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Comment Re:Hypersupervised programming? (Score 1) 126

In my job, we do the equivalent of 'mob programming' at the start of a project, or when implementing something interesting, such as a complex framework component intended to be reused by all the developers. The other 80% of the time, it's far more efficient to sit at your desk, headphones on, and bang out code that is integrated at appropriate intervals. This assumes that we are all writing modular and structured code, otherwise, good luck with integration.

Submission + - MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered (

An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot’s legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."

Comment Re:They've been scammed (Score 1) 193

It's a hell of a lot better than Microsoft's previous formats, which were practically binary-only, and which were proprietary, meaning no one was legally allowed to write software that output files in that format. OPen Document format is similar to ODF, in that it's basically a zipped XML file, which contains enough data to read and make sense of the entire document, in most cases. It's not hard to write apps that read, write and process that data, nor is it illegal to do so.

I agree that in some cases, the 'standard' is convoluted and contains edge cases that make it nearly impossible to render OpenXML documents 100% accurately, however, it is quite possible to produce valid OpenXML documents using any decent programming tools.

As far as standards that are a "complicated mess", I really don't need to look much past HTML / CSS. The scope of what HTML can do is supposed to be much less than the entire Office suite of software, however, there are still major incompatibilities and unsupported features for all browsers. (of course, IE is a a major source of issues, but Safari does make me want to cry sometimes)


The Sun Unleashes Coronal Mass Ejection At Earth 220

astroengine writes "Yesterday morning, at 08:55 UT, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a C3-class flare erupt inside a sunspot cluster. 100,000 kilometers away, deep within the solar atmosphere (the corona), an extended magnetic field filled with cool plasma forming a dark ribbon across the face of the sun (a feature known as a 'filament') erupted at the exact same time. It seems very likely that both eruptions were connected after a powerful shock wave produced by the flare destabilized the filament, causing the eruption. A second solar observatory, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, then spotted a huge coronal mass ejection blast into space, straight in the direction of Earth. Solar physicists have calculated that this magnetic bubble filled with energetic particles should hit Earth on August 3, so look out for some intense aurorae — a solar storm is coming."

Comment Lowering the burden of proof (Score 1) 849

The intention of this, and many similar laws that have materialized in recent years is to effectively lower the burden of proof for detaining, questioning and ultimately convicting anyone who may or may be planning to 'perform terrorist acts' - an overly broad definition of which actually includes anyone who disagrees with current political thinking.
For example, under standard criminal law, suspects need to have actually performed a crime to be prosecuted.
Without an actual crime, there is the lesser charge of 'conspiring' to commit a crime. However, you still need strong evidence that some kind of criminal activity has, or is about to take place.
Laws like this one only require someone to publicly oppose the government, and unless they are a registered (in which case they are pretty much screwed anyway - their activities will no doubt be scrutinised), they can be detained without any evidence that they are actually considering doing anything of a crimnal nature.
This is, in my opinion anyway, a way of implementing harsh penalties for 'thought crime'. The only effect will be to cause resentment and to drive any non-mainstream political movements underground.

Submission + - OpenOffice tops 20% market share in Germany (

hweimer writes: A novel study analyzes the install base of various office packages among German users. While Microsoft Office comes out top (72%), open source rival OpenOffice is already installed on 21.5% of all PCs and growing. The authors use a clever method to determine the installed office suites of millions of web users: they look for the availability of characteristic fonts being shipped with the various suites. What surprised me the most is that they found hardly any difference in the numbers for home and business users.

Submission + - And Now, The Animated News

theodp writes: 'You have a lot of missing images, in the TV, in the news reporting,' explains billionaire Jimmy Lai. It's a gap that Lai's Next Media intends to fill with its animated news service. Artists lift details from news photos while actors in motion sensor suits re-create action sequences of stories making headlines. Animators graft cartoon avatars to the live-motion action, and the stories hit the Web. When news agencies didn't have footage of scenes from the Tiger Woods car crash, Lai's team raced to put together animation dramatizing the incident that became a YouTube sensation. Thus far, Lai has been denied a television license, but with or without his own station, he thinks his animations are headed for televisions worldwide. His company is currently in talks with media organizations to churn out news animations on demand using Next Media's graphic artists and software tools.

Submission + - SPAM: New adhesive device could let humans walk on walls

FiReaNGeL writes: "Could humans one day walk on walls, like Spider-Man? A palm-sized device invented at Cornell that uses water surface tension as an adhesive bond just might make it possible. The device consists of a flat plate patterned with holes, each on the order of microns (one-millionth of a meter). A bottom plate holds a liquid reservoir, and in the middle is another porous layer. An electric field applied by a common 9-volt battery pumps water through the device and causes droplets to squeeze through the top layer. The surface tension of the exposed droplets makes the device grip another surface – much the way two wet glass slides stick together. To turn the adhesion off, the electric field is simply reversed, and the water is pulled back through the pores, breaking the tiny "bridges" created between the device and the other surface by the individual droplets."
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Political Censorship in OZ

An anonymous reader writes: The South Australian Government has imposed political censorship on it's residents in one of the first Dictatorial actions by a susposedly democratic government.

The article on the ( web site goes on to explain that anyone who writes anything online during the election period must include their full name and post code. This law passed late last year in what appears to be an amazing attempt to stiffle, intimidate and prevent the general public from expressing an opinion on the state of the political system in that state. How is it possible that in Australia in the 21st century that this is allowed to happen? This action further gives credence to the calls from around Australia to get rid of the state governments all together.

One wonders if this is this is an indication of how draconian the broadband filter porposed by the federal government is going to make life in the digital age for us residents in Australia.

Submission + - South Australia bans anonymous election comments (

An anonymous reader writes: The state of South Australia has passed a law that will make it illegal to anonymously comment about an election candidate, political party or election issue — either online, on television or in a newspaper. Reaction to the law has been consistent, with privacy, legal and security experts claiming they understand the good intentions behind the law but agree that in reality, the law cannot be enforced. Free speech advocates called it "totally impractical, totally unworkable and very misguided." The law appears to apply to Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites although the wording is vague.

Submission + - SPAM: NASA moves quickly to advance commercial space ops

coondoggie writes: NASA today moved quickly to advance its role as commercial space entrepreneur by awarding $50 million to five companies who could help design and build future spacecraft that could take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. During its 2011 budget rollout today NASA said if private companies can develop safe, solid spaceships, astronauts could use them as early 2016. As part of its 2011 budget request, NASA asked for $6 billion over five years to spur the development of American commercial human spaceflight vehicles. As the space shuttle retires this year, NASA will have to use other means to get its astronauts to the ISS.
[spam URL stripped]

Link to Original Source

Comment Economics versus Job Satisfaction (Score 2, Insightful) 364

The sentiment portrayed by the author of that article is a very common one among IT workers. That somehow, our best efforts are undermined by the need for our work to be costed, audited and planned by external (to us) business interests.
I personally try and produce code that meets and exceeds the business requirement, and does so within the time-frame set by the business. The problem, I think is that software engineers, in general, are a bunch of perfectionists, and we like to hold off announcing a 'final version' until the last possible moment. (Google Mail was in beta for how long?)

What I have come to realize, though, is that it is not just the IT departments that feel this way. In general, there are some people in every department, of every company that belive that their performance would improve if only they had a greater measure of self-determination. Perhaps the number of people who feel this way is highest in IT, but it is certainly not exclusive to IT.
So what it comes down to, I feel, is that we are slowly drifting towards a business culture where the individual has more control over their job, and where sucess is measured by job satisfaction instead of economics.

At least, that's the direction I hope we are heading in.

Comment Re:Fugly (Score 1) 494


Say what you like about the Sanyo, it is a pretty terrible looking bike, but the gocycle is definately as ugly, if not worse. On top of that, the gocycle looks like it would break in half if it ever hit a speed bump.


The Murky Origins of Zork's Name 70

mjn writes "Computational media researcher Nick Montfort traces the murky origins of Zork's name. It's well known that the word was used in MIT hacker jargon around that time, but how did it get there? Candidates are the term 'zorch' from late 1950s DIY electronics slang, the use of the term as a placeholder in some early 1970s textbooks, the typo a QWERTY user would get if he typed 'work' on an AZERTY keyboard, and several uses in obscure sci-fi. No solid answers so far, though, as there are problems with many of the possible explanations that would have made MIT hackers unlikely to have run across them at the right time."

Comment Re:Precisely. (Score 1) 597

If you only have a single task to do, and weeks to do it, then you are 1) not being very prducttive, and 2) selling yourself short.
In every job I've had, I have always worked simultaneously on several projects, along with having to deal with client issues, documentation, R&D for the next version, meetings etc. You just need to throw yourself at more tasks, until you reach a level where you don't find yourself procrastinating for more than a few minutes at a time.

This is how I develop, and it works very well. My peers and managers are happy, because I am productive. I am happy because I don't feel like I'm procrastinating for long periods. Too much 'sitting on your hands' is boring, it makes the days drag on, and is not really helping you write good code. For me, that is what job satisfaction is all about.

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