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Comment Nonfiction R Us (Score 1) 259

"Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead" - Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman. Terrific so far. Rich with tech details.

"American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What to Do About It" - Jennifer Stisa Granick. 1984 has arrived. Time to face the enema.

"Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History" - Stephen Jay Gould. I once visited the Shale in the rain. It made many thousands of 100 million year old fossils clearly visible. An amazing experience.

"Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age" - Sherry Turkle. I love language and ideas too much to merely broadcast my life online.

Comment Where's the FCC? (Score 3, Interesting) 421

This kind of retaliation is no different from a cellphone service provider jamming your RF signal. The FCC (if we still had one) should step in and either fine the manufacturer for retaliatory misbehavior, or punitively shut down their internet access for a nominal period (at least a week) for abusing the privilege of being online.

Doing this periodically would send a really constructive message to many others who routinely abuse others on the net, be they bad businesses or just trolls. Access to the net is a privilege, not a right.

Comment Just coding is no longer sufficient (Score 2) 352

According to the US code:

"Based on the current version of the Handbook, the fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation. Thus, a petitioner may not rely solely on the Handbook to meet its burden when seeking to sponsor a beneficiary for a computer programmer position. Instead, a petitioner must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation as defined by 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(ii) that also meets one of the criteria
  at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii). Section 214(i)(1) of the INA; see also Royal Siam Corp. v. Chertoff, 484 F.3d 139, 147 (1st Cir. 2007).8."

Now you must offer more than a 2 year degree and no experience. You must somehow substantiate that you possess expertise. You should be "prominent", or a "recognized authority", or expert (as demonstrated by referreed publications or a thesis).

Your occupation must "require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in fields of human endeavor including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts, and which requires the attainment of a bachelor's degree or higher in a specific specialty, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States."

Comment Coding is easy. Design is hard. (Score 1) 587

Almost all successful software dev isn't about algorithms; it's business process engineering. If you don't understand how the business works now and how it needs to work in the future, your software will fail no matter how fast or cheap it's made.

Obviously business process design requires domain expertise but it really lives or dies on the presence of *outstanding* communication skills. If the actors don't exchange *all* the essential requirements and business dependencies, the deliverable will hit the wrong target. And the cost of failure is a lot higher than the savings from outsourcing.

This essential exchange of info is hampered badly by domain inexperience, distance, and latency between provider and consumer. Not only do comm skills enable focus on the desired goals, but also on the (many) unspoken needs and dependencies that often decide whether a deliverable actually plugs the big holes in the business' ship or the water pours through at will. I think US businesses have only discovered this recently (in the past decade) after many 'projects thrown over the ocean' have come back to haunt them as zombie projects (half dead creatures that suck the life out of you but somehow can't be killed). Until this need can be addressed internationally, the value of oursourcing forever will be limited.

Comment Two Needs: Overviews of New Tools And New Math (Score 1) 435

As a ~60 year old developer, I've followed two major shifts since I began as a pro (in 1986).

First, Dev tools have become much bigger and more interdependent and mastery of the dev idioms takes longer now and can no longer be learned from books, as was once possible for C/Unix. Frameworks are used a lot more now (for better or worse), and S/W deliverables now depend on mixtures of languages and their libraries / components, third party APIs, and O/S service components / stacks. This requires broader awareness of the S/W ecosystem but allows less time for mastery of each component, since the ecosystem is so vast and the components change often.

Second, there are more forms of computing now that require a "deep dive" technically. These usually demand deeper skills in math, statistics, engineering, and maybe hardware (e.g. DSP, image processing, computer vision, real time O/S and Arduino, music, crypto, machine learning, or graphics). The classic academic CS preparation I got before 1990 did not prepare me to work in this space foundationally, and I've had to learn the math through remedial courses or self instruction.

So I guess I'm suggesting that any resource that can provide a good clear intro overview of A) software stacks and ecosystems, or B) the math and engineering beneath advanced tech subjects, I'd find both of these helpful.

A good example of this is Michael Nielsen's web site "Neural Nets and Deep Learning", which provides an excellent overview of those two topics while minimizing the jargon, arcane math notation, and flummery that so often pervades tech talk. Another example is Lyons' excellent book for non-engineers, 'Understanding Digital Signal Processing'. I'd love to see more material like those.

Comment Don't just mine me. Help me SEARCH. (Score 1) 45

It'd be awfully nice if the app would let you explore available content interactively rather than just mining your past viewing habits.

I have NO interest in Apple suggesting every damned sports event that happens in Detroit just because I once watched a Lions football game.

But an app that lets me search for content that's like shows I once enjoyed (like PBS' Cosmos (yea) vs Fox's Cosmos (nay), or online content from Youtube or -- access to that kind of info could revolutionize how I watch TV and whether I choose to keep a TV set in the house.

Right now it's nearly impossible to find new video content that's worthwhile. THAT's the killer app. (Sans interference from iTunes, of course.)

Comment Due process matters more than Snowden (Score 2) 375

Sorry to party poop, but you don't get to break the law and escape punishment. Snowden committed a crime. If due process is circumvented, law becomes arbitrary and meaningless.

The right response: invite Snowden to return to the US and serve a light sentence (e.g. 5 years) in a low security federal prison.

Meanwhile, change the law to create an external authority that arbitrates whistleblower complaints across all branches of US gov't. Unless a fair court (unlike FISA) with independent authority exists to redress whistleblower complaints, the US government is even *more* likely to spin out of control and destroy its credibility than if Obama circumvents due process by pardoning Snowden.

Comment Tiered licencing and registered (Score 1) 239

Drones come in many forms, some with longer range and elevation than others. Those that can fly over 500 feet high (for example) need to be classified differently, requiring more pilot capability and regular maintenance, jut like real planes.

Small slow low flying drones with minimal payloads should be treated as toys and minimally regulated until they pose a threat.

But I like the idea that all drones be registered, with a permanent serial number and owner name and address. That's a minimal inconvenience and might encourage owners to be more responsible, given the potential for damage to property and privacy that all drones are heir to.

Comment Many big corps have started up skunkworks (Score 1) 115

What GE is doing is not unusual. Many corporate giants are trying this in one form or another. They're realized that due to their size, the business can't operate on "internet time"; they're responding too slowly to opportunities, and they're losing ground because they're just not competitive with the little guys.

But "startup" is the wrong term; it's really an attempt to escape the straightjacket of large company bureaucracy by spawning an internal skunkworks to bypass the slowdowns inherent in any giant top-down organization that was built around yesterday's business objectives and is now unable to change as quickly as the marketplace's rapidly shifting dynamics demand.

For example, I work for a top 5 pharma. We're spawning two "startup" groups in Boston and Silly Valley, physically separate from our existing campuses. This is *not* because we want to be more like a startup by adopting their funding model or superfast time-to-market deliverables. It's because our (smarter) C-suiters know the existing business practices of a huge company must change faster than a 50+K employee behemoth can possibly move. If they tried to refactor our every role and taskgroup to the degree needed, it'd be so disruptive that we'd die the death of a thousand cuts (literally). But if we don't somehow change faster, we'll also fail, due to having "overfit" an obsolete business model and our inability to "refactor" ourselves quickly.

So our bigwigs are creating two "innovation" centers that will live *outside* the mainstream of the company -- play by different rules, wages, and cultures, and do so in geographies where that's more the norm. It's hoped that by adopting a faster cycle time for our critical development processes (as a startup must do), we can respond faster and with less of the top-down excessive layering of internal bureaucracy that ossifies big corps into oblivion.

We shall see.

Comment Re:Recorded history (Score 1) 412

The issue is timescale. When temps rise so quickly that every month in a consecutive string of 14 breaks a 120 year old record for the hottest month, that's so unlikely as to be impossible to have happened by chance, by any statistical standard. Given the rarity of consecutive hot months in the known past, this is evidence of rapid change in climate on a global level.

There are no plausible natural mechanisms that could explain such a quick rise in temps, or we'd have seen evidence of comparable runs of heat in the past, like an occasional greatly enlarged growth ring arising in trees around the world. But we don't see this.

Flipping a 120 sided coin 14 times and getting 120 every single time is as clear a message we're going to get. A global warming trend *is* underway.

Comment Older folks knew harder times (Score 1) 219

After you've worked with old slow quirky bad tech like MSDOS or AT&T's Merlin phones, you know you can handle anything. Fact is, most of today's apps and tech services are freemium, so any company with a novel product that has to grab mindshare by virtue of its popular appeal knows they can't ship crap like what passed for software, O/S, or hardware back in the 1980â(TM)s. The youngsters have been spoiled, and it's only in the workplace where employers buy trash tools from the lowest bidder that staff must learn to make the best with busted tools (like SAP or Webex or Microsoft's webapps).

Comment Mindlessly unenforceable (Score 3, Insightful) 282

This law would require dispensations for credit cards, banks, point of sale software, (the government itself), and many more infrastructural e-orgs that cannot function without encryption.

It would also require makers of cell phones that encrypt, Facebook (soon), and increasinly many e-firms to recognize any device/account as being ENGLISH so that it can selectively stomp all over those peoples' freedoms.

It will also generate an *ungodfy* large amount of data that will swamp the GCHQ's resources and waste their time sifting through zottabytes of drivel, since BAD GUYS DON"T CHAT ON THE PHONE.

This policy is so halfass and dumbass that it'll be impossible to enforce.

Comment Re:Devil's Advocate? Nah. (Score 2) 595

Wait. Are you saying Apple is the Devil, if you're the devil's advocate?

Then allow me to be the devil's prosecutor:

1) All wire cables need shielding. You're assuming a digital signal will fail less often than analog due to strong RF interference. But since digital cables use wires too, they too will fail if the field is intense enough, probably at about the same point as analog does (just as digital TV tuners do). And I've *never* experienced interference from my analog cables.

2) You bought cables with crap connectors. Any decent analog cable has connectors that don't crackle or quit when the line is bent. (BTW, all earbuds are fine examples of such crap.)

3) Phones come with 1 or 2 rings, usually 2. If this leaves in deeply dismayed and contemplating suicide, switch to bluetooth now. Problem solved.

4) What's the point of encryption on headphones? The audio bleeding through your earpads is audible to anyone within 5 feet anyway. If this made sense, it'd be available via bluetooth now.

5) Digital connectors won't bypass the internal DAC. The market for external mobile DACs is so small, mobile DACs will remain internal and in-line... inescapably, alas.

6) Again, nobody wants an ultra thin phone, except Apple -- so they can sell more replacement phones after you break yours for the fourth time in a month.

And remember, a digital output signal will require active headphones with batteries to drive an external amp and noise cancelling DSP. Thus *all* mobile phones just got a lot more fragile and expensive, in ways that do NOT serve anyone but Wall Street analysts. It's they who are afraid that too small an excess of useless features will cause Apple's stock valuation to slip, thereby driving the entire board to jerk their knees in perfect synchrony with "Yankee Doodle Dandy" while waving incense and sprinkling rose water.

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