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Comment Not very effective, anyway (Score 2) 270

I'm an employer. I've interviewed nearly everybody we employ at my company. And treating a hiring interview like a rote memory exam is a terrible way to qualify a potential developer hire!

What do programmers actually do? Try testing that!

We do "whiteboard style" for part of our interviews, but only to cover basic comprehension of algorithms. More than anything, we look for basic familiarity with logic structure, and the demonstrated ability to solve problems. Our coding section of our interview process is in the subject's language of choice, including pseudo code, and is "open book" - we want to see what happens when the dev runs into a problem they don't already know! (Critical test: can they come up with a working, supportable algorithm for a problem they don't yet already know an answer for?)

After 20 years of programming experience, I STILL routinely look up the order of arguments for function calls via Google. Who cares to remember when Google has the answer in 0.10 seconds?

Test what the devs will actually DO in an anticipated normal work day and make your decisions based on that.

Comment Re:Time to restart using antisera. (Score 1) 89

How is antiserum different from vaccination?

Four things:
  - Immunization
  - Innoculation
  - Vaccination
  - Antiserum

An immunization is a challenge to the immune system that looks to it like the target pathogen - often with an adjuvant to do enough minor mischief to convince the immune system that this is a really bad guy that needs a SWAT team response. It might be made out of:
  - pieces of killed pathogen,
  - pieces of killed related pathogen,
  - engineered molecules similar to a target site on the ,
  - live related pathogen (enough like the bad guy to provoke a cross-reaction to the bad guy, but not enough like the bad guy to cause the disease),
  - live attenuated pathogen (an artificially weakened version of the actual disease - essentially an engineered "live related pathogen"
  - the actual, full-bore, pathogen itself - but administered in a way that leads to a less severe (i.e. survivable) case of the disease,

The immune system has an enormous number of small clones (just a handful of cells) that each produce a different antibody (and can produce one or more of several types of response against a pathogen), and essentially any that produce antibodies against the body itself have already been killed off. When the body signals "I'm being attacked", by either a disease or an imunization (which mimic a disease) those that recognize the antigen go into rapid reproduction, and a fraction differentiate into active forms. This takes about three days - but after that you have a LARGE number of mature immune cells that attack that pathogen, along with a boosted number of not-yet-matured "memory cells". This doesn't stop an original infection. But it cleans up after it, and blocks (or mitigates) future infections by attacking the pathogen as soon as it shows up. If you get another case of the disease - or a booster shot - the memory cells will repeat the process, making the immunity much stronger.

Vaccination is a particular case of a "live related pathogen": One of the (closely related) cowpox or vaccinia viruses, somewhat more distant relatives of smallpox, is used to create a minor infection (generally one scarring pimple, unless you scratch and spread it). This activates the person's immune system against both the vaccine's virus and its relatives, including smallpox.

The Sabin "live virus" polio vaccine works the same way, using a weaker, mutated, version of the polio virus. (Its predecessor, the Salk vaccine, uses the outer coat of killed polio virus.) A live virus actually produces a disease process lasting several days, until the immune system clears it up. This creates a stronger and longer lasting immunity than a simple challenge with dead virus pieces. (It also is contagious: Some people who weren't administered the immunization "catch" the "fake disease" from those who recently were immunized.)

Inoculation consists of deliberately administering the pathogen. In the case of a disease, it means causing the disease, in a way that can be treated or is otherwise is survivable, leaving the recovered person immune. Before vaccination, inoculation was used for Smallpox. If you catch smallpox by inhaling the virus, you're likely to have a severe case, either dying or maybe being horribly scarred. If you catch it by having some pus from an infected person get into a cut in your skin, you're likely to have a mild case, with only localized scarring, and then (as a survivor) be immune. (Unfortunately, while you have the case, you're infectious with the disease, so others can catch it the bad way. That's the biggest reason that vaccination was such a drastic improvement.)

Unfortunately, immunizations are usually too late to protect you against a disease you already have. (A notable exception is rabies, which works its way slowly up the nerves to the brain, giving time to immunize before it becomes acute, incurable, and fatal.) An antiserum works immediately.

One of the ways the immune system attacks pathogens is for the antibody-producing cells to shed the antibodies into the blood and lymph. These antibodies then attach to pathogens, doing things like blocking the active sites, sticking them together into clumps, or otherwise marking them for attack by other immune--system cells.

An antiserum is a big dose of extracted antibodies against the pathogen. It gives you most of the advantages of being immunized (other than producing the antibodies yourself), but RIGHT NOW. So it can be used against a disease that is already in progress.

Comment ORLY? (Score 1) 99

Both FTC and FCC (and EPA and many others) are getting their budgets slashed.

ORLY? Maybe the others. But the FTC? They hardly have any budget to slash.

I'd like to see where you're getting the idea that the FTC's budget is getting the axe.

For starters, it's an ideal tool to spank the media conglomerates which own and control the news outlets that have roasted him. Much of the anti-consumer pathologies the ISPs engage in appear to be directed to giving the content part of the containing conglomerate's operation a competitive advantage.

Antitrust actions to prevent (i.e. AT&T / Time Warner merger blocking, which Trump already favors) or break up existing content transport / content provision tie-ins would let him drive a big screw into the mainstream media under the guise of (actual!) consumer protection activity. B-)

Note that he's appointed Maureen Ohlhausen to head the FTC, and she'd already written a paper on how the FTC and antitrust, not the FCC and net neutrality, is the proper remedy for any consumer-impacting misbehavior of the ISP oligopoly.

(As have I, though we seem to have a difference of opinion on how many competitors are needed before competition is an effective remedy and how well competition doing at the moment.)

Comment Time to restart using antisera. (Score 2) 89

Before antibiotics one could get an antiserum against each of many nasty infections. The rise of antibiotics displaced these drugs - even for some things (such as some forms of meningitis) where an antiserum against the particular organism, did a better job.

This actually made some sense. Antibiotics were broader spectrum, so (even after drug resistant bugs became common) you were likely to find one that worked in time to save the patient. Antisera, on the other hand, were very bug-specific.

If multiple drug resistance makes antibiotics nearly useless, perhaps it's time to revive antiserum use.

We now have the technology to rapidly identify the target organism(s) in a disease process, so we can rapidly select the correct magic bullets. And we also have the technology to make specific antisera by the bucketful.

And without the side-effects of making it by exposing an animal (like a "serum horse") to a pathogen and then (once it's developed an immunity) extracting the (horse-type) antibodies to this - and to everything else its immune system doesn't like - to make the drug. Instead we can make human monoclonal antibodies to just one target.

We can also engineer an immunization by chopping out the DNA for some conserved region snippet of some pathogen's accessible surface markers, splicing it with neighboring coding that will make the immune system take note and building it into an otherwise (and still) harmless bug - either to make an active ingredient for an immunization cocktail or a variola/polio style live-virus challenge. The bug has a very hard time evolving resistance because a conserved region of some component of its molecular machinery is usually conserved because has to be the way it is for it to work.

This is already being done to some extent. Seems to me it's time to stop crying about the end of antibiotics and focus on this set of approaches - which should be very lasting.

Comment But iodine is restricted due to the drug war. (Score 1) 89

It is common knowledge that [iodine] was used widely in hospitals for decades, and supposedly(?) resistance is not built up to it.

But iodine, and most iodine-containing medical preparations, are heavily restricted, due to the drug war.

Seems they're used in one step of turning pseudephedrine into meth. So, though they're not actually BANNED, the drug warriors put so much red tape on them that most chain-store drug stores just dropped them as unprofitable.

(I found this out when the fallout from Fukishima was approaching the US west coast, and I tried to find some iodine supplements for my family to dose up on, to reduce the risk from radioiodine, before it got here. Surprise! None to be had.)

If anybody knows of a chain store in California or Nevada where I can buy potassium iodide supplements or tincture of iodine, over the counter, please let me know.

Comment Wrong agency! FTC, not FCC (Score 4, Insightful) 99

The FCC is not the right agency to review mergers for anticompetitive issues. FCC is about tech, not competition.

The relevant agency is the F *T* C (Federal Trade Commission).

Now maybe they need some legislation to give them a budget bump and/or a juristictional tweak/clarification if they're to (once again) take on the telecom giants over antitrust issues. But if so it's high time that was done.

Comment Re:That's a lot of supersmart robots! (Score 1) 226

I'd disagree about what you're calling a robot, though I'd agree that you're describing a 'bot. But we seem to be arguing about the definitions of words rather than about the thing being described. But this is significant if we each interpret the guy's predictions as being about our own meaning of the words. So with two reasonably common definitions we get either an unreasonable or a reasonable prediction about quantity of "robots", depending on which meaning we think he was using.

Comment Re:That's a lot of supersmart robots! (Score 1) 226

No. If it has a timer it has a bit more intelligence than a thermostat connected to a heater. But a robot needs to have the ability to manipulate things. So a toaster is a sort of minimal robot, but not a microwave, unless it opens it's door or pops up a switch (or rotates a knob) or some such.

Now what I'm trying to decide is whether that thermostat connected to a heater counts as a robot. It has internal moving parts, like the fan to blow the air. so it might be a sort of minimal robot.

At this point I feel like I'm trying to decide whether a virus is alive or not. I think by now the consensus is that it is, where it used to be that it wasn't, and what changed was not the virus, or even our knowledge of the virus (though that did change), but rather the definition.

Comment Re:Smart enough to REALLY f*ck things up??? (Score 1) 226

IQ is, indeed, not a good measure of intelligence. In fact, intelligence isn't a unitary thing, but a bunch of separate capabilities, at least one of which handles organizing and communicating with the other parts.

That said, if we're going to talk informally about intelligence, IQ is a reasonable stand-in. It means something pretty reasonable in the area between 80-120, possibly 75-125. I'll grant that in no area is is a really good definition, but it's easily quantified.

Note that the very concept of an IQ of 1000 doesn't make any sense. So accept it as a figure of speech. Accepting it as a figure of speech, I still think he's wrong, because I believe that for every task there is an optimum level of intelligence. If he's approximately correct, then there will be a very few extremely intelligent AIs, but it sure won't be your sneakers. The claim that it *could* be in my sneakers is interesting, and a bit unbelievable. And I've got large feet. (Well, he didn't claim that the super-AI would be in my sneakers, just that it would have more computing power than I did, which is also a bit unbelievable unless you start doing strange things with word definitions. I could manage definitions that would make that a reasonable claim, but they sure aren't the standard ones.)

OTOH, my projection to a human equivalent AI is still around 2030, which is sooner than he is talking about. But I'm not expecting that thing to be mobile or portable. And when I say "human equivalent" I'm not talking about all characteristics. I'm not talking about motivational structure. I'm not talking about built-in sense organs. I'm not talking about computations/watt. Etc. I'm talking mainly about ability to reason about situations with incomplete data of uncertain reliability...which, admittedly, covers a lot of what we do.

Comment Re:but but but .. (Score 1) 72

You say "Google won't disclose it's own bugs". I'm not sure I believe that, but I do believe they won't publicize them. But the real question is "Do they fix them?". Of course, that would mean they would need to inspire upgrades...which probably means they would need to disclose the bugs, if not how to abuse them.

OTOH, the was reported a way to evade almost all bugs in recent MicroSoft products ... disable administrator mode. This sounds like it might come with considerable in the way of downsides, but it was reported to evade almost all MS* bugs.

* MS: It's not just a disease anymore.

Comment Re:This might be payback... (Score 1) 72

I'm sorry, but the primary injured party are the users. The manufacturer is at most a secondary victim. So the delay to fix is appropriate. But 90 days is about right. If you hold off forever an unscrupulous manufacturer would just let the problem persist, and once it becomes known to the criminals, it WILL be abused. 90 days may be too long, because they might have found the problem even before Google did, but you need to allow the manufacturer *some* time to fix the problem, because they aren't the primary injured party.

Comment Re:Heat (Score 1) 203

I would be more interested in this if it worked the other way, warming my house.

There are lots of designs for doing that. Look at any renewable energy bulletin board (such as

Common thread is:
  - Black (or otherwise visible light absorbing) target.
  - In an insulated box.
  - With a glass window (that does NOT have an infrared reflective coating)
  - And some way of transferring the heat from the black target to the house air.

Glass is opaque to infrared and passes visible light. Sunlight goes through, is absorbed by the black material, and heats it (to the tune of about a kilowatt per square meter at noon). The material re-radiates, but it is far too cool to re-radiate in the visible spectrum. So it re-radiates in the infrared, which doesn't escape through the glass and is thus re-absorbed.

It's called "The Greenhouse Effect". B-)

In one of my favorite designs the black target is a series of tubes consisting of used aluminum drink cans with the tops and bottoms removed, painted black. They're very good at absorbing light, because it takes multiple bounces down the valley between the tubes, giving the paint many chances to absorb it. A 4" computer fan pumps air through the box to extract the heat.

But there are LOTS of other designs. Including houses with large south or south-east facing windows and overhanging roofs that shade them in the summer but not in the winter (to rough-tune the absorption). The floor, walls, furniture, etc. serve as the visible light absorber.

My ranch house works like that - a little too well. In the afternoon it will git to 90+ degrees when it's single-digit temperatures outside.

Comment Re:Too good to be true. (Score 1) 203

It's a neat idea, but what happens in the winter?

Put a cover over it.

Glass is good. It is pretty much opaque to far infrared. Instead of seeing the cosmic background temperature of a few degrees kelvin, it will see the temperature of the glass - which is about the same as its own temperature. So the radiative heat flow will be just about zero.

But ANYTHING opaque to infrared will do the same.

Another approach: Instead of coating the house, coat a radiative cooler to make chill water, and pump that through a heat exchanger in your forced air heating/air conditioning system. Don't want cooling? Don't pump the water. (Adjust how much you pump it to regulate your temperature.)

That's not "no power", but pumping chill water is very little power, and you need to circulate the air anyhow. Most of the energy cost of air conditioning is refrigeration, and you still get that for free.

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