzer, installation charge for mandatory in-vehicle breathalyzer, de-installation charge for mandatory in-vehicle breathalyzer, fees for complaining about fees, fees for posting about fees on slashdot, and the list goes on.

If you allow driverless cars to ferry drunks home, the state loses all of that tasty munchable sweet sweet cash. Which is why you will certainly be able to be cited for DUI even when the UI is doing the D'ing.

Comment Well, they DO own the hardware you bought. (Score 2) 87

The only good thing about this story is that maybe non-techie people will realize that when you let the OS vendor dictate what you can do with the hardware you bought to run their product on, they will ALWAYS use that ability against you.

Consoles, Apple, and now Windows- how many times do we have to learn the same lesson?

Comment Worth it to employers? Dunno. To me? Definitely. (Score 1) 630

I was self-taught. I started out in jr. high school on 30cps clacky terminals dialed into M.E.C.C. (anybody else in here know what that acronym expands to?)

But then I went on to get a CS degree with EE "concentration" (kinda like a minor but not as much work). The EE work was not trivial- I took 4-level courses on things like signal processing, vsld, semi-conductors, etc. etc.

As a result, I graduated knowing three things:
1. What a computer can DO
2. HOW it does what it can do
3. How to MAKE it do what it can do.
In other words, I understood computers soup to nuts (or thought I did- I still had a lot to learn). When diagnosing a problem or architecting a solution, I think holistically. The phrase I've been frequently accused of over-using is "Silicon to Glass," meaning from the silicon in the chips all the way to the glass screen of the computer monitor and everything in between.

To an employer, this probably doesn't mean squat. They're looking for Skill XYZ. And when they hire you for Skill XYZ, they really have no intention of using you for anything else for the entire time you are with them.

To me, it means everything because while I'm working for an employer and utilizing Skill XYZ, I'm also looking for opportunities to learn Skill ABC and apply it to my current responsibilities. And then Skill ABC goes on my resume.

As a result, my resume looks impossibly broad, with real, working, got-paid-for experience in a diverse range of disciplines, from large-scale (many thousands of nodes) network design, telecommunications, database architecture and application design (I've designed systems that earn $100M/year). Not only that, I've spread out vertically as well, working in as many industries as technologies.

The thing I ALWAYS credit is my CS degree. Without that intimate understanding of what's going on inside the systems and software that I create and use, I would be simply (as another poster put it) responding to interfaces, not utilizing skills.

What freaks me out is how a large majority of my co-workers are one-trick ponies. They know how to code Informatica data integration mappings. Or they know how to write Perl scripts. Or they know how to create SQL Server databases and monitor their performance. Maybe they have a minor secondary skill, but that's usually it. I always ask that type of person if they have a CS degree- I've never had one reply "yes." Turn that around, and when I find that a co-worker has a CS degree, it doesn't really matter what we originally hired him or her for- if a job needs doing, that person will either apply existing knowledge to the problem or immediately go about acquiring the required knowledge from whatever sources are available- and if nothing exists at the time, they will CREATE the tool that solves the problem. Because a CS degree is just that: a set of "tools in the tool belt" that can be taken out at need- and some of those tools are designed specifically to create other tools. Self-taught folk are fine, but I've never found one with the breadth and depth of understanding that you get even from a newly-minted CS grad.

When I'm hiring, I'll take a CS grad with diploma still dripping ink over a "expert" in some tool or technology ANY day. Because the former has demonstrated the capability of picking up any tool and applying it (or making his own), but the latter has only shown the ability to use one.

Comment Walter Jon Williams, sort of. (Score 1) 1130

"Under-appreciated" is a hard word. Most of what I've seen posted above are authors who were pretty well appreciated.

I think Walter Jon Williams' book "Aristoi" counts as under-appreciated because it was in the running for a Hugo award- but wasn't selected. The ideas and concepts put forth in that novel, and the clarity and believability of the universe/society that he created made it one of the best sci-fi books I have ever read. I understand that that year had a lot of other good candidates for the award, but I've always felt his was still head and shoulders above the rest of the field. He really should have won.

I can't promote him as an under-appreciated author, though. His other books, while mildly entertaining, simply did not reach the level that Aristoi did. If that had been his only novel, he'd have been on my list of "shoulda-beens." As it stands, he's a one-hit wonder. But WHAT a wonder. Man, if his other stuff had been even half as good as Aristoi, I'd have cleared him a whole shelf in my library. Good author. Great book.

(I've often wondered if he feels the same way about the comparative merit of his other works)

Comment This is exactly what Apple wanted. (Score 4, Interesting) 240

Apple's formula for success under iOS:
1. Control the hardware
2. Control the software
3. Make others do the work and because (1) and (2), you get to take a BIG cut of their business. No, not BIG... HUGE.

Part of (2) is to not allow any development that might result in GOOD write-once/run-anywhere software. Backing HTML5 is a perfect example. The amount of effort required to produce a decent product is just plain insane. Even big companies like Facebook can't do it. Little companies don't even try. In the end, damn near everybody who tries to deploy an application that runs on an iOS device comes to the same sad realization: cough up the dough or go home.

Products that actually worked, and worked well (e.g. Flash, Silverlight, etc.) were killed with feeble excuses like battery consumption and quality control. How the DoJ didn't launch an investigation into anti-competitive practices is a mystery to me. The "browser included in OS" investigation of Microsoft seems a pale shadow of the "you don't run software on iOS devices- despite the fact that their OWNERS want you to- unless you pay us a shiatload of money." /Bitter? You betcha.

Comment Re:Varley, Steakly, Zelazny, and Brust (Score 1) 1244

The Phoenix Guard, 500 Years After, and The Viscount of Adrilankha (series) are a homage to Alexandre Dumas' d'Artangan romances: (Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After. Viscount of Bragelonne) but set in the Dragaera "universe." They also set the stage and provide a rich backstory for the Jhereg novels.

I love that the Phoenix Guard/Adrilankha books are completely separate in tone and style from the Jhereg novels. The former is very much in Dumas' style. When I first started reading it, I got a few pages in and started laughing as I realized that Brust had "rebooted" The Three Musketeers- but in pre-interregnum Dragaera.

Comment Re:Many Many options (Score 2) 1244

Caveat on the Pern books: be careful when selecting them. You are right to recommend the earlier ones. Some of the later ones are NOT written by Ms. MacCaffery and/or are products of one-sided collaborations (i.e. prop gramma up in her hospice bed and if she complains about the jello try to turn it into a Pern novel). Her grandson Todd went on to butcher the series with authorization from the estate and (sadly) her permission.

Comment A few I cherish (Score 4, Informative) 1244

Mervyn Peake - Gormenghast (and sequels). HARD to get into, but rewarding if you understand that they are very experimental.

F.M.Busby - The Demu Trilogy. Nothing ground-breaking, but it is well written escapist fiction.

James Blish - Cities in Flight. Ditto the previous.

John Crowley - Little, Big. Please please please DO read this. It is the single best book in the English language. Each chapter is like a gem. Another of his books "Engine Summer" is also jaw-droppingly lovely and has a "reveal" at the end that makes M.Night Shamylam seem like a moron. You WILL weep unashamedly. His later stuff is hard to digest, but worth the read if you stick with it.

Lin Carter - The Martian books (The Valley Where Time Stood Still, The City Outside the World, Down to a Sunless Sea, and The Man Who Loved Mars). Thinking man's pulp fiction.

James H. Schmitz - The Witches of Karres. So fun to read. It's a novelization of a series of short stories (or it reads that way, anyway) concerning a trio of underage witches and the space captain they "adopt" and whose life they make miserable but in a good way.

Apologies for spelling/grammar/mispronunciation/

Comment Some of the most common leap-year bugs (Score 5, Informative) 247

Some of the common leap year bugs that I've seen over the years:

1. A matrix with the number of days per month:
e.g. smallint dayspermonth[12]={31,28,31,30,31,30,31,31,30,31,30,31};
Indexing into the matrix for February (index 1) ignores leap years.

1. A matrix with 365 elements to represent a year's worth of something:
e.g. smallint hightemps[365];
This usually doesn't fail until Dec 31, when hightemp[mydate.dayofyear()-1] points to a non-existent element.
Of course, if dayofyear is calculated using the matrix in the prior bug, it will fail invisibly since that will be incorrect
as well.

2. Quck-n-dirty subtract one year math:
e.g. Convert date to char in YYYYDDMM format, convert char to int, subtract 10000, convert back to a char and then date.
Why people do this when you can dateadd(year,mydate,-1) is that easy, I have no clue. But it breaks horridly when
you use it to determine "one year ago today" from Feb 29.

Comment Re:Distance calculation is trivial... (Score 1) 316

Second (or apparently third) that opinion. Here is a tip to make queries based on distance MUCH faster:

First, divide your territory into equally-sized "squares" based on the maximum "within N miles of" distance or some other convenient size. Give each an X and Y coordinate starting at 0,0=westernmost,northernmost and continuing Eastward,and Southward with incrementally larger values of X and Y. Store them as individual columns with a bitmap index.

When joining the table to find records within N miles of a set of given lat/long coordinates, you only have to determine which X,Y square the lat/long coordinates fall into and query just those records that are within X+/-2 and Y+/-2. This will make use of the indexes on X and Y and greatly reduce the number of records that you need to perform the (CPU costly) distance calculation upon.

This method increases the efficiency of questions that require a join (e.g. "records within N miles of each other") because the X and Y coordinate join, although not an equi-join, can still use the indexes.

It also helps with figure-based queries (e.g. "records inside a circle of radius R miles" and "records inside complex polygon with vertices P1,P2,P3...") because the squares that the figure fully or partially encompasses can be pre-calculated and used in the WHERE clause of the query.

Comment Biting hand that feeds you, 2.0 (Score 1) 390

Libraries could just take the easy way out and not purchase ANY books (real OR imaginary) from publishers whose eBook library licensing terms they consider to be unreasonable. When people stop seeing real the publishers' real books at the library, the loss of free advertising will hurt more than the loss of revenue from sales of imaginary books. Libraries need to wise up and realize that they are the ONLY showrooms for publishers now that real book stores are going out of business left and right. In a couple of years, they will have the power to put individual publishers out of business.

And to everybody who said "eBooks won't fuck up the whole world of reading," a big hearty "I told you so."

Comment Geological Process? (Score 1) 90

MESSENGER revealed an unexpected class of landform on Mercury and suggest that a previously unrecognized geological process is responsible for its formation. I'm not an astrophysicist. Doesn't "Geological" refer specifically to Earth? The "Geo" comes from "Gaea," the Greek personification of Earth. Mercury would be something like "Hermeticological" I would think. I got this from a sci-fi book (one of Heinlien's, if I recall correctly), so don't jump on me if it's incorrect.

Comment Lawsuit pending for Bethesda Elder Care in MD (Score 1) 332

In other news, software giant Bethesda Softworks LLC has go ahead with its pending lawsuit against Bethesda Elder Care in Bethesda, MD. The software corporation claims that the patients of the assisted care facility are at risk of confusing their residence for an open-ended role playing environment, citing such similarities as both having features in common like "air" and "ground."

Bethesda Softworks, LLC President and CEO Vlatko Andonov said the following in a press release last Thursday:

Look, we're not here to pick on the little guy, but this is a serious problem. We've already heard reports that seniors have been hospitalized due to confusion with the potion-making abilities. We're working on a way to make the poision/potion indicator more accessible to people who are color blind or have other vision issues such as cataracts. And last week, Mr. Gershowicz was found over five miles away from the facility on a stolen horse. I mean, the man was about to enter a troll cave with ceremonial armor. CEREMONIAL- can you believe that? And his save-on-hit skill was only like 120 with buffs. These are prefectly nice old men and ladies, but they do not belong in a world focused on "aesthetic presentation and open-ended adventuring."

Andonov went on to explain that his corporation is the clear and undisputed trademark holder for the term "elder" and warns that other infringing parties such as the Box Elder School District in Utah will be facing similar litigation in the near future.

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