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Comment Re:Too small a sample size (Score 2, Informative) 260

Phase III trials in this situation would assess the efficacy of this treatment relative to the current standard of care. The whole point of phase III is to figure out whether the drug is at least as effective as the current standard and, as you correctly state, it would be medically unethical to administer a placebo treatment to a cancer patient.

Comment Re:So it's a fnacy nmae (Score 2, Interesting) 1345

The fact is, and that I keep on bringing up in these discussions, is that most education is quite useless and a waste of time for most people. For example, most medical doctors are required to take "science" courses like biochemistry even though they don't plan on becoming biochemists. It's quite useless, but to those people who have passed the course they often rationalize its importance (sometimes with lame reasons like it helps push their competition outside of the bell curve).

FWIW, as someone in the middle of a medical education, I can tell you that while the vast majority of the stuff in basic science courses isn't particularly applicable, some of the basics are indeed very important. My chemistry and biology courses (to include biochem) allow me to understand why medications that are quaternary amines such as Pyridostigmine don't usually cross the blood-brain barrier, why certain medications exhibit different efficacy in various parts of the body due to pH differences, and why G protein-coupled receptors are both slower and diverse in their actions than ionotropic receptors. Our curriculum is based on the assumption that we already have a fundamental understanding of physics, biology, and chemistry, and thus can understand the principles underlying physiological and pharmacological actions. To put it another way, undergrad put a lot of stuff in my mental toolbox that I'll likely never need, but thus far I've always had the tool for the job given to me in my training. cheers.

Comment Smaller Bundles (Score 1) 334

I've been saying for years that if they offered a sort of Science/Technology/Learning bundle (i.e. Discovery channels, Learning channels, History, Military), I'd sign up in a heartbeat. What I don't want to do is pay for MTV, ESPN, and a couple of hundred other channels in which I have no interest. Perhaps the cable industry will have to change a lifelong habit and start giving a damn about what their customers want?

Comment Re:Respect (Score 4, Informative) 132

All true. However the antibiotic usage in humans is vastly outweighed by the antibiotic usage in livestock. One of my med-school courses cited an instance in...Denmark, I believe it was. The annual human consumption of an antibiotic came to something like 25kg that year. Consumption of an analogous antibiotic in livestock for that same year was something on the order of 25,000kg. Over-prescription of antibiotics for CYA or, more commonly, to patients who aren't satisfied until they've receive an antibiotic for their viral (sigh) infection is certainly a problem. Before we get too worked up over that, however, let's stop feeding the drugs to the damned cows, pigs, and chickens!

Submission + - PHP 5 in Practice

Michael J. Ross writes: "Computer programming books come in all varieties, but there are at least four general categories: introductory texts, which typically have the lowest content per page; language references, which have become increasingly supplanted by online sources; "advanced" treatments, which are often a mishmash of errata-riddled articles; and "how-to" books, usually at the intermediate level, and sometimes presented as "cookbooks." It is that last category that has been growing in popularity, and for good reason: When an experienced software developer needs assistance, it is rarely for language syntax, but instead a desire to see how someone else solved a specific problem. For solutions using the PHP language, one source of information is PHP 5 in Practice.

The book was authored by Elliott White III and Jonathan D. Eisenhamer, and put out in July 2006 by Sams Publishing (an imprint of Pearson Education), under the ISBN 0672328887. Given today's standards of hefty technical books, this particular one is relatively light, weighing in at 456 pages, which are organized into an introduction, numerous chapters, and three appendices.

Its introduction is more interesting than that of most similar books, whose introductions usually consist of formatting conventions and explanations as to why the book was written — all such content providing little to no value to the impatient programmer facing a deadline, and invariably ignored (the content, that is, not the deadline).

White and Eisenhamer took a refreshingly different tack, and chose instead to explain their use of coding standards, comments and whitespace, braces and parentheses, PHP short tags, PHP mode, and other language considerations that are more useful than the typical rundown of somewhat childish icons used in other texts, such as light bulbs and red warning signs.

Switching to the other end of the book, we find three appendices. The first one briefly discusses issues one might face in migrating from PHP version 4 to 5. The second introduces the Standard PHP Library (SPL), and the objects related to its primary design pattern, the Iterator. The third appendix discusses what composes the bulk of output from my PHP programs: error messages. Seriously, this appendix is worth reading, if only for the suggestions as to what to look for when you encounter some of the most common PHP error messages.

The bulk of the book's material is divided into 20 chapters, which are themselves divided into two parts: PHP internals, and applications. The internals are: strings, numbers, time and date, variables, arrays, functions, classes and objects, and files and directories. Starting off with a discussion of strings, might seem odd to the neophyte programmer, but to the veteran who has had to learn several languages during their career, the choice makes a lot of sense. There must be countless developers out there who, being fluent in the C language and object-oriented concepts, jumped into writing their first C++ program, and had to hit the books for the first time when they wanted to do some non-array-based string handling.

The book's second part covers some of the most common applications in PHP programming: Web page creation (using XHTML and CSS), Web form handling, data validation and standardization, sessions and user tracking, Web services and other protocols, relational databases and other data storage methods, e-mail, XML, images, error reporting and debugging, and user authentication and encryption. That last chapter, in the next edition, should be relocated so that it precedes or follows the chapter on sessions and user tracking.

Many of the chapters begin with a "Quick Hits" section, which briefly summarizes how to perform many of the most common and essential tasks related to that chapter's topic. For instance, in the chapter covering the use of variables, this first section explains how to: check if a variable has no value or if it is empty (not synonymous in PHP), undefine a variable, cast it to a certain data type, and do the same thing for a value. There is one minor erratum that should be noted: On page 71, in the first "Quick Hit," it reads "a variable has bee. given a value." ("been"'s "n" ended too soon.)

Each section within the chapter briefly explains the problem domain, and then presents sample code to solve the given problem. The code itself is fairly well commented, and the variable names are adequately descriptive (unlike in some programming books, whose coding standards border on the criminal).

All in all, the book offers a lot of worthwhile solutions to a wide range of problems, and does so in a straightforward manner. It is for this reason that it is not evident as to why this particular PHP title has received so little notice. For instance, on, it has received only one reader review, as of this writing, and does not even make it into the top quarter million books ranked in sales by It is a pity, because the book deserves much more attention.

Even though this book is to be recommended, and is packed with code and text that are well worth studying, it has one unmistakable weakness for which this writer can think of no adequate justification. The book contains almost no illustrations, even when they are clearly called for — in fact, especially in those cases. For instance, the section that shows how to generate a calendar, does not show a calendar! The code is present, but the sample output — which is what the poor reader would appreciate, to see the results of the code — is missing.

Granted, an absence of figures and screenshots might be understandable for the first part of the book, which covers the PHP language itself. But the second part, covering applications, has far too many unillustrated PHP scripts. These include sections focusing on drop-down menus, progress bars, and graphical charts Web forms. In the last chapter, there is a section with code that generates captchas, but the reader is not shown what they look like. The entire 18th chapter is devoted to images, but contains not a single one! I cannot imagine why the authors and/or publisher chose to leave out these essential graphics. Was it to save money? Whatever the reason, it was a significant mistake, and one that should be corrected in the next edition.

Readers who agree with this assessment, or who have other thoughts concerning this otherwise excellent book, can leave feedback via the book's Web page on the Web site for Sams Publishing. This page offers details on the book, a description and table of contents, links for requesting instructor or review copies, and a tool for searching the book's contents within the Safari online technical library. The book's introduction states that the Web site hosts all of the code listings, as well as a list of errata. Yet, I was unable to find either one. (Sadly, the Pearson Education sites are still some of the least usable in the technical book publishing world.) Much better results were obtained on Eli White's site.

Despite an inexcusable and almost complete lack of needed illustrations, PHP 5 in Practice is possibly one of the most meaty, immediately useful, and fluff-free PHP books available. No serious PHP programmer should be without it.

Michael J. Ross is a Web consultant, freelance writer, and the editor of's free newsletter. He can be reached at, hosted by SiteGround."
The Internet

Submission + - Bloggers are lonely geeks, eh?

FrenchyinCT writes: "I don't know if this guy is trance-channeling the still-living soul of Clifford Stoll or what, but a Calgary professor claims that bloggers are lonely geeks living in a fantasy world in his new book called "Blogosphere: The New Political Arena." I'd have thought we've put behind us the whole poor-pathetic-Internet-geek thing but I guess we haven't. This guy appears to rehash all the old arguments offered ten years ago about people who were on the Net a lot. He slams the "support" that people get from their fellow bloggers and readers when tragedy strikes, as though those people aren't real. He thinks bloggers are living in a world of 'make believe.' So, raise your hand if you'd like his book for your birthday this year...since you will probably otherwise be living in your parents' basement with a much cooler avatar than you on Second Life."
Portables (Games)

Submission + - Dell Hints at Gaming Handheld

Matthias777 writes: At Dell's European Innovation event in Marbella, Spain, the company's global gaming chief revealed that there may be a gaming handheld device in the future, but declined to go into great detail. In light of Dell's purchase of Alienware last year, it would seem that they have a determined focus on the gaming market and are actively working to further establish their brand among the gaming demographic. A well-marketed quality gaming handheld from a company like Dell would certainly be more than a token offering to the everyday gamer.
The Courts

Submission + - Can I be sued for quitting?

An anonymous reader writes: I work at a large hosting company in Texas and recently decided to go work for a smaller competitor. I had a great relationship with my employer and wanted to leave on good terms. I felt the new company had just gotten too large and I didn't like working there anymore, I gave them two weeks notice in writing. They were really upset when I insisted on leaving and one week into my last two weeks the V.P. of Sales told me the company was suing me for leaving and suing my new employer for hiring me. They then escorted me out of the building. I was shocked. Should I hire an attorney? Has anybody ever heard of this happening? Do they have any legal basis for suing me? I never signed any non-compete or employment agreement.
Role Playing (Games)

Submission + - Creative Commons Writing Project for GMs

Martin Ralya writes: "Treasure Tables has just kicked off a Creative Commons collaborative writing project for RPG game masters: the Wiki-to-PDF project. For the next two weeks, the project is open to anyone who's interested in writing about two iconic topics: finding players and problem players. The finished products will be published on Treasure Tables as free PDFs for the GMing community."

Submission + - Ethics of online cheating

An anonymous reader writes: This guy puts the hate on his son for mucking up his peecee while installing a WoW patch/cheat. In additional to moralizing on what has become a part of the game itself, he's seems pretty heavy handed with the solution:
"It seems that many of the players on Battlenet install hacks, patches or cracks that enable them to cheat (spy on other players, see things they shouldn't, etc.) My son and his buddies were tired of losing to these cheaters, so he decided that he would just become one himself (that is a whole other character issue we have dealt with.)In his pursuit of a crack, he was apparently presented with one of those "You've got spyware installed! Download this program to fix it!" popup ads. I guess he knew he was treading on dangerous ground and thought that perhaps he had messed up and should try to fix it, when in fact there wasn't really anything wrong at all. He ended up installing Anti-Verminiser, one of the most notorious lieware programs out there. . . . The result was I told my son that he was going to lose everything he had on the computer, all his maps, saved games, videos he had made, and more. Like we say at the office when someone brings in an infected computer, it was time to "format C:". And that is exactly what happened. He lost it all."
What do the Slashdotters think? What would you tell your offspring (*shudder*) about online cheats? Was this solution merited on a technical level, or just revengeful overkill?
United States

U.S. To Certify Labs For Testing E-Voting Machines 75

InternetVoting writes "In a clear counter to the recent criticisms of secrecy involving Ciber labs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued recommendations (pdf) to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). NIST recommends the accreditation of two labs, iBeta Quality Assurance and SysTest Labs. The recommendation, emphasizing the need for transparency, includes on-site assessment reports, lab responses, and on-site reviews for each lab. These reports shed much needed light into the process of voting machine certification. Learn more from the Q&As About NIST Evaluation of Laboratories that Test Voting Systems."
XBox (Games)

Submission + - Microsoft's XNA: A Primer

simoniker writes: Over at education site Game Career Guide, they've got an in-depth primer of Microsoft's XNA, including interviews with Julie Ellen and Joe Nalewabau of Microsoft about the PC and Xbox 360 indie/student homebrew construction tool, as well as chats with two developers (Benjamin Nitschke and Alex Okafor) who have worked with XNA to some notable effect. Microsoft's Ellie claims of the efforts: "Homebrew and independent developers are often very talented and have lots of creative ideas. Being able to officially write games directly for a retail console right at home is a first and could be very empowering for them. For the homebrew and indie scene to succeed we need to provide two things: great tools and access to a large audience. We're working on both."

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"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." -- The Wizard Of Oz