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Comment Does it have to be a "tube"? (Score 1) 271

How about a metal enclosure with a bolted flange? It would be massively easier to fabricate and readily repairable or modifiable. No pretty glow, maybe thick plexiglass would work?

If this is a one-off project with nonstandard "tubes", why not put all of them in the same vacuum container? That could look pretty awesome if it was see through.

You could use a big, replaceable getter covered with cheap, relatively safe and easy-to-get sodium instead of dealing with expensive, dangerous cesium into a tiny glass tube (or leave the vacuum pump hooked up, for that matter.) Wiring would be trivial compared to sealing pins into glass, and a six tube box could hold six versions for testing and refining before choosing the best working one, as opposed to building 6 individual tubes to try.

Comment Morlocks and Eloi ... (Score 2) 414

int the Time Machine were much the same thing: a technical, behind the scenes class that probably started off taking care of a useless "nobility", gradually evolving to exploit them as a food source. Our Morlocks would be a select few who directly serve and service the machines, the nobility are all the suit-and-tie wearers who get most of the benefits already. Think how many tech executives don't even know what their company's product is.

Our "extras" probably won't be cared for very nicely, even at first, considering how the upper classes treat them now when they're actually needed.

Comment Don't know what to program... (Score 2) 255

(Comment) For all the predictions of AIs taking over programming, this is about where they are, and will be, for the foreseeable future.

If you want to rewrite a library, then you can gather lots of attention for yourself by recreating a GPL library (with mods/improvements, of course) and making it BSD: readline would be a good example. The best part is that the ones who won't be wanting to tar and feather you are also the ones who might actually pay you.

Comment Real watches need winding (Score 1) 359

I'm a big fan of mechanical watches, you know, old school.

I've never seen anything to interest me about a smart watch. They have some good features (I often miss phone calls when my phone vibrates in my pocket), but I wouldn't trade watching the hands spin, or the date click over, or the sounds of different movements, or admiring running clockwork through a sapphire back. They often cost more than an Apple Watch, BTW.

I liked Classic MacOS better than OS X too.

Comment On a submarine (Score 1) 320

We were all sitting around the wardroom (in port) waiting for lunch, and the TV was on (it was in a locker above the sideboard.) I was standing next to the table watching the smoke column, when the explosion happened. There was a moment of silence, then someone (maybe even me) said something like, "What the hell was that?" We were just starting to talk when the Captain came in for lunch and got the news. I don't remember a lot of emotion, it was more like shock.

On the flip side, within the week we had a (highly unofficial) Ship's Challenger Joke Coordinator, a former taxi driver who filled the same role for Princess Diana jokes (he hated the British.) In case you were wondering why I didn't identify anything better before ....

Comment Wishful thinking, doomed to fail (Score 2) 300

Learning programming is worthwhile for the logical thinking skills it involves: I'm all for making it available. The problem is that putting such an emphasis on it, at the expense of other useful subjects, is going to backfire for those who can't learn it.

It's not PC to say so, and there are lots of "experts" who insist it ain't so, but programming is a talent that not everyone has. Anyone who has been in the business knows that, unless they never interviewed new people and never worked with anyone who hadn't already proved themselves. Anyone who went to college for CS knows that: there are always good students who try but just can't be taught to do the work. Genetic, or some unknown environmental factor, or whatever, it's a fact beyond debate.

I have no idea what the percentage is in the general population, but there are going to be smart, productive people who can't do this particular thing, and they're not only going to be wasting their own and their teachers' time, but they're going to be labeled as failures because of something no one can change.

Comment Like an online course (Score 1) 89

I remember seeing an online MIT Masters in CS a few years ago that cost $60,000 (flat rate.) While I'm sure people learned something, it struck me as a flat out sale of a piece of paper with the MIT logo. Most online degrees nowadays advertise that they don't distinguish whether the degree was on online or not.

The sad thing is that, for the career minded, that $60,000 was probably a good investment, just like a $250,000 (or whatever it is now) Harvard MBA could pay for itself easily by opening jobs in Manhattan, despite not containing any significant content beyond State U's program.

Comment Google of all people is behind this? (Score 1) 89

Google has a notorious hiring bias for graduates of brand name schools. Do they think this will work because there will be more CMU graduates, regardless of quality?

"Applied CS" is a built-in talent that most don't have: many of these students won't succeed and never could, no matter who tries to "educate" them. One role of CS teachers is to spot the ones who can't do the work and redirect them. From CMU or Stanford's point of view, letting an untalented student struggle on for a few extra years at no cost beyond lights and air conditioning is a good financial move, given that they won't actually graduate and hurt the school's reputation. What does Google get out of it, though?

Comment The good old days... (Score 1) 461

I kind of regret letting my aol email go now. I was a very early adopter (I used to sell shareware out of their ftp site, which did not charge for bandwidth at the time. Not that I used much by modern standards.)

I also made a fair amount of money trading aol stock back in the day. It's one of the few I successfully ran from _before_ things went bad.

I used to have a lot of fun trolling an aol forum called "Why Anne Rice Sucks." She does, actually, as a writer, so posting was easy and truthful; boy, some of her fans have no sense of humor, though.

Hey, I prefer mechanical watches as well.

Comment What will it change? (Score 1) 421

I don't see much advantage to switching languages if the existing one works. .NET is by far the easiest of those listed to be productive in, but it requires buying into the MS server platform: the cost of that is pretty much the only advantage the others all have, other than religious feelings about free software. There are enough web developers and Linux sysadmins available that there is no real reason to pay for Windows licenses except to develop a little faster, not the sort of thing the business types notice.

An open source .NET has obvious advantages for everyone, especially Mono, and I'm very happy about it. I don't see it changing anything quickly, but their market share will undoubtedly rise.

Comment Thoughts on TFA (Score 2) 391

The most we can honestly say about artificial intelligence is that we have so utterly no idea what it is that it might be possible. Of course, we have no computing paradigm for it either, so that's on the TODO list as well, when and if the raw power becomes available.

I honestly hadn't considered that something could be considered intelligent without being conscious, given that we have no applicable definition of "consciousness" either. I understand that many researchers fear loss of all funding if the real state of their field becomes widely known, and I'm onboard with that since I think the research is worthwhile even if it's beyond the congresscritters. I won't pretend that it has accomplished much as yet, though: as I've said before, we're a heck of a lot closer to building a warp drive than than a conscious computer.

If we encountered a "superintelligence" that did not display consciousness, would we be justified in treating it as a machine to be used and turned off rather than a lifeform to be talked with? Even if it could talk, in a sense beyond a fancy shell or an Eliza bot? Could such a thing come into existence on its own? An organism descended from an alien race that uploaded itself doesn't really count, to my mind, but it seems by far the most likely case.

I could agree that such intelligences wouldn't be very interested in us. Earth has too much gravity and oxygen just causes rust; all asteroids lack are organics they probably don't need anyway, and heavy metals are much easier to reach on an asteroid. Given a reasonable power source other than a star, they'd be better off living in interstellar space where no one is likely bother them.

Comment BAD quote (Score 1) 417

"To say that AI will start doing what it wants for its own purposes is like saying a calculator will start making its own calculations." ... is not only a gross logical fallacy, but completely misses the point. AI is generally understood to mean sentience/self awareness/consciousness. Without that, an artificial intelligence is no more than a bigger and better calculator.

A calculator (or any other existing computer) is not AI in any sense whatsoever; it's internal workings are completely understood (or at least understandable.) There is no possibility of it ever doing anything unexpected, unless a human left a bug in its program.

TFA sounds like someone who spent 20 years in a field with no real advancement or progress, and is now nervous about being questioned. A working warp drive would need to be evaluated for safety as well, but no one is worrying about that yet, even though we are a LOT closer to building a warp drive than a sentient machine (for which we have no theoretical understanding and no credible roadmap towards one.)

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