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Comment Python, or ... (Score 2) 465

First suggestion: Python. Lot's of nice stuff for science (NumPy, SciPy), lots of other goodies, easy to learn, many people to ask or places to get help from. Plus you can explore data interactively ("Yes Wedesday, play with your data!").

Beyond that: CERN uses a lot of Java (sorry folks, true), they have good (and fast) tools I do a project right now where I am using Jython since it is supported by the main (Java) software I have to use. I like jhepwork/SCaVis quite a bit, if you are into plotting stuff on Java.

If you have extra free time and want to learn how to program well? I'd learn something like Smalltalk (for OOP concepts) and/or Haskell (functional programming). Scientists are often lousy programmers because they often do not learn programming properly, and/or the language allows them to get away with bad programming (I know, every language allows bad programmers to write bad code, but some make it easier than others).

So, stick with Python, it works really well, is modern, and has good support. Plus you can read your code in 5 years time ...

What do I program in? Python (and Jython), Perl, C, IDL (yickes!), Smalltalk, Matlab, Mathematica. I know some Lisp, but that's just for fun. And whatever allows me to load sketches on an Arduino. I like Python (get's stuff done) and Smalltalk (works actually like I think - passing messages between objects).

Use whatever works and you don't hate :-)

Comment Re:Working with his father... (Score 1) 247

Whatever the role of father and son may be in the end, one thing does not surprise me:

There is a lot of "common knowledge" and many a "generally known fact" in many science fields that, under close examination, turn out to be conjecture or anecdotal evidence (= science lore) rather than proven fact. How do I know? I work in science myself, and I fell in that trap more than once.

That's not a sign of bad science, but rather of intellectual laziness, maybe of an occasional overzealous reverence to the grand figures in a given speciality, or sometimes even ignorance. Working in science means never to forget to ask "why?", even in places where the answer may seem so obvious.

Maybe it is a sing of the times (lots of data, pressure to publish and write/win proposals among them) that scientists don't have enough time any more to sit down and think - or at least they think they do not have that time.

But to me "missing the obvious" also offers hope: Even in the most obvious places there may be, and usually are, treasures to be found. So it's not always necessary to run after the latest science fad. Everywhere there may be cool things to discover, right under your nose.

Comment Simple: Greed! (Score 1) 549

Short answer: Producing hearing aids is not super cheap, but we are also getting massively overcharged. (So, small lot size production costs may play a role.)

When one of my kids needed aids, our ENT said: "If you know somebody in Hong Kong, or someone who travels there, have them buy the aids for you there. They are produced in Asia, and you can basically buy them at cost. All name brands, all genuine. The companies just mark them up that much when they sell them here."

I looked into it (have an uncle who flies to that area twice a year), and boy, would you be surprised! Markup of the actual devices when coming to Western markets (wholesale) is is around 100%-150%, and when adding services (which means fitting/programming them) 150%-200%, or even more. So, if you buy two digital ones, it may still be cheaper to vacation over there and get them yourself. Or pay up to triple price at home. I just checked - still true.

I wound up not doing that because I could get the service for free - so I got them wholesale (and did not bother my uncle who is a great businessman but rather technophobe - not the person to have buy expensive electronic equipment for you). I am sure my health insurance would not let me do even that, but at that time I had to pay for them myself anyways.

So, that was the advice from a well-connected and well-regarded ENT, and I found it to be true.

In the end: we get fleeced. Simple as that.

Comment Have a look at TING (Score 1) 288

Recently started Ting ( , from venerable ) is an interesting MVNO. Since it is backed by an "old" company, I expect them to stick around as long as it works out for them in the first place.

You pay what you use each month depending on what tier you fall in separately for voice, texts, and data. Each device you have registered is $6 a month, but you have to buy your device from them at pretty much full cost. But frankly, over time that comes out much cheaper (I have been doing this for many years - I tend not to break my phones, though).

Works great if you have variable usage patterns and are not a really heavy user. Their data is a bit expensive, but I have read that they are working it and point their fingers at Spring charging them too much to begin with. Use home/free other Wifi if you can, and it's all good. No iPhone, but Samsung S3.

Yes, I know it's Sprint, which many don't like. But so far (joined right when they started) it has worked great, and I have cut my monthly cell phone expenses (3 lines) to $60-$80, half of what I paid before. We are mid-level users, using home-wifi if we can.

Cellphone addicts are, of course, better served by an all-unlimited plan from the big firms. I just don't see the point of supporting their profit margins that much.

Comment Re:Like the alternative is so much better (Score 1) 315

I would not be surprised to hear that they accidentally screwed up their systems all by themselves and are now just too afraid/ashamed (rightfully so) to admit that they had been really, really, really stupid. "Hey, we can't run a website (let alone a secure one?!), but give us all your money anyway". Next thing they will charge you for logging into their site. Just wait ...

Comment Let's give them some serious thought ... (Score 2) 698

First a disclaimer: in my household we have to buy high-powered BTE every 4 years or so, so I am close to the subject.

So, let's see:

First off, we should discern between medically useful features and convenience features, realizing that there is no sharp line between them. We buy fully digital, high-power BTE aids with complex programming capabilities, and those aids (which are pretty much top of the line when it comes to their intended function, i.e., help the wearer hear as well as possible) do not cost $8000 a pair. Not even close - try about half that. We forego bluetooth (but not FM), a gazillion programs, microscopic sizes the size of a fly head (not available of you are profoundly deaf anyways) and God knows what else for pooling our resources (= $$$) into maximum power and amplification/programming capabilities. I suppose we get the Ferrari, not the Lamborghini, if you wish. A lot of cost goes into stuff you may not need (but may want just as much as you want an iPad you probably don't need).

Second, there is significant markup when you buy retail - because you cannot just buy the aid, you also buy the service to have the aid fitted to you. That cost is never broken out, but you would be surprised how much your audiologist might charge you there. Definitely an eye opener. Seems a bit like a cartel, really.

Third, I will give hearing aid companies that they (at least some of them) do a lot of R&D. As I said, we need to get cutting edge aids, and so far I have seen significant improvements over the years. Now that may change (soon??), thoguh I have to say there is still plenty to be done to make BTE aids better performing. Same goes for convenience, but I do not want to pay that price.

Fourth, there seems to be an uptick in insurance companies to pay for aids (ours has not in the past). At least for children and young adults I think it is flat out a crime not to pay for aids.

Fifth: If you really want to be upset you should ask what the production cost of those aids is, and what the resulting markup is. Would want you to become a maker of BTE aids in an instant. But, fo course, that is where capitalism sort of fails: this is a very high entry market. To play, you need to invest a lot of money and a lot of time. And once you made it, you can fleece (ahem, charge) your customers accordingly.

So, are they too expensive? A lot of them are, but if you are smart about it, you can save thousands of dollars or euros (the story is identical in Europe) and still get the aid you want with full warranty. BTW, I heard they are (much) cheaper in Asia.

I do agree,however, in that I wonder whether the "digital gains" are now starting to peter off, and the main advances will be in software only. Well, I suppose I will find out again next year ...

Comment Re:Budget Cuts and the JWT (Score 1) 185

If I remember correctly, six months ago it was to cost 5 billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) for a 2014 launch date. If the launch slips (and believe me, it will), you can add a couple of $100M (that's several $100,000,000) before all is said and done. Just look at the Mars Science Laboratory rover to learn how it is done. $64M is peanuts when it comes to that.

Comment What value does Facebook really have? (Score 1) 470

Well, your uses of Facebook are all very good (same here, BTW). And, as is being pointed out by other posts, the fact that we all (typically) sign on with our real names has helped foster these uses.

From Facebook's perspective, though, this is a still a problem - it does not create any revenue. And revenue is what they need. And they will do pretty much anything they can do to make money, eventually. Anyway, I digress.

There is one point the article actually does not make, and an ironic one at that. Goldman Sachs, the epitome of a useless company (what tangible product do they really ultimately create other than wealth for themselves?) financing Facebook, which, economically speaking, is equally useless. I am not saying it's useless to you and me as a nice tool to stay/get in touch with people But economic value? Just factor in all those hours lost at work by people playing FarmVille ...

Facebook has it's value (pun intended). But the all-emcompassing internet platform it strives to be?? Not a comforting thought, and likely (hopefully!) not a realistic one, either.

Comment There is more to it. (Score 1) 680

What is being said in the article is almost verbatim true for physics as well. Poorly taught, even more poorly understood by almost anyone (including teachers).

Mathematics is much more fundamental than physics, no doubt. Very good points are made here. But (ironically?), you could replace "math" with "physics" in the article and most of it would be true just as well.

I don't hold hope that especially Americans will ever get this, though, either for math, or for other STEM fields. Because it's "too hard". Being ignorant is just too damn easy, if you ask me.

Heck, I'd be happy if people at least would get math.

Comment Re:Sigh again (Score 1) 711

I don't have the feeling that ADHD is being swept under the rug. Quite the contrary. If your kid happens to have have something other than ADHD, it is now that kid that is being swept under the rug because it does not have the condition "en vogue".

Unfortunately that is my personal experience. This does neither do justice to the kids who really have ADHD and need help (I am not surprised if there are are many misdiagnosed cases) nor to the kids who have any other kind of condition or need, whatever they may be.

I do see parents, teachers, and schools all to easily (and often willingly) choose the convenient way of just handing out a pill without really trying to find what out is going on and what the best way is to address the situation. That often requires work, and lots of it. If your specific problem is easy to address, count your blessings - not all of us are so lucky.

It may well be that ADHD is misunderstood. Welcome to the club. But frankly, I get the feeling that most people don't understand what a "normal" childhood should/could look like, either.

Submission + - Texas Stimulus Rebate Website Blues

Kiliani writes: Texas today started (and ended) its $23 million Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program funded with federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. The program was to allow Texans to reserve rebates of up to several $100 for up to two new appliances. The user experience for Texans was an unmitigated disaster. During the roughly 7 hours that funds were available, the rebate website was completely overwhelmed by the traffic, as was the toll-free number with an alleged 550 operators standing by. Texas spent $876,525 on this, but the lost productivity of Texans for hours trying to reserve a rebate likely rivaled if not exceeded the savings offered. It appears Texas may not have hired a competent company to execute the program. I am sure slashdotters have opinions about what it would take (and cost) to put up a working website that essentially gives away $23 million to 25 million Texans as long as they use the money to buy new, energy-efficient appliances.

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