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Comment Re: Cry me a river (Score 1) 159

He wanted the growth, the stock options... and he wasn't cut-out for the demands:

Yes and no. Most startups have the opportunities for growth, stock options that could become valuable, etc., though you always have a decent chance of not getting anything from them other than more work. But there's definitely a point beyond which that extra work qualifies as worker abuse. This is why we need stronger laws on employee work hours.

Don't get me wrong; I'm okay with people hiring "exempt employees" with the understanding that their work hours will vary throughout the year, depending on what is happening. Where that scheme goes off the rails is when that turns into an expectation that you'll work 50+ hours every week—something that is fundamentally unsafe from a psychological perspective, causing serious harm to workers when done over a prolonged period. And from what I've read, Uber is one of "those companies".

Make no mistake, that culture is entirely the fault of Uber's management. Young people tend to think they're invincible, so without managers telling them to do otherwise, they will work themselves into the ground—sometimes literally. They think that by working ridiculous hours, they'll get ahead of their coworkers, and when enough people do that, others start to believe that long hours are required; thus, a work culture forms around that expectation.

What those young people don't realize is that those longer hours invariably lead to bad decision-making and lower quality output. Statistically, for every hour above about thirty hours, productivity falls off, and by about 50 hours or so, productivity actually goes negative; for every hour worked beyond that limit, you end up doing more than an hour of extra work to fix the additional screw-ups caused by the hour of extra work. For this reason, it is crucial for every tech business to have competent managers who strongly encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Managers who do not do this—managers who prioritize short-term gains over worker health—invariably lead to worker burnout, long-term low productivity, and yes, suicides.

Unfortunately, between Uber and video game companies, it is pretty clear that self-regulation by industry isn't working, and that government needs to step in. Exempt shouldn't mean "we own your life". It should mean "40 hours average", i.e. the same as non-exempt workers, but allowing for seasonal variation. It should be illegal for exempt workers to spend more than an average of 40 hours per week spread across a one-year period. Huge fines are quite literally the only thing that companies like Uber will understand.

Comment Re:slashdotters are happy (Score 1) 130

No, actually it's the solution to the abortion false dichotomy. And this isn't by any means the first story on the subject. A team in Japan did early animal testing in an artificial womb at least a decade back. I know this because I remember having a conversation about funding the development of this technology as a way for anti-abortion folks to put their money where their mouths are while on a church choir trip in 2008.

The fact of the matter is that abortion is worse than a wedge issue. It's a false dichotomy. Why would anyone in their right minds not want both a right to life for the fetus and a right to choose for the mother? The nature of birth involves trading the rights of one person for those of another, and that's the only thing that makes the abortion issue challenging for people to navigate. The mere existence of artificial womb technology is a game-changer.

If Republicans were actually serious about ending abortion, they would have jumped on this a decade back, and would have insisted on pouring funding into making this technology viable. We'd see research dollars being poured into that instead of into missile shields and random weapons research, and this technology would be fully viable by now, because with enough people working on it, the advances would happen faster. But they haven't done this, because they would lose most of their seats if abortion actually became illegal in a way that wouldn't get undone in a future power shift.

A truly intelligent, competent candidate for office, then, should be pointing this out, and should be running on a campaign of making artificial wombs available soon, and then making abortion illegal, requiring patients to instead get outpatient transfer surgery to move the fetus to an artificial womb. And the government should massively subsidize the transfer and pay for the incubation in cases where the woman gives up a fetus for adoption in utero so that no one chooses a back alley abortion over saving a life. And the government should require insurance companies to cover the transfer and incubation in cases where the life of the mother or fetus would be in jeopardy if a pregnancy continued, so that women with high-risk pregnancies can keep their kids without risking their own lives and the lives of their kids.

The mind-boggling thing about this, at least in my mind, is that our politicians still haven't thought of it. This should have been obvious to any competent leader at least ten years ago when the first study came out. Arguably, it should have been obvious earlier than that. I've been advocating this as a solution to the abortion debate for so long that I can no longer even remember when I started advocating it. If I ever run for office, I swear I'll run with the promise of being pro-life and pro-choice—no more false dichotomies. The American people deserve at least that much competence from their politicians.

Comment Re:It's true (Score 2) 159

Pixar was unique in Silicon Valley companies in that we had deadlines that could not move. The film had to be in theaters before Christmas, etc. I'd see employees families come to Pixar to have dinner with them. I took the technical director training but decided to stay in studio tools, first because Pixar needed better software more than they needed another TD, and second because of the crazy hours.

Comment Re:I hope he wins his suit (Score 2) 570

Technically, it is possible to get into med school with only three years of undergrad education, and a fraction of a percent of M.D. degrees are actually awarded to people under those circumstances, but realistically, you won't get into medical school to get an M.D. without first obtaining an undergraduate bachelor's degree. Similarly, you won't get into law school to get a J.D. degree without an undergrad degree.

You could certainly argue that they're equivalent to Master's degrees, but they most certainly are not undergraduate degrees.

Comment Re:How long before estates of dead entertainers su (Score 1) 120

Also, I think people are underestimating the creative input that a performer puts into a voice performance. They can put in a lot of subtle emphasis and emotion into speech. Even if AI can perfectly replicate someone's voice, will it know when to emphasize a word, when to change the pitch of its voice, and when to insert a dramatic pause?

Comment Re: AT&T (Score 2) 200

To offer a mild defense of Apple, there's a reason they make messages a different color if you're using a non-Apple phone:

Their iMessage app debuted at a time when carriers generally still charged for SMS messages. If a blue message came in, it meant that it was going over iMessage, which meant that it was a free message. If it was green, it was SMS, and therefore it would be charged as an SMS message according to your carrier's plan. You definitely wanted to have a way to know the difference.

It's less important now that carriers are generally offering unlimited SMS messages, so you could argue that they could drop the distinction. However, there still may be places or situations where people are charged for SMS, even if only when doing international texting, so it's not completely meaningless. Also, iMessage still provides some different features, such as providing read-receipts (if you allow that) and being encrypted, so someone might care about knowing which messages are going over which service.

Comment Re:Wait... (Score 1) 67

Well they charge you a rental fee for a router (including a Wifi), or they let you purchase it for $150. In abstract, I think that's totally reasonable.

The problem is, they won't let you just supply your own router or operate without a router. You have to rent or buy their router. If you just want the Internet (not phone or TV), you can replace their router with your own once service is installed, but they still force you to purchase their router.

Comment Re:"Like"? (Score 1) 405

In the long run, I'd expect the tools to adapt to solve those problems more transparently, e.g. through the use of standardized libraries that hide the parallelization behind procedural wrappers so that developers can write seemingly procedural code, but gain the benefits of massively parallelized code for the pieces that matter.

Or not; hard to say.

Comment Re:Lots of claims are being made about it's virtue (Score 1) 405

For that to be even ostensibly correct, you're missing one single quote mark and some double quotes, e.g.

"There are to many 'it's, don't you think?" he said.

And even that is arguable, because those aren't really apostrophes; they just happen to use the same key on the keyboard, typically.

With only two exceptions, the plural of any word is always spelled with an 's', not an apostrophe followed by an s. The exceptions are:

  • The plural of a lowercase letter (e.g. there are too many i's here).
  • The plural of an abbreviation that contains periods or mixed case (e.g. there are too many Ph.D.'s here).

And even then, those exceptions might depend on what style guide you go by.

Comment Re:It has its uses (Score 1) 405

Functional programming and unit testing are things you don't see widely used in the videogame development world, at least that I've seen.

I'd expect functional programming to be used quite a bit in that space, but only for very small chunks of performance-critical code, such as massively parallel bits down in the guts of raytracing engines. Now whether they actually use functional programming languages or not is another question.

Unit testing is something you don't see widely used in software development, period, unfortunately. But the industry is getting better. Slowly. Very slowly. Very, very slowly. Glacially, really.

Comment Re:Functional Programming Considered Harmful (Score 4, Interesting) 405

It needs to be done and done well. Very tempting. But alas, just like drug use, there's only so much any sane person can write about the subject, because anyone who knows functional programming well enough to fully explain why it is harmful is probably mentally damaged beyond the point of being able to understand why it is harmful. :-D

The thing is, functional programming is a good paradigm for students to be exposed to in school. Briefly. It forces you to think about data flow through your program, and forces you to think about your software as a giant state machine and visualize how the states change as your software does work. It is not the only way to teach that concept, but it is a halfway decent way. And once you pick up those concepts, you'll start to understand why singletons are so useful (approximately the polar opposite of functional programming, but often the software equivalent of the data you'd be passing around in a functional world).

So basically, there's a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. But just like with drugs, if you continue to do significant amounts of functional programming after that, don't be surprised if the rest of us ask what you're smoking. Functional programming as a real-world paradigm tends to be almost invariably a disaster, because it neither fits the way we think about problems (human thinking is almost entirely procedural) nor the way machines do work (computers are inherently procedural). It can provide useful extensions to procedural programming languages that serve specific purposes (e.g. closures), but calling functional programming useful for that reason is akin to calling a diesel-electric freight train a perfect commuter car that saves fuel because a Prius is also hybrid hydrocarbon-electric.

About the only space where functional programming techniques might really make sense is when working in a massively multithreaded environment, e.g. creating really efficient implementations of certain massively parallelizable functions (such as FFTs). But for the most part, that functional programming is limited to creating components that are then utilized as small (but performance-critical) parts in what is otherwise on the whole still procedural (or OO) software.

Outside of those very limited scopes, though, the theoretically ivory-tower-pure, zero-side-effect functional programming model is pure garbage. Real world systems don't just have side effects; they are side effects, whether you're talking about storing data on disk, sending it over a wire, drawing it on the screen, reading data from a keyboard, or whatever. The notion of treating all of those "side effects" as some giant state object that mutates as it gets passed around is fundamentally antithetical to real-world use of the data, because state must be stored to be useful. And the entire notion of passing around the complete state of real-world software is so far beyond infeasible that the concept is utterly laughable. Cell phones have a gigabyte of RAM, not a petabyte. There's simply no way to write something like MS Word in a pure functional language, because it would take all the computing resources on the planet to barely run a single instance of it.

Using functional programming in most real-world environments, then, cannot possibly do anything but cause brain damage, because the whole functional paradigm is wrong for the problem space. It is like cutting the grass on a football field using only a single pair of nail clippers—theoretically possible, but completely infeasible. To that end, although I wouldn't say that functional programming is inherently considered harmful, it should be approached with approximately the same level of skepticism as goto statements, and for approximately the same reason. When used correctly, in a very limited way, it is a powerful tool to have in your toolbox that can seriously improve your software. When overused or misused, it is a black hole that consumes infinite amounts of programmer time while emitting very little.

Comment Re:What do you people expect? (Score 1) 93

Where I used to work, we called this the "Stack Overflow Effect" because so much bad code written by well-meaning people was floating around Stack Overflow that did things in dangerous, security-risky ways, such as telling people to disable TLS chain validation so they could use a self-signed cert for their test environment, then wondering why so many apps shipped with chain validation turned off in the production versions of the app.

I've actually written security documentation whose primary purpose was to provide a single set of code snippets that were known to do things in the right way so that we could plaster Stack Overflow with links to the doc. Then, when people say, "but can't I just...", we can say, "No", and point them atdocumentation explaining why so that at least when they do something stupid anyway, we can say, "Dude, what part of 'no, that is incredibly dangerous' didn't you understand?"

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