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Comment Re:So they just reinvented the docking station? (Score 1) 65

Here is claim 1 from Apple's patent application.

1. An electronic accessory device, comprising: an operational component that provides an output to a user; a housing carrying the operational component, the housing having a recess; and a control interface coupled to the operational component and configured to receive a control signal from an electronic host device when the electronic host device is positioned within the recess and coupled to the control interface, wherein the electronic accessory device is inoperable without the electronic host device being coupled to the control interface.

Can you point out to me what are the "new things" in that? I'd say the Motorola Atrix fit every last piece of that. But Apple is claiming it as novel and asking for patent protection on it.

Comment Re:This is extortion (Score 1) 227

Maybe. Or maybe not. If the conditions are such reasonable, industry standard ones, why isn't wikileaks disclosing what they are? Given Assange's history, he has zero credibility in my book. For an organization that's supposedly dedicated to public disclosure, they're awfully fond of keeping things secret. I mean really, they won't tell us what conditions they're asking the companies to agree to? Then I certainly won't assume they're as reasonable as he wants us to think they are.

Comment This is a real problem (Score 1) 155

It's important to see both sides of the issue. Yes, this law would almost certainly violate the first amendment. Yes, it could easily be abused. But it's also a sincere attempt at fixing a real problem.

Someone falsely accuses you of some terrible crime. Maybe you have a bad breakup and your ex decides to get revenge by accusing you of child abuse or theft or something like that. It gets reported in the local news. The accusations are totally false, the police figure that out really quickly, and all charges get dropped. But still, if anyone googles your name, the top hits are all news stories about you being accused of something terrible. It's ruining your life. When you apply for jobs they first seem really interested, and then suddenly tell you to go away, and you know exactly why. There's nothing you can do about it.

It's easy to criticize this bill as a badly thought out idea—which it is. But it's still a real problem. So anyone who criticizes this needs to be able to answer, what should we do instead? "Ignore the problem and pretend it doesn't exist" isn't an answer. It's a real problem and it's hurting real people. So what should we do about it?

Comment Re:A cure for which there is no disease (Score 1) 249

Ordinary old-style meters do an adequate job, and give employment to a lot of meter-readers. (That's a good thing, by the way).

Why do you think it's a good thing? I usually consider inefficiency a bad thing. There's no benefit to society from making people do busywork that a computer can do far better. Why waste the time of all those meter readers when they could instead spend it doing a useful job that creates value for someone? Or if there really is nothing better for them to do, let them go home and spend their time however they want. Making them do useless busywork to get their salary doesn't help you or them or anyone else.

Comment But WHY? (Score 1) 148

They left out a critical detail: is this by the employee's choice or the company's? Are they less likely to choose to leave, or less likely to get laid off? If it's the employee's choice, is it because people like their jobs better, or because they have fewer other options?

Without knowing that, I can't tell if this makes Seattle a better or worse place to work. Not getting laid off is good. Liking your job is good. Having few options is bad. In any case, I doubt it has much to do with loyalty.

Comment It DOES happen (Score 3, Informative) 474

It happened about ten years ago with the rise of GPUs for general purpose computing. Suddenly we could do a lot of things 10-100 times faster than before. You program GPUs really differently than CPUs, so we had to rewrite a lot of code and design new algorithms. But the benefit was huge.

It may be happening again with specialized chips for deep learning, like Google's TPU. These chips are designed for just one class of applications, but it's a really important class, and they can be 10x faster or more efficient for those applications.

There've been other times when a new generation brought a sudden major improvement in speed, like with vector units or multicore CPUs. But always at the cost of having to rewrite how your code works.

Now if you want new chips that work just like the old ones and run the same programs as before, just 10x faster, sorry. That isn't likely to happen. Huge jumps like that require major changes of approach.

Comment Re:Perhaps a better method... (Score 1) 1001

You just demonstrated my point. There's no such thing as "the fastest possible way". Is your data uniformly distributed over a fixed range? If so, you can use a bucket sort to process it in O(n) time. But if the distribution is non-uniform, a bucket sort can be very slow. Maybe your input data is partially sorted. If so, some algorithms will take advantage of that to sort it faster and others won't. Did you ever think to wonder whether the sort function is multithreaded? Probably not, because if you're already using multiple threads at a higher level, that would just slow things down. But if you aren't, that could speed things up a lot.

This is a great example of the law of leaky abstractions. In most cases, just calling the framework's sort function is the best thing to do. Except that every now and then, it isn't. A good software engineer understands that. They know the framework provides an abstraction, and that abstraction sometimes breaks down, and they can deal with it when it does. Even if they don't know all the low level details, they know enough to know what questions to ask.

Comment Re:Perhaps a better method... (Score 2) 1001

Even worse, a lot of candidates don't even know what a bubble sort is, or that there's such a thing as a bubble sort. They don't understand that there's more than one way of sorting a list, or that some ways are more efficient than others. They don't realize that the best method in one case could be different from the best method in another. They don't realize that some methods scale better than others with list size, or that some are faster if the input list is partially sorted, or that some require extra memory and others don't, or that some can be parallelized better than others.

And these are people who claim to be experienced software engineers.

I often ask about sorting on interviews, and it's a great way to quickly tell how competent someone is. I don't care if they understand the details of particular algorithms, or if they can write them from memory. I care whether they get the concepts and know what questions to ask.

At the other extreme, I used to work with someone who started every interview by asking, "Write a complete, working program in any language of your choice that prints 'Hello World' ten times." That was also illuminating, in a horrifying sort of way. You wouldn't believe how many people struggled with that. We usually ended those interviews pretty quickly.

Comment Re:"Police found Purinton 80 miles away at Applebe (Score 1) 1149

Here's a recent article that seems relevant. It's talking about suicide rather than homicide, but the point is the same. People who try to kill themselves with drugs or knives only have a 5% chance of dying. People who use guns have a 90% chance. Guns really are different. They're amazingly effective tools for killing. That's what they're designed for. Now add the fact that you can carry one with you everywhere you go, and it only takes a moment to pull it out and start shooting. The time from when you think, "I want to kill this guy," to when he's lying on the floor with a fatal injury might only be seconds. There's nothing else like them.

Comment Re:The (400 page) requirements you can read. $3.25 (Score 1) 115

I dare you to even try to READ the order.

I dare you to even try to read your ISP's terms of service. Or the terms of service of lots of websites you access all the time, that you supposedly agree to by accessing the site. Or the contracts you agree to by opening a bank account or renting a car or buying a plane ticket. You'll find that most of those contracts incorporate other documents by reference, which may add up to hundreds of pages, all of which you're supposed to have read.

This action isn't about what businesses have to read. It's about what information they have to disclose to their customers.

Comment Nothing But Sensationalism (Score 1) 249

The main way people get toxoplasma is from food, especially undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables. But the media makes you think it's from cats because the headline "Cats Make You Crazy" is much better clickbait than "Eating Undercooked Meat Makes You Crazy". Transmission from cats is much rarer. Also, cats get infected by eating infected mice. If you have indoor cats who eat Friskies instead of mice, they aren't at risk and neither are you. Unless you eat undercooked meat, of course, but the media would rather warn you about fake risks than real ones.

Comment Re: Republicans vote against safety... (Score 2) 94

Maybe you misread the summary? A similar measure passed the house unanimously last year, but was blocked in the senate "amid opposition by a handful of Republican lawmakers." They could easily have overridden a veto. But they never let it get that far, and it was Republicans who blocked it.

I won't draw any partisan conclusions from that. It clearly had strong support in both parties, and most Republicans supported it. But trying to blame Obama doesn't fit the facts.

Comment Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 197

Let's face it, now one is going to give out trade secrets in those things.

Not trade secrets, but non-public information is possible. Apple's WWDC is famous for working like that. Most of the sessions are under NDA, and it's when they present all the new technologies that will be coming in future OS updates. If you want to find out about those technologies in advance, going to the conference is really useful.

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There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about. -- John von Neumann