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Comment Re:How is Scheme a toy language? (Score 1) 414

One man's "toy" is another man's tool. (As the wag above who nominated Java above points out, Real Programmers only need assembly code.)

I might have said Lua, since I only poke around with it occasionally. Game developers and various (often Brazilian) researchers use it more seriously.

There's also the "can write a compiler/interpreter in itself" criterion for "real languages" ... which Scheme famously passes.

So, to summarize, a "toy" language is a) one that isn't Turing complete, or b) a language the speaker has little understanding of and no respect for.

Comment Less lethal, not non-lethal (Score 1) 698

The correct term for stun guns and pepper spray is "less lethal". People HAVE died from stun guns. I don't know about pepper spray, but I could imagine a fatal allergy or a blinded/stunned person taking a fatal fall. (Leaving aside the flammable propellant problem, which AFAIK is no longer an issue.)

That said, I would prefer more stun guns and fewer firearms on the streets, so if I were the judge I'd rule they were at least as protected as modern firearms are. OTOH, I'd *also* prefer all weapons regulated with mandatory background checks and waiting periods at the very least.


A Plan On How To Stop Sexism In Science 613

StartsWithABang writes: If there's nothing else that science has to offer, it's this elegant notion: that anyone, anywhere, at anytime, can investigate and uncover the mysteries and workings of the Universe simply by asking it the right questions in the right ways, listening to its answers, and putting the pieces together for themselves. Anyone can do it. Only, for various and sundry reasons, not everyone gets to do it. Some people don't have the economic ability, some don't have the sustained drive or interest, and some simply can't cut the mustard. But some people — some really, really good people — are driven from their passions for a sad, simple and completely unnecessary fact: that they were treated in unacceptable ways that they refused to just accept. And in a great many cases, that unacceptable treatment came simply because of their gender. Sexism sometimes looks like what you expect, and sometimes not. Here's one opinion on what we can all do about it to create the world we really want: where science really is for everyone.

Submission + - Intel Boss Controls Robot Spider Army (

mikejuk writes: At the recent Intel Developer Forum, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took to the stage to demo its latest system-on-a-chip controlling an army of spiderbots.
OK it wasn't an army it was just four but in principle it could have been.
The Curie, announced back in January, might be Intel's best chance of getting more than a foothold in the IoT market. It is tiny button-like device that has a complete Intel Quark SoC and some sensors built in — 384K of Flash and 80K of SRAM to run the open source RTOS operating system. What is remarkable is that it also crams in Bluetooth LE, DSP hub and 6-axis accelerometer and gyro.
A small wristband containing a Curie monitored Krzanich's arm position and gestures and connected via Bluetooth to four spiderbots. You need to see the video to appreciate how spooky this is.
What is it with Intel and spiders? To show off its Edison processor Intel helped create a spider dress that reacted to protect the wearer's personal space if someone came to close, see Spider Dress Defends Your Space.
Now it has a bunch of spiders under the CEO's personal command. Perhaps this is how they plan to finish off ARM and any other competitors. Be afraid, be very afraid....

Comment This could go very bad, very fast (Score 1) 1089

1. Voting becomes compulsory.

2. Party in power manipulates poll hours and ID requirements so that working poor and other groups can't vote without taking time off work, standing in long lines, triple-checking their papers, etc.

3. Working poor, etc., not only still have no voice but owe money for being excluded from voting.

(4. PROFIT!)

We need to make voting as easy and transparent as possible, not to impose rules the disenfranchised can't follow.

Comment Re: Waste of money (Score 2) 341

To all the people who say "women don't want to work in tech", note that women were the MAJORITY in the early days of computing, right up until the advent of personal computers. (Source) From the article: "... families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers."

So it's quite probable women WOULD go into tech fields ... if they had encouragement, a pleasant working atmosphere, and at least some assurance that motherhood wouldn't throw them completely off their career track.

Comment Re:Its Urban Trees (Score 1) 516

Weather is also a factor. Our power has gone out sporadically (usually preceded by the loud pop of something getting fried), and it usually comes back within an hour or two of my calling. Except during the Great Dallas Ice Storm which happens *every year* and which *nobody* seems to plan for. The last two years the power has been out for days, which is especially fun with an elderly invalid. The fact that the city/county response to ice is to toss some sand and ice on it, compounded with Dallasites inability to drive even during good weather, prolongs response times even further. But I still blame Oncor.

Comment Re:Good managers manage up, not down (Score 2) 186

To my mind, the best managers set up conditions for their staff to succeed and defend them against higher-level managers. That's it. Managers should take care of head-count and hiring and meetings and all the other boring but apparently necessary stuff; they shouldn't be responsible for *any* analysis and design, let alone coding. Because all the "boring" stuff will eat up someone's time, and better the designated victim, I mean manager, than someone responsible for making progress.

The *worst* managers, in my not-too-atypical experience, are the rock-stars, micromanagers, timekeepers, and corporate climbers. True rock-star programmers should be writing code, not going to meetings ... and if they can't cooperate with the rest of the team they shouldn't be on the project at all. Micromanagers second-guess their staff and the staff waste valuable work time indulging the boss. Management by Gantt chart is even worse, since estimates in software are rough guesses, not contractual commitments; the work takes as long as it takes, for a set amount of work, and forcing the staff to work harder to satisfy a bogus schedule only makes work later (or buggier). Worst of all are the managers who are simply mouthpieces and boot-licks for their bosses, because they'll throw you under the bus for any perceived failure and claim credit for all your successes, often both at the same time.

Comment Re: Agile / Waterfall mix? (Score 5, Interesting) 186

It depends which parts are "agile" and which are "waterfall". From my not-exactly-vast experience, whatever mix you choose has to address four concerns:

1. WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING? Seriously. This is where the extra planning of "waterfall" -- itself a misunderstanding of someone else's comments -- comes in. One of my first jobs was a derivatives trading app in a perpetual tug of war between an outspoken exotic derivatives trader, back office and compliance folks wanting to automate trade reconciliation, risk managers wanting to manage risk, and the rest of the trading desk who just wanted to price whatever deal they were trying to do (vanilla or not). The end result was a kludgey mess that everyone hated.

2. HOW DO YOU ALLOW FOR GROWTH? There are right ways and wrong ways. Agile has a good tip: build only what you need, and as cleanly as you can. Better said than done, of course, and sometimes (as the Pragmatic Programmers have said) you *know* there will be a database in there sooner or later, so plan your architecture accordingly even if it's a little awkward short-term. Then there's the wrong way, which I saw in one project: build a "flexible" architecture with "configurable" components so that you can do "anything"! 1) KNOW WHAT YOU'RE BUILDING, even in broad strokes (see above). 2) For software to be reusable, it must first be usable for *something*. 3) If your "flexible" and "configurable" architecture takes more time to modify than writing straightforward code would take, it has failed; start over. 4) It's better to use open-source architecture than build it yourself. (Buying is also better, but beware of vendor lock-in and every-increasing fees, especially if you only use a small part of an elaborate framework.)

3. HOW DO STAKE-HOLDERS REQUEST CHANGES? No specification will be adequate out of the gate, and unless you're working for NASA or the military people CAN and WILL request changes, sometimes while you're building the product and certainly once people begin using it. Do you jump when they say how high? Do you have a long and slow review process? Do you work individual tickets? Do you have potentially disruptive "projects", and if so how do you integrate them back into the main project? Different applications have different rates of change and different tolerance for defects, but it's best to work out change process before the complaints come in.

4. WHEN AND HOW DO YOU CUT YOUR LOSSES? Despite your best efforts the whole thing will become obsolete or unmaintainable, sooner or later (hopefully later). As in point #1, have some idea which you're building, and at what point do you deprecate it to build something better. (This is the hardest part for many organizations; why can't the floor wax also be a salad dressing?) At some point make a plan, refactor your code base -- over time! -- to separate the parts you'll keep from the parts you don't need, and toss out the latter. If a radical rewrite is the only way to go, bite the bullet and do it, with appropriate safe-guards like regression tests. If you can't evolve or replace your product, a competitor -- maybe within your own organization -- will do it for you.

That's my long-winded advice, from someone who's watched many "successful" and "unsuccessful" projects die. Nearly all in-house software is a Potemkin village designed to keep the tzars happy. If the tzars aren't happy, the fake village is set ablaze and you, the fake peasants, go to Siberia. The only real question is how to keep your frantic peasant dance going as long as possible without dying of exhaustion or being sent to Siberia.

TL;DR: Plan the limits, goals, requirements, and large-scale architecture up front (erroneously called "waterfall"). But planning never really ends; stay agile to correct your course or take advantage of opportunities ... and be willing to throw the whole thing away if warranted. Also, keep your resume updated.


The Other Side of Diversity In Tech 441

An anonymous reader writes: We frequently discuss diversity in the tech industry, and all the initiatives getting underway to encourage women and minorities to enter (and stay in) the field. The prevailing theme is that this will be good for companies, good for innovation, and good for the future of technology. While that's true, greater representation will also be good for the individuals themselves. Erica Joy has been in IT for a long time, and she's worked in many of the industry hotspots. She's written an insightful article on how the lack of diversity has affected her throughout her career. An excerpt: "Unfortunately, my workplace is homogenous and so are my surroundings. I feel different everywhere. I go to work and I stick out like a sore thumb. ... I feel like I've lost my entire cultural identity in effort to be part of the culture I've spent the majority of the last decade in."

Submission + - Maps Suggest Marco Polo May Have "Discovered" America 1

An anonymous reader writes: For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an “as told to” penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo’s journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps. If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus.

Submission + - NASA asks Boeing, SpaceX to stop work on next-gen space taxi

BarbaraHudson writes: Due to a challenge by Sierra Nevada, NASA has asked the winners for the next earth-to-orbit launch vehicles to halt work, at least temporarily.

After rewarding Boeing and SpaceX with the contracts to build the spacecrafts NASA is now asking the companies to stop their work on the project.

The move comes after aerospace company Sierra Nevada filed a protest of the decision after losing out on the bid.

Sierra Nevada was competing against Boeing and SpaceX for a share of the $6.8 billion CCP contracts. The contracts will cover all phases of development as well as testing and operational flights. Each contract will cover a minimum of two flights and a maximum of four, with each agency required to have one test flight with a NASA representative on board.

On Sept. 16, NASA announced who the winners were of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts. Sierra Nevada then filed a protest with the GAO on Sept. 26, and issued a statement saying the protest was asking for: “a further detailed review and evaluation of the submitted proposals and capabilities.”

According to NASA’s Public Affairs Office, this legal protest stops all work currently being done under these contracts. However, officials have not commented on whether-or-not the companies can continue working if they are using private funds.

Sierra Nevada's orbiter resembles a mini space shuttle. That alone (remember the problems with the tiles) should have been enough to disqualify them.

Comment Re:This again... (Score 2) 227

"On average, girls are - for whatever reason - less interested in math, physics, chemistry. ... Likely, these preferences are based in biology ..."

The article said none of this. In fact, it freely acknowledged social pressures that discourage women from entering or staying in tech. It's not unreasonable to suppose stories from women in tech discourage the next generation from even attempting to enter computer-related fields. It helps to read the freaking article.

As others have said, people -- mostly male upper-class Europeans -- have used biology to justify slavery, denying women/minorities the vote, giving harsher sentences to black or Eastern European defendants, and so on. (And I'm not even Godwinning.) Read Steven J. Gould's _The Mismeasure of Man_, then read Carol Tavris's _The Mismeasure of Woman_.

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