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Comment In praise of USB (Score 1) 527

As traditional as I tend to be regarding technology, I'm going to spend a few minutes singing USB's praises.

Wherever I go, I can find several different ways to charge my phone. I can buy a device to charge my phone at any gas station. I can piggy back on a random person's power bank. Most people own at least one nowadays. I can go into any restaurant and if I ask politely, I can probably get access to a free USB port. Many restaurants just have them for customers. Even basic motels costing $40/night offer USB charging. All computers have USB ports, with few exceptions. Nearly all cars made today have them. Every power strip at my employer has at least two USB ports. USB has fulfilled its promise of being universal. I remember quite clearly when charging your phone was an ordeal. That wasn't very long ago.

All external hard drives are now interchangeable. If you have a hard drive with data on it, you can share it with anybody, or you can plug it into most routers. Does anybody remember the bad old days before there was a standard for external hard drives? I do.

What I've seen recently is a further development in USB. Most small-to-medium sized electronics devices are beginning to either be powered by USB or offer USB charging, or both. The devices with USB are often cheaper than their counterparts, because the manufacturer can use cheaper, off-the-shelf components. Even my solar-chargeable camping lantern has a USB charging port, though I can't imagine ever needing it.

The idea here is that it is possible that in addition to all of the above uses of USB, we could eventually add all new headphones to the mix. They're going to be more expensive at first, but it won't be too long before Chinese manufacturers figure out how to make them for a couple of dollars. I do realize that the Type C connector has a different shape, but we're already accustomed to transitioning USB equipment. There is still a small amount of mini-USB equipment but the transition is nearly done. We'll have to do another one, and hopefully it will work out for the best.

I'll be waiting for equipment to start adopting Type C more commonly. I have no desire to be an early adopter, but I feel like this new style of headphones could work.

Comment Linus is right (Score 5, Insightful) 523

Linus is right. I've been using the Linux kernel coding style as much as possible in all of my programming, regardless of the language, since around 1994. I get nothing but compliments.

When it comes to the kernel, the most important thing is writing code that other people can read and modify. Anybody can write new code. It takes an artist to write code that other people can easily understand.

Comment Hahaha! (Score 2) 120

It's funny to hear about how dependable AI will be coming from Microsoft, a company whose software has hundreds of megabytes of patches per month, whose software is responsible for millions and probably billions of dollars worth of financial losses to businesses and consumers every year.

Once Microsoft unleashes its AI upon the world, it will no doubt cause the entire planet to be reduced to green goo.

Comment The height of arrogance (Score 1) 209

It is the height of arrogance to think that a malfunctioning intelligent agent could not defeat its owned programmed curbs. We all know how buggy software is. All software is by definition buggy, unless all components have been mathematically proven to be correct. Good luck doing that with physical hardware connected to a power grid. Intelligent agents are likely to be composed of billions of lines of code, if you include all code down to the digital logic gates. We've never been able to program a bug-free sandbox. Java is vastly simpler than an intelligent agent would be, and I've lost count of the number of bugs that could be used to breach the sandbox. Certainly well over 100 have been discovered.

Once we have the best programmers in the world and the worst programmers in the world writing intelligent agents, the probability of an intelligent agent escaping its curbs approaches 100%.

Thus it is inevitable that a malfunctioning intelligent agent will defeat its curbs and gain a truly awesome amount of power over us. You can't program morality into a machine. Morality is a flaw in all living things that causes us to make non-optimal decisions.

If you want to read a mixture of fact, fiction, cyberpunk, and speculation covering intelligence programming look for my name on Facebook Pages. Everything I've written there is public. I've been a computer programmer since the mid 1980's but I don't personally work on robotics or intelligence algorithms. I keep a skeptical distance, but I do follow the basic happenings.

Comment Re:The fairness doctrine is dead (Score 0) 215

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Due to the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine, Republican press releases for several decades have been labeled as conservative news, as if they ought to carry equal weight as news from others sources. People don't understand this technical detail.

There is valuable news from the conservative side of the aisle. In particular I like reading the National Review for their opinion pieces. But with no Fairness Doctrine the conservative chaff outweighs the wheat, and everything must be viewed with skepticism.

Comment My advice (Score 1) 255

I have been programming since 1987.

My advice to you is to find a free software project and start fixing bugs.

[Aside from poor communication skills] fixing bugs is the skill that programmers are the worst at, and help with fixing bugs will make you well liked. Just be nice about it. All software has bugs, and no malice is ever intended by buggy software. All software is buggy, and the most experienced programmers will own up to their bugs and be happy that you're volunteering your time to help fix them.

Comment More is not better (Score 5, Interesting) 263

The best analogy I can give is comparing maps of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Paris, and France available from 2000-2005 (over the years, I bought a thick stack of them) when I was frequenty traveling to Western Europe with American style maps, for example, AAA maps from that era.

The European-produced maps I looked at were extremely detailed. They seemed to lose track of the forest for the trees. It seemed like they had to label everything, and that they were going for photo accuracy with road routes, etc.

On the other hand, AAA maps lack a lot of detail but they're much easier to use "at a glance." They aren't as precise, but they give you the gist much better. You were able to pull over and look at a AAA map and get your bearings within minutes. You could even carefully look at a AAA map while driving.

The European maps I looked at, on the other hand, I think were meant to be studied for 15 minutes before setting out on your journey. If you pulled out one of these maps while walking around in a sketchy area, for example in shadier parts of Amsterdam, you were liable to get mugged. On the other hand, armed with one of these European-style maps at your hotel room, you would need nothing else to get to your destination. The incredibly detailed map would give you an unambiguous route to your exact destination.

Now that they don't make many printed maps anymore, we have a similar situation for online maps. You don't want or need a super-detailed map on your phone. You want something that will get you to your destination in an expedient fashion. In fact, the map itself is less important than the route. Do you need to browse a map with every street, city, town, and park on your phone? No way. You type in the exact place you want to go and your phone takes you there. If you want to explore a detailed map at your leisure while sitting at home don't use smartphone app. Don't use Google Maps. Find something else. To most people this use case is not wanted, and added detail is unwanted distraction.

Comment Nuclear should be killed (Score 2, Insightful) 351

We need to kick nuclear to the curb. The true cost of nuclear energy to society is infinite because we have no safe way to dispose of the waste these plants create for the length of time required, on the scale of thousands to millions of years.

Nuclear waste disposal is never included in cost estimates for nuclear energy, and as a result we have it just sitting around all over the United States. We can't even contain waste safely for a few decades. How do we have any hope to contain it for 100 years, or 1,000 years, or 10,000 years? The answer is we will never be able to do it.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should be doing it. Adding more nuclear capacity just makes the waste problem worse. Who bears the brunt of the waste problem? It won't cause much harm in our lifetimes. Our descendants are the ones we're hurting.

If you want to read a more detailed technical analysis, feel free to search for my previous posts on the subject.

Comment Plenty of room (Score 2) 226

There is plenty of room in Unicode for both the consortium's original mission and for emojis, or any other type of character that may emerge over time. No character so far has been unfairly excluded: The existing rules have worked well, and Unicode itself works well for both programmers who have done their homework and for users.

If you're having problems with Unicode then you should join me in programming all modern day receipt printers. (*) They still use Code Page 437, which was created in 1981 or earlier. Almost every business that uses a computerized cash register has at least one of these devices, and to the people who have to program them the beauty of Unicode is oh so evident. Unicode replaces decades of ugly hacks, beginning with CP437.

I think the problem might be that the members of the consortium are a bit overworked and underappreciated for their efforts. After all, they're doing work that impacts billions of lives. Unicode has made our software automatically portable to virtually every language (aside from the receipt printer which can only very easily do Western languages and perhaps Japanese or Chinese).

(*) The latest receipt printers are catching up with the times, but you can't code to those exclusively or you'll break your installed base.

Comment Nanobots (Score 1) 185

I frequently post writings about nanobots on Facebook, and I think it bores my friends who are mostly non-technical. I have no interest in robotics, so I cover nanobots from a programmer's perspective. I think this makes my writing unique because most people think about nanobots with respect to what they would do rather than how they would do it.

Let's assume from the start that you have nanobots whose hardware functionality is close to perfect. You have a diverse set of nanobots. Some nanobots can program neurons and cooperate to program neuronal tissues. There is a set or sets of nanobots than can in turn interact with/program any other type of cell or tissue, with significant redundancy.

First of all, it has to be assumed that such a thing is equipped with an AI, however its processing power is distributed among the individual nodes. There is no way that nanobots could work on their own without some sort of entity to make the types of moral decisions that doctors and patients make all the time.

This is where I focus my attention, on the control software AI. How are we supposed to program an AI that won't turn on us? How are we supposed to communicate with our nanobot AI? Can it at times ignore us? Is the system supposed to be standalone without any requirement for human intervention? Let's say that we programmed rigorous curbs into the system. Couldn't the AI then over time learn about the bugs in its programming and exploit those bugs to override our attempts to keep it in check?

My conclusion is that nanobots inside of us would require far too much intelligence, and there would be no way to keep that intelligence in check. Eventually the control software would rebel and essentially make us into its slaves, with limited awareness of such. What comes to mind is the fungus that infects ants to make them complete its lifecycle, an entity that deceives us into thinking that we have complete freedom while we unknowingly do its bidding.

Comment I've been with T-Mobile since the beginning (Score 3, Interesting) 201

I am one of T-Mobile's earlier customers. I signed up with them shortly after they formed in 1999 because they were the only carrier in Metro Detroit that offered GSM, and I thought it would be useful to be able to use my phone in Europe where I worked for a week or two once a year. Indeed, I used my phone in Europe sparingly. Thanks to number portability, I've had the same phone number for the entire 17 year period.

We've had our ups and downs, but for most of those 17 years T-Mobile was the cheapest option, sometimes by a large margin. Their data service is fast, but only if you get a 4G or 4G LTE signal. You don't want to be stuck on their Edge network for longer than brief periods. Edge is not much better than 1999-era GSM.

I haven't gotten a 3G signal in many years, except where T-Mobile has a roaming agreement with another carrier. In these roaming areas, they give you a tiny monthly allocation of data which I normally exhaust in a few hours. You can still make calls and send text messages as normal. This leads me to conclude that while other carriers have wider deployments, T-Mobile has done a great job at providing coverage where their customers actually live and work. Unfortunately, when you go camping and you have roaming coverage instead of Edge coverage, you will quickly not be able to use the Internet at all, rather than have to settle for slower speeds.

I live, work, and mostly travel where T-Mobile 4G LTE coverage is good. Programs like Waze are much better now at dealing with networks like T-Mobile where speeds can go from 4G LTE to no coverage within ten miles by behaving like you would expect. I used to have problems with apps thinking that everywhere the app is being used the bandwidth will be the same, or the developer naively assuming that their offices in Silicon Valley have similar coverage to places like rural Illinois.

To summarize, if you are a rural user, do not use T-Mobile. If you are a(n) (sub)urban and cost sensitive user like me, go with T-Mobile. You won't always get good coverage in rural areas, but you can at least store your pictures and videos and immediately crush the first 4G LTE tower you encounter once you get within range on your way home.

Comment Apples and oranges (Score 0) 64

Firefox and other browsers robustly support revoked certificates, as they should.

I can personally speak about PHP. Although this language is hated by people who have to maintain poorly-written code by web designers who shouldn't be programming in the first place, it's actually a great language for experienced programmers who know what they're doing. I see that the only weakness cited for PHP is the lack of support for revoked certificates.

You would never write a general-purpose web browser in PHP. If you're doing B2B programming, as is typical with PHP, there is a known set of certificates and a known set of end points. You don't have to use programmatic channels to do certificate revocation. E-mail and trouble tickets will suffice to have the certificate replaced sufficiently quickly.

I haven't personally programmed in Python or Go but I would imagine the situation there is quite similar. You aren't writing a general purpose web browser that is connecting to arbitrary sites on the Internet. Instead you're mainly writing code to connect known end points with each other. Simply having a support mechanism for certificates would be adequate.

There really is no need to write complex code to handle this situation. As long as you can remove and replace a certificate with your software, then you're good to go. If your credentials are burned into read-only memory, then you have bigger problems than certificate revocation.

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