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Comment Thoughts from a scientist (Score 1) 1128

I too am an analytical thinker. I was born and raised in a very devout and loving and sincere family of catholics. My folks still go to Mass every day, they're both highly intelligent, well educated and sane. My pa was the equivalent of the USA's surgeon general, so not a fool and well versed in politics. I follow him and am also not inexperienced in the politics.

But I must address your response.

A belief system is not an excuse for admitting ignorance. Your use of the Christian creation story (it's no longer a myth) as an answer to the big why question is irrelevant.

Left-leaning thinkers do not dominate academia, academia dominates left-leaning thought. Think on this. In the realm of human endeavour recognised and self-avowed as pursuant of wisdom (philosophy, all else follows) practiitoners are _forced_ to continually re-evaluate their thought and their assumptions in the face of evidence and the often harsh criticism of their peers. That's how it works so well. Left-leaning thinkers, those who do not think the old ways are necessarily the best and are willing to embrace new thought and deed to improve the lot of not only themselves but their neighbours, are pretty much required to be influenced by academia.

As part of the scientific process there is a requirment that all points of view be considered when facing the unknown. Sometimes extreme ideas take hold as "correct". Relativity is one such. However it must be admitted that in still new fields such as environmental science there is still a need for outliers of opinion and model generation. This stuff is new. The up-down-side of the benefits of continuing academic development is that we can all share in this great debate, sadly mediated by the extremist tendecies of the media. Hence the silly arguments. I beg you read more on the subject of human-influenced climate change, for the scientific consensus, even in this early stage, is clear, well reasoned, and amply justified by the evidence. It is not utterly incontrovertible, but it is accurate.

Your last paragraph is both beautiful and sad. You speak of scientists as the most unfeeling of engineers and they are not. Every scientist I've ever met, and I've met a few, are deeply sincere, compassionate, context-aware people, humble in their inability to effect the changes.

"I think it's too easy for scientific based public policy makers to forget that and consequently dehumanize the problems they are trying to solve."

I beg you study Science. Please. Don't give up your Catholicism, as you rightly state it is open-minded with regard to the role of Science and is a model of its kind as such. Catholicism offers much more than generosity of thought, a clarity of ethics (sadly unpracticed), a depth of history. Catholicism holds a special place as a theistic belief system of great utility. But stop claiming Science is inhumane, it ain't. Stop claiming caution, skepticism, and efficiency as conservative, they're scientific. Stop seeing Science and scientists and science users as contrary and wasteful and remote. We're quite the reverse. And we're not liberal or conservative, we're honest.

Comment The answer is simple (Score 1) 193

And is, like all good answers, contained in the question.

We show generosity of spirit. We give our work and so improve the collective.

I would refer you to Knuth. And then to Gauss, Lamport, and Dijkstra (it's better than a pun).

The great generosity of developers means that over the last 18 years I've used Enlightenment (my longest favorite), X-Windows (my oldest favorite), KDE (my favorite favorite), Gnome (my current favorite), XFCE (my usability favorite), Ratpoison (my ideological favorite), and xmonad (my functional favorite). Give me such variety amongst propriety systems.

If you don't get this you are not an appreciator of the joy of thought, and I feel sorry for you. We possess a marvelous coalescence of thought previously un-dreamt. We, our forbears, have created a communications mechanism so powerful and clear as to transcend previous perception of intercourse. We are rough and ready, as we have always been. And we are better.

So, in blunt, go study. Go study algorithms, YACC, LISP, and Haskell. And then come chat.

P.S. I've suffered such brief dispatch, I've taken the intellectual knocks. That's where real learning begins.

Comment Comparison, practice, and historical justification (Score 1) 467

It's funny you should ask as I've written and delivered just such a course (sadly copyrighted but not CC'd).

You didn't give any real specifics so here are is some general opinion/advice:

1. Most people in a CS course know at least one operating system well enough to be productive. At root all OS do the same things, they just do them in different ways. Compare the following across three OS:

a. boot sequence
b. directory structure
c. desktop environment
d. development environment
e. application management
f. security
g. networking
h. multi-system management

2. All material should be delivered in practical fashion, all key concepts/techniques should have immediate practical example.

3. Teach the history, and start with Knuth and TeX. The context and justification of the development and design of the OS, and its development process (at least as important), is crucial. This can make it much easier to explain why things are different, why things are similar, and how they all work together. It's also great material as the personalities are often powerful and idiosyncratic, and the stories almost parables.

Have fun. It's one of _the_ most enjoyable classes I've taught.

Comment What follows? (Score 1) 508

You write well sir, and hope you enjoy working with our law.

I think we'll see the introduction of leased consoles with hardware authentication, encrypted filesystems including separate distributed filesystems, game capability synchronized with the cloud, and the whole lot replaceable by courier in half a day. Ninety-nine quid* a year, fiver* a week for the games, rolling hardware upgrades for free! Roll in TV/Movie rental (and if they were clever a payment/banking system) and rent the platform like a drug. One to five years away?

I wouldn't use it, but then I read /.

*I'm Irish, but I do enjoy the English language.

Comment An interesting experiment (Score 1) 179

Was all it was.

Like many here, I thought the possibilities immense, but considered the implementation poor.

I feel for the engineers who brought it to us. So much work for such a poor return.

Let's be clear. The idea and functionality are pretty darn rocking. Some very bright people did a great job solving a problem that was largely unspoken, let alone properly addressed. Yes, IBM, Microsoft, and others provide alternatives, but the open and distributed nature of the protocol was exemplary.

I predict two short-term likelihoods.

Firstly, Google will return to this technology, properly integrated with gmail and all their other googly goodness. It is a paradigm shift. Facebook will integrate the protocol very quickly. So will everyone else.

Secondly, properly distributed and heavily encrypted implementations will appear in the open source world, and will then infect everything else. I wouldn't be surprised if a limited and purpose-dedicated version makes it into the Linux kernel itself, if even only as an automated git/bug-tracking interface.

This is only the beginning however. Google's plans are unknown, but their use of Peter Norvig as director of research suggests considerable focus on AI, avatars, and ubiquitous integration.

The really interesting stuff will occur as the Internet itself begins to replicate Google's functionality. Search and Rescue built into the protocols themselves? It's coming.

Google Wave is not only not the first wave, it's not even the best or strongest or even the most coherent. But Google are on the case, and the rest of us will be grateful*.

* I am in no way affiliated with Google, and seek alternatives to their hegemony, but I give credit where it's due.

Comment n'th baked (Score 1) 235

Watch KDE. A decade of lean UI experimentation, a multi-platform consistency, a massive player in Nokia, a great community that's willing to accept great risks.

Yo Microsoft! Internet! Telephony! Data Redundancy! It's not like Apple were quick to the groove.

We exist in a period of extravagant change, and some still think that just because a couple of companies have existed 30 years and have a current duopoly on UI design it's gonna stay that way? Seriously folk, we're just beginning.

And Free/Libre Software is the platform of our future.

What, you think Google are going to be significant in 50 years? Distribution will rule, and Google will only survive as a handy brand-name for lean advertising.

And we'll thought-shape our wishes to clouds of dreaming robots.

Comment I'm tired of this dissing of Microsoft (Score 4, Insightful) 280


I've been a *nix user since 1996. I'm a fan. I try and turn people to the light side every day. Linux rocks seismically.

But I'm fed up of too many idiots dissing the researchers at Microsoft. Sure, the company makes dumb-ass decisions. What do you expect? Their responsibility is to shareholders, whose interest is clear and short-term by and large.

Check out their research.

Here's their latest sidebar snippet:

Understanding the Rainforest Ecosystem

The company, with its billions, employs some of the most productive and interesting research in applied Information Theory in the world. Yes , they suck at implementations for end users because they're committed to some daft User Interface decisions. But fuck, do they hire and fund well.

My favorite is Haskell. Guess who funds Simone Peyton-Jones? ( Microsoft.

Microsoft is a company. It's an independent personality in law. Its responsibility is to its owners. And that would all be evil and everything except that _lots_ of fine upstanding pillars of the academic community take Microsoft's shilling to pay the bills and still work on AMAZING technology.

We /.ers love to praise Google, dis M$, scorn Apple, and worship *nix. Dumb. It's an ecosystem. We all contribute. Sure it's competitive. We all win.

Or am I just an idiot?

Comment Cut to the chase! Hit first base! (Score 2, Interesting) 103

Girls(I hope)! Guys!

These videos are awesome. For once, don't bother with the article, just feast your eyes on extraordinary false-color footage of the source* of our life:

Others are available here:

These are some of the most beautiful works of art I've ever seen, and I studied Fine Art for over a decade. Ok, I've studied Physics for longer, but still!

What particularly struck me was the very "organic" looking cell structure (wikipedia suggests they're but I'm not a solar physicist, and I suspect it's just a _little_ bit more complicated than that, what with the vast EM energies at work and such). Call me a nerd, but my chest heaved as though I were looking into the eyes of a beautiful girl** ***.

* Yada yada

** Ok, so I've had a couple of large glasses of wine, and "life looks rosier through the bottom of a wine glass". But then, "in vino veritas". And anyway, it was white wine.

*** All girls are beautiful.

Comment The only sensible response (Score 1) 155

Goes something like this:

Fuck you, you morons! It ain't gonna work. If I have to help organize a national and community driven proxy service, I will (I know a lot of ISP admins).

And then encouraging not only all Irish people but every interested person in contacting those responsible for such matters to inform them of our displeasure and the inane stupidity of the idea:

I have run, though unsuccessfully, for public office, including the Dail (our parliament), and will again. And I sure as hell will encourage my fellow citizens to squash thus idiocy.

Bloody hell, sometimes I'm disgusted with our government. Crooks and eedjits the lot of them. I'm sorely tempted to try to exhaust my vast knowledge of expletives.

Comment Oh fuck. (Score 3, Informative) 427

I just replied to Math Skills For Programmers - Necessary Or Not?

I want round up a posse to go 'round to this fool's house and beat him to life with a clue-stick. Anyone?

Not formally wired! Are we formally wired to take this git's* opinion seriously? Are we formally wired to work 9 to 5, or eat burgers, or browse /.?

Here's a delicious quote from the article (I know, I know):

"For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child's reasoning facilities."



"It appears that the higher scores of the affluent districts are not due to superior teaching but to the supplementary informal 'home schooling' of children."

My, you don't say!

It finishes with:

"At the present time it seems clear that we are doing more damage than good by teaching math in elementary schools. Therefore, I'm with Benezet. We should stop teaching it. In my next post--about two weeks from now--I'm going to talk about how kids who don't go to traditional schools learn math with no or very little formal instruction. If you have a story to tell me about such learning, which might contribute to that post, please tell it in the comments section below or email it to me at"

If Satan is keen on ignorance I reckon he's got a special place in Hell for this dick.

*I'm very glad Linus re-introduced this word to the mainstream of popular culture. It's a term of singular contempt, and I should know, I'm Irish.

Comment Seriously dude, math is fundamental (Score 1) 609

You can read and write. That implies you can count patterns of symbols and use them. Combinatorics right there, and hence Number Theory, Set Theory, Number Theory, Group Theory, Number Theory, Logic, and Number Theory. And of course Number Theory. Did I mention Number Theory?

A bit of background. I studied Art as my major through school and breezed into Art College. I'm good. But I was also curious about stuff, and read philosophy, and got curiouser. And then I realized I'd never be able to _really_ understand patterns of any kind without Math. So I went and got a degree in Math and Physics (a highly recommendable combination). Golly did it change how I see the world.

I lament the poor teaching of the subject, the deplorable notation, the effortless and almost justified intellectual superiority of Mathematicians, and most of all the general ignorance of the subject and so the silly questions as to its utility.

But someone interested in programming asking if Math is useful? Gee, is being able to make marks handy for writing? Is the sensory perception of sound waves good for vocal communication? Is eyesight in any way a contributory skill for comprehending body language? Sure one doesn't need to understand physics to use all three but it helps (and Physics uses Math ubiquitously, expressly, and inescapably).

Programming _IS_ mathematics*. It uses different languages to get the points across to a dumb computer, but without it we wouldn't have computers! Yes it's great we've all these high level languages (Go LISP! Go Haskell! Go Prolog and Python!) Yes, it's marvellous we've an incredibly rich set of interoperating libraries ("set", Uh huh huh huh!). Yes we've got bleedin' amazing dev tools (emacs and vim :). But you simply can't pretend to use them without Math. Seriously, you can't. I don't care if you're a HTML+CSS+JS drone in a cubical, or a script kiddy, or a logo-learner, you're using Math.

Want to be a better programmer? Learn more Math**.

A bit more background. I'm doing a lot of programming now, and most of the hard work is in learning the new Math I need to express my whims, and figuring out how to use the libraries to do so efficiently ( - Warning: Contains Math). Paper and Pencil are essential tools at this stage. The rest is a test of my concentration, short-term memory, and typing skills.

So here's some advice. Before making daft comments about well-established disciplines study them and their applications carefully. You will spend less time being thought of as an ass. You could do worse than start here:

Math for the win!

* Which is why patenting software is execrably idiotic.

** I'd almost say "Want to be a better person? Learn more Math." Except that one can, and some do, learn Math in isolation from other subjects, and it can sometimes help them little if at all in comprehending life in general and their own life in particular. I know many sad stories in this regard. But still, it's good gear.

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