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Comment self-response addendum (Score 2) 296

Penn Jillette on Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, And Why He's All in on Gary Johnson — 2 August 2016

I watched this video yesterday. There a fabulous exchange 24:30–30:00 on truth and naievity.

You go through a period when you're sixteen, seventeen, eighteen when truth really obsesses everybody. And then I think you're supposed to kind of sort of grow out of it. And I didn't. It really remains of complete interest to me. ... I'm not bothered at all by people being wrong. ... I have such a naive point of view, to almost not believing it, that people can have information and represent the opposite of that. I just find that so appalling and, in a certain way, fascinating.

Once upon a time I would have ventured that most Slashdot readers would want to view this. It had me thinking about my own life 1985–1995 where I watched the software industry turning into a train wreck, where every seventh train car is painted bright orange and lettered in an ominous Area 51 black stencil font "patch Tuesday", with sparks flying off wheels seized (and reseized) for so long they resemble lopsided pentagons.

I used to think to myself "surely these are just temporary conditions due to the extreme rate of expansion of the software industry, and it will all settle back down to sanity as we crest the exponential growth phase". But no. Like Jillette, I was a die-hard naievitarian. Lesson learned.

Comment sloth is eternal (Score 1) 296

The default behavior is to treat the field as whatever you've told the spreadsheet that it is. By default, every cell is set up for numeric data types. ... The problem is misuse of tools, not a problem with the tool.

A process of "five whys" applied to the present discussion immediately reveals "default numeric" as bad policy in academic research.

A sane default would be "untyped" or "exactly as entered" which shifts sins of omission into sins of commission, this being far more compatible with the culture and standards of scientific journal publication than what Microsoft originally chose, mainly for the convenience of boutique-reseller power demos. Also, the more collaborative the environment, the more important it becomes to enforce a strong-typed, sin-of-commission data model.

This is all covered in the first week of Graybeard 101 as taught with slate tablets back in the stone age. I was there in 1985. Microsoft has had wool in its ears since forever. Still doesn't make it right, does it?

Furthermore, anyone who really cares about data pipeline integrity writes an export function from the derived format back to the raw input format, until they come out exact, or every difference is adjudicated and signed off, which is incorporated into an automatic validation task which can be repeated at any point in time for the life of the project.

CRAN Task View: Reproducible Research

LaTeX was originally written in the early 1980s by Leslie Lamport at SRI International.

Leslie Lamport won the Turing Award in 2013 for his uber graybeard rectitude, if anyone cares to notice. Douglas McIlroy made his seminal contributions in 1968 (Bill Gates was thirteen, but perhaps he was already set in his ways). John Backus delivered his Turing Award lecture "Can programming be liberated from the von Neumann style?" in 1977, which inaugurated the modern tradition in functional languages (Bill Gates was then twenty-three).

Competence is hard. Sloth is eternal. We continue to seek a third way.

Comment Re:The end justifies the means (Score 4, Insightful) 281

Somewhere around 20-40% of the info in these documents will turn out to be wrong or misleading in some critical way.

I'm sure that will be a great comfort to the alleged witches as they drown.

Also, just because some personal data is correct, that doesn't mean the entire world has any right or need to know. People suffer unfair discrimination or worse because of perfectly legitimate personal matters all the time, which is the most compelling argument for the importance of privacy.

Comment Re:Nah (Score 1) 166

Porsche 918 Spyder is 0-60 in 2.3s. Elon has a ways to go still.

On the other hand, an electric motor can easily produce its maximum torque at stall.

An electric car, with adequately sized motors, controllers, and batteries (or other power sources) should be able to drive the tires to the traction limit from a standing start to the speed where the available power will no longer sustain that level of acceleration - well over 60 MPH. This means the acceleration is limited solely by the coefficient of friction of the tire/road contact surface - a critical parameter that can be tightly tracked, during acceleration, by drive electronics akin to non-skid brake controllers.

So an electric car should be able to get the best possible standing-start rating out of any given tire technology - and be literally unbeatable in such a contest.

IMHO the only reason (pre-Tesla) electric cars had a reputation for being underpowered creampuffs rather than unbeatable sprint sports cars, is that the automobile manufacturers thought the purchasers would all be eco-freaks, more interested in mileage and ideology than performance, and designed lower-manufacturing-cost, underpowered, cars for this market.

Comment Re:There is no "removing" of anything... (Score 3, Interesting) 355

If the new phone doesn't have a headphone jack, it'll be all over the Internet. There will be almost no way to avoid knowing that the iPhone 7 doesn't have a headphone jack.

That's not where the user impact comes in. Most people don't use headphones constantly. They use them occasionally. And they will think to themselves, "That's not a big deal." Then, at some point in the distant future:

  • They're at a friend's house and want to play some song. Their friend has an Android phone, and a stereo with only an 1/8" plug.
  • They're out somewhere and think, "I'd like to listen to some music while I walk from A to B" and then realize that their Bluetooth earbuds aren't charged.
  • The stewardess tells them that they can't use wireless headsets (that's a per-airline policy decision) and offers to sell them a headset for $3, but oops, no adapter.

And so on. And suddenly, what seemed like it didn't matter suddenly matters, and you have a pissed off customer.

Comment Re:Fix Apple (Score 1) 355

Apple will do no fixes of anything until it learns its lesson with very bad iPhone 7 sales because of the removal of the 3.5mm audio jack.

What would be worse for Apple would be if they don't lose sales, because there's definitely a non-negligible percentage of their customers who will be negatively impacted significantly by removal of the headphone jack, and if those folks buy the phone anyway, then they're going to end up with a bad impression of Apple products, and Apple will lose them as customers. In the long run, Apple should hope that they lose those sales, because at least they'll have a chance to make up those sales by releasing a future generation that isn't missing critical features.

The ultimate destruction of Apple as a brand of amazing hardware will come if they ship a device without a headphone jack and 30% of their users don't realize how much they'll miss the headphone jack, buy the phone anyway, and then start trash-talking their new iPhone on social media before switching (permanently) to Android. If Apple ships this product, I may start doing covered calls on my Apple stock to limit my losses. As a user, this is just a big annoyance, and I'm hopeful that they'll pull their heads out of their a**es before I'm due for a new phone. But as an investor, this is absolutely terrifying, oddly reminiscent of the period where a certain Pepsi exec was running the show.

Comment Re:Would they believe (Score 1) 334

Wow, what kind of super-futuristic place did you live in with your fancy-pants downloading and modems and BBSes? In 1983, I think I was still typing the source code for games from books into my little ZX81, and praying that I didn't knock the 32K RAM pack loose and crash everything before I had a chance to play!

Comment Re:FYI (Score 5, Insightful) 334

So if you are posting with any handle other than "Anonymous Coward" you will need to provide that handle to your friendly neighborhood spy.

Or just not travel to countries that don't treat their visitors with respect and basic human decency.

There are many places I would love to visit in the world, far more than I ever will be able to in one lifetime I expect. Why would I voluntarily subject myself to the kind of culture we're talking about here, when I can be welcomed as both a tourist and a business person in so many other places?

Obviously some people have no choice, and I hope things work out OK for them, but this sort of policy seems absurdly counter-productive for people who do have a choice and do care about the way they are treated.

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