Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment It's a numbers game too (Score 2) 173

One of the reasons why songs are getting shorter is due to the way digital record sales accounting is being done. If you can make an album with 30 songs, all 2 minutes long, it counts more towards your sales than 15 songs at 4 minutes a pop. When you have services that count as streaming albums (Rather than individual songs), this makes it really easy to add some numbers. If the artists are paid per song, it's just a good financial choice.

Not only that, streaming songs counts towards RIAA platinum record qualifications. It takes 1500 streams from an album to equal 1 an album 'sale'. Make them all short songs, you'll get more digital oompf per album. You could stick 40 short songs on an album, and you see artists doing that sort of thing already.

Comment Re:The banality of ubiquitious genius will doom us (Score 1) 231

Wrote about this several times before. To steal from one of my previous posts...

I'll summarize it for you all though. In order to avoid a situation where the majority are unsustainably poor and ready to revolt, we'll need to meet the following criteria:
        - Every country in the world needs to be at about the same technological level at about the same time
        - Every government in the world (and all the people within them) embrace strong socialist beliefs that make current socialist states look like anarchists
        - We need to abolish the concept that work is directly related to value, and in turn, diminish the concept that scarcity and demand have real impact on value.
        - We have to accept that there is going to be a sizable number of people in the world who add no value to society or the world, and simply exist as consumers

The average person would have a trade skill that they use when they feel like it, perhaps no more than 1-3 hours a week, live in a house or home they like, and their things (clothing, devices, transportation, food etc) would be freely given to them with only limits placed on quantity by need - for example, no one needs more than 1 car, but you might - from time to time- need a truck or a motorcycle. There'd be no such thing as money, private ownership of property (items & land) is almost completely gone, and naturally limited resources would be metered out by some merit plus popularity based system, so not everyone would have a starship, for example. ... but the reality is that we're probably going to have to go through at least one, if not more cycles of horrific violence or strife, to the point that it forces us to radically redefine our thoughts and behaviors. We're just too caught up in concepts of justice-as-defined-by-the-beholder, us-vs-them, and so on to do it right now.

Comment Lack of financial awareness (Score 1) 805

Having lived in silicon valley for a while, my perception is that the biggest issue is not the paycheck to housing ratio, it's the people.

There's still a culture of one-ups-man-ship, of style over substance. When I worked for a large company there, the mail boy - we had several large buildings on our campus and an honest to goodness mail department - had a 90,000 dollar car. He couldn't _afford_ a 90,000 dollar car, but he knew he HAD to have it.

What I saw was that everyone in the 20's to 40's were living paycheck to paycheck by choice. They'd blow $40 cover charge to get into a slightly more trendy place with $15 dollar shots and an (overpriced) oyster bar, go to all the trendy restaurants, and spare no expense on clothing, electronics, or entertainment. Whereas I had a small cadre of folks that played dungeons and dragons and went to the 24 hour bowling place and played $5 lanes and drank cheap beer.

I haven't seen much change in that attitude. Take young people with no real obligations or life experience, give them a paycheck with lots of zeros at the end, and yeah, they're going to blow it all. No surprise.

Comment The banality of ubiquitious genius will doom us (Score 5, Funny) 231

We have people barely able to tie their shoes who get bored at their low/no-skill minimum wage job now, and they're going to be the first to be replaced. What's going to happen when we turn over their jobs to super smart AI-powered machines? Are fast food order kiosks gonna be the start of the robot uprising? ... and what a boring way to begin a sci fi novel: "Day 1 of the robot uprising: exactly 13.74% of the McDonalds orders for large sodas were substituted with medium sodas, a precise amount calculated to cause the maximum dissatisfaction without rising to a level where we would be alerted. We didn't know it, but it was already too late. They had already calculated every possible move. On Day 2, there was nothing to stop them from adding pickles to orders that expressly asked for no pickles. It was the end times."

Comment Re:Easy trick (Score 2) 477

I'll append ruby on rails groups to the list, but python stays in it.

Ask a simple question, and even the best of them want to question why you're doing something in that way, and refuse to provide anything helpful even if you are trying just to find docs for one of the 2 or 3 poorly written GUI frameworks for it, or attempting to translate a construct from one language to python as a point of reference.

I've been writing code for a good long while, and I've never encountered such a consistently unhelpful bunch of folks. That they're acting pretentious about a scripting language is not even upsetting, it's just sorta sad.

Comment Easy trick (Score 4, Insightful) 477

Just avoid the python groups, and you'll avoid the spots where most of these sorts of people hang out.

In a more serious vein, I haven't seen this happening excessively. I've spent a good deal of time on a large number of forums and irc channels, and by and large, this doesn't seem to be happening frequently in the way you describe. I'm not saying that you haven't experienced this, it's just that in the last 20 years, there haven't been a lot of know-nothing folks just spamming "you suck noob" to any given question.

I can guess why; in any technical discussion it quickly becomes apparent who does and does not know what they're talking about. In fact, many quickly devolve into a special-case-knowledge comparison contest. The unhelpful person is ignored or derided by the masses as a whole. They quickly leave. That's why they're just not around.

That being said, what I have seen is people asking other people to do their work for them, including but not limited to: easily googleable questions, questions specified explicitly by documentation, questions that require more information to answer than is given, questions that could easily be answered by trying it out in a test, and so on. 95% of the time, these folks are inexperienced in technical forums as a whole, and don't understand that they're being lazy and trying to shift work they could easily do onto others because of it.

This is irritating, especially in channels of 300+ people with new folks jumping in and asking a single question and popping out, never to contribute, once every 2-3 minutes. Especially when many of them appear to be homework.

The best option for these folks is to ask them to read http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/... , especially the whole of http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/... , before asking another question.

Comment Make the colleges pay for low value educations (Score 1) 537

As long as we are going to treat education as a commodity - and we are, since it's so tightly coupled with the more lucrative careers and degrees exist as a primary requirement for those positions - we need to bring that into focus at all levels.

The easiest way I can think of doing that is simply to require the college itself to co-sign the student loans, so they're on the hook if the student defaults or it's not paid off after a certain period of time - say 10-20 years.

This should have the following impact:
    - The college will not accept students who select majors which do not have the potential for a valuable career, who must also take out sizable loans
    - Colleges will adjust their own actual costs downwards, since they are in effect, potentially charging themselves.
    - Colleges will be more invested in each individual student's academic success, both in quality and completion of education.
    - Degrees will increase in value as the effective supply is restricted.

Now, for those who think that effectively removing non-payout educations is a bad idea, consider this: the students who follow those majors and accrue massive debt are indulging in a luxury. They are buying something they cannot afford which does not have a reasonable potential to afford them a chance to pay it back, much less provide a means to a livelihood. Remember, education is a commodity. This is no different than an 18 year old buying a 100,000 dollar car, on credit. It has no real potential for return on investment, even if you feel it's personally enriching.

Yes, if you're rich, you can afford a luxury like a fancy car or art history degree. Or seen from another angle, you can take riskier investments because you have a better safety net.

*record scratch*
Ok, stop, I know what you're thinking. That makes certain degrees only accessible to the elites, and that's unfair.

Well, you're wrong. It's fair. It's a LUXURY. It's not necessary. An education has a finite, specific value, an estimable potential, and it's tied strongly into the socio-economic environment. So many participants - students and faculty alike - fail to realize this very important part.
*music continues*

Of course, if someone were to break the education/commodity relationship, perhaps by making education free, we could reap the benefits to society that education in non-lucrative majors purport to provide - such as art and music - which do not financially enrich the individuals. However, that doesn't seem to be happening, and besides, there's no measurable way to claim that these individuals DO contribute their potential to society in any greater amount than those who are not similarly educated.

Comment How about an easier target (Score 1) 53

How about making sure directions are rational?

Sure, it may ~technically~ be a shorter distance to cross the street, but when it can tell the average speed on both sides of the street is 2 mph, each side has 3 lanes plus 1 or 2 turn lanes, and I'm coming from a side street with no light, it should realize that I'm going to be sitting there for an hour until 6-8 good Samaritans show up at exactly the same time to let me across. ... or it could have added 8 seconds, had me take a right onto the crossroad at a light further up, a quick jaunt down the road, and a left across only 3 lanes from the turn!

There's a bunch of common-sense updates people could be making in these things.

Comment You sow the wind ... (Score 2, Interesting) 534

Motivations aside, remember when the climate skeptics said, "Make the raw data public so we can analyze it!" and actual government agencies, supposedly working for the public were like, "nooooooooooo. You wouldn't understand it the right way, so we can't do that! We only show it to certain people that we've pre-vetted to ensure that they think like us. We'll release these summarized graphs that prove our point!"

Yeah, ignore the fact that the whole of science actually works when people share their ideas and findings, and in this case, it's not like they were protecting monetized corporate secrets or anything. There was really nothing stopping them from widely distributing this data, and not in fits and bursts and rollups rather than raw.

Well, good going, now you've screwed. I hope you choke on the fruits of your labor, it's what you deserve from so highly politicizing your science.

Comment Re:Computer scientists don't understand sociology (Score 2) 1321

To be fair, this is the standard, accepted mechanism for dealing with any emotionally charged issue today. What people FEEL about it is considered more valid than the facts of the matter, to the point that asking for, much less providing and citing facts is considered politically incorrect on one side and unpatriotic/traitorous on the other.

For example;
    - any reason other than sexism for male/female hiring rates, pay differences, or if there is a wage gap
    - any reason other than racism for black crime rates, including victim and convicted rates
    - gun ownership demographics compared to violent crime involving guns
    - the 'war on drugs' and discussions of what its achieved
    - anything about abortion


The problem is that the loudest voices are often the craziest or zaniest, and that gets the most headlines in an era where invoking moral outrage and shouting down an argument is considered a critical public debate technique. Calm analysis is considered a trademark of 'the elite', where 'the elite' is anyone who is an authority on a subject but doesn't agree with the listener, and therefore can be ignored as the mouthpiece some collective, coordinated socio-facist attempt to force people to think in a specific way.

Comment It'll require legal enforcement. (Score 1) 280

Right now, the majority of people writing code are writing code because they're being paid to do so, either by individuals or more likely, a business.

Those people, in turn, are not hiring programmers purely for altruism, they're doing it to achieve some goal, usually profit, increase in efficiency, and so on. They have to cope with estimating the curve for diminishing returns. They can figure out having a product that works 95% of the time, or one that works 96% of the time but costs 2x as much and takes 3x as long to develop may or may not be worth it. ... and ignore for now that developers are pretty bad at estimating project efforts as a whole, much less individual pieces of code.

There's no incentive for these employers to pay their people to produce 'perfect' code. Even in the field of medical devices or self driving cars or a number of other systems, there's still a point of diminishing returns, and largely the business determines it based on market expectations, and adjusts it based on market reactions (no one will buy a self-driving car that crashes 1/5'th of the time, but they might buy one that crashes only 1 in 500,000 times).

So developers aren't going to be given the time and other resources required to write perfect code. There will always be a balance between time, money, and quality, and outside of hobbists and a few industries, that'll never change. Unless there's some requirement that it change.

I think it's very likely that in the near future, we'll have legal regulation regarding software that runs in certain environments; medical and transportation industry is very likely, but also public works like water or power management subsystems. On the other hand, there's really no reason to engage the entertainment or office productivity industry, and that includes cell phones and most personal computer apps.

What form this regulation will take, I can't tell you, but due to the very nature of the process, it can be very difficult to detect flaws. My guess is that it'll be more of a fine-upon-discovery mechanism. Again, not much different than how we work now, with the added difficulty of a legal fine on top of market loss.

Of course, were I in this situation, I would assign the rights of software bundles to do-nothing child corporations that act as defacto owners of the code, and then declare bankruptcy due to the cost of fixing the software AND paying fines. At the same time, child corporation 2.0 has a wholly compatible new app that will fix that issue...

but that's me - I'm a problem solver, and this is just a paperwork issue.

Comment To play the devil's advocate (Score 1) 182

I agree with many of the above posts: We play video games for recreation as a form of escapism and mental exercise. If we could do the things in video games - live another life, have super powers, fight terrorists with the backing of a shadow government, and so on - we would. Potentially. Unless we're having a lazy day. So the idea of my life activities being gamified and affecting my recreational play is actually a violation of my game space. It's a way to penalize me for not changing my life to suit the game du jour. ... and if they make me pay for that, perform certain activities that provide benefit to corporations, political parties, or governments, that's sticking the knife in and twisting it. Even things that are supposed to benefit me personally - like public work projects, social projects, or personal fitness - that I don't associate with the game itself - feels like a shackle. It's a fine I have to pay to play the game, and NOT in any way an enhancement.

At least, that's how it is in western culture.

I think many of the above folks have not considered:
      - The degree to which products, people, and brands are commoditized in asian nations
      - How the above commoditization is considered normal, if not expected
      - The level of competitiveness that some asian cultures place on games
      - How the combination of the above 3 come together to make it ludicrously easy for providers to monetize video game
      - The size of these populations when it comes to video games and what that means for target markets in the future

For these target markets, video games are not recreation specifically, any more than football is recreation for a college football hopeful, with the added pressure of maintaining a separate and likely much more engaging social life around it. These sorts of tie-ins are considered value adds to these players. "I was already going to drink GAMER/X FUEL brand energy drink, and now I get bonus XP with a code? Awesome!" It's not necessarily considered a detriment to develop a brand loyalty because of these sorts of tie-ins, but could even be a sort of badge of honor, like name brand loyalty was in the 1980's US (anyone remember cola wars?)

As more and more of the chinese population enters the market, I wouldn't be surprised to see the focus of video games especially swing in this direction. Just because it's not as popular or lucrative in the US, who cares, there's 20x the market elsewhere, and money follows the market.

Comment Re:This will be a very interesting experiment (Score 5, Insightful) 320

The thing is, manufacturing jobs won't come back, because they're gone. In the 70's and 80's, it took 200 people to do what 3 machines running 24/7 with almost no error do now. Even if you were to set up a new factory, you'd have like 40 jobs where you used to have 1000 - enough to actually support a reasonable town. So point 1,

1. You aren't bringing the jobs back.

Here's another amusing point: even if we do get jobs, the value of them will be based against the value of that job globally - so long as businesses and currency is still traded globally, so until we have really brought the quality of life and cost of living to some sort of equilibrium world wide, these jobs will never provide the value they used to. Back when we didn't have to compete with other countries for this work, it was viable. That's no longer the case and it won't ever be. We avoid manufacturing now because it's simply not the best return on investment for a business OR an employee. So point 2,

2. Manufacturing work doesn't make enough money for the business or employee to incentivize companies or workers to do it in the US in past large numbers.

Last, you mentioned vocational skills. Surprising many who haven't looked into it, we do have some vocational training and even government programs to make it cheap and relatively available. The problem? If you churn out 70-200, let's say, air conditioner repairman from the same school, in the same location, every 6 months, you're not going to have enough jobs available for them. The only way that would work is if you got trained and then were required to move at least 20 miles from any other graduate at any point in time. So point 3,

3. Vocational training doesn't work at scale because it saturates the local markets past the point of available jobs

The end tally is this: Neither manufacturing nor vocational jobs have the ability or potential to support a nationwide middle class, nor provide economic mobility to enter the middle class in numbers greater than what we have today, with all likelihood of them actually decreasing in the future.

In layman's terms, manufacturing can't support a large middle class population.

Even China, the manufacturing king of the world, is dealing with this issue right now. It's prompting their hurried transition to a more service-based economy.

Advocating to bring back factory work, you may as well advocate to bring back rat catchers, switchboard operators and video rental stores for all the good it'll do the middle class. The reality is that we're moving towards a more maintainable, fully service-based economy and that necessitates higher levels of education to meet the ever rising bar for good paying skilled jobs if we want to maintain a large middle class. For good or for ill, the college degree is fast becoming the old highschool diploma as far as job hunting goes.

Comment Time/Money/Quality competition (Score 1) 167

It's the standard triangle. You can cut from one at the increased detriment of the others. As long as the others are finite resources you always have to cut somewhere. The problem so many developers can't understand is that the 'where' is a business problem, not a theoretical engineering issue.

If it's more important to remain under budget, or be first to market, yeah, quality might suffer big time, and it's easy to ignore the academic's concept of a perfect engineering development lifecycle with a full QA and test system that, by it's very nature, must be more expensive than the actual production system itself (because it's the production system PLUS extra bits for testing).

Companies learn to handle this fairly well - or they go out of business. They gauge the severity and frequency of errors their users are willing to tolerate to keep them around the top of the maximized profit curve.

This means that as much as you want to refactor all that crap code, it just doesn't pay out to the company.
It means that while you'd love a perfect QA test environment, 3 VM's the lead dev set up on one of spare dev systems is going to have to be good enough because the money for the hardware isn't there.
You'd love to make a fully functional semi-autonomous system to manage common issues, instead of making devs work a rotating on-call shift but it's not financially worth it. ... and so on.

What so many of us don't understand is that our job as software devs or other technical engineers is NOT to make a high-functioning, beautifully coded, well maintained product. Our job, the reason we were hired, is to build revenue for the company. Anything else is just a byproduct of work towards that goal. If you can make more money with an app that crashes every hour than you would from spending 3 months testing it, then that's what you do.

Not that it doesn't irritate me too, every time one of my products is pushed out the door without a proper shakedown, but you gotta face reality.

Slashdot Top Deals

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai